How to repaint a vintage dressing table

Updated February 21, 2017

You've found a fantastic, solidly built dressing table, but it's too shabby to be even shabby chic. Consider bringing that piece of furniture back to life with a fresh coat of paint. A handsomely refinished dressing table can be a room's focal point and a conversation piece. Refinishing it takes just a weekend and a little work.

Clean the dressing table with a mild soap and water. Allow the surface to dry completely.

Take off chipped paint, using a scraper, and remove the dresser's knobs with a screwdriver.

Go over the dresser with medium-grit sandpaper, concentrating on any scratches or imperfections in the wood. Use sandpaper strong enough to remove most of the old paint, but do not worry about removing all of the paint. Part of the beauty of a vintage dressing table is the age, and damaged areas add character. Leave a few scratches and dents if possible.

Sand with fine-grit sand paper, 200-grit or lower, to smooth the surface and prepare it to accept primer.

Apply a coat of primer, and allow it to dry at least 24 hours.

Paint the dresser. Choose a funky or unexpected colour or just white. Use a satin finish paint, because high-gloss paint will highlight imperfections. Allow the paint to dry.

Add a second coat if necessary to fully cover the wood. Allow the paint to to dry 24 hours.

Cover the surface with a coat of clear varnish to protect the painted finish if the dressing table will be used regularly. Varnish must dry 24 to 48 hours. Replace the dresser knobs, or add new ones.


Use the dresser carefully or not at all for the first week or two to allow the paint and varnish to cure completely. Even when the paint feels dry to the touch, the finish is still susceptible to damage for the first few weeks. Work outdoors if possible, and use a respirator while you sand. Use a dust sheet to protect the area under the table.

Things You'll Need

  • Mild soap
  • Water
  • Paint scraper
  • Screwdriver
  • Sandpaper
  • Paint bush
  • Primer
  • Paint
  • Varnish
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About the Author

Chasity Goddard has been writing poetry, fiction and nonfiction since 1996. Her work has appeared in "Backspace" magazine, "Sepia Literary Magazine" and the "Plowman Press." Goddard holds a Bachelor of Arts in creative writing with a specialization in women's studies from the University of Tennessee.