White Painted Oak Dresser

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Antique oak dresser painted in white milk paint
“After” of the White Painted Oak Dresser

This is the story of the little antique oak dresser that decided it wanted to wear white. Furniture usually tells me how it wants to look. At some point, I get a clear idea on a color or finish for each piece of furniture. Here is the story of the white painted oak dresser.

If you have been reading my posts lately, then you know that I have been steadily working on three antique dressers. The first thing I tried to do with all three dressers was apply a chemical stripper. It was a failure. The temperatures outside in the garage were just too cold for the stripper to work.

Removing the Old Paint

I had to remove the existing paint using alternative methods. In this particular case, there were about 600 hundred coats of the most stubborn green paint on this dresser. Ok. Perhaps that is a slight exaggeration. (But only a slight one)

Oak Dresser with green paint
Oak dresser with green paint after being stripped and sanded

Unfortunately, I did not take photos of this dresser before I started work on it. The photo above shows the dresser AFTER it was stripped and sanded. I used a heat gun to remove the old paint since using a chemical stripper was not a viable option. I removed about 10 pounds of melted paint off that dresser. (Admittedly an exaggeration but only slightly) Did you notice how there is still green paint on the drawer fronts even AFTER I used the heat gun and sanded it down?

Yeah. That’s all I have to say about that.

I talk about using a heat gun to remove old paint in a post HERE. This post includes a very short video showing how a heat gun works.

This dresser very distinctly told me that it wanted to be painted white with some nice vintage brass knobs. Sometimes furniture is bossy like that. It tells you what it wants. I tried to convince this dresser that is should be painted a nice navy blue or even a moody dark grey. No. It wasn’t having it. This dresser wanted to be white. It was like a 5 year old on the verge of tantrum.


Of all the “bleeping” colors – white! Really? This was going to be a serious challenge given: 1. the amount of green paint that simply refused to come off. 2. the very dark oak wood underneath. That meant only one thing – I had to use primer before painting it white.

Oak dresser sanded and ready to be primed
Oak dresser getting ready to be primed

Applying Primer

Since the weather outside was too cold for paint or primer – I carried the dresser into my dining room. Using a moving blanket as a drop cloth – I set about getting ready to prime the dresser. Now you probably can’t tell from the photo above, but I sanded the heck out of those drawer fronts and the paint that remained was flush with the wood. You also can’t tell from the photos above – but the previous paint job was a hum-dinger. Specifically,- the back of the dresser was halfway painted in green paint and some of the drawer sides were painted. I don’t know what was in that green paint but it was absolutely stubborn about coming off.

Back of dresser half painted
Back of dresser half painted

Oh good! As you can see above, I found a photo showing you the back of the dresser.

With all of the above in mind, I decided to prime the entire dresser. The drawer fronts and sides. The front, sides and entire back of the dresser. Any place where green paint still adhered, I covered that surface with primer. I used BIN Primer with a shellac base because I needed something that would be a stain blocker and that was stronger than a latex primer. Whenever I use an oil based primer or a shellac primer, I buy a paint brush from the dollar store and simply toss it out when I done. (Sorry Mother Earth!). For me, it’s a better option than using mineral spirits to clean the brush.

Oak Dresser with Primer
Oak Dresser with Primer

The best part about using a shellac primer – it dries quickly! Particularly if you are working in a warm toasty home and not in a garage where it’s 43 degrees.

Applying Milk Paint

While the primer was drying, I mixed up some Miss Mustard Seed Milk Paint in the color Farmhouse White. After mixing the powder paint with water, it takes about 20 minutes for the milk paint to set up before application. Then, the fun part! Painting the dresser! I applied two coats of milk paint and was absolutely amazed.

I have said before – you never know how milk paint will respond when painting old furniture. (By “old” I mean furniture that is close to 100 years old). In this case, the paint responded by having the most authentic crazing and texture. Now would be a good time to caveat my statement- I actually like crazing and chipping because it gives old furniture an authentic texture that is true to it’s age. Some people are rather put-off by a paint displaying these characteristics. To each their own.

Side of Oak Dresser
Side of the Painted Oak Dresser

Final Result- White Painted Oak Dresser

Antique oak dresser painted in white milk paint
“After” of the Little Oak Dresser

Despite the amount of extra effort required, I am happy with how this painted oak dresser turned out. She was right to request a white paint job and also right in asking for vintage brass knobs.

Oak dresser painted white
White Painted Oak Dresser “After”

There was also subtle crazing on the sides of the dresser.

Full Side View of Oak Dresser
Full Side View of the Oak Dresser

As an aside, while working on the dresser, I was also working on these fun Christmas ornaments. More about these in a future post. For now, I was just “experimenting” to see how they would turn out.

Painted White Oak Dresser
Close up of the Oak Dresser

They turned out well and I can’t wait to share more with you!

Christmas items on dresser
Vintage Mercury Glass Christmas Ornaments on the dresser

Another aside, things are starting to look a bit Christmasy around here. Although I do love Thanksgiving. Thank you for stopping by the blog today. If I see you wrestling an antique piece of furniture with a really bad paint job into your car – I will understand why. Heck, I would probably stop and help you get it into your car.

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  1. I love the way the dresser finished! I have one that I has to be refinished and it’s green! It will be used frequently, daily. My questions are: is dresser sealed, if not, how about wear at places of frequent use? I don’t want a worn look. Another paint treatment? Thank you, enjoyed your description. Easy to follow and side comments kept it light!!

    1. Hi Bobbi-
      Thank you for your question. Yes, the dresser is sealed with a matte polycrylic. I don’t use polyurethane because they turn yellow over time. I applied 3 coats of the polycrylic. Hope this answers your question.

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