The Boy’s Dresser

August 10, 2010

I began this transition from baby room to big boy space several months ago, but I hit a few road blocks along the way.  One of the challenges was finding a proper dresser for my little guy ~ one that provided plenty of storage, complemented the style of his room, and was the proper scale for the wall where it sits.

For months, I’ve had my eye on the IKEA Hemnes dresser in white.  I delayed purchasing it because it’s a two hour round trip to the closest IKEA, and it’s $300 buckaroos, plus California state tax, plus assembly.  Grrrr.  Delay. Delay. Delay.

So when I spied a listing for an Hemnes dresser on Craiglist last week for sale by a couple in my hometown for half the retail price, I scooped it up.  Only problem ~ it was black.  Not that I don’t like black furniture, but it was too dark for the little lad’s room.

So I painted it.  Then added some blue stripey trim around the drawers just for fun.


dresser before


cg dresser left side

Perfect !

Thanks to the kind folks at True Value, I picked up a few new supplies for this paint job.

 true value supplies

One of the reasons I looooooove Zinsser’s ‘Cover Stain’ is that it clings to so many surfaces without sanding and dries in an hour.   I pink puffy heart love love love this primer.   Remember when I repainted that laminate media center ?  Yep, I used this stuff for that makeover too.

The IKEA Hemnes dresser is mostly painted pine, and is a really sturdy dresser, but there is also some fiberboard and particle board in places.  This super clingy primer works for all of those.

cover stain label copy

I don’t have a professional grade paint sprayer, yet, and even if I did, I’d hesitate to use oil based primer in my precious sprayer because I hate to clean it up.  So for now I use a foam roller for even application and follow it up with a paint brush.  With oil based primer, I also use an additive called Penetrol that I’ve talked about here and here to condition the primer and minimize brush strokes.

oil based primer foam roller

When you go from extreme dark to extreme light, it’s necessary to use primer to cover the dark color or it will seep through your paint job and you’ll be forced to use more coats of paint then you bargained for.

I was thrilled to find the sides of the inside drawers were raw wood so I didn’t have to paint them, whew.  The bottoms of the drawers were lined with a bright yellow stripe, so I used masking tape to protect the super duper cah-yute drawer liners as I painted.

raw wood drawers

I gave the top of the dresser and drawer fronts two coats of primer for added durability, then instead of using my orbital, I sanded them smooth with this handy little 3M detail sander with rotating handle from True Value ~ very useful for smaller jobs!

sand primer

Painter’s tip:  Did you know that ordinary vegetable oil cleans oil based primer/paint right off your hands ?   A reader told me that.  Don’t remember who, but thank you reader, whoever you are, you changed my life.   Doesn’t work so well I found with the thick paint on brushes, but for thin coats on your tender skin, there’s no need for harsh chemicals like mineral spirits when ordinary vegetable oil will do for cleaning.

oil removes oil based paint

After the primer, I gave the dresser two coats of a paint I found at True Value, their Easy Care brand paint in ‘Calming Sensation’.  To create the stripes, I used painter’s tape and a small sample of True Value’s paint.

stripes made with tape


Here’s his old maple wood dresser.  The wood is in perfect condition, so I couldn’t bring myself to paint it, but between the blonde wood and feminine curvy legs, it wasn’t right for his room.   I’ll just have to find a new home for it on Craigslist !


  old dresser



boys room dresser from side


The knobs on the dresser were also spray painted brown.  Brown because this fantastic retro inspired fabric will arrive next week and will magically transform into grommet top window panels.

boys fabric for panels

cg dresser corner


I’m loving the crisp clean lines of the drawers and their blue box trim.  And I’m pleased as can be that by repainting it myself, I saved close to $200.

jumping boy

Of course, the final vote comes from this little guy, but I think I can safely interpret this jump for joy as his seal of approval.



boys hemnes dresser 600

This dresser project appeared in the Young House Love book!

“I was one of the bloggers selected by True Value to work on the DIY Squad. I have been compensated for my time commitment to the program as well as my writing about my experience.  I have also been compensated for the materials needed for my DIY project.   However, my opinions are entirely my own and I have not been paid to publish positive comments.”

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132 Responses to “The Boy’s Dresser”

  1. Tia says:

    Awesome redo!

  2. kat says:

    agh! why did I not find your blog until today! I tried to repaint the same dresser that I had in the plain pine color – although i did a rough light sanding, the actual paint I used was horrible! Everytime I put something on the dresser the object sticks to the paint and pulls it up. Not too mention that although the paint looked black in the store, it is actually navy – argh! But I will try again this weekend, im dammed and determined!

  3. Sara says:

    What kind of paint did you use? Was it latex or oil paint? and was it high gloss or semi-gloss? I am taking on a similar project this weekend! Thanks for the instructions :)

  4. Karyn says:

    Just came across your site… what a fabulous project! I also love the Hemnes dresser (the blue color is my favorite). If I wanted to keep the base color but add those cute outlines in a different color, do you still have to prime the areas you want to paint?

  5. Trisha winters says:

    I am looking at painting a Pine wood dresser, black.
    Will this work or is it even Necessary to use?

    Thanks and I look forward to hearing from you!

  6. Ruth says:

    Love it! love it!! I stumbled on your site about two weeks ago and I’ve been addicted. I’m inspired.

  7. Christina says:

    Thank you for this!! I have a hideous nightstand/lamp that I’ve been meaning to makeover, but I did NOT what to sand every square inch (all those nooks and crannies!!)

    also, you can use any oil to clean oil based paint off your hands… I love using baby oil the best, it smells soooo good (and it comes in a slightly thicker “gel” that’s easier to control) but recently I’ve been using a sugar&oil scrub (which you can make at home)

    Anyway! again, THANK YOU

  8. Tammy says:

    OMG! Where did you get the fabric! I bought a flat fold piece of this off of a bargain table! I have been looking for more ever since!!!!

  9. CentsationalGirl says:

    Hey Tammy, that fabric is from Tonic Living, you’ll find it on their website:

  10. Cynthia says:

    Love it! Especially because laminate can be so tricky to paint. One question though, does the primer have a strong odor because it is oil based?

  11. CentsationalGirl says:

    Hi Cynthia, yes there is an odor with that primer, I don’t consider it overwheming, but it is strong. I do most if not all priming with that product outside in a well ventilated area.

  12. Rachel says:

    I wonder if you could use this same primer for laminate CABINETS???? I have some hideous cabinets in my kitchen. And NEW ones are not in the budget currently.

    Any thoughts on that???


  13. CentsationalGirl says:

    Yes Rachel, the same Zinsser primer works great on laminate, check out this post:


  14. Nikki says:

    So glad to have found this particular post, but wish I would have found it a couple days sooner! We are painting the same dresser and started with latex primer. What a mistake! Spent one day priming and the next day removing it because it was scratching right off. Got the Zinsser oil-based primer and it’s working great. Got the 2 coats of primer on and now we can start painting (with latex).

  15. Melissa Ford says:

    Love it! I too have Ikea furniture and want to repaint our kitchen table white from the ikea blonde. Do you think I’d need to use the primer first so that the white paint sticks to the table?

    Than I want to re-upholster the seat bottoms on the chair ;)

    Thank you so much!

  16. CentsationalGirl says:

    Yes Melissa I’d highly recommend a primer first for durability!

  17. sarah jones says:

    First off, love this post! Its on my pinterest account :) Now, for my question/dilemma… i have an old table and chairs that NEEDS some paint to make it beautiful again. I plan on refurbishing and giving it to a friend of mine that just had her second child. With this said, I understand the primer part, BUT I’m having trouble figuring out the paint part. What would be best? I’d like the table to last a while and not have the paint just chip/rub off… Please help :-)

  18. CentsationalGirl says:

    Hi Sarah, I’ve written several articles on painting furniture but this one is most helpful for your situation!

  19. Amy says:

    Thanks very much for this post! My husband and I were at Ikea last night wondering about this. We wanted to get a Hemnes chest for our nursery, but did not like the fact that the white version was some sort of smooth laminate that seemed to chip easily. My husband said he didn’t think we could buy one of the stained ones and paint it white, but your blog post proves otherwise. Looking forward to trying this!

  20. shannon says:

    Hi Kate!
    I am beyond excited, I have the EXACT (black) hemnes that is in my room now, but needs to go into my 3 year old son’s room in a month, or ASAP! I was going to paint it some sort of royal (was going to paint IKEA headboard to match) but after seeing yours I am totally sold and now want to do exactly what you did! Um, hope this doesn’t sound too SWF. But I really love how yours came out, and I think the whole thing blue might be too much because it’s such a big dresser.
    Can you share with me the exact paint color you used? I see that one (the white one?) is called Calming Sensation, but what about that beautiful blue that you used to accent the drawers? Also, do you know the name of the color on the wall? If I don’t use the exact blue you used on the drawers, I could use that wall color–love the touch of grey in it.
    Again, thanks so much!! Am now so excited to try this!

    ….any thoughts about using a latex primer? I just left Menard’s earlier today, and the paint guy there sold me Zinnsen’s Fast Prime 2, which is a latex, water based primer. I really don’t want to have to try to return it, but also don’t want to have to do this project twice. And I’m preggo, so trying to stay as low-fume as I can while I take this on (inside, since it’s 30 degrees out).

    Thanks so much!

  21. CentsationalGirl says:

    Hi Shannon, with you being preg, I would stick with the low VOC primers – but they do take a bit longer to cure – and I wrote all about the color’s in the boy’s room here:

  22. shannon says:

    Hi Kate–
    Thanks so much for getting back to me! By ‘cure’ do you mean I just have to leave it on for longer? Because this is what I tried with the dresser–I tried priming just one drawer with the primer. I left it on for about an hour and while it was completely dry, I barely touched it and it peeled right off. Like it did NOT stick, hardly at all. Do you think that if I leave it on there longer it will ‘stick’ better? Because I feel like it’s not going to work and I should just go buy the kind you have, then just prime with the windows open and a gas mask on, in short segments so I don’t get inundated with fumes.

    Thanks again!

  23. shannon says:

    Also, really don’t mean to be a PITA, just read through your AMAZING room details, and while it does tell the room paint color, the small Ace Hardware sample that you used to accent the dresser (blue) isn’t in there. Any chance you still have it/the name of it?
    Thanks again!!

  24. Jenny says:

    Just a quick question – if that primer works so well, I was wondering why you bothered sanding it? We’re thinking of doing the reverse and painting an IKEA table black.


  25. CentsationalGirl says:

    Hi Jenny, when I say “sanding” I mean giving it a light scuffing with a sanding wedge to remove debris and prep the surface for priming. No need to totally remove the paint or varnish, the primer does not require full sanding to adhere to the piece. In fact, you really don’t need to do any sanding at all.

  26. Melissa says:

    OMG, i have been wanting to find something like this! Thanks for sharing your ideas! Hugs!

  27. Susan says:

    Has anyone ever used this on the other ikea laminates? I’m anxious to try on my Billy bookcases now!

  28. CentsationalGirl says:

    Hi Susan, yes you can paint IKEA laminates as long as you use a primer designed for glossy surfaces… that’s why I like that Zinsser Cover Stain and I’ve used it to paint a lot of laminate pieces.

  29. Andy says:

    fantastic make-over – especially the primer. I found this site, and followed the instructions and have transformed two old Malm dressers from tired ‘natural’ laminate into a really good looking white pieces for my son’s nursery. $20 in paints, and I have given thema totally new lease of life and saved a fortune.
    thank you!

  30. gaby says:


    Loooooove your site and skills!!! really, just so inspiring. I have an ikea book shelf with glass doors and I painted it using spray paint thinking it would be faster and really cover well. turns out it the paint flakes off! should have used primer. Do you suggest going over the spray paint with the primer you suggest in this project and repainting? thanks!!

  31. CentsationalGirl says:

    Hi Gaby, yes you need a good primer for the paint to adhere to the surface! Yes, I’d try a good bonding primer next time around, then paint over that.

  32. Jessica says:

    Just a quick question for you –

    I have this same black Ikea dresser in my master bedroom and wanting to spruce it up a bit to make it more dramatic. Was thinking of leaving the dresser black and adding pops of gold / brass to it. Would you recommened painting gold stripes in the same manner you did in this post or would you run out to the home improvement store and purchase overlays to frame each drawer?

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