Shabby Chic Welsh Dresser Make-over

This post was most recently updated on March 18th, 2020

I love the rustic, shabby chic look, and when I get the opportunity to up-cycle something I give it a go.

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My sister managed to score me a free welsh dresser. FREE. It was in pretty good nick too, a few old borer holes which I treated just in case, but other than that it was relatively tidy.

It was however a scuddy 1980’s dark brown and the varnish was pretty scratched up. Functional, but not pretty. And while I aim for functionality, if you can fancy it up some for free (or minimal cost) why wouldn’t you??

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How to achieve the rustic shabby chic look on a dresser.

Step one

DUST – ick! I had to use a damp cloth wipe down my very dusty cabinet to find the scratches and dints that I wanted to fill. Unfortunately I didn’t take a photo before I started. Well, that’s not totally true, I tried, but the camera is broken, so we are stuck with phone photos for now – sorry!

Step two

Fill any major scratches with wood filler that detract from the overall look you are going for. I just filled the borer holes, I quite like the character the scratches add.

Step three

Sand. I sanded the whole thing with the orbital sander and some 120 grit sand paper. Not enough to remove the varnish, but just enough to rough up the whole surface to help the paint bind.

Diy Rustic Shabby Chic Dresser

Step four

Dust again. I hate dusting, but sometimes needs must. You don’t want that dust gritting up your pretty paint now do you?

Step five

Prime. I never used to bother with primer coats, but turns out they exist for a reason, who knew? They help everything stick to the layer below. I used some stain blocking primer that I had laying around.

Diy Rustic Shabby Chic Dresser

Step six

Paint. I had some left over white water-wash enamel paint from the bathroom ceiling and some light blue from painting our bedside cabinets. It is a proper alkeloyd based paint not the “water-enamels” that some companies sell that are really just a hard wearing acrylic. It is extremely hard wearing, but easy to wash up while it is wet. I gave the whole thing two coats over the course of a few evenings.

Diy Rustic Shabby Chic Dresser

Step seven

Sand/Scrape. The shabby chic look is all about scraping the paint off again and looking old. You can decide how crazy you want to go with sanding, you can even use a paint scraper on parts like I did on these bedside cabinets. I chose to go more subtle with this dresser, I only did the edges of the details and cupboards/drawers.

shabby chic cabinet
This is my bedside cabinet – the paint layers are scraped back with a paint scraper.
DIY Rustic Shabby Chic Dresser
In contrast on the welsh dresser I have only removed a small amount of paint on the details/edges.

Diy Rustic Shabby Chic Dresser

Step eight

Wax. This helps protect all the exposed wood, it removes a little more paint and tints parts to make them look old.

On the bed side cabinets I used walnut colored wax, but I think on white that would be too dark, but I still wanted some color so I mixed it half and half with some clear wax and just rubbed it on then straight back off to get a subtle effect.

006 Diy Rustic Shabby Chic Dresser

Diy Rustic Shabby Chic Dresser

Step nine

Dress and admire!

Diy Rustic Shabby Chic Dresser

Beautiful and practical, my favourite combination!

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