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Micro Makeover: How to paint a chest of drawers

Got an old chest that’s in need of a little TLC? Don’t give it away, transform it with a couple of coats of paint! Take inspiration from Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen’s cool blue beauty, featured in the fourth episode of Changing Rooms on Channel 4, and create a showstopper you can be proud of. 

It’s easy to feel daunted when it comes to painting furniture but, with the right paint to hand, it’s much easier than you think. All it takes is some lovely colours, a little bit of elbow grease and a spare afternoon.

Upcycling an old piece of furniture is incredibly satisfying. Not only is it a thrifty way of creating a new-look item, it means you’re saving something that might otherwise have been thrown away – always a good feeling. And, if you’re renting, it’s an easy way to bring colour and your own personal style to a room if you’re not able to paint the walls. If you don’t have something suitable already at home, take a look in local junk shops or fleamarkets for shapely, inexpensive pieces that could be given a new lease of life.

When it comes to colour, be bold! Paint the piece in one vibrant colour; pick out the drawers in a different shade or finish; or create a subtle and sophisticated two-tone piece, as here. Watch the video to see Steph Howles, our Dulux Select Decorator, show you how to do it or follow our simple step-by-step guide below. 

You’ll need

  • Primer (for bare wood or melamine furniture)
  • Paint in a dark and a lighter colour
  • Fine surface sandpaper
  • Sugar soap, clean cloths and a bucket of clean water (plus rubber gloves) - optional
  • Dust brush and vacuum cleaner
  • Small radiator roller with glossing sleeve
  • 2 x 2" good quality acrylic brushes
  • 1 litre plastic paint kettle
  • Mixing brush (round fitch)
  • Dust sheets

Get Ready

1.    Lay down the dust sheets.

2.    Remove the knobs or handles from the chest drawers if they’re not integral (put them in a jam jar for safekeeping).

3.    If the surface of the furniture is very dirty or damaged, pop on your rubber gloves and clean it with sugar soap. Rinse well with water on a clean, damp rag, and allow to dry.

4.    Lightly sand the surface of the chest of drawers (body and drawer-fronts), then remove dust with a dust brush (and vacuum cleaner).

5.    If you’re working with bare wood or melamine furniture, apply a primer undercoat, such as Dulux Primer For Difficult Surfaces. Leave to dry, lightly sand again and remove dust. If the furniture is already painted, it needs no undercoat.


1.    Stir your darker paint (here, Nordic Sky eggshell) and paint the top and the sides of the chest, using a small glossing roller for flat surfaces and a brush for any fiddly bits and mouldings.

2.    Paint the drawer fronts. Leave the chest to dry.

3.    Pour your lighter paint (here, Glacial Spring eggshell) into the paint kettle, stir and paint over the chest. 

4    While still wet, use a dusting brush to drag the surface, allowing the darker colour to show through slightly. 

5.    Allow to dry, lightly sand and replace drawer knobs or handles.

6.    Ta-da!

Expert tip: Sand lightly and remove dust between coats for a perfect smooth finish. 

Clean up


1.    Remove as much paint as you can from your brush, roller and tray.

2.    Give your roller, tray and brush a thorough wash in water. There’s no need to use white spirit, as these paints are water based.

3.    Firmly close the paint tin and store in a dry and frost-free environment. 

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