How to Upcycle a Dressing Table

how to upcycle a dressing table

Have you got a space in your home for dressing up? When I was little there were no walk in robes or dressing rooms, we simply had a free standing wardrobe and a dressing table. As my parents were into second hand and vintage, I had an amazing 1950’s dressing table, complete with multiple shelves, drawers, a huge pie crust mirror and little cupboards. I spent many a teenage night getting dressed up for a night on the town. I am sharing how to upcycle a dressing table today, to create a romantic style shabby chic dresser. We have a built in wardrobe in every room, but I still have a chest of drawers which goes back to my days as a little girl. It is solid oak and gorgeous. I use this as my dressing table. My re-loved piece for the Feast Watson Re-Love Project in 2015 was a throwback to those days of the dressing table, and would take pride of place in any vintage or romantic style bedroom. It is a great talking piece and storage option that could even contain your linen, or bits and pieces. It would be lovely in a little girls’ room.

What you need to upcycle your dressing table

Feast Watson Proofseal, Prooftint Oak, Liming White, Clear Varnish

How to do it

Step 1
Totally Sand back the entire piece with an orbital sander. At first I had not done this enough and needed to go back to ensure all the old varnish and stain was removed otherwise the prooftint will not settle into the timber.

Step 2

  • Wipe down the piece to ensure no sawdust
  • Apply 2 coats of Proofseal – Proofseal should be stirred thoroughly before and during application with a flat blade stirrer.
  • Apply a flood coat using a brush, roller or spray. I used a brush. Ensure edges and end grain are fully coated.
  • A second coat is necessary for porous timbers or when applied by spray. I did use 2 coats. Allow 20 minutes between coats.

Step 3

  • Apply Prooftint in Oak to the body and frame – Apply Prooftint direct with a brush or cloth, ensuring that the product is evenly distributed over the area to be stained. I used a cloth.
  • Allow approximately 2-5 minutes for the stain to penetrate the surface before wiping off the excess with a clean, soft cloth. Wipe in the direction of the grain. Ensure the edges of adjoining sections are carefully blended together by evenly wiping the overlap area. This piece is not smooth and uniform and the way the stain has evolved reflects this.

Step 4

  • Once thoroughly dry, seal with Feast Watson Clear Varnish

Step 5

  • Drawers – I mixed 5% Prooftint to Liming White to create the pastel almond tone. You can vary this depending on the depth of colour you want.
  • Apply the tinted mixture -Stir thoroughly before and during application with a flat blade stirrer taking care not to introduce bubbles. If using more than one can of the same colour to complete a job, combine both cans and stir thoroughly.
  • Test colour on an off-cut or inconspicuous area prior to staining the whole job to ensure satisfaction with colour choice. Note that the dwell time before wiping excess, and the finishing clear coat will impact the final colour. I tried one drawer to start with and worked until I was happy with the depth of colour.
  • Apply with a brush or Feast Watson Floor Finish Applicator in the direction of the grain. Wipe off excess with a soft, clean cloth after a period of time determined by the desired colour intensity (1-5 minutes). I waited about 5 minutes.
  • Allow to dry for 8 hours. Evaluate the colour: stronger colour can be developed with further coats.
  • Continue applying coats by the above procedure until the desired colour is achieved. I applied a second coat the next day.

Step 6

  • When satisfied with the colour, a protective top coat is required.
  • Top Coating – on the third day I applied clear varnish to the entire piece. Stir thoroughly before and during application with a flat blade stirrer taking care not to introduce bubbles. Apply Clear Varnish using a brush, roller or spray. I used a brush and small roller.
  • Allow 8 hours drying between coats. Sand lightly between coats with a fine sandpaper. I applied a second coat the next day for extra durability.
  • Mirror – I applied wallpaper samples to the back of the mirror. The front had one small blemish in the gilding which I think adds to it’s character.
  • Drawers- I took the old handles out and added the new bone heart handle and used wallpaper samples to line the drawers.

My tips for finding furniture to upcycle include:

  • Always look at the potential for a piece and not just what it is now
  • Look for solid well made pieces
  • Consider its current purpose and what you want to use it for – they may be totally different and think outside the square
  • See things from different angles, for example a drawer which sits horizontal when it is a drawer, makes a perfect shelf when placed on the wall, a door makes a fantastic table
  • Ignore the finish as that can always be changed, the shape and integrity of the piece is what matters. If you fall in love with something grab it! There will possibly be no chance of getting it again when it comes to vintage items.

I had not created a piece like this before. It was the first time for me using my new sander which I LOVED, and creating this kind of look as I had mostly created painted pieces in the past. It opened up new possibilities for what I may upcycle in the future.

Have you ever used these kinds of products in an upcycle before?


  1. Jen Bullock on February 2, 2016 at 12:22 pm

    This is a cool idea Peta Bullock , leave outside wood and just change drawers! That would look good for my dresser!

  2. Sue Nesbitt on February 23, 2016 at 11:01 am

    Oh wow… i was too busy looking at the trees on the wall

  3. Recycled Interiors on February 23, 2016 at 7:29 pm

    oh yes my wallpaper!!

  4. Robby Davies on February 23, 2016 at 9:07 pm

    Candice Bradley hearts for handles

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