Chester drawers

Update: Someone got to this post because they Googled “what paint to use on wood chesterdrawers.” :D

I like to collect “knowledge gaps,” stories about people who misunderstood something simple, presumably as children, and were never corrected until later in life. For example, I thought gravity could be re-created on space stations into my twenties (presumably after watching “Rocket Man” as a child), and only found out that this wasn’t the case after a lengthy argument on the subject with my boyfriend, Lee. My boyfriend, on the other hand, thought that in the south, a bureau or dresser may also be called “Chester drawers.” I think it was last year that I first heard him say this.

We’re about to move into a new place in downtown Memphis, and so I’ve had home design and interior decorating on the brain (check out my Pinterest on the subject). The other day, when I saw a beat up Chester drawers with good bones on the side of the road, I decided it wanted to make it into this.


The before shot

First, I read this tutorial on painting furniture (thanks to Erin Spain of “DIY on the Cheap”). Then, I hit up Home Depot and allowed myself to spend $50 to make sure I got the right supplies: wood soap, sand paper, tack cloth, good paint, a brush, a roller, a tray, and furniture wax to finish it. I didn’t wind up getting primer, because I spent money on the paint + primer, but if I had to do it again, I would have bought primer.


Cleaning with wood soap.

I thought at first that I would try to find something to fix the missing pieces on the bottom. Mighty Putty? But they didn’t have any a Home Depot and the woman helping me didn’t seem to think they had anything like what I was describing, so I decided to go forward without the pieces, since the profile wasn’t affected.

Sanding with the hand sander; I had to go back and do the details by hand.

Sanding with the hand sander; I had to go back and do the details by hand.

Tack cloth before and after

Tack cloth before and after

Tack cloth is one of those purchases that I never would have known to make and would highly recommend to anyone sanding anything. I can’t imagine not having had it, especially since I sanded in between coats like the tutorial suggests.

Had to add my piece

Adding my piece; looks like this Chester drawers has had quite a history.

Coat #1, and finding out that this is going to take a while.

Coat #1, and finding out that this is going to take a while.

It would take five more coats. Once the painting was finally finished, I was so relieved to finish it with the wax, which took a relatively short period of time.

Before I put the hardware on, I tried to polish it. It was very, very tarnished (I wasn’t even sure it was metal at first, or if it was just painted) and I thought about painting it. Lee and I sat in the living room watching a Walking Dead marathon this morning, using Brasso, tooth paste, a Magic Eraser, vinegar paste . . . without much success. Finally, I found this tutorial on cleaning silver and figured it would work for whatever mystery-metal we had on our hands. Basically, you boil the pieces in a tin foil boil (tin foil compliments of the India Palace on Poplar Ave.) with salt and baking soda mixed into the water. I probably used way too much. It boiled over and my stove looks like a wreck.

Boiling the hardware

Boiling the hardware.


Polishing after the bath.

I thought I had really screwed up when I pulled them out, because they looked so much worse (see the dark one?) but a little Brasso, tooth-brushing and Magic Eraser and they were perfect and shiny when I was done. Only took a few minutes!

The after photo!

The after photo!


Chester drawers!

I can’t wait to get it into the new apartment! Oh, and I had a little bit of paint left over, so I made this:

Yellow, drippy flower vase

Coordinating yellow, drippy flower vase!

I just poured the last of the paint in the bottom, swirled it around so that it coated about the bottom two inches of the vase, and then flipped it over on the paper towel. When the drips almost reached the top, I flipped it back upright. After a while I decided there weren’t enough drips, so I added a couple of dots of paint on the bottom and repeated the process. Just my take on a pretty common and cheap D.I.Y. method of up-cycling old flower vases.

Got another project working soon. Gonna try my hand at re-upholstery! Thanks for reading. :)

4 thoughts on “Chester drawers

  1. “Chester drawers” is the southern term for Chest of Drawers. My grandparents had chester drawers in their homes. (:


  2. Oh, it’s on. I’ve got an upcycle I want to show you when you’re in town. Don’t know if I’ll have my post about it before then, but you’ll see….

    You’re smart, pretty, AND crafty. Trifecta!


  3. ARGH. So, I haven’t been able to text you yet, but I just found out I have a pretty exciting reason I will not be able to make our date on the 17th. Will you still be in the Boro that weekend or will you have left by then for your other trip? 19th-21st?


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