7 TIPS ON HOW TO PAINT AND UPDATE MID-CENTURY MODERN FURNITURE | MCM DRESSER MAKEOVER
How’s the start of your week going? We had a major snowstorm yesterday. I feel blessed to work from home with no commute on days like this. I stayed warm and cozy while staging and styling this mid-century dresser. I’ve painted a fair share of MCM furniture over the years. And I’ve made my fair share of mistakes which have taught me some amazing tips along the way. Today I’m sharing a detailed tutorial and 7 Tips on How To Paint Mid Century Furniture.
This is the four-drawer mid-century dresser I started with. My parents picked this up years ago and my sister has been using it for storage in her basement. It’s a solid well-built piece with nice large drawers — but not overly attractive with this dated dark finish.
A little sanding and paint go a long way, don’t you think?! I hope my sister loves the new look as much as I do!
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Mid-Century Modern design trend originated in the United States and was popular between 1945 until the late 1960s. The design focuses on clean lines without decorative trims. I painted my first MCM dresser back in 2015, and I have to admit I never would have thought I would grow to love these straight-lined minimalistic pieces.
7 Tips When Painting MCM Furniture
#1 Refresh Wood- Sometimes all these MCM pieces need is a wood conditioner to refresh and bring alive the gorgeous wood. Hemp Oil or a good furniture wax is an easy way to do this. Another way to update the wood is to lighten it up by bleaching or using a lighter stain. Lightening the wood finish on MCM furniture is one of my favorite looks.
#2 Paint and Stain- Leaving original wood on these pieces keeps the mid-century feel while adding color with paint brings it into the 21st century. Painting the body and leaving the drawers wood or vice-versa is a beautiful look.
#3 Color- Using a strong saturated color with earthy undertones pairs really well with the warm woods of midcentury furniture. Picking colors like these here will look more authentic to your MCM piece than picking a bright neon for example.
#4 Geometric Shapes- Stenciling some geometric shapes or creating your own bold geometric design using painter’s tape can really update mid-century modern furniture as well. There are some amazing examples on this mid-century furniture board here.
#5 Stripes- Painted stripes on mid-century furniture looks amazing and are easy to do. I like pairing it with natural wood but painted stripes in various colors look really good too.
#6 Change Hardware- Changing the hardware really updates these MCM pieces. If you love the shape of the original hardware but it’s not in good condition, consider painting or cleaning it up so it sparkles again.
#7 Topcoat- For a protective finish, I like to use a matte or satin finish rather than high gloss. I feel it represents the era more authentically.
Drawer Details – Lining the drawers with a beautiful liner or using a stencil or furniture transfer on the side of the drawers can really bring your MCM furniture to another level. It may not be seen on first glance, but every time you open a drawer, it will put a smile on your face!
Here’s how this dresser all came together along with all the supplies I used…
Mid-Century Dresser – SALVAGED
Dewalt Orbital Sander
Sandpaper | Tack Cloth
Burlap Chalk Mineral Paint (50%)
Mud Puddle Chalk Mineral Paint (50%)
I started by giving this MCM dresser a good cleaning and removing the hardware. I had mixed feeling about this hardware. What do you think of it? Yay or Nay?
I stripped off the finish using this CitriStrip paint and varnish stripping gel. I really like this stripper because I can use it in my studio (aka my basement) and it doesn’t smell up my entire home. I brush it on with an inexpensive chip brush, then leave it on for an hour or so depending on the finish.
You know when the CitriStrip has worked when you can easily scrape off the finish using a putty knife.
CLEAN AND SAND
After I removed the finish, I cleaned up the remaining stripper and sanded the drawers down to the natural wood. This was a veneer so I was careful not to sand through the veneer using my orbital sander and 180-220 grit sandpaper.
To update this dresser I filled the old hardware holes and painted a stripe down the middle of each drawer keeping the sanded natural wood on the top and bottom. I used a custom-mixed “Latte” color which was a 50/50 mix of this Mud Puddle and this Burlap.
For the body, I sprayed two coats of my custom mixed “Latte” for a smooth clean finish.
Once all the paint dried, I drilled new hardware holes for the updated handles. The top knobs are the original that I spray-painted black.
I’m really happy with how this all came together. I’m giving this piece back to my sister so she can use it for storage again.
A good-looking storage piece, don’t you think?!
I love the custom “Latte” with the natural warmth of the wood. It feels neutral and soothing.
Here’s another look at this before and after. I hope it’s inspired you and given you some new ideas for your MCM projects. I’m really enjoying working on these mid-century modern pieces and I hope you’ve enjoyed this makeover as well! Now I’m heading out to shovel some snow. 🙂
THANKS FOR JOINING ME TODAY! LET ME KNOW WHAT YOU THINK OF THIS RESTYLE OR FEEL FREE TO ASK ANY QUESTIONS YOU MAY HAVE… I ALWAYS LOVE HEARING FROM YOU. IT MAKES MY DAY! 🙂
Happy furniture painting friends!
Caye Cooper says
Denise, you are about the only person I know that can make me appreciate MSM! Thanks for another stellar job.
Wishing you a very happy, healthy, successful New Year!
Thanks so much Caye, that’s super sweet of you to say! Wishing you a healthy and happy new year as well my friend. XOXO
Love all of your creations .
Where do you buy the metal legs ?
Appreciated your help .
Thanks Joan, and I usually buy my furniture legs off Amazon. They have a pretty good selection.
Cecilia from Georgia says
Andrea should put this in a place of honour! The horizontal stripes in your special homemade mix are so attractive. I love the piece you did in 2015! Everything you do is always beautiful. Stay warm!
Hi Cecilia! 🤗 Andrea is still going to use it for storage in her basement but at least it will look WAAAAY better. Thanks so much and doing my best to stay warm in these minus temps.❄️
Love the upgrade keeping it simple and letting the beauty of the wood show through. Thanks for sharing
Thanks so much Josephine!🤗
Great redo!! It really took me aback. My mother and father were married 67 years ago and this is one piece of their bedroom set. She still has the whole set. How wild it was to see it on your blog!! Thanks for sharing
67 years ago and she still has the whole set – that’s AMAZING! I don’t know where my parents picked this up – probably a thrift store or garage sale – but I’m sure we’ve had it “in the family” for at least 40 years. I love that you left this comment because Andrea and I were wondering how old this piece actually was! xo
OOOH, great update with lovely natural wood tones. Lucky sis! Keep those cool old pulls for some far-out funky piece in the future. Happy New Year to you, Denise, wishing you much inspiration for ’22.
Thanks my friend and yes, I’m keeping them for sure.🙌 I know they will be perfect for a piece down the road. Happy New Year to you as well! XOXO
The latte color he’s so well with the natural wood. Very attractive. If you were going to sell it, what would you have used for the finishing- matte clear coat, wax??
Thanks Sherri! 🙂 For selling, I would have used a satin clear coat and sprayed it on. Super durable and easy to clean.
Kim Banko says
I think it’s fantastic! MCM is my favorite to update with paint.
Love what you did with this piece!
I think the original hardware is really fun, but maybe spray painted in white or black, for a different piece!
Thanks Kim!🤗 And you describing the hardware as ‘fun’ makes me look at them differently!💙
Very nice! MCM usually isn’t my favorite style, but this piece came out great! I love it. Well done!
Hi, love the update! One question though-did you put a finish on the stripped wood? MCM is certainly making a come back in the 21 century.
Thanks Laura! There is no topcoat or finish on it. It’s raw wood. If I was going to sell this piece I would have topcoated but for the amount of use it’s going to get – no need.
It is now a very stylish piece. Personally, I would have used the original hardware handles, turned horizontally, and painted black. It would have given the piece an unexpected ‘curveball’.
I love your idea, Robin! I have mixed feelings about the hardware and my sister hates it…lol. But I have saved it for another makeover!
Lisa Standiford says
Just beautiful work! I received a Husky paint gun for Christmas! Following you, and doing research, I decided on the Husky brand. We tried it out over the weekend and I love it! I watched your gun cleaning video several times, listened to your every word and it was really easy. Well, thanks to you. In this video, you used your gun, how much water do you add to your paint prior to loading it? I use DB paint and it can be thick! I keep thinking 20% water? Is that right or did I dream that? Love your work and all your videos. Thank you for spreading the knowledge!
Hi Lisa and CONGRATS on your new Husky Paint Gun… so happy you LOVE it! When I use Dixie Belle paint through the spray I typically thin it by 10-15% for a perfect spray. 🙂
Beautiful refresh, Denise! Andrea is lucky to be the beneficiary of your work ha ha! XOXO
Thanks my friend and Andrea IS LUCKY…lol! I kinda want to keep this one! 😂
This dresser is beautiful Denise. I agree with Do, your sister is going to love it!
Aw, thanks so much Nicki, and I hope so. Otherwise, I’m keeping it! hehe
I normally do not like most painted MCM pieces, but this came out awesome! Well done, you have expanded my horizons!
Yay! Thanks Kim!🤗
Love how you incorporated the lines into the stripe instead of filling them. It’s so smart and keeps it authentic.
Thanks Sara, they were super helpful in taping off perfectly straight lines as well!
Do Dodson says
Lucky sister! It turned out fantastic, Denise! I’m sure she will love it and if she doesn’t, you can give it to me. I’ll be your sister. 🙂 xo
Thanks Do…and you are like my painting sister!😉💜
Hi Denise. This MCM dresser turned out beautifully. Before you worked your magic, I can understand why it was hiding in your sister’s basement. It was rather ugly. Lol. Now that you’ve made it beautiful, I’m sure it’ll be used for more than just storage. Gorgeous work as always.
Ya, a little ugly… I agree! Thanks so much Monique! XOXO