Repairing and Painting Crate Furniture


Have you ever been in a situation where you needed furniture, didn’t have matching furniture, or maybe needed some furniture to stage a home?  For years, I made do with second rate furniture or furniture that was given to me after it had been used by someone else for years.  If you think this is a bad thing, think again.  You can create old furniture into something new and fun by using your imagination.  When you’re managing a family and funds, you do the best with what you have, and managing that money properly will help you survive in the future.  What you can create is a work of art that you’ll be proud of while saving money at the same time.

My mother had given us a chest of drawers (people seem to be calling them dressers nowadays, but we always called it a chest of drawers) a few years back.  It was the crate style furniture, and I desperately needed it for one of the girl’s rooms because there wasn’t enough storage in that particular bedroom.  As the girls became older, two college aged girls were sharing the room.  One of them would come home and attempt to pack all of her things in this piece of furniture.  It wasn’t made well in the first place, and the result of her overloading it led to THIS:

Chest of Drawers

This piece of furniture was so bad, that I initially thought I should toss it because I felt all of my efforts to repair it might not work.  The front was pulled off on one side.  Every slat going across that the drawers sat on had come apart, and one of the sides was bowed.  It seemed hopeless.

I was asked to stage a house, and I kept looking at this piece wondering if there was any hope in site for it.  I decided to attempt to put it back together.  I used Gorilla Wood Glue and strapped the furniture with adjustable straps that could be tightened so that it would hold it together.  I glued the slats back in and renailed.  This sounds easy, right?  It wasn’t easy.  This chest of drawers was fighting me.  I think it gave up on itself and the message was, “Throw me in the dump already!!!!”

Even though the slats were put in as well as I could get them back in, there were large gaps in between the slats and the front of the furniture piece.  I filled them with water putty…not just ANY putty, DURHAM’S ROCK HARD water putty.  I learned this trick from a man who repaired damaged pianos.  He said, “Just add a little water to it, knead it, put it where you need it.”  It’s unbelievable stuff and really does dry very hard.  This really is only good for painting furniture, so I wouldn’t attempt it on anything you wanted to stain, but, in my case, this piece of furniture was on the way to the garbage pile unless I took some measures.



Before the water putty hardened, I used a paper towel with water on it to smooth it out and wipe off excess.


When it was dry, I sanded it with a hand held sander and fine grit paper.

I had some leftover blue-green paint.  The pictures don’t demonstrate the color well and look gray in some, but the color is very inviting and nice on the eyes.  I figured that, after it’s used to stage a house, I can use it in my future sewing room.  Chests of drawers should always be saved because they’re good for so many things.  For a sewing room, you can use them to hold patterns and fabric.  They’re good in hallways for blanket and bedding storage.  There are just so many creative ways to use them for extra storage that throwing them away can be so wasteful.  Think of a creative way to use one that you thought you had no use for in your home.  Then, think of a great color to use that you’ll love seeing.  I wanted a color I would enjoy, and the blue green color fit the bill.

I used three cups of the paint and one cup of Plaster of Paris.  I used a paint mixing tool attached to my drill to mix it together and added a bit of water so that it ran smooth.  I painted the piece, let it dry overnight, distressed it with sandpaper, and then used a coat of Minwax Paste Finishing Wax applied with a cheesecloth and buffed with a soft cotton cloth.

The colors depicted in the two pictures below show the color best.


20140117_100542 20140117_100558

I think it was well worth saving.


chestofdrawers1I love when something that seemed so worthy of the dump gets rescued and becomes a pretty piece of furniture.  Of course, this is a motivational factor to finally have a sewing room.



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4 thoughts on “Repairing and Painting Crate Furniture

  1. Ellen

    Nice detailed description of the project and what a beautiful outcome. Thank goodness you decided to preserve it. That’s why you’re the HandyMOM!!!

    1. Donna

      Thanks, Ellen! I try not to bore people too much. That piece was about to be tossed, but there is always a use for a chest of drawers…ALWAYS! 🙂

  2. Why did you add plaster of Paris? And what type of paint did you use? Did one coat cover it? My piece of furniture is a bottom two door cabinet with a 3 shelf bookcase on top. Would like to update it with some bright paint.

    1. Donna

      Hi, Kathy – The Plaster of Paris is added to create your own homemade chalk paint. Yes, one coat did cover it! It’s a good, strong adhesive with very little prep work (sometimes, none). I used some Oops! Paint that I bought at Home Depot for $7.00 for a gallon. Keep an eye out for discard paint because you might find a color you like. I’ve tried different types of paints – eggshell, semi-gloss, flat – all types will actually work, but if you like that distressed look, I would aim to find a flat paint because I personally feel the flat paint gives it a better appearance. It’s up to you and what you like, but, most of all, let the inner artist come out! Do what you love because you want to be able to look at a piece and love it. 😉 I’d love to see some before and after photos of your work.

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