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Entryway Credenza Makeover – From Distressed To Refined

Last Updated on January 14, 2019 by Kristi Linauer

After a forced two-week break, I have finally finished my first project for the month! Something tells me I’m not going to make it through my August to-do list. 🙂

At the end of June, I purchased a “new” credenza (yes, I know it’s a dresser 🙂 ) from a local resale shop. It’s one of those places that buys up old furniture, slaps a coat of white chalk paint on everything, and marks up the price 400% because it’s been “refinished”.

This is what it looked like when I purchased it…

new credenza for entryway - 1

The picture doesn’t show just how awful the finish was. It had drips and runs everywhere, and the entire surface was very rough.

But I loved the overall look of the dresser, and was especially drawn to the design on the upper drawers and the shape of the feet, so I paid their ridiculously inflated price for it knowing that I’d have to refinish it.

So I spent the last two days sanding down that awful drippy, clumpy, brush stroke-covered chalk paint finish as best I could. Then I gave it two fresh coats of Behr Polar Bear (my favorite white), and then accented the drawers with some Sherwin Williams Repose Gray.

entryway credenza makeover - gray and white painted dresser - 1a

The new look is definitely more my style. The details on this dresser were way too pretty to hide under that awful rustic/distressed look. This dresser needed a more refined look, in my humble opinion.

What I didn’t count on was that I’d have to redo the entire top. When I saw the dresser in the shop, there were all kinds of decorative items displayed on top, with what I realize now were two big mirrors strategically placed.

credenza in store

The part of the top that I could see looked just fine. It wasn’t until they delivered it to my house that I saw that the top had severe water damage to the point that the particle board under the veneer had swollen to almost double its thickness in some areas and had become very brittle, and the veneer, which was barely hanging onto the brittle particle board, was very warped. It never dawned on me that they would have covered up so much damage by strategically placing large, heavy merchandise so that it hid the damage. I can’t imagine being a shop owner and being okay with something like that leaving the store.

This isn’t a great picture, but it’s the only one I have where you can kind of see the damage I’m talking about on right side of the top towards the back. See how warped and bubbled up the veneer is? And the damage to the particle board underneath made the particle board unsalvageable.

entryway credenza - before

So I peeled off all of the warped veneer, and then chipped away all of the swollen, brittle particle board underneath.

entryway credenza makeover - gray and white painted dresser - repairing veeer and particle board damage on top - before

I didn’t want to go to the trouble of completely replacing the top, which would have required ordering new wood veneer online and waiting at least two days for it to arrive. So my simple solution was to just cover the entire top, from the innermost edges of the routed design on the front and side edges, with a new layer of 1/4″ plywood. I used contact cement to adhere the plywood to the old top.

entryway credenza makeover - gray and white painted dresser - repairing veeer and particle board damage on top - after

That did leave me with an area roughly 1.5″ x 18″ with no support under the new plywood top, but since it was right on the back edge of the top, I didn’t worry about it. I never place items that far back on the top, and even if I did, the 1/4″ plywood is strong enough to hold any decorative item I’d ever place on the top of a dresser.

I sanded the edges so that they were very smooth and the edges were rounded just a bit. And then since I knew I would be painting the whole thing rather than staining, I caulked where the plywood met the old top to mimic a continuous routed edge look. I think it turned out pretty well.

entryway credenza makeover - gray and white painted dresser - 4a

The original pulls were dark and heavy looking…

new credenza for entryway - 2

I may eventually get new pulls — something a bit simpler and less bulky in design. But for now, I just lightened up the look of the existing pulls with Rub ‘N Buff in antique gold.

entryway credenza makeover - gray and white painted dresser - 3a

I’m very pleased with how this turned out. The finish on it before just didn’t do this piece justice, and the damaged top was just awful. There’s no way I could have been satisfied with that in my entryway.

new credenza for entryway - 1

But now she’s all cleaned up with a new top, fresh paint, and shiny hardware.

entryway credenza makeover - gray and white painted dresser - 2a

So it took me 17 days to get my first item crossed off of this month’s to-do list. Oh well. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. Right? 🙂

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  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    August 17, 2017 at 9:17 am

    You have amazing skills, not to mention, stick-to-itness and stamina. Just wow.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    August 17, 2017 at 9:17 am

    I’m amazed how beautiful this has turned out! I do not like the colour of the pulls so much, but that is entirely a question of personal colour preference and I have to admit that the overall look with it is still great (I might have gone for silver…) But you had the right idea about what this piece needed and finished it perfectly (I simply love the combination of grey and white!). It’s outrageous, though, that the shop not only refinished it so badly but deceived you about the top. I’m glad you were able to make the repairs and don’t have to cover vast areas of the top with decorations yourself 🙂
    On a different note, I’m happy to hear that you are feeling better – hope it’ll stay like this now!!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    August 17, 2017 at 9:41 am

    All spiffed up and it looks like it’s smiling! Great job.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    August 17, 2017 at 9:43 am

    Looks beautiful. Would you have bought it anyway if you knew the top was so damaged?

    • Reply To This Comment ↓
      August 19, 2017 at 11:18 am

      I would have, but at a reduced price. And I always like to know how much work I’m in for before purchasing a piece of furniture. I don’t like surprises after I’ve already paid for it (and paid extra for delivery).

      • Reply To This Comment ↓
        August 19, 2017 at 11:23 am

        You should complain to that store– their actions border on fraud!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    August 17, 2017 at 9:46 am

    How lovely, Kristi! I love the way you handled the damaged top- you are so clever! I know you’re busy, but would you feel better if you wrote a letter to the shop owner? I think it’s terrible that they were okay selling it in such poor condition. We have a local store called Not Too Shabby where they sell Annie Sloan products and teach classes and the pieces they sell are top notch- finished beautifully. Retailers like yours do a great disservice to other shops that value quality finished pieces.

    • Reply To This Comment ↓
      August 17, 2017 at 7:14 pm

      I agree. Shades of Amber in Monument CO is an Annie Sloan retailer and they are trained by Annie herself. Never, ever have I seen a piece of furniture in that condition there.
      I would send this blog post to the shop owner so she can see the condition of the product she was selling.
      It looks beautiful and I love how it compliments your stenciled wall.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    August 17, 2017 at 9:58 am

    I love it! What a disaster that top was! You really did a great job of making it work.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Rebecca B
    August 17, 2017 at 10:02 am

    I really do like how you polished the “antiquing” off the original pulls and shined them up. I think the drawer hardware is gorgeous! I also think the “credenza” that you re-made is gorgeous. And you made the best of a bad situation by replacing the top of the credenza. So is the new top 1/4 inches higher than the old top? It’s my understanding that the particleboard is still under there but you artfully caulked it underneath?
    Anyway, it looks fantastic. Yay Kristi!

    • Reply To This Comment ↓
      August 19, 2017 at 11:20 am

      Yes, the top is now 1/4″ higher, and the original wood veneer and particleboard top are under the new plywood. I just caulked around the edges of the plywood to create a seamless transition from the original routed edge to the edge of the plywood.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    August 17, 2017 at 10:05 am

    Lovely, what kind of finish did you use (satin, semi gloss, etc)

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Lisa Johnson
    August 17, 2017 at 10:08 am

    Looks wonderful! And it’s perfect for the entry! Shame on the store owner for trying to hide that terrible damage. Your fix looks great, and you would never even guess it had been repaired- flawless job! 🙂

    • Reply To This Comment ↓
      Lisa Johnson
      August 17, 2017 at 10:11 am

      PS- I forgot to mention that I bet the detail on the top drawers looks amazing with the stencil work you did in the next room. Can’t wait to see a long shot with both in view!

      • Reply To This Comment ↓
        Theresa P
        August 17, 2017 at 12:00 pm

        Oy! Good point! I had forgotten! You’re right. Can’t wait to see a full shot of that!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Kristine Brown
    August 17, 2017 at 10:11 am

    I adore it! It looks so beautiful!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    August 17, 2017 at 10:13 am

    Great job Kristi! How did you paint the top drawers – which colour first, and how did you cut the edge between the two colours. It is quite intricate detail.

    • Reply To This Comment ↓
      August 19, 2017 at 11:23 am

      I painted the white first, and then went back with the gray. On the top drawers with the detailed design, I used a small artist brush to paint the gray, and it took three coats. It was quite tedious. 🙂 The lower drawers were obviously much easier since there was no fretwork design to paint around. I cut in with the small art brush, and then painted the gray with my 2″ Purdy paintbrush on those lower drawers.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    August 17, 2017 at 10:22 am

    Do you brush or spray the white

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Sharon C
    August 17, 2017 at 10:29 am

    You’ve done an amazing job refinishing the credenza Kristi. It looks way better now. Shame on the store owner for covering up the top with decor pieces in th showroom and not admitting to you that it was damaged and offering you a discounted price for it. Bad customer service and bad ethics!!!!!! But you have done an amazing job fixing it and transforming it. Well done!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    August 17, 2017 at 10:41 am

    So. Much. Better. That’s all. 🙂

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Marianne in Mo.
    August 17, 2017 at 10:51 am

    1,000% Better! That top was atrocious! Kristi’s mad skills at work again! I had a similar experience with a table I bought from a secondhand store, not being able to see the ugliness in the somewhat bad lighting of the shop. But my item was only $40, and I wanted to shorten the legs and have a “lived through a lot” look anyway. Still, I wasn’t happy to see the finish on the top that was not evident until I got it home. Oh well – I learned a lesson there. It’s just here until my grandkids get a bit older and learn what a coaster is. LOL.
    Glad to hear you are feeling so much better again. Don’t fret too much about not accomplishing your goals for the month. You’ll get there!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    August 17, 2017 at 11:12 am

    Impeccable job! Please let us know how you painted the details on the drawers and the trim. I have a piece of furniture that I want to paint blue and cream but it has a lot of details and I’m nervous about getting white paint on the areas that should be blue!

    • Reply To This Comment ↓
      August 19, 2017 at 11:25 am

      I painted the white first, and the I went back with the gray. I did the gray on the top drawers with a small art brush, and it took three coats of gray. It was very tedious. 🙂

      • Reply To This Comment ↓
        September 1, 2017 at 4:31 pm

        Was wondering how you did this – would have been cool if that trim could have been removed before painting and then replacing. – thanks

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Mark E Tisdale
    August 17, 2017 at 11:50 am

    Muccccch better than the way it looked when you purchased it! Can’t believe they covered up all that damage on the top. Not a good way to do business. Certainly not the way to get repeat customers.

    Could you cut a small strip of MDF or some other wood and glue it in between the 1/4″ plywood and the dresser? Or is it still too rough in there to go that route? Not trying to fill in the area entirely but just give a little more support. I know sooner or later I’d forget about that weak point and damage it. Probably when I tried to move it away from the wall for some reason months or years later.

    Anyway, as I said, fab work!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Mary L
    August 17, 2017 at 12:42 pm

    It turned out beautiful!! I would probably not shop at that store again considering their shoddy practices. I’ve tried to like the weathered/distressed look but I just can’t wrap my mind around it for my own house. I like yours much better.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    August 17, 2017 at 12:57 pm

    It looks amazing. Is it for sale? 😉 I’d love to have something like that in my home.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    August 17, 2017 at 2:42 pm

    Looks fantastic!!!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    August 17, 2017 at 2:52 pm

    Just simply love it! It looks beautiful now!!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    August 17, 2017 at 3:46 pm

    Beautiful! Does Rub ‘n Buff adhere well?

    • Reply To This Comment ↓
      August 19, 2017 at 11:27 am

      My experience is that it adheres very well on porous surfaces, but not so well on non-porous, shiny surfaces. I wasn’t sure it would work on these pulls, but they are old and the shine had worn off. The finish was kind of like a lightly etched feel, so I took a chance that the Rub ‘N Buff would work. And it did!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Lisa E
    August 17, 2017 at 4:32 pm

    Beautifully done and shame on that store owner. I would have a hard time not putting a complaint in to them.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    August 17, 2017 at 7:46 pm

    Agree with what everyone else is saying about how beautiful the credenza makeover turned out, and how skeevy it was of the person at the shop to camouflage the damage the way they did. They did that so you’d not ask for a discount on their horribly “refinished,” overpriced dresser. I know the marketplace is “caveat emptor,” but let’s get real — they used shady and unethical business practices to entice customers to buy that dresser. I detest that type of dishonesty. Luckily for the dresser, it ended up with such a highly skilled refinisher as you and was given a glorious facelift!

    I too would love to know how you did the two-tone paint job — if you painted the white on first, or last. I’ve got two nightstands and a 9-drawer dresser that could benefit from this Kristi treatment, but I’m thinking of using a muddied aqua/turquoise color with white, and silver hardware with a tiny bit of an aged finish, so will await details on your paint technique!

    • Reply To This Comment ↓
      August 19, 2017 at 11:28 am

      I painted the white first, and the did the gray on the top drawers with a small art brush. It took three coats, so it was pretty tedious.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    August 17, 2017 at 9:15 pm

    For rub n buff, I remember it’s a wax product. Do you have to seal or anything to protect it’s shine? I ‘ve used it but to modify a clock face that’s behind glass.

    • Reply To This Comment ↓
      August 19, 2017 at 11:29 am

      I’ve never used a protective coating on it, except for my green kitchen cabinets. It did’t seem to make much of a difference, so I don’t think I’d go to the trouble in the future.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Chris L
    August 17, 2017 at 10:53 pm

    Wow! Looks great! You always have great vision!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    August 17, 2017 at 11:23 pm

    I love this piece as much as any I’ve i’e seen. I’m on the hunt.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Kathleen Rupp
    August 18, 2017 at 6:48 am

    Woah…I can’t believe they sold that like that and tried to deceive the buyer. That’s ridiculous! drips and runs? wow. Regardless it looks AMAZING now! I love what you did with it. I am working with chipping veneer right now as well….NOT FUN! Your solution is great! The colors you chose are very nice:) It will look beautiful in your entry way!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Genelle McDaniel
    August 18, 2017 at 10:18 am

    Refined! That’s what your style is, refined. Not elegantly formal, but classically refined. I love it.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    August 18, 2017 at 1:29 pm

    You go!!!
    Thanks for showing details of how you did this. Once again your project dovetails with my doing an antique piece from my parent’s estate that had the same water damage, bubbling veneer. You are such a support to all of us novice DIY’rs. Thanks so much for helping us learn, grow our confidence.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Mrs Mike
    August 19, 2017 at 8:15 am

    So glad you’re feeling better! It’s a shame that you had to overpay for a piece you had to re-finish, but as always, it looks lovely. I personally would write a Yelp review to warn future buyers about the store owner’s deceptive staging. Not everyone knows how to refinish a top like you. It’s one thing to buy a piece that you know you plan to refresh with paint. It’s another to find damage that wasn’t disclosed or was hidden. At the very least, it should have been discounted to reflect the damage.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    suzie dunson
    August 19, 2017 at 11:00 am

    I think polished nickel would look best on the hardware…i think farmhouse is a much better look for this house..

    • Reply To This Comment ↓
      August 19, 2017 at 11:12 am

      Farmhouse? My house is a 1940s/50s ranch style house located in the city, and there’s absolutely nothing farmhouse style inside my house. I personally wish the farmhouse decorating craze would go away, with the exception of actual farmhouses.

      • Reply To This Comment ↓
        suzie dunson
        August 21, 2017 at 9:56 pm

        Painted cabinets. Raw stained wood. Burlap. Baskets. Rustic-farmhouse. HUGE difference…

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    August 22, 2017 at 7:43 am

    This is just gorgeous, Kristi!! Excellent job😍

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Olivia Russo
    September 4, 2017 at 2:59 pm

    Lovely colors and look! You did a great job and put in a lot of work on this piece. I like the gold hardware color and that they smile. It has a mid-century vibe in my opinion. The paintings, though, take it to another dimension, very nice. It seems that the neutrals in the credenza would harmonize well with other colors as well, perhaps peaches and greens, fall colors. Great work!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    September 14, 2017 at 12:35 pm

    You are a genius!
    I am assuming you did not finish the credenza with a top coat/polyurethane?
    I want to paint my dresser and was thinking I should finish with a protector however, I read your article on the nightmare Miniwax polycrylic…
    I’ve also heard that from several others regarding Miniwax. I thought I found the solution in General Finishes top coat, however that is a water based polyurethane and I’m concerned about yellowing of a white color.
    So, can I leave a dresser with just a satin paint?
    Thank you

    • Reply To This Comment ↓
      September 14, 2017 at 1:28 pm

      I didn’t topcoat mine, but I probably will end up doing that. Latex paint just seems to always remain a slight bit tacky, so things placed on top stick to it just a bit. It’s not so bad if you let it cure really well before placing items on it, but that could take up to 30 days. But it’s just easier and faster to do a clear water-based topcoat. I’ve used General Finishes many times. It’s my favorite, and I’ve never had it yellow over light colors.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    September 28, 2017 at 8:48 am

    Beautiful work! Modern and vintage at the same time-perfect combination.