Thursday, March 4, 2010

Pterodactyl Dresser

Last week, my parents came and helped us get some work done for the nursery. Every time I look at the calendar, I'm surprised at how quickly June is coming! They brought this great little desk for us to use as a changing table:

It was my dad's desk as a child, then my parents used it as a changing table, then it was my desk, then my little brother's. And now we're using it! It needs some cleaning up, and I already have a few ideas.

But the main project for the week was working on a dresser for the baby. We didn't want to paint the walls because we're not sure how long we'll be here and will have to repaint white before we move, and that's a huge pain. We've done it before, and will do it again, but not for this house. So I want to add lots of color to the room with the furniture and accessories. I spent weeks scouring the internet for dresser ideas, and never found one that was really perfect, so I decided to get a pine dresser from an unfinished furniture store and paint it myself. I could have gone super thrifty with a vintage flea market find, stripped it and then painted it, but I don't have the energy for something like that and it was worth it to pay more for a new dresser.

I collected my inspirations, and spent a couple of days mulling over designs in my head before settling on one. We've already decided to use both dinosaurs and airplanes in the nursery -- I love dinosaurs, Chris loves airplanes, why not both? We're not going for super themey or matchy-matchy, and mixing it up really suits us both (wait until you see the quilt he, my mom, dad and I designed together).


Deep Sea Dresser from Chromalab

Shadow Dresser from Purpose Restoration (via ohdeedoh)

Bird silhouette decals are everywhere right now. Here's one example from Etsy seller thebinarybox

The project breakdown

  • Time spent: 5 days
  • Paint
    • 1 quart latex Kilz primer
    • 1 quart Behr 550B Blue Ocean low VOC latex, gloss
    • 1 quart white latex paint, gloss
    • 2 cups clear high gloss polyacrylic (water-based) clear coat
  • Big splurge
    • 8 glass knobs to replace the wooden ones the dresser came with
    • a new dresser rather than an old one
  • Big save
    • cheap-o brushes for detail work (bad idea!)
    • posterboard I already owned
    • homemade pteradactyl stencils
    • plastic container lids in 3 sizes

Step 1: Sand
Cover the floor with newspaper or a drop cloth! Remove the knobs from the drawers and remove the drawers from the dresser. Lightly dampen the dresser with warm water. This will raise the grain for you to sand down before painting. It'll help make sure the wood is super smooth. When it dries, sand the dresser across the grain with 220 grit sandpaper, then sand it with the grain. Use a sanding block to make sure you get an even finish.

Step 2: Prime
Cover the surface with primer. Pine is super porous, so priming it will help seal the wood and keep it from soaking up your first few coats.

Step 3: Paint!
We painted the body of the dresser in the original blue color, using a high-density foam roller.
For the drawers, I first drew on the cloud design. I used 3 different plastic lids and traced semicircles to make the clouds. You could also cut out your pattern from posterboard and use it as a stencil, if you're not sure how steady your hand will be when painting the lines.

I mixed up 5 values of blue by adding a little blue to white for the first 3, and a little white to the blue for the darkest 2. You want to mix up all your paint first, so you can ensure it matches as you put on multiple coats.

When I painted, I started with the lightest color and worked my way down. That way I could cover up any instances of painting outside the lines. I used a small trim brush to paint the lines first, then filled in the main part with a 1-inch regular brush. I started by using a foam brush to paint the main part, but it didn't cover as thickly as the brush on the curved lines, so I switched to a brush in order to get even coverage.

Let the paint dry for at least 4 hours in between each coat. Sand very lightly with 220 grit sandpaper in between coats. Tip from Dad: if you tape the sandpaper to a chalkboard eraser, you get a nice sanding block that doesn't put too much pressure and sand away all your paint.
You will have to do many, many coats to get an even finish. Because the primer was white, we did more coats of the dark colors than of the light. I think Mom ended up doing 7 or 8 coats of blue on the dresser!

Step 4: Make your stencils

While one of your million coats of paint is drying, get to work making your stencils. You can purchase stencils, or do what I did and make your own. To make the pterodactyls, I found three images I liked of pterodactyls and freehand copied them from my computer screen (just the outlines, no detail) onto a piece of posterboard. Then I used an exacto knife to cut them out in one piece, saving the cut-out part to use for future projects.


Step 5: Apply stencils
Once your clouds are completely finished and ready for the stencils, give them one last light sand. You won't want to sand your stencils, so it's best to go ahead and smooth out your clouds as much as possible. Using blue painter's tape, position your stencils where you want them. Take a thick stencil brush and stipple or pounce the paint very lightly. You'll have to do multiple coats to get even coverage (again). I used the pure blue we used for the dresser body -- it's darker than even the darkest cloud color I mixed up. When the stencils are dry, you can remove them carefully and reposition to make more pterodactyls.

Step 6: Add clear finish
After everything's dried, it's time to add your gloss clear coat. Sand the body of the dresser (if you didn't do this already). Apply the finish quickly, in one stroke. This way you won't get brush marks. Sand in between coats. You may have to add as many as 3 coats of gloss. This will protect your paint from chips and peeling, as well as give your furniture a nice shine!

Step 7: Put it all together
Once it's dry, it's time to add the knobs, put the dresser in place and put the drawers back in. Leave the drawers slightly open for about a week or so to let the paint cure. You don't want them sticking closed!

And that's it! It's a lot of work, but most definitely worth it. And Daisy seems to approve. See?


  1. You are awesome and you are going to be a great mom and daisy is just adorable too . i love the dresser and you are so crafty LOL !!!
    The earth laughs in flowers " ee cummings .

  2. my GOODNESS. you are so crafty and energetic. I'm impressed!

  3. Dude!!! You should totally go into the decorating/furniture business, you craft thing , you! :)

  4. Didn't we have a great time? BTW - love the picture of my grandpuppy!

  5. thanks, y'all! it really is something i love. beth, i'm not so energetic anymore. i think that week was the last energetic week i'll have. and THANKS MOM for all your help!!

  6. This is so inspiring! I want to paint all my furniture now. Your design and colour choices are gorgeous.

  7. thanks for all the lovely comments! i'm thinking about putting up the stencils as a pdf for download if anyone's interested.

  8. LOVE the pterodactyl dresser...I had similar concerns with not wanting a "babyish" or thematic nursery. I furnished almost entirely secondhand for my sweet pea, who turned out to be a boy! congrats :)

  9. cute! and thanks for the tutorial!
    Very cute dog too ^^


Thanks for your comment! Many people might have the same question you do, so I always respond in the comments, so click the little "subscribe by e-mail" link below to be notified of a response. If you leave your e-mail, I will usually e-mail you an answer to any questions. Of course, you're always welcome to send me an e-mail anytime - meghan {dot} isfive {at} gmail {dot} com.

Related Posts with Thumbnails