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Stenciled Dresser - Step by Step DIY Guide

The project that all my dreams are made of....

A little backstory:

My husband Nandor and I have never owned our own bedroom furniture. When we got married almost 16 years ago we used the one he owned. At some point we got rid of that set and upgraded our mattress which sat on a boxspring without any sort of bed. That lasted for quite a few years until my parents' gave us their old set and we've been using for the past few years. We recently purchased a new home, which we move into in less than 30 days, and I knew I wanted my own bedroom furniture and went on the hunt. I really didn't know what I wanted or what I really liked! After some searching I fell in love with a carved dresser from Anthropology but my hopes were quickly shattered when I realized the dresser alone was $2000. This dresser linked isn't the exact one I originally found as that one is no longer available, but this one is equally dreamy and inspiration worthy!

My creative nature always says "I can make that!", but I also knew there was no way I could DIY a carved dresser! So I started looking for some alternative ways to achieve a similar look and that is when I stumbled upon some really cool stenciled dressers.

The majority of the ones I found weren't the exact version I was wanting to create, but it definitely opened my mind to the world of stencils and provided me some amazing inspiration!

This dresser I used for this makeover/ DIY is from our current set - the one my parents' gave us. We sold the bed and the side tables and kept the tall 6 drawer dresser (which my teenage son uses in his room) and also the 12 drawer dresser with the mirror. Here is a picture of it in its original form. To quote my girl Maren Morris "When the bones are good the rest don't matter."

FOR THIS SPECIFIC DRESSER I wanted the stenciled paint colors to blend into the natural tone of the wood to try and achieve that carved wood look I fell in love with. I choose a creamy white and a tan which pulled from the tones of the raw wood. If you take a closer look at the pictures above you'll see the two colors I did on the stencil to attempt to add some highlights and shading. If you are trying to achieve a similar look, but maybe your wood tone is different, choose colors that almost blend into the tone of your wood.

BELOW ARE STEP BY STEP INSTRUCTIONS. Prior to beginning your own project, especially if you are new to this sort of thing, I do suggest you read through the entire blog. I include a few tips that will make the process easier and I also answer a few questions that came in from my Instagram community. I've included links for everything I used below in the "Tools and Supplies." There are some affiliate links so if you do purchase from my site (which I highly appreciate) I will receive a very small commission which is at no additional cost to you.

Overall Time:

From start to finish which includes all drying time it took us 7 total days. I've done my best to break down how the time was spent.

Day 1: Remove hardware. Apply Citri-Strip to dresser frame and sand drawers.

Day 2: Scrape off Citri-Strip and clean dresser frame. Sand dresser frame.

Day 3: Clean dust off dresser and drawers. Apply poly.

Day 4: Begin stenciling.

Day 5: Finish stenciling. Do first two layers of paint on mirror and base of dresser.

Day 6: Finish painting mirror and base of dresser. Apply Poly.

Day 7: Replace hardware.

Tools and supplies you'll need:

dresser - you can obviously use something you own or buy preowned, but IKEA has a great raw wood dresser if you want to achieve the look without any of the stripping and sanding.

screwdriver (for removing hardware)


plastic wrap (optional)

plastic scraper

acetone (optional)

old rags and/or paper towels

Large paint brush or foam brush

Electric Hand Sander

220 grit sandpaper

800 grit sandpaper

Polyurethane - I used the spray quick drying one from Minwax


Paint for stencil - Parchment and Ochre

small stippling brush - I used a small stippling makeup brush and it was the perfect size

Tape - This is to keep the stencil in place while you're painting. I used both packing tape and painters tape. Whatever you have on hand will work fine.

Blow dryer

Additional paint for mirror - I used Parchment linked above

2" paint brush


Remove drawers from dresser. Remove hardware.

Tip: To make sure you keep up with the hardware and return it to the proper drawer, tape the hardware to the inside of the drawer.

Using a large brush, brush Citri-Strip directly onto dresser. You need to use a large amount and make sure to spread it thick. The Citri-Strip needs a minimum of 2 - 24 hours to set and begin to loosen the varnish from the furniture. You can furniture in plastic wrap at this point, which helps the Citri-Strip to not dry out which in turn helps it do its job. Honestly I've done it both ways and have had similar results. Whether you choose to use the plastic wrap or not GIVE THE CITRI-STRIP THE TIME TO WORK!! I would even give it MORE time than you think because if you try to remove it too quickly, it will do nothing but stick and goop together and be next to impossible to remove.

I decided to use Citri-Strip on the dresser frame only and since the drawers weren't extremely large, my husband sanded the drawers without stripping the varnish first. He used an electric sander with 120 grit sandpaper and finished them with 800 grit sandpaper to make them smooth to the touch.

After you've let the Citri-Strip set for the appropriate amount of time, take your plastic scraper to begin removing the varnish. It does get messy, so just make you have a good amount of rags and/or paper towels handy. After you've removed all the gunky strip, you may notice you have a few spots that still have some varnish. This is where the acetone comes into play. Keep working at those spots with the acetone using a paper towel and they will eventually come clean. After this process is done you can take your electric sander using the 120 grit paper to help even out the wood tone and finish it up with the 800 grit to make everything smooth.

QUESTION ANSWERED: "DO I HAVE TO USE THE CITRI-STRIP OR CAN I SAND DIRECTLY THROUGH THE VARNISH? You can use the electric sander to sand directly through the vanish to reveal the natural wood. This process will inevitably take longer and could be more tedious, however it can be done.


Wipe the drawers down really well removing all sanding dust. Spray the drawers and the frame of the dresser with polyurethane and let set overnight.

Tip: make sure if you are using two different cans of poly they are the same! There is an oil based poly and a water based poly. These two can't be mixed!

I choose to poly before I paint because the poly helps the paint not soak into the wood.


Start by determining where you'll be using your stencil. I initially wanted the stenciling to cover the entire front of the dresser, drawers and frame included, however because of some deep grooves I couldn't get the stencil line up perfectly. I ended up doing my stencil just on the drawers, however I still wanted it to look like it flowed so I left the drawers inside the dresser during the stenciling. This is totally up to you, but does need to be determined before hand.

Tip: Draw an upwards arrow on the stencil so you know which way to place your stencil.

Tip: Start your stencil in the middle of the dresser or drawer to achieve a more uniform look.

Using a piece of cardboard, put a little of both paint colors down. Tape your stencil to your dresser at the starting point. Take your stippling brush and tap it into the lighter color paint and then remove any excess on the side of the cardboard. YOU DON'T WANT TO USE A TON OF PAINT! Tap your brush straight onto the stencil. ONCE AGAIN YOU DON'T WANT A TON OF PAINT, JUST A LIGHT LAYER FILLING UP THE STENCIL SPACE. Take your brush and do a light tap in the darker paint color and remove any excess on the side of the cardboard. This will be used as a shadow color so choose which areas you want to add shadow too and blend in tapping the colors together. Use the blow dryer to dry the paint before removing the stencil. This will help to avoid any paint smearing. Remove the stencil.

QUESTION ANSWERED: "HOW DO YOU KEEP THE STENCILED AREA LOOKING THE SAME?" I didn't want a uniformed look. I wanted each individual star to look one of a kind. You can do this my mixing up the way you use your paint. On some I did the darker color first and used the lighter color as a highlight. On others I did the two colors at once. You can get creative to achieve that worn antique look!


For my mirror I chose to remove any additional wood pieces that could be popped off. I then took the 220 grit paper and did a rough sand over the entire thing. Once completed I wiped it down to remove the dust.

I took the color parchment (the lighter color I used in the stenciling) and painted a light layer. Acrylic paint dries fast and has a similar consistency to chalk paint, however you have to let it dry completely before applying a second layer or it will gum up. I believe I did 4 layers of paint to get overall coverage.

I did this to the base of the dresser too. While I would have preferred the entire dresser to be sanded raw, the bottom part of mine had too many curves and grooves for our one hand sander. We didn't want to make the investment on a groove sander so we decided to just paint the bottom. I'm very happy with how it turned out.


After the entire dresser has been painted to your liking do an all over coat of poly. This will help seal the paint.


I decided to use the same hardware to save money and actually like that it gives a nice antique look to the newly designed dresser.

I'd love to see your finished creations! Please tag me on Instagram @mirandasouthern.