Create a One-of a Kind Bureau

A pretty paint and stylish stencil design is all it takes to give your bureau a beautiful makeover.

pretty bureau

Have you ever set your sights on a beautiful hand-painted dresser, only to be discouraged by the cost? You can create a similar look yourself―for a fraction of the price. Start with a sturdy dresser or bureau that's either unfinished or has a relatively smooth, even surface, and let your creativity do the rest!


  • Newspaper or drop cloth
  • Soft rag
  • Wood putty
  • Screwdriver
  • 120- and 220-grit sandpaper
  • Sanding block
  • Tack cloth
  • Primer
  • Paint (opt for satin or semi-gloss)
  • 2" brush
  • Stir stick
  • Polyurethane (optional)

1. Get ready. Place the dresser on newspaper or a drop cloth in a well-ventilated area. Dust the piece thoroughly with a soft rag. Clean any stains or dirt with dishwashing liquid and water. Fill in nicks, holes or grooves with wood putty. Remove knobs and any other hardware. Pull out the drawers and set them on the drop cloth so you can paint them separately.

2. Sand to perfection. (Skip this step if your piece is unfinished.) Working with the grain, sand the entire dresser and the fronts of the drawers, using the sanding block and coarse 120-grit paper. You don't have to erase every bit of the finish, just enough to smooth out imperfections and roughen the surface so the paint adheres. Brush away the dust, and sand again with finer, 220-grit paper. Wipe dresser thoroughly with a tack cloth.

3. Apply primer. Mix primer well with a stir stick. Apply with a 2" brush in long, even strokes, painting one area at a time and working with the grain. (To prevent sticking, don't apply primer or paint to the sides of drawers.) Let the primer dry according to the manufacturer's instructions, then lightly sand with 220-grit paper. Wipe the piece clean using a tack cloth. If the piece has stains that need covering, apply a second coat; let dry, then lightly sand again.

4. Paint the surfaces. Using the primer technique described above, apply one coat of paint. Let the paint dry completely, then sand with the 220-grit paper, wipe down and add a second coat of paint (use more if needed to cover completely; sand between coats). If the piece will endure a lot of wear, apply two protective layers of clear polyurethane, sanding between coats. (If you're planning to add a stencil to the piece, do it first, then apply thepolyurethane.) When paint is completely dry, reinstall knobs and replace drawers in bureau.

TIP:  Replace old knobs with pretty glass, ceramic or Lucite ones you can find at a flea market or home store. Visit for ideas.