Project: Big Blue

Big Blue was a chest of drawers that my husband had brought along with him to NH that he had owned since childhood. Other than being bright blue, the thing was HEAVY. And we moved it 4 times before I really had a chance to fix it up.

Here’s the before:


I had started this project while I had a few weeks off from work, thinking I would be able to paint the room and the cabinet by the time I came back. Boy was I wrong. Big Blue was hiding not one, but FIVE layers of paint underneath: Bright blue, light blue, yellow, orange, and black. Although I got the room painted in time, I spent many evenings over the course of months just stripping the paint off.

Look at this grossness. This was the back of one of the old handles. Can’t look away, eh?

However, I’m very proud with how it turned out:

So how do you go from Big Bad Blue to Gorgeous? Actually pretty easy.


  • Orbital sander – I use a Ryobi Random Orbit Sander. I love this one a lot because it fits nice in my hand and the weight of the battery is above the sander, which causes for a more even job.
  • Sanding disks in various grits. The grit is the amount of coarseness in the disk. The lower the number, the grittier it is.
  • White Paint – this was actually left over from the previous owners. We use it everywhere. I think it’s Lowes Ultra Pure White.
  • Brown Paint  – Behr Paint and Primer in Heirloom Mahogany. My husband calls it “Hersheys chocolate color”.
  • Paint Brush – I prefer a 2″ brush when doing larger jobs that don’t need a ton of accuracy.
  • 2″ Painters Tape
  • Cabinet Pulls – also from The Depot. These came in a set of 10.
  • Screwdriver (Phillips or Flathead, depending on the pulls)

Steps to remove the old paint:

  1. Remove the old handles. Stare at the grossness some more.
  2. Sand that mutha down. This was by far the worst part. Normally I don’t sand all the way down to the wood but with so many layers I wanted to start fresh on this one so that my finish was nice and clean. When you sand, start with the low numbers and work your way up. I started with some 60 grit here. This took forever – because of all the layers I would sand all evening, and I would only get through one of the drawers.
  3. Get fed up with sanding and grab some paint stripper. I did NOT want to use paint stripper. First of all, my work area is my basement – and I didn’t want to die from paint stripper fumes. I also don’t like to use chemicals in general, but the work was going far too slow. I chose Citristrip Paint and Varnish Stripper because it seemed like the least of the paint stripper evils. It has a citrusy smell but takes longer to work than the others – you spray it on, let it sit overnight, and then come back and strip it off with a wood scraper. I wish I took pictures of this, because it looked pretty darn bubbly and cool.
  4. Sand again to get an even finish. I used 120 and then 220 grit, just to even things out.
  5. Fill any holes/gashes with wood filler and sand. Any will do here.
  6. Clean the entire cabinet of dust. I used a mix of my vacuum and a can of compressed air.

Steps to paint the cabinet:

  1. Paint the whole thing your stripe color. This was very easy. Start by removing the drawers and work in nice, even strokes. I really like using a brush here because I like the texture it leaves, but you should be aware of the direction of “grain” you are creating. I also painted the shelve edge that was visible from the front, but not inside. Let it dry overnight.
  2. Tape your stripes. Put all the drawers back into the cabinet. I wanted to have the middle stripe centered over the drawer pulls and then have the other two 1/2″ away from that. You’re going to tape everything together – the top and the drawers – to get a consistent line. Make sure you press your finger down the edges to ensure your paint edge.
  3. Cut your lines and free your cabinets. I made a video for this one! Check it out:
  4. Remove the drawers & paint your top coat. I did two coats of the brown. Remember to keep your grain the same as the coat below. Let it dry overnight one last time. Get excited about finally being able to show it off!
  5. Convince your husband to help you carry it upstairs and add your hardware.
  6. Happy dance!

Goodbye Big Blue, Hello set of drawers I am proud to move a million times.


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