There is something so soft and appealing about ferns, their soft green fronds and Feather-like stems. The perfect bit of nature to bring into your home for spring! I found this sweet dresser at a local antique shop and it was just calling out for a little paint + pattern! Read on to see how I transformed this piece from dark and dreary to bright and airy!
Stencil Supplies for this Project:
- Royal Design Studio Sword Ferns Stencil
- Annie Sloan Chalk Paint: Country Grey and Pure White
- Annie Sloan: Clear Wax & Waxing Brush
- Flat Brush by Annie Sloan
- Stencil Brush Set
- Painter’s Tape
Furniture Stripping and Staining Supplies:
- TSP (for washing surface to prep for paint)
- Citristrip (optional for
- Mineral Spirits (optional for
- Stain (I decided the wood looked so nice with the old patina I didn’t stain).
- Clear Top Coat for Wood (I used General Finishes High Performance Top Coat
- in Flat)
- Cheese Cloth and Clean Rags, Sand Paper (120 and 320 grit)
Royal Design makes a lovely fern stencil which I used on this piece. The Sword Ferns Stencil set has two layers and three different ferns so you can create so many great looks on furniture, fabric and walls with it.
Here’s how the dresser was looking before:
It is an oak dresser, probably from the 1920s. It had been painted black (I think spray painted) and the finish was starting to peel off. I really love the look of wood surfaces mixed with painted surfaces and thought it would be nice to strip and stain just the top before painting the rest of the piece with Chalk Paint®. For me, the addition of a natural wood surface can make painted furniture feel a little warmer.
Step 1: I like using Citristrip for stripping furniture. It is natural and has a nice orange Scent, and you can do it inside (I worked on this in our living room). To apply, simply shake the bottle up and squeeze the product onto your surface. I use a cheap brush to spread evenly all over the top of the dresser. Allow it to sit for a good amount of time. Check back in 30 minutes to see if the paint is ready to strip. The paint should look like it is shriveling up or pulling away.
Step 2: To strip the paint, take a scraper and run it in the direction of the grain to peel the paint off. I put the paint I’m scraping and the stripping product into empty coffee cans. Once you’ve stripped all the paint off (you may need to do a second go with the stripper), wash down the piece with mineral spirits followed by water. Be sure to store rags in a can with water to prevent any fires . Once the surface is completely clean and dry, sand with sandpaper. Start with coarse grit paper followed by fine grit paper to make it nice and smooth. You can check the feel of the surface by running your hand over it.
I LOVED the aged and distressed patina of this wood so I decided after stripping it to just use a clear top coat of General Finishes High Perfomance Top Coat (flat) to protect it.
Step 3: Time to paint with Chalk Paint®!!!!! Yay! This is my favorite part! I find painting very relaxing. After cleaning the dresser well you simply pop open your can and paint away! I applied two coats of Country Grey Chalk Paint®, a soft, neutral color with a warm look.
Step 4: Now the fun begins with the stenciling! The Sword Ferns stencil is great because each of the 3 ferns is slightly different and has two layers. So, I could have done ferns all over the front or I could have just chosen one. I chose to use all 3, but wanted to keep it very simple. I first held up the stencils and decided where I wanted to place them. I decided I wanted to spread them across the three drawers on the right hand side only . I taped the stencil in place with delicate surface tape and marked the stencil guides with chalk.
To stencil the ferns, I used a stenciling brush and wiped the excess paint off on a paper towel. You essentially “dry brush” the stencil on. By having a minimal amount of paint on your brush, you reduce paint bleed through that can run under the stencil. I did the stem first and then went back to do the fronds, lining the guide marks up. My dresser was not completely flat on the front so the stencil didn’t touch in some areas. I went back and filled in paint with a small paint brush.
Step 5: Once the paint is dry, use fine sandpaper to distress the high edges of the molded areas and around the drawers.
Step 6: I like using clear wax to protect my painted surfaces.
I really enjoying using Annie Sloan’s waxing brush too! The pointed tip enables wax to get into nooks and crannies and this bristle brush evenly disperses the wax.
To apply wax, I work in sections. I first apply the wax and then I wipe away the excess with cheesecloth. You want to think of applying wax the same way you approach putting on hand cream. Put on just enough to cover your surface lightly and then rub in. More isn’t really more in this case more. More is too much!
I usually apply two coats of wax, waiting 24 hours in between coats. Then buff with a clean cloth after another 24 hours. You can leave the wax and it will have a matte finish. If you buff it you will produce a soft shine.
Step 7: Put on your hardware! It is the finishing touch and really helps in dressing up a piece! I love these knobs from D. Lawless.
Some more use furniture painting and stenciling tips!
- Think about adding warmth to your painted furniture with a wood finish on top. Stripping is easy (just a bit messy) and with a natural stripper can be done indoors.
- When stenciling, make sure to wipe the excess paint off your brush onto spare paper towels. Doing so prevents paint from globbing up on the stencil, or worse-seeping under it.
- Distressing furniture can give a timeworn appeal. When distressing think about where the furniture would have worn away naturally. So, for instance, don’t do tons of distressing in the very center of the drawer, as that would not receive a lot of wear.
- Wax is an easy and protective coating for painted furniture. Just remember you don’t need to slather it on. A little wax goes a long way. Once waxed your piece should feel cool to the touch but not really waxy.
- Pretty hardware can make or break a piece. These delicate milk glass knobs add a bit of whimsy to this dresser and make one think about the color of ferns.
The theme room on Paint + Pattern for this month is bathrooms. So I tried to take these photos with this theme in mind. This dresser would look amazing in a bathroom for extra storage perfect for towels or spare supplies.
The stripped wood top brings warmth and the focus back to nature. Showing the aged patina brings a nice sense of the past to any room. I’ve decorated this dresser with old bottles and jars found antiquing and ferns.
This style of dresser can be found at many antique and thrift shops. I hope you’ll be inspired by this fabulous fern dresser and try to create one of your own! How will you use the sword ferns in your home?