I had envisioned a grey-brown, sort of a Restoration Hardware look found here.
But - surprise! - I couldn't find grey-brown stain (or even just grey stain) in any store. One wonderful guy at Rona tinted 3 different cans before I realized we weren't going to find it. And the ladies at the Benjamin Moore store were fantastic about trying out a few different methods to achieve grey-brown (none were what I was looking for though) and gave me a quick lesson on layering colours.
So I was on my own. No problem, this was an experiment anyway. First I stained the wood a medium brown - Minwax Early American. I wiped the stain on with a clean cloth and then wiped it off almost immediately because I only wanted a hint of brown, not quite as dark as the photo above. I find that I use much less stain and am able to control the colour depth better using a cloth to apply it rather than a brush. Now, I was working on a pretty small area; a brush would be easier on larger projects.
I was happy to see that this stain had more of a brown tone than the orange of the original finish.
I also discovered that the different wood surfaces needed different amounts of stain to get a uniform look. I would add thin layers of stain on each one until I reached the depth of colour I was aiming for. I felt like one of those circus performers balancing spinning plates on poles - I was jumping back and forth between pieces - some needed 5 seconds of stain, some needed a minute, some could go even longer. Rather than sanding between coats, I just wiped them well with a cloth. Kind of a buff more than a sand I guess.
I had planned to water down some white paint to make a wash (milk paint?), hoping that would give me the grey tone I was after. But the paint nearest to hand was a pale mossy green that I had purchased for $2 as a mis-tint. Why not? The room the dresser was going into was green with brown accents so it should fit right in. I gradually added the paint to a dish of water until it was the thickness needed. The instructions I've found online say to aim for the consistency of skim milk. Okay, skim milk it is.
I used a foam brush to apply the paint. Because it was watered down, a little paint covered a large area and it spread easily. You could see the paint adhere more to the flat spots than to the grain. Is there a technical term for the flat spots? I gave it a minute or two to soak in then wiped it off with a cloth. (Thank goodness for the bulk package of painters' cloths from Costco.)
After one coat I was loving it already.
The wood had a grey-green tone while you could still see brown peeking through.
Much like the stain, each part of the dresser needed a different amount of paint to get that uniform look. In fact, in some spots I needed to apply the paint and not wipe it off. For example, I hadn't sanded the sides perfectly (remember I did them by hand and was getting sick of sanding by then) and some of the original lacquer was still there so the paint didn't adhere very well. I was worried that it would look completely different than the rest of the dresser, but after two coats it dried just fine.
Then it was back to the store for a clear topcoat. I wanted the piece to glow but not to shine. Does that make sense? I don't like the look of heavily lacquered wood. I looked at all of the finishes available and wasn't happy with any of them. Everything was too shiny. Goldilocks syndrome again.
I'd never used it before but I was confident (more confident than the employee at the store was) that it would give me that warm glowy look. Using another clean cloth (yep, it's an unending supply) I applied the wax, gave it a few minutes and then buffed it smooth. I think I applied two coats of wax to the entire dresser.
And the wood did glow. Can you see that subtle shine along the top front edge? The whole thing turned out just as I'd pictured. I was so happy that I kept petting the top (I may have even hugged it a few times).
Here is a before and after shot.
Huge difference, right?
We gave it a couple of days to dry completely and then moved it up to the bedroom.
With a few decorations added it fits right in.
Yes, that turtle is a dog toy.
No, the dogs are not allowed to play with it.
I haven't decided yet whether or not I want to add drawer pulls. It doesn't need them as there are cutouts at the top of each drawer, but I wonder if it looks a bit unfinished.
What do you think? Maybe knotted rope pulls?
The bed has the same general lines so I'm now thinking of refinishing the frame in the same style.
If I had my way every stick of wood in the house would be finished like this.