Transform a Flea-Market Dresser With This Reality-Bending Paint Idea

Carefully considered perfection is overrated. These days, we find ourselves embracing the more playful side of decor: candy-colored pastels and imperfect color-blocking are suddenly replacing more refined styles. And because we could all use a bit of cheerful design right now, we’re especially drawn to this trompe-l’oeil dresser, courtesy of Annie Sloan. It might seem like an heirloom piece, but it’s actually a fairly simple DIY—all it requires is a bit of imagination. And, logistically, a few pots of paint. 

We’ve seen this visual illusion cropping up everywhere lately. New Orleans’ Hotel Peter & Paul, recently updated by ASH NYC, features a number of dressers in bold blue, red, and green, all painted in the same striking look. More broadly, Luke Edward Hall seems to have made it the theme of his latest book, Greco Disco

The whole thing is a whimsical way to spruce up an old piece of furniture—whether that’s a thrift store find that’s been sitting in an unloved corner for months, or just an IKEA cabinet that could use some character. Here’s the how-to in three easy steps (no sanding or priming required): 

The Supplies

Step 1: Create a Base 

Mix the accent color and white paint to achieve a slightly subdued version of the saturated one. Paint the whole piece with a flat brush, and let it dry completely. 

Step 2: Paint on the Illusion

Use detail brushes to create the 3D-effect in both the accent color (the lowlight) and the white (the highlight) on the edges and corners. Follow the lines of the furniture piece, and remember: less is more. Try using your highlight and lowlight opposite each other on either side of a drawer or cupboard door. If you’re unsure, do a quick sketch with pencil beforehand, to determine where the light and shadow will go.

Oh, and embrace wobbly lines. They add to the effect!

Step 3: Seal it Off

Layer on a coat of your finisher—Sloan used her Clear Chalk Paint Wax. Let it dry a full day, then top it with the decorative tchotchkes; the more playful the vignette, the better. 

See more paint DIYs to try:
Paint Your Bookcase This Weekend, but Do It Selectively
A $10 Paint DIY That’ll Help Separate an Open Layout
This Blink-and-You’ll Miss It Paint Trick Is Eyeliner for Your Walls