How One Napkin Transformed A Serpentine Dresser

Friends, I'm not going to lie, I stepped out of my comfort zone on this one. I walked into this furniture makeover with a clear vision and walked away saying, well that was interesting! And it all started with one napkin and an old dresser that looked like it had been taken into a back alley and beat on. I personally love the results and I'm going to show you how one napkin transformed a serpentine dresser.

Serpentine Dresser With One Floral Napkin

Decoupaged Napkin Serpentine Dresser 

I searched online in an attempt to narrow down how old this two-drawer serpentine dresser may be. It is a numbered piece from the Holland Furniture Co. in Michigan but unfortunately, the furniture stamp on the back doesn't have a date.

Decoupaged Napkin Serpentine Dresser Before

Before I show you the results, let's take a look at how this poor thing had seen it's better days. I had my work cut out for me with the buckled wood top and missing veneer.

Serpentine Dresser Buckled Wood Top

Sadly the lovely burled veneer on the sides and front were damaged too. There was also some decorative trim missing on the bottom.

Serpentine Dresser Damaged Burled Veneer

This is the lovely wood beaded trim that was missing on the opposite side.

Serpentine Dresser Wood Beaded Trim

We looked high and low locally for replacement beaded wood trim and when our efforts came out empty I searched online. I found some in China and Australia but there was no way it would arrive to Canada in time for this month's Furniture Fixer Upper Challenge.

Speaking of which, today is one of my favorite days of the month. It's Furniture Fixer Upper Day where I and five talented furniture painting friends come together to breath new life into six pieces of furniture. Look for the links to the makeovers at the bottom of this post.

For last months challenge, I added a gorgeous French furniture transfer onto a painted Duncan Phyfe Coffee Table.

This post contains affiliate links for your convenience so you can see what products I used or recommend for this project. See my full disclosure policy.

Fixing the nasty warped top and missing veneer

The first order of business was patching the missing veneer and fixing that nasty warped top.

Serpentine Dresser Repaired Warped Top

I planned on replacing the top but Mr. Frugalista was determined that it could be fixed. I shook my head in disbelief and left him in the workshop to give it a try.

Yee of little faith, to my surprise it worked!  What he did first was lay a wet towel along the warp for a couple of hours to soften the wood. Then he filled the gap on the underside with construction adhesive and tightened the top with bar clamps. While clamped he filled the crack on the top with construction glue and let it cure for a couple of days.

There still was a slight bump where the wood buckled but nothing that an orbital sander couldn't fix. The dents and scratches on the top as well as the slight ridge in the crack were filled with my go-to filler compound and sanded smooth when dry. It's not a perfect fix but the imperfections add to the character and charm of this old dresser.

Serpentine Dresser Warped Top Repaired

Replacing the missing trim

Remember that missing trim? I cheated and glued on the pearl stickers pictured below. Once painted you would never know it isn't the real thing.

I removed the original bead trim on the one side and salvaged it for use on a future project.

Serpentine Dresser With Beaded Trim

Changing the hardware

I planned on keeping the vintage drop swing pulls on the bottom drawer but wanted to switch out the ones on the top drawer to two knobs instead. I kept the two outer holes for the new knobs and filled the two inner holes with wood glue, dowels, and filler.

Serpentine Dresser Filling Old Hardware Holes

Don't hate me for what I did next

It nearly killed me to do the next step and I swear I could hear my paternal grandfather who was a custom cabinet maker roll over in his grave.

The burled veneer was beyond repair and so the plan was to paint the dresser. Because I was painting it a light color I was guaranteed paint bleed and so I primed first with BOSS Stain Blocker by Dixie Belle Paint Company. I had to put two coats on the sides and top to stop the paint bleed.

Serpentine Dresser Primed

Painting the dresser

With all those gorgeous curves and the beaded trim, I pictured this serpentine dresser with a feminine makeover. I set about to paint it a custom ever so slight hint of pink. This way the dresser wouldn't scream little girl's room or nursery and would work with a romantic style.

I mixed a custom 50:50 ratio of white linen and vintage cupcake pink. Can you see the hint of pink in the photo below?

Serpentine Dresser Painted Light Pink

It all started with a napkin

The following morning I set about to protect the dresser with white wax. When I went into the shop file cabinet to grab a fresh lint-free rag for buffing my eye caught a glimpse of this one and only napkin.

Serpentine Dresser Makeover Decoupaged Napkin

And I thought, how pretty would that napkin look decoupaged on the top drawer.

How to decoupage with a napkin

  • Peel the extra ply (mine was 2-ply) from the napkin.
  • Fold and cut the napkin in half vertically.
  • Brush Mod Podge onto the drawer front.
  • Eye up the napkin from the center of the drawer front to the left and drop in place.
  • Repeat on the opposite side of the center.
  • Place your hand in a plastic sandwich bag and lightly rub away any air bubbles and wrinkles.
  • Let dry completely.
  • Brush a protective coat of Mod Podge over the napkin and let dry.
  • Trim the napkin with a small craft knife.
  • Carefully smooth the edges of the napkin with either a fingernail file or piece sandpaper.

While I loved the decoupaged floral napkin, I was not happy with the contrast between it and the light pink paint.

And this is where the makeover took an unexpected turn.

Let intuition take the reins

That one little napkin completely changed the direction of this makeover and this is where I told my brain to step aside and let intuition take the reins.

Are you ready?

Serpentine Dresser Makeover With Decoupaged Napkin

Next thing you know I was dry brushing the bottom drawer with a custom dusty rose chalk paint color and carried the color onto both sides and the top.

Serpentine Dresser Dry Brushed

Then I went over the darker pink with white wax.

Serpentine Dresser Top

I grabbed a small art brush and added French Sage artisan powder.

Serpentine Dresser With French Sage Artisan Powder

And then went crazy with a jar of brown wax to age the dresser. I applied it more in the ridges and around the edges on both the top and sides.

Serpentine Dresser Aged With Dark Wax

I found the pretty green knobs in my stash and cleaned the original escutcheon plates and vintage drop swing pulls with Bar Keepers Friend.

Serpentine Dresser Makeover Hardware

You can see the imperfections on the top in the photo below but I say they give this old dresser character and charm.

Serpentine Dresser With Imperfect Charm

Thanks to that lonely little napkin a whole different dresser emerged that took me far out of my comfort zone...and I like it!

...and I'd love to hear what you think of it too. It's one of those love it or hate it kind of finishes.

This isn't my first decoupaged furniture rodeo. I decoupaged napkins on Mom's Jewelry Chest, burlap fabric onto a Waterfall Dresser, and a shopping bag onto a table.

Serpentine Dresser Makeover Before and After

Now let's see how my talented friends in the Furniture Fixer Uppers group transformed these furniture pieces...

Furniture Fixer Uppers October Furniture Before
Press the links below to see the after photos and tutorials...

I share my projects at these fabulous link parties.



  1. It's a stunner! I can never bring myself to use the dark wax that way, but this certainly shows that it is worth doing.

    1. Thank you! You can't make a mistake with dark wax as long as you apply clear wax first so not to stain the finish. Clear wax will remove dark wax in areas where you've applied too much. You may already know this, just thought I'd mention it in case you didn't.

  2. I was scrolling through serpentine dresser makeovers and found your post! Your project turned out beautiful! Thank you for posting your progress with pictures on this piece. I love the idea of using the beads since you didn't have both sides of the beaded molding. That was a brilliant idea! Beautifully done!

    1. So glad you enjoyed the dresser makeover and tutorial, Renea! It was one of my favorite upcycle projects.

  3. Mary formerly of the boondocksJune 14, 2021 at 1:10:00 PM MDT

    Marie that is one bold piece!! I love the colors you chose!

    1. Hi Mary, oh how I miss the boondocks! xo I'm glad you like this furniture makeover, it is definitely one of my favorites.


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