Giving Back: A Yard Sale Redo for a Deserving Child

We had a beautiful weekend, if I didn’t know it was April I could have easily believed this was summer. I headed outside thinking I would finally get some work done on the exterior of the house when my phone rang.

The caller wanted to know if I could redo and paint a dresser for a foster child that has been placed with her family long term. I took that to mean, can you fix then paint a dresser.   My answer was probably.  A few minutes later this was delivered

dresser before

The family shared many of the details surrounding this little eight-year old child’s placement with them. I was informed they were trying really hard with limited funds to give her a room personalized for her so she would feel welcome and comfortable.

How could I say no?

When asked how much I would charge, I ignored the question by changing the subject and asked if the foster parent was looking for a grown-up dresser (aka Pottery Barn painted look) for the child or something more whimsical an eight-year old would like now. I was informed I could do whatever I wanted and they were concerned with giving the child a dresser she would love today not a few years down the road.

dresser before1

With permission I asked a few questions of the child to see what her likes were. I was careful in how I phrased my questions and took it slow to see how open she was.  I began with her favorite colors. She was outgoing and friendly, happy to answer.  Her favorite colors were (in order) blue, red and black. Not good, I don’t have those colors in any significant quantity on hand. Then she added white. That I had.

My next question was the most sensitive.  Foster care children often are taken from their homes with nothing but the clothes on their backs but I needed to know what she liked. Instead of asking what her favorite toys were, afraid to bring up feelings of loss, I asked What she liked to do for fun.

She stumbled and admitted she didn’t know.

The damaged top of the dresser.
The damaged top of the dresser.

I decided to turn my attention to the family member who brought the dresser to me to give the child a moment to think. I asked a bit about the rest of the child’s room. Was there a theme or color scheme when suddenly the child mentioned she liked swimming pools and flowers.

Now I had something to work with.

I didn’t give my house or the work I’d planned to do a second thought, my poor house was abandoned for this dresser.

The dresser is circa 1960. It’s a cheap laminate that the family picked up for $5 at a yard sale.  I shouldn’t be too judgemental the dresser has lasted for more than 50 years.  The knobs and pulls had to go. The pulls were so close to the drawer faces that I couldn’t get a finger in to pull the drawers open.  My fingers are rather small, being that I comfortably wear size 5 rings and when I glanced at the child’s hands I thought her fingers could have been a bit bigger than mine, I knew the pulls wouldn’t work.

You can see here how the laminate was assembled on to a wooden frame.

dresser before3

I repaired a couple of the drawers by adding glue and screws to keep the sides attached. Then came the sanding. I didn’t get far when the neighbor boy stopped to ask if he could help.   I explained how he would have to have a very gentle touch and then we were hard at work.


The moment I saw the dresser the first thought that crossed my mind was that I wanted to white wash it.  I’ve worked on several of these types of laminate dressers from this period but never tried a white wash.  When the child told me she liked swimming pools I knew a white-washed finish was perfect. It would give that beach-y, driftwood look that would become my background.

Comparison of what the finish looked like before and after a good sanding.
Comparison of what the finish looked like before and after a good sanding.

I mixed equal parts white satin latex paint and water, then wearing gloves soaked a rag in the paint and rubbed it on to the dresser.


You must apply the paint in the same direction, with the grain of the “wood” for the best results. It took 2-3 coats of paint to get the desired effect. When the dresser was dry I added two coats of polycrylic to seal the finish, but I’m getting ahead of myself a bit.

I was told flowers were important to this child. As I sanded the dresser down I contemplated the best way to add flowers to the piece.  At first I thought maybe I’d sketch grass using green milk paint to the lower drawer then stems up the drawer fronts to use the knobs as the center of the flowers and sketch around them different colored flowers.  This didn’t feel right to me but still I played with the idea.

Then I realized I didn’t have enough colors of paint to do this.  I briefly considered heading to the store to purchase an assortment of different colored permanent markers, but again I dismissed this.  I worked until I lost daylight on Saturday and woke with an idea.

For months now my granddaughters and I have enjoyed coloring Patricia Zapata’s Flower Nook. Patricia is a well-known blogger at A Little Hut. I’ve already removed some of the completed pages to frame for the girl’s room upstairs, now I would remove more and use them on the dresser.

flower nook

I added three designs to the drawers and one to the top of the dresser.

Top of the dresser
Top of the dresser

These are the designs I used on the drawer fronts.

dresser after2

The most time consuming part of this was trimming the designs to remove the excess white paper.  I laid them out and when I was happy with the placement decoupaged them on and sealed the entire drawer fronts with polycrylic.

In questioning the little girl I learned she liked gold over silver so I headed to my hardware stash and pulled out all the heavy substantial gold knobs. I toyed around with using two knobs on the left with one pull on the right, the way the drawers were to begin with. In the end I didn’t have enough gold pulls I liked and decided to use only knobs.  I used wood filler to fill in the holes from the original pulls then drilled new holes.  I kept the distance from the side of the drawer for the new knobs the same as the existing knobs on the other side and then centered them on the fronts.


dresser after
Once I took this photo I saw that I hadn’t painted the very bottom and did go back and paint them, if you were wondering.

The top drawer I simply used a permanent marker, I have a couple in the house, and a four inch stencil to add her first initial.

By Sunday at 3pm I called to let the family know the dresser was ready to pick up.  They arrived with the little girl and a friend of hers. I wish I could show you their faces, but I can’t.  The girls didn’t miss a thing. They spotted the little girl on the middle drawer, they loved the heavy gold knobs and the white washed paint effect.

dresser comparison

I know a little about this foster parent, I know she adopted a previous foster child and raised him as her own even though she has very little disposable income. She herself is on disability. She loves these children and has given this little child so much love that when the question arose again as to how much they owed me, I informed her the child’s expression was well worth the work and I wanted to make this a gift from me to them. Thankfully, the family accepted my gift as long as I promised to call if there is ever anything they can do for me.

Tonight I am tired and even sore. I did get a bit of work done outside after all but while I thought getting more accomplished on the house would perk me up, in reality it was the dresser that made the weekend a success for me.






  1. What a terrific, generous thing to do with your time. I was hanging out to see the finished product – and no wonder she loved it. What an improvement. The world needs lots more people like you Lois.


    • Anne, I’m glad you hung around to see the finished dresser. I was really happy with how it turned out. The top drawer was shorter and none of the images I had would have fit so I decided to add her initial, realizing at that moment I didn’t even know her last name to do a monogram. I think it was the initial that finally got her so I’m glad I thought to add it.


    • Cat, they took it home and rearranged the bedroom to add the dresser. I’m told the little girl didn’t leave her room because she wanted to keep looking at her new dresser. 🙂


  2. Lois you are such a beautiful Soul.. Your post brought tears to my eyes . As I can just imaine that little girls delighted face and the gratitude of the foster family.. This is what is so lacking in the world.. Giving back and paying forward..
    May I reblog your post Lois? would love to share you .. 🙂 and your skills.. 🙂
    Hugs Sue xxx


  3. WOW..It is so beautiful.

    Thank you for your kindness and generosity to this child/family. I am certain they have been profuse in their gratitude, but Thank you, just the same. You so often make the world a better / kinder place.

    Also, it was wise and kind of you to let the neighbour boy help with prep. I suspect it gave him an opportunity to “give” a little too, and to understand there are others who have no dresser (and maybe give him some peace with his Mom giving his to a less fortunate).

    Beautiful work.


    • Thank you, Anon. This dresser was a gift to me as well. It’s been a while since I did anything so creative and I’m thankful the family took a chance to let me tackle this piece for them.

      The neighbor boy hasn’t been deterred. He’s here daily asking what he can do and if I give him one job he gets right to work then asks what I have next. 🙂 I hope working on the dresser gave him some peace he sure needs it.


    • Thank you, Live and Learn. I enjoy working on my house but it’s furniture that gives me more freedom to do outrageous things that is really fun for me. I never would have thought years ago that it would be the smaller items instead of entire rooms that would end up being so freeing.


  4. Lois, all I can say is WOW! The chest of drawers turned out great. You have such a talent. What a lovely gift of your time for a deserving child (and foster parent.) The world needs more people in it like you and this foster parent.


    • Hi Elaine, I had a lot of fun making over this dresser but there was a little voice in my head that worried the child wasn’t going to like it. That maybe she would have had a vision of a plain white dresser instead. I can’t tell you how relieved I was when I saw her reaction and knew I had done the right thing.


  5. I can just imagine the little girl’s delight! I’m always amazed at how you have the right stuff to complete a project and make it look great with what you have on hand. A true sign of creativity!


    • She was so precious, her eyes watered and she tried to hide her smile behind her hands. Her friend was much more demonstrative in expression which I think added to her pleasure because she realized she was receiving the dresser her friend admired. I may not have an idea of what I will do upon first seeing a piece of furniture but the time it takes to clean it up and repair it is usually enough to allow the ideas to flow and come up with a solution.


  6. Lois, this is a beautiful dresser, but even more so, a beautiful story. My nephew and his wife have recently taken in two foster children (ages 7 and 3) adding to their 3 own 3 children. Their story has been inspiring to so many people. Thanks YOU for doing this project & sharing it with us.
    You know of some of my personal health issues recently. Add one more, having my gallbladder removed Tuesday, i still hope to make it to Pennsylvania sometime this summer!


    • Hi Jan, I have been thinking about you and meaning to drop you a note but I’ve barely had time to rest and the computer was mostly off for most of the last week. I just turned it on to see you had surgery yesterday. I hope you are doing well and will be home soon.

      This poor little girl has a similar situation as the one we discussed not long ago so my heart breaks for her. I was happy to be able to make her smile and give her something that belongs to just her helping the family to make her feel special and loved.


  7. ah Lois, had to tell you…
    that transformation just keeps on keeping on, making me smile.

    I have had to come back to this page/photos several times now, to generate a few new smiles..



    • Ah, I’m glad you like it. I used a coloring book once before to make over a cabinet for my granddaughter so this time I was more confident it would work.


  8. Reblogged this on Dreamwalker's Sanctuary and commented:
    I just had to share this lovely post with you all from a beautiful friend. You have to explore her blog to see all the transformations she does when she gives a new lease of life to furniture. And her home.. What is even more remarkable, and I hope Lois will not mind me mentioning this is that Lois does all of this work from the confines of a wheelchair..

    I hope you visit and see just how generous a nature she has ..
    Love and Blessings


    Liked by 2 people

  9. Came here from Sue’s blog. Glad I did: this is beautiful! I love the designs and I love everything that this stands for. There is such love here! I hope you have a wonderful day!


    • Hello, Cynthia, thanks so much for stopping by. I’m not the artist Sue is so was a bit too nervous to try to free hand designs on this dresser. I am so thankful for the talented artists who create material I can use. 🙂


    • Thank you so much. I don’t have the financial means to give as I would like to so I do what I can with what I have. I was so excited to be asked to help this family.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. You are an impressive human being, Lois. Your ability to envision that dresser as something other than it was and incorporate the child’s personality into it is remarkable. There has never been any question into the depth of your kindness and huge heart. That is a phenomenal remake. I loved it too. It left me speechless.


    • Hi Coastal Crone, I was happy to help this little girl because I understand how traumatizing it is to be taken from ones home. I hope this dresser helps her to feel more at home.


  11. I am glad I came here to see the wonderfully transformed dresser and read your beautiful words! You are so benevolent Lois! I can visualise the face of the foster child, I am sure she is going to treasure this gift. Stay blessed!


    • Thanks for stopping by. The poor little thing was so self-conscious that she hid her expression behind her hands, but yes she is thrilled. I hope she does treasure it for a long time, and if the day comes she wants a more grown up look she will call on me again.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Hello Ka Malana thanks for visiting. It sounds like you understand how a foster child would feel having to leave everything including family. She’s lucky in that she has a baby brother and the same foster parents took in her brother to keep part of the family intact. Children are our future and need to know they are loved and wanted which is why I felt the need to gift my work to her.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I love your phrase “a Beautiful temporary misplaced Angel”, what a wonderful way to think of these children lost for now without their nuclear family.

      Liked by 1 person

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