What Up, [H]Ombre? : DIY Ombre Dresser Tutorial


February 5, 2013 by Decorum DIYer

Okay, I really wanted to title this post “¿Que Pasa, [H]Ombre?”, but couldn’t figure out for the life of me how to get the upside-down question mark in the post title.  As you see, it wasn’t a problem for the text’s body.  Oh, well, it’s those little things that bug me.

Back to the post….

I did it.  I fell victim to yet another trend.  One that has been high-flying for quite a while – an ombre painted dresser.  In case you don’t know what ombre is, it is a gradation of color from dark to light, or light to dark, along the monochromatic spectrum…, or something like that.

A few weeks ago, I purchased this little, campaign-styled dresser for $10:

A 'Bernhardt', three-drawer, white dresser with chrome hardware.

A ‘Bernhardt’, three-drawer, white dresser with chrome hardware.


I have an idea of where of I would like it in my house, but I can’t tell you, just yet.  (Pssst, you can see what I did with it here.)

The seller added, for FREE, a ‘big box store’ storage unit (not my thing),


(Remember, I found a use for the above in my master closet reorganization?)

and this little dresser, also for FREE:

Three drawer dresser.  Laminate, little wood, and some pressboard.

Three drawer dresser. Laminate, little real wood, and some pressboard.

Since I had no use for the last item and hadn’t really planned upon my husband bringing it home with my new prized possession – the campaign dresser, I thought, “Why not?”

This sounds like a Pinterest Challenge to me!


(via Young House Love)

So, I decided to try my hand at painting the drawer fronts in an ombre fashion.  I happened to have a sample-size of Martha Stewart’s ‘Persimmon’ in my paint stash.

Martha Stewart's 'Persimmon'

Martha Stewart’s ‘Persimmon’
It is a beautiful coral color. I purchased the paint sample because I planned to paint Claire’s nursery ceiling this shade. It would have been beautiful, but before I could brush on the first swath, I realized I was surprisingly pregnant with Ascher.

I have read plenty of blog and websites, and especially Pinterest, which created an ombre effect, but most painted each drawer with a separate color as found on paint chip samples.  One would purchase a sample of each color along the spectrum, like so:


(Click image to view Pinterest ‘ombre” dresser results.)

Since this was an impulsive decision at a time of night that most paint stores are closed and I am too cheap frugal to spend more money than the original cost of the paint sample pot, I decided to forge ahead by only mixing my original color, ‘Persimmon’, with the ‘Cottage White’ by Behr (same color as Claire’s trim, furniture, and accessories).  This would work equally well, if you want to paint the dresser in a color similar to your room’s wall color.  Simply use the wall color and lighten it using the following process.

The process:

  1. Remove drawers from dresser and remove all hardware.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  2. Clean drawers, dresser base, and hardware.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  3. Lightly sand drawer fronts (or whatever else you are painting).OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  4. Lightly wipe down sanded surfaces with a damp cloth. (Come on, you don’t need a picture of that, do you?)
  5. Prime sanded areas. (Wait at least 24 hours after priming before painting.)OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Now, you are ready to prepare the paint!

I prepared three paint colors using a method of thirds (thirds because the dresser has three drawers).  Since I was only painting three drawer fronts, I knew I didn’t require much paint.

Using a tablespoon as measurement (not the same one that you use for food), I placed one tablespoon of my color paint, in this case ‘Persimmon’, and my white paint, in this case ‘Cottage White’, into three separate ramekins lined with cling wrap (to keep clean up to a minimum and as not to contaminate my ramekins with non-food items). The following graphic illustrates this notion of thirds (for three drawers).  If one were painting a dresser with four drawers, use fourths.  Five drawers, fifths. Easy, right? Although, if I were using fourths or fifths, I would consider changing my unit of measurement to teaspoons, otherwise there could be just too much paint (what a waste).

After measuring out the two paint colors as described above into three, separate, cling wrap lined ramekins, I simply stirred the combined paint (‘persimmon’ and ‘cottage white’) until thoroughly combined.  This is very important to do well, or your paint will be streaking and not consistent.


This left me with three hues of the same shade:

  1. dark (3/3 the original color)
  2. medium (2/3 original and 1/3 of white)
  3. light (1/3 original and 2/3 white)

Now, get to painting!

You will need several, light coats with a drying time of 2-4 hours inbetween.

Inbetween coats of paint, simple cover the ramekins with cling wrap, making sure that the cling wrap touches the paint to prevent a skin forming and to keep the paint ‘fresh’.

I was quite smitten with the results.

I adored the colors that were produced.

I bet you want to see the finished project, don’t you?

Well, remember, here is the white dresser






Sure, the ombre es muy bueno, but sadly, the dresser just couldn’t handle all of that style.

“What happened?”, you ask.

Well, it was one of these moments…

I was upstairs making lunch for the family and I asked Chris, my husband, if he could move the dresser (as the paint was dry and cured) to the ‘storage’ area in the basement.  Moments later, I heard a loud crash and then dead silence.  True to form, much like in “A Christmas Story”, I tore down the steps to find my beautifully painted dresser in shambles.

Now, perhaps on a really bad day I would have screamed or cried, but I didn’t.  I laughed so hard that I had tears streaming down my cheeks.  My poor husband was frozen, braced for what he thought was going to be a ‘not-a-finger’ moment.  Instead, we both laughed and took a picture of our poor, little dresser.


So, in summation, creating an ombre dresser is quick and easy (it took me two days from start to finish, including drying time).

The look is fantastic!

A bit of advice, if you are going to go through the trouble of painting the drawers,

make sure the dresser can handle all that style!

Until next time…, happy painting!


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14 thoughts on “What Up, [H]Ombre? : DIY Ombre Dresser Tutorial

  1. What a sad ending to an otherwise happy story. Haha. I do like the look of gradient painting. The term ombré kinda irks me though. I’m weird like that.

  2. Christa says:

    I was just thinking you could put wheels on the drawers and use them as under the bed storage. I like the ombre look of it. Great job even if the dresser didn’t hold up. Glad you all had a good laugh about it.

  3. Well, it was gonna look great! The drawers still look great! We just moved a big old chest out of my daughter’s room that’s going in the basement somewhere. It needs a fresh paint job and this is giving me some ideas. I hadn’t jumped on the “ombre” bandwagon, either, but I truly like the look. Maybe I’ll take the plunge and go that route. I have lots of paint downstairs. Hmmm… now the wheels are turning.

    Totally different circumstances, but 6 years ago, or so, my daughter kept standing on the dining room table, one of those round oak pedestal types that was so popular during the 90’s, using it as a stage. I kept telling her to get down, that either she was going to get hurt or the table was going to get hurt, or both. One day I was upstairs and I hear this loud crash, followed by a loud “owww”. I go running down the stairs to find my daughter standing next to the table. “What happened”, I ask. She says “I dunno”, with huge round eyes, the wider the better, to convey complete innocence. “I was just standing here, doing nothing, and the table just fell over. Boy that was weird. Anyway, I’m going to my room now” and she limped away down the hallway. I laughed, too, partly because she learned a lesson and partly because I had always secretly hated that table anyway. To my knowledge, she hasn’t stood on a table since, ha ha.

    • Yes, I hadn’t jumped on the ombre’ (or gradient – are you happy, Erin?) painted craze either, but thought it a fun way to give a child’s dresser new life.

      I love your story about the table and your daughter. So happy she wasn’t truly hurt, but how funny is that?

  4. Oh my goodness! I might have cried even though it was a freebie! I love the colors you chose and I’m planning to proudly jump on the ombre train at some point. I think it’s great!

    • Why, thank you, Emily. I adore that ‘Persimmon’ color. Surprisingly, and although it doesn’t show well in the photographs, the lightest hue is so sweet. I may try to turn these into something else, or offer the painted drawers for free on Craigslist – paying it forward, I guess. Thank you for taking the time to comment.

  5. cassie says:

    love the colors! so fun! i did an ombre dresser a couple years back and i loved it! i actually hoarded it in my closet until last week. it went home with a lovely college aged gal. 🙂

  6. Oh no! My heart about broke when I read the sad ending to this story….although the “not a finger” scene turned my frown upside-down in no time. (You know you have a fellow A Christmas Story fan in me!) I think you should totally find a new life for these drawers…they’re just too purdy not to! Maybe a fairy garden in a drawer: http://pinterest.com/pin/110830840801432041/ OR put ’em on rollers: http://pinterest.com/pin/262123640783556836/ I know you can come up with some creative and cleva’!

  7. […]  For $10, I received the dresser (below), the lesser quality white dresser on which I practiced my ombre’ painting skills, and the storage cube that I used in my master closet reorganization.  You can see the […]

  8. Your poor dresser! You made it all purdy and then it got destroyed! 😦 I like the idea of putting the drawers on casters for under the bed storage.

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