Posted by: Small House Under a Big Sky Homestead | November 17, 2012

French Provincial Set Before and After

This French provincial three-piece bedroom set make-over has been a long time in finishing and has turned out to be truly a labor of love.

Two of the three pieces of French provincial furniture that will make up my grand daughters “Princess Room.”

Six-drawer dresser with its diversity of curved top, apron and feet and straight sides.

Front of dresser close up to show the silky chalk paint/dark wax finish and bronze painted drawer pulls.

What I thought would take a few hours of time to paint and wax ended up with nearly 100 hours of labor involved. It’s a good thing that I had not made a time or price estimate for this set upfront or I would have lost my shirt! Instead it’s a gift of love to my darling three-year-old granddaughter, Brenna Ann.

This set, according to the label in the desk drawer, is called Bonnett by Sears. I’ve heard from numerous furniture painters who have shared that they had the same set as a young girl. So apparently this was an affordable and highly popular furniture type for girls in the 1950’s through 1970’s.

The typical French provincial dresser “before,” painted originally in gold and white.

I found mine at a garage sale in Zeeland, MI, and paid just $25.00 per piece. The set contains a six-drawer, long dresser, a two-drawer bedside table and a matching headboard and footboard (not yet pictured.) This set is not constructed totally of hard wood and does have parts of MDF, but part of the beauty of chalk paint is that it can cover up the less than perfect.

A close up of the popular gold and white metal drawer pulls.You can also see the fake “grain” of the MDF.

The legs are molded plastic and washed in a gold tone spray paint.

Raised panels on drawers with original knobs (and a few of the many stickers on the set.)

When considering what colors to paint this set, I seriously considered a soft Antoinette pink with white trim…very girly-girly! However, even at the young age of just three-years-old my granddaughter tells me with certainty that blue is her favorite color. Her bedroom walls are painted in a pale blue color and her mother is partial to green, hence the blue/green combo topped off with dark wax. I decided ultimately to select a color combination she could grow up with and not out grow.

I painted the main part of the three-piece set in CeCe Caldwell’s Maine Blue. The trim and legs are painted in a custom green color that began as CeCe Caldwell’s Alaskan Green that I custom mixed to give the impression of blue/green summer water of Lake Michigan in the summer sunlight. Lake Michigan is where my son’s family has a summer cottage and he was raised there during the summer months. That lake played a big part in our lives and family memories and I miss it.

I know that in these photographs the green paint look like a light blue color but what looks light blue is indeed a custom translucent blue/green tone in reality.

I made a conscious choice to finish this furniture using AS dark wax directly painted over the blue and green paint – no light wax used first, as typically recommended and practiced. I had painted another small vintage cabinet in this same color combo and that piece of furniture probably gets more favorable comments than any other piece I have ever completed. I also just love the richness of the French provincial design finished this way and feel that this set will not be quickly outgrown.

The curvy metal handles are all original but many of the round drawer pulls were missing. I found these replacement pulls at Menard’s and I spray painted all the hardware in a Rustoloem Metallic Bronze so they would be color coordinated and look a bit more modern and elegant.

If you attempt to paint a French provincial set like this know these things:

  •  MDF needs a coat of Zinsser first before the chalk paint middle coat is used
  •  That to paint over the gold trim on the drawers and the plastic carved feet – plan on painting at four to five coats of paint to cover the gold as it has a tendency to bleed through. The gold showing through is quite pretty but it is hard to make it look uniform.
  • Many dressers do not require special attention to the boards under the drawers, but with curvy drawers, this one does.

Would you have waxed this piece in dark wax directly over the paint to “tint” the color…or waxed in clear soft wax first? Thanks for reading!

Small House / Big Sky Donna



  1. Gorgeous! I guess you can just never go wrong with French blue, right? I like the deep tones of yours. Funny thing is that my mom and I were just discussing painting almost an identical dresser to yours that has been in our family forever. Maybe we’ll have to go with blue…

    • Thanks Dana,

      It’s funny that I just made a comment on your blog about something must be in the air as we are all painting Frenh provincial blue! I rarely do blue but this was the color my granddaughter asked for so…..Thanks for visiting!

    • The deep tones of this piece came about because of the blue chalk paint AND black wax used directly over the blue chalk paint. That’s my SECRET! All the pro’s will tell you that you must use clear wax over the chalk paint before you use the dark wax but I do not. This is the result of that process. Don’t get me wrong, its an advance trick that is tricky and time consuming process to do it “my way” and one that can go bad quickly but when it works its gorgeous!

  2. I’m having a hard time getting the knobs off. Any suggestion.

    • I don’t recall that we had any trouble getting the knobs off this, or any dresser. Just used a screwdriver. Do you have a power driver? Maybe yours are stuck with gunk or just time….My husband suggests. take out the screw, take a solid rod on the back and tap with a hammer.

  3. I have this Sears set from my childhood including the twin bed frame, lingerie chest, foot-of-bed storage chest, & chest of drawers (my sister got the dresser). I have always wanted to redo/paint the set, but the shiny finish & especially the gloss/laminate finish tops have always prevented me from starting on any of the pieces for fear of ruining them. Did you do any sanding of the glossy tops or anything else first or use a special paint for slick surfaces? My daughter is a little old for the set now, so I may do as you have & finally redo the pieces for a future granddaughter. 🙂

    • In my experience laminate finishes are one of the rare surfaces that needs to be primed first prior to being painted with chalk paint. (I did NOT sand but painted the entire surface with a primer first because of the laminate surface. Laminate is quite thin and if I sanded it I would have likely sanded through to the bottom layer, something I did not want. )
      The primer I used (was BIM 123 primer paint) which gives the surface a kind of “tooth” to hold the chalk paint. As you can see I two-toned this set using custom mixed paint followed by waxing with black wax which can be tricky but oh so “satisfying” when done. I’m not sure where you are in your waxing experience either, beginner or confident, but waxing chalk paint can be quite tricky and I would recommend that if you are new to waxing that you practice, practice, practice on several other wood pieces prior until you feel totally confident prior to starting a French Provincial laminate piece.
      This three piece set probably took me longer and more fussing than any other project I have ever taken on. I consider this kind of project advanced and time consuming experience but I love how it turned out and so does my granddaughter.

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