How is The Dresser Structurally? Do the drawers slide smoothly? What about the structure of the dresser, is it solid? Is there creaking or parts of the dresser frame that are coming apart? How solid are the legs? If there are drawer guide problems, can they be fixed?
Sometimes, with the wood on wood drawer guides, you can get them to slide a little smoother by just applying furniture wax to the guides. I would say a dresser that has structural problems, unless it has a high value as an antique, isn’t worth saving.
Higher Value as a Restored Antique:
There are some dressers that are so old (80+ years) that really would be better off restored to their original finish. A lot of the dressers I paint are styles that in my opinion look a lot better painted than restored to their original finish. (30-50 years old) But, it depends on your own personal taste. But, even if you don’t like the natural wood look, if restoring one dresser to it’s original finish will allow you to sell it for enough to buy yourself a new dresser, then, it might be worth doing that instead.
Veneer, Laminate or Wood?
What is the surface of the dresser made of? Is it a wood veneer? Which is where there is a thin layer of wood layered on top of a cheaper type of wood, like press board or something similar. Laminate is an actual layer of plastic over something like press board. If it’s real wood, that’s better.
Veneer is fine, unless there is massive peeling and cracking of the veneer over the whole piece. If the piece is solid wood and you would rather see it painted, then, definitely paint it.
In summary, if you want to paint a dresser where value as an antique is not a factor, then as long as the dresser is structurally sound and either real wood or a wood veneer that is still intact, then go for it!