Ta da! The dresser is painted, the plates are up, and I love how it turned out! A quick recap of the how:
I mixed the dresser paint with a bonding agent, since I didn't want the chippy look. My house is old enough that it needs newer looking furnishings to get the old/new balance that I like. The paint went on like a breeze - minimal sanding, no priming, it was great!
I brought the dresser in as soon as it had "cured" - that alone made the room feel more complete! Then I started playing with my paper templates.
I laid out the plates on the floor and took a picture to check the color balance, and stared at everything for a few days to make sure there was nothing about it that bothered me.
Then it was up with the plates! Again, I went with something balanced but not symmetrical, to keep the feel more relaxed/modern than traditional, even though hanging plates on the wall is a very traditional idea.
I was a little bit concerned that everything would look too dinky, since it's such a large wall, but the dresser really anchors everything.
I'll be excited to get the curtains up, but for now, this really makes the room feel more settled, and less "we just moved in" ish.
And now, since I love a good before and after . . .