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Restoring an Mid-Ninteenth Century Dresser

I picked this dresser up for a song at an estate sale. It was in a storage building underneath a lot of junk. Little did I know at the time, since I couldn't see it very well, that it was a diamond in the rough.
Here is the before. Not much to look at but I loved the mirror.
Once I started stripping it I realized it was solid oak with some walnut around the mirror! It had started out stained then somewhere along the way it was painted with green milk paint.
Finally it had been stained the shade you see in the first picture but not until they had heavily distressed it!! They had splattered it with some kind of ink, hammered it, scratched it, and probably beat it with chains! What were they thinking?
After a lot of work I was able to repair and clean it up until I had what you see here. It was missing it's rollers but I had some period correct ones that I cleaned up and used. I had to blend the two woods on the mirror and the client wanted it to stay as light as possible so I stained it with Early American.
The hardware was brass coated and had been spray painted, but a little Brasso and a lot of elbow grease made all the difference in the world.
It is so tall when put together that I had a hard time getting a full picture of it in such close quarters.
This is the top and was really beat up but I was able to get nearly all the flaws out except for one dent or dent. I finally shed it with several, thin coats of a satin poly.
I why would you ever want to distress such beautiful wood?
Love the oak appliqués on the mirror and if I was keeping it I would leave the mirror as is. I love that distressed look.
I hope you enjoyed this piece. Not my usual as I usually paint my furniture in the shabby chic style with chalk paint, but I wanted to show I can restore a piece also.

Ask the creator about this project

  • Shelby @ The Weathered Barn Studio
    Shelby @ The Weathered Barn Studio Newton, IA
    on Mar 5, 2015

    ....I am usually not a fan of some wood finishes, and it depends on the piece....; I am like you...I like painted finishes...but I must say , this is really really nice, you did a beautiful job !

  • Swan Road Designs
    Swan Road Designs Sedalia, KY
    on Mar 5, 2015

    Just as a point of information, the piece is all oak, no walnut. It's just that there are different grain patterns on the area that frames the mirror, but oak just the same. You did a stellar job of bringing it back to its former beauty. I can't really tell from the photos, but the mirror looks like it is beveled. Replacing a beveled mirror of any size is expensive and you have stated that you wish to leave it as is. However, there is a very simple and reasonable way to "replace" the mirror and still have a beveled one. Remove the existing mirror, fully clean/remove all the old silver backing from the glass, then have a plain 1/8-inch mirror cut the same size and use it behind the clean beveled glass.

  • Shirley
    Shirley Ft Mitchell, KY
    on Mar 5, 2015

    What a jewel! Beautiful job on the restoration.

  • Elizabeth Hamaty
    Elizabeth Hamaty Abilene, TX
    on Mar 6, 2015

    What a beautiful heirloom for someone!! Gorgeous!

  • Audrey.morneau
    Audrey.morneau South China, ME
    on Mar 6, 2015

    Love it, so glad you didn't paint it

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