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Restoring an Mid-Ninteenth Century Dresser

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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.
  • restoring an mid ninteenth century dresser, painted furniture, repurposing upcycling
Here is the before. Not much to look at but I loved the mirror.
  • restoring an mid ninteenth century dresser, painted furniture, repurposing upcycling
  • restoring an mid ninteenth century dresser, painted furniture, repurposing upcycling
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.
  • restoring an mid ninteenth century dresser, painted furniture, repurposing upcycling
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?
  • restoring an mid ninteenth century dresser, painted furniture, repurposing upcycling
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.
  • restoring an mid ninteenth century dresser, painted furniture, repurposing upcycling
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.
  • restoring an mid ninteenth century dresser, painted furniture, repurposing upcycling
It is so tall when put together that I had a hard time getting a full picture of it in such close quarters.
  • restoring an mid ninteenth century dresser, painted furniture, repurposing upcycling
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.
  • restoring an mid ninteenth century dresser, painted furniture, repurposing upcycling
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.

Got a question about this project?

  • Peggy Hale
    Peggy Hale Bivins, TX

    Actually, I usually do paint my pieces, but there are pieces like this one I would never paint.

  • Sharon La Tour
    Sharon La Tour Lexington, KY

    WOW!!! What a beautiful job you did on that!!!

  • Marilynn Gillespie

    Beautiful job! I have one just like it that I stripped down to the bare wood and have done nothing with yet as I wasn't sure what to do with it. I, thanks to you!, now know that the wood is oak and will do mine up in early American, just like yours,

  • Peggy Hale
    Peggy Hale Bivins, TX

    Good luck! It's a lot of work but worth it.

  • Kathy ortiz
    Kathy ortiz Jensen Beach, FL

    That is one beautiful piece

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