Mamie’s Chest

5 Materials
5 Days
This piece has sat in storage at my mom’s for many years. It belonged to my precious, great grandmother, aka Mamie. The chest is way over one hundred years old. Mamie lived with my grandmother and she used the chest in her bedroom. I remember Mamie kept her Jewerly, that she let me play with when I was a little girl, in one of the top drawers. She had hair to her waist and she kept her brush and hair pins and hair combs on the dresser. Sweet, sweet memories of my childhood. It was painted a pale pink from top to bottom. Years later after my Mamie passed and then my sweet grandparents, the old pink chest went into storage. While prowling through Mom’s storage I came across Mamie’s chest and asked Mom if I could have it for my own. She was happy to give me the opportunity to restore Mamie’s chest. Needless to say, since Mamie’s chest had been in storage for many, many years, plus it’s age before being put in storage, it was a hot, little mess.
This is the chest turned upside down. I removed the drawers to help with the weight when I turned it over. The casters in the legs were rusty. First I sprayed them with WD-40 and let them set for a while. Then I used pliers to remove the casters.
As you can see, the casters were no good. So I knew I would not use them on the chest when I finished the redo.
Next I removed the drawers pulls, I wasn’t going to use them either. But...Being the keeper of all old things, I put them in a bag...just in case...Do you do that too? By-the-way, they are in the top drawer ina bag. LOL
Now for a good cleaning. I used warm water, cleaner and an old cloth to give the chest a good cleaning. Many spiders had left their abandoned webs inside the corners of the chest. It was also covered in inches of dust and dirt.
Once the chest was clean, I used Citrusstrip Paint Stripper to remove the old paint. A lot of the paint was loose, so it did not take much to lift the old paint. I applied the paint stripper with a cheap brush and let it set for for about 24 hours. I then used a combination of scraping with a painter’s scraper and sand paper and some reapplying of stripper, until all of the paint was removed. At this point I was unsure of whether I wanted to paint or stain the top. I knew I was leaning toward staining the top, so I paid careful attention to stripping the top very well.
So sorry, but, I do not have all of my pictures because some of them were lost when I placed them in a mobile storage area. This made me sick. I still have not located many of my pictures.
I painted the sides, front and drawers with green Rust-Oleum spray paint. It was paint I already had, I think it was Hunter Green. I sprayed the paint and let it dry, before spraying a second coat. When the paint had dried for 48 hours, I covered the bottom with plastic, so I could stain the top.I stained the top of the chest with Minwax Stain, Golden Oak. I applied the stain with a clean, soft, cotton piece of cloth ( actually an old tee shirt cut into pieces).
I wanted the piece to maintain it’s aged character, so I sanded off spots where I wanted it to appear worn from use. To protect the piece, I used Minwax Paste Finishing Wax. For this step, I cleaned the piece with a soft, cotton cloth and applied a thin coat of the wax. After the wax was throughly dried, I polished it with a clean, soft, cotton cloth. I purchased new pulls for the drawers. I also added the decorative key holds by using Gorilla Wood Glue. The last part for me was to write down the history of Mamie’s chest with her name, dates of her birth and death, place of burial and other family information on a piece of paper to place in one of the drawers, so my children will always know the legacy of Mamie's Chest
I love Mamie’s Chest. The bottom drawer holds some of her old quilts. On top of the chest is her daughter’s, my grandmother’s, Bible.

Suggested materials:

  • Old chest
  • Paint stripper
  • Paint
See all materials

Frequently asked questions

Have a question about this project?

  1 question
  • Jessamine Matheson Jessamine Matheson on Mar 12, 2018

    This is gorgeous! Just for curiosity, can we see a picture of the old drawer pulls?


Join the conversation

2 of 18 comments
  • Amy Amy on Oct 18, 2018

    LOVE THIS!! and love that u wrote down what u remember about Mamie (her “legacy” great word!) and put it in a drawer for ur kids!! (Great idea from Karen Hurst to decoupage it too!) while reading, I had a flash.... I HAD A MAMIE! um... I think. And if so, I sure wish someone wrote about her and left it somewhere for me to read (maybe they did,I had to text my mom and my dad to see if this is a real memory or not. Lol. Awaiting the conclusion as we speak.

    So not only thanks for the inspiration (awesome job!) but thanks for jogging my memory... in turn, my moms, and hopefully my dads. (Turns out, it was my dads moms sister (says my mom. And that sounds familiar), hopefully when he gets back to me he’ll have a story to tell about her) I’m hoping like the ripple effect. You don’t even know... thank u! 😘

  • Susan K Mullins Susan K Mullins on Oct 18, 2018

    Thank you so much. I love that you shared your memory spark. I always try to write the history on family pieces for kids and grandkids. I tell them if they don’t want any of the pieces to please pass them along to their cousins.