I’ll admit, I have been known to stalk a piece of furniture. Embarrassing, but true. While I was scouting the furniture section on a recent thrifting trip, I overheard a nearby couple discussing a piece of furniture. The woman was laying out her best arguments trying to convince the gentleman that they should purchase a dresser they were looking at – where it could go, how great it was, and so on. He just wasn’t having it. Didn’t have any room, he said. I, on the other hand, was totally convinced by her sales pitch. I stood there, pretending to be looking at another piece of furniture, just waiting for them to walk away. As soon as they moved on, I jumped in. Yep, I definitely wanted this one.
It needed some work, but I was up for the challenge. I have refinished several dressers in this serpentine style. They are fairly common, and unless they are overpriced or have major structural issues, I buy them. I’m fond of the style and the wood usually refinishes beautifully. It’s hard to tell from the poor iPhone photo below, but the finish was in really bad shape. At some point, layers of shellac or varnish had been added to the original finish and it was very rough and cracked. The original hardware was missing, except for the brass keyhole covers (which are hard to see because they had been varnished over). If you look closely, it appears to be a tiger oak pattern on the lower drawers, which is what I thought I would find when I stripped them. At some point, someone had sanded and stained the top of the dresser, but unfortunately they had not done a great job. There were circular swirl marks left from improper sanding, and no topcoat had been added. I’m guessing the previous owner had started to refinish this dresser, was unhappy with the results, and gave up. Probably how it ended up being donated.
Here is it the after photo.
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I removed the top by unscrewing it from the base. I find that it is easier to refinish the wood top when it is separate rom the rest of the dresser. I can strip and sand the underside of the curves much more efficiently that way. I also removed the hardware and the keyhole covers from the drawers. The brass keyhole covers are very delicate and can easily bend, so be very careful if you have to remove them.
I had to address the existing swirl marks, I sanded the top (going from course to fine grit) using 80 grit sand paper, then 120 grit, and finally 220 grit. The swirl marks were removed and the wood looked great. I stained it with one coat of General Finishes Gel Stain in Antique Walnut. I let it dry for a day and then sealed it with General Finishes High Performance Topcoat in Satin.
Because the finish on the rest of the dresser was in such poor condition, I decided to strip it using Citri-Strip. Simply painting over an existing finish that is in bad shape will not yield good results. Prep is so important! It took a few coats, and stripping is pretty messy, but I got it down to bare wood. As I mentioned above, I thought I was going to uncover tiger oak wood, but it was actually a faux tiger oak pattern that came right off. The wood on the top two drawers was still very pretty, so I decided to stain and seal those. I let them dry and then lightly sanded them with 220 grit sandpaper. I stained and sealed them in the same manner as the top. I painted the rest of the dresser with two coats of General Finishes Milk Paint in Coastal Blue and sealed it with GF High Performance Topcoat.
I cleaned the brass keyhole covers and then polished them with Brasso. They were barely noticeable on the dresser originally, now they totally pop. To give this dresser a modern and fun twist, I added new brass bow pulls (from Land of Nod) to the top drawers and brass cup pulls to the bottom drawers. I added a reproduction skeleton key (from House of Antique Hardware) as a decorative touch. The lock doesn’t actually work, but it’s a pretty touch just the same.
The original wood casters were no longer on this dresser, so I added these replacement casters. The legs had the sockets where the original wheels would have been, and it’s nice to put the little wheels back on. The replacements casters just twist right in.
I definitely had to go the extra mile to bring this dresser back to life, but I am so happy with the results.
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