Dresser refinish: the Ancient dresser from nowhere

Sep 30 2015
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Between this one and the old beast from the screened in porch I really don’t know which one is more of a mystery. Neither dresser had been used in decades by the time I came along to refinish them. With the passing of my grandma we opened up the old play house (our future duck coop) and were both dismayed and delighted to find that it was full. We started pulling things out and discovered my mother’s two old dressers (check out this one in our tutorial for converting a dresser into a vanity) and this old thing with no idea where it came from. It’s beautiful and it always was beautiful even before I started work on it, I had an inkling that it was probably the most unique and also the oldest piece of everything I had. A friend of mine (who had a bit of furniture experience) confirmed my thoughts when he said he thought that this piece was worth the most out of everything. Of course, worth really means nothing to me (I’ll never sell it) however, knowing that it is special outside of my own feelings toward it is pretty cool.

Before and after of an old maple dresser stripped and stained in black @GrandmasHousDIY

I sanded the whole thing down instead of stripping it and it just about killed me, definitely should have stripped all of the funk and gunk off of it first. I did this piece when I did Eleonora’s buffet/our entertainment center and I swear the same dude on the same day seventy years ago put the same nasty motor oil finish on them both. I felt like my arms were gonna fall off. I just sanded. And sanded. And sanded. *facepalm* The whole dresser probably has over ten hours of just me sanding into it. I should have just used paint stripper on it!

Before and after of an old maple dresser stripped and stained in black @GrandmasHousDIY

Once I had it down to bare wood though I really got excited. The drawer fronts are striped, seriously, like a zebra! It is SO cool. I used every grit of sand paper available and mostly my orbital sander on the entire piece. I stained it in a black minwax gel stain using a brush and just wiping it off after a few minutes with a rag. After that I put two coats of a satin poly acrylic over it to protect the finish. I can’t get over the wood grain! I just love it! And then I put all my shiny knobs on it and I couldn’t have been more pleased. It sits in my office now, I never did manage to get the drawers working well so I just use it as storage that I rarely need. I really love it, can’t say exactly why, but out of all of the pieces that I’ve refinished over the last few years, this is the one that holds my heart completely.

 

Before and after of an old maple dresser stripped and stained in black @GrandmasHousDIY

61 Comments

  1. March 4, 2016 at 6:02 am

    It looks beautiul. You;re so lucky to have their wonderful pieces with you.Thanks for sharing with us at Thursday Favorite Things blog hop!

    Cheers,
    Jennifer
    http://awellstyledlife.com

    • March 4, 2016 at 3:10 pm

      Jennifer, thank you so much!

  2. March 10, 2016 at 9:58 pm

    You did such an amazing job refinishing this piece! It looks lovely I’m glad that you chose to stain it instead of painting it!

    • March 11, 2016 at 4:35 pm

      Thank you so much! Once I saw those stripes on the drawers I was so glad I didn’t paint it!

  3. March 11, 2016 at 1:48 am

    Oh my gosh — the sanding that you did! I appreciate your commitment to this project. It turned out beautifully. Well done. I saw your link at Diana’s Adirondack Girl at Heart/Vintage Charm party.

    • March 11, 2016 at 4:36 pm

      I definitely should I just stripped it lol but, you live you learn 🙂 Thank you so much for stopping by!

  4. JaneEllen
    March 12, 2016 at 7:16 am

    Oh do I envy you that breath taking “tiger oak” dresser, what fabulous find, so lucky to have pieces you inherited. So many times younger people don’t want the old fashioned pieces that are so much better made than any new piece you’d ever find. Those old pieces were built to last a lifetime in most cases. And how fortunate and smart you are to live in your grand parents home.
    All your hard work sanding for all those hours was rewarded with your end product. You did such a fabulous job, should be proud of your efforts. Also so glad you stained to show off all those beautiful tiger oak stripes. Have wonderful weekend

    • March 14, 2016 at 6:45 pm

      Jane, thank you! I had no idea it was Tiger Oak! I had someone almost convince me that it was walnut at one point but I’m glad to finally know for sure now! Thanks for coming by, I’m so glad you like the piece, I was VERY relieved it turned out 🙂

  5. March 16, 2016 at 4:28 pm

    The things you have discovered tucked away in your family home are amazing, Tarah. You remind me that the back-stories of the objects we find are as interesting as the pieces themselves. Your dresser looks so beautiful; you did a wonderful job rehabbing it. Thanks so much for linking it up at Vintage Charm!

    • March 16, 2016 at 5:28 pm

      Diana, thank you for coming by and checking it out! It is funny how before they passed the furniture around had just become part of the surroundings for us, until we cleaned the house out and then it was like discovering all of these amazing pieces for the first time! I’m so glad I was able to keep them and refinish them back to their glory days! 🙂

  6. March 18, 2016 at 12:50 am

    Beautiful makeover! Thanks for sharing at Inspiration Monday!
    Debbie

  7. March 19, 2016 at 4:42 pm

    Although I adore a great paint job, some pieces are just not meant to be painted, especially those vintage ones that are structurally sound. All your hard word refinishing this piece to the original splendor really paid off, it is a stunner with all that wood grain, I love it!

    • March 21, 2016 at 3:10 pm

      Brenda thank you so much! Some pieces just surprise me when I get to work on them, this one turned out so much better then I had ever hoped!

  8. March 20, 2016 at 2:23 pm

    I’m so glad you saved it!! And your hard work of sanding paid off. It looks beautiful 🙂 Thanks for linking up to #FridaysFurnitureFix!

  9. March 24, 2016 at 10:56 pm

    Oh my goodness this turned out gorgeous! Your hard work really paid off. It’s nice to see a piece brought back to it’s original glory … I am not sure I would have had the stamina or patience to do this! Well done! I hope you have a great day!
    Smiles!
    Terry

    The Curator’s Collection & Making Broken Beautiful

    • March 29, 2016 at 3:34 pm

      Terry thank you so much! I was so relieved when it turned out!

  10. March 25, 2016 at 12:52 pm

    You did a beautiful job. Although I love painted furniture there are times when you need to respect a piece of furniture and restore it to its former glory. You did just that.

    • March 29, 2016 at 3:35 pm

      Debra, thank you so much! I’m so glad it turned out!

  11. March 25, 2016 at 2:56 pm

    This piece looks gorgeous! I know that your grandmother would be so pleased to know that you’ve given this piece a facelift and that you are enjoying it.

    • March 29, 2016 at 3:35 pm

      Paula, I think so too! I think Grandma would be glad 🙂 Thank you!

  12. April 7, 2016 at 2:53 pm

    This dresser is absolutely gorgeous. <3

  13. April 16, 2016 at 12:49 pm

    Loving your perspective and projects! I was cracking up when I read that your hubby was enamored with finally getting something new… mine has FORBIDDEN me from bringing home one more curbside find. 🙂

    I’ve nominated you for a Liebster award. Check it out here:

    https://growtastecreate.com/2016/04/16/liebster-award/

    • April 19, 2016 at 6:40 pm

      Holy coolness!! Thank you so much! I’m gonna check it all out now, what fun!

  14. May 4, 2016 at 11:27 pm

    Love it! This is perfectly lovely and I’m so glad you did not use paint!!! Thank you so much for sharing with us at Friday Favorites! I would love for you to join me at mustlovehome.com for the
    Wonderful Wednesday Link Party…and enter our $40 PayPal Cash Giveaway for May!! Hugs – Christine at Must Love Home

    • May 5, 2016 at 4:41 pm

      Thank you so much! I will definitely come over and join you at Must Love Home! See you there! 🙂

  15. May 20, 2016 at 5:56 pm

    She’s the perfect a collectors piece for future generations. You did an amazing job restoring her to her former glory.

    • May 20, 2016 at 8:40 pm

      Thank you so much Michelle! 🙂

  16. May 22, 2016 at 1:57 pm

    Sometimes a piece of furniture can speak to you. And I think Tarah this is one of those times. This is really gorgeous and it looks so solid, as in a don’t-mess-with-me-I’m-here-to-stay-for-another-seventy-years kind of way. I’m so glad you kept it. As for all that sanding, couldn’t you have used an electric sander? It is one of the few power tools I use and it saved me aches and pains. Pinning at Sweet Inspiration.

    • May 23, 2016 at 3:19 pm

      Hey Mary! Thank you for your wonderful words, for sure this dresser is SO solid! I did use an electric sander 🙂 I really should have just stripped it and not killed myself but sometimes my stubbornness gets the best of me! Thank you for stopping by!

  17. May 23, 2016 at 9:06 pm

    This is such a wonderful piece. I was holding my breath, hoping it wasn’t going to be painted. You did an amazing job! It’s wonderful to see an old piece valued the way you do.

    • May 24, 2016 at 3:16 pm

      🙂 So glad you liked it! Thank you!

  18. May 27, 2016 at 3:03 pm

    Tarah congratulations your great dresses is the most popular this week. Come on over to Sweet Inspiration to get your button! 🙂

  19. June 8, 2016 at 1:45 pm

    Beautiful job! Thanks for sharing on the DIY party!

  20. LaDonna
    June 21, 2016 at 9:30 am

    This is stunning! My grandma had two very similar ones to yours, both a men’s and a ladies’, with the men’s being MUCH larger (and weighing in the area of 350 lbs if I remember correctly – my aunt took custody of that one.) The ladies’ I originally took and restored for my college apartment and first house (25 years ago)was very similar to yours, but also had a mirror and matching hope chest. I was able to restore the wood around the mirror but not the mirror itself. The story I have on ours is that my grandma’s family brought them with them when they immigrated from England in the mid 1800’s. The story has always been that they had been in the family much longer, to the tune of about 300 years but we have no way to easily prove or disprove that, but my mom remebers them always in her house growing up and she is pushing 80. I remember my grandmother telling me she got them from her dad; she would be in her 110’s now. The rest of the stories I honestly don’t remember who I heard what from. They were covered with a thick, somewhere between rust and cherry colored paint when I ended up with the pieces I got. I remember my grandma always had a vanity painted the same in the room she had them in, but other than the ugly paint, there was no reason to believe it was part of the set – it honestly appeared to be almost midcentury modern, but I really can’t imagine my grandparents buying during that time frame. I also sanded them all by hand, not knowing any better, though I was sure I knew everything at 18 and didn’t ask for help. It took me about 2 months to sand all of them, but I will mention it was August on the KS/MO border when I started, so time working in the hot garage was limited and I had only done two or three other smaller pieces at that time in life. The cedar/hope chest has copper accents on the corners and the lock is also copper, but none of the other pieces have copper that I recall – it is possible the large one does, as I remember it has a flip down desk over the middle two rows of drawers – the top row being rather small drawers – and I am almost positive had a lock on the desk when folded, and possibly on the smaller top drawers. It’s been almost 12 years since I have visited my aunt and wasn’t paying much attention at the time. (Sometime along the way my mother decided to “store” the dresser and mirror for me for “safekeeping” at her house and has now decided I can have them “when she moves on.” I haven’t been to her house in six years, so can’t provide pictures to compare, but I had not heard of tiger oak before either, but have always loved and been intrigued by the patterns since I discovered them. I have the cedar chest, but it is currently in my brother-in-law’s wood shop repairing a broken leg from his brother sitting on it to watch tv. Lol.

    I am so glad I saw this in the diy daily email, and I will definitely have to start following your blog! My grandmother passed away in May of the year I was starting college 90 miles from where dhe had lived, and I happily furnished my apartment with treasures salvaged from her house after everyone rlse had gone through and decided most of the furniture, especially in the basement, wasn’t worth saving. I cherish it for the stories and absolutely treasure the connection to my very beloved grandmother, who most in the know say I got most of my personality from. I love having the day bed she purchased in 1918 for her room for her first teaching job, which was borrowed from her for a number of years when I was big enough to be out of a crib, and returned to extra dining room seating/extra bed when I chose my own bed, still clearly marked with the date and the store purchased from, and the dining room table she and my grandfather purchased for their first home, and handed down to my parents when they got married, to wind up in my first house, and currently my sewing table.

    Sorry to babble on so much, just thrilled to see something so familiar, and I am such a sucker for family stories like this!

    • June 21, 2016 at 4:27 pm

      LaDonna, it was wonderful to read your story about some of your old pieces! I go to many estate sales around here and they just make my heart ache. On one hand I’m glad I can save and give the old pieces I find there new life and a new home but on the other hand I just can’t believe their children or grand children didn’t feel like any of it was worth saving! I always tell myself that their family already went through and took some pieces to remember them by and that makes me feel better. It is always wonderful to hear on the blog from people like you though, so I’m know I’m not alone. Thank you for coming by and commenting 🙂

      • LaDonna
        June 22, 2016 at 3:06 am

        I am thrilled to have found your page abd someone like minded as well. I stsrted reading your story this morning and got distracted by life, but was just getting back to it. I love that you were able to get the family home and love everything I am seeing you have done! We had wanted to keep my husband’s parents house so badly, but it needed more than we could financially give it, and sadly the neighborhood had gone downhill so badly (inner-city) that we simply could not raise our kids there. My husband was in charge of finding out house while I was planning our wedding 900 miles away. He had the additude of he would know it when he saw it. He dud an excellent job but our poor realtor may have qualified gfor sainthood as she showed him approximately 300 homes before he did find it. It is a 1 1/2 story 1941 home on an acre and a half, with 4 bedrooms (5 when we finish the basement) and three baths, and such a great neighborhood in a rather small town surrounded by city – meaning we have that small town feel with easy accress to all the cultural ammenities of the city. I love finding treasures in garagecsales and thrift shops, but ponder the same questions of who could just let that go?!?! I was worried I had written too much, but glad you could relate to it as well. I look forward to getting to know you and your projects better! Nothing better than saving something sturdy with character than some seem to think need to be replaced with newer, more expensive and less likely to have the lifeline of out older “treasures.” 🙂

        • June 22, 2016 at 8:08 pm

          I was so relieved to be able to save my grandparents’ old house! My boyfriend (my husband now) and I at the time were just in the right place in both of our lives to be able to do it. We were just starting out together and this place called me so hard and he was happy to come along for the ride. Fortunate I think though, most folks don’t have the opportunity or just plain financially can’t do it. At the time I thought anyone would probably make the choice to save the old place like I did (if they were able) but once I got in here I really got a whole other look at the other side of things. It was really hard to tear this place a part even if it meant saving it for many more years to come and to have a home for us. It was still so tough to take out things that were so much a part of our family and my own child hood even though we had no choice in the matter to make it a safe home. It did make me realize and understand a lot more why people sell the old places and even the old pieces too sometimes, it can be really hard to change something (even if it means saving it) that meant a lot to you and your family. Granted though I would never go back for a minute! I’m very glad that we were the ones to save my grandparents’ old house even though it was really hard at times! Your home sounds lovely! I’ve often wished were closer to a bigger city!

  21. Sandy
    June 23, 2016 at 2:19 pm

    Hooray! Hooray! Applause! Applause! I am so glad you decided to redo your grandmother’s piece to show the beautiful wood it’s made of. So many people today slap on a coat of paint, which totally destroys the look of the vintage piece they are working on. Makes me cry!

    • June 23, 2016 at 2:34 pm

      Thank you Sandy! Yup I’m real happy I decided to sand this down and refinish it, sometimes paint is ok but if its solid wood and in good condition, why on earth would you paint it!?

  22. June 24, 2016 at 12:45 am

    Beautiful piece of furniture and you are so talented. They don’t make pieces like that anymore.

    • June 24, 2016 at 2:29 pm

      Yeah they really don’t make solid pieces like this anymore at all, I was so glad to save it! Thank you Michelle for commenting and coming by!

  23. June 27, 2016 at 1:12 pm

    Tarahlynn, lovely piece of furniture. I have a similar piece but mine has a top with a mirror. I recently decided to paint it. Such functional pieces. Thank you for sharing at Your Inspired Design link Party.

  24. June 27, 2016 at 7:34 pm

    Beautiful! I love it! Thanks for sharing at #SmallVictories

  25. June 29, 2016 at 3:59 am

    So pretty! I’d love to have that in my home. Thanks for linking up with Funtastic Friday.

  26. June 29, 2016 at 4:21 pm

    Love the dresser!
    Thanks for sharing your post at the Simple Homestead Hop 🙂

  27. June 29, 2016 at 7:20 pm

    Wow…looks so great!! 🙂 Nice job!

    I would love for you to share this with my Facebook Group for Crafts, Recipes, and Tips and Tricks: https://www.facebook.com/groups/pluckyrecipescraftstips/

    Thanks for joining Cooking and Crafting with J & J!

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