It’s a chief joy of mine to find something that someone else discarded and to make it mine. One woman’s trash becomes another’s treasure and not much of anything goes to waste. With the exception of our bed frames and our crib, we’ve found the rest of our furniture on Craigslist and eBay and at old fashioned tag sales. But every so often, we’ve also found a treasure curbside, abandoned there for trash pickup or neighborly treasure hunting.
Purchased or found, most of our furniture finds have included hauling the piece home, washing it up, and maybe doing a bit of light sanding or painting (or both) to freshen it up a bit. But in April I collected this new-to-me dresser that needed more than a little care and quite a bit more imagination.
I’d been wanting to swap our changing table for a taller wardrobe or dresser for months. I’d pinned similar pieces on Pinterest. I’d scanned local listings and eBay. I’d hunted around antique shops near my hometown. I was anxious to make better use of the vertical space in Faye and Silas’s room and Silas’s squirminess during diaper changes is only matched by his older sister’s before him, so we felt ready to replace his changing table with something that could make better use of the space, especially because there’s no closet in their room.
When we spotted the tall piece of furniture on the street near our apartment, I was immediately hopeful, but the dresser was in objectively rough shape. Originally a kind of Art Deco china cabinet with glass doors, there were at least seven layers of paint, missing moldings and pulls, and one perplexing label-maker made sticker. It looked far more like trash than treasure and I almost left it curbside, but my dad was in town and so I took advantage of the extra set of hands and hauled it home. A few weeks later, it was ready for prime time.
For anyone’s who’s interested, here are a few of the nitty gritty details that might behelpful for any treasure hunting you’re doing:
I started the project by removing the decorative moldings on the top of the dresser. It gave the piece the simpler, more streamlined look that I preferred, but it also served to make the top of the cabinet more useable for storage.
Next, I removed the glass panels from the doors. I didn’t want to have to worry about my kids shattering the large panels. I originally planned on replacing the glass with fabric tacked to the inside of the door frames—Faye and I even picked out sweet fabric together—but after a few weeks of Silas putting his hands through the fabric, I decided a solid replacement would be preferable. Two sheets of birch veneered plywood cut to size at the hardware store, and some wood glue later, and I had myself solid doors.
The toughest conundrum was knowing that the dresser almost assuredly had lead paint. I didn’t want to sand it myself, and certainly not in our apartment, so we took advantage of the extremely serendipitous timing of our lead paint remediation and I paid the gentleman doing the work to strip the dresser safely for me. (If you plan to remove lead paint yourself, definitely do your research and make sure you do it safely.)
After the paint was removed and the plywood glued in place, I used a bit of wood filler to fill in spots where original veneer was missing and to fill in the gaps around the plywood panels.
To finish, I primed and painted the dresser before we moved back into our place in June. The exterior paint was generously provided by Farrow & Ball. I went with Faye to their Brooklyn store to choose a color and despite encouragement to choose something quite a bit more vibrant, she insisted on painting it gray. We settled on their Plummet paint in an eggshell finish. It’s a really lovely grey—not too purple but still with a hint of blue. On the inside, I used the same Simply White from Benjamin Moore used throughout the rest of the house.
To replace missing cabinet pulls, I bought these tiny 1-inch Glass Knobs from Historic House Parts. For the bottom drawers, we used two Brushed Nickel Bin Pulls sent from Rejuvenation. (To keep our little guys safe from a tall dresser tumble, we used simple Corner Braces from our local hardware store to screw the dresser directly into the wall.)
Finally, I used a variety of differently sized Paper Bags provided by Uashmama (in the Cachemire color!) to sort clothes and keep them organized in a small space. I like to let Faye pick out her own clothes, so the bags make it super easy to let her take a look and select a shirt or shorts, etc., without sending tiny piles of stacked t-shirts into disarray.
On the bottom of the shelf, we’re storing unruly play silks and tutus and our assortment of games and puzzles. (I store them in zipped pouches and drawstring bags because whoever decided puzzles should come in enormous cardboard boxes did not live in a small space with a penchant for order.)