I may be in a little over my head with this one!

Antique dresser with mirror

I really should have known better. I’ve been tougher before when looking at Craigslist furniture. A few weeks ago I took my oldest son with me to look at an antique dresser (I like taking him with me; he’s a twice over black belt in Tae Kwon Do!) and I didn’t take it. When I saw chipped veneer I said, no thank you, that’s beyond my skill set. And I was fine with it. It was annoying that we drove a long way to look at it, but I knew I didn’t want to deal with chipped veneer. Maybe down the line, but not yet.

I’m looking for a chest or dresser for the boys’ room, and I’m also scouting for a cheap set of bunk beds to finish off the girls’ room. The problem is that I keep getting distracted by cool old dressers that I think I can refinish. When I saw one listed for $20, I jumped on it! My thought was that I’d buy it and re-sell it on Craigslist after I painted or refinished.

This time I decided to take my husband with me because the dresser was kind of big and I was afraid it wouldn’t go in the Subaru. I measured ahead of time and knew it would be tight if it would work at all. Looking back on it, I think I learned not to take dh. I’m not as firm when he’s around. Unless I know it’s going to work ahead of time, I think I’ll stick with karate kid. (No offense to dh. I loved having him with me. I’m just meaner when he’s not around. ha ha)

The lady was late and we had to sit in front of her house for about 10 minutes before she arrived. (She called us to let us know she was running late.) Her house was on the market and we admired it from the curb. It was set back on a quiet lot on a cul-de-sac. I should have taken a picture. I really loved the peacefulness of the property.

Dh and I both liked her as soon as we met her. And then she started telling us a little of her story. She had recently re-married and was desperate to get all the furniture out of her old house. She was sad, too, because she loved the house and didn’t really want to sell it as she’d lived there for 25 years. It had been under contract before and had fallen through at the last minute. Now it was under contract again and she was praying that it would go through and she could put it all behind her.

We learned all this before we saw the dresser. For some reason, it barely crossed my mind to say “no.” Dh started unscrewing the mirror and she took me to see another piece she had for sale. She had listed it on Craigslist, too, and the person that was supposed to view it had cancelled. She said she’d practically give it to me to get rid of it.

So that’s how I came home with two pieces of furniture I didn’t really want. I got sucked in to the story. I know. You’re probably shaking your head and firming your own resolve to be stronger. We had to make another trip to her house later in the day to pick up the second piece of furniture. I was already regretting the whole thing because I’d had a chance to look closer at the dresser. (you’ll see what I mean in a minute!) When we went back we met the lady’s step daughter. She had told us the first trip that she had three grown daughters and her new husband had two children still at home. When we met the new daughter, we realized she has Downs syndrome. I had already picked up on the fact that this woman was strong and brave but now I had even more respect for her. I’m totally in over my head with the antique dresser, but I no longer regret my purchase. I’m glad I was able to do a little something to help her smooth her transition.

OK. Enough talk. Here’s the dresser. And let me warn you — I’m seriously considering just re-listing it!

Antique dresser with mirror

Did I mention I don’t want to deal with chipped veneer?

antique dresser chipped veneer

That part might be do-able, but this?

antique dresser more chipped veneer

The middle drawer isn’t a drawer. It’s like a cubby and the drawer front lifts up on a hinge. But it seems kind of warped. Honestly, it doesn’t look that bad in the pictures, but it’s a mess. I know it’s over my head and I’m really OK with just re-listing it. But a little part of me wants to try. I figure worst case scenario, I practice the whole veneer thing and the stripping thing (I’ve never actually stripped a piece of furniture; I’ve only sanded) and learn a few things. If I totally mess up, I can probably still list it for free.

The other piece of furniture I took is a cedar chest. The lady suggested I buy it just to re-sell because it isn’t my style at all. The good news is that it’s in fairly good condition.

cedar chest

The top is a little rough:

cedar chest top

But it is solid and the inside is beautiful:

cedar chest lid up

It needs to be re-finished as well, but at least no repairs are required. I’m still pondering what to do with it. At first I thought I’d just do a straight strip and stain. Maybe a darker stain. But now I’m thinking about having some fun with it. I only paid $15 for it and no matter what I do I should be able to get at least that much back! I’m thinking of staining the lid a dark color like walnut and painting the rest with milk paint (I think Miss Mustard Seed Milk Paint in Ironstone would be pretty)and letting it do it’s chippy thing.

What do you think? What would you do? Would you keep the old dresser and give it a try or accept defeat and re-list it? Any thoughts on how to update the cedar chest?

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40 thoughts on “I may be in a little over my head with this one!

  1. This is Helen-
    I honestly think that there isn’t much hope for that antique dresser – but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try! The chest, however, is a different story. The idea of staining it is probably the best idea. We have a chest kind of like that one that we keep in our living room. I think you should keep the chest, and try in out in different rooms.

  2. Love the story of the dresser. I saw the photo on Pinterest and it caught my eye because we had recently refinished a similar chest. My girls were moving into a new apt and trying to furnish on the cheap so we went to Goodwill. We got our dresser for $29. It had multiple coats of paint on it and she wanted it stripped down to bare wood so she could stain it back to it’s original glory. Lol. Unfortunately underneath all that paint the veneer was very much like yours. I didn’t have a clue what to do. Ultimately I removed the veneer from most of it. Of course the wood underneath was all different so staining was no longer a good option. We ended up painting it back to it’s original off white and buying some pretty new knobs. It really turned out nice but will I ever do that again? Not likely! Ha ha. Good luck with your project!
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  3. Hi Nancy,
    Ideas on the dresser: If the middle “drawer” wasn’t warped, I’d say fix it up and keep it. Don’t worry about the veneer. If you paint it a crackled finish or some such, it will camoflage that chipped veneer. An idea about that warped ‘drawer’ would be to take that ‘drawer’ off, put a piece of good quality plywood in there, paint it inside there, and it would be a neat shelf.

    But, I would not paint the top mirror part – I don’t know what it looks like in person, but in the pic, that mirror part looks great! I’d pick a crackle type finish that matches the dark wood color of that mirror for the dresser part. Another idea, is if you decide it’s not worth it, due to the middle ‘drawer’ being warped, you could take that top mirror part off and keep it. You can probably find a dresser that it will fit.

    Ideas on the cedar chest: Does it smell wonderful on the inside?? It’s sturdy and in good condition. Keep it!!- especially if you don’t already have a cedar chest. I think staining it a darker color will make it look wonderfully antique. Maybe you could take those drawer pulls off and replace with some kind of wooden decoration?? Painting it would look good too! maybe an antique finish? You probably already know this, but cedar naturally repels moths, so don’t paint/stain the inside, so that the cedar will continue to have that wonderful smell.

    Those are my ideas. I know whatever you decide they will look great!! Can’t wait to hear what you decide!

    • oh, I forgot to say, on the dresser, if you take the fake drawer off and make it into a shelf, it might look good to put baskets in there to function like drawers.

    • You’ve got fantastic ideas, Donna Jo. I wish we were still close together. I’d get you to help me!! You sound like you know WAY more about all this than I do.

      It hadn’t occurred to me to keep the cedar chest, but now I’ve got an idea about where to put it. I’m going to start working on it this week. I’m still not sure what I’ll do with it but I am going to try to get those pulls off.

      • Glad I could help! I wish we lived closer too! I’d love it if we could work on stuff together! We will have to settle for giving each other ideas online. We have 4 chests like that in our house, 2 are cedar, 1 is pine, and 1 is a modern one that came from Ross that doubles as a big ottoman/coffee table. it has a padded top. We’ve kept everything from blankets/sheets, to toys, to old letters and cards, to school books in ours.

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  5. I loved your story and have had similar experiences so I understand where you are coming from. I have some ideas for you though!

    1. Remove the middle drawer, build a shelf and it could be used for an entertainment center?
    2. I saw this on another blog and looked it up for you. She recovered the drawer fronts with material. I thought it was a genius idea and although it might sound a little odd it came out great. I put the link for you below.

    Also – I would paint that cedar chest. It has great lines, you can always change out the handles on the front or take them off completely but I think it will be really cute when you are done.

    I can’t wait to see what you do with them. I am a new reader linking over from Someday Crafts. Will subscribe so I don’t miss the update!


  6. I am not at all talented when it comes to refinishing furniture. Honestly, unless it requires a quick coat of paint, it is beyond me, but I think that first piece is just so lovely, that I think it’s worth a try. I like furniture that is imperfect…adds character. Good luck, can’t wait to see what you decide!
    Kim recently posted…Puzzle Piece PumpkinMy Profile

  7. So I checked out more of your blog to get a sense of your style and it seems you like natural wood and white, am I right? Distressed white would look amazing on that dresser and would be easy to do with bonding primer or chalk paint! On the trunk, really, that trunk just needs some hardware changed out and buffed up. It’s an amazing piece and if you keep it, you won’t regret it – there’s nothing like curling up with a throw out of a cedar chest! You could paint it as well if you really wanted to! good luck! Can’t wait to see what you do with it!
    Jona@bohowillow recently posted…Incredible Slow Cooker Pot Roast with a CHEAT! (FREE PRINTABLE!)My Profile

    • So you got by with just sanding? I still haven’t touched mine because I’m dreading stripping. I know I want to stain at least the lid but was thinking I needed to strip the old finish off completely first…

  8. That top on the chest will sand off beautifully. Use an orbital sander and start with an 80 or 150. Finish with a 220. Wipe clean and stain in dark walnut. paint the body with a white chalk paint and distress. Gorge. (I did mine) The other piece, you can use a wood filler or epoxy to fill in the spots. Finely sand by hand. Once it’s painted you shouldn’t be able to notice (make sure you sand well and use your hands to fill “over” the spots. should feel perfectly smooth) Check out my “Crack House” dresser!! It makes your before look perfect!! http://makemeprettyagain.blogspot.com/2012/04/crack-house-dresser-re-do.html

    • Beth, that is EXACTLY what I was thinking for the chest. The only difference is that I was thinking milk paint instead of chalk paint, but I might do better with chalk since I’ve tried neither (and I’m a little afraid of the mixing with the milk paint). I’m so glad you commented because when I mentioned to the family my thoughts about a stained top and painted bottom they gave me the skeptical sideways looks. LOL

  9. If you use chalk paint or milk paint on the chest you won’t have to even sand altho I do some anyway. You could also put wheels on bottom of chest so as to move it when/if you choose to, reinforce bottom. Staining the top and painting with chalk paint/milk paint for rest of chest would be awesome looking. Great new storage also.
    The dresser I would love to have, love that style and the mirror does look really good. Oh so many ideas we all have to offer. Could use chalk paint/milk paint on it, wax and the damaged veneer would just give it character. I’m going to subscribe so I can see what you do with those pieces. Curiosity has me. Happy days

  10. All is not lost with this dresser. Use some automotive bondo ! Its great two parts mix mix fill in the vaneer areas . let cure sand and Wha La you can paint the dresser and I will look fabulous ! Seriously I have used it before . Works great .

  11. Missing veneer isn’t that big of a problem if you paint. Just glue down what you have and use plastic wood to fill in all the spots that are missing. I wouldn’t try Bondo as suggested, because it is a little tricky to use. The plastic wood gives you more time to play with it before it hardens, the Bondo only gives you seconds. I don’t think you would need to strip anything, just sand the top, refinish it, and rough up the rest with sandpaper, fill, prime, and paint. I revamp furniture that is usually in really rough shape when I get it, but I fix it up and save it from the dump. Have fun!

  12. Hi, Regarding your antique dresser with veneer “problems”. Elmer’s Wood Filler is a great product for this situtation. When repairs are finished, perhaps you can prime, then paint the dresser (which, by the way, has fantastic “bones”


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