Before and After

I thought you’d like to see a project I recently finished for a client, so you can get a feel for what can be done to make old furniture new again.  This was a Drexel French Provincial dresser that was an heirloom piece from my clients grandmother, and served its duty as a dresser when she and her husband were first married, and then used in her daughters bedrooms, it finally was relegated to a storage area in the basement.  The finish had seen quite a bit of wear and tear, and also didn’t fit into their décor anymore.  The good thing about the piece is that it was built rock solid with good bones.

The family was in the process of remodeling their family room, and the designer they were working with is one of the designers I also work with.  During the initial consultation, the designer learned about this piece of furniture, and suggested bringing me in to take a look at the dresser to see if it could be repurposed.  My first thoughts when seeing the dresser was…Entertainment console.   Our client liked the idea, and was thrilled we’d be able to save it.   I worked with the client and designer to ensure the newly designed piece would worked in both form, function, and finish.  I matched the stain to other pieces that would be incorporated into the room, and then did several samples of different finishes for the drawer fronts.

Then the work began.  First, I removed all the hardware, and used a citrus based paint stripper (Citristrip) to remove all the old finish.  I’ve found that Citristrip works well on most projects, it’s less caustic, and biodegradable.  I personally don’t like dripping furniture in paint stripping vats as it can loosen all the joinery and weakens the piece.  Citristrip is also easy to deactivate once the paint is removed; I use a paint stripper after wash.  The after wash removes any residue, and doesn’t raise the grain of the wood.

Next came the repairs and repurposing of the piece.  There was some minor damage to one of the rear legs, which required some stainable wood filler.  Then came the removal of the center post for the top drawers glides (those drawers were not going to be used again.)  Once those were removed, I then removed the screws that were holding the top of the dresser to the casework.  This allowed me to fashion a shelve for the future electronic components.  When that was completed, I reattached to the top, and gave the entire piece a light hand sanding with 220 grit sandpaper, and then a finishing hand sanding with a 400 grit sandpaper.

Now it was time for finishing.  With this piece, I had to mix two stains to get the precise color needed.  I mixed 1oz. of Minwax Dark Walnut to 4 oz. of English Chestnut.  The Minwax Dark Walnut toned down some of the red tones of the English Chestnut.  Next came the drawer fronts, on this I used a deep navy blue latex paint with a flat finish, and then I did a wash technique over the top of the navy paint. It consisted of a medium gray latex, also in a flat finish and then a very thin wash of satin finish silver.   Once all of the paint and stain dried completely, I sprayed 3 coats of a water based satin finish polyurethane to protect the surfaces.  The very last step was to replace the drawer pulls.

The final photo below is of the finished piece.  Ok, it’s not the best photo, and I should’ve dusted the component shelf before I took the photos…live and learn.  Hopefully, this will give you some ideas of how to save a piece of furniture.  It will take some sweat equity refinishing it, but in the end you get the satisfaction of saving a piece of furniture, and a job well done.

If you have any questions or comments hit that old comment button.  In the upcoming weeks I’ll be posting more photos and details of projects, and also some step by step videos.

Take Care All,


Author: Kelli

My name is Kelli, and I am the Owner/Designer of Aunt Ruh's Attic LLC. Aunt Ruh's Attic Restores, Refinishes, and Repurposes furniture. The business was named after my mother, who was the master of taking something old and making it new again. She instilled in me a love of art and design from a very young age, a love that I enjoy to this day. The love of art and design led me to study Interior Design at the University of Mount St. Joseph where I received my B.A, and then to the University of Cincinnati where I received my M.F.A in Fine Art. After working for years as the owner of my own residential interior design company, I discovered my true calling. So many of my clients wanted to dispose of perfectly good furniture simply because it didn't fit into their new décor. I began refinishing or re-imagining those pieces, and returning them into the new décor. Thus, began a new business...Aunt Ruh's Attic LLC.

One thought on “Before and After”

  1. Great idea for a good piece of furniture. I am so glad to see furniture repurposed instead of abandoned. That blue really stands out. Good job.


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