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gsciencechick

What to do with this antique dresser?

gsciencechick
11 years ago

We are finally repainting the guest rooom. The walls will be SW Celery. The rest of the BR furniture is oak. The Celery and the oak should look good together vs. the dusty grey-purple that is in there now.

I do not know what to do with this dresser. Personally, I'd love to get rid of it, but MIL bought it when she worked at an antique store years ago, and she gave it to DH, so we are pretty much stuck with it as neither belives in giving away "gifts."

I'm open to painting of some sort, restore-a-finish type of stuff, and obviously some new knobs. Since the front is so chipped, I'm not sure what is the best thing to do. The easiest thing is probably fill in the chips with wood filler and then paint.

Of course, I know you all are so creative here. Thanks in advance. I'm off to go paint but will CBL.

Oak nighstand:

Front of dresser:

View of dresser:

Dresser top and mirror:

Chipped finish:

Comments (44)

  • graywings123
    11 years ago

    as neither believes in giving away "gifts"

    I think what you need to do is rethink your belief about gifts. If you must, ask your MIL's permission to sell it or give it away. She has probably forgotten about it by now.

  • mclarke
    11 years ago

    It looks like chipped veneer. Lots of work to try and fill/paint, with results uncertain. I think I agree with graywings. Does your MIL visit?

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  • maddielee
    11 years ago

    Just because it came from an antique store doesn't make it valuable.

    If you HAVE to keep and use it, consider painting it.

    ML

  • jterrilynn
    11 years ago

    Do the drawers work properly? Is the mirror attached to the top or attached from the back and just sitting on the top? Is that veneer that is chipped?
    If the drawers work, the mirror is detachable and its wood not veneer I would keep it and paint. The lines are kind of nice and it would be pretty painted.
    Other wise I would dump it off at mil when she was not home with a note thanking her profusely. I know how tricky it can be to get rid of some of the things given to you. I have a friend that would give the most horrendous stuff. Even though I am a lover of things on the verge of ugly that last putrid pool table light with pool balls on it made me cringe. All her stuff comes with stipulations on what I'm to do with it when it's no longer wanted. That monstrosity went in the trash. I'm still hearing about it.

  • peaches12345
    11 years ago

    Once you get a "gift" it is yours to do with as you wish, including disposing of it.. Oh, if life was that easy!

  • Fun2BHere
    11 years ago

    Alternatively, since I like the veneer of the "gift" dresser better than oak, I would probably stain all of the oak furniture dark espresso and use my wood repair markers to see if I couldn't blend all of the chips into the background. I might even investigate replacing the veneer on the one badly chipped drawer or adding mirror to the fronts to all of the dresser drawers.

  • Gracie
    11 years ago

    Do the drawers have that "antique" odor? If so, do you think a guest would want to put clothing in it? I have a tiger oak buffet from 1916 and it has enough of an odor that we had to move our wine glasses out of it. I think it could be a stale perfume odor from scented drawer liners, which were quite common in the past.

  • bronwynsmom
    11 years ago

    If you have to keep it, you can improve the whole business by taking off the rather alarming arms and hanging the mirror directly over it - after you re-glue the loose veneer, if any, and fill the veneer chips, and paint it, of course.

    I vote for Dover White (SW 6385), with your oak, and the Celery walls.
    And white china knobs, which are readily available in that mushroom shape.

  • Sandy1963
    11 years ago

    Is the veneer easy to chip off? I ask, because I refinished two nightstands last summer that were beyond all hope of repair. I finished peeling/scraping the rest of the veneer off, sanded down all the rough spots, primed and painted the base, and stained/polyurethaned the top. They were a little bit of work, but not bad for $15.00 a piece, lol !

  • dedtired
    11 years ago

    Wow, Sandy, nice work. You have patience. I like how the pull looks a little bit like a smiley face.

    I kind of like the look of the gift dresser. However it bugs me when people give you something that is huge and not necessarily something that you want. Worse yet is giving it with strings attached. I suffered for years with an enormous desk that my MIL got from a house sale. My husband insisted on keeping it even though the only place we could put it was in our den in a spot so tight you could neither sit at it or open the drawers. It sat there collecting dust for years. It gave me heart failure every time I looked at it.

    Finally, after my MIL's death, I gave it to my nephew who was in medical school and needed a big desk. Boy, was I glad to see that go. MY MIL also bought other stuff for us at that sale and it became a real bone of contention. I had no space or use for it. One item was a slipper chair. Our bedroom was small and barely had room for a bed and dressers. The chair was covered in a blue floral print that matched nothing. It sat in her basement for years and I know she was angry that we never took it away.

    Anyway, I'd get rid of the dresser if you don't want it. Don't be a prisoner to someone's gift that you never wanted or asked for.

  • teacats
    11 years ago

    Another vote to paint it in Dove White.

    Add a couple of tall buffet lamps to the top. Line the drawers so that guests can use it ...

    Consider switching the knobs to glass or crystal ....

  • les917
    11 years ago

    The purpose of a gift is to please the recipient, not the giver.

    Once it is given, it is the property of the recipient and carries no obligations to the giver.

    You have gotten some great suggestions about how to change the dresser. But if it doesn't please you, it is an albatross around your neck, and not a gift but an duty.

    Honestly, at least to me, there is nothing graceful or attractive about the lines, the feet are awful, the veneer in really bad shape. I would take the mirror off, see if it were usable without the arms on it as a mirror to hang somewhere separately(there, you have kept a part of the gift), and lose the dresser.

  • gsciencechick
    Original Author
    11 years ago

    Wow, thanks for all the quick replies. I'm taking a snack break while DH is doing the grocery shopping. Yes, I'm painting while he is shopping and doing the laundry.

    Sandy1963, your nightstands look awesome.

    I am approaching this pieces as if it was found in the trash vs. anything remotely of value. I'm somewhat handy and not afraid to try something new. Even though it's not my style, I'd rather try to work with it vs. buy something cheap made in China.

    This dresser has been here ever since DH bought the house nearly 10 years ago, so it's not a new arrival. Fortunately, it does not smell and the drawers work OK. The top is in much better shape than the drawers. I need to check if the mirror detatches.

    I love MIL; she lives 20 min away so we see her often. However, we do not share the same taste other than she buys me a lot of Vera Bradley. I'd rather have a closet full of VB than stuff that doesn't work in the house, LOL.

    What do you think of chalk paint? That was another thing I thought about.

    I also should look into the mirror idea.

  • jterrilynn
    11 years ago

    If you paint it please post pictures when you are done. I love looking at the after pictures on these sort of projects.

  • Oakley
    11 years ago

    Okay, I live 20min. away from my DIL and I buy her a lot of Vera Bradley. Is that you, M? LOL

    If you're a handy person then I say work with it. I like the piece. I especially like the arms on the mirror & I wouldn't separate the two.

  • lukkiirish
    11 years ago

    I used SW Celery in our guest bath, it is such a fun and fresh color, I love your choice. :c)

    That dresser would look really lovely painted and Behr Cottage white is the perfect white for something like that piece. Add some glass knobs and it will look really pretty with the Celery.

    I have a hutch painted in Cottage White and this is what it looks like.

  • ghostlyvision
    11 years ago

    Since the veneer is in horrible shape anyways, I would sand/stain/poly the top, paint the exterior (chalk paint would be fine) and decoupage the drawer fronts with whatever paper pattern/colors that will go with the rest of the room (and change out the knobs).

    Love the nightstand, Sandy!

  • bronwynsmom
    11 years ago

    gscience, for an idea of what ghostlyvision's idea would resemble, look at this post, and scroll down a ways to my3dogs' chest of drawers with the fabric (or was it wallpaper) on the front of the drawers.

    Hers looks fabulous, and I think that treatment with your own style of fabric would vastly improve your white elephant.

    Here is a link that might be useful: my3dogs wallpapered drawers

  • duvetcover
    11 years ago

    Are you sure it is not mahogany? We have the same
    dresser bought at an antique/used furniturer store years ago. I am not saying it is terribly valuable, but it is
    Empire style and we verified with a reputable woodworker that it is mahogany or at least mahogany veneer. If you don't like it, then I
    agree you should not keep it , but before you do anything to it I
    would suggest you take a picture and maybe a drawer to an antique
    store or reputable consignment shop and see what their take on the
    value is. What you don't like might be someone else's treasure.

  • gsciencechick
    Original Author
    11 years ago

    Thank you, neighborgirl for the heads up on it. I Googled some images and the finish does look like mahogany, although it looks different than the mahogany Drexel MCM piece we have.

    There is no urgency to do anything to it, but I should perhaps have the antique folks check it out. I will also ask MIL if she remembers if it is mahogany.

    With school starting up in a few weeks, I am concerned when I will actually do this. UGH, trying not to think about it actually. But now that the guest room will be painted, I can start to really put the room together.

    Once again, thank you to everyone for all the feedback and suggestions.

  • Fori
    11 years ago

    I agree it looks like mahogany and for sure isn't oak (especially with the veneering) but it's pretty beat up.

    I'd worry that if I can't get rid of it without offending DH and MIL, painting might be considered even worse, especially since MIL worked at an antique shop.

    Good luck! I think it has a great shape, especially for a haunted house. :D

  • chibimimi
    11 years ago

    The mahogany looks different because your dresser is "real" mahogany, not the pseudo mahogany used in more modern furniture.

    The dresser is Empire or more likely Empire Revival. It probably is veneer, because nicely figured wood is somewhat unstable and is often veneered onto more stable wood so the the piece doesn't warp. However, old mahogany veneer is thicker than the modern paper-thin stuff. Is the chipping only on the bit that runs between the two drawers? Are the marks on the foot just scuffing, or is the veneer damaged there,too?

    This is a piece worth restoring, or at least preserving and not painting. Empire is not popular now, but it will return in style some day.

    Empire is a style I love -- typically American and often rather gawky, because it was often made by local craftsmen. Naive, and rather charming. Please don't paint it.

  • gsciencechick
    Original Author
    11 years ago

    I am not sure if my MCM Drexel is Mahogany, probably not.

    The veneer on the antique dresser is mostly chipped on the one drawer as you see in the picture, and it is chipped on the right front leg and a couple of other minor chips on the left leg and one side of the mirror. The other markings on the lower legs and on the left are just scuffed where the lowest drawer pulls out.

  • neetsiepie
    11 years ago

    That piece is just crying out to me to be painted a really funky color...something that is just not traditional. Like burnt orange. And add some MCM type pulls to make it very ecclectic.

    What other colors are you using in the room? Such as drapery/bedding? I'd pull a color from them to paint it, since the oak stuff is all going to be so similar in color/style and this is just not going to play nicely.

  • gsciencechick
    Original Author
    11 years ago

    I have white wood blinds (cats pull on curtains/drapes) and for daily wear I use a reversible light/medium citrus green duvet cover. For real guests, I'd like Marimekko in the black, white, and green.

    Here is a link that might be useful: Marimekko black, white, and green

  • My3dogs ME zone 5A
    11 years ago

    The piece in that condition isn't valuable; it's just old. If it were mine, I'd do whatever my heart desired to make it work in my room. MIL may have different ideas!

    I did use fabric in the link above on the maple bureau drawer fronts, but wall paper would be even easier, and painting and or papering it would reduce the marked difference between it and the oak piece being used in the same room.

    I Googled images of painted Empire dressers, and have linked them below.

    Also, maybe do a combo of paint and stain, if you are crafty! Scroll down to the next-to-last pic in this link.
    http://www.bobvila.com/nation/post/hardware-1341987734

    Here is a link that might be useful: Painted Empire dresser

  • emagineer
    11 years ago

    I like this one. Only because it still has the mirror and shows aging done. Your painting this would depend on what style is wanted. And agree that your MIL may faint if she saw it painted. Although she may also be thrilled you are using it and the final product more beautiful than expected.

    The only options with veneer is either remove it
    (a project which could end up worse than what you have) or sand out evenly and paint a color.

    Here is a link that might be useful: repainted

  • tetrazzini
    11 years ago

    Another inspiration.

    Here is a link that might be useful: nicely painted dresser

  • neetsiepie
    11 years ago

    LOVE that duvet. Yeah, I think I'd go with a bright color in the family of the oak colors...in the oranges or yellows. Would love to see an after pic!

  • Fori
    11 years ago

    Your Drexel is probably mahogany--MCM stuff used it often but usually cut differently so it's not showing the long grain (yeahyeah wrong words...). Sort of like quartersawn oak vs ridge cut vs typical oak.

    Anyway it's not going to be easy to salvage and if you don't like it anyway might as well paint it. DO be careful that it doesn't turn out looking like it belongs in Alice's wonderland or the Ikea children's department--I think it has too much presence to be a fun color.

  • gsciencechick
    Original Author
    11 years ago

    Wow, emagineer, that's a very similar dresser. I really like that look with the top still dark. I am leaning towards painting it because I just don't like it that dark all over, and just changing the knobs won't help. I like the look of Sandy1963's and my3dogs' dressers.

    About a year ago I had told MIL I would probably paint it some day and she said go ahead. But I'll email her about the history of the dresser.

    Once again, thanks. Now to go do some taping and painting! I am only working part time this summer, but I have to be in all day tomorrow, so no painting. I should be able to get one coat of the Celery on today.

  • lascatx
    11 years ago

    I like the wood top if yours is in good condition. The one emagineer posted looks like a good inspiration -- then tailor the color to suit your celery walls and Marimekko comforter (maybe white or towards the darker green).

  • bronwynsmom
    11 years ago

    If your MIL has said "go ahead," I think you shouldn't hesitate.

    The dresser, while clearly solid and well built of decent wood, is not rare or valuable enough to restrain you from painting it. Its value, particularly in today's market, is most likely purely decorative, and less than what it would cost to buy a good quality new one.

    The word from the appraiser I've used for years is that mid-range antiques have lost almost all their added value in the downturn. The only people who are still buying investment grade furniture are the famous 1%, and they want only fine things in perfect original condition.

    So that cuts us loose to like wht we like, get rid of what we don't, and paint away!
    I'm so sorry, Miss Wilhelmina, but what the Yankees didn't steal, your great great granddaughter is going to paint white with Chinese red inside...

  • Imhappy&Iknowit IOWA zone 4b
    11 years ago

    I've had that same dresser for 60 years. Mine got painted cream and then stripped somewhere along the way. Are you sure that finish is not painted on? Mine stripped down to wood with grain. I'm too lazy to go upstairs to look at it right now. I wish I had the mirror to go with it.

  • nigelsgarden
    11 years ago

    Maybe it's just me, but what doesn't look right is the grain along the front edge. The top looks to be either veneer or faux-painted since the grain along the edge is vertical and grain along the top is horizontal. If it were a solid piece of wood they'd both be running the same direction.

    I'd fill the chipped areas and paint it.

  • gsciencechick
    Original Author
    11 years ago

    That's interesting, nigelsgarden. The dresser emagineer posted is the same way, with the grain on the edge vertical.

    Updates: I have one coat of the Celery on, and it already look awesome. I can put on a second coat early tomorrow morning. I also ordered the Marimekko bedding. It is on clearance so I had to get the comforter and sheets from different places.

  • tetrazzini
    11 years ago

    Just wondering what you did with the Empire dresser. SInce you posted this I've gotten very interested in painting, particularly chalk painting, furniture. And Empire dressers look amazing when well painted, IMO! I'd love to get my hands on one, but they're not that easy to come by. Yours looks sufficiently worn that you don't have to feel guilty painting it! The two I've seen so far are in really good condition, and I just can't bring myself to change them.

  • nyboy
    11 years ago

    What a sad thread, everybody wanting to paint a mahogany empire antique.

  • maddielee
    11 years ago

    A damaged empire piece, with (damaged) mahogany veneer.

    I'm all for painting it. Much better for it to be used and liked for a few more years then hated and maybe discarded.

    ML

  • gsciencechick
    Original Author
    11 years ago

    Thanks for asking, but I can report I've done nothing. I am back to teaching full time and just have no large chunks of time for home projects until maybe Christmas break. It is all I can do to keep my workout schedule, cook dinner, clean and do laundry (DH helps), and keep up with my work. Some days I don't even manage to check in here.

    I am interested in the chalk paint. Even DH liked it. I saved the picture emagineer painted for inspiration. I am not sure the link still works.

    At least the rest of the guest room looks a lot better now. All we need is guests!

  • tetrazzini
    11 years ago

    Invite me, I'll come with paint and do it for you! ;)

  • nyboy
    11 years ago

    Your MIL had great taste!!! Veneer can be fixed. why don't you post a photo in Antique section lots of great people there. Fix the veneer you will have a nice antique paint it you will have used furnture.

  • rosie
    11 years ago

    GCSciencechick, the Empire period was around 1815-1840. That means that Empire furniture is coming up on 200 years old now. As said, an Empire renaissance is coming, with appreciation for itincreasing dramatically--along with its price. If only I'd liked Empire more, I'd have been collecting it for decades as for most of my life it's been the only genuinely antique, fine quality furniture I can afford good pieces of.

    That said, yours is in poor condition, which will probably severely limit its price and restoration appeal for another few decades--until the good-condition stuff becomes prohibitively expensive for most people. AND you don't like it. Someone may have suggested this, but if you don't pass it on to someone who does want it, you might consider applying a coat of something removable to protect what is left of the original finish and the wood, then go ahead and fill and paint over that. Turning that homely, beat-up old thing into something that would be appreciated and cared for over these coming decades is not the worst thing that could happen to it by far.

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