Most of the time, you find me painting old furniture or even painting antique furniture. Well, today I'm saving antique furniture. I bought an antique dresser at a local online auction for $38.50. Pretty good price even though, at first glance, the dresser looks a mess.
My original plan for the dresser was to give it a two layered distressed paint finish. I was thinking maybe off-white with a hint of green for the bottom layer of paint.
I'm glad I didn't follow through with the paint plan. It would have been sad to cover up this beautiful original stained finish. I didn't return the dresser to its original glory, but it looks pretty darn good.
The piece is called a wig dresser, and I found photos of similar pieces online and more information about the type and style of the dresser.
The piece above is an Antique American Empire Gothic Burled Walnut Wig Dresser with Marble Insert. It is very similar to the piece I bought, except the details on the dresser and body are a bit different.
The piece I bought at auction was just the lower dresser part without the ornate mirror. It did have a few broken pieces from the mirror surround but not enough to work with. The cabinets on the sides contain shelves, and that's where the wigs were stored.
The top of the dresser had a marble insert on the front area, with a piece of the beautiful burled walnut covering the back area.
While I was cleaning and prepping the dresser for paint, I admired the pretty walnut wood and the carved details. I also noticed that the original finish had very little chipping, veneer peeling, or stains. That's what got me thinking about just refreshing the original stained finish.
But first, it needed a good cleaning. The photo above is a look at the bottom with split wood, dust, lint, and spider eggs....ugh!
The solid wood backside of the dresser was in great shape too. It just needed cleaning up too.
This is a look at the inside body where I removed the drawers, all solid wood. The dresser is very heavy.
After vacuuming and a good cleaning with Simple Green, I used regular old spray furniture polish to shine up the inside wood casing.
The cabinets still had the original shelves and the wood inside the cabinets just needed cleaning and shining up.
There was some missing veneer and you notice on the top of the rectangular detailed foot area that part of the scrollwork is missing. I found that piece later and nailed it back in place.
A Minwax stain marker took care of the missing piece of veneer.
While using the stain marker, another piece of veneer popped off. I just stuck it back on with a bit of Gorilla Glue.
Once the vacuuming and clean-up were finished, I used Howard's Feed n Wax to renew the stained finish. For all of those detailed areas, I used a small stencil brush to get the wax into the scrollwork or wood trim.
A regular paint brush would work too. The stencil brush was the first thing I grabbed.
The photo above is a revelation. The drawer on the right has been polished with the Howard's Feed n Wax, and the one on the left is still sad looking after a simple cleaning. An amazing difference, right??
When I opened the small boxes on the top of the antique dresser, I found the other knobs. What a great thing to have. The two drawers have the original knobs all shined up and back in place.
Both of the drawer fronts were in fantastic shape. Even the wood trim was intact.
The knobs are very distinctive. I have a lot of wood knobs in my reclaimed knob and drawer pull stash but none like these.
On both cabinet doors, the wood was split vertically right in the middle of the inside wood trim detail. Yes, it's noticeable but I don't think it takes away from the beauty of the piece.
I'm on the hunt for a marble top to replace the original.
I didn't even realize the original wig dresser had a marble top until I found the photo of a similar dresser online. I just thought the veneer on the top had been pulled off.
I found part of the missing trim around the detailed wood piece in one of the drawers but not all. I cleaned that piece up and nailed it back in place.
I mentioned having several pieces from the original mirror and side wig cabinets that have identical trim. I could cut a replacement piece, but not wanting to get into that right now.
The wood is too beautiful. So glad I didn't paint over it. It's hard to believe this piece could be 150 years old, give or take a few years. They sure knew how to make furniture back then.
What do you guys think? Glad I didn't paint the dresser. Have you ever seen a similar piece? I have another antique piece I cleaned, refreshed, and saved from the paint brush.
I cleaned and refreshed the chest of drawers a client inherited from the grandmother. You can see how great it turned out here.
If you have time, leave a note before you run off. Thanks for being here, Kathy
Author: Kathy Owen
Kathy Owen is the founder of the home decor blog Petticoat Junktion where she shares tutorials on painting furniture and upcycling thrifty finds into unique home décor. Her DIY projects have been featured on the Home Depot Blog, Plaid Crafts, Behr Designer Series, and in numerous magazines. Kathy’s newest website is HappyHomeDIY.com