Antique Dresser Refresh

Have you ever thought about what you’d grab in a fire? You have just a few moments to grab what’s closest to you. Obviously, first, your loved ones. That’s a given. Next, my dogs. I would sooner parish in a burning building than leave my dogs! Then last, if time allows, possessions. You may grab what’s most expensive, what you think you need, and what’s dearest to your heart.

One of the possessions that is dearest to me isn’t one I could take in the above mentioned situation, though I may consider it if the whole superhuman adrenaline strength thing kicked in ;). My late grandma Shirley’s dresser.

My grandma’s parents purchased a solid wood, 3 piece set in 1939, on her 12th birthday. That makes this dress an elderly 78 years old. My grandma noted this on the back of one of the dressers, so that no one would soon forget.


This bedroom set was Shirley’s 12th birthday present from parents Olive & John Groetch.


I inherited these dressers a few years back, and have been wanting to breathe new life into the shorter, longer of the two.


The dresser was in shockingly good shape for being nearly 80 years old, but the top was a little scuffed, and it had a few places that would use a refresh.


I played around with some more dramatic looks


But ultimately decided to avoid paint, and stick to a natural, light look. The wood itself is mahogany, an expensive, heavy, beautiful wood. So I wanted to reveal and preserve it’s natural beauty.

I began by removing and sanding the drawers with my Ryobi belt sander and medium grit sandpaper. IMG_1124


The belt sander worked quickly and smoothly, but because it’s so powerful, you need to watch to make sure you don’t create scratches or divotsIMG_1106

When I got to the sides, I had already made the mistake and had to resand


This was a sanding heavy project, and took me a lot longer than initially anticipated. By the second day of sanding, I was lusting after a simple paint job…


I used a lighter paper to sand the hard to reach spots. The stain was so well applied and so deeply set into the wood that it was nearly impossible to remove it all from the small detail of the dresser. I went with it, and left quite a bit of it on.


The last step was to sand the top


Sand, sand, and sand some more. Louie kept me company the whole time. Just look at the sweet face.


And life-changingly adorable ears…


After some intense time with the sander, the dresser was just about bare


I liked the leftover stain in the corners, tucked within each detail of the dresser. It added character, and I was happy to preserve the effort a craftsman put into putting that stain there, 78+ years ago, in the first place.

I toyed with the idea of staining the whole thing, but decided that I wanted to keep the natural look of the wood. Instead, I added some variety to the top. I used a combination of minwax gray, minwax dark walnut and Sherwin Williams beachwood to create a soft, grayish brown color. I layered the stains on, without any particular strategy.


I loved how it turned out.


Next came a the protectant. I decided to do a coat of poly on the top, but wanted a more matte finish for the dresser. I layered on a coat of minwax finishing wax. I only did one coat. If this piece were going in a humid room like a bathroom, you’d want to layer on a few more coats. IMG_1144

The wax initially created a deeper, richer color, but quickly faded into a clear coat.


Just a little protectant to compliment the natural look.

Next came the hardware. The original hardware were solid wood knobs. I wanted to update these, but hope to reuse them for another project later.

I fell in love with these antiqued silver drawer pulls a long time ago, and have now used them in two kitchens.


The white and deep, aged silver together is just moooooHAH! The choice for the dresser was easy. I went with the same style, but chose a matte black finish for contrast. The installation on this was super important. I was not about to drill holes incorrectly, have to fill them and resand everything.

You guys. I found the BEST tool for this. This little guy is a LIFE SAVER.  I have tried to create my own template for installing cabinet pulls and they all came out crooked.

I purchased this ALIGNright template for cabinets and drawers from Home Depot.


It’s easy to use and super accurate. My drill holes came out perfectly. I did measure carefully, but the whole process is pretty straight forward. Everything is straight, even and professional looking.


After it was complete, I moved the dresser back into our room.

A las, the hard work paid off, and my grandma’s dresser was restored.


Add a few personal items…



And a GORGEOUS catch-all tray from Marshall’s


It’s beautiful and I love it.

But more importantly, I love what it represents. I love thinking about my grandma, age 12, seeing her gifts for the first time. Her parents, and the sacrifices they made to purchase the set, witnessing her excitement.

I hope they would like it. Every moment of sanding will pail in comparison to the endless hour of Christmas gift wrapping, Red Lobster dinners, phone conversations about good grades, talks about boys and shopping trips.

It’s an heirloom that will always remind me of her, make me miss her, and be grateful for her. IMG_1221


Love you, Gram.



Black Drawer Pulls- Amazon

Minwax Stain in Gray – Homedepot

Minwax Stain in Dark Walnut – Homedepot

Beachwood Stain- Sherwin Williams

Black Mirror- Target

Catch all Tray- Marshalls

Brown glass Vase- gifted

Blue and brown vase- thrifted

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