Thrift Store Highboy: Elegant UpDo
June 22, 2009
For years, I’ve wanted to bring some glamour and elegance to my foyer. It’s the first impression for guests, and it has been nothing short of dull for quite some time. Since our entry is only ten feet wide, I also wanted to bring reflective light and shimmer to the space as well.
Last week I hinted at the fabulous highboy dresser I picked up at the Goodwill for $35. Lucky me, it had only been on the floor for thirty minutes before I snatched it up. SCORE ! With a bit of stain and some new hardware, I brought this wonderful vintage piece into the modern age, and gave it a special new glow.
Here’s the foyer Before and After:
Here’s how it all happened. As you know, I frequent the local thrift stores looking for treasures. I chanced upon this solid wood new arrival and hustled – no I seriously ran – to the cash register to buy it before anyone else could, with my poor little boy shouting “Mooooommmmiieee waaaaiiiit” as I dragged the poor little guy behind me. I spent part of my weekend giving this piece the TLC it needed.
Re-staining Previously Stained Furniture:
Step One, Sanding: Give your piece an all over good sanding, removing all varnish that may exist. Wear a disposable mask so as not to inhale any microscopic dust. In my case, I sanded the highboy by hand with coarse, and then medium, grade sandpaper. (My electric sander, although faster, would have been too rough on this delicate piece.) Work with, not against, the grain of the wood. It took over an hour to fully sand this dresser, but hey I look on the bright side: I got a great upper arm workout.
Step Two, Conditioning: I’m a Minwax fan, so if you want to create better absorbency in your wood, you can consider using a wood conditioner like Minwax Wood Conditioner. Grainy or gnarly woods like oak or pine should definitely be conditioned beforehand.
Step Three, Staining: To stain this piece, I used a staining pad and Minwax Gel Stain in Walnut. I truly madly deeply love this stuff. The gel formula is thicker, unlike regular stain, so you don’t need a brush, and it doesn’t drip. I recently used it to re-stain my entire two story oak staircase (reveal coming soon). How convenient is it to be able to stain upside down without drips? Brilliant !
The imperfections in the dinged up dresser soaked up this stain and were transformed into those ‘distress’ marks you’d pay so much for at a top retailer. This gel stain buries itself in the ridges, and translates into deep character, just like a glaze on painted wood. One caveat: this gel product dries a bit more quickly, so you must work fast to get your stain strokes right. And don’t forget to wear gloves, cause this stain really stains !
Step Four, Reapply: If you desire added depth from your stain product, then reapply a second coat 24 hours later. Here’s what two out of three drawers looked like after just one coat (I applied two coats).
Step Five, Protectant: If you’ve used a regular liquid stain product, then you will probably need to apply a polyurethane to protect your piece. I’ve used Minwax Wipe-On Poly with success in the past on several projects. However, this gel based stain gave my piece such a nice glow that I didn’t find it necessary to add poly this time.
You can see how the ‘Before’ piece had a washed out honey color, plenty of dinks, and old-fashioned hardware. Just by staining the piece and adding new oil-rubbed bronze hardware from Home Depot ($12 for a set of ten), the dresser now looks like something out of a new furniture collection.
So now I need your input, playing a bit of multiple choice.
I played around with a few preliminary vignettes, and I have a favorite, but I’d appreciate your vote. You’ll notice the flea market silver pitcher remains a constant. I love fresh flowers in the foyer, so it stays. And you’ll notice that a white ceramic bust makes an appearance (antique store find). Your opinions please.
A) Botanical Print with bust and clock
B) Paris Print with bust and clock
C) Silver Candlestick with bust and clock
D) Wedding Print with pair of busts
So friends, give it to me straight.
Which scene do you prefer ?