American Empire Conversion: Tumble-Down Dresser to Smart Buffet

As I have mentioned before, these old Empire dressers are ubiquitous. And, age does not mean value every time. Since this one was in such terrible condition inside, it wasn’t worth rebuilding and trying to restore. It was, however, worth sharpening my skills and creativity to make something new out of it. A buffet came to mind: keep the top drawers and make a new open space out of the bottom.

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The bottom drawer sides, the actual supports for the drawers on the runners, were so worn down that each drawer had to be lifted into the frame to close it, causing chipping to the face veneer. The drawer sides would all need to be replaced (dovetails and all), which was not going to happen. The drawer supports (I call them runners) had all been poorly replaced sometime in the past, as you can see from the back (which was also missing).

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There were no dividers between the drawers anymore, so the soft old wood dust was raining down on whatever was stored in the drawer below every time they were opened or closed. The drawer bottoms were falling out from shrinkage and expansion over the years.

So, I gutted the insides. A few whacks with the hammer and the drawer runners came right out. No regrets.

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The newly freed open space got a lining of new wood, filled and sanded.

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I remembered some hardware I bought at a picker’s paradise in Pennsylvania called Shupp’s Grove. They were very old, stamped metal shield pulls. These pulls, and the stiff, upright nature of the piece’s side columns, inspired a military/nautical style paint treatment, using navy, white and gold. Like so:

ATTENTION!

ATTENTION!
(Despite the photo angle, those stripes are actually perfectly centered)

Navy and White Empire Buffet 3

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So fun to do, and far more appealing than the old brown ubiquitous dresser. It’s available in my shop: city girl arts on Etsy.

Let me know what you think on the post on my facebook page, or in the comments below. Thanks for reading!

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Bohemian White Antique Buffet with Large Brass Acanthus Leaf Pulls

This dated mahogany behemoth came to me from a CL seller in Ybor City. It had promise. However, the guy had taken the back off (and threw it out) and drilled cord holes in the drawers for media equipment. Not an unusual use, but he seemed to think that “feature” added value. Um, no, just work. The huge hole in the top was also a minus.

The Mahogany Behemoth

The Mahogany Behemoth

Once I simplified it, removing all the little 1920’s wood spool-like decorations, and that cow skull shaped veneer shield on the door fronts, I knew I had the perfect hardware to glamorize it: cut-glass round knobs from Anthropologie, with the most amazing large acanthus leaf brass pulls I bought (eight of them!) at a vintage market some months ago.

This buffet is so big that white seemed to be the most fitting color, especially with the glass and brass thing going on. White allows the simplicity of the piece to show. The lovely details–turned legs ending in stylized feet, the subtle routings, and the backsplash pediment–all stand out better. See for yourself.

White Antique Buffet with Acanthus Pulls and Anthropologie knobs

White Antique Buffet with Acanthus Pulls and Anthropologie Knobs

White Antique Buffet with Acanthus Pulls 2

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The insides of the cubbies are painted dark grey. A water-based satin finish thoroughly protects the new paint, and gives this buffet the subtle sheen that complements the bohemian look. Check it out in my Etsy shop.

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Linking with: Miss Mustard Seed, Friday’s Furniture Fix

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Henredon Campaign Dresser and Nightstands: Sapphire Blue Vintage Gems

I picked up these gems more than two years ago, and squirreled them away until I had a vision, and the tools, workspace and ability to carry out that vision. I’ve been painting furniture for more than half my life (not necessarily for pay), but, as we see elsewhere in society, technology has been evolving super fast even in the furniture painting realm, over the last few years. And, actually, campaign pieces have become very desirable now in the vintage furniture world as well. Which is to say that I might have been a little ahead of my time when I picked these up. This happens from time to time; I discovered gray many years ago, and it really now has taken over beige and brown as a neutral. But I digress.

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This is how the set looked. Hard to believe that brown/black look was lovely in anyone’s bedroom. But hey, remember the 1970’s? My sister and I had a lovely orange/red/yellow shag area rug in between our rainbow comfortered twin beds. This set, as is, would have gone just fine with that, except that the oak veneer was chipping in too many places. Whomever owned this thought so little of it they shipped it off to the thrift store, where I spied it.

Don’t forget, we are talking about Henredon here. Lasting, classic, quality, albeit in need of cosmetic repair. Did they know, when they made this set, that the design would be coming back around? Campaign furniture in the 1970’s was made not for portability and stackability, as it had originally been designed for war campaigns, but to evoke the feeling of luxurious travel, as it was also formerly used, with porters taking the pieces by the recessed side handles and loading them onto trains bound for destinations where everyone wore white in the hot sun and fanned themselves with palm fronds. Interesting to imagine. But again, I digress. Vintage campaign style furniture today is just plain hot.

The color? Blue. It had to be blue. Navy? Royal? A little of both? Yes. Satiny? No. Shiny? Yes. A gazillion coats later, in a fairly non off-gassing water-based clear coat, the sapphire blue shines almost as brightly as the gleaming brass hardware–all 14 3-piece pulls, 12 L-brackets, 12 sabots (feet), and 72 tiny escutcheon pinheads: delacquered, cleaned, polished, buffed, and relacquered (Mr. City Girl was a little concerned about my brain cells). A bench buffer became a necessity.

Henredon Campaign Dresser and Nightstands

Now that it is done, does this bedroom set evoke an era of luxurious travel? An era of military campaigns? I don’t know, but I feel that it has never looked better.

Henredon Campaign Dresser2

Henredon Campaign Nightstands

Thanks for reading. If you have comments, I’d love to read them on my City Girl Arts facebook page. It’s public, and you don’t have to be on facebook or friend me to visit me there (But if you click “like”, then my posts will be in your feed). Just click the link, and you’ll also find out where to purchase these charmers, or any of my other pieces. At the moment, they are available in my shop: City Girl Arts on Etsy. Ooops, not anymore :)–they went to live in a nice condo in Miami Beach.

Linking to: Miss Mustard Seed.

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South Beach Inspired: The Blue and White Dresser

Okay, so I may not know when to say when. I probably held on way too long to the pink and orange color combination that I loved so much. No one else did. :( Actually, I should say that it was favored many times on Etsy, and got many nice comments on the original post and on facebook, but remained unpurchased. That is the telltale sign. I finally got it.

I thought this would be a great color combination. No one else did.

I thought this would be a great color combination. No one else did.

So, after a trip to Miami, I was inspired by the sun-bleached colors and the architecture of the South Beach area to repaint this pink piece blue and white. Now it’s a soothing, glossy, sea blue and white piece with the great original knobs.

How do you like me now?!

How do you like me now?!

South Beach Dresser3

South Beach Dresser2

This piece is available in my Etsy shop.
The painting is by me.
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Linking to The Pink Pagoda Blue and White Bash, Miss Mustard Seed

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Vintage Eggplant Henredon Dressers: Spanish Revival Revived

A lot of mediterranean design went on in the 1970’s. Chunky, clunky, and massive seemed to be the look of the day, with a reference to Spanish style motifs and patterns. Many companies made these Spanish revival pieces, but not all of them withstood the test of time. Now, 40+ years later, the good ones, like Henredon, are ready for their makeovers.

This Henredon Alvarado set, found at a thrift store, was really well treated over the years and functioned just like new. The finish, however, would never see the inside of a modern room. Scuffed, scraped, scratched, speckled, yellow-brown, and sporting super ugly, chunky hardware, it needed to be revived. The before, as usual, looks a whole lot better in photos:

Vintage Henredon Gothic Mediterranean Alvarado Spanish Dresser Before

Vintage Henredon Alvarado Highboy Gothic Mediterranean Spanish Eggplant Violet Purple Dresser Before

Now for the fun part. What to do? Eggplant seemed to be the best color–dramatic, modern, edgy. The wood tri-foil motifs would stay, but the hardware needed to go. I designed some laser-cut wood quatrefoils to echo the tri-foil design, and searched for weeks for the kind of hardware that would be eye-catching but not conflicting to go on top of them. The quatrefoils painted metallic pewter, like the pewter hand twisted ring pulls (each one is different), brought the zing I was looking for. To tie it in, the bases of the pieces, under the bottom molding, are painted metallic pewter, as well.

Vintage Henredon Gothic Alvarado Mediterranean Eggplant Violet Purple Dresser2

Vintage Henredon Alvarado Highboy Gothic Eggplant Violet Purple Dresser

Vintage Henredon Mediterranean Gothic Eggplant Violet Dresser Front

Vintage Henredon Gothic Eggplant Violet Purple Dresser Top

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In the evenings, the purple looks almost black. In the sunny daytime, it brightens up. It’s really a dramatic difference, this makeover, and makes me want to keep them. They are for sale, however, in my Etsy shop. Thanks for reading, and, as always, I appreciate your comments!

Abstract bird painting by me. Pear painting by Domi Willliams.
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Art, Furniture and Chocolate: A Vintage French Cabinet Becomes a Delicious Decorative Statement

I have a passion for applying paint. Any paint to anything. Canvases, furniture, accessories, walls, whatever. I would actually rather be applying paint to canvases all the time, but since there is no market for undiscovered wanna-be artists, I have to express my artistic soul on furniture. People buy furniture, it seems, much more frequently than original art, because we can’t hide our stuff in art, right?!

So when this dated French hutch presented itself, with its expanses of blank, I knew what I had to do.

French Cabinet As Found. BORING!

French Cabinet As Found. BORING!

Coat it in chocolate, because it’s French (couverture). And put some gilding on the trim because shiny gold is nice. And then put some abstract art on the new wood (bye-bye glass) panels because, well, I wanted to. Like those artisanal chocolates you see from expensive shops:

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So now we have this! A beautiful, functional, delicious-looking piece of artistic furniture.

French Chocolate Cabinet with Abstract Painted Panels

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French Chocolate Cabinet Inside

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Much yummier than before, don’t you think? And oh, so much more useful when you can hide your stuff in it!

This piece is listed in my Etsy shop.
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Linking to: Miss Mustard Seed

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Empire Dresser: Meant to Be For Me (to paint)

The style is well-known. The chunky red mahogany curved massiveness of American Empire style. Always veneered, almost always chipped, sometimes irreparably. Many of them handmade, but so old and well used that they end up in the garage, thrift store or picker’s storage unit with broken or missing hardware, drawer runners or backs. Can’t even really sell the nicer ones because no one really wants that large-scale, mottled red book-matched veneer look anymore (I’ve tried). There are so many of them that they don’t really hold value unless they have an exceptional provenance or are in immaculate condition (as with most antiques).

The sad are the ones I find. I have three right now, so I know they are not rare. This dresser had so many issues that I watched the price go down, down, down over a number of weeks to the point where I picked it up. It was even sorrier in person. See?

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And this was after I had replaced missing and broken drawer runners so that the drawer boxes would even have something to sit on! After all the repairs were done, I used some dark grey milk paint mixed from black and light gray. I wanted some natural chippiness, so I didn’t use the bonding agent. The wood was so old and dry that paint would certainly bind nicely, but I also sanded most of the surfaces. And I got what I wanted from the milk paint. Perfect accompaniment to to the chipped and missing veneer: perfectly chippy paint.

Antique American Empire Dresser Seal Grey Milk Paint3

Some of the typical wood knobs were missing, so I replaced them all with some very old stamped steel bow tie shaped pulls that are about the same age as the dresser, late 1800’s. I had picked them up at a junker’s paradise called Shupp’s Grove in Pennsylvania during some travels last year. The pulls seemed to match the escutcheons the dresser already had, so they looked right at home. I cleaned them up and sprayed them with several different silver tones for interest.

Antique American Empire Dresser in Seal Grey Milk Paint

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The drawer boxes were sanded and stained and made like new, really. They fit now, and glide well.

Antique American Empire Dresser Seal Grey Milk Paint4

Can’t you see this in a modern entry hall or bedroom? A little industrial, a lot antique? Massive and moody? Meant to be.

Feel free to leave a comment, visit my facebook, or find this beauty in my shop.
Linking with Miss Mustard Seed.

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