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?
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.
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.
The drawer boxes were sanded and stained and made like new, really. They fit now, and glide well.
Can’t you see this in a modern entry hall or bedroom? A little industrial, a lot antique? Massive and moody? Meant to be.