refinish line

April 14, 2013 | 1:18 pm

I’ve been allowing myself to fantasize about being a house owner, even though it may not happen. A popular bedtime ritual the past week has been to go through months and years of “Before and After” posts on Design Sponge, Apartment Therapy and Curbly while mentally designing my fictional living spaces (you can keep up on my shelving-heavy Pinterest board). I get a little glassy-eyed at the endless march of single-chair repaint jobs, but I live vicariously through the people who score some insanely ridiculous deal on a nice mid-century wooden piece which they lovingly and properly restore to its gleaming glory. Better yet, someone finds a battered, painted piece of refuse on the street. They strip it, sand it, polish it, and create magic. Yay!

With absolutely none of this in my mind I stopped by a couple thrift stores in my area last Wednesday, simply to kill some time before a meeting. At Super Thrift I saw it. Pulse quickened as I saw no major damage, some nicks and scratches, and a whole lot of potential.

I took a chance and went home, arranged a van (thanks, Boyf!), and waited until the next morning when everything in the store was 25% off. And that’s how this lady became mine for $37. Here she is at 8:30am, sprung from thrifty purgatory.

Mid-century dresser freshen-up

Once home and the thrill of the win faded, I took inventory. There may not be major damage, but our friend lived a hard life.

Mid-century dresser freshen-up Mid-century dresser freshen-up

Scratches, paint splatters, worn areas galore. I spent some time wondering exactly how this piece got so thrashed.

Mid-century dresser freshen-up

Deep gouges into — and past — the veneer. Thank goodness that wicker in the pull-down panel is perfect.

Mid-century dresser freshen-up Mid-century dresser freshen-up

Corroded, dirty, chipped fittings.

Mid-century dresser freshen-up Mid-century dresser freshen-up Mid-century dresser freshen-up

These metal leg tips are called ferrules. They’re in bad shape and one’s missing all together. These are surprisingly difficult to find online. Fortunately it looks like World of Tile might be the place to go; I have a pending email to them. Read about World of Tile on Retro Renovation. Amazing.

Mid-century dresser freshen-up

So yay to the internet for all the how-tos online. So many how-tos. But what path should I take? Strip, sand, veneer repair, veneer replacement? Paint, oil, spackle? Initially, my goal was to get it really pretty, in total varsity shape, then sell it. I’ve done some refinishing, I felt like I could do it if it were worth my time and effort.

I went to the hardware store and, after a false start with a moron, I found a really great employee who gave me lots of her time so we could really talk it out. I brought in the panel with the wicker insert in order to match the stain. After discussing various options, we hit upon a time-effective possible possibility. Howard Restor-a-Finish.

People online call it the “plastic surgery” solution — it’s not going to make anything brand-new again, but it’s going to take a few years off the appearance. It kind of evens the stains out (minimizing scratches), shines stuff up, basically (dur) restores the finish. We tested a little on the panel and I liked what I saw. With a bottle in hand, I headed home.

First I removed all the hardware. Save yourself a big headache and keep all your screws and such and keep track of what goes where.

Mid-century dresser freshen-up

I wiped down the surfaces with a Murphy’s Oil Soap solution. After it was dry, I used my fingernail to scratch off some of the paint splatters. That was it for the prep.

The Restor-a-Finish (I used Walnut stain) is a stinky substance but dries/disspates quickly. Upon application with a rag, there was pretty instant gratification — minimized were the smaller scratches, worn areas and dings, and the wood looked “fed.” Before (bottom) and after (top):

Mid-century dresser freshen-up

Before/after with a deep gouge. I was okay with the stain penetrating the hardwood underneath just to darken everything a bit.

.Mid-century dresser freshen-up Mid-century dresser freshen-up

The brass cleaned up pretty well. I didn’t do much more than give it a bath in some warm water and soap and did some gentle scrubbing. I gave a coating of oil to everything to arrest the corrosion. You can see the oiled handle at right.

Mid-century dresser freshen-up

Ah, look at her, all dressed up, the old dear. I don’t think she’s going anywhere just yet.

Mid-century dresser freshen-up

I feel like this quickie rehab was well worth the time. I looks well-loved now. It will be a great future project for me or someone else to make it perfect and show-piecey, but not now. As Morgan from The Brick House says, “I’m not that interested in making (thrifted furniture) super perfect. I sort of like things to show some of their age, be a bit beat up and therefore less precious when you live with them. Then I don’t feel so bad when I inevitably screw it up even more.”

This project also has compelled me to take a good look at some other full-of-potential pieces in my collection and give them some wood oil and elbow grease love. My imaginary house is looking nice already.

Before and after
Mid-century dresser freshen-up

Mid-century dresser freshen-up

Mid-century dresser freshen-up

8 Responses to “refinish line”

  1. Jeana says:

    What a great find! It looks fantastic! I also love that sailboat/ship art.

  2. Carol says:

    You did fantastic. Love the dark and now shiny. Good job Becky.

  3. Nancy says:

    Beautiful but watch out. Restore-A-Finish is the gateway drug of furniture repair. It’s a slippery slope to Kramer’s Antique improver and shellac. Pretty soon you’ll be stocking up on glue, clamps, and staple guns. I started carrying a bottle of Kramer’s to dinner parties and touching up my friend’s furniture. You can’t possibly have enough furniture in your own house to satisfy this addiction.

  4. Sharon says:

    Great find and blog post, Becky. You are a true inspiration. xoxo!

  5. Tristy says:

    This is so inspirational and you are amazing. NICE WORK, LADY! It looks beautiful.

  6. Rebecca Bush says:

    Looking good! I’m impressed that you stuck with it and got ‘er done. Very pretty.

  7. hambox says:

    Thanks, everyone! May all of you have thrift-luck in the very near future. And Nancy, I can STOP ANY TIME (twitch twitch)

  8. Lisa and Robb says:

    wait until you start haunting estate sales….

    twitch twitch.