Monday, 29 September 2014

The Map Dresser Makeover

I have to give a huge shout out to the lovely lady that emailed me about this dresser being put on her curb! It was exactly the piece I was looking for!!!  Thank you thank you!

Now, at first glance this dresser seems perfect! However, once we got looking a little closer, there were quite a few things ...... not so perfect.

1. The top pulls were smaller than their holes and played a disappearing act into the drawer each time you tried to grab them to open them.
2. Not one single drawer bottom was in one piece or attached to the actual drawer. There were holes in some and other had a lovely patchwork of pieces to make one single bottom piece.
3. There splotches of random coloured paints here and there.
4. The finish was destroyed
5. The drawers would not open whatsoever

Which was the exact sort of problems I needed to makeover a piece with the vision I had!

I wanted to experiment with recreating drawer fronts that swung open. Here was my chance!

You can see there was little hope for this without a ridiculous amount of time, money and energy.
Those factors make my life so much happier! I'm not destroying a perfectly good piece. I'm expanding on her potential.

Now this had a few steps involved with the prepping.
First things first I removed the drawer fronts of the 2 middle drawers and knocked out their runner bars and cut the middle divider strip off the piece. ( the piece that the drawer fronts generally sit on)
I then attached all three faces together and did a rough strip on the new "swing door" to get me down to some of the natural wood again.

You can see here that there are 2 small holes on the left where the old hardware used to be. (sidenote, the original piece as is, was missing a set of pulls. For the first time, I wasn't concerned in the least about that) I simply wood filled the holes and sanded them down smooth.  I positioned the door back into the place it is going be and it was a perfect fit, however to make the opening and closing a bit smoother, I sanded all of the edges down a wee bit.

After this step, I took the door fronts and began my "map addition steps"

This was a messy stage that looked WRETCHED! There were quite a few times I had to take a break as I thought for sure I was screwing it up. I had no tutorial for this. Total trial and error and I honestly though.... "Good grief girl. You Did Done Screw this up now didn't ya?" HAHA

However remembering the stages of art.
1 I have a beautiful idea!
2. Begin the beautiful idea
3. It looks horrible. Ugly. What have I done
4. Finished - I LOVE IT!

There is always an ugly stage! Keep that in mind always and don't give up.

Here are some great photos from that particular stage!
Now, I knew I was going for a vintage map look. I knew I was going to do an ink transfer following the suggested methods found on the Graphics Fairy "How To" page.

What I didn't know was how to achieve that dingy, vintage aging properly. I sat for a while before the tea stain idea went off like the biggest light bulb know to humanity! I think I may have even heard a ding!

 Step one. Make Tea. EASY! I let it steep for ... well.. hours! I wanted it as dark and potent as possible. While it was steeping I mixed up some white paint with some brown paint additives. A tiny bit at a time until it was the beige colour I was going for for a base coat. I opted to not paint the decorative piece that was in the middle of the drawer. I liked that pop of au natural and thought once it was down it would pull the refinished top in nicely with over all look.

Here is the step I thought maybe, I for sure may have messed it all up. The stain wasn't taking too well....... or so I thought. Waiting for tea blobs to dry is even worse than watching paint dry. So I took a hair dryer to it. THEN I thought - let's try numerous layers. I sat online at this point Googling images of old maps and noticed that generally speaking, the maps were lighter in the centres and darker around the edges, so I choose to apply the tea heavier and with more layers around the edges.

Waiting game.

FINALLY, once all the tea was dried and ready to go, I did the ink transfer. This is not an ideal method to try if you value your fingertips, fingerprints or over all need for sensation in your fingers.
Also not an ideal method for those that don't LOVE carpal tunnel or tennis elbow. This method can be done following the Graphics Fairy image transfers tutorials either with Mod Podge or Gesso.
Print your image, apply your medium, wait a few minutes, remove paper and cross all fingers and toes the ink transfers. Let it dry, then begin wetting the image and rubbing until all paper pulp is removed.
Messy messy messy messy stage! Just a warning. Also, at this point, I should mention that no matter how perfect your tea stain is, the medium you choose to apply over top of it WILL redesign it into blobs and not so lovely looking designs. It works out in your favor in the end actually, so don't get frazzled! A definite more "organic" look to it over all.

 And rub. Rub and rub and rub until you want to cry then rub some more! I did this step over the course of 6 hours with numerous breaks to try and regain some sort of feeling in my fingers. I tried using a sponge and cloth but found it was taking off way too much ink. So back to fingers it went.

Once it was done, I clear coated it using a great poly and let it dry.

The next step was fixing up the new inner cubby hole.

Once you remove drawers, you generally have a gaping hole in there that doesn't look all too pleasant. So cutting a piece of ply wood to be the new cubby bottom is needed. Measure once. Mark your piece of plywood. Measure again before you cut it. Then measure a third time just to satisfy that OCD.  Then, cut it, stain it, glue it in place and add a few finishing nails.

At this point, I opted to stain the entire cubby hole to match as generally there are quite a few mismatched, unfinished surfaces in there.

Next step. Hinging the new map drawer into the new cubby. A step that threw me into a tizzy. I had to use new hinges that I have never used before. when you have a drawer that sinks inside of a piece, the route to go is European Hinges.  Not a fan. What a pain in the patooty those things are! Everything has to be so precise!!!! AND you need to purchase a specific $14 drill bit to do it. I suppose that bit may come in use somewhere else in the future but still. Pain in the rump.

If you have questions about those hinges and their use, may I suggest asking the hardware sales associates that sell them to you. I am for sure not even close to knowing enough about them to teach you. Watch a few YouTube videos on it too. There are a couple - what NOT to do videos that you may want to drill into your head before making those holes and such.

These are the hinges I am referring to.

Once that was all complete, I then painted the dresser black, refinished the top, clear coated everything and took it to the store to which I was selling it. We had fun doing photoshoots with it, climbing on everything in site to get that perfect shot, staging it over and over and more climbing and bending still looking for that shot. 75 images later, I had the "THERE IT IS" shot, and headed home to edit, upload and blog.

A fair amount of work to be done just to fix an old piece and sell for less than the amount of labour involved with it from start to finish. BUT, it is what I love doing and I wouldn't have it any other way.

That's a lie. I would totally love to just sit back and have a team of workers do everything that is in my head for me. Would I find any satisfaction from it once it was done? Likely not as much as having done it all myself. I'm sure I would get a lot more out of my head and into the world though haha.
* some day * dreamy eyes.

Here she is. DONE. I love it! It came out totally the way I pictured in my head and I couldn't be  happier!


  1. I found your blog via Hometalk. I just wanted to cry when I saw that you painted this piece of furniture but then I saw why. I wanted to cry again. You did a wonderful job because it turned out so stunning! Gorgeous!!!!

    1. Kathy !!!!!! You made my day/week/month ..... no no my career .. with this comment! Thank you thank you more than you can understand!!!!!!! <3

  2. Oh my - this turned out amazing! It sounds like it was a ton of work, but it turned out so beautiful that it makes it all worth it.
    Thanks for the inspiration,
    Pieced Pastimes

    1. Thank you Suzanne!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! You put a smile on my face :)

  3. You continue to amaze me and inspire me!

  4. So creative and totally unique. I love it!

  5. This piece is just amazing! I looks like it belongs in a British manor library as a liquor cabinet.
    Could you explain, though, how you attached the two drawers together? I'm quite curious how that worked. Thanks!

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. If you look closely you'll see the space in between the drawer fronts is filled. I believe she attached both drawer pieces to a third piece that was the size of the entire door and glued and nailed it in place from the back. I would use the thinnest piece possible, to keep it from jutting out too far. You also need to be careful that the drawer fronts will still sit in their original place, as to keep the look of symmetry when the piece is finished. I would measure the total length and width of both drawers, including the space in between them, while they are still inside of the dresser. That should give you the size of the new door, which will also be the size of the third piece. Then if you align the top of the first drawer with the top of the door, and the bottom of the second drawer with the bottom of the door, you should have the appropriate amount of space in between the drawers. Hope this makes sense lol.

    3. Actually, once I think about it, Because the drawer fronts are designed to sit right against the front of the dresser, the third piece should not be as big as the original footprint of both drawers. The third piece would need to sit inside the new opening that will be the door casing. I'm certain you would have figured that out, but I thought I'd mention it lol.

  6. WOW, the before and after. Amazing job ! absolutely a gorgeous piece of furniture great job!

  7. This is truly beautiful. I love the saved from the curb stories. What black paint product did you use? I am getting so frustrated with the finish on chalk paint, yours looks smooth and very rich. Thanks for sharing, GC

    1. Glidden oil paint with gel flow technology is self leveling and eliminates brush marks, leaving a very smooth, even finish. Hope this helps!

  8. Love this! Where did you get your map?

  9. This is beautiful!! I was wondering why you wouldn't antique the door front after you transferred the ink drawing. I would think you could use the available pastes and such to age the edges once you have transferred the picture and then seal it. That way you wouldn't rub it off during the transfer process.

  10. Oozes character with rich antiquity . Love what you've done!

  11. I love, love, love this! I have an antique dresser that I store fabric in. It's shut away in a junk room but you've inspired me to create something similar to yours! Thank you!