Mr. Q nearly bit the dust picking up today’s piece of furniture. Well, OK, maybe that’s a slight exaggeration …
I found this piece on Facebook Marketplace and the seller was in south Minneapolis. We were able to schedule a noon pickup, so at least we didn’t have to find her place in the dark. But when we got there, the street in front of her house was closed because work was being done. No worries, she directed us to the alley instead.
I know my local readers will understand what I’m talking about, but I’m not sure if ‘alleys’ are the same throughout the world. So for those of you not familiar, what we call an alley here in Minnesota is a narrow street that runs behind the houses in older neighborhoods. The garages are all in the back off the alley (and not attached to the house).
I get the original appeal. All of the unsightly stuff like garages, cars, trash cans and so forth are all hidden out back. They don’t put in alleys anymore though, at least not that I’m aware of. These days people want their garages attached to the house, and alleys are just added extra square footage to maintain.
Normally I love a good alley (especially when it’s full of garage sales). But in the winter, they can be treacherous. They don’t get plowed out on a regular basis like they should, resulting in big ruts and ice build up. Which was totally the case in this particular alley a few weeks ago when we picked this up. Neither one of us was prepared for carrying a big piece of furniture over really uneven ice (we should have worn our Yaktrax). I managed to save myself, but Mr. Q went down. Luckily he just bruised his elbow a bit, it certainly could have been worse.
But we got it loaded and made it back home in one piece. It was actually a fairly warm day, and by warm I mean it was around 30 degrees, so only just under the freezing mark. I decided to take advantage of that and sand down the top of this piece before even bringing it inside.
Hey, when you don’t have a heated workshop, sometimes you have to improvise. I prefer to keep as much dust outside as possible.
Next up I gave the piece a good cleaning, and it totally needed it. It was fairly gross. I emptied 4 buckets of dirty water cleaning this baby inside and out.
The finish on this piece was fairly alligatored. Alligatoring or crazing are fine, irregular cracks in the finish usually caused by excessive heat or long exposure to sunlight. Personally, I think an alligatored finish provides the perfect canvas for some milk paint (here’s one of my all time favorite alligatored pieces). I had recently ordered some Fusion milk paint in Little Black Dress to give it a try, so I pulled it out for this dresser.
If you are unfamiliar with using milk paint, you can get the basics from my how-to post by clicking on the image below:
Aside from the cleaning, I did not do any other prep on the body of this piece. I did not sand it at all. I knew the alligatored finish was fairly dried out (usually that means milk paint won’t chip overly much), plus I was OK with some chipping. I wanted a worn look to my final finish.
So, I mixed up my milk paint and painted the sides and drawer fronts in just one coat of Little Black Dress.
I often find that I can get away with just one coat of dark milk paint over a dark stain like the one on this dresser. Especially if I’m going to be heavily distressing the piece anyway.
Once the paint was dry, I sanded over it with 220 grit sandpaper. I vacuumed away the dust and then added a topcoat of Dixie Belle’s Big Mama’s Butta.
This stuff is so perfect over dark milk paint. If hemp oil and wax had a baby, it would be this product. I apply mine with a wax brush, but you can use a lint-free cloth as well. I brush it on, wait a few minutes and then wipe off any excess with a cloth. I also buff it up a bit after 24 hours or so.
One quick note, the Big Mama’s Butta comes unscented or in three scented versions; Orange Grove, Suzanne’s Garden and Flannel. Orange Grove smells like that orange scented model glue from the 70’s, does anyone else remember that glue? I loved the smell of that stuff, and I also really like the Orange Grove scented Butta. Flannel smells like men’s cologne, and I probably should have chosen that scent for this masculine color. But I went with Suzanne’s Garden on this one instead. Mr. Q said it smelled like a funeral home in our house after I applied it. It reminds me of the rose scented soap that my grandmother had in her bathroom. Although the floral scent might be a bit overpowering at first, it does mellow out quite a bit after a day or two. So if you love a floral scent, Suzanne’s Garden might be right up your alley.
There were a few stains on the top of the dresser that didn’t sand out, so I decided to go ahead and stain the top in Varathane’s Special Walnut. This is your basic old-fashioned penetrating wood stain, not a gel stain. So you have to be sure that all of your old finish is removed in order for it to go on evenly. But if you have a good, clean, raw wood finish, penetrating wood stain is super easy to apply, just brush it on and wipe away any excess with a lint free cloth. I wear gloves for this process to avoid staining my hands. You can add additional coats to dark up the color, but I loved how this one looked after just one coat.
I let the stain dry for a day and then added several coats of Dixie Belle’s flat clear coat to protect the top.
One of the things that attracted me to this dresser was the hardware. It’s really very pretty. After cleaning the drawer pulls and keyhole escutcheons with some Dawn dish soap and hot water and letting them dry, I added just a little more shiny gold with re.design with prima’s Vintage Gold Metallique Wax.
Now, you have have noticed that I did not put the mirror back on this dresser. And if you’ve followed me for long, you know that I rarely do. I find that dressers tend to be more marketable without a mirror. They certainly are more versatile that way, you can use them as a TV stand, in a foyer, in a dining room, etc. without them looking out of place.
Sometimes a mirror is attached in such a way that you can take it off and you’re good to go, the top is flush with the back and the mirror sits on top of the dresser top. But other times the top of the dresser doesn’t go all the way back and butts up against the mirror instead, leaving a gap at the back that the mirror sits down into. Like this …
It’s so much easier when you don’t have to deal with this, but that wasn’t the case this time.
Initially I thought it might be possible to use the mirror harp to fill in that space by cutting off the arms (I’d done something similar recently with this dresser). So I sent it over to Ken’s workshop and he cut off the arms with a curve to match the style of the remaining piece.
Ken did a great job making it look intentional. But once I had it painted and in place, I felt like it overpowered the rest of the dresser.
So we went back to the drawing board, or in this case, a simple 2.5″ board.
Ken helped me attach it with some dowel pins.
It’s just enough to fill in that gap, but not take away from the rest of the dresser.
I think most people would be placing items of some kind on the top of the dresser, thus hiding that back piece for the most part anyway.
What do you think? Would you have gone with the tall, curvy back piece … or do you prefer the simpler look of the straight board? I haven’t glued either one in place yet, so I could change my mind. Feel free to weigh in with a comment.
Either way, this dresser is for sale, see my available for local sale page for more details!