Renewing thrifted furniture. I am absolutely the perfect person to talk about this because I have no idea what I’m doing and am learning my way through the process—maybe just like you!
Upon moving to Pullman we found ourselves in need of a few pieces. I already covered night stands to office storage, a project I completed around the same time as this. We also needed an inexpensive dresser and coffee table. Our previous coffee table has had sex change and is now a TV stand.
This is also the first time in our adult life we’ve found ourselves nowhere near an Ikea. Exactly. It really makes you wonder what you would’ve done the last 13 years without an Ikea.
We checked out one honest to tree, real wood furniture store and it was heavenly. Also more than we are willing to spend at the moment. Priorities.
That’s when thrifting and Craigslist came in. They took a little work. You can’t always expect to find exactly what you are looking for at the exact moment you’re in the store but with a few trips over 2 weeks you’ll probably be inspired to pick something up. It may be perfect as is or you may want to put a little elbow grease in and really make it yours.
I chose the latter.
I found both the coffee table and dresser at World’s End Thrift Store in Pullman.
The Coffee Table
The coffee table I loved from the minute I saw it hiding in the corner. $25 and solid wood with a dirty but perfect tinted square of glass. The glass slips in and out which is why it isn’t pictured above.
Using the same sander I used on the night stands I sanded all the surfaces down. I used a foam sander (kind of looks like a kitchen sponge) for some of the top inset edges.
On the top left picture you can see a little bit of the water/mold damage, there was also some of that on one of the legs. The top problem sanded away, the leg—not so much—I did try bleaching too but it went too deep. We just keep that leg out of sight. The table is still lovely.
Once you sand everything to your liking, take a damp cloth and wipe all of the shavings off. Allow to dry for a couple of hours.
Once dry I applied the first coat of Danish Oil-Cherry Finish to the table. Any hardware store should have Danish oil. Depending on your project ask a seasoned employee for help in picking the right product for your project. I ended up doing 3 coats. I reused my mask from the sanding project to minimize fumes and also worked in an open garage.
The directions are on the can for how long you should wait between coats, it’s approximately 30 minutes and then a 24-48 hour period before you should bring it in the house. I waited 24 hours but found it was still really strong the first 2 days. Seriously thought I was getting high while watching TV the first night.
Then all of a sudden you have this super cute table to set your home-brewed beer and kombucha on!
Meet our dresser! When buying a thrifted dresser, check all the drawers, the guide bar underneath, and joints. Oh and the smell. Just make sure you know what you are getting into. It’s fine if there are problems with each of those things but it’s nice to have a rough idea of what work is ahead of you.
This dresser cost $85 which I think is expensive. I like $15 and $20 deals but sometimes you need to be realistic and accept that $85 is okay considering non-Ikea real wood dressers run $500-$1000 new. Yikes.
I thought I’d replace the ‘plastic’ handles with something cuter and mentioned it to the guy at the thrift store. He startled and then went on to tell me they were bakelite handles, one of the first plastics invented in the early 1900s. Fascination conceived.
After buying the dresser I went home to learn all kinds of things about it and subsequently fell in love. A found piece that was the best we could find to serve the need we had – now turned into a piece I’m quite in love with.
It is a 1920’s waterfall dresser. You can find a few of them on eBay going for $400-$500 (mostly because of shipping). They are sort of the pre-Ikea furniture of the early 1900s as far as mass production goes. They were affordable and sold in small sets of 1 or 2 pieces because it was during the depression and a lot of newlyweds were living with their parents so they could only buy what would fit in their one bedroom.
It feels pretty cool to have a piece with that kind of history.
It’s made of thin wood and a veneer finish – it’s what makes the rounding on the top also. Veneer means no power tools. You are not allowed to sand this. Once you get past sad facing, what can you do to help it look better?
The very nice man at the thrift store said Restor-a-finish would cover all the scratches and bring the shine out. I had never heard of that product and it proved difficult to find in our rural area. I went to all the hardware stores and no one had it. There also isn’t a product like it and Danish oil is not the same. I finally found it at the Pullman Building Supply but only because I used the store locator.
Getting it ready
I removed all of the drawers, vacuumed out the internal frame and underneath and vacuumed and wiped down the drawers. Hammered in any loose drawer stops or nails I saw. Using a damp cloth, I wiped everything down to remove any dust and let it dry for about an hour.
Then take an old t-shirt or cloth and wet it with restor-a-finish and proceed to wipe down the entire piece. It doesn’t take long for the magic to appear. Immediately you will see the furniture transform before your eyes.
Once you apply the stain you’re supposed to go back and wipe off any excess – to avoid bleeding that results in darker imperfections. I kind of forgot to do this and it was hours later when I did – everything still turned out okay.
The transformation is amazing!
I let it dry overnight and brought in the drawers for lining the next day.
Jeremy and I split this dresser, using it for our underwear, socks, etc. I lined the drawers using a combination of modge podge and non-acid paper glue with some Paper Source sheets I already had. It felt a little weird to glue down paper but this isn’t a piece that’s going to win us the lottery on Antique Road Show so…
If that’s not your thing – search pinterest for drawer liners to find something that could work for you.
All the drawers are different but lovely. Gluing down was tedious, measuring was tedious but it all worked out. I basically measured the drawers length and width + 1/2 inch cutting little slits on the corners so the paper comes up about 1/2 inch on each side. Apply the glue to the drawer using a sponge or paint brush and place the paper starting at one end smoothing to the other. Use an old credit card or pampered chef baking stone scraper to smooth out any bubbles. Allow to dry for a couple of hours and you’re good!
Our new to us dresser is about 90+ years old and doesn’t smell terrible but didn’t smell fresh either which is why I made lavender sachet bags. Everything smells fantastic now!
We love our renewed thrifted pieces! They sparkle and bring something special to our home. Thank you for reading!
What have you thrifted and renewed? Was it more work than you thought? I think it is inevitable that these projects will take more work than you imagine but I love all the new skills I learned while doing them. Don’t forget to check YouTube, there’s a how to video for almost everything.