Dressers - update with paint or no?

funkyartDecember 5, 2012

I have two birds eye maple dressers and a vanity with lines very similar to the dresser below (though not serpentine). They were a gift when I turned 21--but other than that, they don't have any family significance. The finish was a little damaged then.. and unfortunately it's worse now. The alcohol from my old hair products (can't be bothered to use hairspray now ha) really discolored the top of the low chest and there's discoloring from a (hiding face in shame) cigarette. The drawers need some TLC as they don't go in/out as they should. I could have it re-veneered and fixed but I am also tired of it after 25+ years and have been looking for something new-- and less feminine and youthful.

I happened on this while checking out listings at an antique store and was immediately charmed. I don't normally like a two tone finish but I think it's just stunning. It still has the pretty lines.. but I think it is more handsome and doesn't look so youthful.

What do you think of painting over the BEM veneer in this same style? What kind of paint would you use? I like the dull matte finish.. is it Chalk paint? What about the gold? I like that it is dull too vs. gold leaf.

I believe mine are circa 1930 or 40s. They are pretty widely available and those in better shape are selling around $300.. if they are lucky. I don't think I'd get much for them in their current state. I'd likely use them in the guest room because even painted I suspect they'll be too feminine for the bf (who will move here in the next year). But if that's the case.. should I should just buy this one ($145) and save the work?

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Here are crappy photos of my dressers.. pardon the mess, they were taken when I was removing wallpaper from the room and everything was a mess. I'd replace the drawer knobs, of course. I also have an oak dresser (currently in the spare room) much more like the one pictured above with the longer scrolled mirror supports.

    Bookmark   December 5, 2012 at 12:53PM
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Can you remove the mirrors from them? That alone would cut down on the feminine tone. I love your dressers and would paint them in a heatbeat, I'd probably leave the tops wood and refinish in whatever stain your prefer. But they are really charming. :)

    Bookmark   December 5, 2012 at 1:05PM
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Yes.. the mirrors are removable. I hadn't thought of that (smacking head!). I could remove the mirror from the tall chest and leave the mirror on the low one!

Unfortunately, the tops are where the finish is damaged. The rest is fine. I am not really up to replacing the veneer so I would paint the tops.

    Bookmark   December 5, 2012 at 1:13PM
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I really like the shape of your dressers. I agree with ghostlyvision's suggestion to remove the mirrors (one or both) to help tone down the femininity. Could you simply refinish the top and leave the rest alone? I also wonder if changing out the round wood knobs to something else (maybe square shape in some metal) would be a nice change. While I do like the two-tone paint/stain in your inspiration pictures, I really like your dressers now and I personally would be a little sad to see them painted. I wish I knew more about refinishing to make good suggestions, but I do wonder if just a light sanding and restaining could work? Or perhaps just a new veneer on top?

    Bookmark   December 5, 2012 at 1:27PM
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I love your dressers and also the painted one. But I'm thinking the uniqueness of the painted one is part of its charm. I think having a whole set painted that way would be too much and not look as special.

If you're not attached to yours, sell them to someone who would (hopefully) refinish and not paint them and buy the one you want.

    Bookmark   December 5, 2012 at 1:37PM
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It's tough when you get varying opinions, isn't it? But here is one more...

I would paint the tops and the areas around the drawers the color you want, as in your example. You could scuff up the areas that you want gold, or paint them first, and then just use a metallic acrylic craft paint or Rub N Buff to do the gold.

I have used Annie Sloan chalk paint on some pieces and have been very pleased with its adhesion over existing finishes. I haven't tried the mix-your-own-chalk-paint, yet, but there are plenty of 'recipes' online for it.

If the BEM on the drawer fronts is good, I'd want to preserve that. Depending on the paint color you choose, I might put some light colored wax on the painted areas to make them blend in with the BEM color, and not be too stark a contrast.

This is a project that I would be looking forward to! You could even decoupage something, like antique-y looking maps to the tops for a different look. A friend sent me this link just last night to great map wallpaper on eBay. Or even use actual maps from your area or a place that you have fond memories of.

Here is a link that might be useful: Wallpaper Designer Burgundy Old World Map on Tan Faux

    Bookmark   December 5, 2012 at 1:51PM
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Oly, I sat nodding as I read your post. I don't think I'd like the two tone on more than one piece in the room--especially because the rooms are relatively small (at least compared to the huge masters I see on here).

I am going to think about it-- but considering how inexpensive the inspiration dresser is ($145). I may just buy that for the spare room and sell mine. Even though it needs work, I think someone would love to have a whole set-- 2 dressers, vanity and a mirror. It doesnt actually cost all that much to have something re-veneered in this area (where there are a lot of furniture makers)..it's just that I don't want to put the effort into it for me. I am ready for something new.

    Bookmark   December 5, 2012 at 2:00PM
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I also have a bird's eye maple set, and like you am just a bit tired of it. It was my grandmother's and I inherited it when I was 12, so it's hard to think of parting with it.

My small dresser is the wavy front but prior to me getting it, someone took the mirror off or the mirror arms broke. I don't know. I have the mirror, but not the arms and I really wish I did, simply because it would increase the value of the piece. Because of the resale value too, I'd never paint it.

Around here, bird's eye maple brings in a pretty good price. If that is true where you live, you could sell it and get enough to buy something you really liked.

    Bookmark   December 5, 2012 at 2:21PM
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My3Dogs.. I am glad you mentioned chalk paint! I have talked to shop owner nearby and she thinks I should use chalk paint on my iron bed. She sells a few lines but recommended the Annie Sloan for the colors. I think the bed would look stunning in black with the dresser above.

I am still deciding if I should sell the dressers-- but seriously, at the price, I think I may just be better off buying the one in the photo.. especially given how much work I have yet to do at the new house (and packing my own!).

If anyone remembers or is concerned about my bedroom idea board that included the iron bed and RL plaid blanket-- I'll still implement the design-- but with a different bed.

    Bookmark   December 5, 2012 at 2:34PM
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cyn427 (zone 7)

Funky, I agree! For that price, I would get the one you like so much. You have plenty of other jobs to keep you busy. ha. Also, I think it will be grand with the bed painted black!

    Bookmark   December 5, 2012 at 6:55PM
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Thanks, Cyn and everyone else! The store isnt open today so I'll try them tomorrow or Friday. It's a drive.. but there are other things I like there so it should be a fun trip.

If it is no longer available, I will rethink my plan.. either paint my oak dresser (I havent shared a photo of that one) or one or both of the BEM. I wouldnt blink about painting the BEM but I am concerned that multiple two-toned pieces will look too busy in the room.

    Bookmark   December 5, 2012 at 10:26PM
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Funkyart any chance you are in NY? Birdseye maple is big money Here. I am buying the same set, but without the mirrors.

    Bookmark   December 6, 2012 at 9:32AM
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I am in PA. I haven't tried to sell the set locally but I've watched prices here on CL and also on ebay. I know my set will suffer because of the damage to the tops.

I am still considering painting my set. My mother bought it for me more than 35 years ago when I was still in college. She paid a neighbor $200 for it when they were remodeling their bedroom. It doesn't have a long history.. but it does have some meaning to me. I am really torn.

    Bookmark   December 6, 2012 at 10:16AM
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"It doesn't have a long history.. but it does have some meaning to me. I am really torn."

Torn? That means you haven't decided. Also, as I read through your comments, you seem back and forth on painting vs. not painting. IMO, if you're torn, you're not really ready to do it. Part of you still thinks it's not a good idea. I would wait if I were you. Painting is a one-way street since you won't be able to get the original appearance back again. When (if ever) you are certain, you will know, and then you can paint.

    Bookmark   December 6, 2012 at 10:33AM
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I am sorry I wasn't clear. I am not torn on whether to paint-- I am torn on whether to sell this set. I won't continue to use it as is. It's not just the damage, it's the youthful femmy style.. and I am tired of it.

IF I keep it, it will be because I've painted it.

My biggest pause is whether I'd like two two-toned pieces in a room. If I just want one-- and another mismatched piece (likely black), then I'll buy the one pictured for sale.

    Bookmark   December 6, 2012 at 10:49AM
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I understand being tied too them but tired of them at the same time. I have the set I got from my great aunt when I was 12 and I,m 49. I,m tired of it but hate to get rid of something I have had that long. Can you set it up as a set in the guest room and do something totally new in your room?

    Bookmark   December 6, 2012 at 10:54AM
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OK, funkyart, I got it now. That's what I get for reading through too quickly. Cliff notes version of the decorating forum does not always work!

    Bookmark   December 6, 2012 at 10:57AM
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Thought of you when I ran across this - slight different version of painting - not liking the rope handles.

Here is a link that might be useful: CL painted birdseye maple dresser

    Bookmark   December 7, 2012 at 2:19PM
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Oh.. interesting. I don't care for the rope handles either -- or the nautical theme with the style. I don't get it really lol... but I do like the stripes. Thanks for sharing!

We are going to the antique shop tomorrow (hopefully) to look at the inspiration dressers. It's only open Fridays and Saturdays and today was cold, rainy and miserable. It isn't too far (1.5 hr) but it's far enough that I need to be in the mood. There's some motivation though-- my mother selected my Christmas present from their site (it was supposed to be a secret-- but she ended up telling me when I said I was thinking of buying it too! Oops!)

    Bookmark   December 7, 2012 at 6:20PM
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