Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Eastlake Dresser Transformation

Craigslist gave us another gem in the form of this 100+(?) year old solid wood dresser in "excellent" (though, really not very excellent at all) condition.

I had been looking on Craigslist for an inexpensive dresser made of solid wood for Atley's room that I could paint. When I saw this dresser with the cute keyhole embellishments and the spoon carving, I knew it was the one.

Squire, however, wasn't as sure as I was about it. The crack in the bottom board, the separation of the sides from the center pieces of wood, the awkward uneven drawers, the hole in the bottom of the top drawer and more. The problems with the structure of the dresser were very much present. But, with a little encouragement from me and a counter-offer to the original list price on the dresser, we drove off with this old dresser tied up on the top of our car. 

See the crack? This is the dresser even after Squire had done some work on it!
While Squire worked on the dresser frame, I searched online for ideas of how to paint it. One blog post indicated that this style of dresser was "Eastlake." On a whim, I decided to research the style more. It turns out this furniture came out around the end of the Victorian period. This guy, Charles Eastlake wrote a book called, "On Household Taste in Furniture, Upholstery and Other Details." This book's ideas really helped spur the Arts and Crafts movement in America. In his book, Eastlake called for a return to simpler furniture. He emphasized good, solid, quality wood be used and that it not be stained, but oiled to enhance the natural beauty. Stains - he suggested - were a cop-out used to make cheaper woods look nicer than they actually were. Particularly, I liked his philosophy that the objects in people's homes should be attractive and they should be handmade by the people who lived there. And if made by machine, then by workers who took great pride in their handiwork. Learning this tidbit of history as it related to the inspiration for this dresser's design, just made me happy. The whole time Squire worked to rebuild this dresser and I sanded and painted it I felt an extra pang of pride in my work. Even though I'm pretty certain our piece is one of the imitation American pieces Eastlake despised:

"I find American tradesmen continually advertising what they are pleased to call 'Eastlake' furniture, with the production of which I have had nothing whatever to do, and for the taste of which I should be very sorry to be considered responsible" [C.L. Eastlake, 1878] 

If he had a problem with stain, I can only imagine how he might feel about paint! Even still, I like to think that we were doing what we could to give our new (old) little dresser a facelift, with what skills we have. Making our home attractive with homemade/hand-refinished items, that's an Eastlake philosophy that we try to live as much as our time and resources allow.

Squire, working diligently on the drawer.
One last "before" shot of the dresser.
And . . . Ta da! The "after" shot of the completed dresser:

I painted the dresser with Behr's "Bleached Linen" satin plus primer paint. I look forward to seeing it get more shabby chic as time goes on and the kids inevitably wear it with their play.

Painted Eastlake Style Dresser - so fun!
And, just because we're in Atley's room, I thought I share a picture of her curtains which I finished about a month ago. Her room still has a long way to go, but we're getting there!

What are your latest projects? 
Do you like to learn about the history of older items in your home, too?


  1. Wow! That turned out great! It looks brand new and beautiful! I would love to do the same for a dresser for my boys.

    1. Thanks, Rachel! Time for you to start a craigslist or garage sale hunt! :)



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