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BTRT Patterns (on Etsy)

Monday, 3 March 2014
Transforming an old highboy dresser into the cottage/ shabby chic style for mud room storage was lots of fun -- there is something wonderfully counter intuitive in remaking something old into something that looks really old!
{click any image to view larger}

Given that our new-to-us home is a 90 year old refurbished schoolhouse with original hardwood flooring and wainscoting (which will be remaining in their current condition for a while), shabby seems to be the right chic.  Perfectly imperfect!

This dresser, along with its full sized mate and headboard, came to me as a community donation on my first Pastoral Charge nearly 20 years ago.  It has fulfilled various functions-- for the last five years it has been storage for all of my felting fibers.  I have always been fond of its unusual details, especially the large drawer handles with the pink shell-ish bits (and it carries the warmth of the generous folks who set up a poor furniture-less student in her first manse!).  

But it was time for a makeover --and I need porch storage for all the many and various items that tend to get deposited by the front door.
I needed to begin with sanding. And I admit, I have never sanded furniture before.
I dug out the old orbital sander I gave my husband a number of years ago, plugged it in and pressed the power button.
In the house.

You know those men who keep their tools in pristine condition, never putting them away dirty?
I didn't marry one of them.
The one I did marry must have sanded drywall last.
Because white chalky dust blew everywhere, especially up my nose, in my eyes and in my mouth. And in my house.

Very calmly, through the haze of choking dust, I went against my own habit of charging headlong into things and spent a little time with the kind men and women of YouTube who taught me how to sand wooden furniture.
Especially the bit about doing it outside. 
And wearing protection.
Of course, the YouTube teachers don't live in Northern Ontario, in February.
But we Canadian girls are tough.
Once I removed the hardware and set it aside, I took all of the pieces outside for sanding.
And it started to snow, hard.
I imagine the passing cars enjoyed the sight of me in sunglasses, dust mask, mittens and toque, sanding furniture in a snow squall.

I used a 120 grit on the sander (Black and Decker Maxi Mouse) to start and quickly learned not to remove the hook and loop backed sandpaper and try to reapply-- it won't stick due to the sawdust.
Also, not to lift the sander from the surface while in operation, as this tended to make the sandpaper disc fly off (and not reattach). It is a vicious cycle!

I can't be sure if this is normal... Since my partner (see below) had eaten all of the packaging off of my sandpaper and left all the discs a wee bit abused.
I sanded until all of the old varnish was removed by the 120 sandpaper and then switched to 180.  As I didn't require a super fine finish I stopped there.  All of the surface details on the drawers came off in sanding, but I went a little more lightly on the top drawer and maintained the texture of the scaly strips top and bottom.  I also left the dark colour in the detailed grooves on the top drawer and dresser base for character.
There are a number of suggestions for treating wood before painting to achieve a distressed finish.
I chose to use beeswax on the corners and edges -- after it is painted over, the paint will come away more easily with sanding as it has not adhered to the wood. Honestly, I wouldn't bother on a future project as it was easy to remove the paint and the wax actually resulted in less control over the paint removal.

I used two coats of the green paint chosen for the porch floor (latex porch and floor paint), applying with a small roller -- super quick!
Giving this several hours to dry, I followed it with two coats of white latex paint, completely covering the green. This was left to dry overnight.
Then came the 'ugly duckling' stage.
I took the dry and sponge brush and lightly brushed on green paint in strategic spots,
where I wanted more wear to show.
I followed the dry brushing with a quick wipe down with a wet rag.
(You can see how this brought out the texture on the drawer above).

At this point my daughter, who is clearly not a fan of the shabby, announced that the green paint was the colour of 'turkey poop' and 'now you smeared it all over! Gross!'.
Everybody is a critic.

And honestly, I was feeling a little overwhelmed by the green messiness, too!
To mitigate the turkey poop effect, I sponged some more white paint over top, applying and wiping down as I went.
This was followed with some deep brown craft paint, applied only in the areas most likely to show the wear of (imaginary) age, and rubbed back off with the damp cloth.
Finally, I was ready to shabby it up!
I thought I could do it by hand, but quickly realized that I wanted the power sander for the task, both to save my wrists and to blend in the various layers of paint.
Using the 120 grit on the corners, and the 180 on the surfaces I gradually removed paint, layer by layer, until I was happy with the appearance, playing up the textures and details.
I was thrilled with the final result once I got the drawer pulls back on!
(Although one has gone astray over the years).
I am going to give it a coat of matte water based finish once it warms up a little for better drying and ventilation. And I may finish the top surface with some shabby paper to make it a little more durable for the likely wear it will take in the porch. 

My daughter still thinks it is an awful way to ruin a 'beautiful wooden dresser'.
Wait until she realizes the whole porch floor is being painted in turkey poop green!

Overall, I spent very little (sandpaper and cheap little paint roller) as I already had the paint for the room.
And total time would be about 4-5 hours, with sanding taking the most time.
No need for chalk paints, stains and other specialty products.

So go on and distress something (but please don't make it cry!). <3


treehugginhippiechic said...

I'm fairly certain that was the most entertaining blog post I've read to date. Great stuff.

Unknown said...

LOL Thanks! I just tell it as it happens ;)

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