We Got a Dresser!

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A couple of weekends ago, Max and Anna and I hung out for a few hours down around Newburgh. We went to Anna’s mommy’s house to say hi and check out her beaaaauuutiful newly-refinished wood floors. Those floors are not the point of this post, but it kind of threw my floor-refinishing fantasies into overdrive. Our floors downstairs are a total mess, and I know they could be gorgeous refinished. Someday, floors. Someday. Anna’s stepfather, Bernie, said I could do it myself…which of course is giving me all kinds of ideas about my own abilities that I probably shouldn’t have. We’ll see.

Anyway. Then we went to lunch, and on the way back to Anna’s house, we stopped to check out the new Newburgh Vintage Emporium. I don’t usually buy anything from places like this since everything is usually out of my price range, but it’s fun to look. And then, toward the end—THIS DRESSER! I’ve been casually looking for a dresser since we bought the house (let’s just not talk about our clothing storage situation prior to this, cool?), and then I saw this one and it was all over.

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I think the dresser is probably early-mid 1800s (so about the age of our house!), but beyond that I don’t know tons about it! I love how simple it is, and I love how each drawer is a different size, and that each one has a keyhole and lock. We don’t have the key, but I don’t really care about that. I wish it was more apparent from the photos, but what really drew me to it was the size! This thing is HUGE. It has the proportions of a much smaller dresser, but it’s totally bulky and boxy and enormous.

At about $300 it wasn’t the best bargain in the world, but I still think it’s a good deal for a piece like this (I think similar ones tend to be more in the $600-and-up-range). The reason it was probably semi-affordable is that the knobs definitely aren’t original, which doesn’t really bother me. For me, that’s always been a realistic way to collect antiques—pieces that have non-original parts or have been repaired or refinished or altered aren’t as valuable as ones in totally original condition. If prices aren’t already lowered as a result, knowing what to look for and pointing out stuff like that can be a good negotiating tactic. The knobs on this dresser are just too pristine and stained too uniformly to be original, but I think the shape and size are kind of nice and they aren’t by any means offensive, so I’ll live with them for a while and maybe change them up down the line somehow.

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Isn’t it super great how the back legs are all un-fancy and just continuous with the side/back panels and the front legs are pretty turned wood? I think that detail sold me. I love this thing.

Other than the dresser, the bedroom looks pretty much the same as it did back when I posted about it in august. We had to pick up the rug because it was just getting too dirty with all the dust and debris getting tracked around the house all the time, and we’ve since stripped the walls almost completely down to the bare plaster—they were covered in wallpaper and layers of paint, all of which were peeling off the walls in large pieces. I know the plaster walls look fun and arty and beautiful and people will try to convince me to not repair, skim-coat, and paint them, but I swear it’s just the pictures. Parts of them (like the part behind the dresser, for instance) are in pretty great condition, while other parts are totally falling apart and a complete mess, beyond the point of doing small fixes that could blend in a good way. I also just really don’t think this is the house for bare plaster walls. Our friend John has some bare plaster walls in his house (sealed with some kind of varnish to keep dust under control), but his house is a 1725 Dutch stone house and beautifully rustic, where that look really works. Our house, by contrast, is kind of a modest Greek Revival, and I really think the house just wants to be simple and clean and bright. Maybe that sounds like crazy-talk, but I really feel like the house dictates what it wants to be, and it’s more or less my job to make that happen.

ANYWAY.

I still love the deco bed but I do feel like it’s totally out of scale with the dresser and kind of wacky in a bad way, but that’s OK at this point. Maybe it’ll become a guest bed someday. Maybe the dresser will go somewhere else. I know everyone really just wants to see a beautiful, put-together room, but that’s not really how my life works and therefore not really how this blog works. Right now, our attention (and money) is focused almost exclusively on renovating the house and maybe collecting pieces here and there that we really love, and I’m fine with that. We (like pretty much everyone…) have years to figure out how to mix and match our pieces and play around until things look right (or right-enough), and honestly that’s way more exciting to me than trying to do it all in one pass.

The bedroom is pretty low on the list of priorities right now, honestly, but it feels very exciting to finally have a place to store our underwear like fancy adults! Step in the right direction.


59 Comments

  1. If the locks are still there, you can take one out and have a key made. I did this for a lovely display cabinet, and the locksmith made me a very cool brass skeleton-type key, it cost around 20 bucks, and it’s awesome! The lock on mine was just screwed in with tiny screws that I could easily take out and then put back in when I had the key in hand.

    • Oh cool! The locks are still there! We don’t really have any reason to lock these drawers, but it might be fun to have. We had a key made for a couple of our interior doors that were locked when we moved in, but I think it was more like $80, which just seems like too much to spend on something like this. But maybe I’ll find out!

      • Maybe you can find “basic” keys, the ones that can be used to produce the right key for you lock, and just use them. They won’t lock or unlock, but they’ll stay in place as if they worked. I don’t know if this is the case with small keys like these though as it is with regular door keys. If it works that way it would really brind the cost down

  2. OMG I am soo proud of myself, for a person with no design idea, the first thing that caught my attention were the knobs. I thought to myself I would change them (well of course knowing myself I would put owl knobs or something from Anthropologie unlike you), and I was surprised to read that they were not original. It is a very nice dresser, I love big dressers and this one is just lovely. When I go back home (some day) I will take a pic of my friend’s dresser for you, her mom loves antiques and has really nice pieces. I wish I had the eye, space, money…

  3. That dresser is awesome! Maybe enamel or glass knobs (in similar style to some of your nice doorknobs) would be good replacements, but guessing not historically accurate. I have to agree that the bed looks out of place now, but in an odd way that could maybe come together once the room is complete. I don’t know…it’s weird and interesting in there at the same time! I just love reading about your progress and can’t wait to see how this house turns out!

  4. Gorgeous dresser, I love it just as it is, even with the unoriginal knobs–I obviously need to drive up to Newburgh and check out that scene. I actually don’t think it clashes that badly with the bed because everything feels so warm.

    • I agree. The knobs may not be original but they look in keeping with what might have been there at the beginning because it looks like a handmade piece by a carpenter and not a fancy town cabinetmaker. JMHO. Anyway, great choice!

      • Oh yeah, I agree! I think whoever replaced them knew more or less what they should look like, and found the closest thing they could. I think other types of knobs might look nice, too, but these are probably close to original aesthetically—it’s really just the finish/condition that sort of stand out to me. I don’t know! (and thanks, guys!)

  5. It’s good to be a fancy adult. :)

    Very cool dresser.

  6. Lovely buy! Your dresser may have started out with cut glass knobs. Do a google image search for “empire chest of drawers glass knobs” to see what I’m talking about. You could probably get a set and apply them for extra fanciness, if you’re inclined that way.

    • Thanks! You might be right, although I feel like this piece is more primitive and simple than the types of dressers I see with hardware like that. But could be!

  7. Oh my gosh I LOOOOOVE that dresser! It’s just so charming and perfect for your home!

  8. What a gorgeous dresser. I’m so jealous of the obviously superior antiquing to be done in the Hudson Valley. BTW if you are interested in more Empire furniture, the Madison Bouckville antique fair every August near Albany is HUGE and has tons. There is one pay field with top of the line antiques where I saw some really fine Empire dressers (bigger than this and very fancy with original sandwich glass knobs, tiger mahogany, etc.) for $750-$1250 and lots of those little Empire side tables for $375-$575. At the end of the last day there were also exquisite cane seat faux painted Empire chairs for $75 for the pair that I am kicking myself for not buying. Why oh why? And a gorgeous kitchen table with the original olive green paint for $150. I didn’t think I had room. Then I got home and realized anything would be better than the horrible furniture we have now, what was I thinking? I also walked through most of the free fields and in the odd corners on the last day found some really incredible bargains, such as a wide and low Empire dresser with a flaming two-tone finish (half maple, half mahogany, I think) for $150. I don’t regret not buying that, though, because it wouldn’t have worked in our house but it was a beautiful piece and would probably be great in yours. If you google Madison Bouckville and Brownstoner, you can see a post about my trip with photos of some of the booths. It was really fun and I would love to go back.

    • There is pretty great antiquing up here, true! It can be a little difficult because stuff gets bought up and brought across the river and sold to rich NYC-ers on weekends, but it’s an area with SO much history that there is just a lot of STUFF.

      Oh man, that antique fair looks funnnnnn. Albany isn’t so far from us…

  9. Original or not, those knobs are fantastic. A detail you don’t see at all anymore. If there was a vote, my ballot would say keep the knobs. Gorgeous, gorgeous dresser. The patina on it is perfect.

  10. I have a similar dresser I inherited from an elderly neighbor who was essentially a surrogate grandmother when I was growing up. It was a piece from her family farm in Michigan and it has knobs that look exactly like your knobs- perhaps they are more original than you suspect…

    • That’s such a nice thing to have! I should have been more clear in the post—I think these knobs are very similar to what would have been there originally, it’s just that you can tell that they’re new-production and stained to (kind of) match. It might just be a matter of messing with the finish to make them look better rather than replacing them altogether!

  11. I LOVE IT! I have my granny’s antique dresser and I haven’t any info on but I love it! But what I don’t love is the clear, super shiny varnish that’s painted on… UGH! Maybe one day I’ll strip it. But for now it looks pretty spiffy with my Scandinavian-esqe decor :)

    • Thank you! Hmmmm…yeah, you might be able to strip it off with a mild chemical stripper (like Soy-It), and then finish it with a more natural oil/wax treatment afterwards? You’d definitely want to do a test patch to see how it would affect the finish underneath, but something like that might work?

  12. Daniel, a great find in that dresser.

    Right now, I would agree that with just the bed, they don’t seem to work well together. I’d suggest you hold off and slowly incoprorate more pieces into the room, at first finding pieces that fit between the dresser’s period, and the bed to help them blend in together better, and then add a few pieces newer than the bed, but throughout, find items that have something in common with what’s already there, be it a similar wood tone or shape or something, but don’t be afraid to mix or match.

    It’s called an eclectic style and by going with variouis eras/styles, with say a color pallete that coordinates them all will help pull that room together as time goes on.

    Overall, love where you are trying to go with the place.

  13. I love the dresser and I enjoy your sharing on the progress of the renovation. It’s realistic, this perspective of a little at a time! And the anticipation of what will eventually be is delicious.

  14. The chest looks sturdy and substantial. It reflects your house.

  15. I like it.
    I like you, too.

  16. Bed,
    +dresser….
    This is where interior things start to get very interesting. Also very realistic. Wonderful addition.

  17. Love that dresser! I can’t wait to see what you end up doing with the space. Thanks for the inspiration!

  18. that first photo looks like it’s from World of Interiors…
    love

  19. Great dresser. I love your preemptive disclaimer about how the bare plaster walls are not pretty in real life. I definitely thought the one behind the dresser looked pretty nice in that first photo. The peek of the wall behind the bed does, however, reveal the fact that the walls need some work. I know you’ll have it all looking fabulous, in due time.

    • Yeah, I should have shown the whole wall! It’s really bad. The backside of that wall is the one in the office where I had to do the most repair work, and the same wall downstairs is just as bad! HUGE cracks, missing parts, weird old cement patches…it’s going to be interesting!

  20. That dresser makes my heart SING! I found a similar (albeit smaller) dresser a few years ago on Craigslist for $25. I left work early to go pick it up from the seller after calling and verifying that he still had it and told him that I was on my way RIGHTNOW. When I got there somebody was driving off with my dresser. I still lament the fact that I didn’t drive faster.

  21. I feel like that dresser wants an old brass bed. Around here (RI) they practically give them away on CL. And I like the knobs. They don’t distract from the awesome woncky drawer fronts of various sizes.

    • Yeah, I think it could look great with a brass or iron-frame bed, or upholstered! I don’t think I really like all the wood in one space, and I kind of feel like Deco furniture goes granny real fast when it isn’t paired with more modern pieces. The dresser DOES kind of fit perfectly on that wall, though…meh, we’ll figure it out! I’m not worried.

  22. Keep the knobs! I love the humble simplicity of your dresser, sturdy and not too perfect.
    I agree that a house dictates (to some extent at least) how it should be decorated and I have full confidence that you know exactly what it needs. Thank you for the link to John’s house, a delightful place.

    • I’m glad you clicked it! John’s house is AMAZING. It’s pretty much perfect in every way. He’s not a designer and doesn’t work in a creative field or anything like that, but he has amazing taste and is so incredibly talented and smart, and one of the kindest people I’ve ever met. We’re lucky to know him! :)

  23. I have a similar dresser, probably the mid to late-19th century based on the finish, and it also has the mushroom knobs. I agree that yours emphatically do not match the finish, perhaps they were re-finished at some point, or some of the original knobs were lost, and these were a replacement. My dresser I got for cheap because there were some “minor structural issues”…let’s just say I had to do some unorthodox repair work to the drawer glides. Doesn’t look like yours has that particular problem, which is good.

  24. I have been renovating/rebuilding my house for 5 years and have yet to post a true “after” picture of a beautiful, put-together room. Most bloggers aren’t doing this level of renovating, and their blogs are somewhat misleading about how much effort really renovating a house (especially an old house) takes. But believe me, my life doesn’t work that way either and I completely understand. I’m happy you found a piece you love to work into your future finished room. I know that can be majorly motivating as well as help shape the vision. Plus it’s beautiful!

    • Emily, yes! And holy cow, your house is looking great!! I have some catching up to do with your blog!! Your renovation project is REALLY intense…your kitchen used to cause ME anxiety!

      I think most other bloggers also just aren’t renovating old houses! Most of the shelter bloggers I can think of live in houses built post-1980. Of course there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, but the level of renovation required in those places is just SO different than the stuff we do. I think that’s really shifted over time…back when people started blogging about their houses, it seemed like it was ALL hardcore reno, and now it’s pretty much all interior design. I feel like my blog kind of went in reverse…what started as a kind-of-sort-of design/DIY blog turned into a renovation blog, and I’m sure there are people who don’t like that, and would rather see a quick before-and-after with a bunch of pin-able images and all that. I just feel like it’s worthwhile to keep in perspective that we’re all different people doing very different things, with very different budgets, at very different stages of life, and probably with different goals. Obviously I hope that as things get renovated they’re beautiful (you know, since I have to live in them and all…) and “inspiring” and whatever, but we’re still at such an early stage that that kind of thing feels a little far off.

      ANYWAY. Cutting myself off! Going to catch up with your blog! :)

      • Thank you! It’s been incredibly anxiety-ridden at times, but most of the rooms in our house actually function at least minimally now, so YAY. Now the fun part of settling in and making it actually feel like home…

        You did sort of go in reverse with your blog and the depth of projects you’re working on–and I’m sure it has probably bored some people at times–but I personally enjoy it more now! I have a feeling I’m not the only person who has hit inspiration overload, and what you’re doing now is more authentic and interesting to me. The house blogging world took that turn toward decorating and styling during the phase when my kitchen still had a dirt floor, so I had to distance myself a bit from it. (Too much inspiration can make your reality feel a like a major bummer…) But like you said–we’re all at different stages and doing different things, so I hope you don’t feel too much external pressure to deliver those finished products that you don’t actually enjoy your home and the process of settling into it–another trend I’m seeing on blogs these days. And with that, I wish you endless energy for your journey. :)

      • Oh, don’t worry! This blog is just one part of my life—it’s not like we bought the house to blog about it! We’re renovating at a pace that feels comfortable and reasonable and financially responsible for us…I mean, we’ve basically finished two rooms in one year. I kind of wish we were moving faster just for our own sake, but I really don’t think about trying to pump out content for the blog. :)

        Thank you for the well-wishes, and huge congrats again on how your place is looking! The amount of stuff you guys went through is bonkers, and I’m so glad to see it coming together so beautifully now!

  25. Beautifull dresser… and that walll behind it is just glorious, I know you won’t keep it this way, but I had to say!

  26. oh the stories that dresser could tell. it’s gorgeous.

  27. $300 seems like a good price to me, esp for that history and the amazing size! A new dresser from Ikea costs that much and will fall apart in a year!

  28. Hi, I have a very similar chest. I was told it is a linen press and would have been used for storage of bed linens, table linens and some clothing. The knobs on mine are original and are the same style as yours but a little bigger. They are also a little flatter, less puffy mushroomy than the new knobs you can buy in that style now. I think it is a beautiful simple style.

    • Thank you, Jane!! I kind of figured that it would have originally been used for linens and whatnot (I sort of want to put it in the dining room, maybe…), since it’s so big, but I didn’t really know! That makes a lot of sense, though.

  29. I just love the proportions on the dresser and think the finish is just right. I refinish and paint furniture but when I find pieces like this, I leave them alone to bask in their glory. Lovely!

  30. LOVE the dresser. And maybe I’m crazy but I love the unfinished walls behind it! I kinda want you to keep them that way forever.

  31. Daniel….the dresser looks GREAT in your space. So glad to meet you guys and welcome you into the Newburgh Vintage Emporium….Come back anytime !!! All the best-Troy&Jimmy

  32. What a find! It’s just lovely. And couldn’t have found a better home.

  33. Great find! I do find it odd at a certain degree that all drawers have different heights, but I’m sure there was a reason for it back when it was made. It’s great to see that, even with the little furniture you claim you have, you’re still consistent.

    Don’t let anyone fool you into not taking on those walls, I couldn’t agree more that they need to be painted (or wallpapered) after being prepared. I also recognize the feeling about having your bedroom set up as the only space where you can relax. Our current bedroom doubles as dining room, triples as living room and so on… Just keep in mind that one day, all of this will be behind and you’ll have some great stories to tell!

  34. I understand the idea behind not keeping all of the exposed plaster if it is in crappy condition (because getting that beautifully aged look with a lot of new joint compound will never happen), but have you considered an accent wall of sorts? I just think it would be a cool way to show the history of your house.

  35. It’s a beauty congratulations. I can totally relate to the euphoria of discovering something you really love and admiring every detail. I love your musings and I for one wouldn’t enjoy your blog as much if you just presented us with the perfect end products.There’s texture in the process.

    • What a beautiful phrase: “There’s texture in the process.” That’s a keeper, in concept and expression.

  36. Lovely dresser. I had something similar (though quite a bit smaller) in my bedroom as a child. I believe it was originally a dry sink. Anyway, I wasn’t really meaning to post a comment. I just wanted to be notified about new posts (I checked the box).

  37. Off-topic but upbeat news for anyone with a rescued pit bull: http://www.care2.com/causes/success-oregon-town-rejects-breed-specific-dog-bans.html

  38. You were totally right, my first thought was to implore you to keep the plaster exposed. I totally believe you about the condition, though, and of course you should be bringing to life your vision for your home, not mine :) Anyways, the dresser is absolutely gorgeous. I spent a very long time looking for our current dresser (which we’ve had for going on 5 years now), but I took one look at yours and wanted to ditch ours for something more like it. I am apparently very impressionable.

  39. Beautiful dresser! Are the front legs hand turned?
    I found this and wanted to share. It explains what your office was originally used for:
    http://www.oldhouseweb.com/how-to-advice/the-little-room-upstairs.shtml

    • Thank you! I’m assuming the legs are hand-turned, yes, but my woodworking knowledge is minimal! I think that would be the only option for pre-industrial revolution furniture, though? I need to learn more about this stuff…

      And thank you! I’ve actually read that link before, haha! I think given the age and size of our house (pre-Victorian), it’s most likely that the room was used as a sewing room.

  40. the walls may be a disaster, but the color effect they give off looks lovely with the dresser and the white trim – trying to think of what to call it. Almond? Honey? Pale toast? um…still describing the wall color, not breakfast!

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