You have rented a Zipcar and conned your boyfriend into accompanying you on a great schlep out to Long Island. You were supposed to meet Crystal, let’s call her, at 7 pm. But now it’s two hours later, it’s dark, it’s pouring rain, and Crystal is very, very late. You’re sitting in said Zipcar on a pitch-black residential street in front of the closest approximation of the address you’ve been given, which doesn’t actually exist. Crystal has been 10 minutes away for the last hour and a half, and the sneaking suspicion that you are being pranked is overshadowed only by the worry that you are about to be brutally murdered. You consider just leaving, just calling the whole thing off, just saying fuck it and hitting the road, back to Brooklyn, back to safety, but you’ve already come all this way. And waited this long. And rented a fucking mini-van. So you sit, the engine stalled, waiting for the phone to ring.

Crystal finally shows up with her “asshole husband,” as she referred to him an hour earlier by telephone. The sleeves of his shirt are cut off and he sports a modest though distinctive mullet. They pull up in front of a dark house and get out of their station wagon—a small Chihuahua, we’ll call him Rocco, in tow. Crystal looks exhausted. Her husband looks pissed. Rocco looks nervous. You make introductions quickly—it’s dark and raining and late and everyone wants to get this over with—before Crystal and her man lead the way to a dark front porch and open the front door of the house to a completely dark foyer. You stand on the porch, exchanging nervous glances with your boyfriend, who stands three steps behind you. Crystal and her husband cannot find a light switch and begin arguing with each other, then suggesting you join in the cause. Ain’t no fucking way, you think. I is smart, I is kind, I is important, and I is not about to walk into this fucking house and be blindsided by a couple of Long Island serial killers. Fuck no. Not tonight. Not for this.

They finally find the light switch and the house is revealed—sensible, polite, carpeted, nearly empty. The walls are the color of custard. It smells like the 1970s but looks like the 1990s. “This way,” they say, moving toward a set of stairs on the left. Against your better judgement, you follow them. They hadn’t mentioned anything about stairs. You get to the top, turn right, and enter the first room on your right. A switch is thrown, the room illuminates, and there they are, exactly as they looked in the pictures.

Welcome to Craigslist.

This all started when my awesome friend Maya, who is a genie of all things thrift, dug up this unassuming ad on Craigslist. She knew that I’d been looking for a dresser for a while (after we moved my desk out of the bedroom and into the living room), but New York City is pretty much the worst place to buy nice furniture if you can’t pay for nice furniture, and I’d been coming up completely dry. We really needed a dresser—with one small closet between the two of us, we were both completely tired of trying to maintain the “organization” of clothes shoved in a hanging shoe bags and cumbersome bins. I was *this close* to just buying the IKEA TARVA 6-drawer dresser and trying to make it semi-pretty (I have no idea how), but Maya caught me in the knick of time.

I obviously don’t have room for two huge mid-century dressers, but it turned out that if I could go get them, Maya would take one off my hands. So by buying both, we were already down to $200 a piece, and when I got there I haggled down another $100 because of some flaws in the condition (veneer chips, cigarette burns, standard vintage fare) but mostly because these wacky consignment folks made me wait for so long that I knew they’d agree and I would feel better for my struggle. For a $150 gorgeous dresser (which was really more like $250, once the cost of the Zipcar was factored in, in fairness), I’ll wait a good long time.

(Plus, I got to go see Maya’s house, which is like a magical wonderland of awesome. I never wanted to leave.)

As soon as we hauled this beast up to our 5th floor walk-up at around 2 in the morning, I had to go return the Zipcar and by the time I got home, Max had already somehow dragged it into place and covered the top with piles of books and other…stuff. I have been so busy that I haven’t even taken the time to give the thing a proper cleaning and TLC, but come on—that’s a good looking hunk of wood. And it’s going to look amazing once I get around to cleaning off all the old layers of furniture polish and crap. I’ll make this thing so happy it came to live with me, it’ll never want to leave.

It’s pretty large (and deeper than the desk was), and looked totally crazy to us at first. But now that I’m used to it, I’m so into it. I think I’m going to try to polish up those little amazing brass handles while I’m working on the wood—they’ll never look brand new, but that’s what I like about the idea. I just want a little more brass. Love me some brass.

Ignore the crap on top and just look at that sexy sexy dresser. We have too much crap.

So, I’m just going to call it: SHELVING FAIL. I hate those shelves so very much.

They have to go. It’s not super high on the list of priorities and I’m still tossing around ideas about what to do with all of the many many books (kindling?), but this just isn’t working. I hate how the shelves are all crooked and how the L-brackets can’t stand up to the weight and how there isn’t enough room and…I made a mistake. These were kind of thrown up in a moment of desperation and panic (Max moved in –> 34,765,234,238,754,973 books moved in), but my dislike has only grown in the intervening months and something’s got to give. I’ll fix it.

But dresser. At least we have a dresser.

About Daniel Kanter

Hi, I'm Daniel, and I love houses! I'm a serial renovator, DIY-er, and dog-cuddler based in Kingston, New York. Follow along as I bring my 1865 Greek Revival back to life and tackle my 30s to varying degrees of success. Welcome!

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  1. 10.26.12

    Looks so good! I’m glad you weren’t murdered in a creepy mid-century luring scheme.

    I too love me some brass, especially not-super-shiny.

    For our bookshelves we went with 2″ thick planks, because we knew it would bend otherwise. But they were built ins and not brackets, so I have noooo idea if they’d rip out of the wall or what.

    • 10.26.12
      Daniel said:

      Yeah…the brackets are close enough together that the wood hasn’t bowed at all, but apparently they also aren’t level (WTF), because you can see how they’re all goofy across the length of the shelf. They’re also kind of leaning forward because of the weight…the brackets just aren’t rigid enough to stand up to hundreds of pounds of pressure, so thicker wood can’t happen. Even if those weren’t problems though, the shelves are just kind of ugly and poorly proportioned for the space and I just need them to go away.

  2. 10.26.12

    Welcome to Craigslist! I love it. I thought you were waiting for a friend to show up for dinner or something, I should have known you’d be long gone by that point if it weren’t for vintage furniture.

  3. 10.26.12

    I’m laughing out of total sympathy, because that’s pretty much how all of my craigslist experiences have been. However, that dresser is awesome and totally worth it. I have a credenza that’s sort of similar (those skinny legs, that framed out side action!), which remains the best $20 I’ve ever spent. Is the top of your dresser laminate? Because that’s my only not favorite thing about my credenza.

  4. 10.26.12
    Adriana said:

    I’m going through a similar thing with the bookshelves in my room. They’re just too deep and they take up so much floor space they make an already small room look smaller. And they command ALL the attention. Silly books. Silly book hoarder.

    The worst thing is that they’re custom so I have to tear them off which will be a mess. I’ve bought the art crate from CB2 that I plan to stain a different colour but for now it holds a good 60% of my books. I’m keeping my favourites out to display and the rest I need to learn to let go. The crate itself is huuuge (20″ deep!) but my record player fits perfectly on top and it looks decent under my window so I can’t complain.

    Now I need to figure out what to do about the hundreds of DVDs…..

    • 10.26.12
      Daniel said:

      YES—depth + tons of books = very crowded. Most of the books are less than 7″ deep anyway, so why are our shelves 11″ deep? It’s dumb. About 75% of the books belong to Max and he insists that he can’t get rid of any of them…and I need to respect that. He doesn’t have a ton of shit in this apartment, so the least I can do is let him have his books. Even if it will be my unraveling.

      We also have hundreds of DVDs, but we keep them in big CD binders (you know, like those zippered fabric books, 4 discs per page) and threw away all the cases. HUGE RELIEF. They all fit in a drawer.

  5. 10.26.12
    Kibby said:

    Long Island *shudders*
    I’m just glad you made it out alive and with such a beauty of a dresser!
    As for those books, a Cado wall unit would be so sexy (if you can find one that doesn’t cost an arm, leg and firstborn child!)

    • 10.26.12
      Daniel said:

      Those wall units are so expensive, but maybe someday! I think the real issue is that this just isn’t the wall for books…if we had a bigger place and could dedicate a whole wall to a fab wall unit, that would be one thing, but as it is having the HUGE wall of books above this dresser just looks sill and top-heavy and unbalanced. I’ll be more than happy to have a big art wall back when I move them…somewhere.

  6. 10.26.12
    Kirk said:

    Hi Daniel,

    I’m looking at the pictures of the dressers on Craigslist and the one under your shelves and I believe that you and the dresser Maya has may have switched some drawers at one point. If you look carefully, it looks like the wood grain on your dresser of the four left side drawers are unbroken, but this isn’t the case on the right side drawers. I bought a Kent Coffee dresser on Craigslist ($50 bucks, best find ever) and one of the defining features is that the grain of all 9 drawers flow seamlessly. Check it out with her, I believe this is the case with yours. Love the blog – can we see the hallway next?

    • 10.26.12
      Daniel said:

      Yes, I know, I was going to mention that! Yeah…we had to take all the drawers out for transport and then it was very dark when we got to Maya’s and couldn’t see which drawers went where. I’d like to switch them back but the logistics are kind of difficult! It doesn’t bother me THAT much, but it’s definitely something I’d like to fix…

      YES. I finally finished editing like 63748162 photos, so hallway soon!

    • 10.26.12
      Lindsay said:

      OMG. Yes. I’ve been wondering about that illusive hallway of yours!

  7. 10.26.12
    Chris said:

    Oh thank god. I was worried for you when I saw those shelves, and then BOOM, you call it yourself. Just one more reason why this blog is my all-time favorite.

  8. 10.26.12
    pen said:

    This is the one reason I never buy off Craigslist- I am perpetually terrified of being axed. (LOCUST VALLEY def. sounds like a good place to start a horror movie). But, that is a really damn great deal, and now you’ll always have a good story on where you got them from because people will definitely be impressed and ask. Oddly, I kind of like the dresser there with all those shelves of books hovering above it. Maybe if you replaced them with Ikea floating shelves?

    • 10.26.12
      Daniel said:

      It WAS a horror movie! I was honestly surprised we survived when all was said and done.

      Floating shelves really wouldn’t be able to stand up to the weight of all these books! Frankly, I’m just glad the wall hasn’t completely crumbled and crushed us in the night. I think the room would feel much more open if we had a nicely scaled piece of art on that wall and moved the books elsewhere.

  9. 10.26.12
    paige said:

    It is such a treat to read your posts!

    • 10.26.12
      Daniel said:

      Hey thanks, Paige!

  10. 10.26.12
    Furpants said:

    Nice find, and accurate account of the craigslist experience. I usually go by myself and have the “am I about to be murdered?” moment every time.

  11. 10.26.12

    Haha, love this. We had a similar experience picking up the dresser for our nursery.

    Great find…I want to see the twin in Maya’s house now!

  12. 10.26.12
    Alexis said:

    For what it’s worth (nothing?) I still love the shelves. I would argue for taking everything off and putting back approx 50% of books (rest can go in new magic shelves that exist somewhere else?) with nothing on top shelf and nothing past far bracket- I think they would feel considerably less heavy, and still provide banging storage. Dresser = dreamy, obviously.

    • 10.26.12
      Daniel said:

      Thanks, Alexis. I think you’d probably change your mind if you saw them in person, though! The issue is that we have SO MANY BOOKS (obviously…the shelves are full, but there are even more books lurking elsewhere in the apartment!), so we really don’t have the luxury of removing that many of them, and I really don’t want every wall in our apartment being used for book storage (I like art too much!). I think the best solution is to just remove the whole thing, free up this wall for a great piece of art, and move all the books elsewhere. I have a few ideas!

    • 10.26.12
      Furpants said:

      Just an idea, we made the switch to kindle a couple years back and were able to get rid of about half of our books. Of course art and design books still need to be books, but a lot of classic novels are available for free as e-books. And magazines too.

    • 10.26.12
      Daniel said:

      Yeah, but I’d never read them EVER if they weren’t in hard copy. I have an iPad and I can’t stand to read anything on it. I just like books! Max uses a kindle and loves it, but that doesn’t convince him to get rid of physical books…even though I wish it would in some cases, haha.

  13. 10.26.12
    Ana said:

    Will the dresser being that close to the the radiator warp the wood?

    I definitely think it was worth the wait. Anyone who’s bought something off if Craigslist can empathize. I usually have pepper spray in my pocket and text my husband the second before I meet with the person and the second I leave, just in case they’re a serial killer.

    • 10.26.12
      Daniel said:

      I hope not! I didn’t really think about it…we keep the radiators off year-round, so they still get a little hot but not as hot as they would if they were opened up. I think the dresser will be OK…I hope.

    • 10.27.12
      kelly w said:

      how do you stay warm with the radiators off? Not that i need to worry about you, but… it gets COLD in NY!

  14. 10.26.12

    I miss Maya being on my coast and finding all the good stuff. Also, rosewood boner.

    • 10.27.12
      kelly w said:

      Rosewood Boner is SO the name of my next band.

  15. 10.26.12
    Eily said:

    You’ll need bookshelves when you write your book. I love reading your posts – I usually end up reading them out loud to whoever’s around – and I’m looking forward to the book version of your blog someday.

  16. 10.26.12
    Ann said:

    5th floor walkup- me too- I feel your pain.
    That dresser is gorgeous-great find.
    We decided to build our bookcases because we couldn’t find any we liked and could afford.
    We went really high; so it saves more space. We also designed the shelf height to hold everything from big ass art books to fiction without wasting too much space…(nyc living even the bookshelf space is valuable.)

  17. 10.26.12
    Lena said:

    Is there a possibility of having the bookshelves in the hallway? Anyway, I never loved the shelves so I am ok with you doing something else. Not that my opinion should matter anyway;)

    • 10.26.12
      Daniel said:

      We could have books in the hallway, kind of, but it would make things feel pretty crowded, unfortunately. It’s a very narrow space, so it’s nice to be able to keep it as open as possible.

  18. 10.26.12
    Amy said:

    GORGEOUS. Scary story. Tell Max to sell those books and learn to love his library card. Seriously. Do you really need a French dictionary?

    • 10.26.12
      Nancy said:

      I got rid of most of my books too. They were just dust collectors and I can get them at the library if I want to.

      Sweet sweet dresser!

    • 10.26.12
      Daniel said:

      NO, WE DO NOT NEED THAT FUCKING FRENCH DICTIONARY. Haha, that’s my stock go-to example when we fight about how “YOU HAVE TOO MANY BOOKS!!”

      But then I remember that pretty much everything else in the apartment is mine and I try to slowly back off and be quiet.

  19. 10.26.12
    Dianne said:

    Love the dresser and love the storytelling….so funny. Use Bar Keepers Friend on the brass, terrific on brass and other things and cheap to boot.

    • 10.26.12
      Daniel said:

      Thanks, I’ll try it! I always forget BKF exists, but I know how great it is.

  20. 10.26.12
    Keith said:

    I’ve been noticing rooms with artwork hung in front of bookshelves. The best of both! Glad you survived CL. I’ve wanted to list things but I’m afraid of being murdered by the people who show up!!

  21. 10.26.12
    Jenn said:

    So gorgeous. And you just leave it be, mister. It looks fab without brass. Add brass accents atop. Put brass on the floor.

    Dresser is perfecto.

  22. 10.27.12
    Phoebe said:

    Craigslist, indeed! I, too, had a harrowing (although not as crazy as your) experience. I was getting a wooden bar cart from a lady and arranged a time I’d stop by to pick it up. Well, she answered the door like she had no idea who I was, and honestly, she acted like she may or may not have been on drugs. I followed her and her posse of yipping dogs (who she lightly kicked a few times…yeah) into her wood-paneled dimly lit living room to check out the bar cart. I negotiated down a few dollars but for the most part took it and ran.

    I don’t understand why all the good stuff on Craigslist belongs to weirdos. I’m glad you didn’t get abducted or murdered or both.

  23. 10.27.12
    Ang said:

    Wow…Craigslist in NY…that does sound scary!

    Maybe you can temporarily better those shelves by painting the brackets and shelving white so they don’t stand out too much. My husband also has a horrible book collecting problem. I just gave him the whole office and never go in there unless I have to. I’ll deal with the issue when we decide to move.

    Good luck!

  24. 10.27.12
    Katie said:

    I love the dressers- so beautiful! And they make it seem more bedroom-y as well. It’s hard to distinguish what different spaces if you live with roommates because you basically cram all of your personal stuff in your room, but if it’s just you and your S.O. it must be nice to move your work space out of your sleep and relax space.
    Also, I don’t have any problems with the shelving, but I’m sure when you get around to doing something about it, it’ll be great too.

  25. 10.27.12
    Lisette said:

    That dresser is a sexy beast!! Well done, and phew to the max you survived the experience!

  26. 10.27.12
    anne said:

    3 things:

    Awesome find. Totally worth the trip.

    I hear you on the books. My husband is a film professor. We’ve moved 5 times in recent years. WITH THE BOOKS. Most are currently housed in his office on campus, so now we *just* have DVDs and CDs to deal with.

    You are hilarious! I always enjoy reading your blog.

  27. 10.27.12
    Martin said:

    With Halloween around the corner this blog entry could not have come at a better time. I am happy the story didn’t end with you being chased by strangers with a chainsaw!

  28. 10.27.12
    Marta said:

    Hi there,

    Just found your fantastic blog!
    *Love* the dresser and the story behind getting it – the best pieces usually have a great story, don’t they? Looking at the dresser I couldn’t help thinking that, if you’re up to it, might be worthwhile to switch the drawers around a bit so that the wood grain is more continuous (that’s how these gorgeous pieces were usually made – with pieces of wood matched so that the grain looked seamless in all visible places). In particular I’m thinking of the bottom drawers, which look like they should be switched… Just a thought.

    Cheers, and I look forward to visiting you again!

  29. 10.27.12
    Farah said:

    “Ain’t no fucking way, you think. I is smart, I is kind, I is important, and I is not about to walk into this fucking house and be blindsided by a couple of Long Island serial killers. Fuck no. Not tonight. Not for this.”

    I cried.

  30. 10.27.12
    nicolezh said:

    Beautyfull addition to your home!

  31. 10.27.12
    lisa said:

    oh my god. i’m so in love. the lines, the color of the wood, the brassy bits. le sigh.

  32. 10.28.12
    Ricardo said:

    Love the dressers! I’ve scored some awesome finds on Craigslist in the Central Valley in California. Best find so far was a Knoll Platner coffee table for $50! My partner is a Historian and has a ton of books. I was in the same predicament and finally settled on the Elfa system from The Container Store. It’s great, just a few screws on the support bar and the entire systems hangs off that. It’s fully customizable and is holding up really well after two years. Check it out, it can be pricey (for someone on a student budget, like myself) but definitely worth it.

  33. 10.28.12
    Steph M. said:


  34. 10.28.12
    It places the mid-century furniture in the basket said:

    If I can’t carry it myself and meet them outdoors, then its off to scouring Ebay or Etsy. Sure, you’ll pay more but at least you won’t become someone’s cannibal casserole.

    I’m always watching Ebay seller “susmol.” Direct from Denmark and prices are inexpensive compared to others selling the same furniture for triple the price or more.

  35. 10.28.12
    Nicole. said:

    Truth: Every day someone survives a Craigslist encounter is a day to be grateful for.

  36. 10.29.12
    Marie said:

    Oh I love the dresser & can totally relate to the scary couple when buing second hand LOL – but I´m so surprised at the price, or rather should I say surprised the prices at those kind of furniture are so low in sweden, they are not apreciated for their beauty. I think that would go for lik $50 over here!!

    Reg the books, hev you considered them artwork?
    Get som frame-shelfes (at Ikea) and put the ones you like facing front like art?
    Also I always fancy books laying on the floor in high piles, not so cleanable friendly & maybee not so practical, but beautiful.

    Always love reading your blog :) Hugs Marie

  37. 10.29.12
    Christie said:

    Be safe Daniel, Max, Mikko, and Linus!

  38. 10.29.12
    bmac said:

    Hey, speaking of hallway, don’t know how wide yours is but I lived in an older place with a long hallway and put bookshelves that were about hip high along the length of it. this saved me a ton of space in my other rooms and was less of an eyesore because the books were lower. The shelves were a great foil for the art above.

  39. 10.31.12
    Emily said:

    Love the dresser, totally worth the ordeal. The best Craigslist finds always come from the creepiest people. I once found a guy on the national sex offenders registry after making a pick-up (yikes!). It’s always such a pleasure to read your posts!

  40. 10.31.12
    Kirsty said:

    ok, you are fucking hilarious… and the dresser is obscenely right.

  41. 11.2.12
    Madeleine said:

    Well, if all else fails, you can always stick those books in the fireplace.

  42. 11.2.12
    Serenity said:

    Daniel, clearly the dressers were worth the risk – very nice find!

    Related: I’m 98% sure that a pair of those same dressers appear in Dan’s room on Gossip Girl, one on either side of his bed.

  43. 11.5.12
    *karen said:

    Damnit, where is the “like” button for this post? I stumbled across your blog via chronicledblog.com, and am I ever glad I found you.

  44. 11.9.12

    This is super cute! I love the bold fabric choice and the fact that you plumped up the stuffing. I’ve been wanting to make a new one lately with gussets, but even though I can sew, gussets terrify me.

    Dogs are adorable as well! Great project!

  45. 1.18.13
    Kelly said:

    This made me absolutely roll with laughter, thank you!! We just moved in to our first house and have no dresser. and wayyy too many books. I’m glad to know there’s hope, that dresser is fantastic!! :)