Dresser Restoration

Sometimes, I can’t explain why I do the things I do and why I choose a particular moment to do them in, particularly when drugs or alcohol are not contributing factors. Why did I put in that late-night ASOS order last week? Beats me. Why do I NEED to reorganize my kitchen cabinets at 2 in the morning? Can’t say. Why did I up and decide to restore a whole dresser on a Saturday afternoon while Max’s lovely mother was staying at our apartment? No reason that I can think of.

But I did, and I’m lucky that when Max and his mom got home from an exhausting day of non-stop exciting action to find me covered in grime with dresser drawers strewn about the apartment and the air reeking of furniture wax, they took the whole thing in stride. Those close to me have mostly developed a certain tolerance for this sort of thing by now. “Oh, there he goes again,” they say, rolling their eyes. “I guess we’ll just come back in a few hours when he comes down.”


So Max and I bought this dresser a few months ago, and I’ve just been too busy with school and work and procrastinating to devote any time to fixing it up. I mean, it’s a nice dresser—totally looks pretty nice and there’s nothing functionally wrong with it, so it wasn’t exactly first on my list of priorities. All I really did was wipe out the drawers before we started loading clothes into it, and Max threw a bunch of art books on top before I even had a chance to clean it off.

It’s hard to tell from the pictures, but it had a bunch of little nicks and scratches and bumps and bruises and chipped veneer and little bits of paint and cigarette burns and rings on the top. We did buy it for cheaps from a dead person’s house in Long Island, so.

Also, every time I did wipe it with any cleaning product, the towel would turn a shade of dark brown, which was a bit disconcerting. I love some nice rosewood, for sure, but decades of smoke and tinted furniture polish and wax and crap probably weren’t doing the wood a lot of favors at this point.


Here was the restoration supply kit, which is a little modified from how Morgan originally taught me at The Brick House, but using the same basic principles. Since there wasn’t any existing finish on it like varnish or polyurethane, I didn’t want to touch it with sandpaper, since it’s easy to get carried away and remove more than necessary. Since the drawer-fronts are veneer, that’s definitely something to think about. Instead, I opted for some fine steel wool and soapy water, which did double-duty of scrubbing the shit out of this thing and smoothing out some problem areas where the solid wood had noticeably chipped or scuffed.


That top image is the top of the dresser before, which kind of shows the surface damage and general sadness going on with this dresser. I started by unscrewing all the hardware, which I’ll get to shortly.

Then all I did was fill a bowl with a few tablespoons of Murphy’s Oil Soap and some hot water and went to work with the steel wool. This thing required a LOT of scrubbing to liberate the wood from so many years of general grime and horror, so I just kept dumping out and refilling my bowl so that I wasn’t totally just moving gross water around. It’s important to only scrub the wood WITH the grain (duhz), and I followed up with a few rags after scrubbing so that water wouldn’t sit on the surfaces long enough to penetrate and ruin anything. As all the old crap came off of the wood, it got noticeably lighter and the beautiful grain really started to show through, which was all very exciting. So I just rubbed my wood until it felt nice and soft and it didn’t seem like any more weird stuff was coming out of it. That came out all wrong.

(by the way, I’m basically making this up, but it worked for me so I guess it’s a good method totally worth emulating and basing your furniture restoration and entire life around)

Fast-forward a few hours, and my arm felt like it was going to fall off, a symptom that should persist no more than a few days. If it does, call your doctor.

Before I moved forward with messing around with my wood any more, I wanted to give my hand, wrist, and forearm a break. Damn it!


This is the part where this post might get controversial because I showed no mercy on the old brass hardware. This is a personal decision I made in a fit of “OMG SHINYYY!!!!!” but in retrospect it might have been better to use a less intense product and keep some of the patina on the brass. Brasso probably would have done the trick nicely, but I went all-out and scrubbed these things with Barkeeper’s Friend (also known as EVERYBODY’S GODSEND) and the rough side of a sponge until all the tarnish was gone and the brass glimmered like melted sunshine. I used an old toothbrush on the tricky inside-bits.

Yeah, I like my furniture to look its age and whatever, but brasssssssy. I couldn’t stop. I just couldn’t.

Diverting attention away from the wood to the hardware also gave the wood a chance to dry out, which is what you want before applying any type of finishing product. Trapping water in wood is not a good plan FYI.


So I went back to the dresser and the whole thing looked more or less like this. If you’re doing this sort of thing, this is the part where you might be tempted to panic because your wood will be so dry and hazy and sad looking that it seems like nothing will ever save it and you’ve ruined vintage rosewood and you should be put to death immediately. You are a very dramatic person and possibly need medication to get a handle on your feelings.

This is where the Danish Oil comes in. After using Danish oil, Teak oil, Tung oil, and Restore-a-Finish in the past, my favorites are definitely Danish and Teak. Tung tends to darken wood a bit (I think), and I don’t really trust Restore-a-Finish for a project like this because all you really want is the natural color of the wood to come out. There’s a time and a place for Restore-a-Finish, I’m sure, but it’s not when you’re dealing with rosewood or teak because it’s pigmented and that freaks me out.

After the oil (leave on about 15-20 minutes, wipe off excess, repeat if necessary), I finished off the whole thing with Howard’s Feed-N-Wax. This stuff is magic and smells terrific. Then I just screwed the hardware back on and…




What’s your name? Can I get your number?

So I was kind of lukewarm on this dresser before because the drawers are kind of annoyingly shallow and it isn’t the most functional thing on four legs, but now I love it? I can never get rid of it?



A couple people have pointed out that this dresser sits verrrrry close to the old radiator, which is not generally a good idea. However, it’s probably an OK idea if your landlords are cheap and turn the boiler on about twice every winter, and your boyfriend keeps all the radiators turned off (and a window open, and a fan on) year-round anyway. You are also probably cold all the time and worry for the life of your plants.

At the very least, I’d like to paint this radiator white like the other one, but I also have fantasies of just removing the whole thing and capping the pipe. This project sounds difficult and scary and heavy, but it would open up an alternate room layout that I’ll admit to finding very exciting and enticing. I should be restrained is what I’m saying.


I’m out of things to say about this 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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Leave a Comment


  1. 12.19.12

    ok so every comment i leave on here is like OMG THAT IS AMAZING. whatever. that is amazing.

  2. 12.19.12
    Paul D. said:

    My god, that is beautiful. Hooray for elbow grease.

  3. 12.19.12
    Jill said:

    Wow. She’s real pretty. Or he? What is your furniture’s gender identity?!

    • 12.19.12
      Daniel said:


    • 12.21.12
      Jill said:


  4. 12.19.12


  5. 12.19.12
    chris said:

    I keep scrolling from top to bottom is all.

  6. 12.19.12
    Rebecca said:

    Oh my. That is beautiful. Marry me.

  7. 12.19.12
    Sarah said:

    And you put the drawers back on in the right order! So lovely to be able to see the grain.

    I’m inspired to clean up a hand-me-down coffee table that totally does that “rag turns brown” thing. Ick.

    • 12.19.12
      Daniel said:

      I did put the drawers back right! Unfortunately the bottom drawer on the left side is still mis-matched, but I can live with it (it got switched with the matching dresser).

  8. 12.19.12
    Kati said:

    Beautiful job, as ever. Just as point of note, Restore-a-finish is really best on things that have previously been stained. It’s basically stain and mineral spirits mixed together, and is literally (actually) meant to refresh the stain job without needing to strip and re-seal it. Your dresser looks like it was natural all along, and it really looks dreamy.

    • 12.19.12
      Daniel said:

      Thanks, Kati! Yeah, that’s what I figured Restore-a-Finish was for…I’ve heard great things about it for stuff like that!

  9. 12.19.12
    Jill G said:

    Thought when I saw it finished: “OH MY GOD IT’S BEAUTIFUL”

  10. 12.19.12
    el said:

    wow, that dresser looks so new! and I wouldn’t worry about that brass patina – it’ll come back!

    now, if you know a way to strip 20 years of tobacco smoke off a marble mantel (previous renter), I would love to know that secret…

    • 12.19.12
      Daniel said:

      Ha, I’d probably do something dumb like scrub it with toothpaste, cry, give up, forget about it, then buy marble cleaner 6 months later and try to use it in combo with magic erasers?

  11. 12.19.12
    Phoebe said:

    Your writing always cracks me up. That dresser is ridiculously awesome now.

  12. 12.19.12

    I, for one, simply don’t believe it.. you must have bought a very similarly shaped but MUCH more attractive version of your dresser.. because that IS NOT THE SAME PIECE OF FURNITURE.

    Completely amazing.

    And I actually prefer the super brassiness your brought out in your hardware. Love timez a million!

  13. 12.19.12
    Sarah S said:

    I came here to say “OMG. That is beautiful” and I see that I’m not the first!

  14. 12.19.12
    nicolezh said:

    wow- I want that beautyfull dresser and your energy!

  15. 12.19.12

    You make it seem so easy! Looks great (as always).

  16. 12.19.12
    Lauren said:


  17. 12.19.12
    miss.fab said:

    I mean your projects are amazing, but your commentary is absolutely hilarious! Seriously.

  18. 12.19.12
    Simone said:

    Awesome, also good to know that I’m not the only one who feels the need to fix/ restore/ paint/ rearrange things after 10 hour days at work and the week before xmas all at ungodly hours! Its way more fun in a sleep deprived crazed way!

  19. 12.19.12
    Ros said:

    … Ok, that was the motivation I need to clean/oil/wax the mid-century dresser I got at the flea market.

  20. 12.19.12
    Florian said:

    Hooray for wood rubbing and brass polishing!

    I totally love the shiny brass on the wood. I thought the dresser was sort of okay before, but now I scroll up and just go EEEWWWWW! You put your clothes in that thing? Please just tell me the books didn’t get hurt by the grime!

    • 12.19.12
      Daniel said:

      No, books were fine! It never seemed particularly grimy or anything…just a lot of wax/polish build-up, I guess. Glad it’s gone now, in any case!

  21. 12.19.12
    louize said:

    Fantastic work, that dresser looks great, and has me wondering whether I might try and follow your steps and restore the 1950s cabinet I picked up a couple of weeks ago, rather than painting it – at the minute it is doing the black water thing on me and is really disgusting me!

    • 12.19.12
      Daniel said:

      Yeah, nice wood is pretty easy to revive. I’d say try it! Worst case scenario, you spend a couple hours trying to restore and if you’re still not happy with it, then you paint it! Unless you just don’t want wood at all.

  22. 12.19.12

    This makes me want to cry happy tears! It is so gorgeous, and you are a scream.

    ps – I did a post on how much I love Howard Restore-A-Finish and Feed-N-Wax and the OWNER sent me an entire box full of products, just because they saw the post on my lil old blog. What?! I still have tons of mini Feed-N-Waxes to give away as stocking stuffers. Yeah!

    • 12.19.12
      Daniel said:

      Woah, that’s awesome!

  23. 12.19.12

    You are right. You can NEVER get rid of that dresser. OMG gorgeous.

  24. 12.19.12
    frances said:

    another amazing restoration…..you have the magic touch! do your parents have any idea how you turned out so darn talented?

    • 12.20.12
      Mom said:

      I could say some smart aleck response like good genes. But, in truth, that would be way underselling the Daniel that you all have had the privilege to get to know and love. Daniel is never afraid of trying and failing. Maybe that’s because he rarely fails but I think it is just his willingness to always try. Also, he is a really, really hard worker. He’s not done with a task until it is done to his level of expected perfection. Where I might look at a task as to overwhelmingly hard to try, Daniel will just roll up his sleeves and do it to completion. Now we just wish he’d come back home for awhile to finish some uncompleted tasks…

    • 12.23.12
      kelly w said:

      I love this comment. I admire people who aren’t afraid to try and fail. Respect to you, Mom, for raising a good kid (you clearly provided a great upbringing) and to you, Daniel, for your confidence and spirit!

  25. 12.19.12
    kate o. said:

    You’ve fully convinced me. I MUST do this asap to my son’s dresser. It is a shame I have left it in it’s dull and somewhat grimy state for so long. Now to bring back that danish beauty.

  26. 12.19.12
    Nancy said:

    Wow! Beautiful!

    We need a pic of the after top, to compare to the before. :)

    • 12.19.12
      Daniel said:

      There, added one just for you! I took a few but the pictures weren’t the best…but if you insist. (it looks better in real life)

    • 12.20.12
      Nancy said:

      Mmmm, lovely! Thanks hon.

      I’m going to bookmark this for when I find something that needs to be restored.

  27. 12.19.12

    I’ve never commented on here before but felt compelled to. You always find THE BEST vintage furniture and do such an amazing job restoring them. Thanks for being an inspiration!

  28. 12.19.12
    Lara said:

    It looks absolutely amazing! The shiny brass looks GOOD and i figure it was probably shiny when it was new–it will darken over time all over again.

  29. 12.19.12
    sRa said:

    this is why i love thrift/junk finds, cuz the transformation is so fun and like OMG I’M A SUPERHERO LOOK HOW AWESOME I MADE THIS!

    great job!

  30. 12.19.12
    beks said:

    please start video taping your DIYs, I want to make lamps with you!

    • 12.20.12
      Rachel said:

      A video about how you enhance you lamps would be sooo helpful!

    • 4.6.13
      Vrrusa said:

      I am thirding that request! I have over a dozen old lamps. One even has agate in the base with a light that shines thru it & a weird super bulb of some kind on top. Each has a weird feature ie, 4 pendents that need to be hooked up in series, or a metal finish desk lamp, (including a gooseneck, that needs to be cleaned up/derusted), the aforementioned agate based, a 3 ft tall statue of liberty kind of cut glass & copper dream, oh God the list just goes on & on. I have no idea what I am doing and, after all, it IS electricity so the results of stupidity could be anything from a minor zap to major property loss. I want to charge ahead but other than a UL knot all of the bits & pieces just overwhelm me…. help!

    • 4.6.13
      Vrrusa said:

      OH! AND the dresser is amazing! I have had the same kind of success with just cleaning & oiling wood. I hate seeing beautiful wood that just needs a good scrub up painted over.

  31. 12.19.12
    Jo said:

    I am so glad your wood turned out so nicely. Er.

    The Murphy’s Oil Soap/Scrubbing technique is underutilized. There’s a gorgeous dining room table I happen to know, love, and eat on every day that was refinished pretty much this same way (tiger oak? Who knew?), without scary chemicals and horrifying side effects.

    Booyah on the brass handles, by the way. I like the way they shine against the rosewood.

    The cut of your jib, in other words, pleases me.

  32. 12.19.12
    Joy said:

    Another hilarious post documenting a beautiful transformation–thanks again!

  33. 12.19.12
    Rebecca said:

    You’ve just been elevated from hero to demigod in the furniture restoration Valhalla.

  34. 12.19.12
    Lisa said:

    Longtime reader, but I’ve never commented before and that. is. so. wrong. Beeeeeaaaaaautiful makeover job there — makes me wish I could fit more Craigslist/thrifted furniture in my apartment just to give this process a shot. Also, just so you know, your posts make my life a happier place.

  35. 12.20.12
    Leo said:

    Stunning. There’s no way I wouldn’t have polished that brass up all shiny like. And that bottom-left drawer is still pissing me off, but whatever.

    Have you ever considered just switching out the internal drawers/ runners? Like (depending on their widths) take some 30″(24″?) RATIONELL drawers/ deep drawers + dampers and slap ’em on those lovely fronts? You know, get all fancy with wood blocks on the inside to mount them?

    Just a thought.

    • 12.20.12
      Leo said:

      Forgot to say that you could use 12″ depth drawers instead of the standard 24″ if you had to. (not vertical depth, but, you know, horizontal depth back into the dresser)

      Sorry if I’m being overly confusing.

    • 12.20.12
      Daniel said:

      Oh, man…I think that just sounds way too complicated and risky. If the drawers were THAT much of a problem, I’d opt to just get a new dresser and sell this one. We can live with it…I think we just need to figure out the best things to put in each drawer (like the top one would be great for papers and flat objects, but of course we’ve tried to stuff them full of socks).

  36. 12.20.12
    Sandy said:

    Fantastic!!! You go Daniel! BTW – I say it’s a she … Just look at those long lean sexxxyyy legs!!

  37. 12.20.12
    Leena said:

    Gaa, look at the colour of the toothbrush!
    Wonderful work, it looks amazing now. I’m glad you worked on it even when having guests.

  38. 12.20.12
    Lisette said:

    Va va va voom! Now THAT is one helluva SEXY dresser! LoOove the brassy hardware! You rule and can come visit anytime to help me with my furniture, DIY projects, etc.

  39. 12.20.12
    Bea said:

    That has come up well. I’ve got a beautiful coffee table I got off Ebay last year which has more water rings than you can imagine, but I’m terrified of messing it all up. It will be my first restoration project. Tell me it’ll be ok!

  40. 12.20.12
    Sarah said:

    Now do the same thing to my body and soul. Please?

  41. 12.20.12
    jbhat said:

    Ew, I am shuddering over all the dirt and grime that came off of it in the dirty water bowl(s). Gross. But ze really is a beauty now. I too am so impressed….with the end job, yes, but mostly with your enthusiasm and just-do-it attitude, and of course, your funny write-up.


    • 12.20.12
      Daniel said:

      Yes, it looks gross, but it wasn’t really DIRT, just lots and lots of old polish and wax and stuff! I guess those products are fine in moderation, but years and years of build-up and you end up with that!

      And thank you :)

  42. 12.20.12
    Rachel said:

    Were the handles painted, or were they actually that dirty?

    • 12.20.12
      Daniel said:

      They were just very tarnished! Same way that silver blackens over time.

  43. 12.20.12
    Linda said:

    Great work! It’s amazing how great wood looks with a little bit of love. :)

    I have a sideboard that has four really shallow drawers which I at first had no idea how to utilise (I guess that had fancy cutlery in it back in the days). But then I realized that I could take out the bottom of two of the drawers and VOILA have two drawers of a much better size. Because I didn’t want to do anything to permanent I just cut pieces of wood and put them on the (in)sides of the drawers. That way when I pull one of the tiny drawers, two opens. It’s perfect and enabled me to keep my CD collection. I will need to get rid of them eventually though! I know!

    • 12.20.12
      Daniel said:

      That’s a good idea! I wonder if something similar could work here…I don’t really want to alter it too much, but the top drawer especially is just super shallow and really only good for jewelry or something, I guess…which isn’t really helpful for us! Hmmmm.

  44. 12.20.12
    Amy said:

    Wow, this is so so so pretty! It’s beautiful.

  45. 12.20.12
    Erica W. said:

    That looks great! I second the Danish oil, but I like Tung, too, and Linseed Oil is also good and cheaper (and I like the smell of it). Am also a big Feed N Wax fan. FYI — you can boil dirty brass in water with a tablespoon of salt and baking soda and it will get a lot of the junk off pre-Brasso/Barkeeper’s Friend. And if you get Brass Lacquer, you spray it on and then don’t have to go through all that cleaning for a very long time. The dresser looks great! (oh, I also leave things on and next to my steam radiators and nothing ever seems to get damaged).

  46. 12.20.12
    Sarah said:

    So what would you do if you had an old, teak, 9 drawer (3 by 3) dresser, and one drawer was missing? Just theoretically? One drawer got smashed and then lost on the highway in transit. So yeah it looks like a missing tooth but less cute, and I don’t know what to do… Any one with easy ideas? Right now it is the top middle drawer.

    • 12.20.12
      Daniel said:

      Oh, that’s too bad!! I guess it just depends on what you want to spend…I think the best option would be to take one of the other drawers to a cabinet maker and have them try to replicate it with a teak veneer front?

    • 12.20.12
      Jen B said:

      Sarah, I have a 27 drawer industrial metal cabinet (9×9) that I picked off the curb w/ a missing drawer. My thought was to just to have the missing drawer/hole in the middle w/ a metal plate/cover screwed over top & not worry about a functioning drawer. When I asked my FIL to assist me w/ a cover, he fabricated a drawer for me! I placed it right in the middle of the cabinet & painted it a different color from the rest to accentuate it’s uniqueness. It is a great story to tell & warms my heart when I think of my FIL’s craftsmanship & thoughtfulness. So, if your drawers are identical in size, perhaps this scenario will generate ideas…?

    • 12.20.12
      Jen B said:

      PS- Daniel, the dresser is just lovely!…I keep scrolling back & forth between before/ after.

    • 12.24.12
      Sarah said:

      Thanks Daniel and Jen! I think it would be hard to match, so I like the idea of something different — a door+shelves for the middle, or, yeah, a functional but different looking door. Right now my cat thinks it is a good way to sleep in my sweaters.

  47. 12.20.12
    Sterling said:

    I bought a teak desk at a thrift store a few months ago, and I’ve been cleaning it in pieces as a procrastination strategy, but it’s nowhere near as pretty as your dresser. I’m super jealous, my clothes are still trapped in a Malm 6-drawer that mostly fell apart in my last move. Apparently the glue Ikea used to attach the veneers isn’t rated for full Florida sun + humidity. Who knew?

  48. 12.20.12
    Carolyn said:

    Gorgeous! You are a magic man and dressers are your..magical-turning-things.

    Fantastic job, hard to believe it’s the same dresser.

  49. 12.21.12
    Kirk said:

    Beautiful! I’m just curious how you knew that the handles were solid brass as opposed to just brass plated. I bought a similar dresser over the summer and scoured the shit out of one of the handles before I realized it was plated. Is there an easy way? I tried the magnetism trick before I did it, but that obviously isn’t fail safe.

  50. 12.21.12
    Dianne said:

    Love it! Classic is a word that comes to mind.

  51. 12.22.12
    Marta said:

    Great job – the dresser looks fantastic! May not be the most functional thing (as you say), but it’s sure easy on the eyes! Love how you matched up the grain, too :)

  52. 12.27.12
    Walker said:

    Really beautiful home. Picture speaks thousand a words.

  53. 12.29.12

    I have a few really nice old pieces of furniture that a previous owner left in the house when we moved in – I have been meaning to do them up for ages. The transformation of your furniture looks awesome, so I will make it my 2013 new year resolution to check back and follow your instructions of how to do it.

  54. 1.4.13
    Theora said:

    Wow, what a nice job! You get lots of kudos for rehabilitating the dresser so well. When I worked for my uncle’s antique shop, we used a 1:1 mixture of boiled linseed oil & turpentine to restore wood finishes. Use it like a cleaner. It dissolves old gunk, and leaves a soft finish. The rule was to apply it ‘once a day for a week, once a week for a month, once a month for a year, and once a year forever.’ You have to use the turpentine or it won’t dry properly.

    • 4.6.13
      Vrrusa said:

      I use this mix too! (with plenty of ventilation!) and 0000 steel wool. cleans tuff up great! I also apply paste wax with ought 4 steel wool. Keep the build-up down & leaves a wonderful clean finish, even on veneer! Made a great finish for my wood garage door too. slathered it on with a mop & it looks so good. The “once a week, etc…” is also the formula for oiling butcher block counters with mineral oil.

    • 4.6.13
      Vrrusa said:

      Oh and make sure you ALWAYS get BOILED linseed oil. Natural linseed oil NEVER dries (read: gunky old oil paintings) & the rags are HIGHLY flammable & tend toward spontaneous combustion. ALWAYS exciting so follow the directions on the can.

  55. 1.7.13
    Angie said:


  56. 1.9.13

    I am so impressed and inspired. I need to do this to a dresser that belonged to my great grandmother. I wish that I could pin it.

  57. 1.9.13
    Stejeanne said:

    Love the finished dresser and love your post. Love it nearly as much as my cat, Boo. This project is on my 2013 list (found you today via Apt Therapy) and you are bookmarked forever (or as long as you are on the web). Molte grazie!

  58. 1.9.13
    Alexandra said:

    I love this dresser and I want to have his babies. Also, I love your mom!

    This is the first post I read here, but this blog is going into my feed reader RIGHT NOW. I love me some satisfyingly dramatic furniture restoration. :)

  59. 1.9.13
    Laurel said:

    Totes gorg! Just found your blog via Apartment Therapy and I must say, I am impressed! Great great great job.

  60. 1.9.13
    Judy said:

    I LOL’d reading your post! I love the sleek look of this dresser and although the sizes of the drawers might not be as functional for storage, it gives it a nice different look. And the handles look AMAZING! Even though it was meant to be a darker color, I think your restoration made it look so much more elegant. Great job!!


  61. 1.9.13
    Jackie said:

    This is a great job. I am curious about what you did for the nicks and scratches?

  62. 1.9.13
    Jackie said:

    Oops, sorry. Just re-read and saw your note on the steel wool to smooth out some of the areas.

  63. 1.9.13
    Ann said:

    Wow. This is a gorgeous job. I would have NEVER scrubbed anything with steel wool, though I LOVE Murphy’s — but now I’m looking around my house at some old pieces. You should consider that this “dresser” might be a dining room sideboard (I have a friend with some Danish pieces very similar to this) — perfect drawers for things like napkins, tablecloths, serving flatware, and other party flatware, taper candles, etc. That may be why the drawers are so shallow. If you have a dining room, my advice is to get another (real) dresser with nice drawers, do your magic on that, and put this piece in the dining room for a sideboard, like it’s probably supposed to be anyway!;-) Wonderful work, and I’m INSPIRED!!!

    • 1.9.13
      Daniel said:

      Yep, you’re right, it definitely might be better suited as a sideboard. It works as a dresser though! We don’t have a dining room, our whole apartment is only about 500 square feet! :)

  64. 1.9.13
    Amy said:

    Thank you, thank you for not painting it and really honoring the piece. As everyone has mentioned, it looks beautiful.

  65. 1.10.13
    Al said:

    Gorgeous! I am chartreuse with envy. You were wise to go with your gut on those brass handles. They really add to the natural rosewood.

  66. 1.11.13
    leanne said:

    fabulous dresser – the grain is just gorgeous and it looks like it would feel very soft and silky too – I love your post, you are very funny!

  67. 1.11.13
    AC said:

    Can I come over and hold it close? Just for a little while? With Sam Cooke playing softly in the background?

  68. 1.14.13
    Wendy said:

    I discovered you over at Apartment Therapy, and I love your blog! BTW, I live in Buffalo now, after 20+ years of living in NYC. My husband loves the photos you post ”“ as a born and raised NYer, he misses NYC like crazy, but thinks its funny that he now recognizes places and buildings in your Buffalo photos!

  69. 1.15.13
    Doris said:

    I have this exact dresser only it has three sections of drawers, called a “triple dresser”. I bought it in 1965 in Oklahoma City. This piece is solid wood and very heavy and I have always guarded its condition. The only thing I have done is protect the wood with Liquid Gold which is a cleaner and preservative. You probably don’t realize the value of what you have. Check out the tongue and groove corners of the drawers and compare the workmanship to other pieces. The way the grain matches in the sections is actually real and not a print. Enjoy your dresser…it is priceless.

  70. 1.15.13

    Hey Daniel! That’s a beautiful piece. Can’t believe how dirty it was. Thanks for the tutorial. I have my eye on an old desk at my mom’s place. It needs to be cleaned up an refinished. I like building furniture, but have never really done a rehab on one. Love this one. Thanks.

  71. 1.15.13
    Andrea said:

    I just saw the before picture on “Apartment Therapy” after coming home with a nice teak piece I found on kijiji. Before I saw the after picture, I thought, “Oh no, it’s going to be painted turquoise or something.” Then I saw the after pic and fell in love!! It looks amazing and I love the shiny shiny hardware too!! Very inspiring. Can’t wait to oil my teak!

  72. 1.17.13

    Wow….so yeah…I’m speechless. Ummm….i think the hadrware looks amazing even if it’s stripped like that. This makes me want to buy stuff and refurbish it. Like seriously i wouldn’t have imagined that dress would look that good.

  73. 2.1.13

    This is so hopeful, thank you!

  74. 2.22.13
    Elissa said:

    Ummm, I just discovered your blog while looking for oil-based paint color examples…. Random, I know. But I just had to say this is GORGEOUS. Seriously I just keep staring!

  75. 4.28.13

    This is sooo awesome. I just bought a similar dresser but some of the corners are chipped and broken. I’m not sure yet if it’s fixable or if I have to paint it :(

  76. 5.6.13
    Holly said:

    Not only is this restoration fabulous, but I love all the drama. who knew refinishing a vintage bureau was like a dishy soap?

  77. 5.11.13
    Diane said:

    If I had seen this dresser first, I would have arm wrestled you for it, you would have lost and I wouldn’t have known how to make it come to life. You win every time. Beautiful. Gonna use this method to clean up some stuff too.

  78. 8.2.13
    adam said:

    To me the before photos look like rosewood, but the after look like walnut… I just got a vintage rosewood credenza and looking to clean, but don’t want to lose the slight dark red hue your dresser had

  79. 9.24.13
    Debora said:

    Hi Daniel,
    Not sure if you are still monitoring this site but I would love some encouragement from you. Basically I would like you to tell me that yes, this IS easy and possible. Okay so i have (had) a beautifully stained, shiney rosewood dining table I purchased in Hong Kong. Kinda reddished brown. Somebody cleaned it with something that took off the shinny finish and left water marks. So yesterday I attempted to follow the steps that on another website (which I think is for this piece of furniture that you finished here. Anyway- I cleaned it (top only) with murphy’s oil soap, let it dry- maybe not long enough and applied 2 coats of teak oil. I did one coat, gently wiped off excess and reapplied. I was going to apply the feed n wax this morning but the table looks like crap. Should I start over and sand it a little or leave it for a professional. Yesterday it was fun. Woun’t be so much if I do it again with the same results.
    What do you think?
    Thank you! Debora

    • 10.2.13
      Daniel said:

      Hi Debora! I’m so sorry to hear about your table! I’ve used the method in the above post for all kinds of pieces of wood furniture and I’ve never had a problem. If your table already has a layer of polyurethane or varnish on it, that might be the culprit——the oil will only penetrate into untreated wood or wood that’s previously been treated with oils and won’t go over poly (which is essentially a thin plastic coating over wood). I’m not sure what you mean by it looking like “crap”——if you want to email me a photo I’d be happy to look at it, or if you can provide more detail about what it looks like that might help?

      I’m *guessing* that your table may need to be sanded to remove an old finish, but I really don’t know! That’s something you can do yourself, if you’re so inclined. Be careful, though——the rosewood is probably a veneer, which is thin and you don’t want to sand through it. Woods and wood veneers are, overall, very resilient——I really doubt that your table is ruined forever.