This isn’t a post about babies sleeping in dresser drawers, but you wouldn’t be faulted for thinking so. It’s still the first joke people make when talking about welcoming a child into a small apartment. No, blame it on spring cleaning and getting the place ready for our impending sublet, but I’ve been on an apartment improvement kick lately.
Dresser drawer improvements might come across as the least important of all changes one could make to a home, but sometimes tiny tweaks to a piece of furniture are indeed exactly what make all the difference. And when embracing antique and vintage furniture instead of buying brand-new, sometimes a few cosmetic upgrades can take something from feeling outdated (or plain yucky) to loveable.
One of my original blogger friends, Barb Blair, has just published her second book, Furniture Makeovers. It’s an ode to giving old furniture new life and as I paged through her lovely volume a month or so ago, I got renewed energy to finally finish a project that I’d begun back when we lived in North Carolina.
James and I bought our little Eastlake-style dressers cheap; just $75 for the pair. It was the most we’d ever spent on furniture and we’d had to sell a different, uglier dresser to make room and scrape together the cash. We printed out Mapquest directions (as you did), and drove fifteen miles outside of town to pick up the dressers from a stranger’s garage.
The dressers were in fine shape if you overlooked the mildew and the cracked drawers. If you squinted, the hardware lined up evenly. If you didn’t care about a desilvering mirror, you could even give yourself a wink and nod and make out your reflection winking back. We didn’t have to convince ourselves though; we loved the dressers immediately. And by some miracle, they matched the headboard we’d rescued from my parents’ attic.
I drove directly to the local Home Depot to find paint and replacements for the awful dresser pulls someone had stuck on in the 80’s. I bought the best, cheapest drawer pulls I could find and fitted them into holes that had been drilled too big and too crooked by who knows who, who knows when. Inside, where the drawers were paint stained and cracked in places, I hastily put down sheets of the least ugly Contact paper I could find. It was cut too short and it wrinkled when I put it down. I didn’t bother trying to smooth it out.
Before Faye was born, I painted the dressers again—a dramatic change I’d been hankering for—but my other slapdash improvements remained until a few weeks ago.
In the back of Barb’s book, a tutorial for lining dresser drawers with wallpaper caught my eye. And while I wasn’t ready for anything so dramatic as the kind of work that Barb specializes in, I immediately thought of the crinkled contact paper in the bottoms of my dresser drawers. Maybe it was finally time to let it go.
After debating about a suitable pattern on which to lay my clean undies and folded t-shirts, I decided on a subtle lattice print paper from Farrow & Ball for the drawers. I measured and cut the wallpaper using Barb’s technique of cutting the sheet to the width of the outside edge of each drawer. I borrowed my mom’s copper ruler with a square edge and did my best to be patient and cut straight lines with my utility knife. Mostly I was successful. At any rate, the improvement from wrinkled Contact paper was impressive.
And it’s true what Barb says: details matter.
While I was at it, I decided to finish the drawers by finally replacing the hardware. I chose drawer handles and pulls from Schoolhouse Electric that complement the antique dressers without needing to be antique themselves. They’re smaller and simpler than the hardware I’d found when we first bought the dressers and I like that the pared-down aesthetic lends a little modern edge to the more folksy furniture.
The finished project isn’t so dramatic to be life-altering, but it’s the exact change that’s made the dressers feel even more like us. Slow and steady wins again.
What about you guys? Little improvements with big impacts in your spaces lately? Spring cleaning?
Disclosure: When I embarked on this project several weeks ago, I reached out to Farrow & Ball about their eco-friendly wallpapers. They generously sent a roll of their painted lattice wallpaper for me to use. The modern hardware for this project were provided by Schoolhouse Electric. I used Greenwood Pulls and Riverwood Knobs in matte bronze. The hardware is made in the US from 95% recycled brass. (The old hardware’s life continues on at my mom and dad’s. One woman’s trash…)