Once we knew we had a baby on the way, naturally I started thinking about what the nursery would look like. I didn’t want to jinx anything in the beginning, so even though lots of people knew about it really early, I didn’t buy anything for the baby. I remember mentioning that to my doctor and he laughed saying he wasn’t sure why I thought I had that much power over the world.
The first thing I bought was a dresser. I knew I was going to want to refinish it so I needed to have enough time before I didn’t want to move from being so big. I wanted something large with lots of drawers for storage since the room is small. I wanted it to function as a changing table but be able to grow with the baby as it got older. My hope was to find an old, sturdy, solid, wood dresser that looked terrible and was cheap.
I looked all over and many of the ones I found were vetoed by TB. In business I don’t care when he doesn’t like something but with this I gave him a vote. I finally found one on Craigslist that fit the bill and we went to look at it. It was located at a rather shady shop in a bad part of town which almost felt like we were walking into a bad 1980s movie. Everyone was nice though (I think driving a rusty pickup helped) and shortly after, drove away with the dresser and a large mirror they told me went with it.
This dresser was a solid wood piece but the finish was almost orange and really grimy. The tops of the top drawers had a layer of yuck on them that you can see in the before picture. I swear it looks a lot better in this picture than it did then.
Since I couldn’t strip it while pregnant, I sanded everything down. That of course is my least favorite job and after, I realized that the sander was right by my belly – and the kid’s head! On the bright side he sleeps through lots of noise now. Here is a picture of one of the drawers so you can see the grime and ruined finish.
Once I started sanding I realized that the old finish/grime covered up all of the grain in the wood. Many times furniture is finished to minimize grain but I really love to show that off. I remember running into the house covered in sawdust with a big belly yelling about how pretty the grain was. Don’t worry, I wore a mask since usually the most toxic part of my job is dealing with the old stuff I’m taking off.
And here is the after in Lincoln’s room. It took me so long to take pictures because by the time I got it in the room he was almost here. And then I was kind of busy.
Here is a shot with all the baby stuff set up: the changing pad, the spray bottle for the cloth wipes, the coconut oil (used as tushie cream) and the box with his cloth diapers. And yes that is a wine crate. I worried people would comment on using wine paraphernalia in a babies room but then I decided I didn’t care. It was the perfect size and it wasn’t like there was still liquor in it. I have two of these and will one day make them into some kind of furniture. It used a sheet of cork underneath so it didn’t scratch the top.
The other thing I realized when i was sanding the dresser was it is solid maple. That sounds and is awesome to a point. It’s great that is will take the abuse of a little kid banging on it but maple is a hard wood and can be a lot more work to sand than pine. . It also doesn’t take stain no matter what you do to it. In the pictures above you can see a bit of the dark baseboard trim that I refinished a couple of years ago. That has two coats of stain and is many shades darker than the dresser that received three! The dresser looked so dark until I brought it in next to the baseboards.
By then I didn’t care. This thing weighs a ton and the only place I could work on it got sun at points of the day. If the wood was still warm and I applied stain, it would almost cook and dry in place even if I sprayed it with water first. That meant I couldn’t spread it out or wipe off the excess. That meant that I sanded and stained the top three times. Yes three. I think I ended up applying 7 or 8 coats of stains over the course of the project. Thank God it was real wood and not veneer so I had some wiggle room. Here is the top once it was finished with all the grain I was so happy about.
Here is more grain on the drawers.
I know it’s not for everyone but I really just love the natural beauty of wood. I used Safecoat Durostain in Walnut and Vermont Natural Coatings Polywhey in layers of gloss and satin because I couldn’t decide.
The handles were a point of stress for awhile and still haven’t been worked out. I wanted something more modern to match the rest of the nursery but the holes for the hardware are an old size and hard to find. Since there are so many drawers it could have cost $150 for hardware! My mom and I tried to be inventive because we like to be resourceful. We frustrated all the boys at Home Depot and Lowe’s who thought we were crazy while standing in the plumbing aisle trying to match copper fittings together. We hadn’t found the perfect solution and it was getting too close to a baby so I painted the old hardware with CeCe Caldwell’s Beckley Coal and Vermont Naturals floor finish in satin. It works for now but now that I am writing about this I’m getting enough ideas to drive TB crazy.
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