Empire Chest Makeover

Have you ever seen a dresser or other piece of furniture that spoke to you the minute you saw it? I have been lucky enough to have several of these beautiful pieces. This Empire chest is circa 1811 - 1830 was one of those pieces for me. It was in great shape for it's age and brought into my shop by a vendor.

This beauty had cracks in the varnish and blemishes in certain areas. It just needed a face lift. A client of mine purchased it and asked, "What would you do if it were yours?" Well, I was waiting for someone to ask! I said I would rehab the drawers and paint only the top and side panels and possibly the parts between the drawers. She voted YES! She also wanted to paint it black so that was a giant win. I was afraid she would ask for white which would have been nearly impossible due to the age of the piece. With black I would not need to worry about bleed through.

Initially, I was going to use the Wise Owl magic bullet for the drawer rehab...Furniture Salve! I put some on the side where I wasn't going to paint and decided that it was magic but the dresser would look 100% better if I stripped the drawers. So I set out to do that. First I got out the stripper.

This is the best stuff and I get it online as they don't sell it locally. If you want the next best thing, you can grab Citristrip at your local Lowes or Home Depot. I applied and allowed it to sit for a bit.

After about 30 minutes I wiped it off with cleaning wet wipes. Note...wear gloves! Your hands will look horrible with this old varnish all over them not to mention that it's safer. After wiping I used a cleaner from the Dollar Tree called Awesome. Krud Kutter is also good. Boy, the junk that still came off...Ewwwwww! To get the remaining varnish off, I broke out the rubbing alcohol and a toothbrush. I scrubbed until I liked the look and let the drawers dry.

My next step was Wise Owl Furniture Salve. This stuff is magic! Look at the before and after salve pic.

Now for the body of the dresser. I order to keep the old feel to the dresser I only wanted to paint parts so, the damaged top, the interior side panels and the front, oh and the knobs. Two coats of Wise Owl Black sanding in between coats and applying Wise Owl Varnish in Satin and voila! She is complete.


All products used can be purchased on this website!

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