Restoring a Craigslist Find

Refinishing vintage furniture from Craigslist San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles

Not yet convinced from our previous posts about the treasures to be found on Craigslist? Perhaps this post will sway you. 


One of our fantastic clients found this unique dresser with undulating drawer fronts and a whimsical Rococo style mirror on Craigslist, setting her back $180 in total - bravo!  She used Craigslist's "email alert" functionality to receive email notifications with new listings of dressers that fit her search criteria. After a few weeks of religiously checking the search result emails, this dresser and mirror appeared in her inbox.

Refinishing vintage furniture from Craigslist San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles
Refinishing vintage furniture from Craigslist San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles

The wood dresser, originally a thrift shop find, had experienced a lot of damage to its originally veneered drawers and top. The previous owner decided to undertake a DIY revitalization project, brush painting the dresser with a white latex paint. We applaud those who have the determination and vision to revitalize a piece on their own but, as demonstrated with this piece, not all of us possess the skills to properly restore pieces that show their age. Not sure what to do about the chipped veneer, this DIYer opted to simply paint over the flaws. While her refinishing skills may be questionable, the incredible lines of these pieces are undeniable.


Revitalization Checklist

  • Strip and sand dresser to removed all latex paint

  • Repair cracked and separated veneer on drawer fronts

  • Structural integrity: incredibly solid, well-built piece

  • For the mirror - light sanding to remove dried paint drips

Though the dresser was structurally sound, there were cosmetic issues that needed to be addressed. The veneer on the drawer fronts was cracked and separating. While it is possible to strip a previously painted piece and replace the veneer, that was not the look our client wanted nor the amount she wanted to invest in revitalizing this piece.

Lacquering vintage furniture San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles
Expert furniture refinishing San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles
what to do with damaged veneer on vintage furniture

Design Decisions

These pieces would adorn our client’s young daughter’s room, sitting between a pair of antique heirloom beds. She wanted to create a soft but modern, feminine look with these pieces. For the mirror we selected a beautiful peony pink color to pick up a similar color in the client’s gorgeous heirloom Chinoiserie lamp that would sit atop the dresser. The crisp white color of the dresser gave it a fresh, modern appearance -- a semi-gloss white lacquer was the perfect choice. One of the benefits of lacquering a piece is that blemishes (such as the unevenness resulting from the cracked veneer) can be patched with a putty-like material, sanded down and lacquered over to be unnoticeable.

To give the top drawers a cleaner feel, we had the existing two holes for the drawer pulls puttied over and a new single hole added in the center of each top drawer. We swapped out the old matte chrome hardware for brilliant marquise-cut pink glass drawer pulls from Anthropologie (great hardware for furniture!)

Lacquering a vintage dresser San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles

Things To Keep In Mind

When professionally refinishing a piece, it is important to remove old finishes that are cracking or otherwise in poor condition. While it may be less expensive to lacquer over an existing finish, it’s an expensive choice in the long run because you risk the new lacquer being negatively affected by the undercoat in time.

Swapping in new hardware is an excellent way to update the appearance of a case piece. It's easy to change the position or hole format of existing hardware but ONLY IF you are lacquering or wallpapering (future post!) or applying any other new opaque finish to the piece.

Mission accomplished. Fresh, modern and feminine, this dresser and mirror are the perfect complement to the antique heirloom bed frames.


Want help restoring your Craigslist furniture finds? Let Revitaliste help you transform it into a fresh new piece!