Restoring my Great Grandparents Highboy Dresser

Way back in February I introduced you to my great grandparents highboy dresser that I wasn’t going to restore, I was going to renovate it – give it an entirely new look!

Antique dresser renovation Did That Just Happen Blog

It is a very sturdy piece and would look perfect in my guest room.

Antique dresser renovation process Did That Just Happen Blog

I sanded it down, conditioned the wood and send y’all pictures of the project.  I told you about the oil stain on the top, and how that was the reason I wasn’t restoring the piece, I didn’t think the oil would take the stain.  Chrisb74 suggested I just do a test of the spot… see if it would take the stain or not.

Why not?

I mean, it wouldn’t hurt to try, because I was very adamant that I was NOT restoring the piece! I couldn’t wait to funk it up with some fun colors and decorations.

Except – the oil spot took the stain.

Not only that, but the light blond piece of furniture, with all of the cute details started to come alive as I worked with it.

Restoring an antique highboy on Did That Just Happen Blog

Do you see the details, the variation on the wood, the movement?

Y’all, I restored the piece.

Mom and I went to a neighborhood that I was afraid to get out of the car, but had the most amazing restoration store! We found knobs that had the perfect feel for the piece.  I put them on and let out a sigh.

It was perfect.

How to restore an antique dresser on Did That Just Happen Blog

My favorite part though: the reason we had to go knob shopping was because I was missing one of the original knobs.  And you’ll notice in this picture… I am still missing a knob!  One of the knobs we bought, the screw was too short, so alas, I went full circle!  But, have no fear, I take that sucker with me everywhere, eventually I’ll find another screw that fits the antique knob and is long enough for the dresser!

Finished! How to restore an antique highboy dresser on Did That Just Happen Blog

It looks perfect in my guest room, and it is so functional! I have it filled to the brim with linens!

And, the antique pot belly dresser with mirror that I had in that space originally found a nice home with a couple, just starting out in their lives, and is now part of their little girls nursery!

I think everyone in this story was a winner!

So… what do you think?  I’m just so happy with how it turned out, and really love that I was able to restore a piece that belonged to my great grandparents!

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43 thoughts on “Restoring my Great Grandparents Highboy Dresser

  1. What’s amazing with some old furniture is that it IS made from good wood and CAN be restored. I stupidly sold my green “antique” solid wood furniture that was given to me when I was 15 from my grandparents’ neighbors across the street. I had no room for it, though. I don’t miss it but think it was a bad decision. Anyhow, I was given my great-grandmother’s 6 drawer dresser that came with a mirror. It was one of those “mid century” pieces that was part of a set. My mom had the vanity and stool, that subsequently got put outside and was ruined. After lugging that heavy piece around with me for I don’t know how many years, I got tired of it. It wasn’t even made from solid wood but particle board. I couldn’t restore it and it made me sad. Here, I had this old piece of furniture that was pretty much worthless. I think you did an outstanding job with the dresser!!!!

    • Thank you Kari!! I had fun bringing this piece back to life, and yes, it is rare now to find furniture that is solid wood and can be restored! With your life, it was probably the smart move to release the furniture for someone else to have, I can only imagine how hard that was to move!!

    • Thank you!!! I don’t take the best pictures, but it went from a pale scratched up mess to such a beautiful piece, it really was a big transformation – plus I replaced the back and shored up a few dovetails, but I’m glad it looks good, this is one of my favorite pieces now!!

  2. That looks amazing!!! I love the stain. Have you tried a hardware store? They might be willing to cut a longer screw down to the size that you need. Or if you have a Dremel and a vice and the right attachment you could cut it, but I’m lazy and ask the hardware store😀. It looks great!

    • Thanks Fallon! I have 2 more local independent hard ware stores on my list, I’m bound and determined to find one! Good idea on having it trimmed if I find the right size but wrong length! I wouldn’t have thought of that!! Thank you!

    • Thank you Donna! I love antiques, but really love ones that have a story with them – and I had a great piece in that space, but it was just one I got a great deal on, so it was easy to let go of so I couple put this piece in it’s place – I love being able to say “This was my great grandparents” 🙂

    • Well I’m glad you think I make things look reasonable… it could be that I pick easy things, because anyone will tell you that “Kate” and “reasonable” never belong in the same sentence!! 🙂 Seriously though, thank you, it was a fun project and it went easier than expected. I ended up putting on a new back, but can’t find any pictures of it!

  3. Wow, this is so awesome! You’re brave, I would have been scared. That’s so funny about the knob! It’s like the universe wants the darn thing to just miss one!

    • I’m telling you, when I realized the screw didn’t work I died laughing! For weeks I’ve carried the knob around with me trying random screws… I look like a loon, but like Prince Charming, I’m determined to find the one that fits! 😉

      • OMG that’s too funny. You should mutter to yourself too and shout when you are right up next to strangers ears. Have your son film it too!

  4. wowowowowowowo, you know how to do that kind of stuff?! You’ve impressed me once again. It is beautiful! Lucky you restored it, there are plenty of things that you can make your own twist on but that one already had it’s own character that it deserved to lived with 🙂

    • Thank you V!! Once I realized that the stain would take on the oil spot, I thought, I’ll just stain the top, but as I was working, it just kept coming alive for me and I had the same thought, there are so many other pieces I can put my stamp on, this one was begging to reveal it’s inner beauty! 🙂

  5. Fabulous job! I’m terrible at anything like that, I’m so terrible I don’t even know the difference between renovate and restore. Or I didn’t know before, but I get the idea now after reading your post, so you’re educating me! 🙂

    I tried to do a project several years back with an old coffee table that had cupboards underneath it. I think I’d been watching too many of those TV shows they used to have on all the time where people do really funky stuff with old furniture. So I bought some white antique-effect glaze that I rubbed all over it, and then I bought some foam stampers shaped like different shells, and stamped shells randomly over it in burnt orange/beige tones. In my mind it was going to be beautiful, in reality it looked like something a 3 year old had done at playgroup!

    • hahahahahhahaha! Oh my goodness!!! That is hysterical!!! Like seriously!! But, I totally get it, I watch those shows and they make it look so easy, I always think “I can totally do that!!!” and then I end up with a bathroom in shambles – or a coffee table that has burnt orange stamped shells!!! 🙂

  6. Really nice job, Kate! I’m more of the funky/renovate it esthetic, but I can totally appreciate that a restore job on a piece this old is valuable and beautiful.

    • Thank you Nancy! I really, really wanted to funk it out, and it sounds silly, but the more I worked with the piece, the more it told me that I just couldn’t! And, the worst part is, I had lunch with a friend of mine and he was all about giving me tips and tricks so I could restore it, and I finally got irritated and snapped at him that I wasn’t restoring it!!! I was very sheepish when I had to tell him I ended up restoring it!! 😀

  7. It looks beautiful! I wish I could share this with my mom, who loved going to garage sales and either transforming things bought there herself (so they’d sell better at her garage sales) or selling them to folks who could see not just the actual but the potential. 🙂

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