Not Your Father’s Dresser, Well Actually It Is

As we PS-ed in last week’s rug post, our hunt for a new master bedroom dresser recently came to a surprise end. We’d been trying to find something to replace this old Malm dresser that we’ve had for 5+ years (we literally bought it on an Ikea stop the day we moved from NYC to Richmond in a big red minivan) which will soon go live in the guest room.

It’s clearly too small for the wall. It’s not 100% functional anymore (the middle drawer got little wonky during the move) and it has a few visible battle scars from bouncing around our last house (at various points it lived in our bedroom, our guest bedroom, and finally the sunroom).

So we wanted something bigger. And something a little curvy and ornate (for some contrast to the modern elements in the room, like Ed the Bed and our big snowball-ish light fixture). Because we don’t want our bedroom to feel like a modern furniture showroom, we want it to have that layered, collected over time look. We both liked the idea of a dresser that was up on turned legs, especially since our bed also has a leggy design, so that similarity might tie the old dresser and the modern bed together in a not too obvious way. You know for a nice marriage of old meets new. And of course we wanted something that we could rescue (who doesn’t love “saving” sad old furniture) but we’d been unsuccessfully perusing thrift stores and stalking craigslist for weeks with nada. And then it happened. A dresser miracle. The perfect piece materialized seemingly out of nowhere. And by nowhere I mean my parents’ bedroom.

My mom and dad are actually prepping to downsize to a smaller house (now that their nest is empty) so they’ve been trying to find new homes for lots of their old stuff (I’ve already inherited stacks of old photos, school papers, childhood art projects, etc). So when we spotted my dad’s dresser on a recent visit we asked if they were planning to keep it (since it was old, leggy, and pretty much the perfect width). The answer: “Nope, we’re planning to put it on craigslist. Unless you want to take the old clunker off of our hands?”

“Uh, yes please.” Cue the cartwheels by Sherry in the background.

Turns out they’d be in our neighborhood to babysit our nephew two days later so they brought it down (we assumed it might take a few weeks to mosey over). Best dresser surprise ever. And that’s how we ended up with this beauty pretty much out of nowhere:

It’s bigger than our old Ikea dresser, so it fills up that wall properly. It’s also more traditional looking, so it balances out the modern pieces like Ed the Bed and the light fixture (just as we hoped). It also makes us really excited to get some old night tables in a similar tone and shape to further tie our whole old meets new thing together. Possibly with the same cool ring-pulls (we could also order those online and add them later) and a few drawers for concealed bedside storage, which we’ve always wanted.

And just as we hoped, it could use a little love (one of the drawers was busted when we got it, so I whipped out my screwdriver and whistled while I worked to get it secure again). Took about ten minutes. But (spoiler alert) that’s pretty much the extent of our “work” on the dresser for now. We’re not planning to paint or stain it. Even though we were excited at the idea of re-staining or painting an old seen-better-days piece, we just can’t justify that whole dog and pony show this time around. And this isn’t the polite way of saying that my parents wouldn’t let us touch it (in fact, they were dying to see what we’d do). We actually think the warm wood color works really well with the cool tones on the walls and in the bedding (while bringing out the honey tones in the curtains, the jute rug, and the gold leaves in the duvet). Plus as you can see from this shot…

… the rustic wide plank floors in the bedroom need more than just a little work (they’re discolored, stained, and splintering in a number of places). So we plan to refinish them in a darker mocha tone, along with the rest of the hardwoods in the house for a nice cohesive effect. So that should make the warm wood dresser feel even more special once it doesn’t blend into the floor quite as much. Especially if we have two antique-looking nightstand friends going on the other side of the room in the same warm wood tone (maybe we’ll get to refinish some old dark craigslist/thrift store finds with some lighter stain to get a not-perfect-but-good-enough “match”).

We’re totally charmed by our hand-me-down dresser’s imperfections, and love how they preserve the history of the piece. Maybe we’re being overly nostalgic since this is our first item of inherited “antique” furniture, but there’s something special about knowing the back story. My dad bought it from his cousin back in the ’60s for $100 and has used it ever since. It still boasts a scratch on the front of one of the drawers from when he transported it in his car’s trunk over forty years ago.

We don’t know exactly how old the piece is, but it has a stamp in the back of one of the drawers that says it was made by the “Abernathy Furniture Co” and they appear to have started operations in the 1850’s in Kansas (thanks Google).

After a couple days of using it I realized it possesses some weird auditory memories for me. When I heard Sherry opening and closing the drawers from the other room, the sound of the metal pulls clanging against the wood gave me distinct flashbacks to hearing the same noise coming from down the hall growing up. Weird how sounds can do that to you, right?

The only other “work” it really needed (besides a few screws to secure that broken drawer rail) was some help getting the drawers to slide more easily (each one of them stuck and dragged a little bit). Sherry had heard the old “rub soap on them” tip a few times, so she broke out a bar of Dove that we had leftover from her mom and stepdad’s visit (we use Dr. Bronner’s soap, but she worried “eco soap” might not be the same).

Off she went rubbing the dry bar of soap on each of the rails. Both on the bottom of the drawers…

…and even on the tracks inside the dresser itself, in an attempt to “wax” them so they’d slide more easily without catching.

The verdict on this little trick? It made a noticeable difference, but it didn’t solve things 100%.

For being a totally free solution, we’re happy we gave it a try. But if you guys have any other suggestions for helping this baby slide a bit better, please share ’em. We’re thinking we might try wax or something.

As for what’s on the dresser, the big white lacquered box is a charging station that we got at Pottery Barn Outlet a while back (as seen in this road trip video), the ceramic egg crate is full of Sherry’s jewelry, the table fan is for the summer, the two white bowls are full of Sherry’s bracelets/necklaces/glasses, and the three frames are pics that Sherry and I snapped on each of our wedding anniversaries. And yes, there’s a ceramic animal friend worked in there too thanks to my weird wife (a bronze ceramic pig that she found at HomeGoods for $6 a few weeks ago). I actually think the dark bronze twist is kind of cool, but don’t tell her I said that or it’ll feed her strange addiction.

Now for the bigger picture. Here are some more bedroom photos, just so you can see how the new dresser plays with the other things in the room (which is most definitely still “in progress” and in need of some art, a nice long bench, a big white built-in or cabinet to the left of the bed to balance the door, those aforementioned leggy honey-colored night stands, and maybe even some new table lamps among other things).

Should be a good time (or not, depending on what we find and how many places we have to go- haha, there’s the husband perspective on shopping). In the end, as exciting as resolving our dresser dilemma is – one of the best parts is that we’re finally able to move some of our clothes out of piles in the closet and into proper storage (four full drawers of it). Which means after 3+ months of living here with mountains of shirts and pajamas on the floor of the closet thanks to a smaller dresser with one inoperable drawer, we officially have no more excuses for not organizing things. Uh oh.

So that’s our first antique hand-me-down adventure. Or “furniture inheritance experience” if you’re fancy. And I’m not gonna lie. It does feel kind of fancy. The idea that we own something older than my dad is, in the words of Miley Cyrus, “pretty cool” (anyone else watching SNL lately?). Even if it’s a little beat up and didn’t come from an auction house. Have you guys ever gotten something especially awesome or particularly sentimental handed down from a family member? Anyone run into the moral dilemma of whether or not to make changes to it? We got lucky in this instance (since my mom and dad were more eager to refinish it than we were) but we know that might not always be the case. Sticky.

Pssst- Wanna see how we completely refinished an old craigslist dresser with stain and paint for Clara’s nursery? Click here.


  1. Katrina says

    Practically all our furniture is hand-me-downs! It was such a wallet saver when we moved into our first house – we only had to buy a dining room table and console. Slowly we’re either replacing the items with what we want or refurbishing them to fit our style. We are currently putting together our daughter’s “big kid” room and plan to use the antique spindle bed that I used growing up. It was my grandmother’s once upon a time. I actually love the warm honey color (similar to your dresser) and the little knicks all over it – it gives it some nice eclectic and loved character – so we don’t plan on painting it.

    • says

      yeah hand-me-downs are a great help specially to newlyweds. Reading the comments, im surprised that a lot of people are thrilled with inheriting furniture – and I thought I was strange.

  2. Katie says

    My husband and I had a dresser “adventure” this weekend too! I found two 50’s style retro dressers and a huge mirror on Craigslist for $200. The lady who sold them to us also said she had a matching nightstand in another storage unit that she is going to throw in for free when she empties the unit out! Score :)

    As for something old and handed down, my Mom recently gave me a jewelry box that was her mother’s. My Grandfather bought it for my Nanny in Korea when he was stationed over there during the war in the 50’s. It doesn’t match any other piece I own, but it’s so unique and I love it. I wouldn’t consider changing that piece.

  3. Jessica says

    I love the leggy dresser!

    Would you mind sharing what you store in the box and in the two bowls that you have placed on the dresser? I love getting new ideas for storage solutions so just curious what you are using them for?

  4. MichelleG says

    great choice to leave the piece as-is for now! have to admit a bit of shock and awe since you guys aren’t usually honey-wood toned people (“wait, so this post DOESN’T involve Sherry and her infamous white paintbrush?”). but, i do love the contrast of the old and weathered with the crisp, clean, modern pieces. :o)

  5. kyla says

    I have a 3 shelf unit from my in-laws. The purchased it when they were in Germany during the war, and just had their firt child…living in a small apartment. In that time, you had to pay more for an apt. with cupboards and closets…so they purchased this stand and stored everything they had in the kitchen on it. Pots, pans…it even served as the pantry. They have lived in 14 homes since and this unit has been to them all, it is now in our home and I just can bring myself to alter it. The stamp fomr the original mfg. is still in tac and I love the wounds it has gathered over the years.

  6. Kristen says

    I am completely obsessed with the way the light fixture reflects in the bathroom mirror. Obsessed.

    I am also happy to see that Sherry has adopted a non-white animal … although maybe I spoke too soon? I dig the finish, we have a unicorn ‘friend’ with the same finish.

  7. Elizabeth says

    My house is FULL of inherited furniture, and I love it that way! It is mixed in with the new things and makes my home uniquely MINE.

    I have three favorite pieces…my bedside table is my late grandmother’s old flip top sewing machine stand that my late aunt refinished and added a shelf to (similar to this with the sewing machine removed …in my living room I have an old ornate asian inspired marble top side table that also came from my aunt via my grandmother via my great grandparents…and I have a huge spectacular barrister bookcase that was used by my great great grandfather!

    I have several other “old” pieces that I actually bought at used furniture stores which I also love…the South is GREAT for finding these kinds of things, in my experience.

    And it is all mixed with my IKEA treasures! LOL

    • Elizabeth says

      Oh yeah…just remembered my other favorite item…MY BED! It is an old metal bed that was always at our family lakehouse…spent many summer afternoons lazily reading books on that bed while waiting for the hottest part of the day to subside so I could go swimming again!

    • Vikki says

      In the south, estate sales are also great places to find older things. Perhaps it is because we’re all pack rats and we have to die to get rid of things?

      Seriously, most of my furniture is inherited or purchased second hand. My house feels like me.

    • says

      Ha! We definitely keep our eyes peeled for estate sale signs. Probably more so now that we’re building even a greater appreciation for antiques!


  8. says

    LOVE the dresser. I have major antique furniture envy, since my family basically has none haha. It’s the perfect color- the warm honey color-not the washed out honey oak you often see nowadays on kitchen sets. Hope the candle does the trick for you!

  9. says

    I’m so glad you aren’t painting or staining it. I really love the color and it goes so well with the paint/curtains.

    I’m sure you have mentioned this before, but where is the egg-container-like jewelry holder from? I love it.

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