Thrift Store Find: A Dresser We’ll Make Into A Media Cabinet

We’ve been on the hunt for a new media console for our living room since, well, as long as we’ve lived here almost. That “hunt” is mostly defined by periodic stops through our favorite furniture-rich thrift stores to see if anything grabbed us. We were probably a couple of months from giving up entirely. But then I got this text from Sherry.

Sherry had run into Diversity Thrift while I stayed in the car with Clara. This is how discouraged this hunt had become… I didn’t even get out of the car anymore. Here’s the pic Sherry sent me, which was enough for me to get my butt out of the driver’s seat and check out Mia in person.

She fit the criteria we were looking for in a new unit – which mostly consisted of “just be bigger than our current piddly little guy” – which you can see below from this post about our new TV (which further dwarfed it). A bonus would be more storage. Six drawers or more were on our wish list.

So we brought Mia home. We were eager to put her directly into the living room, but she had some wobby leg issues (as we were warned on the $59 price tag). As in, every leg was wobbly. Which probably explains why a handsome clean-lined dresser like this sat at the thrift store for over a month (the tag indicated that it had originally been $79, but after going unsold for a month it was dropped down to $59).

Wobbly legs can definitely be a deterrent because they go to the heart of that item of furniture. You know, it’s not something that a little paint or some stain can fix. It’s filed under “structural integrity.” But Sherry and I examined all the drawers (which slid easily and were made solidly) and checked the rest of it for any functional damage and found none. So we decided not to let those wobbly legs scare us off…

I hadn’t ever fixed wobbly legs before, so I was going into it a bit blind. But I figured I could just identify what was loose and hopefully tighten it. For instance, this center brace shimmied back and forth waaaay too easily.

In fully removing it (which I did before reattaching it) I discovered an old screw on the side that was supposed to hold that leg in tight. So with a quick replacement screw, I was already making progress.

When I reattached the brace with more new screws, the center section got significantly better.

And having discovered the secret leg-screw (wait, that sounds wrong) I was on my way to tightening all of the wobbly legs. But In some cases I found that merely replacing the screws and getting them in there nice and tightly wasn’t enough to stop the wobble completely (although it was a huge step in the right direction). So thanks to some Googling, I read about the suggestion to add some wood glue around the joint. I used the end of a paperclip to really work the glue into the seam as well as possible. Then I used a moistened rag to wipe off the excess glue around the outside so it didn’t look all messy like it does in this picture (this was taken pre-wipe):

Once all of the legs were glued and screwed (again, my wording is less than stellar here) Sherry helped me turn the piece upright and – resisting the temptation to test its wobbliness – we let the glue dry for a good 24 hours. The next day we went in and gave it a gentle shake.

It was AWESOME. No more shaking or shimmying at all.

Unfortunately Mia, even with her new solid legs, isn’t quite ready to come inside to the living room. She needs a good cleaning – and possibly some refinishing or painting, depending on how well the cleaning goes – before we let her in. You can see her bumps and bruises pretty well in this photo taken back in the thrift store…

… so we’ll be back with the updated & cleaned up Mia after we’re done scrubbing her down, bringing her into the living room, and getting the TV all set up (we anchor it to the wall to keep things kid-safe). Sherry’s actually scrubbing away on it right now so as soon as she finished up, takes pics, and writes the post we’ll be back with that info. In the meantime, how do you guys find furniture? Does one of you run in while someone else stays in the car? Are the photos texted back and forth? Do you accidentally end up naming things thanks to text typos? We can’t be the only ones…

Psst- Clara shared a few more holiday-fun-ish details with her penpal in Germany over on Young House Life.


  1. Eva says

    Reminds me of when we found our TV console at a thrift store :) We were living in the Netherlands, with a two month old baby and no car… so we walked across town for a whole hour to go to the best furniture thrift store in town that was open only for a couple of hours every Saturday. When we got there the place was so crowded that we couldn’t even take the pram in with us, so we took turns going in there to search… and didn’t find anything at first, but then I found the perfect piece during my second round… a huge teak dresser, that was a bit wobbly and very dirty and priced only 50 euros. We bought it and had it sent home for another 10 euros only to find out it was a bit longer than we thought so it didn’t fit in the stairway leading to our apartment so it actually had to be lifted up onto the roof and taken into our living room from the balcony. It scrubbed up real nice, and has since moved with us all the way to Iceland :)

  2. Rachel says

    I have a dresser similar to this that I use for our tv stand. I took out the middle drawers and painted the inside a dark orange, so we’d have a space for the dvd player and my husbands xbox. The side drawers are great for hidden storage.

  3. jenn0021 says

    I love this post! And I am especially fond of the name you chose for her. Our dog’s name is Mia. :)

    We tend to find our furniture at thrift stores or online through Kijiji (like Craigslist). We very rarely buy anything new. I can’t wait to see the finished product!

  4. says

    I love it! How do you guys deal with painting furniture in the winter months? I have 3 pieces that need paint jobs and I have missed the opportunity to take it outside…

    Also do you a comprehensive furniture painting post? I know you’ve done your fair share of painting stuff but I’d love a post sometime that pulls together your experiences and gives tips on how to paint furniture that’s stained/finished, previously painted, etc. Whether to sand/prime, deglosser, brushes vs. rollers…. Maybe you have this already.

    • says

      Oh yes, there’s a tutorial on how to paint almost any piece of furniture on our Projects page (we basically use the same method every time and it explains when we sand, etc). Hope that helps! As for painting in the winter months, we just read the paint can and see what temp it requires (sometimes it’s just over 50 degrees so we have warmish days like that and I pull the trigger). Hope it helps!


  5. Kitty says

    Great find! I tend to be the one who finds furniture, mainly because my Husband is of the belief that what we have is enough and isn’t aware of us “needing” other furniture (with 3 unfinished rooms I can assure you we do!)

    My usual haunts are sales groups and the local thrift stores furniture shop. I look for good, solid wood that will either clean up nice or take paint well.

  6. Anika says

    It’s been a little while since you guys had a thrift store furniture redo post, and always find it so interesting to see what you guys do with a piece. Your comments about what made you pull the trigger even with the wobbly legs was helpful too: sometimes in thrift stores it’s hard to know what is fixable and what is a lost cause. Can’t wait to see what Mia looks like with some cleaning up!

  7. Andrea R. says

    Ive rarely been that lucky to find awesome furniture! Seems like it would sell as soon as it was posted to craigs list or displayed in the thrift store! Awesome score with Mia! And no, we dont name furniture, but when we were house hunting, we named the houses to keep each other straight which house we were talking about.

  8. says

    OMG, I SO thought you guys were gonna show us Mia all done and ready for the tv. I will wait, patiently, I suppose! Great piece. Awesome price. Go you guys!

  9. says

    I love that dresser and what a deal! A few months back we bought a similar 9 drawer, mid century dresser from craigslist for our tv, and I love it. Ours did manage to make it inside the house, but it needs to be refinished badly on the top and sides. You can sort of see it here:

    As for the media components, I have also had the idea to hinge one or two of the drawers for easy access. But then you have to open it every time you use the tv. You can purchase IR Systems, which is just a fancy name for sensors that stick to the fronts of your hidden components and all connect to a central sensor. The sensor is small, inconspicuous and can be mounted to the top of the dresser. It really works well! This is an example of one:

  10. Liz O says

    What’s going on with that dresser underneath! that looked really nice too. Funny, I actually was just mentioning to my BFF that I need to find a new dreser for my son who will be moving into his big boy room so the nursery can once again be a nursery… I’m not sure where the good thrift stores are around here. Anyone know anywhere good in the Philly area?!?!

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