Pete has had the same small Ikea dresser since he was born. As he’s grown, so have his clothes, and so he’s been in need of a bigger dresser for some time. Trouble is, there isn’t room in his bedroom — the smallest one in our house — to get a wider dresser, so I’ve been on the hunt for a taller one. For quite a while. They just don’t make a whole lot of 27-inch-wide dressers, apparently, and the ones I did find were either unattractive, too expensive or looked like they were made entirely of particle board.
So I was casually keeping my eye out for a dresser that met all of my stringent criteria — no weird shapes; moderately priced; well-constructed — when I ran into this little dude 1 in the basement of a house in our neighborhood:
Lest you think I’m in the habit of raiding the neighbors’ basements in search of dingy old furniture, they were having an estate sale. The gentleman there wanted $20 for his childhood dresser, complete with Bobby Shaftoe decals. I brought it home for $15. And it sat in the garage for a week or so while I tried to sand the cream-colored paint off of it.
It didn’t take me very long to figure out that it would take the elbow grease of 1,000 Nicholes to successfully sand the paint away, so I searched high and low for another solution. By which I mean, I noticed the bottle of soy-based paint stripping gel a friend had loaned me when I was trying to remove the bathroom wallpaper and decided to give it a try on one little, inconspicuous spot. It worked beautifully, and I was very glad that I forgot to give it back. Since she moved 2,000 miles away this summer without asking me to return it, I figured I could go ahead and use the rest of the bottle.
And so I did.
The soy gel didn’t completely remove the layer of green paint beneath the layer of cream paint, but at least the dresser’s surface was clean. I sanded it all down and put wood putty over the plentiful scratches and dings, and then I headed off to the store for paint. Pete wanted blue, but he didn’t specify what shade of blue he had in mind. I went with a navy blue called Naval, which is probably just a coincidence.
It took me about four days to successfully get three coats of paint on the whole thing, because I was pretty generous with myself about taking breaks for let the paint dry. Only one giant terrifying spider leapt out at me during the painting process, but the biggest miracle of all was that I only had to prise one JJ T. Cat hair out of the paint.
So after about $40 and a bit of effort, I had a just-about-ready dresser. I say “just-about-ready dresser” because one of its drawers needed to be replaced. At some point over the last 60-or-so years, the bottoms of both its sides were splintered to bits and as such it wouldn’t sit correctly in its assigned spot. I found a place online that sells drawer sides, but they charge $11 to ship a $6 product. So I had to try to figure out how to manufacture my own drawer sides. I tried to talk my brother into fixing it for me, but he did not take me up on that.
Would you care to wager a guess as to how long the just-about-ready dresser sat in the garage waiting for me to build a drawer? Here’s a hint: a long time.
I measured and sketched and measured again, and I wrote everything I needed down on a little piece of paper and headed off to Lowe’s. And somewhere between home and Lowe’s I lost my little piece of paper and with it, apparently, my will to DIY. My will to DIY took its sweet time coming back, so the just-about-ready dresser sat in the garage for about a month.
But it did come back eventually, and when it did I measured and sketched and measured again, and I wrote everything I needed down on a little piece of paper and headed off to Lowe’s. And that’s where I learned that the guy in the wood-cutting area can’t cut two pieces off wood the same size. So rather than just buying a piece of wood and taking it home to cut myself, I got irritated and left without buying anything. As one does.
When I got home from the useless trip to Lowe’s, I stalked out to the shed and didn’t find any helpful scraps of wood. So I stalked down to the basement and found one rather helpful scrap of wood that was one of the many, many things left behind by our home’s previous owners. (Thanks, Joe!) The helpful scrap and I went back to the shed and retrieved the circular saw and took it out for its inaugural spin. It was pretty exciting.
Once I had all of the parts cut to size, I dropped them off at my neighbor’s house, because he has a router and I don’t and he’s a nice guy. The next day we got home from running errands and found all the parts on the front porch, ready to assemble. Naturally I waited a few more days to assemble it, because a few more days in a garage after spending 50 years in a basement is nothing at all to a very old, long-neglected dresser. At least it got to spend a bit more quality time with JJ T. Cat.
Finally, I used a little wood glue and a few nails to put the drawer back together again. I only smashed my finger once in the process. After sanding the drawer’s sides down a little, it fit perfectly and was ready to go! Pete and I unloaded the Ikea dresser and cleaned up all of the detritus that he’d been hiding beneath it, and then we put his new Navy blue dresser in its place.
Pete’s new dresser fits the space beautifully, and it only cost $40, a little frustration and one lightly smashed finger. Now I just have to buy him some new pants to go in the dresser, because he’s outgrown every pair he was wearing this time last year.
- Yesterday I said “dude” about something, and Pete told me that was a very strange thing for a mama to say. “Whatever dude,” said I. ↩