Roadside Rescue Waterfall Dresser

If you follow Birdz of a Feather, you’ll know that my husband and I are big on saving things from landfill and have a penchant for curbside finds. Last summer hubs was out on errands and drove by a series of garage sale signs scattered across a few blocks. As he passed them one-by-one, he noticed that the signs were all taped onto various drawers.

While the drawers were plunked down on street corners, as he got to the final garage sale destination, he found the carcass of the dresser at the curb. It turned out to be a waterfall dresser and was sporting a larger sign advertising the garage sale. It piqued his interest because, as much as I loved the shabby chic dresser I was currently using in my craft room (shown below), I had been complaining that I didn’t like seeing the messiness of the open storage. The shabby chic dresser was another curbside find, but was missing all its drawers. Fashioning curved drawer fronts was way beyond our skill-set but I thought I’d get used to having open storage. I didn’t: somehow, the older I get, I more I hate visual distraction.

Always the thoughtful person, hubs noticed that the scale of the dresser could be perfect for my born-again craft studio (post water leak) so he called me then quickly came home to pick me up and take me to see it. I took along a tape measure and hubs was right! It was a much better fit for my studio than the shabby chic dresser which was too wide.

Since the waterfall dresser appeared to have drawers (albeit scattered to the four winds), once the garage sale was over, we asked the owners if we could have it. They were only too happy to have us gather up all the pieces for them and cart it away. They had been trying to dispose of it for a few weeks and even tried to put it out for garbage collection. It was like a scavenger hunt gathering up all the pieces.

Unfortunately for us, the drawers weren’t scattered to the four winds – they were scattered to the three winds. One drawer was missing.

Another knock at the door back at the garage sale house revealed that the garbage man had taken one of the drawers and left the rest behind. It’s funny that every time we find a piece for my studio, drawers are missing but at least this dresser had most of them! A minor setback: even with a missing drawer, hubs knew he could build a replacement and make it into something useful again. A missing drawer however didn’t give us the option to strip the dresser back to its original wood finish. We would have to paint the piece.

Once we got our pieces home, hubs pulled them out of the car.

He put them onto a piece of cardboard on the driveway and blew them out with an air gun.

Hubs assembled the drawers to figure out which one was missing. We could see right away that the second drawer was sagging and would have to be adjusted (luckily it was just a simple matter of repositioning the drawer guide).

I wanted to emphasize the waterfall feature, so my plan was to strip the top of the dresser and first drawer, sand down the painted finish and then paint the rest of the body.

It wasn’t until hubs filled all the holes that I realized they stuck out like a sore thumb on the stripped drawer face.

The filler looked obvious, but it was hubs to the rescue once again! He was able to camouflage the patches by following along the grain with stain pens in various shades to blend it in.

For the paint selection, we thought about using Benjamin Moore Advance to paint the dresser, but it takes a long time to dry.

We ultimately settled on PPG Break-Through. The satin finish dries extremely matte, which I wanted to try, and it’s tough as nails. The big advantage is that we were done in under half a day – no need to topcoat. Here’s a great article about the pros and cons of Advance vs. Break-Through.

To help decide the colour, here is one of hubs’ best tips: he cuts up pieces of MDF into 5.5″ squares. Every time we get a new paint, he paints it onto a piece of MDF to keep as a sample (aka, a large paint chip!). That way, we can see the true accurate colour and get a better idea of how it will look on the piece.

Picking a paint colour was harder than I thought it would be. We cracked a drawer to prop up our paint samples, then stepped back to look at them – waiting for inspiration to strike.

We finally settle on charcoal grey.

The deciding factor in choosing the final colour was wetting down the wood portion with mineral spirits to see what would coordinate best. I thought the tone of the wood would look striking against a dark contrast.

You can see that when the wood was stripped we didn’t get every spec of white paint out of the grain. Sometimes that’s impossible to do. I actually like the white accents though – I find it gives the wood more character and reminds me of the deliberate white washed finish on the hardwood floor in my studio.

We sprayed two coats of charcoal paint on top of a primer and the recoat time was only 2 hours so the paint moved along quickly.

After the body of the dresser was painted, hubs varnished the wood, then built a drawer to fit the missing gap. We left the drawer until last because hubs was going to enlist the same friend who helped us with the drawers of our Stenstorp Kitchen Cart, but alas, it was not meant to be! Hubs built the drawer himself by simply pinning together a plywood box and adding MDF onto the front. Since the drawer was going to be painted anyway, and the dresser was being used for craft stash, we weren’t too fussed about the downgrade of materials or lack of beautiful dove tail joints on one drawer!

By the way, as far as primer is concerned, hubs loves using Benjamin Moore’s Fresh Start primer (K046). When he paints with colours that are hard to cover, like red, he’s able to tint it and cut down on the number of topcoats he needs. Once the new drawer was primed and painted to match the rest of the dresser, it was time to select hardware pulls.

I was SO excited to finally have drawers but I had the hardest time settling on what pulls to use. I  bought dozens of different styles to try. In the end, I took them all back: I couldn’t bear to drill holes in the drawers for hardware I wasn’t crazy about, so I looked in my stash and found 7 old Ikea pulls. I needed 8, but put only one on the top drawer which worked.

I like that these pulls didn’t require drilling on the front.

When I eventually find pulls that I like better, I’ll replace them but for now these are perfect and help lend a modern touch to the dresser.

I had to sell my shabby chic dresser to make room for this one. I wish I could have kept them both but when you have a small space you have to be brutal about purging when you bring home stray furniture. I’m so happy that I can finally hide my craft stash; I’d much rather look at the clean lines of a dresser than a heap of clutter!

I haven’t decided how to dress the top of the dresser. Should I keep it plain and simple like above or embellish?

Rustic chicken, retro phone or just the globe? Decisions, decisions!

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Roadside Rescue Waterfall Dresser | Birdz of a Feather | Tutorial on how to make over a waterfall dresser | #furnituremakeover #waterfalldresser #paintedfurniture | BirdzofaFeather.ca

I guess hubs and I have a habit for rescuing pieces that seem beyond repair. Check out the tool chest that we turned into a jewellery/purse cabinet:

We also rescued our own kitchen drawer units and turned them into a one-of-a-kind Volkswagen desk/storage unit (my favourite furniture upcycle!):

Coming up next will be this vintage sewing machine base I stumbled on in Value Village.

We’re planning on painting it with milk paint, but it will be much more elaborate than the little shelf we milk painted:

Stay tuned: we have big plans for the sewing table!!

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9 thoughts on “Roadside Rescue Waterfall Dresser

    • Thanks Giselle. There’s such an art in the way old furniture used to be built! It’s a shame when things get thrown out but always a positive thing when we find and restore a piece. I couldn’t be happier with the outcome!

  1. My gosh, you two are amazing! I love the find, the finish and everything in between. Thank you for rescuing this lovely piece. The wood finish is scrumptious!

    I’m with you on closed storage most of the time. I just leave out what gets regular use and tuck the rest away.

    Fun post!

    • Thanks Alys! Some people take in stray furniture; we have a soft spot for inanimate things! We have more fun things in store. I’m itching to get to the sewing machine table but I have to be patient for better weather so I can sand it outdoors! In a way, I’m thankful for the extra time. I didn’t really have a solid plan until this weekend and then it just clicked so now I can at least move forward on the supplies.

      • Don’t you love it when a plan comes together in your head!? I know I do. I can’t wait to see what you’re up to next, Sara. I’m also hoping to travel more in another year when both of my boys are in college. It would be wonderful to meet you somewhere in Canada.

        • I do love it when a plan comes together in my head! The problem is that I can get it from my head into my husband’s head. He’s mystified when I try to explain my vision but he’ll get it when he sees it 🙂 That would be amazing to meet up next year! Hopefully you can spare some time when the weather is nice. We still had a dusting of snow yesterday – can you believe it?

          • I can’t believe the winter you’ve had and for Pete’s sakes it’s well into spring now anyway. I hope you get an extension on summer. 😉

            We have similar challenges as well. I’ve started drawing ideas so we have a visual reference. It helps.

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