For bathrooms short on storage space, adding a small antique dresser is a terrific way to create a little extra room for those bathroom essentials.
In older homes like ours, bathrooms were often added many years later after the original construction of the home. These retrofitted bathrooms were carved out of old closets, small bedrooms, or even small niches located around the house. Many of these bathrooms were very tiny, with barely enough room for a tub, sink, and commode, let alone some cupboard space.
Adding a cupboard that looked like it belonged was a challenge, but we solved our storage problem with a pint size dresser that was painted to look like an antique floor storage cabinet.
Where to find an old dresser
Before buying a dresser or cabinet, you must first determine where in the bathroom it can fit, and what kind of dimensions will work. Be sure to measure a floor dimension as well as height.
Antique stores are great places to hunt for old styles of small dressers and cabinets. You can expected to pay premium prices, but they are usually in superb enough condition that nothing needs to be restored.
Farm auctions are another place to search for bathroom dressers. Keep an eye out for old cabinets that may have come out of a kitchen, barn, or garage. These can be painted up and restored quite nicely.
Don’t forget thrift stores! The thrifts in my community carry the most unbelievable antique furniture finds. It’s been my experience that while the larger dressers and highboys disappear quickly, the smaller dressers aren’t quite so popular. When searching for a storage dresser, avoid furniture made of prefabricated or veneered material and stick with ones made of solid wood. In our town, small solid wood dressers frequently turn up for around $20.
Restoring the dresser
Once you’ve located the right size dresser for your bathroom, it’s best to assess the level of restoration work needed before buying it. If the drawers are cracked or stained, missing the bases, or if the wood has huge gouges in it, it’s best to take a pass. If the wood is in reasonably good shape, and the drawers pull out nicely, the dresser will be easier to restore.
Step 1: restoring the dresser begins with removing the old paint. If you plan on just painting over existing paint, all that is needed is a light sanding with sandpaper to knock off some of the high spots. If you plan on staining the dresser, then all the old paint must be removed, using a premium paint remover product.
Step 2: Once the dresser has been sanded and the surface wiped off with a clean, dry cloth, the dresser can be painted.
We painted our dresser deep olive to match the original color of our bathroom back in 1910. Other historically accurate colors include powder blue, dark pink, white, and light yellow. Sherwin-Williams produces a line of vintage paint colors that can help guide your decision.
If you have a modern bathroom but prefer a weathered look, try using a crackle glaze with two contrasting colors. This popular finish technique creates small cracks through the paint for an authentic antique appearance. These products can be purchased at places like Home Depot or Lowe’s.
Don’t like the crackle effect? Additional techniques that might interest you are texturing, combing or creating a faux leather look. Information and materials about these painting techniques are available at all home improvement stores.
Step 3: If the knobs of your dresser are severely damaged, consider replacing them with reproduction vintage drawer pulls instead. Glass knobs and other reproduction hardware are available on-line through reproduction hardware stores.
Step 4: Once the paint has dried, and the knobs replaced, line the drawer with white paper shelf paper and install in your bathroom.
It really doesn’t take much to add some tasteful storage space to a bathroom. A small dresser, a little bit of paint, and you’ve a functional piece of furniture that looks like it’s always been there.