Mid-Century Modern Furniture Redo Remorse

Hello friends,

My apologies for the blog silence – my grandmother passed away last week, and while we knew it was coming, I was still really sad when it actually happened.  I am lucky that to have had her in my life for as long as I did (she was 94), and my kids also got to know and love her, which is really exceptional nowadays.  So, my motivation level has been low for the past week, as you might expect.  But, I’m focusing on the good, and the fact that she lived a long life, and have lots of memories of her to take with me.

I love old photos to begin with, but this one of her for her First Communion is one of my favorites.  She sure looks feisty, doesn’t she?


Here’s one of me as a toddler with her and my grandpa – back in the day when the only recording going on was with a tape recorder.


Again – so glad she and my kids got to know and love each other.  What a blessing.  We will miss her.


From the blog/furniture/painting side of things, I have been working on a couple of mid-century modern pieces that are works in progress (and have me questioning my judgment at the same time), despite my attempts to visualize and sketch out my plans.  Worst case, I can re-paint/re-stain/refill my wine glass, right?

Let me preface these pieces by telling you that when I drove to pick them up and walked into the house, I realized that the homeowners are smokers.  Silly stupid me, I didn’t even think to ask when I inquired about the dressers for sale.  On the upside, I have experience in dealing with smoking situations, so I decided to bite the bullet and buy them anyway, knowing there would be more work involved on my end.

My apologies for the grainy iPhone photo, but this dude is heavy and we took the drawers out to move it, so I snapped a quick “before” photo while it was in the garage.  Good bones, the homeowners added the hardware (which I’m changing), but it’s a solid piece that needs some elbow grease.


Here is the second piece (minus the removable legs).  This one is my favorite of the two.  Less work involved, and I like the look of the drawers, and the fact that it doesn’t even need hardware.


Some serious cleaning and touch ups were in order though.


Due to the smoking issue, I had to pull out the big guns and use the Zinsser BIN Shellac Primer.  I have a love/hate this stuff (it stinks and it’s just yucky to work with), but it works wonders in terms of stain blocking and sealing in odors, which is key.

These rags that I used to clean these pieces give you an idea of why working with furniture from the home of a smoker requires additional prep work (and this isn’t even all of them).  I know – yuck.


Here you can kind of see what it looks like when you’re cleaning it.  I had sprayed my Krud Kutter on it, and the nicotine literally runs off of it.  Again, I know.  Gross.


Once I got her cleaned up, sanded and primed with shellac primer, we’re in much better shape.


I gave the drawers a good sanding, and then sprayed them with the General Finishes Walnut Stain and Satin Poly Topcoat mix that I’m loving right now.  It’s great because you don’t have to sand down to bare wood to get a beautiful finish.


This dresser is almost done, so I’ll save the full reveal for another day.  Let me get back to where I’m having a bit of mid-century modern furniture painting remorse.

It’s with the “heavy dude” dresser.  I’m rethinking my direction.  Here’s the progress.

Started here.


Gross and dirty top of dresser before:


Cleaned and sanded after:


Primed the frame since the wood wasn’t in the best of condition (namely the top):


Stained the drawer fronts, with the intention of doing some painting embellishment on them because the hardware holes I filled in were still visible (not so much in this photo, but close up you could still see them).  I’m planning on staining the legs – I think.


So I taped it off for painting.


I discovered that I still had some General Finishes Coastal Blue in my paint stash.  So far, so good (although I spent a great deal of time debating about having more wood exposed in the center of my color blocking experiment).


And then I decided to paint the frame of the dresser coastal blue as well.  This is where the painter’s remorse kicked in.


I know I don’t have a photo of it with the drawers installed (and I haven’t even installed the drawers just to look at it myself, quite frankly), but I’m already thinking I made a mistake by painting the frame blue.  I like the contrast of the white (even though it’s primer) against the dark wood and the blue.  Should I go back to white?  Maybe add a stripe of white on the drawers to tie it all together?  I have to add hardware too since these drawers don’t pull out easily without it.

Can you visualize it?  What do you think?


  • Reply
    February 18, 2016 at 10:48 am

    Be bold Jenny, be bold. People like blue. Would be good in a coastal nursery. As long as there’s overall balance you’ll be good. Plus – white shows scuff marks so a blue frame might be better.

  • Reply
    dawn in sac
    February 18, 2016 at 11:37 am

    Yep, I like the white, wood with blue contrast….

  • Reply
    February 18, 2016 at 1:47 pm

    Jenny, so sorry to hear of your grandmother’s passing. Just love the young photo of her as a girl. I do love the contrast of the white against the dark wood best. Love the blue too, just not with the wood tone.

  • Reply
    February 18, 2016 at 2:05 pm

    So sorry for your loss! My grandma passed nearly 30 years ago and I still miss her every day. Those are nice pieces. I hear you about the smoking, yuck. I personally prefer the white outside, because it makes the blocking pop more. I know it’s easy to go one step too far, but at least it wouldn’t be a terribly difficult fix for you. Can’t wait to see the finished result!

  • Reply
    February 18, 2016 at 6:25 pm

    It looks fantastic. I can’t wait until you put the drawers in.

  • Reply
    February 18, 2016 at 9:36 pm

    I am so sorry for the loss of your Grandmother. She was a beautiful lady, and I can see a huge resemblance between your daughter and your Grandma’s confirmation photo!

    As far as the dresser goes… I do love the white frame. I think it shows off the wood tones beautifully. I’d also love to see a white stripe going down the front of the dresser — pretty much right where the painters tape separates the blue from the wood. It would tie it all together… How pretty would that be!

    Good luck whatever you decide.

  • Reply
    Kathy V,
    February 20, 2016 at 9:22 pm

    So sorry to hear of the loss of grandmother, Jenny. I, too, see a strong resemblance between your grandmother and you. Lovely ladies, both.

    As for the dresser, I could see it going either way. So just trust your instincts; you have a great eye. Besides, the worst that could happen is you don’t like it and have to repaint! (Easy for me to say, right?) You’ve got this!

  • Reply
    February 22, 2016 at 10:59 am

    I liked where it was going with the white frame and wood drawers. I love navy, but somehow the navy doesn’t do as much for the dark wood tones on the drawer.

  • Reply
    Karen A.
    February 22, 2016 at 2:24 pm

    Jenny, thank you for sharing your Grandmother’s passing with us through the wonderful pictures and your comments. You were such a cutie! What a precious blessing to have your kids know her too.

    I like the blue on the frame, but what about making the legs and bottom support white? You could also add a white block to the drawers. Or even lighten up the blue to a medium tone, but still do white on the bottom? Do you have software that allows you to “see” it customized? If not, could you draw out some options with colored markers or pencils?

    FYI – I was on Craigslist and came across this posting for a painted MCM dresser in my area. She has her own business and FB site w/a number of painted pictures. You may already know her or maybe it’s time to become friends? 🙂 http://washingtondc.craigslist.org/nva/fuo/5458701082.html

    I agree with the other commenter – be bold. You have great instincts!

    • Reply
      February 22, 2016 at 2:33 pm

      Thanks so much for your kind words Karen. I’m still reworking this piece – it’s an evolving process and I still might be making even more changes to it. We’ll see. Thanks for sharing that craigslist posting – what a great piece! I’ll be doing some more researching/stalking on that one! 😉

  • Reply
    Lisa @ Shine Your Light
    February 26, 2016 at 7:31 am

    Jenny, I’m so sorry to hear about your grandmother. Is she the source of all your beautiful brooches that you made the Christmas tree art with? I love her first communion photo!!!

  • Leave a Reply

    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.