Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Snappy Dresser

On display; cups and platter by Anthropologie, pumpkin soup tureen by my mother

The Idea

I once saw the comedian Jack Dee being very funny about growing up with a Grandmother who’s mantra was “Don’t buy it I’ll make it.”

Lovely when it’s a cake but as Jack explained not so great when it’s a Superman costume and the homemade version is knitted.

My children claim I am the same. I am endlessly outraged by the price of things and always trying to make them instead, sometimes successfully but quite often by the time I’ve bought all the necessary equipment it turns out pricier than if I’d just bought it ready made...

HOWEVER when it comes to renovating and up-cycling old furniture instead of buying it new or already renovated it’s almost always really worth it.

My finished, big, fat, fake dresser.

Where to begin

Auctions, car boot sales and junk shops are a brilliant source of really, really cheap and solidly built furniture that with a bit of time and attention can be transformed into something fantastic. Even if you employ someone to do it all for you, with bigger pieces particularly, you’ll still end up paying less and have something customised to your taste and space.
The dresser in my kitchen is a case in point.
I had seen a really beautiful one in an antique shop in Cornwall. It was perfect, except the price - it was eye wateringly expensive. Since selling an organ to finance it was not a convenient option I decided to make my own.
The previous owner of our house had left behind a big quite unattractive orangey pine side board with drawers. The drawers were very difficult to get in and out, the inside had only one big shelf and no base BUT it was really solid and the perfect size.
It’s the kind of sideboard I have seen sell at auction from anything between £30-£120.

Apologies for the awful photo, but here you can see the old sideboard with new top to half way through.

 Making the top part

In this instance, because I was already in the middle of an entire house renovation overseen by my architect sister-in-law, she did me a proper CAD drawing for the joiner based on a photo of the Cornish dresser I loved.
However this isn’t always necessary, lots of times I’ve done a scale drawing myself by hand, simply by measuring from a picture of something I'm inspired by or want to copy to get the proportions correct and then adjusted heights widths etc accordingly to fit my space.
Alternatively you can skip the drawing stage altogether by giving a good carpenter or joiner, you trust, an image to copy.

 Raising up the bottom shelf meant things weren't  hidden when the door was shut

Remodelling the bottom part

The carpenter put in a base in the old sideboard so things weren’t sitting directly on the floor, took out the single, full depth shelf and replaced it with two. Because the cupboard was so deep these shelves were shallower than the bottom shelf and although this meant there was slightly less shelf space, but you could see everything properly.

The Drawers

The carpenter fixed the runners and drawers so the drawers didn’t tip as they slid out and divided up the inside of the drawers to my specification: 

One for cutlery

The drawers are lined with wallpaper samples.

One for papers; post, menus, seed catalogues, colour charts etc..

Having a drawer for papers stops them accumulating on kitchen surfaces

One for everything else, first aid, foreign change purses, marker pens, tape measures, torches, batteries, kitchen light bulbs, napkins etc..etc..

Small compartments stop it getting too messy

 Background detail - tongue and groove

I'm happy to display ANYTHING

The Cost ?

My fake antique dresser cost about a fifth of the dresser in Cornwall. Seriously. 

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