September 6th, 2011

I still thrift. All the time. I swear.

It’s been about three months since any thrifty action has seen this blog.

BUT, the master bedroom has been begging me for a tall dresser for months now. Finding the right piece has been wickedly difficult considering it had to be both the right scale and cost. Guideline-wise, it had to be vintage (DUH) with a basic no-fuss design that slanted Danish. The curse of thrift shopping  is: if you’re needing something specific, you’re never going to find it.

I gave up hope, getting by with the wrong credenza in the meantime. Recently, during some local thrifting rounds, I spotted a complete bedroom set that included this simple but incredibly dry looking highboy. In it’s entirety, the set appeared abused and neglected for the last sixty year and cried out for the old vintage wood regimen. Luckily, the set was being sold piecemeal, making it easy to grab the highboy and nightstands and jet off.

Not to digress, but when I’m thrifting with folks or get emails from folks with thrifting dilemmas, their biggest challenge is usually just looking past the ugly florescent lights, piles of garbage and disorderliness of the place to spot potential. This dresser looked so depressing, so cheap and soooo gross in the store, but wood – good wood? Wood loves to be prettied up and treated right.

Spending the time and putting in the effort of sanding everything with fine steel wool, slopping on a couple coats of Danish oil and hand rubbing a final finish of Howards Feed N’ Wax, returns the luster and richness to wood that appeared derelict and shabby at best.

Of course this dresser is still vintage.

Over the last sixty years it’s been used and misused. Vintage wear and tear goes with the thrifty territory, but I prefer to live with furniture that’s been well used and developed an understandable patina. This way, instead of fearfully living with a perfect museum piece, you can knock stuff around and use pieces day in and day out without getting heartbroken if something gets dinged or nicked.

Case in point, the left side of the dresser has a large gouge from a careless handler dragging against something pointy. Sometimes, you can’t sand down very far when attempting to remove a big gouge. Most vintage furniture is finished with veneer, and that veneer is usually too thin to handle aggressive sanding.

In this situation, instead of freaking out and throwing every fill and repair trick at the damage (to just have the scratch continue to show up), a basic oiling helps minimize most of the damage. Vintage actually looking vintage is fine by me.

For most of the restoration, I didn’t spot markings that could help determine the dresser’s provenance. Not till after futzing with the base did this little blue MADE IN SWEDEN stamp pop up. At this point, I had pretty much assumed the set must have been American made and designed by some company in the states.

Those sneaky Swedes. Being all coy about marking stuff.


Hey now.

Sexy time.

Of course this looks stunning framed by the weed infested backyard.


Perfect-o for the bedroom.

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  1. Lisette on 09/06/2011:

    Gorgeous! And yes, oh so sexy. What a find, and what a great job cleaning and sprucing – congratulations!

  2. Tom on 09/06/2011:

    It always amazes me how you make this old furniture pop back to life. I found a Basic-Witz Cado style Wall Unit in an attic apartment last week in pretty beat up shape (dings/paint on it/etc). If it wasn’t for reading your blog and seeing you take these back to life I probably would have passed on it. A little paint remover, Howards Restore-a-finish and some elbow grease and it is the feature of our dining room now.

  3. jill on 09/06/2011:

    once again, your elbow grease and magic does the trick. looks amazing. bravo.

  4. Colin on 09/06/2011:

    You lucky dog! That’s the dresser of my dreams that I’ve been hunting for several months. I will find my own…

  5. Liz on 09/06/2011:

    Love the legs on that dresser! Reminds me of my mid-mod dresser at home (which unfortunately, is not solid wood).
    You make me want to thrift all the time…

  6. sudha on 09/06/2011:

    looks perfect, in the space or otherwise…lucky you

  7. Mike on 09/06/2011:

    Good job! And, yes, oil is the only way to enhance a finish these days. Still sand and strip some pieces, but have given up on using modern (low VOC) laquers and varnish — they take forever to dry.

  8. Kim on 09/06/2011:

    I love this! You have the best eye!

  9. Candace on 09/06/2011:

    I recognize this! My parents first bedroom suite was this set. I had it in my home until a year or so ago when it went to my niece because we were moving. It looks fantastic in your home!

  10. Alice @ LAX TO YVR on 09/06/2011:

    Gimme some of your thrifting mojo! Great job on restoring this dresser. Looks awesome!!

  11. Susan on 09/06/2011:

    Is the Admiral eyeballin’ those billy balls? (the dresser looks awesome)

  12. Tyson on 09/06/2011:

    Did you get a new fence? Seems like you would have mentioned it if you did, but that one looks new.

  13. Anna on 09/06/2011:

    nice restorative action, Morgan. really like the lines of that dresser too…

  14. Jaimie on 09/06/2011:

    Sexy! We have one with similar lines, but the sides were missing significant chunks of wood so I painted it white and left the drawers and legs wood. I love it.

  15. alex sunday on 09/06/2011:

    awesome! i looked up your ‘refreshing vintage wood’ post just a couple of days ago. i thrifted myself a damn fine cabinet thingo on the weekend and have given it a new life. just need to finish it off before i post some photos. booyah!

  16. Mr. Modtomic on 09/06/2011:

    In the immortal words of Adam Sandler, “Not Too Shabby”. I too prefer a little character with my vintage. Just scrubbed & waxed the base of my Baughman Recliner and am proud to display the dings and boo boos acquired over it’s lifetime.

  17. Suzy8track on 09/07/2011:

    Sexy time indeed! Looks great! Totally digging that groovy wood sculpture wall hanging over it too! The room is really coming together.

  18. mary on 09/07/2011:

    Beautiful—I’ve been desperately hunting for pretty much the exact same dresser about a year now without much luck (I’m in a teeny town, which tends to make finding specifics even harder). How much did you end up paying for it??

  19. Van on 09/07/2011:

    Great score, it turned out beautiful and t looks amazing in your bedroom.

  20. Chris on 09/08/2011:

    I’m terribly jealous. Despite the fact that Plycraft was only a few miles away, Boston seems to have a real dearth of good mid-century pieces (although we got a killer teak armchair last week!).

  21. modernhaus on 09/08/2011:

    Nice leggy Swede you got there! But as someone who has witnessed the safari chair search up close, I’ll drink to that score (and pour a little on the ground for our brothas who are still searching).

  22. max on 09/08/2011:

    I did something similar with this great find in Fort Collins, CO. Unfortunately I’m moving soon and can’t move with it! Maybe I’ll figure out a way. I really love your choice of yellow in that vase, and that vase itself.

  23. Tonia (@ChicModern) on 09/08/2011:

    Yet another fabulous find…and I love the Howards Feed N’ Wax it does work wonders

  24. jennifer on 09/08/2011:

    wow. this is perfection morgan!

  25. Lotta on 09/08/2011:

    You are so lucky!
    It’s a beautiful piece. I’m green of envy!
    I have never seen someone like it here in Sweden.
    Good work!

  26. Rebecca on 09/09/2011:


    At our house, we’ve fallen for the danish oil + wax finish on new (previously unfinished) wood, too. It looks a million times better and more professional than stain and poly.

  27. John on 09/09/2011:

    Looks great, so vibrant and lively again! It’s great to find sweet finds like this.Those Swedes and their sneaky stamping, gotta love em!

  28. Adrienne on 09/10/2011:

    Beautiful dresser, and you did a great job bringing out the real beauty of the vintage wood’s patina.
    I was wondering where you got the very cute yellow pom pom flowers…are they dried, seed pods or yarn pom poms or little balls of fluf n stuff??

  29. claire maunsell on 09/10/2011:

    Can pretty much tell that the old four ringer there on the wall approves of it too…great work!

  30. Lucie on 09/12/2011:

    I confess–I hate heavy wood pieces on small legs. This piece is great, but I think it would look better on a platform.

  31. abby on 09/12/2011:

    well done dude!

    i see you moved the wood art. omg, you crack me up with how you move stuff around but hot damn, just when it feels like your house is perfectly styled, you move shit around, and it looks even better. mad skillz dude, just mad.

  32. amourette on 09/13/2011:

    wow what a difference! It looks fantastic!

  33. amourette on 09/13/2011:

    wow what a difference! It looks fantastic!

  34. Erik on 09/15/2011:

    It’s in our culture. We don’t like to show off.

  35. Venus on 09/18/2011:

    Love, Love! I agree about Vintage stuff… if it’s perfect and something happens it’s heart breaking… I don’t mind a little vintage wear and tear… it gives it character.

  36. Irene on 09/20/2011:

    stunning piece!

  37. Lindsay H on 09/23/2011:

    Wish I had your eye and talent, looks perfect!

  38. Jake on 09/27/2011:

    Thank you heaps for this, and the attached tutorial. I just restored a junkish looking mini sideboard that I found in my parents barn. It now looks a million bucks. Thankyou heaps!

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