Red Holiday Inspired Antique Empire Dresser

Red is my favorite color and so you can imagine how excited I get during the holidays when I can go crazy with it. When the Furniture Fixer Upper challenge came up mid holiday decorating, well all I saw was a good way. Meet Holly, she's a beautiful red holiday inspired empire dresser that I grew quite fond of during her makeover. So much so that I decided to keep her.

She showed up on our doorstep looking like she was on her last leg but all I could see was her beautiful craftsmanship. She deserved someone breathing new life into her and I was happy to take on the challenge.

Red Antique Empire Dresser Before Makeover

Red Holiday Inspired Antique Empire Dresser

You can see in the photo above that there are missing wooden knobs, a keyhole escutcheon, and veneer but that's not all the damage.

Like I mentioned earlier, it's Furniture Fixer Upper Day where I and five talented furniture painting friends come together to breath new life into six pieces of furniture. Look for the links to the makeovers at the bottom of this post.
For last months challenge, I used one little napkin to completely transform an old Serpentine Dresser that had also seen it's better days.

My guess on the age of this dresser

Take a look at the back of the dresser. Judging by the square nails used to attach the back my guess is it dates back to around 1840s-1850s. Unfortunately, there is no furniture makers stamp and I couldn't find another dresser just like it during my research. If any of you have a better idea, I'd love to hear about it in the comment section.

Red Antique Empire Dresser Back

When I work on projects in the workshop I always have music blasting from my Bluetooth speaker. Like I said, I'm in full holiday mode over here so Holly and I enjoyed many hours listening to period music with Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker Suite.

The craftsmanship of this dresser from the 1800s

Before we take a closer look at all the damage I want to show you some of the craftsmanship. I've never worked on a piece this old before so I'm taken by all the details like these hand-carved dovetail joints on the drawers.

Red Antique Empire Dresser Dovetail Joints

And the wood keyhole escutcheons.

Red Antique Empire Dresser Wood Keyhole Escutcheon

Here is a look at the top of the dresser. Either someone replaced damaged veneer with a diamond-shaped wood inlay or this was a trademark of the furniture makers. Haven't a clue.

Red Antique Empire Dreser Damaged Top

Guess how much we paid for this dresser? A whopping $26 which I think is pretty sweet considering its age, damage and all.

A look at all the damage on this empire dresser

But she needed a lot of work starting with the two small drawers at the top. I believe, if my research is accurate, they were used for gloves.

Red Antique Empire Dresser Drawer Repairs

Both drawer fronts had a slight curve from buckling over time and the small trim detail was coming apart. The fronts needed to be secured to the dovetail joints as well as the trim. Unfortunately, bar clamps couldn't be used because of the curvature and so Mr. Frugalista used furniture straps to hold everything tight while the glue cured and it worked like a charm.

While that was curing it was a good time to fill all the places where there was missing veneer, like the skirting.

Red Antique Empire Dresser Damaged Skirting

There were a few corners both on the top and base that were pretty beat up.

Red Antique Empire Dresser Damaged Corner

Once the glue was cured on the top drawers it was time to fill the missing keyhole escutcheons and the missing wooden knob screw holes.

Red Antique Empire Dreser Filling Missing Keyhole Escutcheons

Making the empire dresser all pretty again

Time for the fun part, make her all pretty again. I did not feel guilty painting the dresser because it was beyond stripping and staining. I knew I would have major paint bleed if I opened the pores of the wood with light sanding so instead, I primed first.

Red Antique Empire Dresser Primed

I'm on a mission to use up the paint in the workshop and I had just enough festive red Annie Sloan Emperor's Silk chalk paint left in the can to paint three coats.

Red Antique Empire Dresser Painted Festive Red

To deepen the paint color and add an aged patina I used black wax applied with a round brush. Applying more in the corners and buffing with a lint-free rag. When I added too much black wax in spots I would dab some clear wax onto my rag and rub it off.

Red Antique Empire Dresser Black Wax

In my stash I had a set of glass knobs and two pretty ones with back plates.

Red Antique Empire Dresser Hardware

And I did something I kind of regret now - painted them white. Tell me if you think I did the right thing? It's hard to tell in the photo below but there is silver gilding wax along the outer edges.

I'm not 100% certain about the glass knobs either. They remind me of old glass doorknobs. What do you think about those too?

Red Antique Empire Dresser Glass Knobs

Whew, this post has been long-winded. It's about time I showed you what the red holiday inspired antique dresser looks like now.

Red Holiday Inspired Antique Empire Dresser Makeover

Red Antique Empire Dresser Side View

Red Antique Empire Dresser Carved Details

In keeping with the holiday inspiration and music enjoyed while doing the makeover, I lined the drawers with musical note wrapping paper. It's held in place with double-sided tape in the corners.

Red Antique Empire Dresser Musical Note Paper Lined Drawers

I left the inside and sides of the drawers unpainted because I think the old wood and all it's timeworn dents and scratches tell a story.

Did I tell you that red is my favorite color? I know I did but just testing you. Here are some other pieces I painted red that you may like.
French Poem Drop Leaf/Tilt Top Table
Red Decoupaged Shopping Bag Table
Red Painted Fabric Arm Chair
Red Antique Oak Bookcase

Red Antique Empire Dresser Makeover Before And After
Now let's see how my talented friends in the Furniture Fixer Uppers group transformed these furniture pieces...

Furniture Fixer Uppers Group Furniture Before November 2018 Challenge
Press the links below to see the after photos and tutorials...

I share my projects at these inspiring link parties.

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