Tuesday, April 1, 2014

A Tale of a Bureau

When I was growing up, I remember sharing a bedroom with my younger sister, Emily. At times, it was great, and then again, like all siblings sharing a bedroom, there were times that it was horrible. We argued like all siblings do, but when we got along, things were great. One of the coolest parts of sharing a bedroom was that our beds could be made into bunk beds, giving us so much room for activities (Can you name that movie? Don't worry, they were made to be bunk beds - we didn't have to nail them together!). The other thing that I remember about our bedroom growing up was a bureau, which I have recently learned was a part of the bunk bed set. When we moved when I was in middle school, the bureau moved with us to our new house, and I had it in my bedroom since we each had our own rooms at that point.

When I went to college, the bureau stayed in my old bedroom and I used it to store clothes I only wore during the summer and items I didn't bring to college. When Dylan and I moved in together my senior year, the bureau finally made it's way into our new apartment. It has since traveled with us to every place we have lived since then - Indiana included. And turns out, that's not the only traveling it has done. This bureau was in the house that my mom's side of the family owned in Newport, RI.

The family owned house in Newport was purchased in the late 1800s, and then during the 1920's, was used as a boarding house, run by a close friend of the family. This bedroom set was purchased for one of the bedrooms in the house. Once my grandmother was married in the 1950s, the house was returned to single-family home status, and my grandmother lived there with my grandfather, my uncle, and my mom. The bureau traveled with them when they moved from the house to New Jersey and Washington, D.C., and then back to the same house in Newport again. When my mom married, she took the bedroom set, and that is how I ended up with it.

Now, since the bureau was built sometime around the 1940's, it was scratched up and had a lot of marks on it from it's years of moving. With it being in my possession now, I wanted to refinish it. It was a reddish-brown color, and I wanted it darker, so using my random orbital sander, I took off all of the polyurethane and all the stain, bringing it down to it's beautiful maple hardwood. Because of the detail, I actually used my Dremel to sand some of the more difficult parts of the bureau.

Before staining the bureau, I actually contemplated making a slight modification to it. The detailed rounded pieces along the bottom of the bureau are not exactly the style that I am drawn to, and since they are just decorative pieces that frame out the bottom and hide the legs of the bureau, cutting away some of the wood wouldn't compromise the structure of the bureau. I measured out the squared shape that I wanted and had my Dremel saw ready to cut, but realized that not only was my blade not long enough to go through the wood, but I didn't really want to make it look different after hearing about it's history in the family. Even though it's not my style, I figured that keeping it's original skeleton was important in a piece with so much history.

Therefore, not making the cuts to the bureau led me straight into refinishing it. The raw wood was absolutely beautiful and in great shape, but to help it accept the new stain, I put on a coat of Minwax Pre-Stain Wood Conditioner and let it sit for fifteen minutes. It's funny too, because the color of the wood with the conditioner on it was just slightly lighter than the original color. I wish I had a better before photo, but the one I took was super blurry and I don't have my picture backup drive unpacked yet.

I wiped the excess off and then applied my first coat of Minwax Jacobean stain. You can see that the last coat of poly on the top was so shiny that it was reflecting the drop ceiling grid onto the surface! Aside from that though, this bureau looks absolutely beautiful now!

Two coats of stain, and three coats of polyurethane later, and the bureau was finished! Dylan helped me put it in the guest bedroom this morning, and it's the first piece of furniture in the room! I'm so excited to finally get the house put together, and I'm so excited that this piece of family history has a new place and a new look. I really love the dark tones of the wood and even though Dylan and I just spent hours painting the moulding in this room white, I think I like the way it stands out against the white beadboard and trim.

I just need to find some cool hardware for the drawers and then it's all set. Oh, and it will need a lamp and some books too, just to finish it off.

I've got a few more pieces to refinish, which should take me a about a week each, since I don't have a lot of time after work to get these projects done, and then we'll be at the point where we can actually look like we live in this house!

Have you been refinishing furniture lately? What's your favorite stain color?

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