Before and After: How To (Subtly) Modernize An Antique Dresser

This is a Very Serious Dresser, and while it is certainly beautiful and worthy of preservation, how does one incorporate a dark, gravitas-filled antique into a home that’s decidedly not all stained glass windows, turrets, and gargoyles? Don’t worry—the answer is not “paint it white.”

This dresser belonged to the late grandmother of Erin Wheeler of Sunny Circle Studio, and Erin wanted to find the perfect spot in the house for it as well as the perfect way to help it look its best:

I’m not sure how old it is (maybe the 1920s?), but it has that imperfect charm about it. I loved it, but wanted to give it a little re-fresh and make it fit a bit better with the rest of my aesthetic (vintage + modern) plus clean her up a little bit.

This is such a lovely piece to pass down through the generations, and it’s lucky to have Erin caring for it and appreciating its imperfections.

Look how it glows! It’s incredible what a difference a good dusting, cleaning, and/or oiling can make for wood pieces. (Bonus points for shooting the Before and After photos in nearly identical light.) It looks right at home with the rest of Erin’s furnishings now, and whereas before the lamps appeared to be plonked down upon it, now they make perfect sense. The white lamps highlight the white marble top, and their symmetry suits the formality of the dresser.

Replacing the mirror was a smart move: the old one was lovely, but it definitely had a gothic somberness that might be difficult to incorporate into many modern homes. The new one is light and airy, but the dark-wood circle hook on which it hangs links it to the dark-wood dresser while also corresponding with the new circle dresser knobs.

I also really appreciate how the attractive rug hides most of the rental-standard carpet. While rugs-on-rugs make me twitchy, here the underlying carpet is tight and neutral enough that it doesn’t compete with the rug.

The additional white decorative items further lighten the look of the dresser and connect the lamps to each other. That faceted tray is especially perfect: it’s a playful, modern take on a more formal accessory.

It’s truly touching how Erin has embraced the marble’s stains and imperfection: they’re tangible evidence of the life of someone who was important to her.

I kinda love all the stains and marks from all those years. This baby has been loved!

Thank you, Sunny Circle Studio!

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