I’d been looking for a shabby chic style desk to fit in the alcove of my spare room for awhile, but a dressing table, stool and mirror set cost £200-300 – a little too much for my budget. I started looking at local ads and ebay for a fixer upper and spotted a table in need of a bit of love.
The dressing table had been used as counter in a shop and the middle draw had been smashed in a burglary and just had a basic replacement. Whilst I was there I picked up the stool too – it’s actually a piano stool but it fit nicely under the desk and the lift up lid was handy extra storage. I paid £50 for the table and £10 for the stool.
Before the fun parts – making it look pretty, we had to do a lot of prep work. The dressing table was a 1960’s reproduction and featured a hideous marble effect piece of melamine stuck to the top of it (not my cup of tea). We gently prized this off but took part of a layer of ply wood from underneath. As it was a little proud of the edge moulding we decided to remove the rest of the layer to even it up – out came the chisel!
My chisel skills are a little nonexistent, so it left a couple of dents. Rather than keep taking off layers until I could see into the drawers, I broke out the polyfillter to sort the mishaps. A little work with a handheld power sander and we had a lovely smooth finish.
The whole thing needed sanding – slow, dusty and boring process as there were lots of fiddly bits to get into. I then cleaned them with sugar soap to ensure any grease was removed.
The damaged centre drawer was missing the decorative mouldings on the front. We looked everywhere but could not find any mouldings to match or even a close match. So we tried various ways to create our own. We started by taking a impression of the other mouldings using blue tac (you can by silicone to take moulds by that adds the cost) and we had blue tac laying around. The first thing we tried was polyfiller – but this just crumbled as the moulding were thin and too delicate. Next we tried PVA – that lost the shape. The final recipe was one piece of toilet paper (finely shredded), PVA and polyfiller to create a strong papier mache style dough. This gave us the four curly sections for the corners.
For the long sections we used half round dowel (£3.03), then marked the pattern in pencil next to the existing moulding and use a file to make the shapes. Finally we stuck the new mouldings with wood glue.
I choose Farrow and Ball paint as my research suggested this was good for the antique shabby chic look. Usually with shabby chic you’d paint the whole piece one colour and then add the top coat, and sand back the top coat to reveal the underneath, mimicking natural wear. But at £20.99 a tin, that would be a bit expensive. Instead we picked up a tester pot (£3.99) for the uncoat and just painted the areas we planned to sand. I used Charleston Gray for the undercoat and Pointing for the white top coat, in interior egg shell.
I love the colours but getting a smooth finish was near on impossible – the paint kept frothing as I applied it leaving little bubbles. It needed several coats and this was tedious as again I had to ensure I painted all the fiddly bits.
Once it had dried we sanded back the areas (using the photo to remind us where to sand). It worked really well on the legs and drawer edges but sanding the mouldings took all the layers of paint off, including the grey undercoat.
So to fix it we went over the white in places that would normally get bumped and scraped applying the grey paint sparingly with a piece of rag to give the same effect.
I was so pleased with how well it looked in the end.
Although the drawer knobs were nice, as we only had two and no way to match them, we needed to replace them with a new set. I feel in love with some lovely glass ones with little birds but they were £5 each! Luckily my sister treated me to them as an early Christmas present. Aren’t they lovely?
We sold the originals for £7.99.
The piano stool was a bit battered, had a spindle missing and the top cushion was a piece hessian and foam that was more like dust.
Luckily my dad’s friend does a bit of wood turning as a hobby so with some cupcakes in exchange he produced me a lovely matching spindle then the stool was painted in the same way with the white first then a few grey touches.
We then needed to put a new hinge and seat onto it. Luckily I had some of the fabric from recovering my chaise lounge left over, so I decided to use this on top of the stool to match. I brought a new piece of foam from Dunelm Mill (£9) and some upholstery pins (100 = £3.39) with round heads just to finish it of nicely and with the help of extra hands from my sister we stretched the fabric over and taped the upholstery nails in place to hold it on. It was the first upholstery I’d done and I’m quite pleased with the results, even if we did take some of the nails out a few times to even things up. There may have also been a little super glue involved in the corners.
I finished it off with a folding mirror (also via ebay for £29). This didn’t need much work, it was just a bit yellowed so a quick sand and coat of paint to freshen it up, and touched of the grey to give it the shabby chic look.
Total Spend: £136.41
These three pieces of furniture were complete mismatches but by using the same colour paint and style on them they look like they were made for each other.