THE NEWSPRINT DRESSER
[Click any photo for a closer look]
Here’s another project that in retrospect I can’t believe I attempted, sort of like the painted couch. It just took up a lot more time, space and effort than I imagined it would. When your living room is your workshop, it can be quite a pain to have it filled with a mess of supplies for a long period while you try to finish a project you’re not sure you should have ever started. But I really love how this one came out, so no regrets!
I found this dresser on the street, and I wish I had a “before” picture of it. It was painted black, and most of the paint on the top was worn off and just the bare wood showed. The gold molding “frames” on the drawers looked just as they do now, and they really stood out against the black. The dresser had no drawer handles, so I guess you were just supposed to use the molding to open the drawers (which was fine for the top and bottom drawers but a bit awkward for the middle ones). It really would’ve just taken a good sanding and a fresh coat of paint to restore this dresser to an acceptable condition, but luckily for me, the owner preferred to abandon it on the street.
I lived with this dresser as I found it, wrecked paint and all, while deciding how to make it over into something more fun and interesting. The original idea was to cover it in random panels from comic strips, but I quickly realized that it would take a ton of newspapers to find enough panels to cover this whole dresser. Plus I wanted them all to be different so I couldn’t just take a stack of free papers and cut out the same panels over and over. I also wanted the makeover to be as close to free as possible, so buying newspapers and comic books was out of the question. I needed to change the plan. As luck would have it, a stack of useless, unwanted phone books were delivered to my apartment building, and they were promptly dumped in the recycle bin by tenants who (of course) use the internet or cell phones when they need to look up a number. I figured since they were made of newsprint and the columns of names and numbers would make a nice background pattern, I could start by covering the whole dresser in cut up pages. That alone took quite a while. I wasn’t using entire pages from the phone books, but slicing columns out of each page (before I owned this awesome paper cutter), and this step alone took a long time. I was using watered-down Elmer’s glue to attach the paper to the dresser in an overlapping, perpendicular pattern.
The next step was collecting comic strip panels, ad images, crossword puzzles, jumbles, phrases, horoscopes and just random little pictures, all in black-and-white, and mostly from free local independent newspaper the Stranger. While it was fun to search for cool, weird and funny things to include, it was also really time-consuming and had my living room strewn with paper and scraps for weeks and weeks. Plus my hands were constantly covered in newsprint, but whatever. Once I had a big stack of stuff to use, I started gluing them over the phone book column-covered dresser and the whole thing really began to take shape.
I hadn’t planned how I would finish the whole piece once I was done covering it with cut-up newspaper stuff, but I realized it was a little too black-and-white contrast-y for my taste. I had sort of pictured it in my mind as having a yellowed kind of antique look, but I wasn’t sure how to make that happen. I decided to try and stain it with tea, but that was too subtle. I settled on staining it with coffee…just spreading over the whole piece with a paint brush. It had just the effect I wanted, and smelled delicious!
I didn’t know what I would do with the gold molding frames on the drawers, but in the end I decided I liked how the gold looked with the warm tone of the coffee-stained paper. Finally I varnished the entire piece several times to give it a nice shine that would also protect all the newspaper. The finishing touch came when I saw another abandoned dresser in an alley with only 2 handles left on the drawers. (Did other scavengers take the rest of the handles? I’ll never know.) They seemed sort of perfect for the dresser, so I came back with my screwdriver and helped myself to them. I think they look pretty good on the made-over dresser, and I thanked the Universe for delivering the right handles for my dresser. The whole makeover was really close to costing nothing. I bought varnish, Elmer’s glue, and a coffee, but that was about it!