Posted by: Small House Under a Big Sky Homestead | December 22, 2012

Dressing Table Makeover Using Plant Papers

I purchased this table from a Craig’s List posting. I drove an hour to Dowagiac, MI., to pick it up along with three other pieces of furniture.– all bought for $20.00 each. I previously wrote about that adventure in an earlier post at…k-of-the-irish/ ‎

PicMonkey Collage Dressing Table

The ladies dressing table “After” its transformation.

This dressing table was coated in a thick, oil-based yellow paint and had some extremely rough spots on top. The rough places needed serious sanding but they were also unfortunately located under the handkerchief drawers and that proved problematic. There was no easy way to get to them without sand them without dismantling the whole piece and removing the drawers and that was more involved than we wanted to undertake.


Dressing table “Before.”


A cane back and handkerchief drawers are interesting  features of this dressers style.


Two intriguing clues to the history of this piece.

I solved that issue by deciding to put my hand-made papers on the top surface and coated it with a thick coat of matte medium. This is what I use to do with my paper-covered cast sculptures. So I choose my paint colors to coordinate with the colors my hand-made papers with  inclusions of ornamental grasses.

When I took the pieces apart to paint them it was interesting to find that one of the small handkerchief drawers had a stamp on it. It says, Hanton, Dewy Lake, where the cottage was located where I bought the desk). It also has a letter “L” which I am presuming is the makers mark. Also of interest was the handwritten, large cursive words that reads, “40 X 20 ½ Maple Top” written in pencil.

These clues lead me to believe that this dressing table was custom-made for a previous cottage owner.

I painted the dressing table, the drawers (inside and out) with a two-toned combo of ASCP Graphite and CoCo.  I feel that painting the inside of the drawers and lining them with my handmade papers not only adds a nice touch it gives the piece a “finished look and feel” that an unpainted drawer does not. After the painting and touch up was complete I waxed the piece in dark wax knowing that I did not want to get dark wax on the papers or the matte medium.

I had been thinking about using my plant papers on a piece of furniture for some time but was waiting for the right piece to come along. While I had used plant papers in many ways including a base of canvas I admit I was nervous about using them on a wood surface. I definitely felt out of my comfort zone. And, yet when I owned the art gallery and was working in handmade paper I often pushed myself through feeling out of my comfort zone and found myself making something terrific in spite of being scared to try it.

I had to figure my way through the process. This is what I did…I positioned the paper first to make sure I had enough and to get an idea for how the paper would look as a substrate surface. It was then I realized I had better paint the top of the table so that if any color showed though it was a uniform Coco color and not bits of oil base yellow.

I poured some medium into a washed pie tray and grabbed a chip brush. I brushed some medium on the back of the paper and positioned it in place. I kept going until the whole top was covered with paper. It took 14, 8 ½ X 11 sheet of paper to cover the top.

It made for an interesting and unique look and helped to solve a problem that could have been a whole lot harder to solve if I had needed to remove the handkerchief drawers and heavily sand.

I think that this would make a great piece in the entry way with the drawers holding hats, scarves and gloves. I finished the piece by waxing it in dark wax and adding ceramic knobs bought at Hobby Lobby. The dimension of this ladies dresser is 40” long X 20 ½” wide and 38” tall.  This piece is for sale at the White Oak Studio.

Did I make the right decision or should I have passed on this piece?

Small House / Big Sky Donna



  1. You did the right thing in not passing up this piece. The stamp and maker’s mark hidden on the back of the drawer must have been a nice surprise, I love when that type of thing happens on vintage finds! Nice choice of color combinations with the paper and black and brown tones on the wood.

  2. Thanks for yur comment and support. Yes, the stamped info. as well as the hand written date underneath the table top was all fun to discover. I often wonder what tales these old but gracious pieces have to tell us!! Do they know of the ladies who have sat before them and combed long hair -100 strokes each night? Or what parties they went to after sitting before the dressing table and making themselves pretty? I think an interesting movie could be made following the history of a piece of furniture – kind of like The Violin. Thanks or stopping by the Small House!!

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