Posted by: Small House Under a Big Sky Homestead | December 23, 2012

Vintage Empire Dresser Switch Out

After more than a year of painting furniture for sale, (not counting the French provincial bedroom set for my granddaughter chronicled here – I finally painted a piece of furniture for my own home. And of course I want it completed and in place by our family Christmas happening this week!


I’m talking about this 19th Century Empire dresser and carved mirror painted in Ce Ce Caldwell’s Michigan Pine.

I recently switched out a 1980’s sofa table and two benches replacing it with this Empire dresser and moving the sofa table behind our leather couch.


The sofa table and stools now sits behind our couch (though it is now covered with Christmas decorations and family photographs.)

When we moved to our current Ranch home much of the furniture and accessories we now use came from our old 75-year-old Cape Cod home and my husband’s former apartment. Until recently this corner of our open dining room held this sofa table, matched bench seating in front of the two framed pictures from my old formal living room.


This is the corner of my dining room that needs updating.


Now the corner of my dining room looks like this. The chalk paint is more forest green in person than the teal green it appears here.

I am ready for a visual change as well I need more storage. So when this mid-19th century empire dresser came my way; I bought it. I found it at a vintage barn sale and picked it up thinking I would paint and resell. When my husband saw the dresser he said, “This one is a keeper,” so a new plan was made.


Another view of the dresser and my favorite embroidered and beaded runner.

I love the open floor plan in this house – it really works for us.  Because we are a second marriage, each bringing pieces we’ve acquired over the years to our partnership, our home is filled with an eclectic mix of vintage furniture. While I’d love to have a home that looks all decorator perfect, is just isn’t going to happen. A mismatch of era’s in furniture is apparently our Karma.


One coat of Michigan Pine, lightly distressed using a wet towel along the edges. I left the mushroom pulls au naturel!

Our French dining table and chairs was my husband’s parents and the chair seats have been recovered a few times over the years and now boosts a forest green tweed fabric that works best with our patterned rugs. Painting our dining set is in my plan, though I just haven’t gotten there yet. I am thinking about ASCP Graphite with a wood top for the table and this Michigan Pine for the chairs. What do you think?

This Empire dresser can be seen from the kitchen or the living and dining room. I adore the Empires bold lines, curves and substantial size. AND, best of all it will give me some much-needed storage for linens. It’s obvious in the 1940’s when my house was built, people didn’t have as many things or need as much storage as we do today. I will use this as a buffet too.

I lightly painted the drawers, waited and hour or so and then distressed the edges with a wet rag.  A soft clear AS wax completed the finish. I left the wooden mushroom pulls unpainted as well as the frame and top.

I found this lovely ornate wood mirror at an estate sale last summer for $20.00. I painted and clear waxed the mirror frame, taking care to leave some of the curls and carvings in the natural wood tone for contrast. I have to say that I adore this mirror, painted. My hand-painted tole tray from a church sale, in green with its hand-painted flowers sits on a metal stand as part of the staging.


The wooden framed mirror with carvings left unpainted and natural for contrast. The reflection is my dining room and kitchen bar area. The glass is mottled which adds one more layer of vintage to this space.

PicMonkey Collage mirror jpeg

Let me know if you like this dresser and as always, thank you for following the Small House Under a Big Sky!

Small House / Big Sky Donna



  1. Pretty. Love the colors!

    • Thanks for your compliment. I tested this color for the first time in October at a Shizzle Design painting workshop. I really like the forest green look – it was perfect for the colors in my home esp. my practical multi-colored rugs (terra cotta/brown/gold/forest green). When I decide to keep this Empire dresser, I decided to use the Michigan Pine again. Its a bit teal in some light and a deeper green in other light. It’s now one of my two favorite CCC colors!!

  2. ooh! The Michigan Pine paint is a great color. I haven’t tried it yet but maybe I should. Looks lovely!

    • It is such a dynamic and rich color. I’ve found that it changes its tone a bit depending on the wood underneath. On my vintage parlor table it really went forest green. On the Empire dresser it went a bit more teal, so the light effects it, I think. Either way, it is a gorgeous color. Thank so much for reading Small House Under a Big Sky.

  3. […] Donna @ Small House Under a Big Sky submitted her beautiful dresser. […]

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