Posted by: Small House Under a Big Sky Homestead | July 9, 2013

Bird’s Eye Maple Beauty

What character…what craftsmanship!

I bought this turn-of-the-century dresser crafted in a gorgeous bird’s eye maple wood last summer. This is one of two vintage dressers I bought right off a truck as it drive by last summer as I was doing a painting demo. (That’s actually another funny story in itself!)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter weeks of work, this curved, bird’s eye maple, four-drawer turn of the century dresser is transformed.

I could not wait to stage this dresser. I used Restored-A-Finish on this old decoy and played around with wooden items. I wanted wood tones but did not want them to outshine the dresser itself!

This four-drawer dresser needed stripping, drawer repairs, sanding and two new (vintage) drawer pulls. It’s a curved front piece that is constructed of hard woods and is beautifully made with dovetail construction on the drawer sides, keyholes on every drawer, lovely delicate carvings on the apron corners and on the feet as well as sitting on metal rollers. Oh my!


You’ve heard this mantra before…they sure don’t make ’em like this anymore!

The piece came to me with four of the six necessary brass drawer pulls. I located two compatible vintage handles at my favorite vintage hardware location, B&E Emporium in Allegan, MI, just ten minutes from my workshop. The newly purchased pulls will go on the top two drawers and the other four pulls will that came with this dresser will be attached to the bottom two drawers.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA  The bird’s eye maple dresser “before.” A diamond in the rough!

I made the decision early on to showcase much of this pieces incredible bird’s eye maple wood by leaving a lot of it natural. The wood grain on this dresser is so amazing and this piece has rock solid construction.

To transform this dresser, I alternated paint and stain in sections using my signature two-tone makeover technique. I added just a hint of distressing on the legs and sides to gently age the piece to its era. Like natural wear and tear over time.


Staged and ready to photograph!

I decided to leave the drawers and side panels in all the beauty of their natural grain, painted the frame and hoped the top could be left natural as well.


A view of the side panel in all its natural bird’s eye maple glory!

I left the top for last as I knew it was going to be a bit of a challenge due the large hole in it and the  amount of wood filler that had to be used to fill it, Quite frankly we did not like how this product performed and consider this a lesson learned the hard way.

Speaking of the drawers…these drawers have the much desired dovetail construction and due to age and heavy use they required a lot of prep work including re-gluing. Then my husband stripped and sanded their fronts. I applied Howard’s Restore-A-Finish followed by Howard’s Feed-N-Wax Wood Polish and Conditioner on them to preserve the wood as well as to highlight this amazing wood grain. Now they shine!


I lined the drawers with an exact match green in a check/plaid pattern.

The top was a real bear. After filling the hole with Elmer’s Wood Filler, I tested the product to see if indeed will stain as promised. It stained, sort of, but there was no grain and it looked just awful. Off to plan B, paint and add crackle using Miss Mustards Seeds Crackle Medium. The crackle product did not work for me either, so it was plan C; sand, paint and wax.


I ever so slightly distressed the legs of the dresser.

I was not happy with the filler nor the crackle product. This was a bummer kind of day in the studio for sure.

I also used Restore-a-Finish followed by Howard’s Feed-N-Wax Wood Polish and Conditioner on the side panels and they turned out just stunning too (if I do say so myself!)

I painted the frame and back in CeCe Caldwell’s Michigan Pine green. I finished the painted parts using CeCe Caldwell’s Aging Crème. I absolutely loved how the cream worked on this piece.


The drawer inside “before.” U-G-L-Y!

I alternated the sections between Ce Ce Caldwell’s Michigan Pine chalk paint and Restore-a-Finish to try to make-over this dresser into a real showpiece and used the Restore-a-Finish product on the side panels as I felt they were just too lovely to cover up.

The drawer insides were in pretty good shape so after cleaning them I used Restore-a-Finish on them to finished them off and added wrapping paper in the drawer bottoms.


Filling the missing chunk of wood on the top.

Here is the fill early on before sanding. This is Elmer’s Paintable Stainable Wood Filler and likely the last time. This is the first time we have tried this product and quite frankly was not happy with how it performed.

We put the vintage drawer pulls back on and the project is complete.

Bird's Eye 4 Panel collage

She is a pretty one don’t you think? This dresser is for sale through White Oak Studio Designs.

Thanks everyone for your continued support!

Linked to:

1) Homemakers on a Dime

2) Embracing Change

3) Sent to CeCe Caldwell’s blog/

4) Lilyfield Life

5) Three Mango Seeds

6) Creative Inspirations Linky Party

7) Funky Junk Interiors

Small House / Big Sky Donna


  1. A lot of work, but definitely worth it! It’s beautiful, Donna!

    • You are right about that! It seems here in “conservative” Michigan that folks here “still” really appreciate the natural finish look. So I’m currently focusing on a painted and natural finish look to fill that niche. Sold another similar combo last week, so am hoping I am onto something special here! Thanks so much for viewing, visiting and your kind comment.

  2. Wow what beautiful wood! I’m so glad you left the unfinished wood on the drawer fronts and the green is so pretty. Beautiful job! Thanks so much for entering Transformed Tuesday. Have a great week.

    Peggy~PJH Designs

    • Peggy, You are welcome and thank you as well! I am just getting the hang of these linking parties so am learning as I go. I just fund out about Transformed Tuesdays and I look forward to participating more often and enjoying the works of others who share there.

  3. so much hard work but worth it in the end. a beautiful job
    thanks for linking up to paint parade
    Fiona x

    • Thanks Fiona. Not sure why but you posts keep ending up in my spam file. I almost miss them!

  4. The exact match of the plaid is a detail that really makes it look rich. I love the Michigan Pine color. I just ordered a sample jar.

    • Teri, Thanks so much for your kind words. I was a litle but uncertain about the plaid as it was quite a bit less formal than the piece but the match we so perfect…and you know the end of that story!

      You will LOVE the Michigan Pine as much as I do. Shelly of Shizzle Design calls me “The Queen of Michigan Pine” because I use it so much. As an old Ranch-style home, my house lends itself to green tones (my homes colors are greens/terra cotta/brown/cream/deep reds – all forest colors) and I’ve found that certain woods “call” for Michigan Pine too. I’ll be waiting to hear what you paint with your Michigan Pine …and what you wax it with!

      Small House / Big Sky Donna

  5. I found you through Funky Junk Interiors and what a find it was. Your dresser is beautiful. That was genius choosing the green to offset the maple. I love it. Thank you so much for sharing. I’ve just joined your website and hope to learn more.

    • Oh, Vicki, you certainly made my day! What a nice compliment. I’ve found that certain wood tones seem to require certain paint tones and I’ve painted on BEM before and it seems that greens and blues are just the right fit. I really “listen” to what the piece tells me it needs and most of the time I follow its directions! I’m intuitive in my art making and fairly experimental. I learn the rules and then proceed to break them! The SCANDLE! Lol.

      Thank you so much for becoming a follower of my blog. Truly. I look forward to hearing from you again and be sure to ask questions, if you have them.

      Small House / Big Sky Donna

  6. […] Bird’s Eye Maple Beauty by Small House Under A Big Sky […]

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