Saturday, July 5, 2014

A Little Boy's Dresser - Putting Dreams to Reality

Forgive me for my absence. I am quite ashamed at how much time has passed since I wrote a post. I have nothing to say except - this was a doozy of a school year. And I needed to distance myself from all that is scholastic for a time in order to feel the quickening that is necessary before I start to plan for next year.

In that distancing from all academia, I have discovered about myself that, as much as I love to bake, or write, or draw, or build out of blocks, or paint - I am a creative person - and as much as I find solace and enjoyment and relaxation in any of these while I am enmeshed in them, I would not be happy making  a career out of any one of them. I get giddy over putting together a lesson that I think is wonderful and interesting for my students. But I also find tremendous satisfaction in baking for my friends and family or making a healthy, satiating dinner for my family. I get butterflies when a poem bursts out of me with nary a distinct thought from my own head telling my hand what to write. I can take a deep breath and sigh with exhausted contentment when I battle, and defeat, a big mess or pile of laundry. And I had an unbelievable amount of fun conquering the mess that was this dresser, making it something my 4 year old is thrilled to have in his room. I need to flex my creative muscles in a wide variety of ways in order to feel whole. And this dresser put my muscles to the test in more ways than one.
I got it for free. I subscribe to - a website that is, essentially, a list where people send out emails stating they have something to give or need - all for free. It is a way of preventing the landfills from overflowing. Last winter, a very nice woman posted that she had an antique dresser to give away. It had water and termite damage. It was in very rough shape. It originally had four legs that stood it at least another 10 inches off the ground, but one leg was broken (eaten) off. Since I knew I would need another dresser for my son, soon, I accepted it. He's small. It made more sense to just cut off the three remaining legs and bring it down to his height.  
In the process of priming it (two coats of Kilz - water damage stains soaked through almost immediately), I realized the bottom drawer was not worth the effort to fix. So, I broke off the sides and bottom and kept the front panel. My husband sawed off the braces for the bottom drawer, and we now have a nook where my son can keep his shoes out of the way and in one place, freeing up some space in his toy room.
My son loves blue. It has been his favorite color since the day he could point out colors. He always wants to wear blue. He wants blue food. He wants blue toys. At a birthday party yesterday, he chose a cupcake to eat solely on the fact that it had a blue cocktail umbrella in it. So, it was an easy choice for me to pick colors. He picked out two blues that he liked (though his absolute favorite is the darker of the two). I painted the entire outside of the dresser in this darker color - two coats. The insert panels and the inside of the dresser are the lighter shade.
For my son's 5th birthday in September, we're having a Star Wars themed party. He adores Star Wars (episodes 4-6). They have become his new pick for sick days, for rainy afternoons, etc. I found these drawer pulls on Etsy - the characters are outlined in glow-in-the-dark paint. They are a big hit with the little one!
The drawers (and the third front panel) I painted in a color that is actually a twilight purple. It is very dark, but not black. I wanted them to stand out from the blues on the dresser. Then, I scoured the internet, poster sales, wall paper selections - you name it! - for solar systems, planets, stars. I wanted a celestial background for his Star Wars characters to stand against. I finally resorted to checking a book out of the library on galaxies and making color copies of them. Everything I found was either cartoonish or obvious paintings/drawings of stars and planets. I just envisioned real solar systems. This was the only way I could make my vision come to fruition.
Using the store brand of Mod Podge (I really wish someone had just told me that this was essentially nothing more than a huge tub of liquid glue), I decoupaged the pictures to the front of the drawers, adding two coats to the top of the pictures. In this one, above, you can still see the last solar system drying.
My son, and his little buddies, all made July 4th t-shirts during one of our play dates. I had plenty of white and glow-in-the-dark paint left over, so I added little drops to the board in random sizes and places. I outlined, dotting out the stars, the solar systems in the GITD paint. In this one, above, you can see a faint bit of the glowing. After I was satisfied with the number of stars and the GITD paint, I added two more layers of glue/decoupage over the top to seal everything in and, hopefully, keep the added stars and dots from getting rubbed off, broken off, etc.
Above, you can see the very wet GITD paint. It shows up yellowish-white, then fades to almost translucent after it dries.
Once all layers of paint and decoupage had dried and seasoned, somewhat, I added the Star Wars drawer pulls. Darth Vader looks like he is about to fight off this spiral solar system. 
 My finished product. I have no idea how old this dresser was to begin with, but the frame was solid. And the remaining wood, even if a bit water stained, is in good shape. And I believe this is the first time something I imagined came out almost exactly as I imagined it. 
Here, below, is the matching 3rd drawer-front. I finished the top and sides of this the same as I did the drawers. I painted the insides of the drawers to seal out dust and dirt and then added contact paper to the bottoms to keep his clothes from snagging on anything. To the 3rd drawer-front, I added the 4 remaining drawer pulls and drilled hangers on the back. This will be a place for him to keep his hats, jacket, etc.
Below, you can see his 3rd-drawer front hanging in his room. His bed faces it, so he'll be able to see his solar systems glowing.
Here's my little Snickerdoodle photo bombing the finished dresser.
 The finished dresser. This, too, faces his bed, so he'll be able to see the GITD solar systems and drawer pulls at night. He has also begun moving his shoes under the cubby the 3rd drawer made.
 My little escape the first few weeks of summer gave me a chance to truly stretch creative muscles I hadn't used in quite some time. And this was such fun. My son helped paint some of the blue, too, but even though the end product was for him, the process was for me. He always had input on how things were done, though. I know he'll outgrow this dresser at some point, but I'm hoping that doesn't happen for a long time. And after it does, I'm still keeping the drawer pulls. :-)

What ways do you find to stretch yourself - either creatively or mentally? I'd love to hear your stories!


  1. It looks great! Did you use any wax to harden the paint? I'm just asking because when I painted Holly's dressers in the summer, the humidity wouldn't allow the paint to dry completely without waiting weeks. I had to buy some kind of finishing wax to prevent the paint from bubbling and peeling. It could have just been the type of paint I used though..

    1. Thankfully, the low humidity the past few days helped tremendously. I used a satin-finish so it would dry harder - I tend to keep semi-gloss on hand and that, I felt, would retain too much moisture. I also ended up sealing the entire front of the drawers with the decoupage stuff which actually hardened quite a bit. When the drawers did stick, a little, I painted the tracks and the sides of the drawers with the same decoupage liquid. That seemed to do the trick. I used Valspar primer/paint in one, too. I know it was expensive, but I figured he would beat it up a bit and high-end would end up being worth it.

  2. So proud of you, Dionne! It looks fantastic and I'm sure Syd loves it! So glad you were able to flex your creative muscles and I hope you have many more opportunities to do so this summer. Love you!xoxo