Antique Empire Chest Refreshed

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It never seems to fail that when I enter a thrift store searching for item A, I come out with items B, C, D E, F….you get the idea. So, is the solution to just not look for item A? Nah. Too much fun to run through the alphabet. hee hee. Does that happen to you? I went in looking for a chair and this is what I came out with, amongst other items. Can you blame me? I had a 35% off coupon burning a hole in my pocket. eep! Yes, this antique empire chest was meant to be mine.

Antique Empire Chest Before Renewal by Prodigal Pieces | prodigalpieces.com

However, knowing my past experiences with chests like this, I did look inside and around before purchasing. Why? Because a deal isn’t always a deal when it ends up to be a hot mess and takes more work than it’s worth. Here’s my summation:

  • no mirror, but harp is present
  • cabinet is sturdy, but has chipping veneer and large gouges out of the top
  • drawers and pulls are present, but four of the drawers will need rebuilt
  • casters all there and it doesn’t stink (BONUS)

The drawers kinda threw me and made me second guess because I have no need for another project piece. See what I mean? The side of the drawers were broken so that the bottom was running over the metal drawer stops and gouged out huge pieces. So not only did the bottoms need replaced, but all the sides needed rebuilt. See the tape holding it on the side? ugh.

Damaged Drawers of Empire Chest | Prodigal Pieces | prodigalpieces.com

Then there’s the top and the other damage to deal with.

Damaged Empire Chest of Drawers Top | prodigalpieces.com

Close-Up of Antique Empire Chest Damage | prodigalpieces.com

I promised myself no more pieces that would involve JC (aka. husband) because he needs to work in our kitchen remodel. However, the price and style stole my heart, so home it came.

If you didn’t know, I’m an absolute sucker for adore empire pieces with those curvy accents. Here are a few of my recent ones (some are replicas and some are legit):

This tall chest and dresser were begging for an updated look. You can view the chest HERE and the dresser OVER HERE.

Farmhouse Style Hand Painted Empire Chest by Prodigal Pieces | prodigalpieces.com

Farmhouse Dresser with Damaged Veneer Removal Tutorial by Prodigal Pieces | prodigalpieces.com

Then there’s also this table (see the before in this post) and another dresser I have had the pleasure of restoring and finishing.

Vintage Empire Style Library Table by Prodigal Pieces | prodigalpieces.com

Antique Empire Chest Dresser with Mirror at Prodigal Pieces | prodigalpieces.com

*post contains affiliate links so you can use the products I love to use too and Ryobi provided a tool (see full disclosure)

Each piece was fun and unique and I tell all about why they got the look they did in each post linked above. Fun reads!

My goal with this particular chest was to keep those gorgeous drawers in original since the faces were in great shape. However, because I used a half container of wood filler on it, paint was going to happen. First, I used my sander to knock down all the filled spots.

Repairs Made to Antique Chest of Drawers by Prodigal Pieces | prodigalpieces.com

Next up was to use my Kilz primer to seal in the stains and give it a fresh surface to work with. My favorite Zibra brushes are always to the rescue! If you haven’t tried any of these 7 different brushes yet, I kid you not when I say you will fall in love. See my brush snob post here where I became hooked.

Shop Prodigal Pieces | prodigalpieces.com

Painting Empire Chest of Drawers | prodigalpieces.com

Once the primer cured, I used two coats of my favorite Dove White paint. While each coat was curing, I turned my attention to that orphan mirror harp. It had no use on the dresser any longer, so I counted it fair game for a repurposed life.

First, I took it apart and used wood glue and bar clamps to make it all sturdy. Added a more wood filler and to be sanded as well. Once all was set, I used my Ryobi drill and spade bit to make the mirror key holes bigger to accept a dowel.


Drilling Mirror Harp with Ryobi drill | prodigalpieces.com

Here it is with dowel and just needs a top. Do you see where I’m going with this?

Mirror Harp Upcycled | prodigalpieces.com

I found a piece of old wood that matched this wood grain perfectly, then counter-sunk a few holes to attached it to the top for a shelf. I’ll show you the after in a sec.

Back to this antique empire chest makeover… Like I said, the drawers needed rebuilt, so JC cut some new bottoms from ¼” ply on our table saw and I attached them with my Ryobi nailer. Notice there are no sides to the bottom. So that meant we had to rip some strips to attach to keep the drawers sitting square in the openings.

Nailing Rebuilt Drawers with Ryobi AirStrike | prodigalpieces.com

Okay, y’all have been patient and I’m happy to say this antique empire chest makeover is DONE. Wahoo!!

Antique Empire Chest is given new life with repurposed mirror harp shelf by Prodigal Pieces | prodigalpieces.com

I so adore a paint/stain combo on a piece of furniture. In this instance those gorgeous drawers with striking grain are showcased.

Glass Drawer Pulls on Antique Empire Chest by Prodigal Pieces | prodigalpieces.com

You can imagine my delight when I found the exact number of glass knobs in my stash to replace the old.

Farmhouse Chest of Drawers in Empire Style with Repurposed Mirror Harp Shelf by Prodigal Pieces | prodigalpieces.com

A secret surprise is that I lined the drawers with my favorite $1 garage sale find…my Waverly ticking stripe wall paper. I ration this stuff like crazy! Do you blame me?

Vintage Waverly Blue Ticking Stripe Wallpaper Lined Drawers in Antique Empire Chest Makeover by Prodigal Pieces | prodigalpieces.com

Even better was that the repurposed mirror harp came out just as I had hoped it would. It now serves as a shelf, with cup hooks, and a towel bar below.

Repurposed Mirror Harp made into a Shelf with Mug and Towel Rack by Prodigal Pieces | prodigalpieces.com

Upcycled Antique Mirror Harp Shelf with Farmhouse Styling by Prodigal Pieces | prodigalpieces.com

Enamelware is one of my addictions, so when I see a fun cup, I add it to my stash. They remind me of simpler days gone by…and how maybe I should use them daily since they don’t break. hee hee hee.

Farmhouse Vignette with Enamelware Cups on Reclaimed Shelf by Prodigal Pieces | prodigalpieces.com

Rustic Farmhouse Decor by Prodigal Pieces | prodigalpieces.com

This antique empire chest was refreshed, the mirror harp was given new life, and my goal was to inspire you to give DIY a try. I hope I achieved it!

Do pin and share so that you can inspire others to do the same. You never know who needs that boost to get started.

Antique Empire Chest gets new life and a mirror harp becomes something new. Come see how Larissa at Prodigal Pieces shows you how. | prodigalpieces.com

Up next, this sad looking pair of thrifted footstools are getting a makeover. Stay tuned to see because this is a super-easy way to learn basic upholstery. Yay!

Thrifted Footstools Before Makeover by Prodigal Pieces | prodigalpieces.com

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More makeover like this antique empire chest:

An Antique Vanity Transformation by Prodigal Pieces | www.prodigalpieces.comSometimes a vintage Mid Century Modern piece of furniture can use an update. Here is a fantastic way to bring those tired pieces into modern day design by Prodigal Pieces | prodigalpieces.com

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22 Comments

  • Debrashoppeno5

    The dresser really looks great. I like the combo of the painted body and the stained drawers. It really needed you to bring it back to life.

    May 30, 2017 at 6:37 am Reply
    • Larissa

      You are so kind to say so. I just wanted to see it revived and had fun trying. Thanks!

      May 30, 2017 at 6:53 am Reply
  • SueSchneid22

    Great work there! It looks beautiful. I, too, love the stained drawer fronts.

    May 30, 2017 at 8:06 am Reply
    • Larissa

      That is what I love most about the paint and stain…that the wood take center stage. yay!

      May 30, 2017 at 9:26 am Reply
  • Christy

    Wow that turned out gorgeous, Larissa! You got way more for your money than I did LOL. Sounds like it was a bit of work, but the payoff will be great! So clever to reuse the harp as a shelf! You never disappoint, my friend! <3

    May 30, 2017 at 8:08 am Reply
    • Larissa

      It was a BUNCH of work, but fun to see it come to life. Thanks for stopping by! 🙂

      May 30, 2017 at 9:26 am Reply
  • Lori

    Love the combo – great job!

    May 30, 2017 at 9:17 am Reply
    • Larissa

      One of my favorites. Thanks!

      May 30, 2017 at 9:25 am Reply
  • annie

    Love the chest. You have such gift. Try linseed oil for smell hint from a friend who restored antiques

    May 30, 2017 at 9:39 am Reply
    • Larissa

      Thanks so much! There wasn’t a smell, but I love good ol’ sunshine if there is. 🙂

      May 30, 2017 at 11:07 am Reply
  • gwen

    unexpectedly LOVE the natural wood and white combo! and i guess i should be looking at things upside down for ideas like the missing-mirror harp! so clever!

    May 30, 2017 at 10:08 am Reply
    • Larissa

      hahaha…that is true! Thanks, Gwen.

      May 30, 2017 at 11:07 am Reply
  • Marie|The Interior Frugalista

    LOVE how you kept the natural grain on the drawer fronts, Larissa. Another stunning makeover and what you did with the harp is very smart!

    May 30, 2017 at 11:04 am Reply
    • Larissa

      I was so excited to get this for obvious reasons, but also hesitant for the same. Much work pays off. Thanks, Marie!

      May 30, 2017 at 11:08 am Reply
  • Sue Pagels

    Really great job! Love the original wood drawer fronts – really sets off the paint! Oh, and I got my Zibra brushes today that I ordered….can’t wait to try them!

    May 30, 2017 at 11:45 am Reply
    • Larissa

      Thanks so much, Sue! I can’t wait for you try them. I’d love to have your review when you get a chance. 🙂

      May 30, 2017 at 9:27 pm Reply
  • Bonnie

    That empire chest turned out so pretty. You always do a great job on furniture re-dos!

    May 30, 2017 at 12:37 pm Reply
    • Larissa

      You are so kind, Bonnie. Thank you!! 😀

      May 30, 2017 at 9:28 pm Reply
  • Dee Dee

    You are such an inspiration to me, every week I’m amazed at your DIY’s. I am sooo behind on my different projects here that you and the work that your friends share give me the hope and push that I need. I so wish my 3 children were still young and at home. Seeing yours busily helping out wrenches my heart just a little. Thanks for sharing all of your wonderful ideas with us!

    May 30, 2017 at 7:42 pm Reply
    • Larissa

      Good for you, Dee Dee, for having at it. Yes, I wish I could slow down and savor more. Time and the need of money don’t allow me to yet. I wish there was a pause button. sigh… Thank you for the love!

      May 30, 2017 at 9:29 pm Reply
  • Janette Deans

    You did it again, wow, gorgeously restored and also what a fab idea for the harp…defo a big WOW…xx

    October 9, 2017 at 7:59 am Reply
    • Larissa

      You are so sweet, Janette…really. Thank you!

      October 9, 2017 at 7:36 pm Reply

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