before and after

before & after: jelena’s dresser + robbi’s ikea stool

by Grace Bonney

jellena dresser before
this next before & after comes from jelena of poppyseed creative living. jelena recently left her 9-5 corporate job to pursue a career in design and refurbishing found furniture, and this beautiful yellow dresser was one of her recent projects. after cleaning up the frame, jelena applied a coat of yellow paint and distressed the finish to give it a more aged feel. the original hardware was replaced with knobs from anthropologie and voila! a new dresser ready to go to a good home. great work, jelena!

[have a before & after you’d like to share on d*s? just shoot me an email right here with your low res pictures!]

jellena dresser after

rob before
robbi lindeman of salt labs in detroit decided to upgrade a simple $12 ikea frosta stool with some playful decals. robbi applied image transfers to the stool with a solvent and then sealed the seat with a clear coat finish to match the sheen on the legs. this would be such a fun project to use in a child’s room- and on a wonderfully low budget. great work, robbi!

rob after

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  • i love the bright yellow! how did you fill in the holes from the drawer pulls to replace them with just knobs?

  • Hi all, it’s Jelena from Poppyseed Creative living. Here are my answers to Nicole and Em’s questions. The holes from the drawer pulls were filled with wood filler. The one I used is Poly Filla by Lepage. It is easy to use and dries quickly after which you need to sand it for a smooth finish. The paper I used in the drawers is from the HomeDepot from their wallpaper section. Hope this helps. J:)
    P.S. Thanks for liking the piece

  • Though the final result is adorable, and you did a GREAT job with the distressing, this is a rare instance that I would say I like the original wood better than the painted. The grain pattern is just so pretty. I think I would have just refinished it and added the lovely pulls and liners. Nonetheless, it’s a great dresser!

    And the stool is very sweet. What brand of clear coat did you use for the finish? The matte/shiny surface is really nice.

  • Oh wow, love the yellow! Beautifully redone, Jelena. Love love love it. Makes me want to go out right now and hit up my favorite thrift and consignment shops :)

  • I think I have the tallboy version of that dresser! It was my great-grandfather’s, and I stripped and re-stained it years and years ago. I’m so tempted to paint it, and I love that yellow.

  • Hi Jelena, I had a few quick questions. Is this piece tiger oak? I have a small 4 drawer piece I got this summer and want to revamp it too and am not sure if I should paint over the natural wood. Also the top is cracked and warped a little would it be better to fix/ fill it or cut a new top?

  • That dresser just comes alive with the yellow! Nice paper for the drawers too. I also like the decals design on the stool. Thanks for sharing!

  • Hi, it’s Jelena again. Thank you all for the compliments on the piece, and those who don’t like it, I respect their opinion too. Here are my answers to Ashley’s question;
    I am not sure if in fact it was tiger oak or not, but I just love the look of painted wood, so deciding to paint it was not a tough move for me. The top of this dresser was damaged as well and i filled in the crack. In terms of your top being warped, it really depends on the degree of it, if you think that it may add to the charm of the piece, then just leave it.
    For those of you who may want to know the details of the colour I used on the piece it is Valspar 3001-2A Soft Duckling. If you sand the piece lightly with steel wool after the paint has dried the tone of the colour will be richer. Stay well everyone!

  • That is quarter saw oak, or tiger oak. It is cut in the diagonal to get that grain effect. It is beautiful, and never made anymore, as it takes larger trees to produce a plank cut on the diagonal. Tiger oak is a treasure.

  • I agree with Heather O. and refer to Meridith Ellis’ comment. Honor the natural beauty of the piece by oiling the wood instead of painting. The person who toiled over and loved that piece of furniture is rolling over in their grave.

    • i think it’s interesting that everyone assumes that people who make wooden furniture would never want them to be touched. next year i’m starting a series with craftspeople and i think you’ll be interested to see that some of them don’t mind things like this, as long as the piece is cherished, loved and appreciated by the owner…


  • Ak. Quarter sawn oak painted over! Next step is to rip out all the interior supports in your Victorian house, break through the basement and install a conversation pit.

  • I really like these ideas! I’ve been a fan of Robbi’s since seeing her beautiful hand-made glass vases on salt-labs.com

  • Robbi – What a great transformation! Amazing how your imagery moves something from commodity to artifact! Do you have other products you are working on that are like this?

    (P.S. Surprising that you call these “decals”…I know the process you are using is so much more laborious and exacting than simply sliding a transparent image onto the surface. You must have great patience to get such a high quality result. nice work!)

  • Oops, a bit of a delayed response, but to all the kind compliments – JM, Rob, Kirsten, Genevieve, Mary, Jim – many, many thanks!

    Re: questions; to Marque and Kirsten, I have scoured the landscape for years for images and have an extensive collection but also use lots of PD (public domain) images that are available on the web (i.e. through wikipedia, etc.). Many b&w illustrations I recolor or redesign in PS. To Lisa and Jim, yes, it’s a bit of a lengthy/detailed process but shoot me a convo through my etsy page: http://www.etsy.com/shop/saltlabs and I’d be happy to help answer questions. To Ann, the clear coat finish is McCloskey’s Heirloom Clear Eggshell Varnish that I’ve lightly “buffed” with a 0000 steel wool to bring down the slight shine. To Genevieve, yes, it’s Babar – every child needs a babar to stand sentry over them, don’t you think!

    Both untouched old and newly rehabbed furniture can be equally cherished and find a home. Thanks for featuring ours, Grace. Robbi

  • i’m a fan of yellow…big time. but that wood grain, oh that wood grain. tiger stripped wood grain. (did i mention i’m a wood whore too?!)

  • I simply loved that dresser. Two years ago me and hubby bought an old dresser to our little bug and 2 coats of paint turned it beautiful piece. I feel like hunting for an old piece of furniture again!


    Robbi – did you print the PD images onto regular paper then cut and paste onto the stool?


    if it makes you smile…paint that wood, sister! xoxo

  • Thank you all, for the good and the not so positive feedback. What is great about this is that we do not need to agree and that there will always be supporters of either schools of thought. The best of all is that there is a forum like D*S where we can showcase our work and express our opinions. Cheers to that!

  • I have painted some nice old furniture that come out great; the wood was not quality. However, this dresser has nice wood. I think I would have refinished the drawer fronts and left them with the natural beautiful grain showing.

  • The beauty of wood is it can always be stripped of paint and taken back to it’s natural state.

    I’m not a fan of yellow, but it works.

  • @meg; Actually, stripping paint off wood furniture is a major job and the wood doesn’t look the same afterwards. 19th century tiger oak, with brass fittings and aged patina could look glowingly lovely for the next 100 years with a quick swipe of ultrafine steel wool and some tung oil. I’m all for painting ugly wood or cheap pieces but things like this simply aren’t being made anymore. The lady who refinished it seems very nice but for some of us who love fine wood it’s just nails on chalkboard.

  • your yellow dresser is fantastic……and your photograph……perfect……

    …….from one furniture painter to another…..follow your vision and don’t let negativity ruin your creativity……

    ….you are doing a great job:)


  • I have a Singer treadle sewing machine at home. It is very plain, but the veneer is English oak. It only has one drawer on either side and not the usual three carved pretty drawers (on either side). The metal stand it is on is also very plain, so that the whole thing is unlike the usual, very pretty ornate treadle sewing machines I usually see in antique shops. My treadle is very attractive in an Armish kind of way. I bought it in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia, where I live. I have wondered and pondered for years about it without ever being able to explain why it is so plain. Then one day I found out that it was made in England in 1944 – and the penny dropped. The Battle of London (not to be confused with the Battle for England in 1940) was in full swing in 1944. Also, early in the war legislation had been enacted (I believe) to stop manufacturers adding unnecessary ornimentation to all goods (due to the dire state of England during WWII). The fact that it was made for someone to use in their home, without electricity, speaks volumes (there were 2,000,000 people living in damaged homes in England by the end of 1941!!!!). Or was it made for the Australian market? Australia and England were trading partners during that time. They got our wool (at a very favourable price), our wheat etc and we got their manufactured goods. By 1944 the British had gained an advantage over the German Uboats because of the technology provided by German-Jewish scientists (improved sonar, depth charges) who had been expelled from Germany by Hitler in 1933. Without the Uboats attacking as successfully as they had, perhaps this treadle got to Australia during WWII? Your yellow cabinet is very nice, but I would never wonder about it. I would certainly never wonder how old it is or who made it. It is nice enough, but one day someone will leave it out in the garage, and eventually it will be tossed aside. Hopefully, someone will try to strip the paint away, and then they will see what they have got. You could have found an ordinary piece of furniture, and turned it into something. You have not impressed me at all. I have tried to be polite and not hurtful, but please think about things before you do this again.

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