before and after

before & after: wendy’s armoire + naomi’s dresser

by Kate Pruitt

I know that painting an art deco armoire might upset a few die-hard wood lovers, but I hope it will relieve you all to know that according to Wendy, the owner of this piece, the wood was in such poor condition that painting it was the most reasonable option. Plus, can we just take a moment to marvel at the amazing paint job Wendy did on those chevron stripes?!

The original decorative details of the piece really pop against the modern pattern and color palette, and the bright ornate yellow knobs are an unexpected dash of fun. The amount of work that Wendy put into this Before & After is quite impressive, as are the results. Great work, Wendy! — Kate

Have a Before & After you’d like to share? Shoot me an email with your images right here! (Low res, under 500k per image, please.)

An old wood crate is often quite beautiful in its original state, and this one is no exception. But this piece has been taken to a whole new level of awesomeness that can’t be denied. Naomi and Dani are well trained in seeing the potential in salvaged goods; together they run Relic Design, a company that specializes in creating contemporary pieces out of reclaimed timber and cast-off furniture.

They spotted this pumpkin crate outside a grocer on Halloween and turned it into a beautiful chest of drawers that they aptly named the Pumpkin Chest! If you like what you see, you can check out many more wonderful pieces with great names on their site. Thanks for sharing, ladies! — Kate

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  • I loooved the second one, I’d like to know how the drawers are on the inside, specially the ones on the upper corners.
    I am one of those people who has problems with painted wood, so the first one didn’t convince me. The final result looks nice, though

  • I am really, maybe, a little too in love with Chevron these days. I’m afraid my first real apartment next year is going to have so many stripes people are going to be dizzy as soon as they walk in the door. Gorgeous armoire!

  • Nice work on the second one. I love painted furniture, but still would have tried to restore the first, and change out the hardware. too bad the original “chevroning” going on in the before was lost.

  • The first one kind of breaks my heart, to be honest. Such beautiful, beautiful wood, covered in so much paint.

  • what a coincidence! I found an almost identical dresser in the street and was planing on give it a little makeover, thanks for the great ideas!

  • Sad to see a timeless, classic antique turned into something that will soon be as played out as the “Keep Calm” poster. Already getting sick of the chevrons, the wood will always be in style.

  • Kind of sad about the armoire…I love art deco furniture and was sad to see it be changed so drastically. Loved the dresser idea and would love to know more about how she did it!

  • both of these are great projects!

    i do want to add that unless you ask before taking crates and things from outside grocery stores, you may be stealing something that either the store or the farm has to pay for. most vendors that work with grocers come to pick up their empty crates (wood, plastic and metal) once the store has emptied them. they are often left outside the loading doors so that the trucks can get easy access to them.

    be kind to your local grocers and farmers and always ask before taking a crate!

  • As the post said for Wendy’s armoire, the wood was a mess. And I have redone these old art deco pieces. First of all there are a ton of them all over the place and they are worth very little. Second, they are very thin veneer which does not hold up over time unless it is perfectly cared for. You cannot patch veneer. The whole sheet has to be removed and new applied and then you cannot match the finish. And maybe the person who owns the piece just does not like the brown wood. In any event this piece is brilliantly redone. Bravo Wendy

  • arrrghhh – I knew I shouldn’t have scrolled down. Even if the wood was a bit messed up on the armoire it had beauty and character, while the resulting version is just…well, awful. sorry.

  • I am usually a “never paint a great period piece” person, but I have some experience trying to restore waterfall furniture (which is the name of this style of art deco furniture) and sometimes it isn’t possible. Often the side pieces are birch or woods that don’t look good refinished unless you have sophisticated lacquer spraying equipment and toning techniques to get the coloring right. It can’t be done with brush on products. And even more surprising is that OFTEN on the trim detail the burl and chevron “inlay” is just a wood-patterned paper laminated on pine. Sometimes there’s not much you can do (and waterfall isn’t particularly valuable unless it’s in great original shape). Knowing what a resto would probably end up looking like on a piece like this, I think the painted result is way better. Kudos.

  • I don’t usually comment, but I agree that I was heartbroken to see the beautiful craftsmanship of that armoire painted with something far less timeless. It’s not so much that the wood itself was lovely, but the skill and effort that went into creating that piece is now probably lost–this coming from someone who just attempted stripping layers of paint off of wooden furniture for the first time :)

  • I own art deco items like this and I’ve reconditioned the wood very easily with tung oil. I don’t mind the patchy veneer look , always thought e chips in veneer could be painted while leaving the wood alone. that said, I’m not against painting art deco era items. I just don’t personally care much for this particular paint job. The second one is pretty great, if it isn’t splintery!

  • My main problem with the first piece was the hardware. So it goes a bit against my grain ( ha ha ) to keep the hardware and change everything else!

  • Wow. I’m obsessed with chevron anyway, but I love the choice of color and pattern. One of my favorite combos – gray and yellow.

    Also, the repurposed crate with the drawers is a great focal point, I’d love it in a guy’s space.

  • I know it’s always nice to get a pat on the back for being a wonderful source of inspiration so here goes :).

    After viewing many of these before and after projects I have decided that when I move in September that I’m going to DIY any furniture I don’t already have (anything that doesn’t go in my bedroom). These are so amazing!!

  • Pumpkin chest! I Love it. Thanks for sharing such awesome creativity. My favorite thing in the world are pieces hauled off the street and repurposed. This is one of the best. -K

  • I normally don’t like painted wood, but these waterfall pieces really are pretty common & fixing veneer is … challenging. I love the gray that was used, I probably would have gone with a softer or deeper version of the same shade instead of the white. But the overall effect is really nice.

    Now I’m going to be odd man out on the second one – I actually liked the simplicity of the crate in the before picture! But only because I am searching for a cheap/free wood box to hold firewood in our living room & something like that would have been perfect :)

  • The re-done antique is wonderful. If antiques are revitalized, they will be reused and admired for their structure and shape in interior designs. I personally want more updated antiques. The value of an antique isn’t only re-furbishing, but use as well. Very good style & use for all.

  • I know this may be the ultimate of coincidences, but I, and the rest of my family, are almost positive that the armoire once belonged to my father. My parents bought it (along with the matching vanity, dresser, and two bedside tables) when they were newlyweds in Brooklyn in the early 80’s. He stripped and refinished it then, and they actually had a mirror made for it, but it came loose around 1998. Eventually the gave it to our church (in Richmond, Va) for a rummage sale about 5 years back. The whole family is thrilled that someone did something great with it. It looks amazing!!

  • I whole heartedly agree with Elisha.

    My childhood memories are full of summers in our garage, watching my Mom tirelessly remove bizarre paint jobs from beautiful wood furniture.
    If you want to be trendy, which the color choice and design are, why not attack some piece of disposable Ikea furniture?

  • Your so creative! It’s amazing how you can turn something so ordinary into something so beautiful. That’s the difference when you work with a true artist. I take my hat off to you on a splendid job!

  • Thanks for all your great comments, much appreciated. We are passionate about creating beautiful things using sustainable materials.
    Just to clear the record we always ask before we take crates etc from outside shops. Stealing would be very wrong indeed! ;)

  • BEES BEES BEES… please please please

    i Ashleys new books! Being self sufficent as your wonder site inspires us to do is what more people forget they have time for.
    I have a pipe dream of starting a bee colony myself. what a beneficial project for all. :)
    You make my day brighter everyday D*S! especially in rainy seattle :)
    Great projects Ashley! xokate

  • Is the chest of drawers actual working drawers or did the just put a cool wallpaper (that I have seen on AT) and dummy drawer pulls?

  • It is so much fun reading the comments especially from the previous owners of the art deco armoire. OK I wouldn’t want it in my home but JOB WELL DONE and so clever. Hats off to anyone even trying to bring life to something that might be thrown. I am a believer.. And on that note I REALLY want a copy of the cheese book as that is a private passion of mine. I want to make my own cheese with a cheese press. I should have been a pioneer women on the Oregon Trail. I enjoy the learning process. Have experimented with yogurt, made my own bagels, english muffins, etc. and am looking to expand to gyro meat, curry, etc. But cheese first. I guess I am a learning junkie.

  • The armoire was so lovely before and should have been restored. Sorry but the paint ruins the piece.

  • Wendy, I absolutely love the armoire! I’ve been waiting for yard sale season to arrive so I can find some great deals and create something just as beautiful!

  • Casting my vote for the armoire result = sad. I admit I probably wouldn’t go through the trouble of a proper restoration but there’s a way to update on a budget, while being expressive/creative and not ending up with something you’ll probably hate in 2-5 yrs. Restraint and editing wouldn’t hurt

  • OMG….i keep seeing this style of dresser or armoire on craigslist and love the shapes and the lines, but don’t like the wood. I LOVE the chevron! Totally inspiring!

  • Love the Pumpkin Chest! They’ve taken forgotten pieces of furniture and gave it new life, the final product is truly one of a kind.

  • I admit, my gut reaction to the armoire is “Nooooooo!”

    The finished armoire is fun and I admit if I didn’t know of the original dresser, I would like it. But in my opinion the makeover is short sighted. The yellows and grays of the armoire will be outdated quickly, but the intricate art deco wood inlays and design will last forever. I would have rather seen it professionally repaired. But I own several deco pieces like this already so that’s probably why I feel so saddened by it.

  • I love waterfall furniture, and have a bunch of it in my own home, but some of you are correct in saying this was essentially the 1940s equivalent of the yucky Walmart bookshelves of today. The “beautiful craftsmanship” everyone is lamenting is actually just an easily-chipped veneer of junk wood on top of cheap wood like maple or pine, and was mass-produced. If they’d done this to say, an 1870s walnut dresser with hand-carved elements, I’d whine right along with the purists. But they gave this (easily found) waterfall armoire a fun makeover that can easily be repainted someday when chevrons lose their appeal. The crate-into-chest idea is also well executed and looks fabulous. Kudos, renovators! I dig.

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