15 January 2012

Step Down Sunday - Refurbishing Furniture

Emma Bridgewater Tableware Ever take on a project only to discover it was much bigger than you expected?

When it comes to art I’m not really that impressed with paintings and prints, but I love ceramics. From tiles to plates, it’s a passion I can’t really explain. So it’s no surprise I have a small collection of Bridgewater tableware. For years I’ve been dreaming of a kitchen dresser that would let me present my favourite pieces – but they are so expensive!

In July I was looking for a project to lift my spirits and keep me busy while still recovering from surgery. I started scouring eBay for kitchen dressers in our area. After a few weeks I found on that looked perfect! The top had been painted a very dark green, but it was a simple modern style made from real wood with a pine top and just the right size – all for £100 and they’d even deliver for an extra £20! I anxiously watched that auction for days, and was thrilled when I won the auction.

But hours later we received a phone call - they said that there were some holes they’d not noticed before where the stereo speaker wires had been feed through the back. They suggested we go look at the dresser first. I can hardly think of anything I’d dread more! Going to the home of someone I don’t know, to make an instant decision about something they own? That’s my own personal hell, but off we went to look at the dresser.

Great big hole The holes they mentioned were tiny and not really something to be worried about, but the large 6 inch hole we spotted at the back of the cupboard concerned me more!

They pointed out how it was real wood and it was a bespoke design they bought from someone else for £500. I can’t say I was happy. It’s one thing to say there are small holes, but I would have had time to think before bidding if the large holes had been mentioned in the auction listing - at the same time I wasn’t sure we’d find something better so I agreed to buy it.

If we’d had a quiet moment to ourselves we may have noticed there were even bigger problems with their description. Firstly the only things made from real wood are the drawers, everything else is MDF - even that pretty pine top is really veneered MDF. Unfortunately by the time it arrived and we’d discovered this, we didn’t feel like we could really complain – we had seen it first. While it may still be a reasonable price, the whole story makes my stomach lurch. I don’t think I’d have paid £100 if it had been properly described. My brilliant bargain has turned into something else.

Once we realised the unit was made of MDF we decided the back piece would be easy to replace, thus fixing the holes. We’d also need to replace the ‘pine’ top as it was marked and we couldn’t sand it down. So my simple project that needed just quick coat of paint had turned into a complete remodel.

About the same time the Quakers made their commitment to becoming a low-carbon community, and this project seemed a brilliant starting point. We were bringing new life to furniture that was being thrown out.

Unfortunately we’ve had to balance out the costs with what we can do environmentally (It was already an indulgence to buy the dresser, before we discovered all the work it needed!) We used water-based primers and paints and used Ethical Consumer to try and buy responsible power tools. We also bought a piece of birch IKEA kitchen worktop to replace the top and the added thickness balances the dresser nicely. I just wish I was better at remembering to take before photos.

Welsh Dresser

Though it’s taken months, my pretty new dresser is finally finished!

Step Down Sunday Have you made any Steps Down this week?

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