DIY Project: Thomas Wold Turns Grandma Dresser Into Hip Grandkid Media Cabinet

Ok, so we love Thomas Wold. We especially love his column in ReadyMade, Solid Wold.

For some reason we missed this project, a hacked and painted media cabinet, he did a few issues back (Issue #32). "There it was, next to some old tires and a busted BBQ, a sad skeleton of a dresser. Out here in Richmond, CA, where I rent a workshop, things like this show up on the curb all the time."

Teardown: I let the dresser hang out in the corner for a few weeks, waiting for an idea to come. I kept seeing it as a small house, rather than as a piece of furniture, so I decided to approach this project like a home remodel.

Fresh: I wanted to maintain the grandmotherly exterior, but the inside was too compartmentalized. Why not go with a modern open floor plan for this little “fixer upper”? With some adjustable shelves and sliding doors this could make an excellent lit display case or A/V cabinet. Maybe even a flat screen TV console.

New Guts: The first order of business was to gut the case. Dismantling a piece is a good way to learn how it’s built. I then replaced the dresser’s back with new plywood. I wanted the back to be stronger, since I planned to attach metal shelf standards to it. I re cut the dresser’s old “guts” and used them as corner braces. Everything got new screws and wood glue. A bit of putty here and there covered all the cracks and seams. Now the opened-up structure was much stronger than the original, even with a lot less material.

New Solid Back: I wanted the final piece to feel monolithic, with one color that would pull all the elements together. Cobalt blue—like the night sky—seemed right for a media cabinet. I primed the case with pigmented schellac, sanded it, and then applied artist acrylic paint with a HVLP (High Volume Low Pressure) spray system. (A brush would work just as well.) After a couple of coats, I sealed the paint with brushed-on polyurethane. For the top, I wanted something more special. There I added a high gloss resin pour over the cobalt paint. This was a two-part mix that I poured over the top. Once dry, the resin sheen looks almost like water and is extremely durable. Shiny = New!

Big Blue Is Ready: For the doors, I ordered some 1/4” translucent blue Plexiglas from my local plastics retailer. Some stores will cut these sheets to size for you. To fancy things up and suggest more of a stereo cabinet, I cut a speaker hole pattern into the Plexi. I made the sliding tracks for the door on my table saw, but inexpensive, off-the-shelf track hardware will produce the same result. On the inside, I attached metal shelf standards and then the shelves, cut from scrap wood. The finishing touch was to add thin Florescent lights tucked just inside the top of the piece so the “house” would glow from the inside.

My remodel was now complete and ready for move-in (my stereo will be very happy in its new home). Could this be the grandma furniture of the future? Perhaps. I just hope it doesn’t end up back on the street in 30 years.

(Images and Text: Thomas Wold)

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