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Our vintage nursery dresser + modern DIY inspiration

By on April 15, 2015


Today we’re sharing our inspiration and ideas for a classic modern Ikea dresser hack, plus the history behind our vintage DIY nursery dresser!

Our Vintage Nursery Dresser and Modern DIY Inspiration | RatherSquare.com

As you know, we’ve been transforming Toddler E’s former nursery into a big-girl bedroom (see the moodboard and plans here). We’re slowly but surely updating things like furniture, artwork, window treatments and lighting, and even the closet. Last summer, before Baby T arrived, we tackled one of the big projects on our to-do list: replacing E’s vintage oversized dresser.

Our Vintage Nursery Dresser and Modern DIY Inspiration | RatherSquare.com

This multi-functional piece had been perfect for her infant needs – we stored everything from clothes and baby gear to diapers and wipes inside, and also used it as a changing table. But by last summer, E was potty trained and her bedroom no longer required diaper-related storage or functionality. And we wanted to move this perfect-for-a-nursery dresser into the new baby‘s room, so it was time to find something different to fit E’s big-girl lifestyle. But before we talk about our search for her new dresser, let’s share a little backstory on the old one.

The perfect nursery dresser

There’s history behind this piece of furniture. It was actually John’s childhood dresser nearly 40 years ago, and his parents gave it to us when we were getting ready for E’s arrival. We were excited to keep it in the family and re-use it for a new generation – the dresser’s solid wood construction just needed a little DIY refresh for its next phase of life.

Here’s what we started with:

Our Vintage Nursery Dresser and Modern DIY Inspiration | RatherSquare.com

John removed all the drawers, took off the dated brass hardware, and lightly sanded the dresser’s case and drawer fronts. Then he primed the bare wood and painted it black, to match the crib we had bought for the nursery.

Our Vintage Nursery Dresser and Modern DIY Inspiration | RatherSquare.com

Our Vintage Nursery Dresser and Modern DIY Inspiration | RatherSquare.com

After the paint dried, John finished the surfaces with a protective coat of Poly Whey in Clear Satin. It’s a non-toxic and eco-friendly furniture finish that we also used on our pantry cabinets.

Our Vintage Nursery Dresser and Modern DIY Inspiration | RatherSquare.com

Finally, we added new hardware (classic nickel pulls and some fun blue and green knobs), filled the dresser with little onesies and lots of diapers, and put a changing pad on top.

Our Vintage Nursery Dresser and Modern DIY Inspiration | RatherSquare.com

We used this DIY nursery dresser in E’s bedroom until last summer, when it was time to move it into Baby T’s room. We kept the black color and just changed out the top knobs to coordinate with his nursery decor.

Our Vintage Nursery Dresser and Modern DIY Inspiration | RatherSquare.com

Which brings us back to our search for a new dresser for E and her big-girl clothes. We planned to put a toddler bed in her bedroom where the old dresser used to be, so the new dresser would have to go against the opposite wall and be small enough to fit in a narrow space between the closet door and a heating vent.

New dresser and inspiration

We looked around at retail stores, thrift shops, and on local online resale boards for dressers that might fit the bill. Our requirements were:

After considering many different options, we decided on the Tarva 3-drawer chest from Ikea:

Our Vintage Nursery Dresser and Modern DIY Inspiration | RatherSquare.com

The Tarva is a nice size that’s very user-friendly for Toddler E – she’s able to reach all the drawers to access her clothes, which is important as we encourage her to be more independent. It’s narrow enough to fit in the 32-inch wide space we have available between her closet door and heating vent. We also liked its strong and solid wood frame and its smooth-rolling drawer mechanism, making it sturdy but easy for little arms to open and close.

And of course, I immediately started thinking about how we could customize it for her new room design.

Moodboard for Toddler's Bedroom | Rather Square

There are tons of Tarva design hacks out there – it’s the perfect base for DIY customization with its simple shape and clean lines – but I didn’t want to go too crazy with this piece. I really liked the idea of a stain/paint combination – dark wood around the case to match the dark wood bed frame, and white drawer fronts for a fresh contrast to keep it from feeling dark and heavy. I found some inspiration photos, showed John, and we both thought this look would fit really well with the toddler’s other room elements.

Ikea Tarva Dresser Hack from Homepolish | RatherSquare.com
from Homepolish via Refinery29

Ikea Tarva Dresser Hack from stephandben | RatherSquare.com
from Steph and Ben’s Travels

Ikea Dresser Hack from Apartment Therapy | RatherSquare.com
from Kate Miss via Apartment Therapy

It’s a sophisticated but classic style that looks timeless. We didn’t want anything too trendy or cute or age-specific that might be dated in a few years (like a pink princess theme – yikes!), but this dark-stain-white-paint design is so fresh and simple that it should easily coordinate with any future room decor changes.

In our next post, we’ll share a little DIY tutorial on how we stained and painted the Tarva dresser. (Update: check out the tutorial here!) In the meantime, here’s a sneak peek of the finished piece…

Our Vintage Nursery Dresser and Modern DIY Inspiration | RatherSquare.com

Many more details to come, including our process, our experience with staining wood furniture, and how Toddler E likes her new dresser!

(linked on Remodelaholic and Miss Mustard Seed)

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April 15, 2015

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