Cedar Chest Rescue | Trash to Treasure

cedar chest after
cedar chest before

How do you like this little beauty?  Are you green with envy?  What’s that?  It’s a hot mess?  I know, right?!!!

So here’s the story.  I was picking up a little vintage table that I had purchased off Facebook Marketplace.  When I got there, I realized the lady was selling off an estate.  So I quickly scanned the garage for anything else I might want to buy, and the filthy green cedar chest with peeling veneer seemed like the obvious choice! 

My furniture rescuing heart just wanted to save that piece from the trash heap.  Until I heard that she wanted $250 for it.  Um…have you seen that cedar chest?  No Bueno.  I told her to let me know if she decided to sell it for $50, and lucky for me, I heard from her about a week later.

cedar chest removing veneer

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Removing Veneer

I knew that I would have to remove the water damaged peeling veneer from the top.  Little did I know the blood (yes, actual blood), sweat and tears (no, not real tears) it would take to do so.  After I peeled off what I could with my bare hands, I tried soaking a towel in hot water and leaving it on top overnight.  That seemed to help soften everything up. 

Then it was time to break out the scraper tool and rubber mallet.  I just banged and hacked away until I had won, and the veneer had lost.  It probably took 3 sessions in total.  And since my basement creative time is at 5 a.m, you can believe my kids did not appreciate sleeping right above that racquet!  But, in the end, it was so worth it.

The next order of business was cleaning off the layers of dirt and peeling paint.  I did this with a Scotchbrite pad and a rotary sander with 60-grit sand paper. 

Layering Stains on Top

Due to the water damage which had creeped through the veneer, I needed the final finish to be very dark or weathered to camoflauge it.  First, I stained it with Dixie Belle No Pain Gel Stain in Espresso.  Then I used a very white glaze. 

It turned out whiter than I wanted, so to counteract that, I decided to use a homemade vinegar and steel wool stain that I had concocted in a mason jar.  The steel wool reacts with the vinegar and basically dissolves, leaving you with a stain.  It was just the ticket to create that timeworn feel I wanted.

cedar chest top

Layering Paint on the Base

For the base, I painted it all in Chocolate Brown.  Then I dry brushed all over with Drop Cloth, a warm white.  I wanted to add in some gray tones, so I used Driftwood Gray mostly around the edges. 

I finished it all up with antiquing wax on top of the gray, applied liberally with a chip brush. 

The one thing I didn’t do, due to laziness, is repair the back leg.  It really doesn’t show much, especially against a wall. But I could have used Bondo and lots of sanding and patience to fix it, if it had been important to me.

cedar chest damage

I absolutely love how the staging turned out.  A bright green wreath against a chalkboard just speaks to me.  And white candle holders and milk bottles.  I waited forever for good daylight, and took dozens of pictures.

cedar chest after

Somewhere along the way, I discovered this little surprise – a 2-level top!  The top level has little dividers, and opens with a button.  I never even knew it was there when I bought it.

cedar chest 2 layer collage

This cedar chest was truly rescued and loved-back-to-life.  Now are you green with envy? (wink, wink)

If you’d like to see more of my recent furniture makeovers, check out my Most Popular Projects of 2018.  And if you like this transformation, please Pin!

cedar chest pinterest

For my 1-page guide on creating farmhouse style in any room, click the picture.  i’d love to hang out more!

4 thoughts on “Cedar Chest Rescue | Trash to Treasure”

  1. Hello! Great project and I loved how this turned out – quick question … would you share the make of this chest? I have one almost exactly like it but I cannot open it because I do not have the key and haven’t had any luck trying to pick the lock – would like to find a replacement key Thank you!

    • Hi Heidi,
      I no longer have this chest as it was sold, but looking at my detail pictures, it appears to be Caswell-Runyan. Hope that helps!

    • It is indeed a Caswell-Runyan, I happen to have it’s almost identical twin, rescued from an exe’s grandmothers home in the 70s, and it’s about to get it’s own makeover, again.


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