Thursday, May 10, 2012

Old Dresser Turned Fireplace

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This is how it looks during the day. There is a drum that spins around the light so the "fire" seems to dance around the inside of the firebox just like the real thing.

Here's what it looks like with the lights down low.  It adds a lot of visual warmth and atmosphere without adding ANY heat.  I live in Southern Arizona, so that is a great perk.  My little one likes to snuggle by the "fire" after she swims to get warm.  If it works for her, it works for me I guess. :)

I found this amazing lady at an estate sale hidden underneath a gigantic pile of clutter.  I immediately knew I had to have her.  These pictures just don't do her justice.  She's a BEAST of a dresser.  I loved her curvey front and the way her feet met the ground.  The only problem was she was very old and and been very well used.  Over the years, several repairs had been made, most likely by several different people. Several different wood species and repair methods were used and the new finish never quite matched the original one.  In several areas, the veneer was bubbling, peeling or gone all together.  The finish itself resembled rough, dry elephant skin that turned chalky when touched.  There were major cracks running the entire width of the dresser's top. Two of the cracks went all the way through the one inch thick solid top. Because of the cracks, the top had warped badly and raised up on either side making the top unlevel.

When I brought the dresser home, my husband looked horrified.  I promised him she would be restored to her former glory (while trying to keep a straight face of course).  Yikes!  She was in rough shape.  I could try to match the veneer but it would cost a fortune and I'm not that experienced with veneer (okay fine, not at all).  I also knew the amount of money it would cost would be WAAAAY more than the fifty dollars I paid for the dresser.  We moved the dresser into the garage where it sat for several months.

Waaaaay back when my 15 year old was 3 years old, she realized there wasn't a fireplace in our apartment for Santa Claus to use on Christmas Eve.  She was quite upset. I ended up decorating a large box like a chimney in our living room so there would be NO chance she would be forgotten by Santa. Every Christmas since we've made a fireplace if we didn't have a real one.  We've made them from boxes, bookshelves and anything else we had on hand. Its become a bit of a tradition. We make a new one every year and usually end up donating them to a friend or to our church for a Christmas party/Santa photo prop.

A few months before Christmas I was looking around the house for ideas for the Christmas fireplace.  I looked high and low inside my house and then headed out to the garage.  I debated building a mantel from scratch and was looking to see what scrap wood I could use.  I had some wood stacked up on top and around the dresser and had all but forgotten about it.  I laid out some scrap wood on the garage floor and wasn't entirely excited about what I had done. When I was finished, I turned to head back inside and there she was in all her glory.  A little beam of sun shone down on her and harps played in the distance. It was a Christmas miracle! I finally knew what I would do with her! Now before any of you start to bag on me for cutting into an antique, I need to put a little disclaimer out there.....This dresser was in really rough shape. Most sane people would have cut it for firewood or hauled it to the dump.  The dump here is kind of expensive....probably its only saving grace. I realized the time, money and effort it would take to restore the dresser was more than I wanted to undertake. If I had it professionaly restored it would have cost a fortune. I decided the rolled front and overall size would be PERFECTO for our Christmas fireplace.  Here's a little looksie at her before:

Since I knew I'd be painting it, I used a heat gun and a putty knife and popped off all of the veneer that wasn't firmly attached.  Next, I used an antique hand wood planer (I found at a yard sale for a dollar) to level both sides of the cracks in the top.  I used wood filler and a boat load of sandpaper to get her all nice and smooth.  I removed all of the drawers except the top two.  I figured I could use those for storage as well as to hang the stockings from.  

Next, I used my jigsaw to cut out the "guts" (that sounds like proper terminology, right?) from the inside of the dresser.  I removed the bottom two drawer guides leaving a large empty box beneath the two drawers I left. I wanted to make the fireplace as real looking as I could while keeping the look of the dresser in tact.  I thought about bricking in the "firebox" and even bought a product called "Thinbrick" to do it with.  Since I'm a huge procrastinator perfectionist, the dresser sat and sat and sat with a gaping hole in its belly in the garage for another month or so while I thought about what to do with it.   Finally, one day while walking down an aisle at Lowe's, I spotted a sheet of faux

Several years ago, I bought an antique electric fire log at a thrift store.  I think I only paid $3 for it.  It doesn't put out heat and is purely for decoration.  It has a little drum that spins and has a yellow light bulb that puts out the most amazingly realistic little fire.  Perfect to go inside.  If you wanted to make a fireplace of your own, I've seen a newer version of mine sold at Lowe's for around $40.
Lowes Image

This one is actually listed as 50% off now thu 5/31/12.  It's called Duraflame 19-3/4" Electric Fireplace Logs.  They have a few others that would work well too. They also sell the fire log holders.

Depending on the height of your fire box, you may also be able to burn candles (or even battery operated ones if you have little ones or curious pets).  I painted the inside floor of the firebox cement gray and placed one piece of faux brick flat against the back of the inside back and one on either side (at an angle so the front of the firebox appeared larger than the back).  I then cut the door casing trim to fit the inside length on either side of the fire box.  I painted the entire dresser a satin black (Benjamin Moore).   I initially thought we'd just use it at Christmas but we actually use it all the time now.  Its actually really nice to curl up next to after a long day and perfect for the hot dusty desert I call home!  Also remember, you don't have to use a dresser for this project.  I've used other things to (bookcases etc).  If you make one, please forward pictures and I'd love to see them!!


  1. What a genius idea. I'm glad I read your comment about using other things like a bookcase. I've had a shabby old bookcase sitting for over a year and I'm bound and determined to turn it into a fireplace!

  2. Thank you, Kristin! I'm excited to hear about your bookshelf transformation! I'd love to see pictures! Take care!

  3. I just did this with an old dresser a friend gave me. Thanks for the inspiration! I used spray paint and taped off "bricks".

  4. I'm a self admitted Pinterest addict and let me tell you ; this is THE BEST idea I've seen in a very long time ! I've got a couple dressers lying around and this is absolutely perfect for them ! Omgoodness I'm so excited I may just have to get started in the morning !