The one piece of furniture in our home that gets the most attention and comments has to be the blue French Provincial dresser in our kitchen/breakfast room. It was recently part of our feature in the French magazine Shabby Style. It made me smile when they described it as a “Louis XV commode”. It just proves that you can add french style to your home without spending hundreds, or even thousands of dollars to get it.
Our “Louis XV Commode” is a piece of furniture that was salvaged from a 1950’s french provincial bedroom set.
When we were renovating the kitchen/breakfast room area, we took down a wall to open up the kitchen, which resulted in one long wall between the family room and the formal dining room. I had envisioned a long, french style buffet there, and knew that a french provincial dresser would work perfectly. Unfortunately, all the dressers that I found were too short for the long wall.
But patience paid off when I ended up finding the perfect piece at an estate sale. It had beautiful curves and legs and lots of drawers for extra storage. Plus it was 72″ long, making it the perfect size for the wall.
This was a dresser that originally belonged to a french provincial bedroom set. It dated to the 1950’s and had a “golden oak” finish. I knew I would be painting it, so I didn’t care what kind of finish it had. We ended up buying it for $79.00 and hauled it home, storing it in the garage for the eight months that it took us to renovate the kitchen.
I knew that I wanted it to be finished in a “frenchy” blue color with lots of depth to the paint. If you want to achieve depth to your painted furniture, you can’t just slap one coat of paint on and that be it. You need to layer colors, using some for shadowing, others for highlighting, giving the end result of a deeper, aged over time look.
I ended up layering five colors on this buffet, starting with the base color of Annie Sloan chalk paint in Aubusson Blue. Once it was dry, I gave it a wash of ASCP Provence.
To make a wash, just add some water to the paint to make it a bit thinner. You still want to see the base color through it. I usually brush a wash on, working in sections, and then wipe some of it back off with a soft cloth. After the wash of Provence dried, I then added a wash of ASCP Duck Egg, again taking a dry soft cloth and wiping back some of the paint as I went.
After the Duck Egg was dry, I dry brushed a coat of ASCP French Linen for highlighting, especially accenting the edges of drawers, and high spots on the legs and details.
The final coat was dry brushing ASCP Paris Gray over the details of the wood as a highlight. To do a dry brush coat, just slightly dip your brush in the paint, and wipe off the excess so there’s not much paint on the brush.
Be prepared for the “ugly stage” while you’re doing all of this. Hubby walked by as I was into the second wash and said, “Are you leaving it like that?” Um, no.
Once the dresser was completely dry, I lightly distressed. You can use a fine grit sanding block, but my favorite way to distress furniture is just get an old “nubby” wash cloth, make sure it’s wet, but well wrung out, and use it to remove the paint where you want it. It’s a lot less messy than sanding.
Because the original finish had a golden finish, it added some wonderful highlights.
The final step is waxing. I use clear wax first, and then a combination of clear and dark over it.
I find that the dark wax straight out of the can is hard to work with. For me it’s not “user friendly”, but I like the way a dark wax will bring out the details in a piece of furniture. So I always have a separate container that I mix three parts clear wax to one part dark wax and this is what I will use to “antique” and bring out some of the carvings and details.
I also don’t use a wax brush to apply the wax. I find it much easier to apply the wax with a soft cloth, like an old t-shirt, and “massage” the wax into the wood. It seems to keep me from applying too much wax, which can turn into a problem when it’s time to buff.
After waxing, I let the dresser cure for 24 hours and then I buffed it with a soft cloth. I put the original hardware back on it, because the old brass had some wonderful patina.
I love the way our “Louis XV” commode turned out, and it fits perfectly on the large wall. It’s turned into the centerpiece when you walk into our kitchen door.
This is the one piece of furniture that always gets decorated for different seasons and holidays.
The French Provincial bedroom dresser has a new life…as a French Louis XV Commode!