Thursday, August 25, 2011

Ugly Duckling Cedar Chest

I found a treasure chest at my favorite thrift store. It was a poor, homely, wobbly, crayoned chest sitting forlornly by the door as we were leaving. It was ugly. Really. I almost didn’t look at it twice. The finish was a white washed, peeling oak. The back of the base was broken off on the right side so it tipped drunkenly if you sat on it. It looked kind of…ugg…outdated. Not my style at all. But it was a Lane, so I looked anyway.
Then…drumroll…we opened it up. Inside was the most beautiful, pristine cedar. It was in mint condition, with original tags and all. October 1954.  The chest was 57 years old and in amazingly good shape despite the cosmetic mess. I bit the bullet and plunked down $38, called my sister and begged for her truck, then carted that baby home.
Please ignore the messy porch. This is my high tech workspace.
Lovely, eh? Filthy, scribbled, gouged, and I think that spot in the middle is a burn mark.
I actually fell in love with this little scribble. My oldest child's name starts with the letter "B", and I still remember finding those first scrawled attempts of name writing on walls and, ahem...dressers. It kind of made this chest belong to us in a way. Know what I mean? I could just picture a little boy standing there with his pen and smiling at his perfect "B". Amazing how a few years distance makes those things sweet!
 This is the broken base. Simple and fixable, but enough of an issue to scare away some would be buyers at the thrift store. Lucky me.
Here you can see just how nicely the inside was preserved. With the exception of the deteriorated green tray, the rest was beautiful. 
I showed my find to my mother-in-law, who, can you believe it, used to own the 1953 version of the exact same trunk. I believe she got it as a high school graduation present. I felt a little bad about calling it butt ugly before showing it to her. Sigh. One day I'll learn.
Hang in for the transformation from Ugly Duckling to Beautiful Swan. It was fun, relatively simple, inexpensive, a learning experience, and well worth the effort.


  1. Where can i see the transformation? I am embarking on a transformation of a similar one given to me. I'd love to be encouraged!! Thanks.

  2. Hi. I have a similar chest that belonged to my mother. It was always a "mystery" chest because us children were not allowed to open it. I would like to start using it as a coffee table and I am curious how yours turned out. Would love to see more!