Fingerpainting life into old furniture: Art Deco Waterfall Chest
Fingerpainting life into old furniture: Art Deco Waterfall Chest

Fingerpainting life into old furniture: Art Deco Waterfall Chest

To feel childlike joy, the fastest way is to get your hands dirty.

It’s proven science that getting your hands in the soil produces endorphins that make you feel joy.

It may not be proven by science, but I get the same feeling from painting with my hands.

It’s “handy” when the weather or seasons prevent me from getting into actual dirt.

I recently gave an Art Deco waterfall dresser a facelift, as I had had it for sale in Kansas City for over 6 months at a super low price, but had no takers on the art deco vibe. It was structurally sound, the drawers are all in great shape, and they slid easily in their slots. The bones were there, but I think the Art Deco look and the fact that it’s part of an incomplete set is what kept it from being wanted.

The rest of the set was destroyed in a basement flood. This piece didn’t get wet at all, and the homeowner came to me to see if i would like to buy it. I tried rescuing the dresser from the Dumpster, but it had mold forming in the drawers and the veneer was bubbled all over it. The bedstead was in decent shape, but the bottoms of the legs had sat in water, so we disassembled it and repurposed the knobby posts on it long ago.

I couldn’t find a comparable art deco waterall chest online anywhere. Nothing in the same shape at all. But there are plenty out there that are the same style, with the decorative inlay in the wood and all. This set shows you a similar drawer-front style. Really pretty. But no one wanted it.

So I drug it back from KC a couple weeks ago and gave it a new look. I painted the whole thing with Rustoleum Chalk’d in Patina.

Then it sat there for a couple days, until I watched Dionne Woods do a fingerpainting tutorial of an abstract butterfly, and I knew it would look amazing on the front of the waterfall chest!

Dionne is The Turquoise Iris, and I’m a member of her fingerpainting membership group, Creativity at Your Fingertips with Dionne Woods.

I asked her in the Live chat if this would be a suitable tutorial for the waterfall chest (I had shared a pic of it with her in one of her “work in progress” posts, so she knew what I was talking about), and she said absolutely. I paused the video, grabbed a bungee cord and tied the drawers from the chest together, and got to work.

Here’s where I stopped after the first go at it. This was all done with a scraper and my hands. I moved on to the cabinet and let this dry before moving on.
I added a lot of color around the butterfly using pallet knife and fingers. I needed the background of the butterfly to go with the cabinet. They are really far apart at this point, not even close to looking alike.
Next I added flowers. It doesn’t match the cabinet as well as I’d like, so it needs more work. As I worked on the cabinet, I used extra paint from each step to add more detail and color to the butterfly background on the drawers.
Here’s a close-up at this point. Taking photos of my work gives me a different perspective. I took a photo of each quarter of the butterfly and made changes from there.
I decided the wings needed more shape and definition, so I blocked the color around them with black.
I used the original color, Patina, to block the black and blended in some metallics so it would be easy to work some flowers back in and match it to the chest. You can also see I added black lines on her wings to give her a more realistic look. I tried to get the look with minimal paint.

Here’s a progression of the cabinet itself. I wanted it to be the garden, with a nice airy dappled sky on top.

I started with metallics and the wide scraper.
Then I added some foliage using my favorite deep turquoise. I just had fun with the wide scraper, which I sourced from my kitchen utensil drawer.
I added the form of a flowering plant, then fingerpainted some red blooms and gave them some black for shadowing.
Touches of other greens and turquoise with pallet knife added some depth and interest.
I mixed a Behr green color I love with the different metallics to add a leaf canopy to the top.
More black knifed in as shadow helped the look of the sides and the top.
I finished off the shadowing and detail with a hunter green stain from Minwax.

Time for the moment of truth…I was concerned about the 4″ gap between the top drawer and the one beneath it…

Oh dear. Her head was cut off! Time to work some fingerpainting magic…

The front and the drawers were not stained yet or even really complete, so this is fixable. I erased her head from the top drawer and used my fingers to incorporate that 4″ gap into her wings with just a few minor adjustments in the original shape. I left the artwork on the 4″ gap; there’s no way I could recreate the swirly look on the wings on that curved area (it was really challenging to paint it as is with that curve on it), so she has a strip of background in her wings, which I love!

She needs some work around her edges yet, so i removed the drawers and worked my stain magic.

The drawers have been stained, as has the cabinet front, and I’ve applied a satin poly finish to protect my work.

There she is with hardware re-installed! I lost one of the buttons from the bottom left pull, and had to clean my workshop in order to find it…it was hiding in the bottom shelf of my big work table, so i cleaned over half the shop before I finally found it! Casey said “I think when you get over to the freezer cleaned, you should stop and clean the bottom shelf of the work table.” He was right…it was down there on the opposite side from where I had dropped it and felt it hit my toe. My hacky sack instincts fro 20 years ago kicked in (literally) and when it fell, I had apparently automatically popped my toe upward and kicked it into the table. Gah. It’s always something. At least I found it tho before I took her to KC!!!

On President’s Day, Cale didn’t have school, so we loaded the trailer with furniture and ran it up to KC West Bottoms, where I have a space on the 4th floor of the largest warehouse in the bottoms. We put up a new wood and tin wall for staging large furniture in our space (blog post coming soon on this) and staged the Queen of the Garden.

I just love her! What do you think? I pray someone falls in love with her up there and snags her up! She is a perfect statement piece for a garden themed room or just someone who loves butterflies.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.