Between Etsy, Pinterest, and the web’s myriad upcycling blogs and sites, ideas for repurposing home furniture into sweet pieces for a baby nursery abound on the internet. But many of the most popular projects don’t stretch a DIYer’s design mind too far.
For example, one can easily imagine a living room end table receiving a colorful makeover and then taking up station beside a glider. And it doesn’t take a huge mental leap to picture a long, low dresser refinished in pastel paint serving as a catchall for burp cloths and bedding.
But hiding away in many a family attic are more unique pieces of furniture — vintage curiosities like the compartmentalized Hoosier cabinet popular in the early 1900s — that require a good bit of vision if they are to be transformed into nursery room treasures.
Here, we’ll take a look at three interesting finds that have the bones needed to become purposeful pieces for a little one’s bedroom, as well as what you can do to maximize that potential.
1. The Hoosier Cupboard: With its array of storage spots and pullout enamelware counter, the Hoosier cupboard, once a baker’s workspace, has all the makings of a great changing table. Just verify that the slide-out shelf is sturdy enough to hold your baby and that the piece doesn’t have any rusty hinges or flaking lead paint.
If your Hoosier has casters, I recommend removing them, as you don’t want the cabinet shifting in the midst of a diaper switch. The deeper bottom cabinets are ideal for stowing extra bedding and blankets, while the shallow upper hutch can be used to stash diapers, wipes, rattles, burp cloths, and other staples in easy reach. Many of these antiques include a set of small spice shelves that also nicely fit rash creams, ointments, pacifiers, and infant medicines. And the pullout counter need only be outfitted with a contoured pad to become the perfect perch for diaper duty. (As with any changing table, never leave your baby unattended and be certain to secure him or her using the changing pad straps).
To prevent the molded pad from sliding around, add a 30- by 15-inch cut of rubber shelf lining between the pad and the counter. (Bonus: As baby grows, your Hoosier cupboard can easily become an art and homework station, with the slide-out counter acting as a desk space).
2. The Pie Safe: Used throughout the 19th century for housing weekly offerings of breads, pies, cakes, and cookies, pie safes often featured decorative pierced-tin panels that allowed the baked goods to breathe while still keeping critters at bay. Popular panel designs include sweet shapes like stars and hearts, as well as more intricate geometric patterns and pictures such as flower baskets and pineapples, all of which play nicely into a rustic nursery theme.
If the tin panels have become grimy or rusty, you can clean them using hot water, dish soap, a plastic-bristled brush, and pipe cleaners; where necessary, finish with tarnish remover or, for a chemical-free approach, vinegar. To protect the tin from future corrosion, apply one or two coats of metal sealant. Then, with fresh paint on the wooden cabinet, your pie safe gains new life as a rocking chair side table perfect for holding a small lamp, a cup of water, and a stack of board books, as well as stuffed animals and little toys inside the doors.
3. The Antique Mirror: Whether it’s surrounded by a gilded frame or edged in carved walnut, an antique mirror might not initially seem an ideal fit for a wee one’s room. But by coating the ornate details in a bold-colored spray paint (some paint dealers can customize a can for you with their zero-VOC products), you achieve a bright and whimsical piece to dress up your dearest’s wall.
Babies love to watch faces, so a mirror makes a fun addition to a babe’s bedroom, but if the glass isn’t in great condition, you can still transform your antique find into a bright and one-of-a-kind wall hanging. To craft a bulletin board on which to tack family photos and small keepsakes, carefully remove the mirror from its frame, and then trace its outline onto a piece of thick corkboard and cut. Glue the corkboard into the frame. Alternatively, you could cut a thin piece of plywood to shape and cover the board in a playful fabric or lively printed wallpaper to create a beautiful custom art piece to accent the nursery.
What distinctive nursery furniture items have you been able to create from your attic discoveries?
Angelo DiGangi is a long-time store associate for Home Depot in the Chicago area. Angelo also writes on furniture DIY for Home Depot’s Home Decorators.com website. He provides tips on furniture ranging from computer desks to room dividers to end tables.