Category Archives: History

Why I Love Waterfall Furniture

Why I Love Waterfall Furniture

Back in the 1920’s, newlyweds didn’t get married and move into a beautiful new starter home like they do today. Instead, they moved into a bedroom at Mom and Dad’s and saved for the day when they could move out on their own. To make their little piece of heaven their own, they would purchase a brand new bedroom set. Because cash was tight, the new bedroom set was usually a “waterfall” set, constructed from the latest construction material, plywood.

The ability to use plywood to make curves during furniture making caused these pieces to be labeled “waterfall” furniture. The distinct curved wood that “fell” over the edge of the front of these pieces and their clean lines made them feel modern to newlyweds and a far cry from  the heavily carved pieces of their parents. Since these pieces were the first major pieces of furniture bought by many of our grandparents or great-grandparents, they have sentimental value and have remained in families for generations.

Today, as our grandparents pass on and leave their furnishings behind, you can find wonderful waterfall dressers, night stands and vanities at thrift shops, flea markets and the occasional yard sale. But, as charming as they are, because they are made of plywood with a specialty wood veneer, age and the heat and  moisture from attic and basement living have caused most of this type of furniture to be in not so great shape.

For the purest of furniture restorers, waterfall furniture can be painstakingly glued, patched and polished to bring back some of its former glory. But for those of us who prefer painted furniture, these pieces can be the coolest blank canvas for all kinds of treatments.

I love the romance of this furniture and recently came across a dresser at a thrift store that I got for a song! (I didn’t actually sing, that probably would have been a bad thing…)

Waterfall dresser

It was in pretty good shape, with just a few bad places along the bottom edges. The drawers were another story. The stops were still in place, but the backs were in serious need of glue as they were popping off. There were spiders’ egg sacks and big dust bunnies living inside and underneath and the veneer was covered in years of wax and grime. Of course, I fell immediately in love.

After cleaning, sanding, patching, gluing, priming, painting, distressing and varnishing, my drabby waterfall dresser has a new shabby chic look.

Waterfall dresser after

Waterfall dress after 2While I was working on this, I went to Pinterest to look at other waterfall makeovers.  Here are a few really creative redos:


How cute is this? Couldn’t find the exact blog site for you, but you can go to and check it out.


The smart folks at Furniture-Ology combined this dresser with my favorite – chalk board paint. Love it!


Not just dressers, but vanities look great painted.

I love that the top was in good enough shape to save. What a great contrast to the white.

Last, but not least, we all need a faux soda machine in our homes!

waterfall 4

Hope you’ve enjoyed this little journey into the past and I hope the next time you come across a piece of waterfall furniture it’ll warm your heart just like it does mine.


My Life Through Refurbished Furniture


It was the 1970’s and my family had just visited Colonial Williamsburg when my mother discovered a new trend in decorating. It was called “antiquing” and involved painting a table or chair, letting it dry and then covering it with a thick, brown glaze, which was wiped off just enough to leave lots of residue in the cracks and stringy brush marks that would resemble the discoloration of age. For good measure, you could rough up the surface by beating it to an inch of its life with a chain or pounding it with a hammer, all of which my mother did to anything she didn’t deem a “real” antique. We called it her “avocado and gold eagle stage,” as little colonial “Jim-cracks” began appearing around the house.

My Mother: The Original Furniture Upcycler

When it came to taking existing furniture and reinventing it to fit the decorating trends of the day, my mother was ahead of her time. I watched over and over as she re-covered chair cushions, repainted wicker and recycled unwanted pieces by “donating” them to her children. Furniture was something you chose with thought and old furniture wasn’t something you threw away. I learned from an early age that a cozy home was full of old and well-loved furniture.

Mother 1976 001

Teenage Furniture Rescuer 

As a teen, I was a true rescuer. I was known in my family as the dog rescuer for the many times I adopted strays from the pound. As I got older, cast off furniture became my focus as I spent Sundays at flea markets looking for pieces to save.  All those years of being dragged through antiques shops by my parents, with strict orders not to touch anything, began paying off as I began recognizing which old furniture was worth refurbishing.

Furniture Refinishing: The Mother of Necessity

When I married and became a young mother, without much money to spend on furniture, I really hit my stride as my sister and I scoured thrift shops, hunting for pieces before the kids got home from school.  I remember an especially sweet score; a Victorian dressing table with a big round mirror that probably cost a whopping $25, big money back then.  Once, I spent months with Homer Formby doing a full-scale refinish of an old high-boy my mother-in-law gave me; that piece helped me lose the baby weight.

Lisa refinishing 001

I taught myself to stencil on a dilapidated armoire, whose doors never did close right, but I loved those fuzzy morning glories all the same.

The Furniture Face Lifts Continue

Now, a grandmother, who’s downsized to a two-bedroom apartment, my love of refurbishing old furniture hasn’t diminished, instead its grown even stronger as I see the need for less stuff going in landfills. Now, I consider myself the cosmetic surgeon of all the old furniture that still has good bones, but just needs a little “lift.” Like an archaeologist, I dig through thrift shops, flea markets, yard sales and yes, dumpsters, on a quest for that hidden piece of furniture that needs my help. I take it home, give it some love and provide upcycled furniture for sale at consignment shops. I also do custom orders, for those like me, who just aren’t ready to part with that old friend.