Crackle Is A Snap–And Makes This Antique Dresser And Mirror Pop!

171I have fun wondering about the past lives of the furniture we pick up, especially pieces as old as this antique Empire-style dresser and mirror set that we believe dates to the 1890’s.

In 1896, the first modern Olympic games were held in Athens, Greece, Henry Ford took his “Ford Quadricycle” for its first spin around Detroit, and William McKinley defeated William Jennings Bryan in a heated race to become the 25th President of the United States amid the backdrop of a crippling economic depression.

That was a pretty big year!

It was also the year that heralded the births of comedian George Burns, writer F. Scott Fitzgerald, and First Lady Mamie Eisenhower.

Unfortunately, I don’t know much about the history of our dresser and mirror set, but I do know it has sturdy bones and fabulous curves. Based on the condition of the finish when we found it, I would say it has lived a full life!


I decided to paint this set with two colors from American Paint Company‘s new Ellis Collection. Crushed Tea is a medium taupe color and Limoges is a creamy ivory like bone china. I’m usually attracted to bolder colors. However, these colors are so elegant, I knew they would complement each other beautifully for the classic timeworn finish I planned to create for this piece.

977068_10152029953073570_1200406339_o-1024x1024I started by sanding the top of the dresser because the veneer on it was so rough. I wanted a smooth surface for painting. When the entire area felt smooth, I base coated both the dresser and the mirror with Crushed Tea.

Then a weird thing happened.

As the paint was drying, a spot appeared on the top of the dresser where I had sanded. At first I thought it was a little splotch of “bleed through”, an area where parts of the wood or old finish seep through the new paint. Bleed- through is annoying, but easy to fix by covering the stain with a primer or with American Paint Company’s Top Coat then repainting.

However, on closer inspection, I realized this wasn’t a stain. It was a raised area of wood where it had been smooth earlier. The history of this piece isn’t the only mystery. I’m not sure what happened to cause this one area to bubble up like that, but I did not want to sand everything down a second time, repaint it and risk the bump coming back.

Instead, I came up a new plan to camouflage the spot by intentionally adding texture to the dresser top with a technique called crackling.

906837_10152032442413570_770641067_o-1024x1024I stuck with my original plan for the body of the dresser, the drawers and the mirror’s frame. I painted Limoges over the Crushed Tea base coat. After the Limoges dried, I “wet distressed” by rubbing a damp cloth over everything to reveal the taupe color through the creamy ivory.

I finished the distressed areas by applying several layers of American Paint Company’s Top Coat to protect the paint from everyday wear and tear. After the Top Coat dried completely, I applied APC Clear Wax to soften the look, further protect the finish, and give it that great “feel” that I love about my American Paint Company projects.

closeupdistressingTo me, the way a piece of furniture feels is just as important as the way it looks. I have painted a lot of furniture over the years. While it was nice to look at, it always felt like paint when you touched it. With American Paint Company’s all-natural waxes, the finish on my furniture not only looks great, but it FEELS a lot nicer too.

After the dresser’s base was complete, I went back and crackled the top.

To crackle, bascoat your piece with the color you want your cracks to be. For this dresser top, the taupe Crushed Tea color became the cracks.

When the paint dries completely, apply glue. Yes, that’s right—the “secret crackle ingredient” is plain old white Elmer’s glue.


When the glue is tacky to touch, you are ready to apply the second coat of color. This is where you have to be careful. If you brush on the paint too aggressively or go back and forth over an area too many times with your paint, you will disturb the glue underneath and you will get wimpy cracks.

I finished the dresser top with several coats of APC Top Coat followed by APC Dark Wax to give it an antiqued look and make the cracks pop.

Here’s a close-up shot of my crackled dresser top:

dressertop closeup1

And a photo of the dresser at this point without the mirror:

dresser halfwaydone

For the mirror, I distressed and clear waxed the larger frame to match the dresser drawers. I crackled and dark waxed the mirror’s frame to match the dresser top.


Here’s how the two techniques look side by side:


Here is the finished set! Ready for its next 125 years!


Crackling and wet distressing are two of the techniques we will be teaching in greater detail in our upcoming Introduction to American Paint Company class. Our new artist studio/classroom renovation is still coming along, but all of this snow has put us behind schedule. We hope to finish the renovation project and announce our class schedule SOON!

Thank you for your patience!

~ Cathy

This post is linking up with:
Embracing Change ~ Creative Inspirations Linky Party
The Dedicated House ~ Before and After Wednesday
All Things Thursday Blog Hop

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