Creating a new family heirloom

Turquoise gender neutral nursery

The words “new” and “heirloom” don’t really go together. Is it possible to create an heirloom?

I love the dresser that we chose for Ellie’s room. You know I’m all about sentimental family pieces. This is a brand new piece of furniture, and I chose it specifically because I hope that it becomes a special heirloom for her.

It’s a solid wood, handcrafted gift from Grandma and Grandpa. I think it will last for many years and can have a long life beyond a baby’s room.

But whoa, it felt like a saga to get here.

Dovetailed drawer

Both sets of grandparents of course wanted to help us by buying some things for the new baby. When Matt’s parents redecorated his old bedroom, they had a Mennonite crafted dresser made.

Pine dresser

It’s country pine which is perfect for the farm, lots of drawers for storage, seemingly a good change table height (#firsttimemom #whatdoiknow). I thought something like it would be a really nice piece for the nursery–and I liked the heritage potential.

Matt’s parents were on board, so I met them at the furniture shop, and we picked out a dresser that was the same as theirs. But then the salesman told me the price. For a person who has furnished her home with mostly hand-me-downs or thrifted furniture, the sticker shock was immense. I wanted to walk out of the store and find a different dresser, but Matt’s Dad was sold.

We compromised by me paying the deposit, and they covered the balance.

Then I had to pick the finish.

Originally, I had planned to pick the same country pine finish that Matt’s parents have. But then I started to think about the rest of the furniture in the room. White crib and bookcase, grey chair. Would the addition of pine look too much like a garage sale?

The shop had a grey finish that still showed the grain of the wood, and I decided to go with that.

Usually I’m pretty decisive, but I started to doubt myself as soon as we walked out of the store. I quizzed my sisters, my Mom, my friends. Should I have gone with the pine? Or stick with the grey?

I saw this picture from Dina Holland and that sealed it for me. I loved how the grey dresser looked in the room that she designed, and I decided I’d made the right choice . (You can–and should–check out all of the rooms that Dina did in this house. They are colourful and fun and sophisticated and different from so much of what I see in decor these days).

As it turned out, I would have had plenty of time to change my mind. While the production time on the dresser was supposed to be two months, it took closer to three. Matt started to question whether the baby would arrive before the dresser.

But finally, everything came together (with free delivery to compensate for the delay). The dresser arrived and it was perfect. The size was right for the room (18 inches deep by 36 inches high by 54 inches long). The storage was abundant. The height is good for diaper changes. The grey finish still has a country style. And the quality of this piece means that it will be with us–and Ellie–for a long time.

I added simple wood dividers inside the drawers to help keep us organized (I cannot be bothered to fold baby clothes). Then I tied wooden labels to each of the knobs so that no matter who is dressing baby (including sleep deprived Mama), they know where to find things. The top is set up with the change pad and other diapering essentials.

Dividers inside a dresser drawer

Wood tags to label dresser drawers

Wood tags to label dresser drawers

In the future, I know this is a piece that will grow with Ellie and have a life beyond a change table and a nursery. I like thinking of it being in Ellie’s own home some day.

Turquoise gender neutral nurseryTurquoise gender neutral nursery

Do you have any furniture that you hope becomes an heirloom one day? How do you organize baby clothes at your house? What finish would you have chosen for the dresser? Anyone else suffer from sticker shock when furniture shopping?


8 thoughts on “Creating a new family heirloom

  1. We bought our tv stand/entertainment center from an Amish furniture company. I about had a heart attack when I saw the price (and it, too, took at least an extra month to get done). But we couldn’t find anything else that we liked that was good quality, so it’s beautiful solid wood, great craftmanship, and we’ll never have to replace it, basically.
    Our son’s nursery, however, has an old hand-me-down wooden dresser from when my husband was a kid. The drawers stick but it’s the perfect height for two tall people to change diapers. I made drawer dividers out of diaper box cardboard. 😉 Our glider for our son’s nursery was also surprisingly expensive, now that I think about it.

  2. Piper has a dresser that was handmade by my Mom’s grandfather when my mom was a baby. It came with them from Holland, and was my Mom’s until Piper was born. Both kids used it as a change table, but it’s a bit on the ‘girly’ side for Cooper, so he has a different dresser for now, and when I redo his room, he will get one that belonged to my godfather when he was a child (and has since passed away). I love family heirlooms.

  3. I had a tall, thin dresser when I was little that was reused for my children, and my parents found a matching one so we had two alike that we painted in primary colours to match their rooms. They were solid wood, beautifully made, and I’m very regretful that when we moved I sold them. >.< What was I thinking??
    We also have a long sideboard-type dresser that my parents had made when I was a teenager. We've got two dressers from the same company, but one is vastly superior to the other as it's solid wood with dovetail joints and some curvaciosity (my word) to the front. That one I plan to keep forever, and perhaps one of my kids will want it someday. I also have my mother's antique highboy, which is an absolutely gorgeous piece of furniture that she had refinished, so I'm blessed in the heirloom dresser department.
    I agree with the choice of finish for Ellie's dresser. My eyes seem to gravitate towards these lovely grey tones lately and less towards the warm, honey hues. It's a lovely neutral that she'll be able to put with most anything over the years.

    • I just thought of another thing. When you purchase a quality item like this one that is made by craftspeople to last for decades, there’s more to that decision than price. Compared to a cheap version of the same, you are keeping probably numerous pieces of furniture out of the landfill over the years, and paying the same or even less when you average that out over time. Plus you’re helping a local craftsperson to earn a living, and your piece of furniture comes with a story to it. That’s well worth the investment!

    • I love that you have so much appreciation for the furniture that you’ve inherited. Letting those two dressers go may be a regret, but we also have to appreciate what season we’re in at a given time and not hang on to everything forever.

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