Bedroom design ideas for Robert’s blonde vintage furniture

retro modern bedroom design ideasReader Robert has just acquired two vintage blond dressers for the bedroom at his new house. He’s basically starting from scratch and wants to know — should he keep the blonde finish, or refinish these two bedroom dressers in a teak stain. Read on for Robert’s dilemma and our decorating ideas…

vintage dresser

Robert writes:

retro-blonde-dresserI recently found these ultra cool dressers — marked United Furniture Corporation – Lexington NC. The drawers are dovetailed.  The exposed wood is veneer. They are very heavy and well built. My question is, do you feel that if I redo these dressers in a teakish/fruitwoodish tone, that it would ruin them? Should I leave them this blond color or proceed with teak?

I like the 60’s era for furniture the best. Perhaps late 50’s and a tad of 70’s. I just like it all blended together via my finds and redoing them to blend. My hobby is to go to thrift stores and find things and play with them. For example get a mirror in a 1970’s era yellow fake/plastic wicker frame and redo it to look neat in my home today. Or take a cheap plastic brass candle sconce and redo that to look like pewter with black in the crevices. I like to have new modern day timeless things mixed in with finds that I can blend together. I generally do not like the Haywood Wakefield Blonde and their furniture.

For these dressers, they are going into a blank slate bedroom so I either blond or teakish/fruitwoodish, I will just decorate around them.

I am just concerned about the integrity of the dressers.

Kate’s advice: Have a fling with these blondes!

Well, Robert, I think you know what Pam and I are going to say — if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. From what I can see from the pictures, the finish on both dressers seems to be in great shape. I think it would be a shame to refinish them — plus I can imagine refinishing the tambour (rolling slot) doors would be tedious! Instead of refinishing the dressers, I think you should work with them — they are fantastic! Hey, have some fun with these blondes! You mentioned that you weren’t generally a fan of Heywood-Wakefield blond furniture, but these are very different in style and with a few creative decorating ideas, you can make a very 60s-70s/modern looking bedroom room with this blond finished furniture.

If you’re into a 1950s Heywood-Wakefield look, then light pastel wall colors work really well with blonde furniture — however, Robert is a fan of 60s and 70s style — which is why he needs to take a different approach to choosing a wall color for his blonde dressers. To make the light blonde dressers feel a bit more punchy, contrast is key. Placing a light blonde dresser on a mid to dark wall color will make them really stand out in the room. Highly saturated colors — like the two I chose for Robert — will make the room feel lively and modern.

For Robert’s consideration, I made two mood boards — one orange, one blue…

vintage blonde bedroom furniture idea

1.  These white curtains from IKEA really pop off the dark wall. The silver pattern on them coordinates with the grey floor and the curved shapes found in the dresser pulls, hairpin table and headboard detail.

2.  Robert’s ultra cool long and low vintage dresser!

3.  I’d put something eye catching on the wall — possibly this metallic starburst mirror from Crate and Barrel — or since Robert likes to come up with creative projects to transform his thrifty finds, he could find a cool mirror and repaint/refinish the frame if necessary.

4.  A bright orange wall color for the bedroom is not everyone’s cup of tea, but I think it works well with the grey rug and really makes the blond dressers pop off the wall. Personally, I’ve had two orange bedrooms — waking up in one is like having a glass of orange juice before you even get out of bed!

5.  This vintage lamp from Etsy seller AustinMetroRetro is a lovely shape and would also work well with the orange and grey color scheme of the room. (Blue and orange are complementary colors.)

6.  This mid century inspired bedding from Crate and Barrel really caught my eye. Not only are the shapes colorful, but they also add a playful aspect to the space.

7.  I went looking for non-Heywood-Wakefield style blond bed frames to fit in Robert’s bedroom and found this lovely vintage bed frame on Ebay from seller buckscounty. Even though this retro bed frame has a blond finish, the style of it is very 60s & 70s — right up Robert’s alley.

8.  With all of the thick wood furniture going on in the space, I thought it would be nice to inject a lighter-legged nightstand into the space, such as this hairpin leg stepped end table from ebay seller pjzredskins13. The shape of the hairpin legs echos the pulls on the dresser drawers and the iron detail in the headboard nicely.

9.  Robert’s tall vintage blond dresser!

10.  I love this retro alarm clock made by Newgate and found on The shape is fun, and it fits right in to Robert’s room — which is sprinkled with little bits of black and white.

11.  I’m not sure what type of flooring Robert will have in his new bedroom, but he could either do an area rug with this silvery grey FLOR carpet tile in Fog (if his floors are wood), or even wall to wall if needed to replace any flooring that doesn’t go well with his style.

Now I realize that not everyone loves orange as much as Pam and I do, which is why I made a slightly tweaked alternate plan for Robert.

retro modern bedroom design ideaThe idea board above uses many of the same components as the orange version, with a few changes:

4.  Using a dark blue — similar to Pam’s 2012 Color of the Year, Bitossi Blue — for the wall will make Robert’s bedroom feel cozy and act as a striking backdrop to the blond furniture in the room.

5.  This white and orange and mustard mid century lamp from Etsy seller lavintagefurnishings will also pop off the dark wall and coordinates well with the blond furniture while also adding more color to the space.

6.  If Robert is not a fan of patterned bed linens, this simple and silvery quilt from Crate and Barrel is simple and sophisticated while coordinating with Robert’s room.

KateSo there you have it Robert, two ways to design a room around your retro blond dressers without refinishing them. Of course we’ll be interested to see what you decide and as always, would love to see pictures of the final results!

Readers — what’s your 2 cents?
Would you keep the dressers as-is — or refinish them?

design dilemma

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  1. says

    I’m afraid that I have to agree with those who say ‘leave them alone’.

    There are some lovely greens that the blonde wood would coordinate with very well (as well as other colors). Go out and bring home those paint chip samples!

    Assuming that those pieces are as fabulous looking as they appear in the pictures, I would live with them and love them exactly the way they are. I’d love to find a piece like that upright you’ve got!

    My reasons are personal.

    Years ago, in my early twenties, I was given my mothers Cavalier cedar chest (given to her by my father in the late 1940s), blonde wood, veneer finish, and I couldn’t wait to strip the piece and stain it a dark color. It simply did not fit in with my decor at the time.

    First off, the finish was extremely difficult to remove. It does not come off evenly, or well, and took a lot of time and work. Secondly, the dark stain that I replaced it with never has looked quite ‘right’. I don’t know if that’s because I remember the piece as it was, or if I truly did ruin it (as my dad told me I had).

    All I know is that I wish I had never touched it. Now that I’m older and wiser I can appreciate it for what it was, but it’s too late to go back now. To top it off, I’ve ruined any value that the piece may have had (Cavalier was considered the Cadillac of cedar chests at one time).

    That said, they are your pieces, it’s your house, and you have to do what works for you, but if you’re going to change them, I would suggest having them professionally refinished.

    Good luck with your decision.

    • Janet in CT says

      I vote with Carole and the others not to attempt to darken the blond finish on this lovely set and to leave it as is. And my father who was in the furniture business for fifty-five years would totally agree with her father, that it would ruin the piece. Those old veneers, for the most part, just were not made to be refinished. Repairs on them were difficult too. My husband totally refinished a forties Hoosier cabinet with a tambour roll-up and he said he would NEVER attempt that again! They have to be removed and disassembled and done each slat at a time, and reinstalled. And it wasn’t easy to get them all to match stain-wise. I would suggest keeping it as is, and reselling or swapping for what you really want rather than going to all that work when someone else would want it all original.

  2. Susie Q. says

    I would try living with them as they are. You can always decide to change them on down the road, whereas if you changed the finish immediately, you wouldn’t be giving them a chance to “grow on” you.
    I’m sure in the (near?) future you’ll find another piece that’s in bad condition that will truly require a bold, creative solution on your part–save your ideas for something that really needs a facelift.
    I vote for the blue wall, though green sounds good too. Look for some cool prints that have that blond color + other colors for inspiration.

  3. Brian T says

    I like both of Kate’s color suggestions, but if Robert wants something more relaxing, with less contrast, may I suggest Behr’s “Eucalyptus Leaf”? I put it up in the main hallway of my house. It’s grayed-out enough to be restful, and it functions practically as a neutral in my house, with just enough color to keep from being blah. I think it would be a sophisticated and calm take on ’60s aqua to go with those dressers (which should stay blond, in my opinion).

    My parents had a Heywood Wakefield bedroom suite when they first got married, and I would be kicking myself for not snagging it when my mom died 8 years ago, except it would clash horribly with the 8-foot-tall Gothic German bed I got from my aunt. The other posters are correct in noting that a lot of the Heywood stuff looks almost pinkish gray instead of having a yellow undertone. When I was 6, my parents banished the Heywood stuff to a guest room in favor of their new bedroom suite: a very heavy, thoroughly Mediterranean, highly carved look that has never come back into style.

  4. RosemaryMartin says

    I vote for blonde. I grew up with blonde furniture and wish I had some now. I think ChrisH made an excellent point in that if you don’t care for the blonde, let someone else have it and get some darker pieces.

    As for the wall color, I vote turquoise!

  5. jmb says

    Great find and so nice that you sought second opinions before putting these pieces under the sander! I would not refinish these pieces, since the finish seems to be original and these pieces are very complex, making it hard to achieve a professional looking end product. Even professionally redone can be trumped by authentic. Once the original finish is gone there is no going back.

    If you don’t love them “as is” perhaps you can sell them to someone else, but the mock-ups shown are quite striking, especially the blue one and maybe some additional color, on the walls or fabrics, will make these pieces more appealing to you.

  6. Megan says

    Leave it blonde. I love blonde furniture. It is difficult to change the color, since most of it has some veneer on it. If you have several blonde pieces, you can make an attractive room. Blonde furniture gives a light, bright, retro feel.

  7. says

    I love the dark blue! I would have never considered having the lighter wood. Always been more of a dark wood person. But against the blue the light wood looks so yummy! Well done!

  8. Amy in Sacramento, CA says

    I think they are gorgeous just the way they are, so I agree with those who say “don’t change it” and “sell it and buy what you love” if you just can’t live with it. Someday, your tastes may change, and if you still have the pieces (and went the refinishing route) you will kick yourself hard for changing the pieces.
    I say, if you can’t live with them, then sell them to someone who will love them for what they already are — and with the money, buy something you love! :) It’s a win-win that way!
    And by the way, if you’d asked me this question 20 years ago, you’d get an entirely different answer. (Wisdom has, indeed, come with age.) ;)

  9. Jordanna says

    Well I think I would either keep them blond and keep them, or sell them and get something I liked more.

    The Bitossi blue is appealing, but I’d like it more, I suspect, with green. I’m all about green though, and that’s a very predictable reaction for me. Could be pretty much any green – jadeite, chartruese, even avocado!

    But the orange is kind of fun. I think I’d like a lighter shade, though. Or maybe just broken up with more white. The white bedspread of the second is nice. But I’d even consider a white bedframe, maybe one of the slim and relatively simple white four-post beds. Just because even a blond can use some highlights. ;)

  10. tammyCA says

    Cool furniture…I echo the sentiment “if it ain’t broke” leave it blonde. Think of it as the cool blondes that Hitchcock favored, Grace Kelly, Tippi Hendren. Sounds like a great idea to saturate the walls with a deep blue, but I’d choose a rich turquoise…yep, think blue-eyed blondes.
    And, I think it is a great idea to turn the cheap plastic, and beat up objects into something nice with paint and leave the fine furniture & objects with integrity alone.

  11. Robert says

    Thank you all for your comments. Looks like everyone decided on blonde.

    I had to smile at the orange bedroom as I had orange shag carpet in my bedroom growing up. In my house I just sold I never got to redo the kitchen that the previous owners did in the 1970’s and it had burnt orange walls and linoleum. I can’t get away from orange LOL. I do happen to like it, as I was never too pressed to redo that kitchen.

    I also loved that bedding from Crate and Barrel.

    Sorry it took so long to get back, I just now this past Sunday got re-hooked up with Internet. In reading through the comments a few things were constant. One was that they were in relatively good shape. The cell phone camera’s do, do wonders. Maybe I am overly picky but there is a fair share of dings and gouges. On the tall dresser, on the left top side the finish is coming off and on the right top corner the veneer is gone. You do not have pictures of the tops, which are pretty rough. However for as old as they are, they would be considered in pretty good shape probably for the average populous.

    One person mentioned they would like the upright one. I just love the height of that, as it is a shorter upright.

    One person mentioned or asked what metal was the hardware as to get metal pieces around that. The hardware I think was a brass. It is rough and lots is rubbed off but I plan to keep that patina and not re-brass it.

    No worries for all about redoing for now as winter is around the corner and I have to place to tackle that, so it will be put to use in my bedroom.

    One person mentioned the difficulty in redoing the tambour. That is my worry too. The Tambour is basically in good stead but it does catch and need some stiffening to roll better or some sort of repair as you have to pull the direction you want to go (open or close) and then out towards you as if you just pull sideways, the first slat will immediately turn inward and “jamb” the track. If anyone has any ideas on how to repair this please let me know. Hopefully an easy repair.

  12. says

    Hi..been reading about all the blond furniture….mostly dressers….well I have a blond “bar” it locks and unlocks with a skeleton key…opens up and even has a small drawer in it for storage and when u open it…there are a few openings as to put your bottles of booze in there…then below are 2 shelves…but u have to unlock the top to open it up bar style then the 2 cabinets below to get at your storage…anybody have any idea how old this could be…no one else has ever seen one or heard of one around here..ty

  13. Joe Felice says

    Why, on earth, would you want to change the color of the furniture? It’s gorgeous in its original splendor! And would go well with any color you paint the room.

  14. kyle says

    What did you decide? I have mostly Lane blonde mahogany furniture in my “rest” room with faint mint green and ivory. It is very feminine though.

    • Robert says

      I am still leaning toward teak or light walnut but I feel that lack of time for refinish will keep it blond as I really don’t have time and don’t see time to refinish. It is still in storage waiting to be brought over.

  15. Jan says

    I have a set of blonde (formerly) furniture. Unfortunately, I stripped the blonde veneer off. What is underneath is a light, nice wood. It was very easy to strip. However, I say, “do NOT strip it off if you don’t have to.” The blonde finish keeps the retro look and it is lost once it has been stripped away. I really like your furniture, by the way.

  16. says

    I have never been a big fan of the Mid Century blonde furniture, until…

    Hubby and I spotted a 5 pc Black Blonde bedroom set with chrome hardware displayed on a cheetah carpet.

    Our bedroom already has a full wall accordion closet door which we love.
    We are stumped for the carpet and bedspread. Can you direct me towards a period bedspread that is not chenille?

    Our carpet dilemma: we will need new carpet but cheetah is too busy for us. Shall we go solid? Our present carpet is brochade/toile in gold and cream. Extremely cool, but a bit too Hollywood regency for us. Is there a mid century specialty trade/sell board anywhere? or else it’s Craigslist.

    Pinch pleate drapes will be our window covering option, just might keep our burnt orange set. Not certain.

    I love the two tone irredescent look of the blonde black, I just don’t see a lot of it here or on any other site.

    Can you give us some eye candy?

    When we first saw our set it was displayed on a black/gold cheetah carpet.

  17. Pat Wieneke says

    I have bedroom furniture that is blond walnut and in like new condition ( except a stick person and dog drawn inside one drawer). I would never change them.
    My bedroom is very dark. I have north windows that are the high up awning style of the 50’s, And the neighbor has a big evergreen that adds to the darkness of the room. I don’t think I could live with the intense wall colors shown above, even though they are lovely. My daughter painted one of my bedrooms a lovely light ferny green, I was thinking of a spread and window shades in some sort of print that includes brights and the fern color, or a similar light, airy color.
    Any thoughts?

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