Monday, February 29, 2016

A Dresser Rescue Mission

"Any Hope?"
That's the title to an email I received just over a week ago from a potential new client. Within she described an antique dresser that had come along with their house, and had sat untouched in their basement for the last 24 years. Keeping a dresser in a damp basement is like trying to grow lily pads in the Sahara. But it happens. The dresser part, that is. Actually perhaps the lily pads too. There are oasis after all. Is oasis the plural to oasis? But I digress.

Here are a couple of the pictures that accompanied the email- 

Eeeeeek. There might be hope for the poor thing, but it was going to take some serious elbow work to find it, and then quite a bit of scrubbing and sanding from there.

And yet...I could tell that the piece was antique, likely from about 1890-1910, and certainly had a lovely form, long and lean, with that sweet little shell carved in the base. I could see it was solid wood, chestnut with pine secondary wood I believe, and thank goodness for that. A veneer piece would have been in shambles after that long in the basement. Er... more in shambles at least. This dresser was pretty shamble-y.

Finally the client seemed very very nice, and that goes a long way for me. Sometimes I get the sassiest emails, which I promptly ignore. No piece of furniture is worth working for an obnoxious ninny. But on the other hand, I'm willing to do a great deal of work to help a kind person rescue an antique dresser. So with all that in mind, I said yes. There was hope (I hoped). 

When the clients unloaded the piece I worried I had been wrong. Though the case was nice a sturdy, surprisingly so, every single drawer was falling apart and there's nothing I hate more than working on drawers. The pine secondary wood had not withstood the damp as well as the far denser chestnut. But what was even worse and isn't really clear in any of the before pictures, was that the piece had been very very badly refinished at some time previous. Had it just been painted an ugly color, my work would have been easier, in fact that paint layer would have further protected it from the basement elements. But no, this had been scraped. And allow me to just cast a little side eye at all the wood enthusiasts out there who think refinishing furniture back to wood is so SO much better for the integrity of an antique. It's not. In the process of removing the old surface, some dummy had gouged the case badly, over and over and over again. Grrrrrrr.

But that's ok. She's turned out just dandy in the end. I rebuilt every single drawer, gluing all the loose dovetails, fixing all the warps and cracks in the drawer bottoms, sanding the sides smooth, and waxing them so they run nicely once more. I added drawer stops where they'd fallen off, and replaced the escutcheon plates, which had also been lost over the last hundred years. I recolored the original hardware and the escutcheon plates to match. I sanded the top for hours HOURS to get all the gouges from the bad refinish out, and filled two giant shrinkage cracks in the side panels. I also filled as much of the gouges in the case as I could manage, and then sanded all the surfaces to prep for paint. The client selected a soft blue that I just love with the brighter hardware and the rich luster of the top. This dresser was definitely a challenge, but the end result makes it all worth it. 

Friday, February 26, 2016

A Vintage Cherry Dresser with Ferns

Here's the last of a set of three pieces I've done in a fern theme in the last few months, custom for a client. I got this cherry dresser about three weeks ago and it just happened to be sitting in my workshop when the client came to pick up his fern themed desk I had finished for him. He mentioned that he was looking for a long dresser with matching mirror to complete the set and wondered if I had anything that fit the bill. Did I ever! This vintage Pennsylvania House dresser is superb, beautifully built, and lent itself perfectly to the new spring-y paint job. There is a giant matching mirror but I didn't photograph it attached as it weighs several tons and I can't get it on and off by myself.
I sanded, stained, and sealed the bottom four drawers and the top, which is breathtaking. I painted the fern embellishment by hand on the lower drawers, and painted the rest of the case in the custom mixed pale green, distressed, and dark waxed. I filled the previous hardware holes and replaced them with rustic knobs for the top and cup pulls for the base.

And here's the desk from the set as well!

Thursday, February 25, 2016

A Vintage Hutch in Black and Cream

I think hutches are having a moment right now. I've been getting loads of requests to custom refinish them for clients, and the ones I do on spec are selling quickly. This is fine by me as it gives me the perfect reason to buy tons of hutches. I love hutches. I love buying them, I love owning them, I love working on them, and I love selling them. They're real room makers, being so large, and always so handy what with all the storage and display space. I think everyone should own at least one hutch. I have one dear friend who has eight, or nine, I've lost count at this point.

          I got this c.1965 solid rock maple Temple Stuart hutch from Carl the Furniture Guy, and though I was dying to start it immediately, I had to be patient and finish several other projects first. I knew right away that I wanted to do it in black with a cream backboard and interior and with brass hardware. I ordered the hardware online, and while I waited for it to arrive I set to work sanding, staining, and a sealing the top of the base, and painting the entire case in a rich satin-y black.
I'm pleased as punch with how it turned out, and hope it finds a good home soon, because the one downside to hutches is that they take up A LOT of space in my workshop!

Monday, February 22, 2016

An Antique Farm Cupboard in Black and Blue

I picked this sweet late 19th century pine and mahogany cupboard up from an antique store down near the coast several weeks ago. A client selected it to be custom refinished for her kitchen, in a black exterior and blue interior. I messed about with it for quite some time as the last hundred and fifty odd years had left their mark, but I finally got the structure in ship shape once more. Also, for some funny reason, the handsome carved panels of the doors had been flipped backwards so the flowers were on the inside. I swapped them back, because why hide such a nice detail! The surface work was the easy part, a soft lightly distressed and hand waxed black for the outside, a pale blue for a fun dash of color on the inside. I swapped the pulls out for a fabulous pair of aesthetic movement walnut pulls that suit it far FAR better than the little knobs that were on the drawer before. Finally, I added a pair of wood knobs, stained to match the top, to the doors, as they'd never had knobs, which made them tricky to open and close.

A Vintage Record Cupboard in Yellow

Usually around once a week I try to swing through a goodwill store to see if there's any furniture laying about which might benefit from some swipes with a paint brush. My favorite stores are located in Middletown and on the Berlin Turnpike, from both of which I've scored fabulous pieces of furniture. I'll also zip into the goodwill 'boutique' in Glastonbury, and the great big store in Rocky Hill on occasion. This adorable little vintage mahogany record cupboard came from the Middletown Goodwill, through which I breezed last Thursday. I was quite reticent about it at first, It needed a great deal of work, and was rather plain, but after walking around the store twice I kept returning to it. It was marked $30, which seemed a bit high, but I finally decided I might as well see what could be done for it. I was extremely pleased to see it ring up at 50% off- all the better.

            The piece had lost its backboard at some point, but, a testament to it's fine construction, it had not developed a wobble as a result. I added a fresh backboard, and also a solid piece of mahogany to the interior of the top. When what I'm assuming was a record player or similar contraption was unceremoniously yanked out goodness knows how many decades ago, two giant gaping holes had been left where there should have been a complete shelf. Trim, and a nice fat piece of salvaged 19th century mahogany solved that problem straight away. I sanded, stained, and sealed the top, which now glows with a finely grained luster, and painted the case in a custom mixed bright mustard yellow.  Since I spotted a little bunch of crocuses coming up in Middletown just this morning in the exact same shade, I've decided to name this yellow 'First Crocus'. It's almost a month early for crocuses, but you won't hear a breath of complaint from me. I love spring, and the early it chooses to show up, the happier I am.

      I highlighted the nice detail trim in a paler yellow, and painted the interior of the top and the bottom in an antique white. Finally I replaced the slightly small brass pulls with larger more ornate ones. I adore this piece and I hope it finds a good home!

Thursday, February 18, 2016

A Sweet Antique Cottage Shelf

It's been ages and ages since I painted a piece for my own home. This adorable little antique shelf had been at the top of our stairs for several years now, but when we installed our new bannister, it made the hallway feel too tight. My husband and I decided to relocate it to his office, replacing horrible cheap-o bookshelf that held some of his piano books. I think it's the very last piece of knockdown furniture that remained in the entire house, and good riddance! This shelf will look SO much better in that spot!

        I wanted to freshen the piece up a bit so I painted it in an antique white and distressed it to reveal the layers of old paint and lovely craquelure texture of the surface. I know it's a simple piece, but I photographed it anyway, mostly because I wanted an excuse to buy and arrange fresh flowers for the shoot. The spectacular vintage sign is a new purchase from one of my favorite antique shops,
 Old Beautiful in Clinton, CT.
You can check out their website here --->