Monday, November 23, 2015

An Antique Maple Stepback Cupboard

Funny thing about this sweet antique cupboard, when I purchased it I was told in no uncertain terms that it was not old, as in basically new. I was immediately suspicious of that claim. I could clearly see oxidation on the undersides of the drawers, and the construction and materials-solid maple- didn't at all seem recent. Finally, it was painted in a bright red oil paint, over the maple, and I could tell that wasn't original to the piece. If it was basically new, who would have bothered to paint it so recently, and in such a dated style.
             Once I got started on the piece I found the original furniture maker's label on the inside of the top drawer- "Leaven's Furniture Specialists, Boston".  Leaven's shut its doors shortly before WWII and was in it's heyday between about 1910 and 1925, so finally proof positive, this is indeed an antique.
              I painted the case in a custom mixed bright celery green, and the backboard in another custom color, Frosty Morning. I distressed the case because I liked the way the earlier red peeked through, swapped out the white enamel pulls for salvaged antique turned knobs, and the sealed the case in dark wax. I fully sanded the top of the lower section, which took foooooorever, but was absolutely worth it. A glorious slab of maple was hiding beneath that thick red paint.

A Vintage Cushman Maple Dresser in Cream

This handsome vintage solid maple dresser was brought to me by a client last week. It's Cushman brand, beautifully built and in lovely condition, but dated and tired looking. The client choose a simple cream for the case and we went with a darker tone to really play up the spectacular wood graining of the top. I kept the original brass pulls but recolored them to suit the new cream color. There is also a large matching mirror that I painted to match.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

A Fresh Federal Sideboard

This was a custom refinish project for a client, part of a set of mid 20th century mahogany pieces from G.Fox, which for you out of staters was our big fancy schmancy department store for generations in downtown Hartford. The set also includes a china hutch, which I'll be starting tomorrow, and a six chair dining set, which is already refinished and back in its home.

        I created a custom color for the client, the palest palest shade of green with a heavy dose of warmth to make it an earth tone. I sanded, stained, and sealed the old mahogany veneer top to make it shine with its original luster.

And here she is, all done!


An Ethan Allen Update

Carl the Furniture snagged this awesome solid rock maple Ethan Allen sideboard at auction. As soon as he offered it to me I snapped it straight up. A new client spotted it and I agreed to custom refinish it for her. We went with a satin black for the case, cottage red interior and english chestnut stain for the spectacular highly figured maple top. I replaced the pulls with brushed nickel cup pulls for the drawers and matching knobs for the doors.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

A Vintage Pine Dry Sink

A client brought me this little woe begotten vintage pine dry sink to see if anything could be done for it. The drawer runners were both broken, it had a weird piece of pressboard over the solid pine top and it was as dark and dreary as a piece of furniture can get.
       Luckily this client had a wonderful vision for the piece and wasn't willing to give up on it. We selected a bright coral-y, salmon-y, orange-y terra-cotta and I painted the interior in soft white to balance the exuberant exterior. I swapped the old pulls for turned wood ones stained to match the top. I removed the top pieces that compose the 'sink' to sand and seal the pine top, then put then reapplied the painted sink portion.
It's much much better now, if I don't say so myself!

A Sweet Victorian Desk

One of my friends tipped me off to this wonderful antique Victorian solid oak writing desk c.1880. It was for sale in town, and cute as a button- how could I say no?!

      I vacillated on the color for almost a week. First I tried a deep emerald green but it was too bold. Then I tried a tan but didn't care for that either. I finally came around to this wonderful custom mixed antique mint called 'Garden Moss'. The interior and backboard are in possibly my new favorite color ever, a creamy off white I've named 'French Vanilla'. I added shelves as they had been lost over the last hundred years. The original stamped brass pulls are some of the best I've come across in years, so of course I kept them. I had a salvaged stamped brass victorian escutcheon plate removed from another piece, so I added that and a matching knob to the lid. It's fresh as a daisy and ready for a new home!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Top Picks: Garth's Thanksgiving Americana Auction

I follow a lot of auctions throughout the year, but there's one that I look forward to months in advance- Garth's Annual Thanksgiving Americana Sale. Ooooooo I don't know what witchcraft they employ, but by God they always have scores and scores of early american objects that make my knees weak. This year's sale might be the best one ever. I've gone through the catalog twice and picked out all my favorite things. There's lots of pictures because, well, most of the things in the sale are my favorite things. You can view everything in the auction here!55th-annual-thanksgiving-americana-aucti/cy09

Charming original Saturday Evening Post artwork
by George Hughes (Vermont/New York 1907-1990)
I love the body language of the poor guy in the foreground. 

And oil on canvas seascape by Robert Ryland (1873-1951)
So wonderfully serene and a nice large size. I'd love to see this over a mantel in a coastal cottage. 

 'Portrait of a Lady' by Frank Percy Wild (1861-1950)
She's so lovely. Everything in this piece is lovely and the composition is wonderful. There's something to the tilt of her head- there's a sassiness there. 
Lately us obnoxious antiques dealers
have been referring to these big blocky empire chests as "moose"
It's a disservice, though. They're bold and beautiful, and this Ohio Valley example c.1815-1825 is the king of them all. The big turned feet support a spectacularly ornate inlaid case. The vines that scroll up the sides and across the top are especially delicious. 

There's a lot of vanes out there for which we can only vaguely speculate on age (late 19th or early 20th century?), however this sweet and simple weathervane removes all question of its date of manufacture, 1906! It's almost certainly a homemade effort, which makes it all the more desirable and charming. It would be picture perfect in a farmhouse kitchen. 

 Equal parts humbly rustic and quietly handsome, this mid 19th century hanging plate rack sports an original well worn black paint surface. I love the escutcheon on the single locking drawer, and its nice long and lean dimensions. I'd balance its roughness with a display of immaculate flowery late 19th century plates. 

The color of this antique mid 19th century cupboard is faaaaaaabulous. Such a terrific deep hue worn to a state of absolute perfection. This would be so divine in a bathroom piled with soft white fluffy towels. 

A striking ship portrait of the Steamship Castlebar,
English or Irish School, late 19th or early 20th century.
This thing is practically sticky with deep saturated hues of blue, black, red, and green. The ship is amusingly naive in execution, but the rhythmic sea is spot on. Such a fun folky piece of art. 

At any good antique show each folk art dealer will have at least one dome top box in their booth. Every American household in the second quarter of the 19th century must have had one or several. They come in varying degrees of fabulosity, and this is a top shelf example. The deep bottle green against that hot spicy red, accented by geometric patterns of starbursts and leaves makes it ever so appealing. The construction is poplar and I'm pretty damn sure those are poplar leaves, a cheeky little detail. 

A mid 19th century wood bowl with burnt sienna colored sponge decoration on the exterior. It looks like the base from every 19th century theorem ever, and I didn't think they existed in real life but were rather a whimsical make-believe detail. I love this piece. Picture it as the centerpiece on a modern table; playing all that warmth against something stark-
it would be brilliant. 

Paint decorated Classical chest of drawers, Ohio c.1820-1845.

My top pick for the whole sale. This is the pinnacle of painted furniture- the tip top,
it gets no better in my humble opinion.
First, I love a big Empire chest. Early furniture gurus might squeal, but I'd take a well formed empire chest over a Chippendale one any day. And this chest takes well formed to a whole new level. Look at those whacky block over cylinder feet!! Then there's graceful turned columns terminating in the oversized top drawer, giving the piece an unwieldy top heaviness. The paint surface makes no apologies and takes no prisoners; a mad peacock blue grained in dots and swirls of a darker complimentary shade. Gold carriage striping and a massive black band playing up the scale of the top drawer (because why not?!!) finish the look. This is why I started collecting antiques years ago. The sheer uninhibited exuberance of this piece makes it a triumph of American furniture folk art.

Another excellent early 19th century piece of painted furniture, this one a corner cupboard.
A bright robin's egg blue worn and aged in all the right spots and juxtaposed with a bouncy candy apple red interior. 

Ok, I know I just yelled at you about how much I love that empire chest of drawers and that that was my favorite thing in the sale. Well this is also my favorite thing in the sale. I can have two because it's my blog post and the hell with the rules.
Here we have a late 19th century or early 20th century signboard. It's the epitome of folk art- there was a need, a want that could have been solved by the most utilitarian of objects, but some dear creative soul answered the cry instead with a masterpiece of color and construction. This deep blue is a theme today. I really do love it. It's sponged all over the handsome wood frame, surrounding a vibrant and energetic center lettered panel.
He was a clever craftsman, and he knew it. 

I don't know a great deal about redware but I find myself strangely attracted to it.
This is a Virginia redware pitcher impressed "S. Bell & Sons, Strasburg" (Shenandoah Valley, 1882-1900). Yellow glaze with green.
But I just think it's pretty. nice colors. 

A sweet stack of storage boxes in pale shades of peach, blue, and umber.

A very handsome early 19th century Chippendale lift top blanket chest with particularly fine corner bracket feet.

A delightfully folky rooster form weathervane in early, possibly original white paint.

An absolutely wonderful folk art drawing of a turkey surrounded by red flowering vines.
The inscription at the base reads:
Tom turkey "Finished Feb. 14th 1909 by HW Nuss, at the age of 88 yrs. Born June 29, 1820 in Berks Co."

A funky pumpkin orange mid 19th century mantel.

A beautiful mid 19th century sewing box, heavily and cunningly inlaid

How can you not love 'Champion Coxey'. What a handsome devil!

 A particularly exciting mid 19th century pieced quilt. The work is a bit sloppy but the colors are still strong and the chariot wheels pattern is so cheerful. 
 'Price Tells'. What does that even mean?! Great lettering on this late 19th century sign.
I think everyone should own at least one great sign. Or many. 

Another sweet late 19th century quilt. Wonderful precise construction on this one. 

A terrific 19th century farm table. Superb original warm surface.

A terrifically paint decorated lift top blanket chest dated 1816.

I love the simple restrained sensibility of this pair of dated storage boxes. 

And finally, this surprisingly tender unsigned mid 19th century portrait of a plowman.
He looks tired, but oh so determined.