Wednesday, September 14, 2016

A Pair in Deep Blue

These two lovelies didn't start life together, but I think they were rather meant to be. I picked up the tall dresser on a house call a few weeks back, and I got the low bow front dresser last week at the same time I snagged that wonderful kidney desk.

         So one of my favorite things about how these two came together has to do with their feet. The tall chest originally had classic Queen Anne bandy legs with pad feet. The way 99.9% of such feet were made in the 20th century was with a center spade shaped foot (that was much easier to carve than the delicate curves of a pad foot) and then multiple curved pieces applied and glued around it to create the pad.
          Now there's a saying in the fine antiques world - "70% of the value is in the feet".  And for a novice collector of early antiques, I suppose this is a head scratcher. The reason is the feet on an antique are always aaaaaalways the first thing to go. 18th and early 19th century homes were damp, and furniture typically sat right up against the exterior wall, making it even more susceptible to moisture and insect damage. And that's in a perfect scenario, where a piece of furniture has sat in a fine home all its long life. Far more likely the poor thing has been dragged around (bad for the feet) or put down in a damp cellar or barn (even worse for the feet). So to find a 200 hundred year old dresser with the feet intact is great news indeed for the collector or antiques dealer. It's not as rare as chicken's teeth, but close.

            These two dressers are from the 1920s. The ARE NOT 200 year old fine antiques, their value is not in their purity of state, origin, provenance, or surface. Their value is solely decorative and functional, and that's where I come in. The tall dresser had lost most of the applied pad foot parts, so I knocked off the rest, which were hanging on by a sliver. Luckily the bow front dresser had always had spade feet, so by sanding the tall dresser's feet they now had matching feet. Perfect!

             I painted them both in a custom mixed deep blue with a paler blue interior. It took me hours to sand the tops on these two. The tall one had something like five coats of paint over the original sticky varnish. The low chest had suffered an even worse fate. Some damn fool had tried to "refinish" the top, but had actually just badly and messily removed the mahogany veneer (why?!?!?), exposing the underlayment below. Typically on these pieces there's the fancy veneer, which is about 1/8" thick, then the underlayment also 1/8" thick, then the solid piece of secondary wood- which is usually poplar, pine, or chestnut in New England furniture. I have only ever kept the underlayment wood as my top surface one other time, also when it was beautifully grained. I decided to remove the rest of the mahogany to see what the underlayment looked like. Believe it or not the cornballs that made this dresser 100 years ago used a sheet of birdseye maple as their underlayment!! Obviously I wanted to keep that! But the area where the wicked novice refinisher had done his evil work was gouged a bit and there was no fully sanding the marks. Instead I hand painted some winter birch trees across the top to hide the marks. Birch trees are surprisingly easy to paint!

1 comment:

  1. Wow. This pieces to look amazing together! Love what you did with the tops. ��