Friday, December 30, 2016

Big Goals and a Sweet Drum Table

I can't think of anything I'd rather be doing right now than sitting on my cozy antique velvet sofa, in my cozy antique Connecticut cottage, watching the fire crackle happily, sipping a TOP NOTCH gray goose martini (dry and dirty, three olives) and writing up this blog post to share with you.

          I gotta be honest. I'm happy. Really, truly, sincerely happy. And I am not, as a rule a happy person, at least I wasn't for most of my life. But maybe I am now, because I spent 98% of 2016 extraordinarily happy, now that I think back on it. I mean, sure there were some sob fests, and some drunken temper tantrums that at 32 I'm really getting too old for, but mostly, this was a divine and placid year. And I have SO much hope for the new year. 2017 is gonna be THE year. The year where I get my own show. Isn't that a silly dream? It's probably so far out of my reach, but goddamn if I'm not trying my hardest and, dare I say, starting to make some tentative progress.

           But more than anything else, It's the work that makes me happy. The work has been good lately. I've been so busy I hardly know what to do, and I love nothing more than walking into my workshop each morning, giant mug of coffee in hand, and starting a day knowing just what needs doing. I love my job. I love that I can paint, and write, and research, and take pictures, and stage things, and listen to books while I do it. I feel so lucky to be able to have found the one job that includes all the slices of weirdness that make for a happy Kate sandwich. Thank you all, both clients and readers, and those of you who don't read and just scroll down to look at the pictures (they're the noodleheads, but they won't know I said that cause they're scrolling riiiiiiight by this). Seriously though, thank you. When I someday get my own HGTV show and I'm a mega star, I'll buy each and every one of you a drink.

              But enough martini-induced fluff. HOW ABOUT THIS TABLE?!?! This table kicks ass. It's a great table. 1940s, mahogany and mahogany veneer, Federal in style though we never saw this form in American first period (1790-1820) antiques. It's absolutely terrific, a little pistol of a table, and with great original lion's head drawer pulls and furry paw brass feet to boot! The client selected Benjamin Moore's "Iced Slate" for the color, which I liked so well I'm working on a sideboard in the same color as we speak...well not literally as we speak. We opted to brighten the original hardware up with a bit with rub-n-buff, distressed the case lightly, and refinished the top, not greatly changing the original mahogany shade, but brightening it up a bit.

Top Ten of 2016

 It's not hard to pick favorites. I suppose I'm to tell you that I love all my work, and swagger away from each piece thinking it's a home run, but I'm pretty critical of myself, and of the furniture. Also I factor in heavily whether the piece was pleasant to work on. Sometimes a piece turns out gorgeous, and we all "ooh and agh" over it, but to get to that point I had to spend many miserable days muddling about with the most irritating finicky problems, swearing a blue streak, and stomping about. Furniture that pissed me off, no matter how pretty, does not make the cut.

           So you can rest assured that each of these pieces, my ten favorite in no particular order, were fun to do as well as pretty to look at! I've got about twelve new projects in my workshop right now that I'm wicked excited about, so 2017 is going to bolt out of the gates with some serious showstoppers- and also I have quite a bit of exciting news, multiple individual exciting news things, that I can't tell you about quite yet!

1. A Vintage Thomasville Armoire
       This thing was a beast, and when we delivered it to the client's house it took four of us to move it. Somehow in that moving melee' I smacked my head on the corner of their wall so hard I had a big purple welt for weeks- SO GLAMOROUS. But all is forgiven- this armoire is too good to resist. I love all that storage and the balance of high society curves, and country chic copper wire mesh.
You can read all about it and see more pictures here

2. An Empire Chest in Blue
       This sweet 19th century chest of drawers combines several of my favorite things- It's a very curvy bit of furniture design, with that wonderful over the top crest and those silly turned feet, and it's duck egg blue, which incase you haven't been paying attention, is one of my very favorite shades to paint a dresser. Now I don't always love the way stained drawer fronts go with a painted dresser, but in this instance it makes my knees weak. The bold graining of the crotch mahogany veneer was too damn good to hide under paint!!
To see more pictures- check out the blog post here!
3. An Empire Secretary in Cream
      Again, empire- I truly am SUCH a sucker for empire pieces. This secretary dates to about 1865/1870. When I got it, it was in rough shape- I'm talking one scrolled foot on a banana peel and the other three in the fire pit level rough shape. So it was extremely satisfying to nurse it back to life. And the form, GOD, so pretty. I kind of wish I'd kept it for myself.
To see the before and after pictures on this one, check out my blog post here!


4. A Vintage Hutch in Mint Green
        I've refinished about two dozen of these mahogany and walnut mini hutches over the years. They all date to right around WWII, and are super sweet. Of all of them, this is my favorite. The mint and white and cream suit it so perfectly. And the gal I bought it from was an absolute darling, as was the gal I sold it to. It was just a happy piece of furniture from start to finish.
To see more pictures, click the blog post here


5. An Antique Oak Cupboard in Yellow
      It's always nice to work on a piece that's wholly unique from any I've ever handled before. I had done an ornate Victorian side by side last year, but this simple, humble oak piece, with its no-nonsense straight lines, was a much more down to earth take on the form. I LOVED this piece, and was so happy with how it turned out. It went to one of my favorite clients who owns one of my favorite houses out in a spectacular little corner of Western Connecticut.
This is another post it's really worth clicking over to, to see the before and after!

6. A Mahogany Sideboard in Greige
              I refinished this sideboard from start to finish in one glorious warm afternoon, while listening to an excellent book on tape. I bought it from a couple out in Marlborough who had one of the most glorious gardens I've ever seen- put my scraggly wild patches of unknown weed-flowers to shame for sure. But the sideboard was a jewel! And it had several inscriptions on the bottoms of the drawers from the original owner- all the more fun!
To see the inscriptions- click here

7. A Coffee Table from the Side of the Road
          Yes, that's right, I snagged this sweet vintage Thomasville coffee table off the side of the road in Hebron while returning from another delivery. I couldn't believe my luck! A great client of mine approached me to custom refinish it for him and we put our heads together to create this amazing piece. You WILL NOT believe the before and after on this one!

8. An Antique Tiger Oak Dresser in Cream
       This was a piece a very kind friend gave to me as he didn't have a spot for it any longer. I refinished the top and drawer fronts because: HOLY MOLY that tiger oak grain is out of this world. A dear friend and neighbor gave it to her husband as a birthday present.
To see more pictures- click the blog post here!

9. A Pine Hutch in Shades of Green
       To be fair, these are my favorite greens: spring and a spicy shade of chartreuse, and I love a good hutch. This was a GREAT hutch. Huge, and well built and packed to the rafters with character. The modern nickel drawer pulls were waaaaaay outside my comfort zone, and I'm so glad the client selected them, they're perfect for the piece. It went into a stunning dining room in a stunning house in Glastonbury!
Check out the before and after on this one here!
10. An Antique Dresser in Cream
         Oh goodness, this was such a magnificent dresser, so wonderfully built and designed, it was an honor to refinish. I did it custom for a favorite client, and the simple combination of antique white and wood graining is superb. I would have happily put this looker in my home
For more pictures and a funny story of what it took to get it to this point, read the blog post here!

Honorable Mention:
These two pieces are currently tied as my favorite piece I've ever refinished EVER, both of which I did this past spring. I didn't include them in my top ten only because I think I've shared both these pictures with you about ten thousand times already.
To read about both:

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Five Reasons Why You Should Be Buying Antiques

I have a goal for you in 2017, I want to you to buy more antiques. I'm going to rather demand it of you, in fact, but I'm also going to make a damn good case for it. If you're anywhere in the Northeast right now, you're getting battered with a snow/sleet/muck storm today, so you've got the time.
Pull up a chair, grab another cup of coffee, and let's talk old stuff.

*that's all caps because I truly intend for it to be shouted

set of three late 19th century English brass measures
via Skinner's Auction

1. Antiques are Affordable
     - Now, I know that goes against all the stuff you've heard over the years, but truly, antiques are almost always the most budget friendly option when you're filling your home. It's why my house is filled with antiques...well that and about nine other reasons. If you think antiques are too pricey, you're shopping at the wrong place. You could just as easily say cars are too expensive, and then I'd point out that's because you're at the Ferrari dealership (cars are such a silly thing to waste money on).
        I buy my antiques in quite a few places, and honestly it's not even hard to find good deals, I'm not even going to say "It takes a little time and effort". If ever there was a time to stuff a bag with old stuff, it's now, as baby boomers are down sizing and the market is getting flooded with antiques on the cheap. I could decorate my home five times over on a shoe string budget at a flea market.

        On top of that, antiques will hold their value far better than your modern purchases. The antiques market fluctuates, and I'm not saying you should count on your collection as your retirement fund...even though that's what I'm doing... but an 18th century blanket chest, used as a coffee table, will still be worth what you paid for it (or more) in twenty five years. A Raymour and Flannigan coffee table, used as a coffee table for twenty five years won't even be worth burning.

I only paid $40 for this magnificent mid 19th century dresser. It's in excellent condition, even with the drawers crammed with clothing (as they currently are) they all still open and close like butter. 

           Best places to find great deals on antiques:
            1. Thrift shops. Goodwill, ReStore, Salvation Army. People just drop stuff off, no one   researches it, and that means awesome beautiful antique pieces show up there daily for a song. I like to buy furniture and glassware especially at thriftshops and second hand shops.

            2. Auction. OH MY GOD the spectacular things you can buy at auction for the price of a tacky pandora necklace or a pair of ugg boots! And these days it's SO easy. You can do it all online!
            Here's links to some of my favorite auction houses:



            3. Flea Markets
                Why would you not want to go to the flea market?? There's something for everyone, and it's an absolute hoot!

            4. Antique Shops and Shows
                The perfect way to spend a leisurely day. Antique shows offer the chance to see the goods of many many dealers all in one place- all the easier for you, dear antique shopper! This Sunday I'm going up to shop the Sturbridge Antique Show. I can't wait!

            5. Online (craigslist, buy/sell/trade FB pages etc)
                Again, shopping from home, it couldn't be easier, and it's amazing the deals you can score!
I found this awesome vintage stemware set for $1 a piece at the goodwill a few months ago!
And my friend Jess bought this lovely vintage MCM Lane cedar chest for $5 at a tag sale!
2. Antiques have soul
             Look, I see the insides of loads and loads of people's houses. When I'm delivering furniture, or buying pieces, or when I randomly wander into a great antique house out of curiosity (I swear this has only happened once). And when I'm in your house, I'm judging it, and I'm judging you. Sorry (not sorry). The houses that look the best WITHOUT EXCEPTION are the ones filled with art and antiques. You know which ones suck? The ones filled with Homegoods and Pier 1 crap. You're not impressing anyone with those mass produced tchotchkes. I'm not even giving you a participation ribbon.
             Antiques carry with them a little bit of every person who has owned them previously, they are little time capsules. Sometimes they quite literally tell stories, like this wonderful antique writing box my parents gave me for christmas-

The inscription on the inside of the lid reads:
"This box was given by Miss Caroline French to Miss Annie G. Codman.
It was said to be made of the wood of Dr. John Codman's pulpit in Dorchester-
that is out of the old pulpit- which had been pulled down about 1882"

             Sometimes their stories are more subtle but no less important, the ink blotches on the inside lid of a secretary desk, the soft signs of wear on an antique ring. These pieces have withstood the test of time, but not come through their centuries long journey unchanged. And now you have the opportunity to leave your mark as well, to be part of the legacy. I think that's about as close as we humans can get to magic. You can pick and choose which treasures to own, which stories speak to you personally, and thusly your home becomes your own individual art gallery, over which you have complete control (well almost complete control, the poor husband gets some say).

             A house full of Ikea is a sterile, basic bitch, travesty, it is the tapioca of dwelling places.
             A home filled with antiques is an inspiration.

3. Antiques are Functional
        There was, long ago, a school of thought that antiques mustn't be touched, mustn't be used, that they should sit in the creepy formal living room that you only use with guests you don't particularly like, and otherwise they should collect dust. This is absolute madness. Antiques are meant to be used, to be enjoyed. You should be able to sit in an 18th century chair, to check your fine self in a two hundred year old mirror, and to store your clothes in a Victorian dresser. These objects were, almost without exception, better made, of better quality materials, and are still, even in their old age, more useable that whatever the hell Target has in their home decor aisle.
          We now live in a very disposable society. We buy things with the expectation that they will break, and be replaced every few years. The manufacturers, who in NO WAY have your best interests in mind, know that full well, and make their wares with as many cut corners as they possibly can. The proof is in the pudding with antiques, THEY HAVE LASTED, and they will last, and you can use them. And formal sitting rooms are silly, unless you're holding seances in them.

I bought this sweet early 19th century curly maple slant front desk from a thrift shop for well under $100. It's about two hundred years old, and I use it almost every day. I like to blog at it as the writing surface is a nice height,
also LOADS of storage! 

4. It's the Right Thing to Do
         If you're not going to do it for the the good of your home, do it for the good of your society. Buying antiques is the right thing to do from so many different directions:

 1. It supports small local businesses. Antiques dealers are not big mega-corporations, they're your neighbors. They live in your community, and spend their money locally. You should support local businesses, otherwise our country will become a flaming cesspool of lame-ness.

2. Antiques are green. They're the greenest! You don't need to chop down another tree to build some new piece of furniture (actually most new furniture is built with what basically amounts to cardboard and spit). You don't need to purchase a flatware set that was made in China and shipped to Restoration Hardware. Antiques leave no carbon footprint. They exist already, they require nothing, and in no way tax our natural resources.

3. You should preserve history, right? Right?! That's always a good thing! I won't hit you over the head with it (YES I WILL) but we, all of us, have a duty to preserve our culture and history, or someone else's culture, just culture in general. Give some antiques a good home so in a hundred years your great great grand children can marvel at the creations of a world gone by.

Beautiful early 20th century landscape painting I purchased at a little antique shop in Maine last week.
It was $22. A bargain!

5. Antiques are Beautiful
    Finally, and ever so importantly. I buy antiques because there is so little on the modern market that an compete in terms of beauty. There's so much from which to choose, it's cliche but there really is something for everyone. You could collect only objects that are mustard yellow, or only men's linen nightshirts (you weirdo), or just lead soldiers, or anything of the millions of amazing and breathtaking unique objects that grace the aisles of the flea market and the stalls of the antique show.

Antiques were thoughtfully made, often by hand and by a craftsman to begin with, and were thusly lovely from the start, but time has been their second creator, and has worked its own gentle artistry on the antique. You can't fake the subtle shades of twelve paint surfaces layered on top of each other over a hundred years and then worn velvet smooth by hundreds of grubby hands. You can't fake the oxidation of a copper weathervane, left out to herald the wind through a century of blazing August heat and blistering January storms. You can't imitate the mellow color and patina of an 18th century cherry dresser, that has stored clothes and done its job damn well through war and peace, feast and famine, through all the years of our great nation. It's a beauty inside and out. It's a humanity that a modern, mass produced, conveyor-belted decorative object can never have.

You should buy antiques because they are beautiful, and because people who buy antiques are beautiful too.
A pair of Chippendale side chairs with pierced Gothic splats
Likely from the Norwich, CT area 1780-1805
via Liverant Antiques
An English slip decorated pearlware mug c.1820
Via John Chaski Antiques

19th century trade sign
via Pook and Pook Auction
Late 19th or early 20th century weathervane
via Garth's Auction
Deep crimson cupboard, mid 19th century
via Garth's Auction

Early 19th century apothecary cupboard
via Skinner's Auction

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

A Vintage Ethan Allen Desk in Saffron

This desk! Well first the top. It's the best top I've ever seen. I've refinished well over 5,000 pieces of furniture, so that's really saying something, but it's with no hesitation that I award that weighty title. It's figured maple, curly (or tiger) to be precise, and not veneer-solid maple boards! The makers of this desk knew what they were doing, and were showing off- just look at the way the boards are matched up to maximize the impact! It's outstanding, and sexy. I'll tell you this, as a gal who looks at furniture hard, inside and out, every single day, Ethan Allen does not mess about. I've never refinished a piece of Ethan Allen that wasn't beautifully and thoughtfully constructed. They aren't paying me to say that, it's the honest truth. It stands the test of time.

              I refinished this piece custom for a client for her daughter's room. We opted for a take-no-prisoners shade of saffron yellow, Benjamin Moore's Abstracta, and classic black ring pulls, to give it a modern twist. I love how the traditional, subtle drawer pulls play against the zany color, and then there's the top. If a tinker tape parade could be a piece of wood, it would be this top, it's a celebration, a triumph!

            I've got SO much custom work lined up for January, and let me tell you, 2017 is trending colorful and fun! Thank goodness, I don't know about you, but I'm absolutely done with the plain jane, basic level, Joanna Gaines, white and wood vanilla style. Homes and furniture should be colorful, soulful, and challenging.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Merry Christmas!

Ack whoops, a week since my last post! And it's not because I haven't been busy- I finished a HUGE commissioned project for a client, but there were several obstacles to properly staging and photographing the pieces (A dining table two leaves, a GIANT hutch, and a sideboard), so I don't have a full blown blog post for all the pieces. The client was sweet enough to snap some pictures which you can see on the Heir and Space Facebook page.

         So here I am up in Maine at my parent's 1760s center chimney cape. There are seven border collies here- Our guys Ace and Swift, plus our parent's dogs Nell and Skye, and my sister's dog Finn, and my brother's dogs Terra and Josie. Nell is the mother of all the others, so they're having a family reunion too.

         But let's not kid ourselves, you love me for my furniture, not my otherwise rather mundane life. So here's some red, green, and white furniture to sate your stylish appetites. There'll be at least three new pieces for you to ogle next week. Try to hang on til then. (wine helps)