Thursday, March 31, 2016

The Mariner's Hutch

UGH what a day. If today were a person it would be the woman who beats you to the grocery store cash register by barely a hair, has a cart piled to the tip top with groceries, and then insists on using ten thousands coupons on said cartful and then pays with a check.

          Nothing went the way it should today. Paint didn't adhere, or clotted, or dried too fast. I misplaced my thrice damned favorite phillip's head screwdriver fifty four times, and my workshop is a dreadful pig sty and overcrowded. And my house is a complete mess, which is amazing considering I cleaned it from stem to stern five bloody days ago. I don't have kids, But my god the mess a pair of puppies and a husband can make in that amount of time. AND I fell during a hike today and skinned my shins.

           *deep breath* So, I've done the only sane thing one can do in such a situation. I've written my husband a nice note telling him in no uncertain terms to leave me be, made myself a swimming pool sized martini, and barricaded myself in my office.

               Which brings me to this lovely solid pine hutch, which I finished and photographed today and was the only bright spot in an otherwise bitterly irritating and trying day. Well no, that's a lie, this martini is delicious. I got the hutch for free. FOR FREE. Isn't that always the best. It was on a buy/sell/trade website on Facebook and three separate people who follow the page messaged me to let me know about it. The gal I got it from couldn't have been nicer, and lived on a beautiful lane that I'd never been down before, and the day I picked it up was one of those perfect spring mornings where the sky is unbelievably blue, and the grass is absurdly green, and the tree's have that amazing purple hue that you only see in early spring, and it's all spiked by the spattering of bright cherry red tree buds. Ok sorry, the martini is making me wax poetic. Though truly, if you've never seen Connecticut in early spring, it's a wonderful thing.

                The hutch was solid pine but rough as hell. The top had warped and split in three or four places, and there were dings and chinks taken out of the fabulously chunky pine frame on all sides. I meticulously filled every single ding before sanding and prepping for paint, but there was no help for the top, so I added a new pine top with a generous overhang and beautiful grain figuring.

             Something about the solid honest construction of this piece made me want to give it a bit of a nautical twist, and so I custom mixed a deep blue that I've named 'Essex' for it. Essex, Connecticut was a hub of maritime activities in the late 18th and 19th century, and has just the same solid, stately, but slyly charming nature as this hutch. The interior is a Benjamin Moore cream that's name escapes me at the moment (martini), but is something along the lines of sugar cookie or cream puff...cotton balls? I can't remember, but aren't all color names absurd! There's another called 'Mayonnaise'. I absolutely adore the color on the chip chart but can never bring myself to buy it because, really, that's the most horrifying name ever. I could never sell a hutch coated in 'Mayonnaise'...

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

A Vintage Drexel Sideboard in Deep Green

Furniture refinishing is cyclical in all aspects. I've found that I'll have a rush of clients, and then business will taper off, and then another rush of clients. The ebb and flow as been as reliable as the tide on a bi-weekly cycle since I started painting years and years ago. Interestingly, the flow of fresh goods follows the same schedule. Just as soon as I've sold every stick of wood in my inventory I cannot find anything good or new to refinish. And then suddenly there's an avalanche of wonderful objects, and my workshop is packed to the rafters once more. So last week my workshop was all but empty, and I went off in search of something new to paint. I hit up three antiques stores, and was heading home empty handed and more than a bit discouraged when I spotted a new consignment shop several towns over. I zipped in and found this vintage Drexel sideboard in a corner. It was in wretched condition and not exactly a great buy, but I love love love this form, both in sideboards and in china hutches. The oxidation on the original oval Federal brasses sealed the deal for me.

The mahogany top looked atrocious and there were several places I needed to patch and sand on the case before painting, but the drawers and doors worked perfectly, and the structure was good and sound. Surface work is a cake walk compared to re-working ill fitting or warped drawers. I painted the case in a custom mixed color, Juniper, that I had used on a side table last week. I liked it so well that I thought it would be perfect for the sideboard, and compliment the subtle green patina of the brass pulls perfectly. Playing off the shades of verdigris further, I painted the interior in a custom pale mint called Weathered Copper.

An Antique Oak Corner Chair

This was such a fascinating and unique project. While delivering a hutch last weekend, a neighbor of the client approached me with a chair that had been in his family for some time, wanting to know if anything could be done for it. It was a marvelous piece, but as grimy as any woe begotten and abandoned bit of wood I've ever seen. The structure was excellent and sturdy as a rock, however, and there was absolutely no reason not to take a swing at it. We agreed that it would look best refinished with a sanded, stained, and sealed seat, and then black with gold carriage striping and paint decoration, which it may have originally had to begin with. There were signs of just such a paint decoration, in fact, on the filthy and badly chipped top coat of paint.
          I first refinished the seat. When I had first flipped the chair over I had rather thought the seat was made of some sort of early plywood, and thusly dated the chair to perhaps 1920. As I spent more time with the chair, however, I discovered the entire piece was solid oak, with a fantastically figured tiger oak seat, and decided that it was several generations earlier than my first summation, perhaps 1870-1885. It had been refinished multiple times. The first coat of paint was a white, then a bright kelly green had been applied directly above it. It's possible the white what actually sizing for the kelly green paint. The chair had then been sloppily stripped and revarnished, then the current black paint with gold decoration had been applied directly over the slick varnished surface, likely explaining the significant paint loss to that coat, though to be fair the most recent paint job itself was at least sixty years old. I do suspect that the chair was meant to have the seat, if nothing else, in wood surface. I highly doubt such a fine piece of oak would have been wasted on a seat that was to be immediately painted.
             I had to remove all of the old back paint as it was badly chipping and would have doomed any new paint to immediate loss, like building a new house on quicksand. It took a long time to scrape all the paint away, but it was immensely satisfying, with the paint chips popping off easily in every direction. Once all the paint was removed I sanded all the surfaces, so the new paint would adhere nicely, and last more than sixty years. I very very carefully painted the frame in gloss black oil paint and then even more carefully applied all the gilt detail work and striping freehand while listening to Outlander on audio book and sipping coffee. It was a wonderful way to spend a Saturday morning, and I couldn't be happier to the result!

Saturday, March 26, 2016

A Cottage Cupboard and Side Table

Phew sorry for the blog silence for the last couple of days. I've been cleaning the house like a crazy person trying to get ready for tomorrow's Easter festivities. You'd think I have two toddlers, not two border collies, the mess they make!

       I photographed this antique Victorian walnut side table and vintage cupboard together a few days ago, but am just now getting around to putting the post together. Both pieces are custom for clients, though custom for different clients. I just happened to finish them at the same time and thought they looked pretty together! The cupboard was a dark vintage affair, classic 80s or 90s, nicely built but dark and dreary. The client selected a peppy yellow- folk art gold- for the exterior, and a classic cream for the interior. I sanded, stained, and sealed the top to let the wood grain of the pine shine through. Those old surfaces as so opaque you can hardly tell what kind of wood a piece is!

       The Victorian side table is custom for a client who lives on Long Island. It's a sweet little table, but needed its surfaces addressed. I sanded, stained, and sealed the top and painted the base in a custom mixed green named "Juniper".

        Now that my house is clean as a whistle I'll be hitting the furniture hard today. I hope to have some new goodies to share with you by the end of the day. And tomorrow morning is the first flea market, I'll be heading out there at the crack of dawn, and will hopefully score lots of new antique treasures!!

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

One Hell of a Hutch

I keep a running tally in the back of my mind of my favorite pieces I've ever worked on. I'm a fan of my work- is that dreadful to say? And I enjoy scrolling back through the pictures of my portfolio from time to time, remembering different tables, sideboards, dressers, or dining sets. I love the unique challenges each one presents in turn, and remember fondly the folks that opened their homes to what had once been an unwanted and dreary vintage or antique piece. Looking back now, I believe my favorite piece I've ever done was a little yellow secretary for a client and friend. The client selected the colors, bold yellow on the outside, a lighter shade in the interior, and choose some fun and funky hardware for it. It was a delightful piece, and I still get to see it from time to time when I deliver more furniture to that client (he's become something of a collector).
        Well, the little yellow secretary is getting bumped to second favorite piece. This beautiful solid cherry vintage hutch by Harden is my new favorite piece of furniture I've ever done. There's a couple reasons I love it so much. First, it's a spectacularly constructed piece of furniture. The bold top molding, the dentil molding, the carefully paned top doors, the drawer arrangement, the perfectly paneled lower doors, the delicious ogee scrolled feet. It's a triumph of design. I love that the piece is solid cherry. Cherry is my favorite wood to work on. It just sings when it's refinished, so rich and deep and wildly grained. And it's such a dense and reliable wood. I love the glass that's used in the top doors, it's got a stunning yet subtle crackled effect, like a thin sheet of ice on a crystal clear pond. And finally I love the transformation of this piece. I'll indulge myself, I think I did a damn good job on this one. I wanted to capture the essence of spring in a piece, and so custom mixed a rich deep aqua, layering lighter shades over darker shades for depth when distressed. The color is named 'Spring Fever'.  The interior is a chalky blue so pale it's almost a white, and plays wonderfully with the brighter outside color. The drawer pulls are a combination of vintage brass knobs and reproduction cup pulls, all colored in a coppery gold. 
            I staged the piece in some pieces from my collection of vintage and antique glass. 

Monday, March 21, 2016

A Vintage Hutch in Blue and Mocha

This was a fun custom project for a client who happens to be the sister of our next door neighbor. She had a vintage hutch that she was quite sick of and really wanted to update. When she saw this hutch that I did a few weeks ago, she knew it was just the look she wanted for her own piece. When she brought it to me to be refinished about a week ago I discovered that it was mostly composite, and off coincidence since I was working on another composite set at the same time. Of all the furniture I refinish these are the only two composite pieces I've ever done (as I try to avoid working with it), so it's pretty funny that I ended up doing both simultaneously. In order to have a solid wood top, I applied real wood right over the top of the pre-existing faux wood top, because there's no sanding or staining composite. It just disintegrates like the wood pulp it is. I painted the case in the same pretty soft blue as the inspiration hutch, and painted the interior in a rich mocha. I swapped the drawer pulls out for soft aged nickel cup pulls and knobs that perfectly match the frame work of the lovely leaded glass windows, I distressed the case and sealed it with dark wax.

A Vintage Dresser Set in Deep Blue

This was a big project I've been working on custom for a very nice client over the last two weeks. The vintage dresser set is about twenty years old, made by Lea Furniture Company. Sadly, it was mostly composite, as is typical of furniture made in the last twenty years. Luckily, it had been carefully cared for, and wasn't in nearly as bad condition as most composite furniture is after a few years of use. I had to rework a handful of drawer runners that had come unattached, and reglued a couple of drawers. The tops of the dressers didn't even have veneer on top, and so had started to bubble up in places. To solve that problem I went right over the top with pine boards, so the owners would have nice reliable solid wood tops. The client selected a deep rich blue for the cases, a custom color called 'Deep End' that was my most popular color in 2015. And we went with brass knobs for the pulls. The brass knobs looked wicked sharp against the blue, like the brass buttons on a smart uniform coat. I very lightly distressed the cases and then sealed the painted surfaces with dark wax. The set is already back in their home as I write this.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

A Solid Maple Dresser in Folk Art Gold

Woohoo! My first outdoor photo shoot of the season! And how could I resist with the weather being so unbelievably spectacular! My gardens are about a month ahead of normal, with crocus in full bloom, and little leaves sprout bright green on all the low shrubs, and honeysuckle vines. I'm trying to absorb the warmth and sunshine as much as possible since I know it's supposed to get chilly again for the weekend, but right in this moment I'm blogging outside, and I couldn't be happier.
       In honor of the warm weather I'm bringing back one of my favorite custom colors from last summer, Folk Art Gold, a warm yellow with a fair bit of body. It makes me think of Shaker Furniture just a bit, and is like a drop of pure sunshine for any room. This solid rock maple dresser came to me from Carl the Furniture Guy. It was in beautiful shape, but needed a new look rather desperately. I prepped the surfaces, painted, distressed, and waxed the case, and sanded, stained, and sealed the stunning top. I swapped the atrocious vintage drawer pulls out for simple yet sophisticated turned wood knobs stained to match the top. With twelve drawers that all work perfectly, this dresser could add some serious storage to a bedroom, or work beautifully as a media console or sideboard. I've staged it with two antique demijohns, a big old farm basket I bought for $4 at a tagsale on Saturday, and some forsythia, because my forsythia is, beyond all reason, blooming before St. Patrick's Day.