Monday, May 22, 2017

A Sewing Table Upcycle

The very very first piece of furniture I ever hauled off a curb with the intent to refinish was a sewing table. It was ugly, and covered with puce paint that was violently chipping, and it weighed 39 tons. The refinish was an absolute disaster, and sometime in the decade since the haul and botch job, I either tossed that hot potato to a friend or burned it, either would have been a kinder fate than that puce monster deserved.

      And so of course I always get a bit sentimental whenever I get to work on another sewing table. This one I had in my own home for several years because the Queen Anne form was just so darling, but I never took advantage of the fantastic fitted interior with all it's cute little drawers and doors. It needed a new home where it could be fully appreciated!

 I like to have as much petite furniture as possible available for the tagsale, so to prep for last Saturday's I painted this cutie in a deeeeeeep blue, with a cheeky pop of pink on the inside. The top is a fabulously figured bit of mahogany, and the case is also solid mahogany- still weirdly heavy even without the sewing machine or workings. It's a nice, dense, compact little storage piece with loads of character and a great story to tell!

        Even more fun, I staged it with my new bottle of coffee vodka from my pals at Waypoint Spirits in Bloomfield, CT. Carolyn, a longtime client,  rolled up to the tagsale with a surprise bottle from their distillery for me, which...Guys and gals, if you wanna get on the official Heir and Space good side- surprise booze is a 10/10 safe bet.

        I've got a top secret TV thing tomorrow that I can't tell you about for three more weeks, but it's a hectic day, and I'm planning to crack that bad boy tomorrow night to unwind and celebrate. I asked Carolyn for her favorite recipe (because always trust the experts!) and here's what I'll be happily sipping by this time tomorrow:

Waypoint White Russian
1.5oz Waypoint Coffee Vodka
1.5oz Light Cream
Pour over ice

A Vintage Tall Chest in Dove Gray

I'm frequently asked how I sell my furniture. I don't have a brick and mortar shop (though ye gods it is my single greatest dream), and I don't travel to flea markets or art shows and set up a booth (because trundling a booth's worth of furniture to and from a show is a pain in my ass I genuinely don't need). I don't need that particular pain because I don't have much trouble moving the furniture along through my various online pages- facebook, instagram, my ever salty and wholly inappropriate twitter account, of course this blog, and then last but not least, there's my tagsales, which are a beast all their own.
         I can't remember why exactly I decided last year, in early summer, that I should have an Heir and Space tagsale, but it might have been because I'd knocked some precariously stacked staging glassware over while trying to paint the underside of the bottom shelf on a hutch, done a piss poor sweeping job, and knelt on a missed shard of the broken glass. Excellent motivator! And I'm glad for it. The tagsales, we've done four thus far, are SO much fun, a great way to move along furniture, sell some of my watercolors, make space to buy more smalls for staging, and most importantly, to meet all of you out there. I mean, the week before the tagsale is always an absolute nightmare, with loads of fifteen hour days and ugly-sobbing, but the day of, and the brief euphoria that follows? Top shelf.
       While prepping various pieces for the tagsale we had this Saturday, I also squeezed in this sweet c.1930 mahogany tall chest, which had been brought to me by two of my favorite clients. I say 'squeezed in', but really I just dropped kicked various more overdue projects aside to attack this beauty. I have no self control and I was chomping at the bit with this one, soooooo pretty! I failed to take a 'before' photo which is hilarious because I must have reminded myself at least twelve times while working on it to take a 'before' because it was bad. Some knucklehead had sanded it right down to the bare wood, and then maliciously glooped oil based black paint on it, AND THEN put the most hilariously horrendous knobs on it. "Hot Mess' isn't hot enough to describe what this ole' gal was when she rolled up to my workshop, it was a Volcanic Mess.
        The clients asked for a quiet dove gray, with a bit of distressing to bring out the wonderful carving that had been lost under the drippy torrent of ill-advised black paint. We also decided to go with Federal style stamped brass drawer pulls, to honor what was likely on the piece originally. I sanded the black oil off almost entirely so I'd have a smooth surface with which to work, and mixed up a batch of custom pale gray. The pulls are two separate sets, but both ordered from ebay (my favorite source for vintage hardware).
        I know the staging on this one is pretty simple, but at the time I photographed it I'd already priced all my staging stuff for the tagsale and was too beat to hunt through my house for something to use. That's ok though, I think this beauty speaks for itself, no need to gild the lily.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Business in Front, Party in Back

I saved my favorite for last. I mean, I'm not sure this is my favorite, I keep waffling. It's hard to choose. It's been a great day for furniture.  Probably my favorite.
     I got this piece at the flea market almost a month ago, and had just ignored it. It was a c.1980 record cabinet, with all these silly holes in the backboard, I guess incase you needed to plug in 78 different electronic devices, and store them all, humming like a pack of rabid bees, inside this cherry cabinet. I don't know what Ethan Allen Furniture Design Team were smoking when they decided 'several dozen' was the right number of power-source backboard holes, but too many, Team, way too many.
     I'm trying to have a lot lot lot of furniture ready for the big tag sale this weekend. Are you coming? 14 Edgerton Street East Hampton, CT 8am Saturday May 20th! Be there or be lacking in fantastical furniture.
     Anyways, this will be there, so we know it's going to be a party. I made this staid little cabinet a PARTAY ANIMAAAALLLL. Zippy color, custom mixed and named "hangover haze", and a paler green for the interior named "Moderation is for Squares". Those aren't the real names...or are they! I actually painted the piece entirely in moderation pale green before the deeper blue so that it would peek through with distressing, for a nice beachy salt wash effect. The top of the lift up section had the perfect paneled center for a chalkboard, and the area where records were once stored in the stone age- just the right size for wine bottles!! Also, I have terrible handwriting apparently.

Build Your Own: Federal Style Buffet

Howdy blog reader, be sure to read part one before you venture down this track-

So we already talked about the buffet's big sister, the china cabinet. But this, I think in terms of mass and density (... are those the same thing?) well, this is a actually a bigger piece of furniture than the china cabinet. If this buffet had a name it would be BERTHA. All caps. BERTHA would always sign her name is all caps. BERTHA would elbow her way to the front of the crowd, and laugh the loudest at bawdy jokes told at inappropriate times. BERTHA would stomp around in big boots even in the dead heat of summer, and drink whiskey for breakfast, and BERTHA would be prettier than all of us, like gloriously 1940s siren movie star pretty. We'd all want to hate BERTHA because she'd always be the center of attention, the focus of all the spotlights, the scene-maker, the room-maker. But how can you hate BERTHA. She's everything.
            Can you tell how much I love this buffet. It's so over the top, it's high octane, but entirely refined. Mahogany and poplar, c.1940, loosely federal in style, though really a form entirely the conjuring of some mid 20th century furniture designer. The client opted for Benjamin Moore's Beach Glass for the exterior and Westminster Gold for the interior. I loooooove the splash of color behind the doors, and the soothing simplicity of the Beach Glass keeps the sideboard's expanse in check perfectly. Also the top, yummmmmmmy!!

Build Your Own- China Cabinet

For those of you who wandered over from some dark stretch of google, hoping to build an entire china cabinet from scratch: This post is not the one you seek.
Go back goooooo bbbaaaaaaaccckkkkkk.

      For the rest of you- who know I lack the skill, smarts, and ability to handle power tools without fear of instant death- to build a china cabinet from scratch, here's the next best thing! I spotted this piece and its twin sister buffet (stay tuned for the next post) on craigslist last week.

Things I have no business doing when I'm drowning under a custom workload that would make the Titanic's iceberg shy away
2. Probably drinking this much wine (don't you judge me!!!)
But since I have the self control of the blueberry girl at the Wonka Factory, more furniture it is! I emailed this guy as soon as I saw these two pieces. $50 a pop! How could I say no! (the answer is I can't. Saying 'No!' being one of my "areas for growth and improvement" see: titanic sized workload).

Now, these weren't the standard fare furniture I generally zip through, or plod through. These had been man-handled. Handled by a very nice and well meaning man, but handle them he did, as did his gallon of witch's brew stripper. He'd intended to strip and sand them entirely, and I suppose re-stain them. That's a tall task and no shortcuts, so I can't blame the fellow for tapping out and posting them on CL. He'd made my work easier in some ways- the glass was out of the doors of the china cabinet. And trickier in many other ways - the doors were off of the cabinet as well, and the frets, the backboard, the base of the top, ...the top entirely. To his credit, he had kept EVERY. SINGLE. SCREW. So it really was like a kit from ikea, except I didn't lose the allen wrench after step one, and then get drunk and try to finish it with dry wall screws and elmer's glue. Ikea deserves nothing better, though.
        I had a really nice time putting this old gal back together, Previous Owner Guy had done neat and tidy work, and I blessed his name (Dick) every time I found exactly the right hinge or screw in the coffee can in which he'd stored everything from both pieces. 
        A client snatched the piece up straight away for custom refinishing, and we went with Benjamin Moore's Palladian Blue for the exterior and Seapearl for the interior. 10/10 GREAT color choices. We kept the original hardware and whizbang- a stunning china cabinet fully assembled and ready for use once more~

Sunday, May 14, 2017

A Federal Sideboard in 'Raw Sugar'

This piece is right up my alley. This piece, I would absolutely put in my house. It's the form I love, it's colors I love, and it was a pleasant piece to work on. I'm a weirdo- probably because I've spent way waaaaaaaay too many years crawling around my workshop, with just dressers and chairs to keep me company- but I firmly believe that furniture pieces have souls, or at least personalities.

       Some pieces that I do make me crazy, it's like every road block you could imagine, every problem and flaw, every thrice damned obstacle, they throw it up in front of me and make the refinishing process a sisyphean trial. But other pieces of furniture are a joy from start to finish, this piece included. It played nice, and now it's gone off to its new forever home in a superb dining room with two awesome owners.

        The form is Federal, it's from about 1930-1945, when most of these elegant second period Federal pieces were made by furniture manufacturers all over the East Coast. It's a combination of exceptional mahogany veneer and tulip poplar, which is hands down the most common material one sees on these. This sideboard has some nice extras, however. The fluted legs are really outstanding, as is the bow to the top drawer, and the piece of mahogany selected for the top is absolutely first rate. The original owners must have had a cat because not only did I find tufts of white fur caught under the backsplash, but there were claw marks at the tops of every single one of the legs. Those all had to be filled and sanded before painting could start.

        After an initial design meeting with the clients we opted for a neutral tone in the beige family that could highlight the warm colors in their dining room carpet, and also contrast well with the smoky blue wall paint in the room. I mixed up a custom color which I named "Raw Sugar", and did the interior behind the doors in a chalky white that's aaaaalmost a gray. We of course kept the terrific original oval pulls. A fun project from start to finish!

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

A Mahogany China Cabinet in Bone

I gave this china cabinet every out I could before I painted it. It was up on craigslist for an obscenely fair price for weeks, and weeks, and weeks. I watched, I waited, but unbelievably, no one else grabbed it. So I emailed the seller and took an exceptionally pretty drive winding through narrow backroads lined with century old stone walls. Tolland is nowhere near East Hampton, but somehow the fastest route never touched a highway. This made me happy. There are places in Connecticut that are still so wild and pristine. Time has touched these little hamlets and solitary homesteads, but never troubled them much. My friend Jess calls it 'God's Country', and she's right. It's immortal, and in its stubborn denial of the prodding fingers of technology and urban sprawl, it's like New England's Olympus- aloof and apart. And the guy that helped me load the hutch into my truck was a real sweetheart- so 10/10 buying adventure. The hutch and I got off to a happy start.
               I put it up on Facebook available for custom refinishing, as I typically do, but (as I never do) also offered it for sale as-is at a lower price, because it really was in excellent condition. As with the little villages I drove through on my journey to buy it, time had rested so very gently on its shoulders. But no one bought it as is, and no one commissioned me to paint it for them. So I waited it. Sometimes it takes a while, sometimes the right client will come along weeks after. April whirled by, and I was dead busy with custom work and fretting about speeches and tv spots. I'm sure the china cabinet didn't mind much, but it weighed heavily on me. It loomed in my workshop, blocking my light during photoshoots, and getting in the way constantly (It's solid mahogany, one piece, and weighs a crap-ton).
              When I returned from my crazy long trip to Ohio to lecture on furniture refinishing (can we talk about how GORGEOUS the Columbus Museum of Art is!! AND how nice everyone in Ohio is!!!), I knew it was time to do something about my dark mahogany friend. I couldn't wait any longer. So I took a deep deeeeeeep breath, and started painting it. And when it was done, I realized it might have been waiting all these years for a bit of paint. You'll argue with me maybe, but I'll point out that this piece was mass produced, beautifully, immaculately, thoughtfully produced, but mass produced nonetheless. It had thousands of sisters and brothers precisely identical to it, and now after 75 years, it's an individual- one of a kind and unique. I think the color suits it. It was too dark, too heavy, and now it's a symphony of curves and lines.
             I'll miss this piece when it goes. It doesn't loom in my work shop anymore, it dances.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

An Oak Buffet in Green

I've been cutting back on my blog posts a bit, they take up a lot of time that I can be using to actually work on furniture. I might posting more once things quiet down around here a bit, or maybe not.
      Either way I definitely wanted to write a post on this unique and wonderful vintage oak buffet. I say vintage because, to be honest, I'm not entirely sure just how old it is. It could be over a hundred years old, or right around a hundred years old, or it could be slightly newer. I've tentatively dated it to 1915-1935. One of the things that's throwing me off on assigning a more specific date is the form. It's kind of an over the top Jacobean interpretation, and certainly we see that quite a bit, especially in dining room pieces, during the 1920s, but I've never seen one so compact, robust, and well built. For those reasons, I suspect it may actually have been made in England, not America. Either way, I'm sure it has stories to tell!
          One of the stories it told me was "someone very stupid left something wet on my top for a very very long period time'. That's one of my least favorite stories, black water stains are a bastard to remove. I tried everything to sand and bleach the water damage out of the top, no dice. And I didn't want to risk removing the oak veneer top, because gods know what's under it. So I tried something new, something I'd never done before but always assumed was way waaaaaaay outside my abilities- I replaced the veneer top. And holy smokes, GAME CHANGEER. It was SO easy to do, SO affordable, and, well, I'll let the pictures speak for themselves in terms of results-

I refinished the piece custom for a client. She used a thistle as inspiration for the colors, very fitting because interwoven on the impressive applied molding are four big stylized thistles! I won't lie. I'm so in love with this piece, and so sooooooo pleased with how it turned out!

Monday, April 17, 2017

A Cherry Sideboard in Yellow

How wonderful is this vintage cherry sideboard in yellow! It's Queen Anne style, all elegant curves and luscious legs, a symphony in cherry, but oh that sticky dark stain was holding it back! I refinished it custom for a client in Benjamin Moore's Hawthorne yellow, with new drawer pulls, and a much lighter and more playful top. Now it's all ready for a modern home!
I also had a fun time staging it, matching one of my favorite antique still life paintings with flowers picked fresh from my garden, and an urn from my pottery collection!