Refinishing oftentimes will work marvels with seemingly impossible pieces of furniture
MARY AGNES PEASEJune151929
The Art of Transformation
Refinishing oftentimes will work marvels with seemingly impossible pieces of furniture
MARY AGNES PEASE
THE fairy story of the ugly duckling which changed into a lovely swan is hardly more wonderful than the story of the transformation of seemingly impossible pieces of furniture into those portrayed on this page.
Necessity, we are told, is the mother of invention and knows no law. It is undoubtedly responsible for making possible the furniture in the room illustrated, the initial cost of which was hardly more than twenty dollars. This room is on the ground floor of a charming little house in the suburbs. You may remember that the breakfast room of this place was described in the first of May issue of MacLean’s Magazine.
The young owners of the house had decided for financial reasons to postpone the furnishing of their guest room until a more convenient season, but the proposed visit of an old friend made necessary the purchase of sufficient furniture for her comfort.
Few people could have visualized in the shabby broken-down pieces, picked up here and there, the happy ensemble that would result after the furniture was reclaimed. It was recognized by the purchasers that although these pieces were in a sad state of dilapidation, they were nevertheless of good design and were for the most part constructed of walnut. The bed, which is of a quaint old type, had been discarded by its owners and relegated to the barn. They were very glad to sell it for two dollars. It cost in addition, of course, a good deal of time and labor to make of it the fine piece that it is today. There is a rather amusing story connected with this bed. After it was finished, it was shown to a lady who had just returned from Italy, where she had purchased, among other things, a bed which was an exact duplicate of the one illustrated; and for this she had paid eighty dollars, in addition to all the trouble and expense of bringing it to this country.
The chest of drawers was the most expensive piece purchased. This cost eighteen dollars, which price included also the mirror attached to it, but which in the process of rejuvenation was removed and became a wall piece capable of being easily adjusted to suit the height of the person reflected.
This old chest had suffered much from the laying on of “finish” by various owners, and had been painted, varnished, and otherwise so disguised that it could hardly be recognized as a fine piece of walnut. Paint remover and much polishing soon revealed its true nature, however, and it is now a much prized possession, particularly since a friend has recently offered to buy it for fifty dollars.
But it is the table that is the pièce de resistance of this ensemble. It also belongs to an earlier day, and formerly did duty in a farm shed as a resting-place for pails and like articles. It was warped and buckled and generally down at the heels, but it was recognized as a find by these seekers of utility and beauty at small cost, because of its fine workmanship and good wood. Needless to say, they were willing to pay the price asked for it—seventy-five cents—without demur!
Before beginning the work of reclamation on these pieces of furniture, our young couple borrowed from the public library some books written by an English cabinet-maker on the treatment of wood in every possible condition. This information stood them in good stead, particularly in their work of reclaiming the walnut table. It was necessary to remove the top of it and soak it in water for days, and then practically remoid the wood into its former lines. After this, when all tne different finishes had been completely removed, it was waxed and polished—and waxed and polished. It was a tremendous job, but the result has been most satisfying.
The fourth piece in this suite is a chair which somehow got left out of the picture. It is of the ladder back variety with a rush seat. This was also a rather forlorn
specimen when bought. But as the purchase was only fifty cents, the fact that it looked like a war casualty did not deter these brave reconstructionists. The broken rush seat was renewed by a returned soldier, while the mending and polishing of the wood were done by the new owners.
The Color Scheme
rTTHE principal colors in the room are orchid and blue.
The window curtains of striped orchid, blue and écru taffeta are particularly charming. The use of a double set of hangers to make a valance is a most happj idea. A Smyrna rug in soft gray with orchid flowers reflects the color scheme as does also the wall papei in paler tints of these tones. Orchid shades for the side lights on the wall, the same color in the sateen foundation of the lace bedspread, and an orchid and violet taffeta frock on the “lady” table light carry the color combination throughout the room.
Later on, it is quite likely that a skirted table may replace the reclaimed walnut one, which latter might with dignity occupy a place in the living room.
This table is, however, exceedingly well suited to a bedroom, for it fulfils many needs, particularly as a writing table and for meals in bed. In the latter case, on account of the pedestal base, the table can be pushed so close to the bed that the top acts as a tray across the patient, and is one that does not require personal support.
I showed the photograph of this room to a bride and told her the story of the individual pieces. She had been feeling rather low in her mind over the difficulty of getting furniture that had an ancestral tone for a frugal amount. Fired by the experiences related, she is now hunting in farmhouse and secondhand shop for fine old furniture, where, if one has the seeing eye, many treasures may be unearthed. The other day I found her busily polishing a quaint spindled washstand which was one of her finds. This stand, unlike the majority of such pieces, had a solid wooden top. When it is finished it will serve as a desk in the bride’s living
room, and will be an attractive and useful possession.
A New Use for Gingham
I SAW some bedroom furniture not long ago that a young couple had picked up while on their wedding trip. They had travelled by motor to Quebec from an Ontario town, stopping off at various small places en route. One of their purchases was a beautiful old four-poster bed, and another was a serpentine front, mahogany chest of drawers. These were not, of course, obtained at anything like the amazingly low cost of the pieces illustrated on this page, but they were of unusual value for the price which was paid for them.
So ardent was their search for old pieces of beautiful design and wood for their bedroom that although they were abundantly satisfied with the results, they were somewhat chagrined to find that their budget for furnishing was practically exhausted before the necessary accessories had been provided. After much cogitation, the bride hit upon the happy
expedient of using checked gingham to deck her windows and bed, which material oddly enough suited the furnishings admirably and added to the old-fashioned effect. This gingham is in clearly defined checks of blue and white. A valance and tie backs of plain blue combine charmingly with the window curtains, under which are glass curtains of cheap dotted muslin. Little frills of the gingham, bound in the plain blue, outline the top of the four-poster, and this material is also used as a bedspread and valance. The gingham is smart, decorative and suitable, and was purchased for a ridiculously small sum. Just as soon as funds permit, the room will be completed with a few handmade Nova Scotia rugs, the last touch to the room for which everything will have been bought in Canada.
Gingham in red and white checks would be also an attractive combination for a room of this character, especially if the walls were done in pale écru. White dotted muslin with ball fringe finish is another suggestion as decoration for a maple four-poster and for curtains. A valance for the window could be made
of three frills of the muslin. This treatment would be delightful for a girl’s or for a bride’s room. The white muslin would require a colorful background of wallpaper in pronounced design to add the necessary warmth and character to the room.
A point to be remembered in furnishing with farmhouse antiques is that the accessories should be simple in material, design and coloring. Some of the new cottons in lovely patterns and colors would be a good choice for this furniture. If one is fortunate enough to be able to find quaint mahogany pieces for a bedroom, these will enjoy association with a fine patchwork quilt as a bedspread, with tall brass candlesticks on the old bureau, with braided rugs on the floor, and chintz curtains at the windows. For those who would like to acquire old furniture with the tawny finish of wax, but whose means are usually referred to as “slender,” I would suggest the methods followed by the young couple whose work is pictured herewith. These methods may be applied by anyone with intelligence, taste and energy.
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