This week I transformed a small, nondescript oak side table into a prize suitable for a daring buccaneer.
This project let me test out a new technique: transferring a printed image onto a painted surface. The Graphics Fairy’s website is a wondrous place, where I’ve read about miraculous things created by a variety of techniques. Maison Decor, however, walked me through a project using Transfer Gel by Artisan Enhancements. It sounded straight forward and easy to use, something that appealed to me greatly. Confident in my decision, I ordered a jar of Transfer Gel from Robyn Story Designs.
After a bit of searching I found a promising picture online and used the Block Posters app on my Mac to enlarge it. Four 8″ x 10.5″ pages would fit my table, with a little room to spare. Before printing the picture to transfer, make sure you’ve set the control to mirror image mode. I used 100 lb. card stock, but in retrospect, I think that’s a little too heavy. I’ll try the 67 lb. stock next time.
I wanted to use two Annie Sloan paint colors for distressing later on. Of the colors on hand, Old Ochre would be the primary color. I chose Scandinavian Pink for underneath because it matched a subtle hue in the image. Apparently I’m the only one in my house who could see that.
I cut the white edges off the prints and taped the four pages together to form a single, large image. Using a chip brush, I applied the transfer gel both on the table and on the printed image. Press and smooth. I found a clean paint mixing stick admirable for the task of smoothing. Then let it sit overnight. I knew the oozing gel would cause a halo around the image, but a little paint would easily correct that.
There’s a learning curve to removing the paper from the image. In my case, it was steep. I think the thick paper was the source of my problems. Using a spray bottle, I spritzed a quarter of the image and began gently rubbing the paper away. Whenever I began to feel good about my efforts, I’d accidently tear a piece away. I became frustrated and cautious. And tried again. I’d make a little more progress, feel encouraged, and endure another tear. How like life.
David would walk by and reassure me by saying things like, “We can just sand the whole thing down and try again, you know.” Grrrrrr. I walked away but came back throughout the day. David took a crack at it and seemed to have a better technique. My learning curve remained steep, while his quickly flattened. Once we finished the table, it looked pretty spotty. Literally. Visible holes stared back at us.
But we’re talking about a picture of an old map. They’re supposed to be dirty and holey. I could live with the holes if I handled this next part successfully. Annie Sloan’s Dark Wax would be the key.
I covered the entire table with Annie Sloan’s Clear Wax and then picked up the Dark Wax. If this didn’t work, I’d be forced to sand the image off and start over. I slathered the dark wax all over the top of the table, especially in the holes. I worked hard on this step, knowing it would make or break this effort. The result was outstanding. The wax gave the map a weathered look and turned my holey mistakes into interesting features. When I presented the table to David and Michael, my son and fiercest critic, they nodded appreciatively. On to the legs.
I made a few attempts at distressing down to the Scandinavian Pink but quickly decided against it. This table needed to stay masculine. I think it will be perfect for a young boy — or an adventurous girl — to use as a play table. It will also work quite nicely as a grown swashbuckler’s side table.
This mahogany Serpentine from the 1940s tested us. We knew it needed work when we bought it, but we had no idea how much.
David has written about his woodworking efforts on this piece here and here. Remember her Before photo? Sturdy, but unassuming.
Four of the handles didn’t match the original brass hardware. I pored over vintage hardware websites and finally found a good match in Canada, our friendly, frozen neighbor. FYI, I found a disconnect between web listings and the in-stock product. More than once I heard, “Oh, that set has been sold. We need to update our webpage.”
This sophisticated beauty is now ready. Her drawers glide so smoothly thanks to David beeswaxing all the runners.
She looks elegant. Here she is in a different vignette, and yes — azaleas are blooming in northern Florida. If you were here, I’d give you a bouquet of azaleas!
We handpainted her with Annie Sloan Paris Grey. I outlined the upper drawer trim in Old White and painted the twelve handles. Annie Sloan’s Clear Wax covers the exterior. Louis Blue, on the drawers’ interiors, gives a lovely pop of color.
As I eased into the homestretch I received a free Lotus stencil (African Protea Flower) from Royal Design Studio. It looked delightful and I needed to use it . . . immediately. I surveyed our in-progress projects and landed on the Louis Blue drawers.
Using Royal Design’s Antique Gold and Orange Ice cremes, and Annie Sloan’s Antibes Green, I stenciled a lotus on each side panel and waxed them. They offer a bit of whimsey.
This Serpentine lovely has emerged from her spa treatment rejuvenated and looking more radiant than ever. She’ll be on sale at the Rustapalooza Spring Market at the end of the month, our very first market.
We timed our estate sale visit to its final day, arriving in the last couple of hours when prices are more flexible. Sure enough, an estate sale rep announced that prices were 50% lower than marked.
The house reeked of cigarette smoke, so it wasn’t pleasant poking through the mostly empty rooms. I’ve read that you can remove cigarette smell from upholstered furniture by spritzing cheap vodka on the fabric.
A massive Victorian bureau met us in the dining room but even at half price, I couldn’t hope to touch it. In a far bedroom I found a gorgeous Victorian headboard, footboard and rails. Nope, nope. Too costly. I gazed at the only other items in the room.
Oh, hello, there.
Two lovely parlor chairs greeted me, but I live in Florida, a breezy, casual state. Victorian isn’t a major decorative theme. I moved here after graduate school and coming from New York, I know Victorian. My grandparents’ home brimmed with heavy, dark furniture.
Maybe the chairs stirred my childhood memories. I’ve read that one’s appreciation of furniture skips a generation. That explains why I find Victorian more compelling than the mid-modern pieces owned by my parents. I lived through the mid-modern era and don’t have much favorable to say about that furniture.
When our modern Danish furniture took over the living room of my childhood, an edict accompanied the new sofa: don’t jump on it. Whereas the heavy piece it replaced could be imagined as a comfortable ship, train or fort, this Danish piece had skinny stick legs like a newborn fawn. Let’s be honest, we broke a leg pretty early on.
Back to the Victorian chairs: they spoke to me and were listed at 50% off. I could paint them and sell them. Maybe even reupholster them, with a lot of pluck and luck. Back out in the living room, David asked if I’d seen those bedroom chairs. That was all I needed. We bought the pair. As I carried one toward the door, a woman stopped me to compliment me on my purchase. “They’re pre-Civil War, you know, the 1850s.” I didn’t know, but if she were correct . . . my happiness meter surged.
I contacted Bob, my antiques pro. The chairs are from the 1860s, just a decade later than the woman surmised. That means they were manufactured during the Civil War, a bloody conflict that pitted many brother against brother. Who sat on this original tufted velvet? I’d like to imagine Abraham Lincoln or Louisa May Alcott or Susan B. Anthony. My own relatives immigrated in the 1880s, so someone else’s family originally bought and cared for my new chairs.
Bob said they’re Victorian Renaissance Revival parlor chairs, once part of a larger set. The Renaissance Revival lasted from 1850 to 1880 and produced massive, opulent pieces with geometric forms and decorative elements. But my chairs aren’t overpowering. I like the contrast between the rounded seat and the rectangular back with the pediment perched atop. They are charming. In fact, more charming each day.
For these photos I set up the best Victorian vignette I could muster. See that Grandmother Clock? That’s our newest acquisition and I love it. It chimes and was built, according to Bob, between 1900 and 1920 in England or Germany. More about the clock in a later post.
Here’s my current conundrum: do I keep the chairs or sell them? Arguments for selling: Florida isn’t a Victorian mecca. Bob says they could sell for $550 to $650 each, as is, in an antiques store. That’s interesting, but it doesn’t force my decision. I could keep them, paint and reupholster them. But then these beauties would lose some value. Does that matter as long as I love them and enjoy them? I’ll continue to ponder this. Any suggestions?
David and I stopped by an estate sale near our house last weekend. Alas, most of the furniture was gone so we poked through the small items. I found two cherub candlesticks, minus the candle cups, from the late 19th or early 20th century. David examined them and immediately dismissed them. They aren’t high quality, he reassured me on the way home. Sure, they are cast metal of some kind, most likely an alloy. And a piece on one of the bases has been broken and repaired. Nope.
But I liked them. After dinner I asked how much he’d pay for those cherubs. Five dollars.
The next afternoon I sent him back to pick up those cherubs for five dollars. “I didn’t say I could buy them for five,” he said. “I said I’d pay that amount for them.”
He returned with the cherubs. Because of a series of amazing flukes and a little crafty negotiating, he got them for five dollars. This is one of a million reasons why I love him.
I recently saw a tutorial for a verdigris dresser at A Bit O’Whimsy’s site and admired the technique. Verdigris is the greenish blue color that occurs when a metal like bronze or copper is weathered. Think of the Statue of Liberty. Anyway, I wanted to test out this paint style and these little ones provided the perfect opportunity.
Since my two cherubs were made of some kind of metal already, I skipped the step of applying metallic paint. I had Antibes and Louis Blue Annie Sloan Chalk Paint on hand, so my blue was lighter than shown on A Bit O’Whimsy.
I used a small, dry brush for each color, dabbing the brush on a paper toweling to get off excess paint. I did not mix the colors beforehand. I simply applied them with the brush randomly, working in small patches and moving on. This method allowed me to control the amounts of blue and green.
Next I poured a teaspoon of Old White paint into a container and added two teaspoons of water. I wanted it very watery. Using a larger brush, I slapped on the white liquid.
Grabbing a spray bottle of water and a clean cloth, I headed outside with a painted cherub. I must have misted the first cherub a bit too enthusiastically because the spray and the cloth stripped off some of the blue and green paint down to the metal. I was more careful with the second one. Both, however, needed quick touchups with the Antibes and Louis Blue.
I still needed candle cups so I nabbed a couple of frosted votive cups until I can buy age appropriate ones off Ebay or Esty. I also need to wax them, but, all in all, this was an easy, inexpensive project that brings me joy whenever I look at them.
To recap, I put cut stems from the boxwood bushes in front of our house into a solution of glycerin, water, citric acid and green floral dye. You can read about that process here.
After a couple of weeks I removed the stems from the solution at the sink. I wasn’t interested in taking a chance on drips from the dye accidently staining our furniture. I rinsed each stem completely, paying extra attention to the wet dye at the base.
I gently shook off the water, blotted the stems dry and bundled them into two bunches. I grabbed a spool of red ribbon and tied each bunch, leaving a long tail to hang it. The next stop: out to our screened-in porch where I hung them from immobile fan blades.
They stayed on the porch a bit over a week, until we had a few days of rain. I didn’t want them to soak up the moisture again so I brought them into the house and strung them up for another several days.
I took both my painted containers to Michaels to make sure I bought the right sized foam bricks. The choices almost paralyzed me: shelves on both sides brimming with rectangular bricks, spheres, half spheres, narrow ones, wide, flat, thick, wet foam, dry foam, styrofoam, green, white. I went with the package of 6 dry foam bricks and headed for the cashier with my coupon in hand. It came to less than $3.
Two bricks fit the rectangular container perfectly.
Now the arranging began in earnest — and it wasn’t pretty. I tried three times before I was satisfied. These are issues I encountered:
1. I had waited for the solutions in the glass vase and plastic container to evaporate but that never happened. I bit the bullet and stopped waiting. I’d read stories about fuzzy moss beginning to grow and wanted to avoid that experience.
2. Some of the stems were more like branches and the dye just didn’t make it all the way up to the tips. This resulted in the robust leaves on the bottom half of the branch being dark green while the yellowing upper leaves curled dryly. I learned to be more careful in performing the cuttings on the bush, selecting stems and not branches.
3. I must not have placed a couple of stems properly in the solution. I could have blamed the quick evaporation of the liquid, but since that never happened, I believe I failed to immerse them — make contact with — the solution when I shoved them in. The result was predictable: yellowing, dry leaves.
4. My stems were wildly uneven. This can be advantageous when arranging flowers but it was a mess with boxwood. I had to snip and prune the the jumble into a quasi-uniform height. That meant aggressively pruning the tall, thick branches and then stripping leaves off the bases so I could easily place them in the foam.
5. My four cats loved the dyed boxwood. They jumped onto my work table and gnawed the stems. Or they knocked them to the floor and tried to drag them off. That made me crazy. I worried the dye would poison them. David asked me to look up the answer on Google but I only got as far as discovering the Cat Fanciers’ Association lists boxwood as toxic to felines. So, I didn’t need to worry about their eating the dyed boxwood because just plain boxwood could potentially be lethal or, at least, cause diarrhea and vomiting. I rounded our cats up, put them in the bedroom and closed the door.
I finished my arrangement on my third attempt, at which time I decided I could live with it. High praise, indeed. The stems don’t look uniform like the ones in magazine photos or shown below in an advertisement. My arrangement has a hint of wildness that works for me.
I put my arrangement up on the refrigerator, hoping the cats would forget about it. After few weeks I reintroduced it. So far, they ignore it. If they decide to munch on the leaves, my preserved boxwood will make a lovely gift.
And what of my second container? I used up the preserved boxwood in my first attempt. I still plan to craft the foam from those remaining bricks into a semicircle, but the second one sits empty as an attractively painted bowl.
I’ll need to buy another 8 oz. bottle of glycerin but I have plenty of floral dye and citric acid left. To say nothing of my boxwood bushes. Further efforts, however, will depend on our cats: Boston, Heidi, Starbuck and Pepper Popcorn.
I’ll leave you with an image of our boxwood bushes all dolled up for Christmas.
This is a continuation of my enlightenment, thanks to the Serpentine Chest. Part 1 is here. Poet Robert Burns said, The best-laid schemes o’ mice an ‘men. Gang aft agley . . . Right you are, Robert.
As you can see, the underside was cracked warped and needed to be removed. I made the perimeter cuts from the top side. I had a nice straight edge in place and didn’t need to cut so far back from the edges to find the cavity. The veneer on this side still adhered to the wood.
I removed the top cabinet and the damaged veneer panel, collecting lots of splinters along the way. With both veneer shells gone I knew that the back edge tongued rail needed to be removed. I wound up hacksawing the nails and screws on the underside of the rail to free it from the cabinet. This was a far simpler approach than trying to get at the heads in a space with 6″ of clearance. I also reasoned that sawing through the nails would leave the case inside the drawer below undamaged. A small gap between the top rail and the bottom case allowed the saw free access to all four of the retaining nails/screws.
I would like to remind you that, at present, I do have a day job and 50-60 hour weeks are the rule, not the exception. This project started in July and by October I finally had a free weekend. My wife and I decided to take advantage of the beautiful Florida weather and work outdoors. While she prepped another piece for painting, I planned to sand, fill, repair and replace the damaged and missing veneer. Unfortunately, the bright October sunlight revealed far more damage.
This is the point where a rational person, capable of critical thought, may have entertained the idea that perhaps, just maybe, the damage to this piece was more profound than appeared on previous cursory examinations.
I saw lots of veneer damage: missing, gouged, or with glue no longer holding, which allowed the thin material to crack and splinter. Originally the left rear leg appeared to need only slight repair work to the veneer but face to face, in the light of day, the damaged area wasn’t pretty. I can only assume it sustained a very hard drop at some point that shattered the rear leg.
A fine line separates a fool from a visionary, or so I like to tell myself. Showman P.T. Barnum boasted, “There’s a sucker born every minute.” If that’s true, then my next action becomes very important. Sure, I felt like a sucker, but I knew I could repair this piece so it would be better and stronger than the original.
The upper cabinet’s surface needed a few cosmetic repairs. I applied Elmer’s Wood Filler to nicks, gouges, scratches and a little TiteBond Cold Press for Veneer glue to reattach the loose veneer areas that appeared ready to break apart. Easy repair, or so I thought. Scratches not deep enough to retain wood filler predicated the use of an orbital sander. I spent most of a day sanding the entire cabinet to get rid of scratches.
I also used some of the veneer I cut away earlier to repair missing pieces on the edges of the upper cabinet.
The leg, composed of a solid 1″ x 3″ mahogany piece and the solid cabinet sidewall, became my second major reconstruction on this chest. What had shattered and come apart was a 1/4″ piece of cabinet grade plywood overlaid with veneer that formed the outer part of the facing leg.
I removed the veneer and made a 1/4″ deep cut above the highest cracked material. I then chiseled out the broken material down to solid surface. I had a scrap piece of 1/4″ cabinet grade plywood in my wood bin which I then used to shape, cut and replace the missing surface.
The guys at our Woodcraft store recommended using Titebond III Cold Press for Veneer glue for cabinet work and I have learned not to argue with the pros. The shaped piece got glued, nailed and clamped into place. Once that dried I used the original scrap veneer to replace the missing exterior veneer on the leg. The new layer of veneer brought the surface flush with the rest of the cabinet face. The next three weekends saw me sanding and filling to even out the surface.
There is a relief moulding on the lower part of the cabinet, but both ends of this moulding were broken or worn off.
Luckily, I had made casting moulds with my son for craft projects when he was a child. I bought Crayola Air-Dry Clay to make moulds of the existing wood moulding. One week and three attempts later I finally had the casting for making a prosthetic repair. Bondo was my material of choice for this. Once it forms and hardens I can shape and fit to areas as needed. I use silicon to coat the interior of the clay mould. This allows the hardened Bondo to release from the mould without breaking. I can then recast the mould for the second piece.
Bondo, you may ask? I am not a real car body repairman, I just play one from time to time. And I had some Bondo on hand from one of my attempts to repair parking lot dings on our car.
Meanwhile, Ann Marie was eager to get her hands on the chest. What the heck. I told her, “Go ahead and paint it.” I’d sand and add the prosthetics later. She jumped at the chance, painting the outside Annie Sloan Chalk Paint Paris Grey with Old White trim. She contrasted the inside drawers Louis Blue.
The replacement panel for the top of the lower cabinet was the last piece of the puzzle to go into place. I knew I had a dado blade kit. I’ve used it to make recessed grooves and the tongues to go into them. Of course, I couldn’t find it. I looked off and on for two months wondering what secret compartment I’d stored it two years ago. I still haven’t found it. I finally wound up borrowing one and a table saw for half an hour at the carpenter’s shop.
The panel has recessed edges, top and bottom, on three sides. The edges are the tongue that fit into the groove of the cabinet side rails. I used a wobble blade, not one that you adjust to a set depth for the width of the cut. This type of blade makes the same kind of cut as it wobbles off center. The difference is that the cut isn’t uniform. I took 80-grit sandpaper and a sanding block to work the edges down so that I had a uniform 1/4″ tongue to slip into the grooves.
The next step was to slide the divider top into place in the grooves of the lower chest. Easy, right? Not so much. The top stopped sliding about 6″ through the grooves. I needed the rubber mallet but after 4 or 5 good whacks the panel hadn’t budged. I had managed to wedge it tight. After some gentle nudging, I succeeded in liberating the stuck piece.
I needed . . . a bar of soap. All our soap is in dispensers. Liquid soap. Can’t use that. Where to locate a bar of soap? Camping supplies! Sure enough, we had a couple of travel bars still in their wrappers. Confession time: the soap was from a hotel. Yes, a hotel. The perfect size for camping and hiking. I rubbed the tongue edges liberally on both sides with the bar of soap. The next attempt was a smooth ride into place.
The back rail needed a double layer of veneer to bring the surface level with the rest of the chest. Once again, I dug into my bag of veneer scraps. I found the original veneer that had peeled away easily during demolition. Most of the length still had double thickness. The missing part needed to be fitted, glued and clamped before the rail went into place on the back of the chest.
At what point would a sane person have called it quits? Cut his losses and walked away? Went to the pub, had a pint or three and sang sea shanties? I’ll never know because I am definitely not that person. The male of the species does have character flaws. The brain is hardwired to dig big holes that are very difficult to climb out of.
The Serpentine Chest is now a strong piece of furniture remanufactured, reimagined and recycled for another generation to use and enjoy. I put a lot of work into this piece but the original bones were good. The construction had to have been sound to hold together as well as it did over the decades.
Humbly, I submit that the chest is now better than new. It was made from native American timber by U.S. craftsmen in an industry that has largely gone offshore to Asia. New furniture is usually made of particle board or MDF. The life expectancy of these cheaper, imported pieces is measured in a few short years, not decades. And certainly not generations.
This project gave me insight. I now check the entire piece before purchase. I move it away from the wall, tip it over, try to rock it, flex the drawer joints. If I had known then what I know now, I would have walked away from the Serpentine. But I don’t regret buying the chest because it allowed me to practice new techniques, sometimes multiple times. This was my learning piece, something I studied and worked on with caution and diligence. You and I both know that we won’t shrivel and die after being suckered. But we learn from our mistakes, get stronger, and move on.
I came home one evening and my wife said she had an idea that would be fun, interesting and maybe help with another stream of income after I retire as Director of the Student Union from our state university.
The local Craigslist bacchanalia began. Ann Marie spent hours studying wooden furniture posted under Furniture and Antiques. She’d show me her daily finds, but it’s hard to judge age and quality from a dark and often blurry photo.
Eventually we came across the 1940s mahogany serpentine 6-drawer chest pictured below. Upon inspection the piece had a few cosmetic problems but nothing I couldn’t repair. I was sure we’d easily find matching hardware for the top two drawers and then the whole thing would be ready to paint. That was in July.
As of late December I am close, very close, to having my wife finish it up. I’ve learned what problems to look for since then.
We got the piece home and I inspected it for repairs. That’s when the flaws jumped out at me. Every drawer needed to be glued and clamped together. Meanwhile, the dovetail joints had lost adhesion over their lifetime. Worse still, the dings and scrapes on the exterior veneer multiplied with every new inspection.
Even the top finish needed to be stripped off as it was too damaged to leave. Annie Sloan Chalk Paint has a thick skin but it will magnify really uneven surfaces.
Once the drawers came out of the cabinet, I noticed water damage on the top surface of the interior of the lower lower cabinet. The veneer was buckled and cracked across the entire surface, and I soon discovered the damage extended into the first drawer of the lower cabinet as well.
Nothing to do but separate the upper chest cabinet from the lower cabinet. I can do that. Easy. If getting a half dozen slotted head wood screws removed from 50+ year old cabinet grade lumber in awkward positions can be described as easy.
I decided that regluing and clamping the original veneer wasn’t possible so I began using a utility knife along the interior edge of the cabinet structure to cut away the top veneer layer. I discovered that the center of the veneer coverings was hollow. The manufacturer had only used a thin 1/8-inch veneer panel on both surfaces, leaving a hollow 3/4-inch cavity between the two surfaces. I was shocked. This short cut was going to cost me some extra sweat equity.
The rails of the cabinet were grooved on three sides. Why hadn’t the manufacturer shellacked the surfaces of the veneer? Better yet, why hadn’t they put a solid piece inside the opening? Dado cutting and rabbit edging a solid piece could add structural strength as well as being the solid divider used between the drawers.
Dave’s Fine Furniture, my imaginary company, could have done it exactly that way. Iris Abbey, our new company, would do it this way. I purchased a laminated Aspen panel at Lowe’s. The Dado cuts came later, much later.
Take a look at this Baker beauty that we’ve just finished. Baker Furniture produced some of the finest furniture of the 20th century. This stunning commode/chest is French Empire style, very elegant, and boasts wooden columns with solid brass bases and capitals. The original hardware is gorgeous.
She is solid wood and meant to last. “In the mid part of the 20th century, Baker was the premier high quality furniture company that set the bench mark for other companies. Classic and timeless designs, high quality production processes and attention to detail make many of these older Baker pieces a great value.” — Stenella Antiques, Philadelphia.
Here’s her before photo, although it’s difficult to see the faded spots and dings:
I took special care cleaning her and was puzzled when I heard something sliding between the drawers. After I pulled them all out I found a key.
This mid century piece still has its key. Correction. Two keys for the top drawer’s lock. The previous owner took exceptional care of her. I added the tassels.
We’ve reimagined this beauty in Annie Sloan’s Chalk Paint. A soft Paris Grey, warmed by Clear Wax, makes her very versatile. We stenciled a specially made diamond design above each column in Graphite. It was an homage to the previous owner who used a black sharpie to draw diamonds. The columns, too, are Graphite, a color that’s more of a slate than true black. And we polished the hardware. She looks very sophisticated. Imagine her gracing your entrance hall, a living room, or even a bedroom. You are only limited by your imagination.
David and I are still in the acquisition, repair, and painting phases of our new business. Of course everything takes longer than expected. We’re still debating our grand opening online. January? November (obviously that didn’t work)? December? February? To repeat, everything takes longer than expected.
I want to share a bit of what goes into acquiring our furniture.
We woke early one recent Saturday morning to driving rain. Not so unusual in Florida’s hurricane season. Rather than roll over and pull up the covers–so tempting–David and I headed to an estate sale over an hour before the doors opened. We had rain jackets and umbrellas and anticipated a long line of eager, soggy buyers.
I knew an hour in the downpour would drench us. But this was the final day of an estate sale, which translated into 50% off at that particular sale.
Small magical moments began to happen. We were the first in line. We stood under an overhang. The rain couldn’t touch us. I sat in a lightweight, folding chair that we brought. Fifteen minutes before the doors opened the seller peeked out. My determination must have charmed him because he promised me a 10-second head start. That is big.
I had scoped out the merchandise the previous afternoon, right before closing time. I knew the two matching pieces I wanted, where they were, and exactly how much they’d cost. Drexel Heritage. Solid. Beautiful.
Even without those 10 seconds I would have reached them before anybody. My choices disappointed the person third in line.
Next, we needed to transport them. That’s where our good neighbor, Jerry, came in. Jerry has a pickup. The guys drove over to load up the pieces while I cleared space in our study, where these beauties now keep me company. The dresser came with two attachable mirrors and the and the armoire is a true wardrobe armoire, not an entertainment system.
I love them. After I clean them up, I’m inclined to let the buyer choose the paint colors.
In the meantime we are almost finished with four other pieces.
Serendipity occurs when you discover something you weren’t looking for. Follow me here and I’ll lead you through a tale not too far from If You Give a Mouse a Cookie.
I bought a metal plant container at an estate sale because I wanted to practice my two-color painting technique. I covered it in Annie Sloan Paris Grey and then covered that in Old White. I distressed it by sanding parts of the raised design on the container. I finished it off with wax.
It looked good to me but I needed something to put in it. So I started looking at blogs and Facebook pages. Preserved boxwood offered me the answer. Because it’s preserved, I won’t have to water it and it’ll last a good while. It’s green. It’s popular. It’s perfect. Here’s Restoration Hardware’s photo of some of their preserved boxwoods:
Wait a minute. Preserved boxwood is not inexpensive. But — and this is where serendipity comes in — I had six boxwood bushes in need of pruning just steps from my front door. I returned to studying online tutorials, this time focusing on preserving boxwood. I combined the instructions provided by Crafting Rebellion and WikiHow.
I bought three random items suitable for a scavenger hunt. Hobby Lobby had an 8-oz. bottle of glycerin in their soap-making section. Over at my grocery store, I gave a stockboy an assignment. Now, I regularly shop at Publix and have no qualms dispatching enthusiastic young men to find obscure items. The mission this time: find citric acid. He had to ask a few people but returned with Ball’s Fruit-Fresh Produce Protector. “My manager says this is citric acid,” he announced. Well done. The most problematic item was Absorbit green floral dye. Not fabric dye. Floral dye. I called around with no success and decided to order it online from Direct Floral.
On to the process: Mix the items with water and pour the solution into a couple of containers. I used a glass vase a a shorter plastic container. Insert the stems that my son had clipped and smashed with a hammer, and we’re ready to wait a week or so until the liquid is absorbed. Wait another week or more until they’re dried. I’m less certain about these steps because I only have reached the absorption stage. Once they’re dry I’ll get a brick of floral foam and pop in my boxwood.
My enthusiasm led me to buy another container — all brass — the day I mixed the solution. It came from a Thrift Store by way of India. I tried to get a discount because of the heavy spotting and tarnish. No deal. But I took it home and scrubbed it with lemon juice and salt, over and over. Next I switched to a paste of vinegar, flour and salt and let that sit. After rinsing off the smelly stuff I decided that was enough polishing. I’d paint it using my two-paint distressed technique. Yes, Annie Sloan Chalk Paint adheres to metal. I put Paris Grey on the inside, with the outside a combo on Antibes, Old White, and Louis Blue. I plan to make a ball or a semi-circle of boxwood for this container, either with the remaining batch now soaking or another batch.
I’ll keep you posted. In the meantime, if you have any experience preserving boxwoods, let me know your secrets.