Fernandina Beach: Shrimp, Pirates & Estate Sales

Field Trip! Let’s head 45 minutes north to Fernandina Beach’s Historic Downtown District. David and I will pick up a few small items at nearby estate sales and, of course, by the time we park in the Historic District for photos and lunch, the afternoon rain clouds are rolling in.

Fernandina Beach boasts a vibrant history. It’s the only city on Amelia Island, the northernmost Florida island before Georgia. Timucuan natives, French Huguenots, Spanish missionaries, Confederate and Federal soldiers, and genteel Victorians all play a role in the island’s story.

Today Fernandina Beach offers small-town charm and plenty of shrimp. The very walkable downtown, on the National Register of Historic Places, is our destination today but beach waves churn a few miles due east.

Each morning the shrimp boats head to sea, joining a small fleet of other fishing vessels.
Fernandina Shrimp Boats

Fernandina Fishing Boat

Legend has it that in the early 1800s, pirates roamed the area and buried their treasure. Alas, they forgot to leave me a map. But because of that adventurous moment in history, pirates loom large here.

Fernandina Pirate and Visitor Office

Fernandina Pirate

Can you spot the pirate welcoming guests into the Palace Saloon, the oldest operating saloon in Florida?

Fernandina Beach Palace Saloon

The Victorian-style Courthouse – built in 1891 and newly renovated:

Fernandina Beach Courthouse

All the photos so far feature Centre Street, the main corridor that cuts straight to the harbor on the Amelia River. Centre Street offers art galleries and souvenir shops, along with boutiques filled with clothing, jewelry, delectable fudge and quaint restaurants.

Fernandina Historic District Shops

A block or two off Center Street, you’ll find row-upon-row of grand Victorian homes. Despite the sweltering August heat, I managed to snap a few pictures for you.

Fernandina Victorian House

Fernandina Beach FL Blue House

Fernandina Villa Las Palmas

Fernandina Beach White House

The magnificent white house in the photo above actually stands on Center Street, several blocks up from the river.

After our lunch — shrimp, what else? — we drove back home to Jacksonville with our purchases: a Hôtel du Marchese sign, brand new, red and white crewel pillow, a tarnished loving cup, a gold paisley throw, and a bamboo rug.

Fernandina Beach Estate Sale Finds

Eight flags have flown over Fernandina since 1562, beginning with the French. Then Spanish, English, Spanish again, Patriot Flag, Green Cross of Florida Flag, Mexican Rebel Flag, Confederate Flag, and the U.S. Flag since 1862.

In tribute to those early French settlers, here’s a closer look at the hotel sign with the sun finally filtering through our oak tree:

Hotel du Marchese

Stop by again — we enjoy your company.

Ann Marie and David

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Finding Inspiration to Paint a Drexel Buffet

When we began our fledgling business about two years ago, one of the first pieces David and I acquired was this delightful Drexel buffet from its Esperanto Collection. David still worked at the university and I wanted to test this idea of a small business once he retired.

The buffet in this photo isn’t ours; in my enthusiasm I never took a Before picture. But it’s a twin of the unpainted one we brought home.

Drexel Esperanto Buffet
Photo by AncientPoint.com

I knew I wanted to use Annie Sloan Chalk Paint on it, and I scoured the internet for inspiration.

The shimmering greens and gold in this photo of the Rialto Bridge spanning Venice’s Grand Canal spoke so me. David, Michael and I once vacationed in Italy. Venice, with its green-blue lagoon, St. Mark’s Square, tiny shops, carnival masks, canals and gondolas, wove a magical spell despite the autumn mist. This photo became my inspiration.

Rialto Bridge
Rialto Bridge in Venice. Photo by Suzanne Thompson

Of course I had to go back and look through my own photos of Venice and show you a couple:

Soft evening lights of Venice
Soft evening lights of Venice

Our tour guide informed us we were looking at the “Best Butt in Venice,” so I’m sharing it with you. You’re welcome.

Venice Best Butt

Back to the Buffet: I began entering in search terms like “green and gold painted furniture” and eventually something miraculous happened. I found the perfect inspiration photo at 1stDibs. Here’s the amazing part: it matched my own unpainted buffet.

Drexel Esperanto Buffet
Drexel Esperanto Buffet. Photo by 1stDibs

This inspiration piece looked like it belonged in the opulent Doge’s palace in Venice. I set out to replicate it. Despite the buffet’s substantial weight, I wanted to achieve a light and airy sensibility.

Doge's Palace Venice
Doge’s Palace Interior. Photo by nuneza15

We studied our buffet for weeks, plotting our next move. Really we didn’t have a choice in the matter; the only place to store it was smack dab in the middle of our living room.

I didn’t feel guilty about painting this Drexel because of its condition. Scratches marked up the top — they’re a bit difficult to see in the photo below — and David needed to replace more than a few pieces of veneer.

Drexel Esperanto Buffet

According to the markings on the back, Drexel manufactured this buffet in January 1965. Definitely not an antique, which further strengthened my decision to paint.

Drexel Buffet Back

Meanwhile, our kitties had a field day.

Drexel Esperanto Buffet
Starbuck stretching downward while Pepper watches.

You know how you hesitate before trying something new? We hoped to sell this piece — our first painted piece. It needed to be perfect. We desperately wanted to avoid looking like amateurs.

Eventually, like when you’re standing on the edge of a high dive, you screw up your courage,  take a deep breath, and jump.

I mixed Annie Sloan Chalk Paint, Olive and Versailles, to achieve the custom sage color. David and I struggled with the new technique. From years of hardwiring, his brain only understood long, smooth strokes. Now we had a fat, round brush and tried to achieve shorter strokes. There was a learning curve, and I’m embarrassed to admit how many coats of paint we applied while perfecting our technique. But we learned and we improved.

Next came the French gold gilding wax, painstakingly applied by hand. I bought a jar from my Annie Sloan Dealer at Mid-Life Crisis By the Beach. I couldn’t wait to head home and get started. In hindsight, I had no idea what we were getting ourselves into.

Gilding Wax

Michael and I undertook this Herculean task. We spent hours — days — applying the wax. Thinking it would go on like a paint, we started out by applying with a small brush. This failed spectacularly. The gilding was the wrong consistency to adhere evenly to the brush. Worse still, its coarseness caused difficulties in application. When wet it had a tendency to flake, both off the brush and off the piece. We would not be defeated. We tried different sized  brushes, Q-tips, and our fingers. The wax isn’t meant to look perfect but we formed Team Obsessive in our impossible quest for perfection.

We’d focus on small areas, shutting out the world, finally walking away and muttering to ourselves. Then back for more. It seemed never-ending. But just look how she turned out.

Drexel Esperanto Buffet
Drexel Esperanto Buffet. Photo by Avonlelal Antiques and Design Gallery
Drexel Esperanto Buffet
Drexel Esperanto Buffet. Photo by Avonlea Antiques and Design Gallery

I waxed her with Annie Sloan’s Clear Wax, but for the final step, the pièce de resistance, I  applied Royal Design’s Marrakech Medallion stencil to the bottom of the drawers drawers. A small surprise for its future owner.

Drexel Esperanto Buffet
Royal Design Stencil inside Drawer. Photographed by Avonlea Antiques and Design Gallery.

At Avonlea Antiques and Design Gallery our son, Michael, and Georgie took a series of photos in their makeshift photography studio. Avonlea had requested vendors submit 5 blurbs on self-selected pieces. Since only a handful of vendors responded to that original call, our pieces were among the first photographed, edited, and put in the new online store. The online store is still a beautiful work-in-progress that will soon be bursting with items.

Drexel Experanto Buffet
Drexel Esperanto Buffet’s Side Door. Photographed by Avonlea Antiques and Design Gallery.
Drexel Esperanto Buffet
Drexel Esperanto Buffet Detail. Photo by Avonlea Antique and Design Gallery

While we’re still stewards of this great beauty, I have no doubt that the perfect match for her is  out there in the world. My point, however, is take inspiration where you can find it, whether it’s a photo on the computer, out in nature, a picture in a magazine, or a flash of inspiration. Good luck.

Ann Marie and David
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How To Make a 36″ Lightbox out of PVC Pipe

We’ve wanted to step up our photography game. After replacing our old, broken camera with a used DSLR we decided the next step was to construct a large light box for photographing our products. A light box diffuses light through a translucent material — some people use tissue paper or wax paper. Between our cats and careless human feet, that would last about a day.

Instead, we chose something a little tougher and longer lasting: bleached white muslin. The concept is that controlled light will flow into the top and sides of the lightbox and provide an evenly lit image.

We’ve endured our share of interior shadows, rainy weather and frantic editing while trying to achieve professional-looking photographs. We needed an upgrade.

A discussion about a lightbox floated through the house for months but it took the new camera to force this baby into existence. I’m excited at the prospect of using the lightbox in the house and not checking the weather site to estimate our daily rain douse.

And, I’m delighted to offer this tutorial on how to make a 36-inch lightbox.
Lightbox 7

Materials needed:

  • Four 10′ pieces of white 1/2″ PVC pipe
  • Six 1/2″ unthreaded elbows with outlet
  • Two 1/2″ unthreaded elbow
  • 4.5 yards of 36″-wide white muslin fabric — I bought it, on sale, at Joann’s for 99 cents a yard.
  • Box of 15′ White Velcro 3/4″ wide — David bought this at Ace Hardware for about $21 and change.
Step 1

Cut each of the four 10′ pieces of 1/2 -inch pipe into 33 1/2″ sections. You want 12 sections. Eleven will be used for the box, and one for the paper backdrop.

How to Make a Lightbox

Step 2

Assemble the cube. We didn’t get photos of this step but I think you can figure it out. There are 6 elbows with three openings and 2 elbows with two openings. If you have any questions, just contact us and we’ll be happy to help.

How to build a lightbox

Step 3

Attach strips of the 3/4″ white Velcro along the vertical pipes of the box and along the top pipes. We switched over to shorter segments, about 2″ in length, to conserve the Velcro. The following diagram shows the difference between strips and segments of Velcro.

How to Make a Lightbox

Step 4

Cut a 3-yard (9 feet) length of muslin. Stretch and pressure adhere the 36″ muslin edge to the vertical pole.

How to build a lightbox

We wrapped and stretched the muslin around the remaining sides. Remember, you will have a lot of fabric. I recommend two people to make this step easier.

How to build a lightbox

Pressure mount the last of the fabric to the final vertical pole. In the photo below, I am about to swing that piece in and attach it to the pipe.

How to build a lightbox

Here’s a close up of one pipe covered with a strip of Velcro, and another pipe with segments of Velcro. Believe us, you don’t need to wrap everything in Velcro. Save some for the next project.

How to make a lightbox

The wrap creates a tight 3-sided covering for the cube.

Step 5

Cut an additional piece of 3’x3′ fabric to fit the top. Attach that piece by applying the matching Velcro strips to the top two pipes.

How to make a lightbox
Step 6

You can’t see this, but David added Velcro segments along the top edges of the pipes to keep the box from leaking light at the top seams.

Our lightbox can be assembled and disassembled easily, but we have more to do:

  • purchase a roll of 36″ white butcher paper or kraft paper.
  • identify the lights we plan to use on the outside of our box (sides and top).

I expect to use about 7 feet of paper at a photography session. Somehow we’ll attach the the 36″ edge of the paper to  the twelfth and final pipe. The paper will flow down the back wall, along the floor, and out of the box to create a backdrop and floor for photographing. You can use either white or colored paper to create different backdrops. The product that we photograph should look like it’s floating. A smaller dimensioned light box could easily use Poster or Bristol board.

We only had time today to assemble the lightbox. I’ll let you know how the next phase turns out.

Ann Marie and David

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White Furniture Company of Mebane, NC, Part 2

White Furniture will never be dead so long as we have children who have children. You take my son. A lot of things I do at home when I’m working around my little shop, I do as he’s around. I’ll show him whether it’s a different kind of wood or whether it’s maybe boring a hole in cherry that’s very brittle and will break unless you bore a hole before you put a screw in it. That my son learns. He knows how to sand with the grain of the wood, and so long as he’s alive he can pass that on to his children. White’s will always be alive so long as there are people around in this area. Wherever we go, whatever we do, White’s will never be dead.

— Ronnie  Sykes, 27-year employee at White Furniture Company

Here is White Furniture, Part 1.

The 1980s gave us terms like hostile takeover, conglomerates, outsourcing, leveraged buyouts and downsizing. The U.S. furniture market, once dominant and respected, found itself struggling to survive. White Furniture Company, family owned and operated since 1881, was sold to Hickory Furniture in 1985. The newly formed Hickory-White Corporation closed the Mebane factory in 1993.

In its few years as owner of the White factory, Hickory-White pushed for increased productivity and speed at the expense of craftsmanship. Short cuts became the norm.

 When Hickory took over, if it was off an eighth of an inch, why, that didn’t make any difference, we’d just cut the drawer a little bit and make it fit. The hole, if it were an eighth of an inch too big, we’d drive a thumbtack under each side of it.

— James Gilland, 41-year employee at White Furniture Company

Bill Bamberger and Cathy N. Davidson’s book Closing: The Life and Death of an American Factory presents White Furniture Company as a microcosm of events occurring across the country. American manufacturing — furniture making and a multitude of other industries — died in the 1980s and 1990s. We found ourselves living in a postindustrial country — and then the Great Recession hit. By experience or extension, we all understand the pain caused by losing jobs, craftsmanship, and community.

Closing: The Life and Death of an American Factory
Layoff meeting, cabinet room. Photograph by Bill Bamberger

At its heart, then, the White Furniture story is not just about economics. It is about personal loss and family tensions. It is about the job of work and the tragedy of being deprived of work. It is about the sense of self that comes from taking  pride in one’s craft. And it is about the sense of community that develops when people who might otherwise have little in common–men and women, blacks, Hispanics, and whites–work side by side, depending on one another to get a job done right. (Davidson, 19-20)

In late 1992, when Bill Bamberger learned that the White Furniture Company of Mebane, NC, would close, he sought permission to document the factory and workers’ final months. The operation was neither quick nor painless. White Furniture didn’t close all at once. Its end was gradual, an excruciating, clinical procedure that came like dying gasps. As the final pieces of furniture wended their way through the construction process, clusters of despondent workers received word to leave their line and head for the personnel department.

The kiln area was first to go. Then the rough mill, when its noisy saws fell silent. Then the glue machine workers. The machine room. The sanding room. Assembling. Finishing. Lastly, with  the factory quiet for the first time in over a century, the men and women of the rub and pack station were called to the personnel office. They waited for the inevitable, a few meaningless words, a handful of papers, a handshake, and an end to their way of life. The White Furniture factory, the beating heart of Mebane, would never reopen.

Closing: The Life and Death of an American Factory
Workers with their pension papers. Photograph by Bill Bamberger

I learned of White Furniture Company after David and I bought several pieces of their furniture at an estate sale. The more I read on the subject, the more interested I became. Their story was equal parts sad and uplifting, displaying the very best and very worst of the American Dream. Our pieces are more meaningful now, with a poignant story to go with their beautifully crafted lines.

Our magnificent dining room set appeared in my White, Part 1 post, but we have more White Furniture to share. Three bedroom pieces: a vanity seat (a young couple beat us to the vanity, yet inexplicably left the seat behind) and two French Provincial twin bed frames with softly sloping cane headboards. They take my breath away.

White Furniture of Mebane NC
White Furniture: Vanity Stool
White Furniture of Mebane NC
White Furniture: French Provincial Twin Bed Frames

I am incredibly grateful to Bill Bamberger for allowing me to use a few of his powerful photographs. His unflinching lens captured the end of an era in this country, his snapshots a somber vignette of what so many Americans have come to face. The stunned looks on the weary faces of White’s craftsmen as their livelihood disappears is heartbreaking. I can’t help but wonder which of these workers helped craft my pieces of furniture.

The venerable White Furniture Company lived and died and people should know about it. One final photo demonstrates the dedication of this family of workers. On his final day Avery made sure his section, the now empty cabinet room, looked spick-and-span before he set down his broom, walked out the door one last time, and into the unknown.

Closing: The Life and Death of an American Factory
Avery sweeping the cabinet room floor on his final day of work. Photograph by Bill Bamberger
Ann Marie and David

Read about our White Furniture Company Clothes Press.

Wondering about the resale value of White Fine Furniture? Read How Much Is My White Fine Furniture Worth?

Can You Name My White Fine Furniture Collection?

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White Furniture Company of Mebane, NC, Part 1

We believed in building the best furniture humans could build — furniture that you be proud of forever and a day.                                        

— Robert Riley, former shipping superintendent and 31-year employee at White Furniture Company

White Furniture Company of Mebane, North Carolina, made exceptional furniture. The crème de la crème. If you ever see a White piece, study it and appreciate it. If you can buy it, do so. This quality of furniture simply does not exist anymore.

David and I couldn’t believe our good fortune when we discovered a full mid-century modern dining room set and french provincial bed frames at a recent estate sale. High quality mid-century pieces are rare to stumble upon in northeast Florida. It turns out White Furniture is even rarer. We knew White made fine furniture but not much more. The pieces looked incredible. What else could we do but negotiate a good price and load up?

White Furniture Mebane NC
White Furniture Dining Room Set: China Cabinet, Dining Table with Chairs, Sideboard
White Furniture of Mebane NC
White Furniture: China Cabinet
White Furniture of Mebane, NC
White Furniture: Sideboard
White Furniture of Mebane NC
White Furniture: Dining Room Arm Chairs

I researched the company and discovered this premier furniture manufacturer no longer exists. Clearly I needed to do more digging. I bought the highly informative and heartbreaking book about White Furniture’s final months: Closing: The Life and Death of An American Factory by Bill Bamberger and Cathy N. Davidson (1998). The book shed some light on this American institution, but more on that below.

The White brothers started the company in 1881, the year the town of Mebane incorporated. The company and the town were intrinsically linked. The four White brothers — Will, Dave, J. Sam, and Steve A. — served as successive presidents from 1881 to 1969, a total of 88 years. Early on they elected to produce high-end furniture and appeal to Southern and Northern markets. Imagine how audacious this business decision was because the Civil War ended less than 20 years earlier.

They imbued an appreciation for craftsmanship, loyalty, respect, and dignity among their employees. Job stability remained so high that employees joked about openings becoming available only because of death or retirement.

The company accumulated contracts and awards. In 1906 White’s shipped 58 boxcars by train to the Panama Canal when the U.S. government ordered oak furniture for its officers and enlisted men. Every boxcar featured a 20-foot banner proclaiming “FROM THE WHITE FURNITURE CO., MEBANE, N.C., FOR U.S. GOVERNMENT, PANAMA CANAL.”

White Furniture Co. trainload headed to Panama Canal
White Furniture Co. trainload headed to Panama Canal









In 1912 Arthur White visited the construction site of the new Grove Park Inn in Asheville. He hoped to sell his company’s wares but encountered resistance. Arthur’s nephew, Stephen A. White V recounted the family story:

Arthur did most of the selling, especially the sales of furniture for fine resorts. White Furniture Company shipped a sample dresser to Asheville to be shown as a typical piece of our quality. The gentleman who was in charge of buying furniture ‘pooh-poohed’ the idea of any furniture made in a little country town in North Carolina being even close to the standards, which were wanted for the Grove Park Inn. So, my Uncle Arthur uncrated the dresser and asked the potential buyer to select one of the drawers from the dresser and he would give a demonstration, which would prove that White Furniture Company produced furniture, which would stand the use and abuse to which it would be subjected. A drawer was selected and taken from the dresser and laid down on the floor upside down. Then Uncle Arthur jumped on the drawer and there was no sign of the abuse to which it was subjected. Arthur brought the order home in his pocket.    –Speech given before the North Carolina Historical Society in Chapel Hill in 1982; typed manuscript, private collection.

Grove Park Inn, D.H. Ramsey Library, Special Collections, UNC at Asheville
Grove Park Inn, D.H. Ramsey Library, Special Collections, UNC at Asheville










Steve White IV was the last of the original White brothers. After his death in 1969, the second generation provided stewardship for the next 15 years, until the White family shareholders narrowly voted to sell the business to Hickory. The newly formed Hickory-White Company continued to make furniture until the factory closed in 1993. Under Hickory’s leadership, quantity soon superseded quality.

Bamberger and Davidson’s book Closing highlights White Furniture Company, but White   represents the many American companies trying to navigate the economic turmoil of the 1980s. The closing of the renowned White Furniture Company and the impact on Mebane, NC, is the story of small towns and cities all over the country. As the U.S. shifted from a manufacturing nation, we moved into a new post-industrial era.

For myself, I am thrilled that Bill Bamberger gave me permission to feature a few of his dramatic photos of White’s craftsmen in action. Their labors convey beauty and grace. These photos attest to their dedication.

Closing: The Life and Death of an American Factory
Andrew inspecting bedpost. Photo by Bill Bamberger


Closing: The Life and Death of an American Factory
James sanding mirror frames. Photo by Bill Bamberger
Closing: The Life and Death of an American Factory
Sanding bed frame, cabinet room. Photo by Bill Bamberger
Closing: The Life and Death of an American Factory
Joan in the spray booth, finishing department. Photo by Bill Bamberger

Head over to Part 2 where I’ll share photos of the White bedroom furniture we bought and discuss the closing of the venerable White Furniture Company.

Thanks for stopping by. Follow Iris Abbey on Facebook to receive current posts.

Ann Marie and David

Read about our White Furniture Company Clothes Press.
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Can You Name My White Fine Furniture Collection?

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An Antique Piano and Annie Sloan Chalk Paint

My friend, Anne, recently decided to spruce up her spacious ranch home. Fed up with her carpet, she had it ripped out and replaced with eye-catching porcelain tile. The soft white and grey hues look gorgeous. It’s like pale wooden planks cover her floors. The faux wood tile even has indentations to simulate hand-hewn lumber. I’ve always wanted hardwood flooring and have spent years coveting it while eyeing my budget. This seems to be a realistic alternative. Don’t tell David, but Anne passed along the name of her sales rep. Lucky for him I’m too busy to get to the store at the moment.

Faux Wood Porcelain Tile Floor

Before you get the wrong idea, no, this post isn’t about Anne’s new flooring. The tile merely launched our joint project. Her home looks so bright and cool, which is great to offset the Florida heat. But darkness loomed in the corner. Her antique mahogany piano reverberated stiff Victorian formality, not breezy coastal casual. Having watched us work on many painting projects in our front yard, Anne asked me to help lighten up her piano.

Anne is an interior decorator and definitely knows her way around colors. Getting things started, I loaned her my copy of Colour Recipes for Painted Furniture and More (2013) by Annie Sloan and by the next morning she had selected Paris Grey.

Take a look at these fantastic intricate carvings. The level of detail required something special, so David and I offered two different suggestions on how to treat them.

Annie Sloan Chalk Paint

I thought a coat or two of Old White would really let them pop. David, however, didn’t want to lose the wood; he recommended leaving them unpainted. Anne remained undecided. The front carvings caused us the most concern. We not only wanted to do a good job, but also create a piece of art. Read on for more on our decision process.

Challenges Faced

The piano could not be moved from its current wooden blocks. I don’t mean that it was difficult to move, or merely unwieldy. Without wheels it sat, imposing and unyielding. The piano tuner will come soon, we were told, to attach wheels, perform some much-needed mechanical work to the action and tune the instrument.

Further complicating life, the piano stood 15 inches from a side wall. Since we couldn’t shift the mahogany beast, the simple tasks of cleaning, shellacking, painting and waxing would prove tricky. But not impossible. Contortions, head stands and lying flat on the floor in homage to Michelangelo — David’s middle name is Michael — and we managed to cover hard-to-reach detailed carvings in the cabinet structure.

The carved legs, while beautiful, took a lot of time to paint because of its nooks and crannies. We literally lay on our backs to find spots we missed, and there were plenty.

Annie Sloan Paint

We wanted to allow the piano’s beauty and age to show through the minor dings. Anything bigger than a ding, however, got a treatment of wood fill. The piano’s top had the most damage, as you can see in this next photo:

Annie Sloan Chalk Paint

Cleaning and Stitches

We spent the first day cleaning the wood. Before we could start the transformation process, decades of polishing waxes and oils had to come off. We used Simple Green and Min Wax Cleaner. This job was neither pretty nor easy. For our Bonus Round, David somehow managed to break one of our clip-on lamps. The lamp head with its sharp shards sliced his calf deeply — about 2 inches long. He drove himself to a doc-in-a-box for 6 stitches. Don’t judge me. I would have gone if it were serious; it hardly bled, and thankfully none of it got onto our friends’ floor.

Six Stiches

After two coats of shellac on the side, legs and bottom, followed by a couple coats of Paris Grey, we called it a day.

Annie Sloan Chalk Paint
Making Progress on Day 2 and No Medical Emergencies

More shellacking and painting, but we left the carved mahogany to discuss with Anne. David still lobbied for the natural wood to remain, enhanced with a coat of Howard’s Restor-A-Finish. The center carvings retained the deep red mahogany. The two side rosettes retained a very dark, dull patina.

Annie Sloan Chalk Paint

I took this opportunity to research the piano’s origins. Imagine my surprise when I discovered it was made by the esteemed Krakhauer Bros. of New York in the early 1900s. Just glance at the lovely lines and intricate details and you can see their master craftsmanship at work. Have I mentioned this piano is absolutely beautiful?

Painting the Carvings with Paris Grey and Whitewashing Them with Old White

I’ll ask that you stick with me here because these carvings are going to go through several changes. Here’s David on the day we painted the carvings Paris Grey. We diluted Old White to create a wash: apply wash and blot.

Annie Sloan Chalk Paint

But these carvings went through some transformations. Before we get into that ball of snarled twine, which style do you prefer?

Annie Sloan Chalk Paint Annie Sloan Chalk Paint Annie Sloan Chalk Paint
Unraveling the Ball of Twine

Anne spent the evening looking at the paint job shown in the first photo: an Old White wash over Paris Grey. But she remembered David lovingly describing the beauty of the mahogany wood. The next day she asked about the possibility of removing some of the paint to reveal the mahogany’s glory.

We are good friends and I assured her it could be done. I didn’t tell her the amount of work it would take. David and I tried a few different techniques but the one I highly recommend requires a Scotch-Brite Dobie scouring pad. Dip it in water and use a light touch. Remember, we had two coats of shellac already down on the wood so I felt OK using water.

It took a full day but David and I were pretty pleased with our efforts, despite our sore fingers.

After a night studying this new version, Anne asked if it would be at all possible to combine David’s recommendation and my recommendation: whitewash the mahogany. Yes, that would be easy compared to the day before. After another day’s work, here’s how the piano looked with an Old White wash over the mahogany wood, and mostly clear waxed.

Annie Sloan Paint

Anne asked if we could go back to the original design of Paris Grey washed with Old White. Sure. Again, that would be easy.

Drum roll, please, because we have our completed project and it’s stunning.

Annie Sloan Chalk Paint
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Ann Marie and David
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Mid-Life Crisis By the Beach

We’re headed to Jacksonville Beach today. That’s where I go for my Annie Sloan Chalk Paint (ASCP). Pat Stone-Smith owns and operates Mid-Life Crisis By the Beach, a shop that features “casual coastal elegance sprinkled with the spray and salt of the sea.” Pat is a fantastic resource for me. We discuss colors for furniture and accessories that I sell at Avonlea Antiques and Design Gallery, she demonstrates painting techniques, and encourages me when I need advice.

Mid-Life Crisis resides in a beach bungalow three blocks from the Atlantic Ocean. I love its bright Caribbean colors, but not the summer’s sweltering heat. This afternoon the temperature danced at 101°.

Mid-Life Crisis by the beach

The balustrade features these fanciful nautical designs that Pat’s company, Wicked Designs,  manufactures. We’ll see more of her designs as we head inside.

Mid-Life Crisis by the beach

Mid-Life Crisis by the beach

I always gravitate to the paint, the rows and rows of Annie Sloan Chalk Paint singing their siren song. Today I bought a quart of Paris Grey that I’ll use to transform a client’s mahogany piano. That project should begin tomorrow, so stay tuned.

Mid-Life Crisis By the Beach

If you can pry your eyes off this delectable sight for just a moment, let’s take a look at some of Pat’s furniture painted with ASCP — and she does fabulous work. Due to technical difficulty I took all these photos with my iPhone. My regular camera is on the fritz, so imagine that everything looks even better.

Mid-Life Crisis By the Beach

Mid-Life Crisis By the Beach Table with Pillows

Mid-Life Crisis By the Beach Table with Iron Filigree

Mid-Life Crisis By the BeachOur brief tour of Mid-Life Crisis By the Beach is over all too soon. I wanted to walk the three blocks to the beach and share a photo with you but David mentioned the heat index: 105°. Not today. If we had gone, you would have seem something like this, but with a lot more people.

Wikimedia Commons Photo by Excel 23
Wikimedia Commons Photo by Excel 23

Thanks for stopping by. We love your comments.

Ann Marie and David

Reviewing Amy Howard’s Tick Tock Paint

Coffee Table Tick Tock by Any Howard

This square coffee table gave us the perfect opportunity to try our hand at a coastal sensibility. Michele Hilley of Stiltskin Studios and an affiliate of Amy Howard products, had sent me a gorgeous color: Tick Tock, an eye-catching light blueish-green. By the way, Michele and husband Kenny do astonishingly creative work, so be sure and check them out.

Amy Howard Tick Tock

Tick Tock belongs to Amy Howard’s One Step paint line and is a great color for beach furniture. I was sure I could easily get one coat down on the coffee table with the 4-oz. sample size. The question was: could I get 2 coats down? In hindsight, this was a very pessimistic view.

Coffee Table


Indecision prompted me choose to cover the table with Annie Sloan Chalk Paint Paris Grey. My internal debate went as follows:

Voice 1: You don’t need a primer. Just go with the Tick Tock and see how far it’ll take you. You will easily get 2 coats on that table.

Voice 2: But what if you run out of paint? You don’t want patches of wood showing through. Why not contrast the grey depths of the ocean water with its light, sunny greenness?

It should come as no surprise that Voice 2 won.

Paris Grey went down first, but in retrospect, I wouldn’t do that for future projects because I had plenty of Amy Howard’s Tick Tock paint — even in a 4 oz. sample jar.

Coffee Table Paris Grey Annie SloanTick Tock came next. It’s a beautiful color reminiscent of the warm, clear water surrounding  Caribbean islands. I love the imagery it evokes: warm breeze, fruity rum drinks, toes dangling in crystal clear waters, brightly colored tropical fish darting to and fro. Needless to say, I’m a real fan.

Here’s my advice on using Amy Howard’s paint:

  • Make sure the pigment in the bottom is absorbed. Turn the paint over for an hour, shake it or stir it.
  • Wait until the first coat dries completely; the second coat will go on easily and fill in any thin patches.

Since I was doing so well experimenting with the new paint, I decided to add a color wash. I only had Annie Sloan’s Pure White on hand, so I added water to the Pure White, about 2.5 to 1. I lightly brushed it on and wiped it off, working in small sections.

Coffee Table Tick Tock Amy Howard

In the above photo I’m attempting to contrast the white wash on the table with the Tick Tock (and no wash) on the drawer. The color wash softened the Tick Tock so that it looked like a mist of sea salt had settled over the table. I love how it accented the carvings.

Coffee Table Tick Tock by Amy Howard

I used Clear Wax to seal it but decided against adding any Dark Wax, because I wanted to retain the feeling of lightness.

With the painting complete, the table looked fantastic. Before we could finish the project however,  we faced one last obstacle. The intricate, raised designs that looked so interesting left the table top choppy and precarious. Let’s face it, if you tried to set your drink on one of those bumpy designs, you’d have a mess to clean up. I can envision a little one’s grape juice settling in the grooves.

We came up with an easy solution. One trip to the local hardware store and we added 4 glass inserts to level out the top. The finished table will look great at any beach house. I also think Tick Tock would be a perfect color for a nursery.

As an added bonus, I actually had paint left over — almost a quarter of a jar. I can’t wait to use Amy Howard paints again in the future. I’m especially looking forward to testing out her Lacquer Spray. I’ll be sure and share my results, so be sure and stay tuned!

Coffee Table Square Carved Finished 2 copy

Disclosure: I was not compensated for my review of Amy Howard’s One Step Paint. I simply shared my opinion of the product: thumbs up and I’ll use it again. I’ve also recently learned that select Ace Hardware Stores now carry her paints.

Have a great week,

Ann Marie and David
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Rooted In Thyme Embracing Change

A New Tent, Antique Autos, and Cooler Stereos

My best friend from college, Barbara, now lives in England. Happily, she has an excellent phone plan and we talk often. She recently told me about Car Boot Shows. Basically, sellers drive to a designated location, lift their boot (car trunk) and begin negotiating with buyers. Here’s a link to prove it’s a thing.

I’d like to think that Avonlea Antique Mall’s British owners want to bring a bit of Merry Old England to Florida with their parking lot sales. We joined in the fun for their Spring Sale. First, though, we bought a new tent from R.E.I.— you must have a tent in Florida.

Avonlea Parking Lot Sale Spring 2015


The event was low-key, perhaps because you are limited by the size of your trunk, and it only ran from 8 ’til 2. Mall vendors and the general public could pay a modest fee for two parking spaces. Cars, vans, SUVs, and pickup trucks started lining up at 6 a.m. to be processed once 7 a.m. rolled around. Some people had mall inventory that they were ready to part with; others offered general merchandise, like refinished bicycles, stereo speakers, and knick-knacks.

Several men talked to David about his rehabbed vintage Raleigh 3-speed bikes.



Our new pet bed / end table generated a lot of chatter and a couple of married lawyers were soooooo close to buying it, but no deal. We did, however, sell several small items.

End Table / Pet BedDavid and I ran quick, separate excursions into the mall to look at a larger, soon-to-be-available space. We’ll be shifting from our tiny 5′ x 9′ space into a larger one — a spacious 10′ x 10. Of course, we just painted our small booth aubergine a few weeks ago.

We have enough inventory for this move and we want to include our son Michael in the business. He has acquired some astonishing Mid-Century Modern pieces. I’ll tell you about our transition in a later post.

One week after the Parking Lot Sale, Avonlea hosted its Antique and Classic Car Show. Car enthusiasts came out to play.


David and Michael displayed their amazing Cooler Stereos. They take a basic cooler, but instead of ice and beer, put stereo speakers inside. Sealed Lead Acid Batteries provide the power. The coolers are water resistant, so you can take these babies to the beach, camping, picnics, campfires — anywhere outdoors — because they’re durable.

Stereo Made From Cooler

How’s this for Karma? Michael began playing music as the Avonlea team set up at 6 a.m. The DJ’s arrival quashed Michael’s show and he turned his Cooler Stereo off, as requested. A few hours into the event, a driving rain swept through, sending everybody scrambling.

Michael fired up his orange cooler out in the downpour and played on. Of course, that drew men over. They gazed appreciatively as they got soaked and the music kept blasting. I guess marine, waterproof components rock on during downpours or long tubing excursions floating along Florida’s springs.

He got an order for a large cooler.  Avonlea may create a display area in the mall. I didn’t attend but showed my support by buying raffle tickets. I WON! Here’s my prize: a Cheltenham Picnic Rug (100% lambswool) in a Satchel. How great is that?

Picnic Rug and Satchel by Twillmill

Thanks for visiting with us. Stop by again.

Ann Marie and David


How To Make a Comfortable Pet Bed — More Tips

End Table to Pet Bed

We transformed another end table into a pet bed. It’s been a while since I discussed our previous ones like the Peacock Pet Bed and the Red Flannel Pet Bed. I thought I’d review the steps and include some new tips.

Zinsser Shellac went down first, followed by Paris Grey from the Annie Sloan Chalk Paint line. I neglected to get a “Before” photo, but you can get an idea from the interior wood. I liked the wood grain that appeared through the paint. That’d be important in the Dark Wax phase.

Pet Table From End Table


Pet Bed Burlap Grey Paint 2

Springtime is here in Florida, so David and I  painted outdoors as sunlight dappled our work area. We put down 2-3 coats of Emperor’s’ Silk, occasionally dipping our brush in a cup of water because we were running low on paint. But we finished the job with about a tablespoon to spare.

End Table to Pet Bed


End Table to Pet BedWe used a printed burlap from JoAnn’s for the interior. I measured the diameter of the floor and planned to tie twine between a pencil and a marker to draw my circle. David intervened and used a fancy compass. Either way will work. Here’s the bottom, not yet glued.

Pet Bed from End Table

I tried a new technique to cut straight lines in my burlap and highly recommend it. Pull out a single thread all the way across your piece to create a straight cutting line that won’t fray. I found this technique at Melanie and Stephanie’s site 2IY.

Gravity! Tip the end table on its side when it’s time to lay down the fabric on the inside wall. Let gravity assist you and not fight you. Work in sections and keep rotating the end table. I used Elmer’s Glue and, after I ran out, Mod Podge directly on the wood and carefully pressed down the burlap. I used an exacto-knife to cut the overage, and added more glue/Mod Podge along the edges.

End Table to Pet Bed
I left my work table for a few minutes and came back to find Starbuck testing out the pet bed. I shooed her away because this will belong to someone else’s pet.

End Table to Pet Bed

I brushed on Annie Sloan’s Clear Wax, wiped it off. Dark Wax followed: applied and wiped off. I really like the rich tone the Dark Wax gives to Emperor’s Silk and the way it enhances the carvings and wood grain.

End Table to Pet Bed

David finished the piece by putting down faux tacks along the edge of the circular burlap. Next, we staged our kitties near the pet bed. We used food as a lure. Fortunately, none of them wanted to enter the pet bed and nestle into the Petco cushion. They just wanted food.

End Table to Pet Bed


End Table to Pet Bed

Avonlea Antiques and Design Gallery is hosting a Spring Parking Lot Sale this Saturday, April 18. We’ll have a tent outside. This beautiful pet bed, suitable for a cat or small dog, will be available in the tent. Our booth inside Avonlea is loaded with treasures. Currently we are offering a 15% sale on everything in Booth #76.

Stop by. We’d love to see you.Avonlea Spring Parking Lot Sale

Ann Marie and David
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