Avonlea Antiques and Design Gallery

DIY: Creating Aged Patina

Let’s start with the After photo of 3 females carved from wood, showing their aged patina:
3 Female Figures Carved Wood

I’ll give a quick run through of how I achieved this look. The piece started out looking much different. It suffered from wear and tear, with scrapes and scratches exposing the bare wood beneath an all too dark exterior. As you can see, I’d already begun to apply wood fill on some of the dings and scrapes. Not all of them though. I wanted to keep its aged look.
3 Female Figures Wood Carving

As you can see, two pieces of wood come together to form this sculpture.
3 Female Figures Wood Carving

My original plan was to repaint it with Annie Sloan Chalk Paint (ASCP) in Graphite, remaining consistent with the original color. My son, however, suggested I consider lightening it up with paint and aging it with wax. Sure, why not? I pulled out my can of Old White and set to it. I have the first coat on here.
3 Female Figures Wood Carving

And the second coat:
3 Female Figures Wood Carving

After the paint dried, I covered the whole piece with Clear Wax. Next, I dipped my chip brush into Dark Wax and highlighted the lines by brushing the wax into them and using a soft cloth to rub off the excess.

As for the rest of the piece, I wanted to achieve a lighter contrast using the Dark Wax. I dipped the tip of my brush — lightly — into the Dark Wax and judiciously dabbed, brushed, and rubbed with the cloth. I worked in sections. Any area looking too dark, I applied Clear Wax to lighten it up. It was important not to slather on the Dark Wax and simply rub off. My process took more time.
3 Female Figures Carved Wood

ASCP leaves brush marks that are perfect for Dark Wax to settle into and create an aged patina look.
3 Female Figures Carved Wood

Lastly, I want to mention how powerful I find this piece. It’s 30-inches tall and can stand alone or hang on the wall with a sturdy hook. In that regard I’m reminded of sacred figures in church. The gospels, for instance, mention 3 women at the foot of the cross.

I’m also reminded of family. This piece could easily represent daughters — my neighbor has 3 and this week became a grandmother for the third time. All girls.

Or, the carving provides a symbol of generational love, presenting the unity of a grandmother, mother, and daughter.

Above all, I believe it shows the strength of women through the ages. Standing together, laughing, learning, and lifting up.

3 Female Figures Carved Wood

I think the ladies look great. I’m glad I went with the lighter paint color because the Dark Wax shows a lot more detail now. This sculpture is now in our booth at Avonlea Antiques and Design Gallery.

Thanks for stopping by. You can also find us on Facebook and Pinterest.

Ann Marie and David

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Clothes Press by White Furniture Company, Mebane, NC

Since we got into the furniture business, we’re always learning something new. Take one of our recent acquisitions. We thought we bought an armoire but our furniture expert corrected that misperception.

It’s a clothes press, he said. Armoires contain a bar to hang clothing, but a clothes press has drawers into which you place your freshly ironed clothes or linens.
Clothes Press White Furniture Co.

A gorgeous piece, it boasts the White Furniture Company of Mebane, NC mark. We searched for an identical piece on the web but didn’t find a match. If you want to read more about my crush on White Furniture, try White Furniture Co. of Mebane, NC – Part 1 and Part 2.
White furniture label

This is a heavy beast — solid, functional, beautiful. Thankfully it includes casters.
White Furniture Company Clothes Press
Clothes Press White Furniture Co.
I love the raised, faceted, carved medallions on the front doors, but I can’t claim to have had much involvement with this project. David rode point.
White Furniture Company Clothes Press

He explains about cleaning those medallions here:

We initially thought the brass hardware was profoundly tarnished. Each of the knobs, door and drawer pulls sported a white covering. We tried to polish the brass with lemon juice and salt, but the tenacious white substance remained.

It occurred to David that perhaps the brass hardware had been treated at the factory with a lacquer spray for brass. He used laquer thinner to soak pieces in a small bowl for a few minutes. Next, he rubbed the brass with a rough-weave cloth and a brass wire bristle brush to scrub away the deteriorated lacquer finish.

Eureka! The white milky substance turned out to be lacquer that had allowed moisture to penetrate and cause a chemical breakdown. The result was the layer of opaque white over most of the surfaces. David eliminated the crud and brought back the warmth of the brass hardware.

The cloudy top coat pictured below is indicative of all hardware:
White Furniture Company Clothes Press

He worked hard cleaning the hardware:
White Furniture Company Clothes Press

It’s obvious that David, with all his devotion to this piece, loves her and wants to keep her. For the moment, though, she stands in Avonlea Antiques and Design Gallery. 
Clothes Press

Ann Marie and David

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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5 Characteristics of Mid-Century Modern Furniture

Mid-Century Modern (MCM) denotes a style of design and architecture that stretched roughly from 1933 to 1965. Some would limit it to 1947-1957, but I prefer the wider range.

Cara Greenberg gets credit for coining the term in the title of her book, Midcentury Modern: Furniture of the 1950s (Random House, 1984).

Furniture made in the middle of the 20th century isn’t automatically Mid-Century Modern furniture.

Craigslist sellers and estate sales often slap a Mid-Century Modern label on their wares because they know the style is popular. Perhaps they don’t know the difference. Perhaps they hope buyers won’t know the difference.

For those who remember the I Love Lucy TV show, Lucy and Desi moved to colonial home in Westbury, Connecticut in 1957. Here’s their Early American dining room in the television studio. It’s Colonial Revival in style — casual and rustic yet traditional. And unlike real homes, unusually large.

Lucy and Desi's Colonial Westport Home
Lucy and Desi’s Colonial Westport Home

This next photo provides more realistic proportions for a room, but both examples show sturdy maple dining sets, farmhouse curtains, braided rugs, and hutches displaying serving ware.

Early American 1950s Living Room
Early American 1950s Living Room

Now, here’s the Birkenstock House, an home in New Canaan, Connecticut, built in 1962. Geographically, it’s about 10 miles away from Lucy and Desi’s fictional Westport home. Stylistically, it’s a world apart.

Birkenstock House
Birkenstock House. Architect: Victor Christ-Janer. New Canaan, 1962

5 Characteristics of Mid-Century Modern Furniture

1. Lines

Clean lines, curves and smooth surfaces create an understated look. Less becomes more. The heavy, boxy, ornamented pieces of the past were banished and replaced with slimmed down furniture in open spaces. Suddenly, MCM homes became light and airy.

Mid-Century Modern
MCM Family Room: Open and Colorful

2. Materials

Furniture continued to be made from wood, but now with international influences. Scandinavian design and teak wood soared in popularity. Broyhill’s popular Brasilia line, introduced in 1962, imitated the waves and lines of the Brazilian capital. Despite this being a large piece, designers managed to visually reduce its mass.

Broyhill Brasilia china cabinet
Mid-Century Modern Broyhill Brasilia Style Server and Hutch, 1st dibbs, $2,950

New materials — and uses for them — emerged in World War II. Post-War designers conscientiously applied plastic, plywood, glass, and/or lucite to their creations, integrating these materials into the design.

Mid-Century Modern Designers
A few of America’s greatest designers, assembled in 1961, Playboy. Left to right: George Nelson, Edward Wormley, Eero Saarinen, Harry Bertoia, Charles Eames and Jens Risom

Design husband-and-wife team Charles and Ray Eames (pronounced EE-ms) experimented with a variety of inexpensive materials. Their work with molded plywood, for instance, resulted in the much coveted (if it’s original) Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman. We own a couple of replicas at our house.

Eames Chair
Rosewood Herman Miller Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman. 1stdibbs, $4,700

This 1950s bar, made of bamboo, vinyl and formica, holds center stage in our booth at Avonlea Antiques and Design Gallery.

Dry Bar and Stools
Royal Chrome Dry Bar, Stools and Matching Wall Shelf, 1950s

3. Colors

Color exploded. Neutral walls receded to emphasize shapes and colors in the room.

Mid-Century Modern Living Room
Source: Chris Barrett Design

A bold accent wall, on the other hand, as in our Iris Abbey booth at Avonlea Antiques and Design Gallery, gives a pop of excitement — just not too much.

Heywood-Wakefield living room furniture - $1,995
Orange Accent Wall in Iris Abbey Booth

4-5. Pattern and Texture

In the photo below, textures flex their power. The shag rug, rough stone fireplace, smooth glass table, sleek ceramic lamp, and furniture fabric all work together. Patterns emerge in the abstract painting, pillows, and pottery. The wood and glass of the coffee table suggest the lines and shape of a modernist sculpture.

Form follows function for all of the pieces seen in this room. Again, I’ll mention the lightness and airiness of the space. The sofa sits on a floating frame. This serves to lift and suspend the heaviest piece of furniture, giving the same ethereal feel as the lounge chair.

Midcentury Modern living room

In our last photo, what textures can you identify in this photo? There’s natural wood and brick, tile flooring, ceramic lamps, a nubby rug, the metal chandelier, fur throw, and fabric on the pillows, chairs and sofa. I like the exotic bookcase that features items from the owners’ travels.

MCM Living Room
Contemporary Living Room in MCM Style

Despite some of the prices seen here, you can find Mid-Century Modern furniture to fit your budget. If you are not a collector, you don’t need an original. Replicas are an alternative. All you need is one statement piece and you can build your room around it.

5 Characteristics of Mid-Century Modern Furniture

If you liked this post, share it with your friends.

Ann Marie and David

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Mid-Century Modern Vanity and Upholstered Stool

The Discovery

We drove to an apartment complex for a look at a Mid-Century Modern desk listed on Craigslist. Michael had made arrangements for us to evaluate and purchase, if acceptable. The pictures didn’t offer much information and a description was nonexistent. Still, it caught our son’s eye, so maybe worth a look. When we discovered a Broyhill Premier Saga desk, David and I knew it was more than acceptable.

The seller and I chatted while David went out to arrange blankets in our SUV. She asked — with David still muddling about in the back of the car — if I’d like to see something else. Sure.

This glowed in a back bedroom. Oh my gosh. David appeared and took photos to send  Michael. I ignored him and told her we’d take it. The monster mirror wasn’t attached, so no need to unscrew it. David and Michael could return tomorrow to load and transport these vanity pieces. Very carefully.

Mid-Century Modern

I speculated that Heywood-Wakefield manufactured it, but that was just a gut feeling. And wrong. When I showed pictures to someone much more knowledgeable, he suggested it was made in England.

It’s a lady’s vanity, where she keeps her lingerie and perches on a stool to apply her makeup. Her jewelry drawer sits below the that fantastic full-length mirror.

Still, I did not have a manufacturer. I posed the question on a couple of Facebook furniture groups. Nothing definitive emerged from the many and varied suggestions. David speculates Mid-Century Modern. More research needed.

The vanity itself didn’t require much work but every lady who owns a vanity should have a stool.

The Stool’s Wood

We needed a vanity stool, and my knowledgeable friend produced one from his stash. Alas, its mahogany color was too dark and too red. But David plunged into this project. He stripped and sanded the finish. After several attempts he achieved a finish somewhat approaching the vanity’s color by coaxing a warm medium Walnut overlaid with Fruitwood stain. The wood really does look like it matches the vanity.

Mid-Century Modern

Upholstering the Stool

The original fabric, dark, dirty and completely unsuited to its new task, needed replacing.

Vanity Stool Original Fabric
I had a period fabric, a remnant, that would work. It’s much brighter and seems better suited to Florida. If you’re really paying attention to my projects, this fabric went on a Heywood-Wakefield desk chair (M 953 A) a few weeks ago.
Vanity Stool old and new fabric

Here’s the original material: jute webbing, batting and the fabric.
Upholstery materials

The original jute webbing lacked tension; it sagged pitifully. David applied pressure to the webbing and it drooped down to touch the table beneath.
Jute webbing

We removed staples from half the stool. David used a pliers to pull the pieces of webbing taut while I stapled them down. Much better. We could bounce a quarter.
Vanity Stool Tightening Jute Webbing

Starbuck found her peaceful nook for a nap: she stayed there for hours.
Vanity Stool Sleeping Starbuck
We cut foam and placed it on the jute. Then came the batting, followed by the new piece of fabric. I cut it larger than the original because the additional foam and batting commanded a bigger piece.

With an embroidery needle and fishing line, I basted around the top edge of half the fabric, leaving long ends. When I pulled the two opposing ends, half the fabric gathered, theoretically allowing me to create smooth sides. Repeat on the other side of the fabric, so I could then gather the extra fabric, cut and staple to the bottom. But…. I didn’t cut the piece big enough and we struggled — and struggled — to create smooth sides.

What’s a day without creative struggle? It’s character building.

Vanity Stool basted fabric
The Display

We moved the vanity and stool into our booth at Avonlea Antiques and Design Gallery.
Mid-Century Modern Vanity and stool

Here’s a closer look at the completed stool:
Mid-Century Modern Vanity Stool

We created a MCM vignette by arranging Heywood-Wakefield living room furniture, hanging a silver-framed mirror over the sofa, a silvery abstract painting on the other wall, and adding the wonderful Mid-Century Modern vanity and upholstered stool. Did I mention I love that full-length mirror?
Heywood-Wakefield living room furniture

If you liked this post, please share it with your friends. Better still, come to Avonlea and take this gorgeous Mid-Century Modern Vanity home with you.

Ann Marie and David

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How to Add Share Buttons to Your WordPress Blog

Pink Poodle Painting

Share Buttons on your WordPress blog photos make it simple for readers to place your photos into their social media accounts. The Frizzly plugin lets readers post your images to their Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter accounts.

Frizzly is easy to install and terrifically helpful for sharing.

To show what we mean, just take your cursor and hover over the photo above. Is that great, or what? You may choose to place Pinterest, Facebook and/or Twitter Share Buttons. You also get to decide placement of the icons on the top, middle, or bottom of your image. We chose upper left.

Frizzly is easy to install. Let’s run through a quick How-to using the images provided by Marcin Skrypiec, the developer of Frizzly:

    • Download “Frizzly” — click here
    • Go to your Plugins and add Frizzly
    • Once Frizzly appears on your Dashboard, click on it
    • Click on Button Sets
    • Frizzly Button Sets
  • At the very top of screen, click on the blue button: Add New Button Set Frizzly Button Set
  • Drag the buttons you want to appear on your photos from the right column to the led column and hit Publish

Frizzly Button Set

  • Click on Frizzly on your Dashboard to go back to Frizzly Settings
  • Click on the General tab, click Hover. Save Changes.
  • Click on the Hover tab and go to Position. Decide where you want your buttons to appear: top, middle, bottom; left, middle, right. Save Changes.

We’ll defer to the developer for this next step. Because we installed Frizzly last week, we can’t get back to the exact image. So here’s what Marcin says you will see:

Use the created button set

Choosing the new button set

Now let’s get back to the module where you want to use the button set you just created. If it’s the hover module, go to its settings and choose your newly create button set from the dropdown list (remember it must be published to be visible on that list!). Now you just need to press the Save Changes button on the bottom of the settings page. Mission accomplished – only the buttons you have chosen will be shown when hovering over an image!

We’ve wanted to do something like this for months. Our delight with the ease of Frizzly made us decide to share it immediately.

By the way, the photo shows items for sale in our booth at Avonlea Antiques and Design Gallery. 

Did you find this post insightful? Share it with your friends!

Ann Marie and David

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Broyhill Premier Saga Desk Meets Heywood-Wakefield Chair

Our son Michael found this elusive Broyhill Premier Saga desk on Craigslist and dispatched David and me to buy it. I love the way it curves in the front.

Broyhill Premier gave this description of its Saga Collection:

Mad for modern? Have your heart’s desire with SAGA by Broyhill Premier. . . SAGA is a fresh twist to the Scandinavian furniture story . . . vigorous in design and striking in simplicity. Skillfully proportioned for today’s room sizes in warm, beautifully grained Walnut.

Broyhill Premier Saga Desk

In 1957, to provide sophistication, style, and quality to their growing customer base, Broyhill Furniture established its Broyhill Premier line at the old Lenoir Chair Company plant in North Carolina. They added a sales force and a quality control program. And then they developed ad campaigns.

I found an example of one of their campaigns from 1960, when Broyhill Premier and Air France cosponsored an Abroad at Home contest. How sophisticated.

Broyhill Premier and Air France AdThe rules were simple:

Join in the fun . . . enter the “Abroad at Home” contest!


Think of it . . . winging your way luxuriously across the Atlantic aboard a new AIR FRANCE Boeing 707 jet . . . off on a European holiday with all of your expenses taken care of by Broyhill Premier.

Here’s how it can be you . . . living it up for 12 wonderful days in your choice of Paris, Rome or Scandinavia.

First . . . visit your local franchised Broyhill Premier furniture dealer or AIR FRANCE ticket office for an official “Abroad AT Home” Contest entry form. A quick call to Western Union Operator 25 will give you the name of your nearest Broyhill Premier dealer.

Now . . . choose where you want most to visit . . . Paris, Rome or Scandinavia. Then, finish in 50 words or less this sentence:

“I would like to take my husband (or wife) to (Paris)(Rome)(Scandinavia) because. . .”

Let’s pause a moment in the excitement of this contest to study a full-page advertisement for the Saga collection and read its thrilling caption:

Broyhill Premier Saga Ad
Framed amid windswept crags and fjords, Saga adds a new chapter to the century-long story of fresh and vigorous Scandinavian design. See the beauties of Scandinavia for yourself as a winner in the “Abroad At Home” Contest. But, first, see the new Saga collection at your Broyhill Premier dealer’s . . . forty pieces sculptured in hand-rubbed walnut . . . priced from $39.95.

Now, on to the remaining rules:

Then mail, with your name and address to:
“Abroad At Home” Contest
Box 33-B, Mt. Vernon 10, New York

Your entry must be postmarked no later than midnight, September 15, 1960 and becomes the property of Broyhill Furniture Factories. Winners will be notified by mail on October 15, 1960 with the judges’ decision accepted as final.

Three first prizes will be awarded . . . one for each of the three new Broyhill Premier furniture collections. For TRIANON, 14 days for two to Paris. For INVITATION CLASSIC, 14 days for two to Rome. And for SAGA, 14 days for two to Copenhagen, Stockholm, and Oslo. With all expenses paid.

As a winner . . .you will fly from your home to New York on one of the country’s leading scheduled airlines. From New York, you will fly to your destination in Europe, Economy Class, aboard a new AIR FRANCE jet. And l’economique est tres chic when you fly on the world’s largest airline.

At your destination, you will be transferred to your hotel, first class of course. There you will partake of everything for which your favorite city is so famous. You will go sightseeing, dine in the finest restaurants, dance at the top nightclubs, have ample time to explore on your own and for shipping. All of your expenses, with the exception of those of a personal nature will be paid for . . . every arrangement taken care of by experienced travel personnel.

This is such a magical contest; I love the linking of international travel with furniture. But let’s head back to our Iris Abbey escapades.

David cleaned up the Premier Saga desk and Michael hunted for a chair. First, David filled the chipped veneer on the left side of the desk top with Timber Mate Wood-filler Walnut. He then used Watco Danish Oil Medium Walnut to bring back the rich depth of the original Broyhill finish.

Michael came up with a chair that looked a close match. Heywood-Wakefield manufactured this dining chair in 1954-55 in two finishes, Champagne and Wheat. This chair is Wheat. While not the exact shade of the Broyhill Saga Premier Saga Desk, the Heywood-Wakefield M 953 chair is just a few tones away and makes an elegant pairing. It has a bow tie back, which seems perfect for the gentle curve in the desk.

The fabric, however, looked a bit sad. We pulled some vintage fabric and gave this girl a facelift. Here’s her Before shot:

Heywood-Wakefield Dining Chair

And After:

Heywood-Wakefield chair recovered

We’re selling the desk and chair as a set in our booth at Avonlea Antiques and Design Gallery. The combination of these two utilitarian pieces, from quintessential American manufacturers of MCM furniture, creates a unique pairing: a Broyhill Premier Saga Desk and a Heywood-Wakefield M 953 Bow Tie Chair.

The serendipitous mating of these pieces embodies the best of American furniture manufacturers’ foray into Danish design that resulted in what we call Mid-Century Modern furniture. Styling, simple elegance of line, and solid wood. No particle board.

Did you find this post insightful? Share it with your friends!

Ann Marie and David

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Iris Abbey’s Top 3 Posts of 2015

With the New Year almost upon us, it’s time to reminisce on 2015. Today’s list is short and sweet. I was tempted to assemble a long list filled with links to my most popular posts, but decided to focus on Iris Abbey’s top 3 posts of 2015. I will feature other popular posts soon but right now I want to give a bit of breathing room to the top 3. They deal with the history of a furniture manufacturer and challenging painting projects. Without further ado, here are Iris Abbey’s top 3 posts of 2015. Click on any of the titles to link to the original.

White Furniture Company of Mebane, NC, Part 1

White Furniture of Mebane NC

After we bought several amazing pieces of White Furniture from an estate sale, I found myself compelled to research the company. In my post I touched on the its history and included photos of pieces that I purchased. White Furniture has an esteemed place in this country’s history of furniture. The crown jewel of my two-part post came with photographs of the White’s Mebane employees taken by professional photographer Bill Bamberger.

Bill photographed the final months of the Mebane factory. He and Cathy N. Davidson published the factory’s story and photos in Closing: The Life and Death of an American Factory (1998). It’s a terrific book because it deals with the economy, human dignity, and loss.

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

Several months after my original post, Dennis Jones reached out to provide a lovely and perceptive comment, which I treasure:

How nice to find folks still enjoying some of the finest furniture ever produced. I worked at White’s for three summers while I was still in high school. Many of the folks pictured I knew and admired their skill (even at 16 years old I knew a craftsman when I seen one) these men and women took pride in their job. I picked up wood scraps and delivered them to the boiler to be burned for heat and other energy needs.) At times I would stand and watch for 15 minutes at the skill it takes to cut out the scalloped huge table tops, it was amazing to watch these guys handle these huge pieces with ease. The exact measurements used, the quality of wood, the skill to finish the pieces, the packaging for shipment was second to none. White’s also knew the skill it took to put out furniture of this quality and paid their employees a better than average hourly wage. My uncle worked there nearly 50 years, he and many others were able to raise families and put kids through college because of these fair wages. The book does give a good look of the factory near the end, but the over 100 years before is the real story of American pride. I so miss the folks I worked with there, but my memory of each one always make me smile.

I love his comment. Our White Furniture Company pieces, still available at Avonlea Antiques and Design Gallery, are showstoppers. Customers regularly comment on their quality of the wood, the craftsmanship, and the designs — everything Dennis wrote about.

Create Shimmer and Style with Modern Masters

Modern Masters Warm Silver

The second most-read post focused on my trying Modern Masters Metallic Paint. I painted and stenciled an antique colonial revival dresser and discovered how easy Modern Masters is to use. I used Royal Stencil Creme for carved highlights and interior drawer stencils. It turned out beautifully and this lovely piece is now settled into a new home.

Antique Mahogany Piano

Annie Sloan Chalk Paint

The transformation of my friend Anne’s antique mahogany piano takes third place. I used ASCP’s Paris Grey with Old White to highlight the carvings on the front panel. Since I wrote that post Anne informed me she bought the piano over 40 years ago in Rio de Janerio from a military couple originally from New York. I like the idea of the piano traveling internationally. This beautiful girl has a richer history than I thought. Since I painted the piano, Anne’s numerous visitors have remarked that it’s not as massive and foreboding and the carvings are much easier to see now that they’re highlighted. Good deal.

I’d like to give thanks to our many readers, supporters, patrons, and friends for making 2015 our best year yet. Happy New Year. May it be filled with joy, inspiration and success.

Ann Marie and David

MCM Chest Gets a Back at Last

Look what David and Michael brought home! A Mid-Century Modern chest and mirror. No manufacturer’s label, someone’s social security number carved into the wood (I blurred the last numbers), and an old computer punch card.

Soc Sec Number

Jacksonville’s a Navy town and a lot of sailors, officers, and government employees retire here. So, let’s speculate. Come with me back to the 1960s — the height of the Cold War. Maybe someone  — an American spy — bought this chest on a secret mission in Denmark or Sweden. And shipped it home. The punch card provided an address or tracking number; the social security number revealed the individual’s exact identify to his government.
MCM Chest with Mirror

The chest followed our spy into suburban retirement, a gated community. It patiently sat, waiting for us, at an estate sale. I like that scenario.

But this sturdy little guy lacked a back. Here’s how he looked when he came to our home. Who would remove the back? And why? Why replace the back panel with two short mismatched ones?

MCM 3-Drawer Chest with Mirror

With all the drawers out, the breeze just blew through him.

MCM Chest with Mirror

David quickly remedied that situation. He cut a piece of plywood, screwed it in place, and reattached those braces for the mirror.

MCM Chest with Mirror

Here’s the newly affixed panel. The weighty mirror slid right into place. I rotated this photo so the chest and mirror appear upright. Meanwhile, David shellacked the plywood panel but I didn’t get a photo.

MCM 3-Drawer Chest with Mirror

I’d like to introduce you to our dashing MCM chest, all cleaned up and ready for Avonlea Antiques and Design Gallery. I think he’ll look great in an entry hall, but he’s versatile. Update: This beautiful boy sold 20 minutes after he hit the showroom floor.

A quick photography tip: when taking pictures of mirrors, shoot from a low perspective to capture the trees and sky.

MCM 3-Drawer Chest and Mirror

If you enjoy reading about our adventures, sign up for Iris Abbey’s Facebook page.

Ann Marie and David

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Tips for Identifying Waterford Crystal

David and I visited an amazing estate sale last Friday. Every estate sale is different, and this house overflowed with Waterford Crystal in the Colleen pattern.

We saw sets of wine glasses, champagne glasses, brandy snifters, sherry glasses and others that I cannot begin to name. I remembered Suszi, an owner of Avonlea Antique and Design Gallery, advised me to pick up some Waterford if I happened across any. “It’s quite popular at Christmas.” And why not? It’s ornate, breathtaking, cut glass that dances in sunlight and glows in firelight. Waterford Crystal would make a fabulous gift for  someone special.

I searched the tables of crystal, almost afraid to touch the pieces, and found two items that we could afford: a wine decanter with stopper, and a pitcher. You can see that a estate company rep wrote Waterford at the base with a nonpermanent marker. I appreciated that.

Waterford Decanter and Stopper Colleen Collection

Waterford Crystal Pitcher Colleen Collection

At a previous, sprawling estate sale I foolishly inquired about Waterford crystal. “It’s here but you’ll just have to pull out your magnifying glass and hunt.”  I thought he was kidding — and at that point not only did I not carry a magnifying glass, I had no earthly idea what to look for.

Clearly, I needed to learn more about crystal. I sought out another vendor in the mall, someone willing to share a little knowledge. I’ve had my first tutorial and I’m looking forward to continuing my lessons. But enough about me.

Waterford Crystal originated in Ireland and a factory still produces glass there, offers tours, and has the largest collection of Waterford crystal in the world. Since 1783 the company has undergone mergers and takeovers and a century-long closure. Most Waterford Crystal is now produced in Slovania, Czech Republic and Germany.

Identification of Waterford Crystal can be tricky. The most important step is seeking out a reputable dealer.

The easiest ID is a Waterford sticker. That’s their seahorse in the photo below, followed by an older variation of the sticker.

Waterford crystal label

Waterford crystal sticker

Here’s our decanter’s sticker:

Waterford Sticker

The other method of identification requires that pesky magnifying glass. Hunt for the word “Waterford” etched in gothic type. Using a strong backlight helps, but it’s still a difficult logo to find. Not only did the estate sale rep write “Waterford” in black nonpermanent marker on their crystal, she also circled the etched word.

Waterford pitcher with logo circled

If you had your magnifying glass and/or a bright light and tipped the piece just so, you might see this:

Etched "Waterford" in gothic type
Waterford assures clients that their patterns will never expire. If you want to replace a piece,  all you have to do is contact the company and your crystal will be handmade using wooden molds to shape the handblown, molten crystal. Master cutters would then take the piece and, using a diamond-tipped wheel, cut to specifications.

Waterford Crystal typically has a lead content of 32%. The lead makes it heavier than glass and easier to cut. The baseline for a piece to be classified as crystal is 24%. Now, with this  information I had to do more research. Just how harmful is it to use crystal?

If you are simply drinking a glass of wine, there’s very little chance of lead leaching into the liquid. The cautions I found focused on leaving food or drink in a crystal container for  prolonged periods. For instance, it’s unwise to use the decanter as a permanent storage place for wine or liquor. Similarly, avoid the temptation to store jam in a crystal jam container. Use the crystal for a single sitting, return and remaining contents to a container or jar, and wash the crystal by hand.

I envision enjoying these brilliant, shimmering pieces on special occasions, where you’ll find yourself transported to a magical world of elegance and grace.

Ann Marie and David
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Get An Art Appraisal

Art. Today, let’s talk about art.

I’m not a stickler for what you put on your walls. You can turn a tangible piece of memory, like a ticket, a postcard or child’s design into art. But what is art without a frame? It can be as simple or ornate as you like. Make it or buy it, but show off your art.

At the end of the day, any item can be meaningful and provide color and richness to your decor.

In another life I taught Humanities courses, and for years I badgered my students to appreciate art. You don’t have to like everything, but you should appreciate an artist’s efforts. Find pieces that evoke a feeling in you: calmness, joy, excitement, or even despair. Just feel something when you look at an artistic expression.

All of which leads me to day’s topic: getting your art appraised. If you ever have the chance, jump on it. It’s a hoot.

Avonlea Antiques and Design Gallery sponsored its annual Art Appraisal Day. Henry Flood Robert Jr., former art museum director at Jacksonville Museum of Modern Art, conducted the informal sessions, in that Henry didn’t provide certificates of authenticity.

Avonlea Antiques and Art Gallery
Art Appraiser Henry Flood Robert, Jr. and Assistant Georgie Kerr, left. Photo by Avonlea Antiques and Art Gallery

One bewildered shopper stopped at the table. In a loud, excited voice he asked, “Is this the Antiques Roadshow?”

Now, I’m sure I don’t own any artwork valued over a few hundred dollars, but I’d never had my art appraised. Our carefully selected artwork is important to us. We have collected for years, as we travel, as we share new experiences, or as I receive artistic gifts from my sister. So are appraisals really necessary?

I wanted Henry to look at unusual art that we picked up at estate sales. Pieces we could sell so that others enjoy the power of art.

Avonlea’s appraisal rules were simple enough:

  • no more than 3 pieces per person — together, David and I could bring 6 pieces
  • $5 per piece — that’s fantastic!
  • Henry would impart info, so I took copious notes

King Tut Painting on Papyrus

I thought our best bet for a sensational find would be the large African King Tut painting on papyrus, pictured above. One of my son’s discoveries, its woody smell wafted through the air as we unrolled it. An indecipherable artist’s name appeared in the left corner.

Henry dispelled my hopes for something unique. He thought it probably came from the Treasures of Tutankhamun Exhibit that toured the U.S. between 1976 and 1979. The country went mad for King Tut. I, myself, flew to New Orleans, the closest location to me, and viewed the exhibit at the New Orleans Museum of Art. I remember a long line of people standing outside the museum in the cold drizzle, which gave way to astonishing golden riches inside. I experienced a one-in-a-lifetime moment.

Henry advised us to flatten the papyrus — put it under heavy books for thirty days or more — and get it framed. As is, he estimates its worth around $125. The tightrope walk here is money, as always. I already took Tut to a frame shop and was quoted $500 from scratch. But, If I provide my own frame, glass and mat with dimensions that don’t perfectly fit the piece — which I can do — it will be $95. It might make the piece pop, but there’s not a lot of room for profit.

Stone Lithograph

I showed him Trilobite, by another artist with an unreadable name. A trilobite is a fossil group of extinct marine invertebrate animals. What do you see when you look at the painting? I see birds on a wire, with a few feathers fluttering from above. I definitely don’t see extinct sea life. The dark colors, however, create a somber mood.

Trilobite’s artist created it using stone lithography, a technique where the artist draws an image directly on a flat limestone or piece of marble using a waxy/oily crayon. The next step involves water and oil and placing the paper over everything. Repeat, color by color.


This print is # 25 of a run of 25. Even though this was the last lithograph printed in the run, it was a short run. That’s good. The lines are crisp and overall condition excellent. Touch up the frame, Henry advised, and find of dictionary of lithographers’ chop marks. How easy will that be? In a gallery he would expect to see a price between $150 and $250.

Paul Geissler
Hofkirche, Luzerne, Switzerland. Professor Herr Paul Geissler, Artist

The unexpected and delightful discovery came with three etchings that Michael, my son, snatched up at an estate sale several months ago. He plans to keep the Hofkirche, Luzerne and sell the other two. One look and Henry got excited. It turns out that they are original. One is dated 1921. Professor Paul Geissler (1881-1965) used copperplate to make the engravings on archival paper. He signed the plate, which means every copy shows that exact signature. Ours are unique because the artist also wrote his name and descriptions in pencil.

Paul Geissler
Farmhouse in Nüremburg, Germany. Professor Herr Paul Geissler, Artist

Henry speculated that Geissler exuded confidence because his name appears twice. Small wonder. A quick search revealed that Geissler received commissions from the German Empress and a Russian Grand Duke. He possesses impressive credentials.

Paul Geissler
Farmhouse in Nüremburg, Germany. Professor Herr Paul Geissler, Artist.

Estimated price for each etching, as is: between $400 and $600. Imagine them framed. Imagine the expense.

Paul Geissler
Tower in Rothenburg on the Tauber River, Bavaria, Germany. Professor Herr Paul Geissler, Artist.

Get them framed in Old Master’s frames, Henry advised. He’s talking about these kinds of frames — and they aren’t inexpensive. Does anyone have suggestions how how I can create the effect?

Gilt Frames


Henry couldn’t help us with our final piece. It’s a watercolor of a seated Japanese man. On the back of the frame was a handwritten label Tosa Mitsunobu, founder of the Tosa School of Japanese Painting back in the 13th century. Before you get too excited, none of us believed this piece displayed that kind of age.

Watercolor Japanese Man

Two areas of foxing, which are those age-related brown spots, appear on the face. More worrisome are tiny holes in the rice paper. Henry advised getting them fixed by a paper conservator. I’d need to find an expert in Japanese paper, which isn’t going to happen in Jacksonville.

Think! Wait . . . I have one credit left with Value My Stuff, meaning I’ve prepaid for one more item to be evaluated by this online company. I’ve used them before and been pleased with the results. Henry advised me to take the image out of the frame, take at least 10 photos that emphasize the holes and the foxing and send it on to the experts at Value My Stuff.

The event was a smashing success. Henry needs to come back more than once a year. Customers who didn’t know of the Art Appraisal Day asked: Will he be back tomorrow? Does this happen every weekend? If I run home now and get a picture, will he still have time to do it? No, no, no.

He was quite popular. I, for one, will suggest that Henry’s Art Appraisal Day become a regular event for the mall. Although David and I did not expect, nor receive, any momentous surprises with our art, a few people received startling good news. More importantly, we all had a jolly good time. Come back, Henry. Very soon.

Ann Marie and David
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