Saturday, September 8, 2012

The garment district: Not always for "garments".

A family friend recently moved, and, in her rush to declutter and free herself of old things she didn't want to have to lift, handle, or dispose of, blasted a desperate Facebook message, asking ANYONE with a sense of urgency to relieve her of some old pieces of furniture.  My gut told me to look at what she described only as a "chest", and entrusted my husband with the task of going to take a look, and, if appropriate, bring it home.  Trusting that we would want it, based on her apologetic description of this old, sad piece, my husband grabbed my adult nephew, and together, they dragged her back into our home.  Oh, the "her" I'm referring to is our new friend. She's not just a chest. I'm sure the more furniture savvy among you know what furniture name to call her, but I named her "Agatha".  She is pantry-like, with big sliding drawers on top, deep drawers on the bottom.  The configuration seems perfect for storing dishes, silver and table linens, actually, although that's not how we'll use her.  She smelled of old basement, had been scraped and neglected, but, even a few hard years could not hide her unmistakeable beauty.
(After removing the damaged wood trim) You may disagree, but I can see who she wants to be...
The trim I need to replace.

Tongue and groove assembly, beautiful, sturdy wood, lovely, wide drawers (and one Frankendrawer - but it fits!), and a "personality" that sang to me, I could see that she could be a forever piece in our lives.  The previous owner could not believe that we wanted her, could love her, could see potential in her...

She's a BIG girl! This is the inside - sliding drawers.
But she is getting a makeover, and is joining our family.

I took a Kaizen approach to her transformation. She needed freshing up.  My fabric knowledge told me that she needed a rubdown with a damp vinegar cloth to smell better.  Did it, but within a day or so, that old basement-y smell returned. An internet search told me olive oil, warm water and vinegar together would transform her.  A much more aggressive, vigourous rub with that solution did the trick. There were a few gouges and scratches that needed a wood filler product. Found that at Home Depot.

The wood trim that decorated the doors was crumbling in some places, separating in some places, and needed to be removed. Did that, and plucked out tiny nails with pliers, for what seemed like forever. That trim navigated curves, and fit into grooves on the piece.  What to do now? I know! I can replace it with braided leather trim.  A few minutes of searching, and I found the trim I need on Leather Impact's website.

Manhattan Wardrobe Supply has the Barge glue I need, used by shoemakers to permanently attach wood to leather. Agatha's surface needs sanding. Primer, painting, and drawer liners will bring her back to beautiful, and my friend will wonder why she ever parted with it.  A new knob (something button-like?) would be her adorning jewel.

My daughter is particularly jazzed by this project, and is helping to transform it. "After" pictures will be posted when we're done!


  1. Ms. Agatha looks like she could have been in my grandmother's NYC dining room at one time. If so, then part of her musty smell might be from an old coal furnace. I have a handmade wooden sewing box from Grandma's house, and every time I lift the lid, there's the smell of her house again. :) That's not getting banished by vinegar because I enjoy it, and I remember her entire brownstone smelling like that -- a mix of wood polish & coal furnace, simmered together for about 60 years until mellow.

    Handles -- I was walking through Lowe's the other day and happened to spy their assortment of cabinet replacement hardware. Might want to check it out? See if there's anything Agatha would approve of wearing? There's also Restoration Hardware. Or a trip to Tender Buttons for button inspiration. Or a swing through the Antiques Garage/Chelsea Flea Mkt. some weekend. Surely her new bling is out there somewhere. Happy hunting.

    Can't wait to see how beautiful her grain looks after her facelift!

    1. Thank you for the vote of confidence! I'm excited for her, too! I have a fairly ambitious plan simmering for her bling, but I know that it will take quite a bit of work, and I have to see if she (and my hands) agree, so I'll reveal whatever actually works...

    2. Ah-ha! Will have to stay tuned.

      Hope Agatha's OK after the line of storms that passed thru your area today.

    3. I was completely unaware of the storms without the tv or anything on. We're just fine! Just looked like hard rain to me.

  2. I love old furniture like this!! If I had a car, there's no telling what I would have piled up in my home.


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