Saturday, November 29, 2014

The Beast That Turned Into a Beauty







Sometimes I find a piece of furniture that really touches my heart. Maybe it's because of my appreciation of the craftmanship of antique pieces. Or maybe I just have a soft spot for old beat up furniture that needs rescuing before it gets sent to the dump.

This is what I brought home one day last summer. An antique empire chest, a lot worse for the wear, but he had potential.



Why do I refer to him as a he? Because he was a beast...so massively heavy it took four men to get it into my car, and a massive jolt of adrenaline between my husband, the boys and myself to get it out of my car at home.

It was really banged up. There was peeling veneer all over the place, giant gouges, a broken knob, and the felt inside was disgusting. But structurally it was in really great shape and the veneer on the drawers looked perfect.



I decided I had better do some research on it first to make sure I didn't have some priceless heirloom on my hands. I discovered that it is called a butler's chest. The top drawer pulls out, unfolds and reveals a flat surface with hidden small drawers. I guess gentlemen would undress and put their cuff links, pocket watches and other jewelry in the small drawers and use it for correspondence as well.

My sister-in-law popped in for a visit, saw it and sent a picture to her colleague that specializes in antiquities. He confirmed what I suspected - that it was circa 1850 to 1860 and it was built with mahogany veneer.

Great. Now what do I do? Sometimes I get really torn about painting antiques and all that "devaluing" bunk. Up to now most of the antique pieces I've restored have been not very valuable. I mean it's not like I'd paint a Stickley!  So I advertised it on Craigslist as is. Without a price. Offering to sell it to an antique dealer or restorer so that they could make repairs on patching the veneer that I am not even remotely qualified or interested in doing. Guess how many responses I got? Zero. Nada. Nil.

With my conscience assuaged, I decided to take the plunge and start repairing it. My dad and I patched the veneer from leftover pieces I had saved from another piece. We used epoxy wood patch for the major areas that had significant damage.

It was about this time that I started calling the Beast not very nice names. He was so heavy and cumbersome that it was a pain in the neck to move it around every night to get my car in the garage and move it back out in the morning to work on it. But my husband came to my rescue one day when he brought home one of the most thoughtful gifts he's ever given me. Two huge moving dollies.



With the major prep work complete, I decided to paint the body in General Finishes Milk Paint in Lamp Black, leaving the drawer fronts and interior in their original condition. I picked this brand because I wanted a matte finish that would accentuate the "character" it had.





With the body painted, I was ready to tackle the interior. This is a very painful memory because getting the 150 year old felt was a very long, messy and tedious process. All I remember is there were gloves, a mask, a whole bottle of Goof Off and sanding to get to this step:




And with new felt applied, Restor-a-Finish, and Fiddes clear wax to to this:




I found card stock for the upper drawers that had a vintage look and fit in with my vision for this piece.




I lucked out finding a replacement knob from a seller on Ebay.



So, that's my story of the "Beast" that turned into a "Beauty". He's available in my Etsy shop. I'm offering him for sale for local delivery, but I would be willing to look into shipping quotes.  For the moment, he's perfectly happy in my dining room.




Have a great day and thanks for stopping by!



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26 comments:

  1. Love this! I like when people show some of the wood off! Looks Stunning!

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    1. Thanks so much, Gilly! He's one of my favorite pieces!

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  2. Wow, this turned out terrific!! I actually love how you kept some of the wood finish. The Beast should have a long and happy life now. :) Thanks so much for sharing at the Found & Foraged party!! Great partying with you. :)

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    1. Thanks so much for the compliment! My pleasure to "party" with you!

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  3. Replies
    1. Thanks, Martina! Have a great day - love your new pie table!

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  4. You did this with a veneer piece?! I'm SO impressed. I'll have to take a second look at our Kijiji lists and see if I can find something with this kind of potential. Thanks for sharing
    Shelly
    http://100things2do.blogspot.ca

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  5. What a transformation -you brought it back to life!
    xx
    Mila
    milaslittlethings.com
    milawayable@gmail.com

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  6. The Beast is a beauty! I like the wood and paint together and how you made it beautiful again!

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    1. Thanks Darrielle...it's one of my favorite pieces!

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  7. Wow what a stunning piece. I love that you kept the draws the wood veneer and the matte black, you could not have picked a better combination. It is a BEAUTY!!!

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  8. Stunning makeover Mary Beth. The black and natural wood are gorgeous together along with the pretty lined drawers. You can tell you put a lot of TLC in this makeover!
    Marie@The Interior Frugalista

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  9. He is purely amazing! The black looks perfect against the color of the wood. You turned this already well designed piece of furnitue into a beautiful piece to treasure. I would love for you to share this at my link party that is going on now at www.andersonandgrant.com/2014/12/your-turn-to-shine-link-party-10.html. My readers will love it, too!

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    1. Thanks for the invite and compliment, Jamie! I'll hop right on over to your party and check it out!

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    2. Hi Mary Beth! I wanted to let you know that I featured this beautiful piece at our Your Turn to Shine party yesterday. I loved having you join us and would love to see you again sometime! Merry Christmas!

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    3. Tickled pink that you featured my empire chest! Thanks so much and Merry Christmas to you and your family as well!

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  10. Very well done! I love the black and the natural wood. Beautiful! Aren't rolling carts the best?! :)

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    1. They sure are! Made a huge difference in making it easier to work on. Thanks for stopping by!

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  11. Such a gorgeous piece! I love that you painted it black and left the front original. I can understand your hesitation to paint, but he honestly looks so much happier now! I'm so glad you linked up with us at Your Turn To Shine. I've enjoyed discovering your blog and can't wait to see more of your projects!! -Amy

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    1. Thanks so much for featuring this piece at your party! It was a labor of love!

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  12. Replies
    1. Thanks, Fiona! It was a lot of work...but one of my favorite pieces I've ever redone! Thanks so much for the compliment...you have no idea how I much I appreciate your kind words. Merry Christmas!

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  13. Turned out great! Fantastic job!

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  14. What is milk paint? Is it like chalk paint? You have an AMAZING eye. I saw one of your pieces on craigslist and came to your sight to see more. (It was the silver dresser with white drawers.)

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