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A few years ago, we started buying wood furniture.

Vintage and second-hand, to be sure.

Rockefellers, we are not.

Buying at auctions and garage sales is good for the budget.  Plus, I like the hunt for old stuff, yes indeedy.  Usually, the more unloved, the better.

Rocking chairs with the rockers worn off?  Sign me up.

Cabinets, magazine racks, abandoned table at the side of the road?  I’m out of the car like a chubby magpie.

pink wardrobe and green magazine rack

Slowly, we have replaced any of the press-board, laminated stuff that we used to find at a certain lovely big box store.  (I still go there for the window shopping, tasty meatballs and $1 ice cream cone, of course.)

Forget grey hair:  the press-board-to-wood-conversion is a sure sign of advancing age.

Anyhoo.

The other part about buying used is that it lowers the guilt factor.

The guilt factor when I go about doing that thing that I always want to do.

You know–that thing that makes some people cringe or exclaim in horror.

(Insert Practical Man’s cringe and horror here.)

That would be painting.

Painting (say this in breathy, hushed tones):  Real Wood.

As in, our fireplace mantel (giant chunk of pine).

As in, our kitchen cupboards (giant room full of knotty pine).

As in, this china cabinet that used to belong to my Grandma Verna.

40s china cabinet - brown

It’s been “wood” coloured for as long as I can remember, including the last 20 years that it’s been in our house.  I think it hails from the 1940s or thereabouts.  Definitely vintage and lovely but, oh so browny-brown-brown.

Which is really only good if it’s made of chocolate, yes indeedy.

This fall, I could no longer let the china cabinet live in peace.

So, it went under the knife.

Rather, the brush, as the case may be.

Don’t be so dramatic, wood lovers!

All that wood was going away.  Even though some of it, on the underneath part, was cool vintage crate wood with retro advertising.

We kept that.

Bottom view of china cabinet - one half of the interior floor of the cabinet was made from an old crate

Practical Man did some considerable muttering under his breath.

It might have been because he always seems to end up finishing the painting that his paint-happy wife barely started.

Or, it may have been an apology chant to the wood–the wood which his callous wife had so gladly forsaken.

He and my dad are both woodworkers.  They make beautiful things which I have (cross my heart) never painted.

The struggle is real, my friends.

But, back to the china cabinet, which they Did. Not. Make.

Bye-bye brown!

40s cabinet with lattice-work door closed - painted cream

Hello, dreamiest cream and robin’s egg blue!

Oooh, how I love your new tra-la-la.

If you do too, check out more great ideas at Vintage Chic – A Room by Room Guide by Laura Preston.  I hope to feature her as a guest blogger here soon!

Cabinet painted cream outside with robins-egg blue interior on three interior shelves and walls

Now, the cabinet is just perfect to house fondue pots, vintage melamine and Pyrex galore.

None of it brown, as you might have guessed.

Today’s dilemma is this antique tea cart, with its original shade of woody-wood-wood.

antique tea cart with wheels - brown

Of course, I want to paint it.

Pinterest wants me to paint it.

What do you think?

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Once upon a time, there was a very shiny, brown, plastic-y kitchen cupboard.

Naturally, I fell in love.  Y’know, as you do when something is–ahem–shiny, brown and plastic-y.  With fake gold handles.

Did I mention that it was also $15.00 (CDN)?

That’s practically free in many parts of the world (like England, where I paid an outrageous $38.00 for a one month supply of contact lens solution in 1996 but I forgave England because her chocolate bars were so cheap and Wispa love cannot be measured in mere dollars/pounds/euros because Wispa love is forever.  Especially, when it’s a bargain.)

But I digress.   I was in love with a brown, plastic-y thing.  Said plastic being manufactured during the last decades under a variety of monikers, which shall remain nameless–except for Arborite.  Did you know that quintuplets can basically ice skate down an Arborite table surface and it will lose none of its durability or give even a hint of the real wood underneath?  That stuff is practically indestructible.  And, oh-so shiny and plastic-y with its fake wood grain.

What’s not to love?

Oh sure, there are people who go for the obvious lookers of the furniture and decor world, all gleaming teeth and hair (or as they say in furniture and decor and seemingly every single show on HGTV:  granite you-know-whats and stainless steel blah, blah, blahs.)

There’s no challenge, no thrill of the hunt, no wallflower’s revenge in that!

I tend to find the least desirable thing at the auction/flea market/thrift store/garage sale and suddenly, my heart is overwhelmed with desire for, um…shiny, brown, plastic-y-ness.

Who knew?

Practical Man, that’s who.

As soon as we entered the shop, he immediately started sidling, as if drawn by an invisible magnet or the force of my slight hyperventilation–towards the most downtrodden, bits-missing, unloved, dented, moth-eaten, fake wood grained, shiny, brown plastic-y, ugly ducklings of the lot.  He knew that it was only a matter of seconds before I honed in and it has become a race between us–to see who can leap on the most pathetic specimen of all, first.

I won, this time.  MWAH, HA, HA, HA.

This ugly duckling had pristine, original 1950s etched glass sliding doors and perhaps most important to a co-dependant, against-all-odds,  happily-ever-after gal like me:  POTENTIAL.

Tra-la-la!

Practical Man had that look on his face:  the one that said “wee-hoo, that is one ugly specimen, as usual” and then he had the look on his face that said, “and where, exactly, is she going to put that thing?!” but then, magically, his face transformed into the face that said, “well, it does appear to have lots of practical hide-y holes for useful stuff like levels and flashlights and lock washers” and then, most compellingly, he got the look on his face that said,”at least the darn thing is cheap.”

Then, he went to work with his superlative haggling skills.

I love Practical Man.

Then, not unlike Cinderella, our shiny, brown, plastic-y cupboard got some:

  • sanding (ugh) to scuff the shiny, brown plastic-y-ness,
  • priming (double ugh) to make the shiny, brown plastic-y-ness more receptive to paint and
  • painting (by which time Practical Man had swooped in to rescue me from the ughs) to hide and transform the shiny, brown, plastic-y-ness and

Voila!  Presto-Bongo!  Abra-Cadabra!  Our ugly duckling was further bejeweled with my collection of vintage Pyrex and suddenly, it turned into a vintage swan.

Finished dresser - sage green with vintage pyrex inside

Kind of a green swan and to my new friend, Disney Dancer, who I recently met in Colorado, I know that I’m mixing Disney/Hans Christian Andersen metaphors a little, but you get the idea.

Whatever the story, one thing is not in question:  Practical Man is like a real, live, fairy godmother for my shiny, brown, plastic-y cabinet.

I’m sure he’ll be thrilled.

Copyright Christine Fader, 2014.  Did you enjoy this post from A Vintage Life?    Share on Facebook       Tweet         You might also like my latest book.


Hands up if you think office chairs don’t have a lot of vintage style.

At least, not the ones you can find in your average medium-sized town for a medium-sized price.   But, I needed to find one because Practical Man has been fretting lately about my posterior.

I love a man who frets about my posterior and mine is apparently at risk.

I’m in posterior peril, if you will.

This is due to the fact that I am an old-school girl who types at lightning speed.   I need to do it in a chair, at a desk.  None of this lolly-gagging about on the floor with my keyboard in the air.  No sireee.   I am all about respect for the home row and that requires a chair.

This is the desk chair I have been using:

desk chair

Not glamorous but I liked its vintage nod and white colour

You’d think we’d have lots of chairs to choose from since I have what some might call an addiction to chairs.  They are one of the first things I gravitate to at an auction or flea market.  I have a rocking chair with no seat or rockers.  I have a tiny little child’s chair (even though we have no children).   I once made a flying leap from the car as we passed a yogurt shop that had incredible vintage-looking outdoor chairs.

Now, I try to avert my eyes as soon as they land on a fetching seatable specimen.  With their winning personalities and come-hither nature, you can see how an innocent person might end up with a herd of chairs.

Not me, of course.  Mine is more of a flock.

But to get back on point, desk chairs aren’t really chairs.  At least, not in a good way.

They usually contain way too much plastic (at least in the stores I can afford) and they look, to me, like giant orthotics sitting in a room.   Thus, I have been waiting for a beautiful vintage specimen to reveal itself to me somewhere.

You get it, don’t you?

My desire for something affordable, with chrome-y legs and a 1950-1970s industrial vibe?

Something straight out of a Mary Tyler Moore episode that could turn my world on with its smile?

Where-oh-where are you, my gorgeous retro lovely?

Silence.

In the meantime (over the past several years), we have been using the aforementioned chair that I spied, abandoned and forlorn, at the side of the road on the way to work one morning.

Some people have rescue dogs and cats.  I have rescue chairs.

Practical Man oiled its bits for me and I made it marginally more posterior-friendly by sewing up a quick cushion with a vintage pillowcase.

desk chair with cushion

Slightly modified hard-as-a-rock chair

I can’t imagine why but, Practical Man is still not a fan.

Even I have to admit that after a few short minutes of writing, it is not a very comfy on the posterior, nor does it have anything resembling an ergonomically-supported back.

But, back-schmack.   I didn’t care until recently, when I was dragged, kicking and screaming to the dark side.

I was encouraged to give desk chairs a chance.

Harumph.  Not a vintage lovely among them.  They were all new.   As I trialed and tested, I asked the sales clerk why desk chairs were so universally ugly and never any fun colours or patterns.  Was it so hard to design something reasonbly-priced, comfortable AND fun?

Eventually, I stopped punishing the people making minimum wage and lined up with the other people at the cash.

new seat

This is the seat for my new chair. Are you weeping?

Was it my imagination or did we all have a sort of resigned, sorrowful look about us at our failed quest for a delightful desk chair?   I’m sure I’m not exaggerating to say that there was a general air of gloom as we all meandered to our cars with our ugly, ugly but very comfy chairs.

new desk chair back

New back. Ergonomic and blah, blah. Weeping, weeping.

Not for the first time, Practical Man and I set about re-inventing something as soon as it came out of its over packaging.

We got some vintage fabric out of my stash.

Stapling - getting ready

Getting ready to alter a brand new item from the store

With only a staple gun, some scissors and a dream, we set about re-upholstering the seat with it.

By “we”, I actually mean, “Practical Man did it while I supervised”.

I make a great tool nurse.

Stapling, stapling, stapling

It was stapled within an inch of its life

Then, we actually put the brand new and already much improved, chair together.

Underneath the chair

Assorted knobs and do-dahs to help with the ergonomic blah, blah, blah

It has more knobs and levers than the space shuttle.   I bet there were no attractive desk chairs in space, either.

Here’s the so-far result:

new chair

I want to dislike it, but…my posterior is a traitor.

The chair is oh-so-comfy and ergonomic and blah, blah, blah.

I’d still like to make a slipcover for the back.  But, I have a problem.

A looming sense of posterior peril, if you will, because:

  • Sewing a slipcover will require some time at the sewing machine.
  • The chair at my sewing table is a cute little something we found at the side of the road.

But, sewing while seated on a lovely-looking, albeit slightly uncomfortable vintage chair?

Priceless.


You are reading a post from Christine Fader’s “A Vintage Life” blog.  Join the romance with all things retro at https://avintagelife.wordpress.com

The Care Bear Chair in all its glory

The Care Bear Chair in all its glory

I dream of being an old lady in a Care Bear chair.

In my dream, I’m wearing fabulous bakelite earrings and horn-rimmed glasses (festooned with rhinestones) and I’m all wrinkly and silver-haired and somehow–magically–wise.

I’m pretty sure that by the time I’m 80, I’ll have learned how to be wise, won’t I?

Wisdom aside, if all goes according to plan, at least I’ll have an amazing chair befitting my elderly-eclectic status.

My friend, Kitegirl, got The Chair free from a couple of drunk university students who were putting surplus furniture on their lawn as a sort of spontaneous garage sale.  They were convinced she should take the black, leather barker lounger.

She declined and tried not to run gleefully down the street yelling YIPPEE with the Care Bear chair on her back.

I believe her chair-of-my-dreams is actually a take on the iconic Arne Jacobsen Egg Chair, but if possible, it’s even cooler because it has teak arms and legs.

So vintage-swoony!

It’s barely worth mentioning on such a thing of beauty, but its only tiny, insignificant little flaw is the current upholstery which resembles the fur of a well-loved Care Bear.   But, the chair’s Extreme Makeover is planned for some time this year, after which, I envision it in a groovy-lishous fabric befitting Kitegirl’s vintage-sprinkled home.

And maybe, someday, if I am a really good fairy godmother to Kitegirl’s little sprout, I and my wrinkles will be listening to old ’45 records from my very own version of the Care Bear chair.