I just returned from a visit to my physical therapist and, let me tell you, I work hard. It’s still the torn rotator cuff, but I’m improving. As soon as I got home I took a couple of Ibuprofen to get a jump on the pain.
I can still accomplish tasks today, but I want to reach to those of you who work hard and share words of inspiration.
So, let’s do this. I’ve thrown in a quote from Winston Churchill, the man who inspired the people of England to keep on keeping on while the Germans dropped bombs over their cities.
William James, American philosopher and psychologist. 1842 – 1910
Believe that life is worth living and your belief will create the fact. William James
Colin Powell, American statesman and a retired four-star general in the United States Army. 1937 –
A dream doesn’t become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work. Colin Powell
Winston Churchill, British Statesman and Prime Minister. 1874 – 1965
If you’re going through hell, keep going. Winston Churchill
Work hard, at least as best you can, torn rotator cuffs and such notwithstanding. Hope you have a productive day!
Recovering dining chair seats, perhaps the easiest upholstery project, still requires organization.
Peeling Away the Years
I always love seeing the layers of history. The photo below shows the jaunty floral fabric wrapped around the original batting and wooden seat. It’s 90’s and awful, I know. The staples are already out, so let’s see what’s underneath.
Don’t be fooled into thinking this is a plump seat. Instead, imagine a pancake. One layer down and we’re at the dirty, original, yellow fabric stapled securely in place.
How about delving down more layers? Here we are at the thin, sad interior batting:
Foam and Batting
Luckily, Joann’s offered a 50% discount on their $59.99 high-density foam the day I ordered online. After seeing it in person, I absolutely recommend the high density. A roll of 2″ x 18″ x 82″ is perfect for covering 4 dining chair seats.
I traced the wooden chair seat onto the 2″ foam with a thick black marker. David grabbed the electric knife and cut out four pieces of foam. The foam will provide a far more comfortable cushion. Below, there’s the wood seat, 2″ foam, batting, and the ivory microfiber upholstery fabric. By the way, we found the fabric in Joann’s remnant fabric bin. Four dining chairs require 1.5 yards of fabric, which we purchased for $9.
The Process for Recovering Dining Chair Seats
Spray glue on the wooden seat and the pre-cut foam. Let both sit and get tacky before adhering together. NOTE: David prefers using 3M General Purpose 45 Spray Adhesive. After he unsuccessfully used the spray pictured, he went out and bought the 3M spray and tried again.
If rounded edges are desired, spray the glue on each raw edge of the foam and compress. We used a punch awl to help with the fold.
Cover with batting and staple down.Trim excess.
Cover with upholstery fabric; use hands to smooth the fabric, and staple. Cut excess.
Fold the corners neatly, making sure to cut excess fabric to eliminate bulges of batting and fabric.
Fold corners and trim excess material before stapling.
Optional but simple, this next step involves stapling a cambric dust cover to the seat’s underside. It finishes off the piece by hiding all your fabric edges and staples.
And a quick photo of the recovered chair seats:
Sure, the hands-on experience proved more challenging, but we saved a lot of money and, really, that’s all there is to recovering dining chair seats. They’ll look stylish with the matching dining table.
Thanks for stopping by. David and I will be back with a new project in no time!
As the year winds down, In Memoriam lists crop up to remind us of life’s fragility. In the spirit of hope I share a poem I first encountered in 1989 when my brother died of cancer.
At the time the author was unknown, but has since been identified. Mary Elizabeth Frye, an American housewife and florist, wrote it in 1932.
A while back I created this image for Pinterest, For everyone who has ever lost anyone, I share this with you:
Mary Elizabeth Frye, American Housewife and Florist, 1905 – 2004
Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there; I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond glints on snow,
I am the sun on ripened grain,
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning’s hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circling flight.
I am the soft star-shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there; I did not die. — Mary Elizabeth Frye
Happy New Year,
A sampling of previous Pause and Revitalize quotes:
Take a look at the top 5 posts I wrote in 2016. They all deal with Mid-Century Modern style. Not a stunning surprise.
When David and I started Iris Abbey, we planned to paint and sell furniture . Our work, though beautiful, didn’t sell. We developed a belief that our local market is pretty saturated.
Our son, Michael, directed our focus to Mid-Century Modern and we haven’t looked back.
Every so often I sneak a painted piece into our booth at Avonlea Antiques and Design Gallery, but the majority of what we sell is Mid-Century Modern, as you’ll see from these posts.
Cara Greenberg coined the term Mid-Century Modern in her 1984 book by the same eponymous name. This Christmas, Aunt Linda gave Michael a signed, first-edition copy of Greenberg’s Mid-Century Modern.
In furniture, modern came in all price brackets. Those who could afford it filled architect-designed homes with furniture from smart department stores which, in those days, promoted furniture even more vigorously than fashion. A sophisticated home of the early Fifties might have featured, for example, a pair of Eero Saarinen’s all-enveloping Womb chairs in bright red, or had as its pièce de résistance the free-form walnut-and-glass coffee table of Isamu Noguchi, its sculptured two-part base subject to rearrangement at its owner’s whim. — Cara Greenberg, Mid-Century Modern, 1984
The best of it was designed by architects who, during the war, when nobody was building houses, had turned their talents to furniture–or who, in desperation for furnishings that made sense in the smaller, sparer postwar house, decided to design their own. — Cara Greenberg, Mid-Century Modern, 1984
We found a Mid-Century desk, stylish and curved. Alas, no chair. What are the odds that we’d find a single — not part of a set — Heywood-Wakefield chair? It’s not a perfect match, but close enough to convey the spirit of the times, especially with the period upholstery fabric we ordered.
That’s it for 2016. Next week I’ll share my top posts of all time.
Last year I wrote a couple of posts about the White Furniture Company of Mebane, NC, often referred to as White Fine Furniture. Thanks to the attention these posts garnered, I still receive emails and comments from readers asking about the worth of White Fine Furniture pieces that they own, or wish to buy or sell.
While I’m not a licensed appraiser, I strive to provide general information to people who contact me. Knowledge of one’s local market remains key. We live in Jacksonville, FL, and our nearest metropolitan areas are Atlanta to the north, and Miami to the south. Dealers from those locations often stop by Avonlea Antique and Design Gallery and try to negotiate our prices downward.
We brought a high-end chair into our booth, for instance, that we priced for a higher-income household in Jacksonville. The chair just needed the right person to come into Avonlea and fall in love with it. Sadly, things didn’t quite work out the way I planned.
Instead, a non-local dealer made a much lower offer. She explained that she was unwilling to pay the asking price since there was no way she would make money on the resale. While we passed on her initial offer, eventually we settled on a more reasonable amount.
You may face a similar scenario. Consider these options:
decline the offer and hope the right client comes in someday, or
try to negotiate and complete the sale
Sure, we made a slim profit, but the exercise proved dispiriting. Our chair could — and will — command a higher price in a different market. But our business needs actual sales.
Keep this in mind: that perfect customer with deep pockets and a burning desire for your merchandise may not come along any time soon. What do you do then?
Whether buying or selling furniture, a negotiation dance is usually expected. I send an email to readers who ask me about a valuation on specific pieces. Here are excerpts from my typical letter:
First of all, White Fine Furniture is built to last for generations. It’s sturdy and beautiful. You know that it is superior to any furniture made today. The problem is, not many other people understand this about furniture. They tend to buy as inexpensively as possible and replace in a few years.
I haven’t seen photos of your set, but that’s OK because I’m not an appraiser. I can, however, offer my opinion.
Your location is a factor. I live in Jacksonville, FL, between Atlanta and Miami. We have dealers and buyers from those areas come to visit us because we sell cheaper than those metro areas. If you are in a big city, you have more options.
Unusual styles (like Mid-Century Modern) command better prices than traditional styles. I saw a gorgeous White bedroom set at an estate sale that was priced slightly over $2,000. I had to walk away because I didn’t have the money and I knew I wouldn’t make much profit on it.
If you’re in a larger market, check with local antique malls. The procedure used by the antiques gallery where I have a booth is to accept electronic info and photos from community members wishing to sell, and direct this info to a dealer(s) who handles that type of merchandise. From there, it becomes a private negotiation between the dealer and the seller. The dealer wants to acquire the items for the lowest possible price and the seller wants the highest price. We all know that and hope to reach a mutually satisfactory agreement.
Consignment stores are a possibility but they take a sizable chunk out of the selling price. My understanding is that consignment stores usually reduce the price on your/their pieces each month. Furniture not sold during an agreed period may be picked up by you or donated by them. If you need to get rid of your furniture immediately, however, this is a serious option.
You could place photos and descriptions of your items on Craigslist.
My number one piece of advice — I should have started with this — is to contact a dealer in your area and get info about your market. This refers back to my discussion of Jacksonville vs. Atlanta and Miami.
White Fine Furniture Legacy Lives On
Sometimes people with actual ties to White Furniture Company, aka White Fine Furniture, contact me. I get very excited when this happens.
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 saw 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 [Closing: The Life and Death of an American Factory] 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. — Dennis
Recently, I received this comment:
Just a little something to add to this wonderful post. I am a White and my father was the last White president of the factory before it was sold. I grew up with a house full of White furniture and I took it for granted as children do. I was recently telling a friend that I honestly didn’t know until I was an adult that furniture could break! For 46 years I have been used to drawers that always perfectly, smoothly open and solid pieces that never have any problems. I am very thankful to be a part of this legacy. Thank you, Ann Marie, for this wonderful tribute to my family’s heritage. — Becca
I began writing this post yesterday and — BOOM — this morning we purchased dining table, 6 chairs, and 2 leaves manufactured by White Furniture Company of Mebane, NC. It needs work, and that’s David’s kingdom — but I love the Mid-Century Modern look of the chairs.
We found this amazing burl wood bar at a naval aviator’s estate sale. The wood reminds us of George Nakashima’s pieces. A gifted craftsman, Nakashima used matching burls, reversing them to create mirror images. Most of all, he loved natural slabs.
I want to believe we have a Nakashima, but the odds are not in our favor. Unfortunately, I can’t verify our burl wood bar because there are no maker’s marks. Even if this isn’t a genuine Nakashima, the craftsmanship that went into it is truly extraordinary.
George Nakashima, Woodworker
George Nakashima (1905-1990) stands as a premier craftsman of the 20th century. Born in the forested northwest U.S., in Spokane, Nakashima earned degrees in architecture from the University of Washington and MIT before exploring the world, living in France, Japan, and India.
He settled in Seattle in 1940 and married Marion, whom he met while in Japan. The bombing of Pearl Harbor forced Japanese Americans on the Pacific Coast into internment camps. George, Marion and 6-week old daughter Mira relocated to Camp Minidoka in Hunt, Idaho.
Proving that hope can exist anywhere, George learned traditional Japanese woodworking skills from Gentaro (Gentauro) Hikogawa in Camp Minidoka, by using hand tools and joinery techniques. The Nakashima family left the internment camp in 1943 — unusual since the war continued another two years. A sponsor helped George, enabling the family to move to New Hope, Pennsylvania. They began to build.
Nakashima’s tables come at a premium price today, if you can find them. In his philosophy, the spirit of the tree guides the transformation of wood into an object that enhances people’s lives. Here’s a compelling video on George’s legacy:
A burl is a tumor, a growth, in a tree’s grain. Hunski Hardwoods provides this information:
A burl is a tree growth in which the grain has grown in a deformed manner. It is usually found on the trunk, at the base of the tree, and sometimes underground in the form of a rounded outgrowth. It is caused by some kind of stress, such as injury, virus, fungus, insect infestation or mold growth. Burl wood is the wood that is harvested from that growth, and it holds hidden treasures of unusual design.
Burls result in a uniquely patterned wood, which is highly prized for its beauty. It is valued and sought after by artists, furniture makers and sculptors. Burl wood can be found in many tree species and is used in making furniture, different types of veneer, inlays, turning wood, gun stocks, music wood, and other household items. However, finding burls is rare.
Getting back to our burl wood bar, the front and top feature burl. A mirror image, like a Rorschach ink blot, appears on the front. It’s veneer. A solid burl walnut slab, however, rests on the top. The cut created a 2″ slab sculpted along the edges using recurves. This kind of line frequently appears in nature and complements the graining, swirling patterns visible on top and the raw edge.
After pulling our bar out of storage, a frustrated David discovered its walnut top showed evident damage — the polyurethane top coat had broken down. So, David undertook the labor-intensive and time-consuming job of stripping the bar top down to bare wood and refinishing it.
These next two photos provide details of the raw wood after stripping and sanding:
Here is the finished top:
The pattern of the grain flows like water. At certain angles the flat surface seems etched in three dimensions.
The front panel of the burl wood bar has the same effect. A close look at the mirror-image veneer reveals the outlines of three burled patterns that appear to be layered one on top of the other. This image draws the eye to the three-dimensional aviator insignia.
A cornerstone of Naturalism is the belief that humans become better in nature. The harmony of the natural world creates tranquility within ourselves. Studying this piece for hours allowed David to appreciate that truism, and after many hours of physical contact with the bare wood of the top, he found himself in a tranquil, Zen-like place.
The lines created by wood grain patterns affirm a harmonious connection to the trees that provided the raw materials for this wonderful sculpture. In a world of design where form follows function, George Nakashima believed the spirit of an individual slab of the wood led the woodworker to the design. This bar, properly maintained, will carry on the inner beauty of its trees for decades if not centuries.
Naval Aviator Insignia
Of course, we researched the insignia on the bar: Naval Aviator. The pilot probably commissioned a craftsman to make his bar and carve the insignia. Happily, our son Michael picked up a few photos at the aviator’s estate sale:
The Naval Air Station (NAS) sits on the other side of the river from us, on the west side of Jacksonville. It doesn’t take a genius to speculate that our aviator served there and bought a home nearby.
Copper Foot Rail
Surprise! We thought we’d find a brass foot rail underneath all that tarnish. Nope. It turns out our bar is equipped with a sturdy copper rail. Since David immersed himself stripping and sanding, I got to scrub the tarnish off the rail. I donned rubber gloves and gathered up my lemons and salt.
Unfortunately, I scrubbed so vigorously that I undid some of my physical therapist’s success on my shoulder. I’m dealing with a torn rotator cuff. Therapist Erica had words with me on what I may and may not do.
David finished up the rail with Howard Brass and Cooper Polish. I had scrubbed the tarnish off, he told me, so all he had to do was put the shine back on the copper. He decided that using the Howards product would be easier and less time consuming than finishing up with a natural product. That quick rub restored the brilliant cooper glow.
We hauled this piece to our booth at Avonlea Antiques and Design Gallery on Friday afternoon, in time for the evening Open House. Many appreciative folks stopped by to look at the bar and run their hands along the top. It’s a sensual experience.
Rarely, a piece of furniture comes into our lives and — because of the artistry in the making –finds a backdoor into our emotional self. This burl wood bar had that effect on David.
We’re excited to share something special that’s went into our booth at Avonlea Antiques and Design Gallery yesterday, this gorgeous Lenox Jewels Nativity Collection. Actually, we’re offering 12 pieces plus crèche. The full Jewels collection consists 32 pieces that Lenox produced between 1993 and 2007.
I found a full-page Bloomingdale’s ad in New York Magazine, dated November 27, 1995. It features only 9 pieces of the ivory-colored china pieces, and we have all of those shown plus more.
In case you can’t make out the ad’s text, it reads:
Some moments can become part of our lives forever. Loving traditions handed down from generation to generation. Like the Lenox China Jewels Nativity Collection.™ A grouping of ivory fine china figurines to lovingly collect or give piece by piece. Each is beautifully detailed in gold and accented with hand enameling.
We bought this Lenox Jewels Nativity at an estate sale home belonging to a woman who loved to decorate for every holiday. Rooms overflowed with items for Christmas, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Easter, Independence Day, and Valentine’s Day.
Here’s the set we have:
The Lenox Jewels Nativity Collection is unique because of its enamel jeweling and 24 Karat gold accents, painstakingly applied by hand.
These next photos come from Replacements.com because they show the wonderful artistry in detail:
Each figure in our collection is carefully wrapped, and comes with a styrofoam box that sits in a cardboard box. It’s quite compact:
One final shot of the Nativity displayed in our booth, although today it’s moving to the front of the store so that guests will see it as soon as they come in the door.
We’re running as fast as we can to present Christmas decor. This white Musical Church is only the beginning. Instead of hunting down presents, this year we’re trying our best to stock our space with Christmas cheer. Have a look at some unusual holiday decorations in our booth at Avonlea Antiques and Design Gallery.
White Musical Church
I found this church — it’s big, approximately 16 inches — stashed in the garage at an estate sale. In addition to the usual odds and ends, the company running the sale shoved various damaged and inexpensive items into the garage to free up space inside. It doesn’t always happen, but sometimes you can find a diamond in the rough. This little church needed plenty of TLC, but his music box plays Silent Night in the most beautiful tone.
We used Annie Sloan’s Pure White Chalk Paint to brighten him up, and sprinkled a bag of white ice glitter over his roof, windowsills, steps, and base. David sprayed artificial snow on a couple of new Christmas trees. Gold glitter went on the cross and bell tower.
He’s quite sturdy. I like to think the original builder poured love into his creation. We changed out the red lightbulb to a soft white to shine through the red-glittered windows.
White Ceramic Christmas Tree
I prefer the white ceramic Christmas trees to the green and stay on the lookout for them all year long. David and Michael brought this one home just the other day. I need to purchase a few bulbs to complete the set, but then this beauty is ready to go into our booth at Avonlea Antiques and Design Gallery.
Miniature Christmas House
We still have this realistic house-in-a-box that is back in the booth. Whoever made it paid enormous attention to detail. I’m sure this year it will find a loving home.
Avonlea’s Train Display
This next display isn’t in our booth. David helped create this charming winter scene, complete with train set and trolley, at the front of the Avonlea Antiques. He spent days immersed in this project, and it’s gorgeous. Shoppers find themselves admiring the intricacies of the village built on three-levels as the train cheerily puffs along.
Don’t forget ‘Flip the Switch’ is happening this afternoon at 4pm! The official opening of this year’s Avonleadale, model train and Department 56 village, will be taking place.All Charity donations this year will be going to Wolfson Children’s Hospital.
For those of you inquiring, the mountain backdrop was painted by Georgina Kerr, one of Avonlea’s owners.
Thanksgiving Thoughts: This is the day of preparations — traveling to see family and friends, last-minute grocery shopping, baking delicious creations — because tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day. I want to extend my gratitude to our customers, readers of my blog, and those who pin these words of encouragement on Pinterest.
A big thank you goes to Mary Beth Shaw of StencilGirl Productions for her artwork. Mary Beth shared a few pieces of her art and I’m thrilled to use them with this week’s motivational thoughts.
Today I’m quoting a musician, writer, and surfer, all currently living. Here we go:
Yo-Yo Ma, acclaimed cellist and songwriter, U.N Messenger of Peace. 1955 –
Passion is one great force that unleashes creativity, because if you’re passionate about something, then you’re more willing to take risks. Yo-Yo Ma
Joan Didion, American author. 1934 –
To free us from the expectations of others, to give us back to ourselves–there lies the great, singular power of self-respect. Joan Didion
Bethany Hamilton, American professional surfer who survived a 2003 shark attack. 1990 –
Courage, sacrifice, determination, commitment, toughness, heart, talent, guts. That’s what little girls are made of. Bethany Hamilton
Melanie Alexander of Lost and Found promptly supplied me with Little Speckled Frog, part of Fusion Mineral Paint’s Tones for Tots Collection. Unforeseen delays — like Hurricane Matthew — postponed completion of my Little Froggy Chest.
I’m tickled by the names in this collection: Little Whale, Little Speckled Frog, Little Lamb, Little Stork, Little Piggy, Little Teapot, and Little Star. Anyway, Tones for Tots is made with babies and young children in mind. According to Fusion Mineral Paint —
Our Paint is lead free, phlalate free, formaldehyde free, ammonia free, virtually odourless and is Zero VOC.
A few months ago I painted this curvy, feminine French Provincial chest with Fusion’s Tones for Tots Little Piggy. It sold within 5 days.
Let’s see if lightning strikes twice. This piece seemed a perfect candidate for another Tones for Tots color. It’s small stature and strong lines will enhance any nursery or child’s room.
As you can see, the original burl wood was gorgeous. Sadly, we quickly realized we couldn’t save it. The veneer had too many chips and scrapes — and you know David goes to heroic lengths to save wood. Check out the original hardware, a gorgeous and complete set of Bakelite drop pulls that I replaced.
Here’s a detail of his top:
Gothic Clover Stencil
I added a modest amount of decoration. The design needed to be simple and appropriate for either a boy or girl’s bedroom. A Gothic Clover stencil won out.
I pushed the VP Antico, a synthetic plaster by Artisan Enhancements, through the stencil, which stretched across two drawers. Two thin layers. Once the final layer dried, David scored it with a razor along the drawer lines. There were a few chips, but I did some touch-up painting and the clover looks fine.
I painted the Gothic Clover stencil with a mixture of Annie Sloan’s Old White and Pearl Plaster by Artisan Enhancements. My Pearl Plaster jar was almost empty, so I wanted to use it up. The new knobs came from World Market.
Believe me, it’s difficult to get an exact match when presenting the paint sample and the finished product. I’ve made several adjustments to get as close as possible.
So, here’s Little Froggy — just waiting for something in our booth to sell so he can take his rightful place. I have no doubt he can stand his ground amid all that Mid-Century Modern.
Thanks for stopping by, and be sure to leave a comment. We love those.