Sunday, July 21, 2013

One of the fastest and most satisfying ways to change the look and feel of an old, creaky dresser into a piece of wonder without the hassle of paint, primer, tape, sanding, layers of work and time is simply to replace outdated or ill fitting hardware.

This lovely vintage highboy had already been updated a number of years ago with a bright teal coat of paint, but the knobs fit a different d├ęcor. The modern wood ones had simple, clean Scandinavian lines, but in a more cottage style room the simple modern lines of the knobs didn’t gel. And the smaller, older knobs on the accessory drawers, one of which was missing, were of another vintage era entirely.

New knobs, in a simple, classic, yet detailed style in an antique pewter finish were ordered online on eBay for $1.80 each plus $5.95 flat shipping. It took less 10 minutes to swap them out all the pulls and for the dresser to take on a more cohesive, classic, yet still custom and charismatic look.

In this project we went with a more traditional style, but it's definitely worth it to be creative. You can go on Etsy shops like Kimberly Maston Art & Design and find custom made one of a kind knobs or find original vintage knobs from any era on eBay.

$21.60 for 12 knobs
$5.95 shipping
$27.55 Total

10 minutes plus shopping time

Friday, July 13, 2012

In progress...

Just a quick hello to let everyone know that this blog has *not* been abandoned...but it is in transition.  I'm actually in the process of setting it up separately as a more online magazine's a bit slow going but hope to have it up in the next couple months.

The site will be  Only a placeholder there for now...

So please bookmark the new page...and/or this one....and stay tuned for further Restore Restyle adventures!!


Monday, March 26, 2012

Favorite Junk: Victorian Copies of Sir Walter Scott's Lady of the Lake and Marmion

When I was 14 I became a bibliophile.

Victorian copies of Sir Walter Scott's Lady of the Lake and Marmion.
Favorite Junk:  The Lady of the Lake and Marmion
One afternoon my parents took us to a book sale at the local public library and in among the paperbacks and other ex-libris stamped hardbacks were some vintage books that had been donated to help raise funds for the library.  And among this pile were two of the most beautiful books I'd ever seen - copies of Sir Walter Scott's Lady of the Lake and Marmion.  I had already loved reading, but these books started a passion that has never waned.

Oh, and they were only $5.  At 14, I was already an accomplished garage saler and junk store junkie and bargain hunter. Even then, I knew a deal when I saw one. And couldn't resist.

My parents have always been great readers and encouraged us from a young age as well, allowing us to stay up and read instead of turning our light out.  Bedtime was at 8, but we could read until 8:30.  What a great privilege.

Ah, moody poetry (from Lady of the Lake)
But this was different.  The glossy brown covers and shiny gold leaf on the edging were elegant and fancy and as I was at that age obsessed with Victoriana of all sorts, they were the perfect starting point for what at times is really just a compulsion to collect....possibly even hoard...books.  I later received a copy of A Gentle Madness a history of book collecting and it talked about how being a bibliophile is a lifelong "problem."  While I now have to temper my "madness" by avoiding picking up antique books at boot sales, every once in a while I get weak.  It's not about reading them.  Sometimes.  But in many ways books our our companions, our friends and having a room filled with them....well, I long for a library like Henry Higgins' in My Fair Lady.  Just to sit all day in the company of books is a lovely thing.

These two elegant ladies started my gentle madness and were one of the first things put into the box of "must takes" when I moved to the U.K.  I look at them and they still make me smile and I love them just as much as I did that day in the library 25 years ago...

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Food Features: Experimental Cooking: Feta and Pepper Stuffed Chicken

Creative Cooking:  Feta & Pepper Stuffed
Chicken Thighs
I've lately been in a New York state of mind, remembering the lovely times living in New York (forgetting, of course, the not so fun things like humidity and long subway rides).  One thing I loved was the Greek chicken kebabs from the street vendors in Astoria.  I've never been able to get the seasoning right, but it inspired me to do a little Greek-inspired stuffed chicken adventure.

The ingredients were 6 chicken thigh filets, about 1/2 cup of feta cheese (1/2 a pack), one red pepper, chopped finely, half an onion, 1/2 cup mayonnaise, juice from half a lemon and about 2 tablespoons of pre-chopped garlic (yes, I'm that lazy).   Everything got mixed together in a bowl and I added salt, pepper and about 1 teaspoon each of dried parsley and basil.

"Filling" the Chicken With the Mixture
I "filled" each filet with the stuffing, wrapped them closed as much as possible and stuck them together on the pan.  After all were done, I drizzled with olive oil, sprinkled them with salt and more garlic and cooked them for about 25 mins at 160 C (about 320 F).  When they looked cooked through, I gave them another 5 minutes under the broiler/grill to give them a little more color.

This was FANTASTIC.  The tanginess of the feta and lemon juice really came through, setting off the savory meat and the sweetness of the pepper.  The chicken was juicy and moist still. In serving I topped the chicken with the bits of pepper and feta that had fallen out in cooking as well as a little of the juice.  I was mopping up the sauce with my bits of broccoli.  Definitely a winner!

Friday, March 2, 2012

Repurposed & Renewed: 1920s/30s Deco Style Oak Dining Chair

1920s/1930s vintage Deco oak dining chair in need of recovering and a little TLC.
This '20s/'30s dining chair has good bones,
but needs a little love...
So many times I've passed by a chair at a flea market, ratty but with good bones, and thought, "If only that was reupholstered, it would be fantastic." I toy with the idea of an upholstery class with grand visions of myself picking up old Edwardian reading chairs at a steal, recovering them and returning them to their former state of furniture gloriousness.

While that is still at this point a junker's future dream, I have gotten quite adept at basic dining chair seat reupholstery. I've done a couple more complicated ones that wrapped around the wood, but really love best the simple dining chair seats that you pop out, recover and presto, the chair starts to sing again!

Case in point: this lovely '20s/'30's dining chair that I got for a bargain £10 at the charity shop. Tucked away, lonely in the corner of the tiny men's section, it didn't have a price tag on it, but when I asked they said, yes, it was for sale. It was £15 but if I wanted it I could have it for £10.

Yes please!

The chair is of sturdy, traditional oak, but has some really lovely deco details like the curved carving of the back panel and the rolled edges of the legs in the front. Also the side rails of the seat frame have a slight, purposeful bow to them, bending a little as if to blend with the contour of its human sitter.  Not necessary for functionality but a lovely touch.

The only problem? The nasty pleather seat covering. Ugh.

Handy canine "helper" optional.
But, luckily, as "restorations" go, this is one of the easiest fixes. A bit of sturdy fabric, a hammer or screwdriver to pull out old nails and staples, and a staple gun to hold everything new on and you're set!  Let the renovation commence!

First, the seat came out easily. Sometimes they're screwed in, but in this case the seat was snugly fitted sans screws into the frame.

Next up is deciding whether to keep on the existing fabric or not. If the original fabric is just threadbare and of nicer quality, I do sometimes leave it on the chair to give it an extra layer and to help hold the padding together. In this case, as its current fake leather covering was slippery and could cause the new fabric to wear strangely, it had to come off.

Yanking the fabric off with the nails still in
the wood...remove as many as possible before continuing
If I know that I don't want to keep the old fabric, as in this case, I usually just rip the old seat covering off and then pick out the upholstery tacks later. You do want to remove as many of the tacks or nails that you can as those could snag or weaken your fabric.  If you want to keep the original fabric, carefully pick out the tacks as best you can with a hammer end or screwdriver.

Once that's done, lay the seat down face up and drape your new fabric over the padding. Take the time to place the fabric on the seat exactly as you want the pattern to fall on the chair when finished. Then carefully turn everything over so the fabric is face down.

Pull the fabric taut before stapling to make sure you
keep out any bunches or wrinkles
The rest now is more or less like wrapping a package. On one of the longer sides, place a staple or two in the center of the bar. Then, on the opposite side of the frame, pull the fabric taut and add staples there. Do the same thing for the two other sides of the frame.

At this point, pick up the frame and do a quick check on the "front" to make sure the fabric looks like it's laying well and there are no buckles or loose bits. This is your chance to pick out a couple staples and start over if you're not happy, but if all looks good, turn the frame back over.

Knowing that everything looks good on the front, I now usually trim excess fabric from around the edges. I leave a couple inches still for safety, but I cut off anything more than that in order to keep the bulk out of the way.  Continue stapling the sides. Each you staple, first pull the fabric taut to make sure you're keeping everything smooth. Not too hard, but keep it nice and firm.  Staple all the edges until about 3" from each corner.

The corners can be tricky and each chair seat varies based on its shape. I've done varying folds depending on the chair, but each time I do a corner they end up slightly different.  I can't offer a great professional technique here as I tend to just wing it, but do decide ahead of time where you want the corner seam to be and then start folding, again like a package or origami, until you get it nice, clean corner.
Step 1: Pull the fabric taut on the chair seat and staple.
Step 1: Pull taut and staple

That said, generally I do what I would call a two fold corner. 

First, pull one side out and flat and staple the inside securely (step 1).

Second, fold back the other side halfway and staple (step 2). 
Step 32: Fold halfway and staple.
Step 2: Fold halfway and staple

Finally fold the second side all the way over and staple (step 3).  It should give you a nice, relatively clean corner.

Some chairs you might want to use decorative upholstery tacks if the corners will be visible, but for an inset chair seat like this, a basic neat corner stapling will do nicely.

Step 3: putting the final fold.
Step 3: The final fold and staple
When the corners are done, trim any more excess material from around the edges, if there is any left, to make sure that there won't be trails of fabric hanging down underneath the chair when the seat is replaced. Turn it back over and hurrah!  Your new, lovely, upholstered seat is done!

Easy tip: Use an old orphan sock to apply the beeswax!
A use for your orphan socks!
As this chair had been sitting in the corner gathering dust and seemingly quite lonely, I decided to give it a nice coat of beeswax. Using a leftover sock, I generously applied it over the chair, especially rubbing it in in places where the finish seemed worn.

Think of beeswax as shoe polish for don't want to cover it with big glops of goo, but you do want to give it all a nice, even layer. Let it dry for a little bit - I usually leave it about 30 minutes - then with another clean sock buff the beeswax off.  Beeswax is great because it's not tinted and leaves just the smallest of shines.  It's not intended to make the wood seem highly polished or sparkly, but simply to protect it and make the wood look healthier.

Finally, pop the seat back in and see your "new" old chair sparkle!
A beautiful restoration result of this vintage 20's deco oak chair!
Now that's a beauty!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Treasure Hunt: Vintage Arabia of Finland Dinner Plates

Vintage 1960's Arabia of Finland dinner plates with black and white floral design.
Treasure Hunt: A pair of vintage
Arabia of Finland dinner plates
A huge part of the fun and excitement, for me, of strolling through antique stores and charity shops is the idea, the hope, and once in a juicy while, the reality of stumbling across an item priced at a steal that you know is worth a lot more...especially when other people obviously don't.  Case in point:  these two Arabia of Finland vintage dinner plates.

As the daughter of a native Finn, I grew up around various Finnish brands, all well known in Finland but some more obscure elsewhere than others.  Iittala, Hackman, Marimekko, Aarikka, Fiskars and Arabia were both the wares of the everyman and also the fine glass, kitchenware, cloth and clothing, jewelry, scissors and cutlery, and dishware (respectively) that you collected and coveted.  Not to mention Nokia.  I had Nokia rubber boots as a child - yes, that started off as a rubber factory.  But I digress...

To me those brands are second nature and I know their collectable value, but to many people in old Blighty, Arabia plates are no more special than the ones you get at Sainsbury's or Target.

And because of that, I nabbed a bargain!

These two vintage Arabia plates were at the local charity shop for £0.99 each!  That's right, folks.  £1.98 for the two, the equivalent of about $3.50!!

So what?

Well, most Arabia plates, even modern ones in the junk shops in Finland, rarely get sold for less than few euros each.  If you look on eBay, most vintage ones sell at least in the £10-£20 range for a single plate.  Obviously they go for more depending on the pattern and the style.  Arabia made both basic, work horse plates for daily use and fine china, so the prices will significantly vary. 

Arabia of Finland maker's mark from 1964 to 1971
Arabia of Finland maker's mark - used from 1964-1971
While I have not been able to identify the pattern specifically, there have been various factory maker's marks Arabia has used over its 139 years and the one stamped on the back of these plates dates from 1964 to 1971.  The style and shape of the plates appears to coincide with that date as well.  There is a rice grain-sized firing mark in one of the plates - a small flaw on the plate that occurred in the kiln during the firing process.  You know it's a firing mark because it's under the original glaze, not a flaw that happened afterwards.  But otherwise both plates are in very good condition.

In recent years, some of the main Finnish brands, including Fiskars, Hackman, Iittala and Arabia, have joined forces and become part of the Fiskars Group conglomerate.  The lines that used to define the brands have somewhat blurred - you'll now find Iittala cutlery as well as glass and Arabia glassware as well as dishes, but the group's quality is maintained.  For someone who's into modern, Scandinavian design, all of these brands are worth a second look.

And definitely worth my £2!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Favorite Junk: Traditional British Pudding Bowls

Traditional British pudding bowls or pudding basins, vintage and modern
Favorite Junk: Pudding Bowls
Of the many things I've come to love since moving to England, one that has become almost an obsession, is my collection of pudding bowls.  Pudding in the U.K. is used to mean any dessert, not just the typical American Jello-O pudding, but specifically pudding bowls, sometimes called pudding basins, were traditionally used for steaming various cake-type desserts, like a traditional English Christmas pudding.  The batter was poured into the bowl, wrapped and steamed instead of baking.

Ginger syrup steamed pudding recipe
A ginger syrup steamed pudding
I picked up a couple originally at a boot sale for a few pounds each and since then it's become almost a problem.  I have eight of them so far...I love the elegant, clean lines as well as their usefulness, stackability and practicality.  There are slight variations in shape and ornamentation depending on the makers, but they all serve the same purpose.

There are a number of traditional makers of pudding bowls, two best known being T.G. Green and Mason Cash.  While you can get modern ones....and in my collection are a number of each, the largest one in particular being a Mason Cash....I do prefer the ones that show a little aging and quirkiness.

T.G. Green and Mason Cash pudding bowls or pudding basins stacked together with a vintage wooden sieve
A medium T.G. Green stacked inside a larger Mason Cash
paired with some old wooden sieves...
There are many variations as well - a couple weeks ago at a flea market I stumbled on a vintage one marked for the British shop Fortnum and Mason, and I've seen many in the style of Cornish ware, the traditional blue and white striped dishes.  So far I've held out for the shades of cream, ivory and beige in the basic simple style, but if the problem never know....