Most of us have a few pieces of furniture in our home that have a “past”. Those special pieces should be a part of the spaces we love, in our homes. Incorporating the “old” with the “new” is a great way to approach your home furnishing challenges. Let those special pieces “wow” your family and friends. Let them be a conversation piece that tells a story. It may be an old portrait in a grand frame, your dad’s table, your grandmother’s rocking chair, or an old clock. Let them be the “jewelry” of your home and tell your unique story.
I have an old farm dining table built by a young man for his growing family, around 1905. As a young girl during the WWI era, my grandmother ate at that gathering table, her father built it himself. She later acquired the gathering table as a hand-me-down. Long ago, this special table was relegated to the back porch in the home she and my grandfather made. It served their family well as a work table, support for the garden produce or anything that just happened to land on it.
As their family’s needs changed, the table was pushed out to the Milking Parlor and sat in one of the enclosed storage rooms. As a young boy on that same farm, my brothers and sister remember spreading the early-summer Irish potato crop on top of the table in that dark room at the end of the building. Year after year, the same ritual occurred. I vividly remember noticing the straight lines and the mitered corners of the “potato table” even as a young fellow.
That dark room was a safe place for this table until I took it to my home in the early 1990’s. We all thought of it as filthy old table, but a good work and storage space! We saw it as old, worn, and nasty. So once again, it was now used for our kids’ toys, gardening supplies and tools. But, if we had just realized the patina from 85 years of garden soil, dust, and goodness knows what else, helped that living growing piece of wood remain.
Finally in 2012, after some prodding from my wife to work on the table, back to the farm and the milking barn it went, but this time it was going to get some TLC! It took several hours, out of more than several weeks, to gently remove the years of built up experiences from the four wide pine boards. As I worked, I watched the table… a new and different personality emerged. I found remnants of the original white-wash finish on the tapered legs and apron. The pine surface was rich and brightly veined, marred with the stains from years of potatoes and garden work performed. After many weeks of sanding, several splinters, and layers of finishing, the 100+ year old, 40” X 72”, dining table was quite a specimen. I decided to white-wash and rub the pine veins back through on the legs and apron, to give it a more updated look.
The finished piece is now in our casual dining room! We decided to add a banquette and 4 antique chairs which are of the same time period, all covered in a neutral muslin fabric. From here at Furnitureland South. I added a colorful patch wool rug in the room. With a couple of reclaimed wood sideboard pieces from Dovetail and the room was complete!
Friends and family come by and comment on the rich wood that is the “potato table” from so many years ago. It seems to invite us all to sit down and enjoy and touch the beautiful color of the pine surface. We reflect upon its sordid past and know that it has a new life again!
Gary Walker | Furnitureland South Design Consultant
336.822.3000 ext 2606