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My Modern Country Living

How to Redesign an Antique – A Look Into Our History

We have had readers ask us how we do a redesign and what does that mean.  When John and I first started out, John made furniture from scratch and we placed his pieces in a brick and mortar store in which we used a space.  But our love was in antiques. We continued to haunt antique shops in Ireland and here in Ohio.

One day we went to an estate sale. There, John found Vintage Treadle Sewing Machines and he fell in love with the look and mechanics in the base.  The tops on the old machines were in poor shape: wood brittle, veneers chipped, pieces missing. Some had old broken rusted machines inside; others did not.

He knew he could not restore them but he began to think he could make something out of the pieces.

He started making various tables; with and without cabinets, drawers, wine racks and placing them into the cast iron bases.  He made new frames for the old drawers and created box sets, saving as much of the old frames as possible. John has an eye for looking at something broken or out of fashion and “redesigning” the essence of the piece.  He just makes it better or into something new. Thus we became Redesigned Antiques. Now that concept remains a part of our new business framework.

Redesign

For us, in a redesign, John takes an antique something and remakes it as something unintended; repurposed. A good example is seen in the vintage sewing machine tables. John takes the cast iron bases of the machine and makes a wooden top, or he takes the sewing machine drawers and makes them into curio boxes.

We have this wine table kitchen island for sale in our shop. We also have a beautiful blue gray glazed table with top cabinet on a black sewing machine base for sale.  You should check out this old White sewing machine base redesigned into a neat coffee table with floral decals coming soon. We also have two drawer curio box that makes a great coffee pod or tea bag holder.

Restore

The other redesign occurs when we find an item- usually, an authenticate antique which has been damaged and no longer fit for purpose.  This is a Restore. John then takes the broken bit and recreates missing pieces almost restoring it. John had done a few true full restorations, and that’s a different kettle of fish and very intense.

The Gentleman’s Table

The gentlemen’s table below is a restoration.  The finish was marred in one place and John mixed stain to fix the scratch, did a light French polish on the entire finish and restored the piece.  A gentleman’s travelling table has a pullout on the top which is a solid sheet of wood. The pull out is used as a writing table. Below the top pull out is a series of drawers for clothing, paper, whatever.  These chests were placed on trains and carriages- part of the luggage as a gentleman travelled. We found this item in an estate sale.

The next restoration was a find at our local antique source.  On the corners of Massillon Rd and Rte 619 in the City of Green, there is a man who sells antiques and collectibles.  He has a house and a barn full of great stuff. We have been going there for years. Mr. Carr has become a friend and John will sometimes repair a piece or two for him.  One time when John was looking for broken furniture to repair or salvage, he made a real find.

There was an Empire mahogany games table in two pieces.  The lyre base had broken from the top. John was able to repair and restore the finish on that piece.  It now sits in our living room, so we can enjoy this great piece.

Biggest Challenges Restoring Antiques

The biggest jobs that challenged John’s carpentry skills were actually found in Ireland.  One was a Victorian dressing table.

We have a great picker in Ireland we use, Pat Neville.  John found an old Victorian Empire Dressing table. These are huge pieces of furniture and most are made of solid old mahogany.  John loves the intricate carvings on these. He was able to repair the broken mirror assembly and replace the glass. We sold this too quickly and too cheaply to a woman who wanted to give it to her daughter for her 16th birthday.  The woman owned a large old farmhouse and the bedrooms in that old Georgian house are large enough for a piece this big. Apparently, her daughter just loved it.

The Mahogany Tabletop

But the next piece was even more of a challenge.  The little library table had been out in the weather for a few rain storms and the top was completely destroyed.

John collects wood and has for years. So he had enough mahogany to make a new tabletop for the piece.  The bottom was restorable except for a missing finial doodad. John made one to match the missing babble and you cannot tell the difference.  He sold this within a week.


I must say that John really enjoyed working on those old pieces!

Today, we no longer have space in a brick and mortar store, we sell our work online now   John has expanded his repertoire. He makes furniture from scratch, repairs old furniture pieces, he designed a line of high-end keepsake and jewellery boxes, and helps me paint furniture and frame art pieces.  I have gotten into painted furniture, pebble and mixed media art. I write a blog for our new website- Wood’N Whimsey which reflects our joined expanded product lines and interests. And I still dabble in Genealogy research.

We Do Custom Restores and Redesign Antiques

If you request a special order, John will look at and give an estimate on repairing or restoring your antique.

Thanks for visiting.  Leave a comment and let me know if you like antiques or repurposing old pieces.

Take good care

Talk soon

Dee

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