Wednesday, March 2, 2011

If you love something, polish it

When I was planning the room we were going to decorate for our children, I knew I wanted a big, heavy chest of drawers. Something to hold all their clothes, something too high to climb on and too heavy to pull over (I have lively children, can you tell?!). I knew it wasn't going to come from a chain store, much as a well-known Swedish chain has come up trumps on a number of occasions for us. We were trying to work out how we could arrange to get to an auction house for a viewing, buy something and transport it back here with two little ones in the car with us when my mother in law pointed something out. The farm she has moved to, a huge, beautiful, half Tudor, half Victorian place which has been home to her new husband's family for four generations, was at one point in its deeply ingrained history been home to ten people. All those lives lived have left a certain amount of debris in their wake and as a result there are whole rooms full of furniture that is never used- dressing tables, wash stands and chests of drawers. With retirement on the horizon and no-one to take on the tenancy, the house will have to be cleared. As my mother-in-law pointed out, it made sense for us to give a home to one of these great lumps of what could otherwise end up firewood, landfill or charity shop donation. She didn't have to ask twice.
I will draw a veil over the efforts needed to get this beauty to our house. Suffice to say, while the room was being decorated it sat, slightly sadly, in our garage, still wearing the layer of dust and paint speckles it had gathered through its wilderness years in storage. One drawer knob resided inside the drawer, its fixing long gone. Two of the runners on its nevertheless solid, if simply constructed drawers were off or nearly off. My mother in law asked my reassurance that I'd measured the space it was going into and that I'd be painting it in a nice light shade. I could promise her the former at least!
It wasn't exactly a pretty sight, even I had to admit, but a combination of sentimentality about the unique spirit and history of the home it had come from and something inexplicable meant that I was already in love. It was time for a makeover.
I began by lining the drawers, using some shirt stripe wallpaper I'd been given a roll of some years back. This was reasonably simple, although not helped by the, ahem, 'unique' features of each drawer, where the measurements at the back didn't match the measurements at the back. I found that glue stick was the best way to fix the paper into the drawer bases.
Fixing the runners back on was just a simple matter of strong wood glue. Then I added a rubbing of candlewax to help them run a bit smoother. The knob presented more of a problem, as although the inside of the knob had a thread, there wasn't much chance of finding a wooden screw to match. Instead, I cut a short piece of dowel that fitted the hole snugly and added a little wood glue to help it out. The hold in the drawer was slightly larger, so I used matchsticks to help wedge the end of the dowel tightly, along with more wood glue. It doesn't exactly look pretty, but it does the job of keeping the knob fixed tight.
Finally it was time to polish. I'm one of those slightly obtuse individuals who really enjoys polishing. I find a lot of housework frustrating as it feels like as soon as you finish it's time to begin again. However, polishing gives an almost instant, gratifying result with a bit of staying power. Not to mention how soothing it is, in a knitting/kneading bread/handsewing kind of way.
The finished result (which does fit the space, by the way!) is still slightly battered, slightly paint speckled. But it holds all the children's clothes, is safe from their climbing instincts, has heart and soul and I love it!

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