I know it’s been awhile since I’ve posted here. I don’t have any real good excuses for my absence other than life interrupting my fun!
Although its been quiet around here, I wanted to tell you about this beautiful antique vanity I was able to refurbish and give many more years of life to.
I continue to scour places like Goodwill looking for forgotten pieces waiting for my attention. If the piece is vintage, I’ll grab it as fast as I can as was the case when I spied an old vanity on a trip one afternoon. It was scratched and dirty and had peeling veneer. This particular Chippendale design was very popular in the 1950’s – 60’s and the type my parents had in their home. It caught my eye because it reminded me of furniture from my childhood.
I’m sure other customers in the store walked by it thinking it was nothing more than an old piece of junk and not much use. The price certainly reflected that because it was marked only $8.00! As soon as I saw it, my heart skipped a beat! I ran my hand over it, noticing all the scratches and as I bent down I saw the veneer had started to peel on the legs and some pieces of veneer were missing entirely. Too late! I was smitten and I knew it had to come home with me!
I also noticed it still had the original hardware on all the drawers . Any repairs that were needed were all cosmetic. I walked around the back of it and there on the back panel was the maker’s mark stamped, “The Northcourt Group By Drexel”.
Once I brought it home, I did a little further research and found the original newspaper advertisement for the set this piece belonged to. The newspaper ad was dated 1949 and the retail price was $131.50! Looking at the picture I could see that originally, it had a separate mirror that hung above it.
Once I got it home, I thought of how I wanted it to look and settled on a stained top with a white painted body.
After a thorough cleaning and vacuuming, I sanded the top to try to smooth out as many of the scratch marks as I could without compromising the veneer.
This was beautiful mahogany wood and I decided to stain the top using a mixture of Antique Walnut and Java gel stain from General Finishes.
The deeper brown was beautiful and the rich grain of the wood shone through beautifully. I used several coats of an oil varnish to seal the top. Since I had to peel off a lot of the veneer along the legs I knew staining might be problematic with the underlying wood, so I opted to paint the rest of it. I used Annie Sloan Old White and clear wax.
If a piece of furniture has original hardware, typically I like to keep it on the furniture. I knew the hardware was original and I wanted to bring it back to its original brass finish so I tried soaking them in vinegar and salt but the tarnish barely budged.
After trying several methods to clean them, I ended up having the most luck with brass polish and a lot of elbow grease! I was able to get them to a shiny bright brass. I also decided not to spray lacquer the hardware but instead leave them to tarnish naturally.
Finally, I was able to clean inside the drawers with a product I ordered from The Furniture Connoisseur called, Carcass Cleaner. This is a wonderful product for older furniture pieces that need to be refreshed. It is an orange oil and beeswax mixture. I used a foam brush and applied it to the inside of all the drawers. It leaves a very strong but pleasant orange scent that dissipates a little over time. It is great for reviving dry wood as both the oil and the beeswax are left to nourish and protect the wood. The added orange scent is perfect for refreshing musty drawers. The inside of the drawers now look brand new and smell great!
Once I finished painting, waxing and attaching the hardware, the vanity or desk as I now like to think of it, was ready for its beauty shot.
I am so happy with the final result! For anyone who doesn’t understand the price we put on these vintage pieces when we resell them, please consider the hours of labor that go into each piece. I now have a better understanding and respect for why hand rubbed furniture is more expensive. There is a lot of time, thought and effort that goes into reloving these beauties! It is well worth the price asked!
I’m glad I was able to keep the beautiful vintage integrity intact. Updating solid furniture like this one is a labor of love.