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We are unpacking and putting together things we bought a year and a half ago when we were rebuilding our house in Idaho. Some things fit fine others not at all. Mostly, the things we are unpacking are a bit off. A friend once said, running his hand over our antique cherry kitchen table, that it “felt like Jessye Norman’s voice.” When I run my hands over the surfaces of our furniture it just does not feel right.

Nothing can replace our antique furniture we, and my mom collected over 50 years. Even the reproduction pieces we had are expensive to replace. Like so many of our antiques, our furniture was found in junk stores, out-of-the-way auctions, ebay or inherited. Our Jessye Norman table was found on the side of the road at a garage sale in New England. Knowing we could not replace what we had, we had planned to save out some money to travel to New England where my spouse’s antiques business partner is and go hunting for some key pieces for our new house. When we chose to move to Montana we ended up with less money than had we stayed in Idaho because of rebuilding and buying new land here and a host of other arcane reasons that are disaster related. All of our planned furniture funds went into the house. We have a functional but not attractive to us furniture.

After working so hard to build the house as I started unpacking all of the flat box furniture that was OK as accents but not for the whole furnishings I was getting sad. My heart was heavy because I could not figure out how to dress the house with the same care as we had built it. We have wonderful semi-antique Persian rugs and with that as the base not a whole lot can go wrong but when I surveyed the collection of what we had things could be better. There were no Jessye Norman tables.

I grabbed the sander and had at it. I took several pieces down to the bare wood and started over. Things are looking up! I have been able to make “antique” furniture out of box store furniture. When we picked things we were looking for price and for good lines. All of this is better than the usual particle board but some of it is made from mystery wood. closeup of table top showing hand-scraped texture with distressed finish

The table that got put into place today was a nicely shaped half-round console table that someone decided to make look like it was a hand-scraped floor with burn marks on it is me. It was the table that threw me over the edge. I had no idea it would look like what it did. I reminded myself that I had only paid $118.34 with free shipping so I could not be too upset. Still, it made me sad. The picture is one I snapped when I was partly through sanding it down to smooth, bare wood.

This picture is of the new version of the table. Quite a change. It misses the mark as a Jessye Norman table but it is a solid table. It is not as fine as the one it replaces but the lines are good and it made us both happy to see. half-round table sitting in front of window with blue china lamp and bowl of fruit on itIt took a bit of patience since I sanded it down twice, put 5 coats of stain and 5 coats of polyurethane finish. The new smooth top has a nice shine to it. We put one of the Waterford crystal bowls I found in a box lot at an auction on the table. It has tomatoes and onions in it since we don’t have a fruit basket in the kitchen yet.

I am rebuilding semi-antique dining chairs we bought off of ebay. There is some frame repair along with re-gluing and reupholstering the seats. The dining table is one we bought like we did the console, for its basic shape and its value. We paid a couple of hundred dollars for a monstrously heavy wood dining table that seats up to 10 people. When we took it out of the box the finish had gotten damaged during shipping or moving. And, it was a black brown that was an awful match to our new-old chairs. Off I go again. I told our excavator that I never put anything together without tearing it apart first.

The dining room table is going to be a lot of trouble but I am looking forward to having it. We have never had a strong table that people felt OK sitting around. We have either had rickety tables, most of our lives, or a very fine table I inherited from my mom. She found the table at a factory seconds and even though it was out of round she loved it and so did we. Getting a replacement table like it is out of the question but I can match the finish style with our new two hundred dollar table.

I had not anticipated refinishing to refurnish our house. It is OK though. Learning furniture from the wood up, step by step teaches you about that piece. When I run my hands over the surface of a piece I can feel how it will be incorporated into our lives. I can imagine running my hand over the surface of our console table when it gets dusty and I don’t have time to grab a dust cloth. I can imagine changing the decorations on the table top to match the seasons. I can imagine moving it from one place to another as the things in our house change. I can imagine moving across the room so we can have the Christmas tree in front of the widow. Maybe after years of people running their hands over it it will feel like a Jessye Norman table.

Today, I run my hands over the surface of the newly finished table and I can imagine a future with our furniture.