The Furniture Refurbisher: Willett Table

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Refurbished mid-century modern console table from Willett Furniture

If you’re in the habit of writing off every piece of furniture you see at a garage sale, auction, estate sale or at your local second-hand store, then this post is going to make you think again. Just the other day I was out deal-hunting at an estate-sale for something that I could put in my entryway for holding keys and such, when I stumbled upon this beauty tucked beneath a pile of worn-in children’s clothes and a blender:

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Experience the thrill of the FIND!

OK, maybe it doesn’t look that beautiful in the picture, but this is a classic piece from the Willett Furniture Company which, until it went defunct in 1962, made and sold some truly amazing furniture. Back when this solid-cherry rarity was made in 1957, it cost $105 and would take weeks for it to be delivered because of the company’s special seven-step finishing process. Today though, original Willett pieces can be worth over $1,000 to collectors. And now, right there before me, was an original Willett.

When I recognized the piece for what it is, I broke into a sweat and tried to subtly inquire the nearest seller about the price. I hid my excitement by casually commenting about the weather and verbally noting how high gas prices are getting. THEN I asked about the table. Even though I’m not planning on flipping the piece, if the seller caught onto my excitement then that could spell trouble. After all, there’s a lot of money at stake!

The price I ended up paying for it was far below $250 and I happily took it home. I remake of this same piece would cost around $2,000, so I was reasonably happy. I didn’t want to flip it because I love the look of it and am probably going to hold onto it for a while. However, the piece did need to be refurbished, which quite frankly, I dreaded. I had never done so before, but after spending an hour or so researching and then a weekend doing the actual project itself, I was ready to go. Turns out it was easier than I thought it would be!

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The ubiquitous before shot. You may want to put down a tarp before setting to work.

  1. First, I removed the hardware, and then I had to get all that dust off of there. I cleaned every inch of it with Murphy’s oil soap which gives the piece a natural shine and most importantly cleans it without damaging it.
  2. Then I sanded the tops of the shelves with very light sandpaper (100, 150, and then 220 grit) to get it ready for refinishing. The rest of it I sanded with the 220 grit sand paper.
  3. After cleaning off the dust, I sanded it once more over with 400 grit sandpaper and 0000 steel wool. It’s very important to use light grit sandpapers to avoid scratching the wood.

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  1. We’re almost there – I then used a rag to apply one generous coat of boiled linseed oil. After letting it dry for an hour, I wiped off the excess with a clean rag.10953203_10152843603883589_1605594965250306073_o
  2. Finally, two days later, I repeated step 4 and then let it dry for two more days. Now it lives here:

Looks pretty nice, right? Not bad for $250 from an estate sale. If you’re looking to do this for yourself, it’s very easy. Everything_But_The_House_Online_Estate_Sales_in_Cincinnati,_OH,_Columbus,_OH,_Lexington,_KY,_Louisville,_KY,_Indianapolis,_IN,_Nashville,_TN,_Atlanta,_GA,_and_Fort_Myers,_FL_EBTH_-_2015-05-20_11.26.39Take an afternoon and shop around garage sales, auctions, Grandma’s attic or other places where you might stumble upon something with potential. There are even websites such as eBay and Everything but the House which sell great furniture. Then you have to figure out what needs to be fixed or how to refinish it. Google is pretty good for that, but if you’re internet averse there are always plenty of people willing to help out over at your local hardware store.

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-Jack

As devilishly handsome as he is clever, Jack is the excellent copyeditor for the Smart Perks team. A passionate music-listener, writer, and all-around great guy, Jack is going to help keep you in the know on fun trends and interesting ideas. 

The DIY “Vintage” Trend: What You Need to Know and How You Can Take Part

mock up, laptop, working space

Many of today’s trendiest bars, homes, apartments, fashions and decor are no longer sporting the beige tones of the ‘90s, the computer-rigid lines of the ‘80s, nor the shag carpet of the ‘70s (as much as we miss all of these). The most coveted items today are refurbished, architecturally-unique throwbacks with foundations in the minimalistic movement in the early 20th century. Think of it as a remix of all of the above, but with less.

Minimalism is “a style or technique (as in music, literature, or design) that is characterized by extreme sparseness and simplicity.” Thanks to the invention of websites such as Pinterest, a lot of people these days are taking old objects ­– desks, chairs, lamps, plywood, that sort of thing – and refurbishing them. The restyled piece is then placed within the context of exposed brick walls and dark wooden floors, giving it that modern vintage look.

For instance, one of my friends made an incredible standing desk out of an old door he purchased from an architecture reclamation store. All he had to do was put some homemade sawhorses on for legs and now it’s a piece that everyone asks about. The whole thing was super simple, doesn’t take up that much space and looks very cool. The sawhorses were just $20 (assembled with cheap 2x4s and sawhorse brackets) and the door was $10. $30 is pretty cheap for a cool place to work!Detail of a board with old paint on it.

Maybe you’re wondering “Who would want to display some old junk?” Why is this refurbished approach so attractive, even among people who can afford many other options?

Well, I have a theory about it: do you remember when your grandma gave you that (ugly) ring she got from her grandma when she was your age? Or maybe you still have that stability-lacking bookshelf your dad made back when you were a kid? The main reason that you might hold onto these objects isn’t because of any visual aesthetic appeal, but there’s an inherent value in the story an object carries – one that occasionally surpasses the beauty of the product itself. When people ask, “Why are you using this broken motorcycle as a coffee table anyway?” You have a great story to tell in return.

The same goes for today’s living room “masterpieces,” although the story can be a bit more self-indulgent, “Well, my (boyfriend, girlfriend, mom, dad, whoever) and I went out to the (thrift shop, architectural reclamation store, grandma’s house, etc.) and found this (lamp, wooden door, ship mast, 1940s refrigerator, civil war musket, other random thing). Then we (put a hat on it, made it into a chalkboard, had our friends sign it, slapped an old map onto it, etc.).”

Watch as guests “ooh” and “ahh” at your creation. And aren’t you so crafty! I have heard similar stories countless times. Although the pieces aren’t always rooted in something sentimental like a family heirloom, they add extra value as a conversation piece and is in tangent with the current minimal trend.Sofa with lamp

I might be an amateur myself, but this is my favorite kind of design. Therefore, what follows is one amateur’s advice to another:

  • Look for organic materials such as stained wood, earthy bricks, water pipes, or antiques made out of such materials.
  • Find a lot of inspiration over at Pinterest: try searching “vintage”, “minimalist”, “rustic”, “DIY” or any other similar terms.
  • The older (or weirder) the better, so if you ever end up working with wood, make sure to treat it with the right stain. Also, if you’re looking for a really beat-up look, get a knife and crowbar out and have some fun doing some damage to it (but be sure you do this before staining it). This is a pretty decent guide on how to give wood that rustic look.
  • Finally, have fun and learn. One of the best parts of this DIY movement is that you get to express yourself artistically without worrying about perfection. Functionality is usually pretty nice though, so go for that in tandem with the look.

One man’s trash is another man’s (or woman’s) treasure. Keep that in mind and be open to the possibilities as well as the limitations of your space. And if your house is already fully furnished, you should think about passing along some of your heirlooms to a friend or consignment store that would be excited to have them. Even if you thought they might have been tacky back then, it’s probably stylish right now. Plus, it gives somebody a great story.

-Jack

As devilishly handsome as he is clever, Jack is the excellent copyeditor for the Smart Perks team. A passionate music-listener, writer, and all-around great guy, Jack is going to help keep you in the know on fun trends and interesting ideas.