Attic finds

Sometimes when people find things in their attics, they think of me. Usually, that’s good.

The Vanity Plan

Now that my new desk is done, I’m starting to think about how I want to make over my old desk into a vanity. I’ve been scouring Pinterest for inspiration.

The old desk/new vanity came into my possession in 2003. My first mother-in-law gave it to me; she bought it at a yard sale in Colorado in 1968 or ’69 and painted it green. I replaced the hardware about five years ago because I wasn’t in love with the bronze drawer pulls.

Here’s the current set-up:

It's in the location where it will live permanently, but that's about the only thing permanent about this situation.

It’s in the location where it will live permanently, but that’s about the only thing permanent about this situation. Except maybe the cushion underneath, because the cats like to hang out there.

The old desk has great lines that lend themselves well to a two-tone paint job. I’m thinking a pale gray, with deep zinc or silvery accents… And a matching darker frame for the mirror. While I have old rectangular mirrors left over from the downstairs bathroom renovation, I’m not completely sold on those. As you can see, they’re in somewhat rough shape. Debating round or oval instead, which would also work better with the odd ceiling shape in that part of the room.

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The desk is done!

One of the things I decided to do when I accepted a job working from home: make a new desk. I know nothing about desk-building, but I’m pretty resourceful (and stubborn) and Tim has lots of tools, and how hard can it be, right? Yeah.

So, six months later, I have a desk.

I knew I wanted something funky that combined different woods and metal. I like interesting juxtapositions. And That was about all I had in mind when I started. I visited Bingham Lumber in Brookline, New Hampshire to pick out wood for the desktop. Everyone there was really helpful, and I loved their reverence for old wood. I opted for walnut and some white oak.

Tim decided that the top part of the desk really needed to be smooth, well-joined, and functional, or I would go crazy trying to use it every day. He joined the three boards for me and sanded everything down to a beautiful silky finish.

Tim sanding the top of my desk.

Tim sanding the top of my desk.

frame.

Simple frame.

Then I put a frame on the underside of the top to offer some additional stability (and a way to attach legs). I didn’t get fancy with the frame, just used some 1″x2″ we had in the loft in the garage. I planned to wrap the edge of the desk in molding that would cover that frame later. Next, I had to sort out the legs. That took a while. I knew I wanted some kind of metal, but wasn’t sure what – and I knew metal would be harder to work with than wood. Hmmm. Maybe just some kind of metal element? Old brackets? Fence parts? Rusty something interesting?

Trench grates. Awesome steampunky industrial heavy intricate trench grates.

They're 7.5 pounds each. Beefy.

They’re 7.5 pounds each. Beefy.

How do I incorporate these puppies into the legs? Uhhh… yeah, I had no idea. I went to Home Depot and started looking for wood that could work. I found some 2″ square poplar in a length that felt desk-height-y.

trying out ideas for the legs.

trying out ideas for the legs.

The more I thought about it, the more I liked the idea of recessing the grates into the legs. Tim and I could do it, but it would have taken a long time and probably ended in marital strife. Things really stalled, as neither one of us was looking forward to a weekend of meltdowns.

My attempt at illustration.

My attempt at illustration.

Then the wonderful and talented Jack Younger had some free time and took pity on me/us. He even understood my wacky drawings… Yeah. Bonus points there.

While Jack was working on the legs, I gave the top of the desk a few coats of Tung oil to bring out the grain of the wood. The legs and the molding got different flavors of Danish oil to create a variety of tones and add depth… I wanted all kinds of grains and hues in this desk. No matching here.

Leg parts, drying after Danish oil baths.

Leg parts, drying after Danish oil baths.

Finally: assembly time. Tim spent the day helping Jack with studio projects, leaving me alone so I could work at my own pace and figure things out for myself. It took longer than I expected, and some of my plans changed as I tried things and found that they didn’t go quite as well as I thought they would.

Those galvanized plates holding the trench grates in place? Not part of the original plan, but worked well with the concept of different woods/metals together. Also, they kept the trench grates from falling out on my feet.

Those galvanized plates holding the trench grates in place? Not part of the original plan, but worked well with the concept of different woods/metals together. Also, they kept the trench grates from falling out on my feet.

Finally, after a day of sawdust, sweating and swearing, she was done.

The final product, on location.

The final product, on location.

A closer view of the top.

A closer view of the top.

It’s a standing desk, so I needed to raise the monitor to a more comfortable height. Cigar boxes from our neighbor were just the right size and let me incorporate more cool wood into the design. I’m thrilled with the way the desk came out – everything about it is funky, unique, and functional. It’s exactly what I wanted. So cool to have an awesome work space that I MADE.

Next up… converting the old desk into a glamorous vanity.

 

Let’s talk about inflation.

It’s tax day. What better time to think about money and the economy, right? Probably depends on whether you filed early or you’re rushing off to the post office today; I’ll bet it’s also a delicate subject if you discovered you owed Uncle Sam more than expected. Anyway, some interesting data on household budgets:

From the booklet "Establishing a Home" published by the New York Herald Tribune. Copyright 1940.

From the booklet “Establishing a Home” published by the New York Herald Tribune. Copyright 1940.

This chart fascinates me. It shows the percentage of a two-person family’s annual income spent across a variety of categories in 1935-1936. I love that both reading and tobacco made the list. Reading DEFINITELY makes the list in my book!

Ironically, my commuting costs, car payment and insurance premiums cost 6.7% of my annual income–it’s not entirely unreasonable to think that even though this guide was published in 1940, some of the other percentages still hold true as well. Taxes and medical expenses, probably not, but I’m curious about some of the others.

I can’t even imagine trying to live on $1500 a YEAR. For TWO PEOPLE. Not in the United States, anyway.

A good day for creativity…

My horoscope for today–

“Today is all about art. It’s a great time for creating new work if that’s where your interests lie, but it’s just as good for soaking up culture in all its forms. Your creative energy is magnificent!”

OK, so it’s not just MY horoscope, it applies to Scorpios all over. Including the other resident of this house. Which is probably a good thing, as I may need Tim’s guidance in today’s endeavor: I’m building a desk. Yesterday I left work early and hit up a ton of antique stores; while I didn’t find anything that was exactly right, I did come home with a ton of ideas. Couple those with all the stuff I’ve curated on Pinterest recently and… you’ve got a recipe for a one-of-a-kind desk with personality. Keep your fingers crossed that I can translate what’s in my head to a functional piece of furniture.

If you don’t follow me on Pinterest (hi, Mom!), here are some of the sorts of things I’m drawn to for inspiration:

Garment Factory Desk

Deco Industrial Desk

Simple wood and industrial vibe

I’ll incorporate lessons learned from my current desk into the design of the new one.

My current desk. Soon to become a dressing table.

My current desk. Soon to become a dressing table.

Those lessons:

  • I like real wood.
  • This desk is a good size in terms of height, length and depth.
  • I need drawers for storage.
  • I also need to be able to fit my legs UNDER the desk, which completely can’t happen now. And it’s not about the chair. If I lower the chair enough to get my knees under the desk, my keyboard is in my boobs. Awkward for typing.

Wish me luck. I’m off to finish my coffee, put on some lipstick and head to the lumber yard.

 

 

More vintage aprons

My vintage apron collection is growing! Last time I visited my mom in Connecticut, she gave me two lovely aprons that belonged to Memere. We think she made them both by hand.

I love, love, love this.

I love, love, love this.

I love red and adore polka dots. The rick-rack and piping pull everything together. So cute. The next one is more of a smock:

Bright fruit print against a polka dot background.

Bright fruit print against a polka dot background.

It’s summery! It’s eye-catching! It’s definitely one of a kind. Whimsical, if you will.

A view of the back.

A view of the back.

Detail of the zany pattern.

Detail of the zany pattern.

These two aprons join the others I’ve received from the wonderful Lisa Kiner and my mom. I still need to figure out a way to display them, although as the collection grows to include more patterns and colors, I imagine the display will become more… schizophrenic? Eclectic? It will be something, all right.

Arvin the lefty

On Sunday, Tim and I met up with our friend Chaos at a New England Antique Radio Club swap meet. Chaos collects radios, and Tim was looking for some tubes for a sound project. I just like looking at old radios – especially the bakelite ones. And there were plenty!

A butterscotch beauty.

A butterscotch beauty.

I love the rotary dial on this one! The shape and the herringbone pattern in the speakers are great, too.

I love the rotary dial on this one! The shape and the herringbone pattern in the speakers are great, too.

Another stunner.

Another stunner.

I learned the difference between bakelite and catalin, thanks to a gentleman who saw me petting one of the lovely radios. He asked if I knew what it was made of – I told him I didn’t know exactly, but I would guess bakelite. Then he explained that they were similar, but that catalin was heated and cast, and if it was heated again, it would explode. I suspect there’s more to it than that, but my mechanical engineer husband and our physicist friend both said, “Basically,” when I shared my new-found knowledge. An internet search for “bakelite vs catalin” turns up a ton of results, most of questionable authority. Fortunately, I’ll probably never have to REALLY understand the difference.

A cluster of catalin radios.

A cluster of catalin radios.

One vendor also had my beloved Cobramatic turntable for $300, but I’ll wait. Someday I’ll get another one.

Isn't that green gorgeous?

Isn’t that green gorgeous?

Great color here, too. And I love the name "Bendix."

Great color here, too. And I love the name “Bendix.”

I am a sucker for typewriters. Would love to own this old Corona, but... where would I put it?

I am a sucker for typewriters. Would love to own this old Corona, but… where would I put it?

I kept going back to one table. Partly because it was a small-ish space and we were there for several hours, partly because I really dug one particular radio and the first time I pet it, the owner told me he’d give it to me for $30, as opposed to the $50 it was marked. Finally, about the fifth time I visited the radio, the vendor rolled his eyes at me. “You can’t just touch it and take pictures of it. Come on,” he said. I reached for my wallet.

And there was Chaos right behind me with money. “Happy birthday,” he said. “It’s an Arvin. And it’s a lefty – the knobs are usually on the right, it’s rare to find them on the left.”

So Arvin the lefty came home with me.

Arvin the lefty.

Arvin the lefty.

Close up of the display. Great 1948 styling.

Close up of the display. Great 1948 styling.

I love the glossy black shell, the font of the numbers, the white knobs, the richness of detail in the needles. I think I’ll build him his own shelf–he’ll get a special corner in my office. It’s one radio–not the start of another collection. I promise. I think. 😉

The lady is a vase

I dig lady head vases. Possibly because I like interesting juxtapositions–the daintiness of most of the ladies contrasts nicely with the dullness of dirt. The ladies are dressed for garden parties, not gardening.

Some of the vases I’ve admired in the past:

Pretty pale blue.

Pretty pale blue.

head vase

Lady head vase

My mother finds my affinity for the lady heads baffling.  When we’re poking around antique stores together and I find one I like, I’ll hold her up for approval. My mother will wrinkle her nose or roll her eyes and say something like, “Her face is kind of weird, don’t you think?”

I examine the lady again and decide that maybe her eyes are uneven, her lips too small, hair slightly off. Sigh. Back on the shelf she goes.

When my mother was off gallivanting with her friend Jean, she came across a small collection of lady head vases and texted me a photo.

“These made me think of you,” she wrote.

My mom texted me this photo.

My mom texted me this photo.

“Love the brunette on the right!” I replied.

She’s even prettier in person.

My lovely lady head vase.

My lovely lady head vase.

Thanks, Mom. She made a wonderful Christmas present. And I haven’t killed the plant yet. Give me a few more weeks.