There are so many individuals and families that are trying to lessen their impact on our natural environment. In our own culture we use the terms "living a heathen life", "honor the old ways", "return to natural living", "sustainable living" and so on. The questions remain; how do we do that? How can we transform our dwellings into sanctuaries and how can we live closer to nature while even dwelling in a city? I have decided to create a resource that will help all of us to accomplish these goals.
I am fortunate in that I have lived through this kind of revolution before. There was a push to live with nature, use natural products, wear natural fabrics and to live off the land way back in the 1970's. While I was a young teen at the time, this movement and the fact that I was raised around hard working farmers and craftsmen set the stage for my own natural way of life. I run two businesses from my home so you will also find information and stories about running a business, craftsmanship and a few philosophies thrown in. I hope you will join me in this endeavor and share it with your friends. Yes I make and sell natural products but my purpose here is to provide information to that you can learn to do these things for yourself. Here we go!
Have you ever looked at a piece of furniture and wondered how the craftsman become so skilled as to create something so unique? Have you ever looked at a business or person and wondered how they became so successful? I can not pretend to have all the answers but there are a few basic things that are required if you are going to build a lasting and successful business.
First you have to decide that you want to be the best, that your name or your company name means something. When I finish a product, when I send out a purchase I sign my name to it...literally. If I am putting my name on it then I want it to be the best product, the best service and a memorable experience for my clients.
Communicate with your clients. Sounds like a no brainer but I can tell you from experience that most companies are not diligent about following up on initial inquiries and therefore lose the opportunity for business at the get go. Acknowledge a purchase, notify clients through the process, verify and track shipping, follow up after they have received their purchase to be sure they are satisfied.
The next one is most important and most companies fail at this one: Make and keep deadlines. I have experienced failure of this one basic tenant of business so many times over the past two years that I have lost count. Your clients make plans based on the product or service they are purchasing from you. The commitment you make to provide a product or service by a certain time is vitally important to the future of your business. As entrepreneurs building a business can be a balancing act between home, kids, maybe a part time job and a myriad of other commitments. If you are to build a strong business that will grow and prosper, your word is invaluable. If your client finds you unreliable, unable to make deadlines and full of excuses, they will not return. Even worse, they will tell their friends or, the very worst, they will give your company a bad review.
I have always had one motto: Exceed their expectations. When someone purchases a product or service they anticipate to get what they paid for and they leave satisfied. If you add special touches, maintain excellent communication, come in ahead of deadlines, then they leave with a wow! That customer? They will be back and they will tell all their friends.
The secrets to a solid business are really no secret just good solid business practices done everyday.
With all the different kinds of projects I do, I realize there might be some confusion over the terminology that we use in this business. There are many who are close to me that don't really know what I do or how I decide the fate of a piece I am working on. Then there are some clients that aren't sure how to explain what it is they are looking for so I am going to try and explain it.
Let's start with the terms "restore, refinish, re-purpose" and add rebuild, reuse and replace. I want to start with one of my favorite finds, this oak fern table. I found this table at an auction and it literally was in pieces and it was covered in dust and dirt from being stored in a barn. There was mud on the legs from laying on the floor of the barn! As you can see the top was cracked and there were some splits that were beginning in one of the legs. However, I knew that under all that grime and brokenness was a beautiful oak table so I brought it home. First I removed all the dirt, then I began to repair the broken top by removing the old frame and then joining the two pieces together with dowels and glue. Next I sanded the entire piece to remove the old pits, dirt and even out the wood grain. Once that was done (and that is a long process) I re-stained the wood. There is a purpose for stain it is not just for aesthetics, the stain puts oil back into the piece. In the case of really old wood like this piece, it will drink the stain right in. Once the stain is dry you begin to put a finish on the piece. There are many types of finishes and all of them have a purpose. On antiques I always use tung oil. Tung oil is also a long process of application, rubbing, drying and then another application. The wood will soak up the first few applications because it needs the moisture, then the protection will begin to build and you have a beautiful sheen. In the process I come to know the original craftsman, the detail, the thought and the skill that was put into the piece. The end result is a fully restored and refinished piece. It is an honor to bring these old pieces back to life and preserve the craftsmanship that went into these kinds of pieces. It is also meticulous and detailed work. I have done many pieces like this, some of my own finds and some commissioned work as in the case of the parlor set.
Then there are pieces that are very damaged or missing pieces and you have to rebuild them and sometimes re-purpose them. I have done two sewing machine cabinets and two phonograph cabinets. In every case these cabinets were already separated from their mechanical parts. I have had the opportunity to purchase some very beautiful radio and phonograph cabinets, the problem with them was that they still had the components intact and I cannot separate them...I am just weird like that. Also these aforementioned cabinets were in bad shape, in pieces and the original purpose was no longer an option. This is an opportunity for re-purposing. These cabinets were hardwoods, beautiful and unique so they had no business hitting the trash heap. The veneer on the tops of some of these pieces were so brittle that I could pull it off with my fingers. The result? Some pretty unique and beautiful pieces.
Then there are those pieces that we call wipe and go's. These are pieces that were sold from estates and they were gorgeous as they were. All they needed was a little restoration. The pieces were old and neglected and just needed a little cleaning and oil to look spectacular again. This was true of these two amazing antique pieces.
This brings me to a very important piece of information, wood must be cared for if it is going to last. In order for furniture to maintain its luster, avoid cracks and splits and to protect it from everyday use, it must be oiled and polished. Everyone seems to love the convenience of a swiffer but that swiffer only removes dust it does nothing for the condition of the wood. A light polishing should be done weekly in drier climates and monthly in more humid climates. Every few months your prized pieces need a good dose of polish. Spray on polishes actually contain other chemicals that leave a sticky film on your furniture, my recommendation is a lemon oil or orange oil polish.
Finally we have the art pieces. These pieces were usually broken or missing parts or they weren't useful in their current condition. They had good wood left to them so I re-built them and created something artistic. The office credenza had a melamine top that was marred and chipped (no one likes melamine anyway) and the legs were broken. The side table was one of those buy it in a box and put it together pieces which had become wobbly and used. The desk had a leather top in the center that was covered in words and letters that had been carved into the top and one of the legs was missing. So I rebuilt them and had a little fun in the process.
Every piece that I do has a different story, a different purpose and a different outcome. Unlike my competitors I am not a chalk paint fanatic or a fan of shabby chic although they have their place. Every piece I do is an adventure. Thank you for coming on this adventure with me and for giving me the opportunity to create. Hopefully we learn something about furniture and wood in the process and create something beautiful out of something meant to be thrown away.
I purchased this original piece many years ago. It was one of those "buy it in a box" pieces that was actually wood. Over the years it got a little wobbly and the natural finish no longer suited my decor. Although it had a shelf it was so close to the top of the table that it had limited use. I decided it needed a makeover.
I took it all apart with a vision in mind. I rearranged the pieces and added a few embellishments including original art to the top. The finished product is beautiful.
I have always admired antique phonograph cabinets but I never had the courage to separate the cabinet from the workings inside, fortunately this one was empty. The veneer on top was splintered, peeling and missing in spots. The back was missing, the bottom shelf inside was covered in oil and the whole piece had been neglected.
I removed the veneer from the top and found beautiful poplar wood underneath. I began restoring the rest of the wood and reviving the stain. I put a birdseye maple veneer on the bottom shelf, made a new back piece, put a new finish making sure to cover the top (only) in urethane for protection. I have always wanted to repurpose one of these pieces into a wine cabinet so here we are! I love the rich golden brown color of the wood.
My favorite stone is Travertine. I love the color, I love the lack of uniformity, I love the porous look of the natural stone. However, travertine in its natural state, does not make a good table or countertop so the manufacturers have learned to cut and polish it to make it useful. It is a beautiful, natural stone.
The original designer of this piece selected really nice wood with strong grain patterns and then the wood was covered in a stain and finish popular in the 1970's that actually hid the wood.
I pulled the old finish off, exposed the wood and finished it. Now the table has a very rustic, natural look. Perfect!
This little table was just needing a home. I am a huge fan of wood and iron so this piece HAD to come home. Cleaned up the tin top, added some color and gave the sides a face lift. All beautiful and so functional!
I have to admit that sometimes the reason I pick up pieces are completely silly and then they wind up being way too much work. That is the story with this piece. I wanted the cabinet because it had hand carved handles and I just KNEW there was a treasure hidden under the paint. I was right....under 4 layers of paint!
It took a long time to get all the paint stripped off and to be honest there are still little flecks of paint in the wood. Once I got the paint stipped away, I had to take the thing completely apart and start rebuilding it. Sigh...it was a long process.
I had to put the top back together, build a new back, new from leg piece and shelf. In the process of pulling things apart I discovered old square nails. For those of you who are not familiar with those, they used to hand make nails by cutting the metal and hammering them into a square nail. they look very much like horseshoe nails except smaller. Manufacturing of the square nail ended around 1860 but many remained in circulation until the very early 1900's. I actually reattached the top with new horseshoe nails! It is finally complete. It will never look brand new; it has nail holes, cracks and flecks of paint...but it is finally original....beautiful....Black Walnut. Hard to find that anymore!
There are times when I am granted the opportunity to refinish a piece that causes me to stand in awe. We picked up this piece at auction because no one else wanted it. They could not see the possibility in those dry, dirty bones lying in a pile. It took some time and much work to get all the caked on dirt off the wood and out of the crevices of the table. It took a Dremel, vinegar and baking soda to get all the rust off the claw feet and clean up the glass balls.
When I began applying the stain to the wood, I held my breath looking in awe at the beauty of the tiger oak grain. My work is very good, my attention to detail is excellent but I have nothing to do with the wood. That is in nature and the elements hands; then come the many hands it took to harvest, mill and craft the piece in the beginning. To all of those who went before me, I owe you a debt of gratitude for without all you have done, this piece of wonder would not be in my hands.
Aside from all the home decor items and the extracts, I spend most of time restoring and repurposing furniture. The reason? Because I love well made WOOD furniture with craftsmanship and detail. The problem I found was that the furniture in stores today are not wood but "Wood Products and Veneer". Now veneer has been used for a long time but usually over hardwood and only for accent. Like most people I also have great taste that my bank account can't cover. I have always been an avid second hand store and thrift store patron and have found amazing pieces of furniture and decor items that I turned into something for my home.
Then I found that there are many people out there who are looking for unique, quality furniture and decor that won't break the bank. So there you are. That is why i do what I do. I want everyone to be able to furnish and decorate their homes with quality items that they can afford. Check out our products!