Monday, June 29, 2009

A Tale of Two Cabinets

I have two cabinets in my shop. One of them is an overpriced, rusty, crusty, old metal cabinet. The other one is an industrial steel cabinet with great patina that has been carefully preserved (wet sanded and clear coated so it won't rust), and is half the price of what a similar piece might be in a bigger city.
OK, so the catch is (if you haven't figured it out yet) there's only one cabinet, and depending on their point of view and knowledge of the antiques market, people have had VERY different reactions to it. While in truth, no one has outright called it "an overpriced, rusty, crusty, old metal cabinet" (this IS Portland, after all - that would be a VERY un-Portland thing to do), there have definitely been a few incredulous looks from people when informed of the price (which is $550).
On the other hand, there have been others who have said "wow, that's a great price". One guy specifically said "I live in LA and dealers down there are selling cabinets not half as cool as that one for $1200". I guess it all just depends on your point of view.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

A Fantastic Pair of Burl/Root Tables (with an Aside on Custom Glass Fabrication)

These tables were another great Craigslist score. I was sitting in my chair the other night thinking "gee, I haven't looked at Craigslist in a while, I wonder what's out there tonight...", and what was out there, apparently, was these tables (listed, in an incredibly descriptive fashion, as "coffee table set". Hmmm). Chalk up one more score for Craigs Toolbox (the little craigslist viewer that is my secret weapon, find it at - I'm not sure if it's still free, but whatever they might be charging for it, IT'S WORTH IT).
As is usually the case with these sorts of things, it was kind of hard to tell how good they were from the pictures, which, naturally, were horrible. The problem with these root tables is that sometimes they are coated in a super thick layer of goopy varnish, which is nearly impossible to strip off given the extremely detailed nature of these beasts. So, dragging my trusty assistant Matt along for the ride, we drove to SW Portland to check these puppies out.
Seeing them in person quickly allayed any fears that I may have had about their condition - these are simply a great pair of tables! The coffee table is 100% killer, with an awesome biomorphic glass top that would cost an ungodly amount of money to have made new. It's a great size, too - definitely substantial, but not so huge as to overwhelm most rooms. The side table is a little odd, size-wise - it would almost be better used as a coffee table with a bigger piece of glass on it. As it is (30" square), it's a bit small for a coffee table and a bit large for an end table - but with a 36-40" round piece of glass, it'd be a great coffee table size.
However, I will leave that up to the new owner. I'm always skittish about having new glass made, especially when it's a sizeable piece that's going to cost a bit of money. Since I sell so much stuff online, there's always the question of whether it's going to be more expensive to ship the glass safely then it would be to have a new piece fabricated at its destination. Shipping glass is always a risky proposition, unless one goes to the extra expense of crating it. So, the end result is usually that I need to leave certain things up to people's imagination - such as the fabrication of expensive pieces of glass.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

A curious little chair

I have to admit, I was kind of on the fence about this chair. It almost verges on '50s kitsch, which, let's just say I'm not very fond of. However, it also had a pretty cool Paul Laszlo/Streamline vibe. The fact that it was big and really comfortable (and kind of weird) sealed the deal, however, and I wrangled it back to the shop. I think it would look pretty amazing redone in mohair - or something totally retarded like fake fur. What do you think?

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Paul McCobb Planner Group Dining Table

I just got this gorgeous Paul McCobb dining table back from my finisher, and I have to say I'm quite pleased with it. This table fell victim to what I'm going to refer to as the "Great Ebony Stain SNAFU of '09". I will explain this in more detail in an upcoming post, but for now let's just say that this table was stripped and sanded one time more than we would have preferred. However, once we finally got the stain right, it came out looking gorgeous. I'm particularly fond of the design of this table, in that it has both drop leaves and center extension leaves, which makes it exceptionally versatile. With all three center leaves in and drop leaves up, the table measures about 7 1/2' long. With center leaves removed and drop leaves down, it measures less than 2'.
Here's the same table (but with only one leaf instead of three), in New York, listed for $3800. I think I'll price mine at around $2300.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

To Refinish or Not to Refinish, That is the Question!

I bought this neat little Scandinavian lounge chair & ottoman from a contact of mine in Seattle a few weeks ago. He sent me a little picture, quoted me a price, I said "yes", and that was that. I'm not sure if he actually told me that it was teak, or if I just assumed it was, but whatever the case, I thought I was getting a teak chair. When I got the chair, I quickly's not teak. It's birch with a sort of teak-ish stain over it.

Now, one of the great things about teak is that it's one of the more forgiving woods out there, and is very easy to refinish, especially if all that was on there in the first place was an oil finish (which is often the case, especially with older pieces). In fact, a lot of times all you really need to do is scrub the thing down with Howard's Feed n' Wax (discussed in depth in an eatlier post) and it's good as new. However, when you've got lighter wood that's been stained dark, you have a slightly more difficult proposition. The old finish and stain need to be stripped off completely before you can go putting a new finish on - and if you're dealing with lighter woods such as Birch or Maple, you have the additional step of staining the wood whatever color you want it before you can put the finish on (unless you want to leave it blonde, which, personally, I very seldom do). I usually like to take light wood and stain it a nice, dark, rich espresso brown - which sometimes becomes problematic, because a lot of light woods simply don't LIKE to be stained dark. There's always the option of using a sprayed finish, but lacking access to a spray booth makes that a more difficult proposition.

So, here I am confronted with a choice: to refinish or not to refinish? The finish on this chair, all things considered, is actually pretty GOOD - certainly in much better condition than the upholstery (or the foam underneath, which has turned to dust). However, even though it could be worse, it's still a 40 year old finish that's a bit faded and kind of an off color. In my opinion, it doesn't really show off the lovely fluid lines of the chair as well as it could - so even though the finsh is really not in bad condition, I'm probably going to bite the bullet and refinish it. Especially since the chair obviously needs to be reupholstered, I think refinishing it will just give it a more finished, complete look.

Most of the time when I get pieces in, it's pretty much a no-brainer as to whether or not they need to be refinished. However, as with life in general, there are sometimes gray areas where you could easily go either way. However, in this case, over the course of writing this post, I think I've pretty much convinced myself that this one would definitely be worth refinishing.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

The Janus Home Blog is now ALL FURNITURE ALL THE TIME.

Yes, friends, I have decided to split up my hopefully interesting yet potentially confusing conflagration of furniture blogging and music blogging into two separate blogs. This blog, Janus Home Vintage, will be devoted to all things furniture related, and all music-and-other-stuff-related ramblings will now be found here at The Pop Narcotic. Enjoy.