Welcome friends. A Jug of White Daisies is about my life and all the thoughts that come to me while I'm walking, doing the dishes, having a shower or hanging washing on the line - some of my regular activities that give me time to think. It's about all the things that make up my life - cooking, cleaning, creating, loving, learning, discovering, rolling my eyes, sighing, smiling, forgiving, making do, making the most of, looking up, gardening, hugging, being. It's about the things that I make for sale, fabulous finds, the wisdom and beauty in the world, and it's about stopping to admire the simple perfection of daisies.

And in amongst all the thinking and writing about that, I'll be doing it all, and more, so if you don't see me for a day or two, please send chocolate.

September 13, 2017

Doing the Dressing Table

I am a woman (apparently mature) who has never had a dressing table. Sure I've had chests of drawers and bedside cabinets and tables, but I've always hankered after a dressing table, with a mirror. Somewhere to check my hair, a place to put the crystal dressing table set my Aunty Marcie gave me, and decorate with a vase of fresh flowers from the garden.

Last year, my sister and I went on a road trip to see our old Aunties, precious women we just don't get to see often enough, because, well... scattered families. We live a long way away from each other. We had a lovely time with them, not rushed, staying for several days with each, before heading to see our brothers and then Mum & Dad on the way home. A big old loop of a journey, with lots of sister time chatting. It was great.

We saw some beautiful country. We both love the mountains and hills of Australia, and the particular bush and trees of the Great Dividing Range. It was winter, so not very green, but beautiful anyway.

My sister Karen with our Aunty Betty. They were talking about the joys of Pinterest. 
Aunty Betty is 94 and loves both her tablet and Pinterest!  

Me with Aunty Marcia. She's not very well, but nobody knew just how unwell until this visit. 

Anyway, after the Aunties, we went on to visit our brothers. One of my brothers had this old oak dressing table in his garage - not like him, as they are not into older style furniture. I asked him about it, and he said it was his sister in law's and they just needed to get it to her. Well, since we were going that way, we put it in the back of the car, hoping that she didn't want it after all. Both of us, independently. I said it was mine because I spotted it. My sister said it was hers because it was her car.

In the end, we did end up with the dressing table - Karen did anyway, because she had some cash in her purse. Drat. But.... after several months, she decided that she didn't need it after all. She sent me this picture and asked if I still wanted it.

...{{insert smug smile}}...

Yes, it looks a bit uh... careworn (I know the feeling). But it's oak, and a dressing table. I promptly began the process of fixing it up. I removed the handles. Unfortunately they were super thin and I broke one, plus two were already not great. I plan on re-using the ones that are OK elsewhere, but this baby is getting new handles.

I began the sanding process, which took ages because some drawers were easy and some were dark and hard, and I had to take it back quite far to even them out a bit. I then shelved it for a year while other things happened. Life does have a way of intervening sometimes. My son broke his hand and later his foot and needed a bit of care, so he came home to live with us while he recovered, I was busy with life and the garden and other things, yada, yada.

But, she came out of storage last week and I got back into the sanding. I managed to get it pretty even but the truth is, it's not a top-class piece and the grain in the different parts is quite varied in texture. The sides are made of old tea chest, with an oak veneer! You can see the printing inside the cupboard. I kind of like that though, it's part of the story of the piece. But it did make sanding trickier than I'd hoped. And where the handles had been was pretty roughed up.

Sanded. You can see the damage on the drawers from the original handles. 

After sanding, I then dithered about the finishing process. I've seen these lovely limed or whitewashed oak pieces and I wanted something like that. But I didn't want to commit. My father would have ten shades of conniptions, just thinking about all that paint in the grain - he hates it! Dither, dither, dither.... but it's my furniture and I wanted to try it. So I did a quick read up on techniques and gave it a go.

I loved the first try! It was what I wanted - a light, fresh look with all the lovely grain still visible, but not those dark brown lines that you get in oak. I do love oak furniture, but not the way the old stuff was given that dark varnish that went into the grain. So I continued, and that's where it all went wrong. The grain in my dressing table is so varied that some bits were just much nicer than other bits. The top drawers were really nice but the bottom ones were just not quite as nice and the front legs were yukky, really.

This is the top of the dressing table. It's just what I wanted.

The side was less appealing but still OK. It is what it is, you can't change the grain.

I was really disappointed, but then I realised that I could just go whiter and it'd be fine. And it was. It wasn't how I'd envisaged it, but it was at least even. But then I sanded it before giving it a coat of varnish to protect it from life. Sanding made it splotchy, drat it to high heaven - and it also used a lot of sanding paper because the paint was coming off (of course). I was a bit less than bright and happy about the whole damn thing at this stage. Whose idea had this been? Painting the whole thing black became appealing.

I finally, after two days, decided that I'd sanded and fiddled with it enough and it was fine.

So.... I got out the varnish we'd bought last year, gave it a stir and got to work. Gone was my lovely pale look. The varnish really brought out the contrast, especially down the front legs, where I didn't like the grain to begin with. I thought it might tone down with drying, but it hasn't really. I mean, it's OK, it's just so not what I wanted. I guess it's kind of beachy, rather than limed or white washed, but I can live with that. I don't actually need perfection, just not ugly, and it's not ugly. 

The next difficulty was the hardware. Hmmm.... where did I put that little bag of hardware a year ago, before we started moving things around? Duncan finally found a little bag with the mirror hanging parts - or three of the four parts anyway. What the heck? Why on earth would I put three parts in one bag and all the rest (still missing) in another? 
...{{insert look of incredulous despair}}...

The upshot is, I have a varnished dressing table. I have nice new handles on it (kind of beachy because that's the way we are playing it now). But I can't add the mirror because we can no longer buy parts. I have to find that other bag! It sounds vaguely easy, doesn't it? But we are a house in renovation/pre renovation/dishevelled turmoil. I WILL find the bag! Maybe not this morning though... 

In the meantime, here's a sneak preview of the drawer handles. We managed to find some that covered the old profile nicely, so you can't really see the damage anymore. 

Happy new drawer handles. 

The moral of this tale is very Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy: expect the unexpected.

Life sometimes surprises us and that's OK. Now, I wonder what's in that box under the house?

love Heather x

"Let every situation be what it is, instead of what you think it should be."
There is beauty in everything.

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