Thursday, January 31, 2013

don't cry, Tim Gunn

I have made LOTS of progress in the kitchen. 

(It was very gracious of you not to point out there that I didn't say, "The kitchen is done!"  But it will be done soon.  As demonstrated by the fact that tonight I am going to start tearing up the floor in the sun porch.) 

And, more importantly, my faith in my shopping ability has been restored.  (I pause here to note that I have been appropriately shamed by JBTC's St. Francis post, in that I should not rely on my natural gifts [although I would like to think that shopping may be a gift of the Holy Spirit, and thus a supernatural gift, but the epistles are curiously silent on this point], nor on my own labors to see my life through, but on the mercy of God, and maybe stop white-knuckling every day of my life as if it all depended on me.  But that only means that I am contrite.  Not reformed.) 

You may recall this item, a recent purchase I mentioned in my previous post:

It is an antique jelly cupboard.  As I said, I bought it on craigslist for $50.  I went to see it thinking it had a wood inlay.  I decided to take it home with me realizing that the darker wood grain was a faux finish, but also (after peeking inside) that the cabinet was at least 100 years old and possibly quite a bit more.  After it got to my house (still sitting in the car), I suddenly remembered that I wanted a 36" high cabinet, not a 47" high cabinet.  So the cabinet was on probation.  My husband thought it overly large in the space.  (It also bothered him that it leaned forward - because the floor is uneven.  I fixed this by doubling up on the felt slide-y feet in the front.)  I began contemplating a replacement - which meant selling the cabinet, which is a pain. 

But I started to realize a funny thing.  I'm not a decorator and I don't have design training, so I don't have that trained-in sense about what things will look like.  I try to set good parameters (size, color, age, general design style) and then buy things that meet those requirements and also strike me as beautiful.  Usually these standards are enough for a win, but sometimes something that is perfect on paper is person.  Often I realize this is true when I walk by it, not really paying attention, see it out of the corner of my eye, feel very displeased, and suddenly realize that what I am looking at is Not Working.  (Such has been true with the coffee cabinet wall.  But I think it may be almost fixed.) 

With respect to the jelly cupboard - I kept walking into the kitchen from the laundry room (thus, walking straight toward the cupboard) and noticing something stunning out of the corner of my eye, and realizing that it was - that cupboard!  It occurred to me that its wood tones go almost perfectly with the door and the spice rack on its wall:

I disliked the faux graining when I first saw it, but the longer the cupboard stayed in the room, the more I realized I liked it.  But it was still taking up too much visual space.  So I sat down to commune with the cupboard and determine its age before I made a decision.  I took out one of the screws to see whether it was machined.  (Yes.)  Then I looked up when machined screws first became widely available.  Before 1800.  Okay.  I hadn't narrowed it down yet.  Then I started to look at some of the other hardware.  There's an original lock made out of wood (probably no longer working, but I don't have the key) and an additional lock you can see was added.  Even the later lock is clearly very old - I think from the nineteenth century (I am not an expert, but it seems to line up with other pieces I have seen).  The drawers have dovetailed joints, but those were used well into the twentieth century.  They use small, apparently hand-cut blocks of wood as sliders rather than hardware; that makes it seem a bit older. 

Then I looked at the back of the cupboard.  I had planned to put a hole in it through which I could feed an extension cord.  The back is made of wide slabs of 3/4" thick pine.  I would about tear my arm off with a hole saw trying to go through that.  More interestingly, nobody makes furniture backs that way now.  I also have a late-nineteenth-century armoire - solid oak with nice carving, much fancier than the jelly cupboard.  Its back wasn't made that way, either - it's 1/4" thick oak.  I started to suspect my cupboard was made in the first half of the eighteenth century.  The chances of my DH winning the battle to get rid of it were dropping. 

It was looking like the cupboard was about to be painted - I figured white to match the beadboard behind it would make it less obtrusive.  I know some jelly cupboards were painted white.  I kind of wanted to paint the drawers and door insets yellow, but first I wanted to check whether that was an original color scheme for jelly cupboards.  I also wanted to find out how valuable they were.  I was pretty sure that faux graining treatment wasn't original, but it wasn't that recent, either.  If the cupboards regularly sold for $100 or so, painting it for my own convenience seemed perfectly reasonable, even if it might diminish the value somewhat.  But first - to the internet! 

Where I found this article.  It starts with this picture:

No, that is not my cupboard.  That is the cupboard from the article.  (I thought this quite an auspicious start.) 

The article explains, "Patina and normal hard wear add to the value of these pieces."  Plenty of hard wear here.  Moving on: "The sought out cupboards and pie safes are either grain painted or have their original painted surface."  It has a picture of grain painting:

So...I guess I was wrong about how old that graining treatment was.  The article also helpfully provided some market values for jelly cupboards.  One was walnut, obviously more valuable than my pine cupboard, and had tin-punched panels.  Another also had tin-punching, but some of the original panels were missing and had been reproduced; not sure how that shakes out.  The values of those items were, respectively, $5000-$7000 (estimated on Antiques Road Show) and $3,819 (sold at auction).  I don't imagine my cupboard is worth that much, and I am only assuming that it is original, rather than a fake.  (I am 99% sure it is a real antique, but again - not an expert.) 

However, I am not painting my cupboard.  And it is not going anywhere. 


  1. I never set out to shame anyone and didn't even know that was a possibility with that post...I know weren't talking about me. :) However, I do think Frankie D (as another blogger Ania calls him) can lay the smack down with the best of them.

    My favorite line from this post..."But that only means that I am contrite. Not reformed." Brutally honest, I love it...(well, actually I don't. I mean I love it when I see other people do it because it usually brings clarity, but I am horrible about using it myself lest I offend anyone...which brings me back to the start of my comment.)

    Anyway, I love the antique cabinet! I don't know one thing about antiques and I am super impressed that you even knew to look for whether the screws were machine inserted or by hand. I actually don't know how that makes a difference or how one would know, but I am super impressed that you do. Because it obviously does make a difference and I was oblivious of that fact until today. Tim Gunn would be so proud of you! And if you ever get on Antiques Roadshow - please let us know, I would love to watch. You would probably know more about your stuff than the experts!! Can't wait to see pictures of the finished kitchen! St. Francis de Sales, pray for us!

    1. I'm not suggesting you were going after me! Just that I needed it :). Also, with respect to the screws - I meant whether they had been machine-cut or hand-cut (I have no idea how you'd tell whether they were put in with a power drill or not, though I assume originally not!). Supposedly you can tell because of whether the threads are even or not (I had never checked this before). I'm pretty sure a machine made the screws that hold my cupboard's hinges on; they look perfectly even. But then, when I looked it up, I realized that industrially-made screws had been around a lot longer than I thought, so that didn't help me figure out the age of the cupboard at all. A bit of TRULY useless information!

  2. Well, I proved my utter cluelessness about antiques and anything woodworking because it didn't dawn on me that you were talking about the making of the actual screws. And most of what is on the internet is truly useless information, but you never, it may come in handy as I play along with Jeopardy at home. I even got the final answer / question on today's episode, I was pretty pumped.

  3. I wish I had your ambition at tackling projects and just getting them done.

  4. You find the best stuff on craigs.list. I am never that lucky !

    1. Well, assuming this is what I think it is - I have NEVER gotten this lucky before.

  5. I absolutely LOVE that cupboard and I think it looks great there!!