Monday, September 19, 2011

How Mabel Got Her Groove Back

 I won the crown!

Of course, you probably didn't know we were competing. I have kept you completely in the dark. I find it's easier to win that way.

The crown of which I speak is this one:
I am the Queen of  Half Complete

It's true. One critical tour of the old homestead, and you will discover tiny little touches left undone all over the place. The Big Kahuna of all such projects... the one for which I won the crown...  is a little drop front desk that has been living in my attic half naked for over a quarter of a century.

 It's true.

I mentioned in an earlier post that I started stripping furniture on my first summer vacation from teaching school, way back in 1985. My first project was this special little pine table.

It's special because my very special grandmother gave it to me to use for my very first desk. You see, at a very tender age, I fancied myself to be the next great American novelist, and a great American novelist needs a great American desk upon which to novel, doesn't she? Yes, she does.

Grandma thought so anyway, and so she gave me this little pine number which had been made by her father as a sewing table for her mother.  That would make it nearly a hundred years old by now.

Back then, it was painted black. If memory serves correctly, Debbie Hemingway requested  pale pink. In the years that followed, it went from pink to white to a trendy 70's antiqued orange. When it traveled to our newlywed nest, I stripped her bare.

I was so pleased with myself that I started looking for other family treasures to strip. I settled on a wonderful old drop front desk. This one was given to the Duchess when she was a teen by a maiden aunt.   A little investigatory stripping revealed a cherry-ish finish. I was thrilled. In  my head, it was going to look very refined.

Believe it or not, I even have an (almost)  before picture.  This was snapped in the back yard of our little newlywed nest way back in 1985.  Apparently, I was predestined to be a blogger.

(That's a before picture of my twenty something legs there. Don't expect an after shot....)

Folks, I stripped that sucker of about six colors of paint, and that was back when stripping solutions were neither as effective nor pleasant as they are today. 

I stripped the sides,
 and the legs,
 and even some little cubby holes on the inside. 

Then, I started on the drop front,
 and just guess what I discovered...


Not just any old veneer, either, but broken veneer, veneer that had already been repaired at least once. Yes folks, my lovely desk was finished in early American putty.  At least I knew why it had been painted to begin with.

I was so disappointed that I began a pout of epic proportions which traveled from home to home along with my putty covered half naked drop front desk.

It moved from the newlywed nest to the starter home. 
It moved from the starter home to our current home.

And then, it moved to The List
You know... the one that sits mocking me on my sideboard.  
The one with the completion date of December 18, 2011.


And so, after I finished the daughter's project, I pulled it back down.
I finished the stripping.
 I peeled away the putty and fixed the veneer.

And I did what I should have done to begin with.
I painted it. 

That would be the bottom color under those layers of paint.
(She's actually not as shiny as the picture shows. I was trying to get a decent light.)

 I've named her Mabel, after the old maiden aunt.
I think Mabel looks rather nice in basic black, don't you?

I put Mabel in my living room and paired her with a handsome Hitchcock chair. I think Mabel and Alfred make a nice looking couple.  I'm currently working on dressing her jussssst right. If you don't see a follow up post, feel free to assume that it's going as well as my wall decoration.

Sharing this on Met Monday
and with Laura at Decor to Adore


Susan (My Place to Yours) said...

Mabel looks bee-utiful in basic black ... and her hundred-year-old legs are still stylin' with their pretty decoration. Nicely done! It must feel fantastic to fi-na-lly accomplish this project. :-) I'm setting aside 2012 to get started on my to-do list of projects. I can hardly wait!

Kelli @ The Turquoise Piano said...

Definitely worth the wait! Saw it on Met Monday.

no spring chicken said...

Once again I am impressed. Basic black never looked so good, Debbie... Debbie Hemingway. Your grandma was a wise woman.

Blessings, Debbie... Debbie... ?

Ikealady said...

Mabel looks fantastic,black is always amazing on
Don´t we all have objects like that, but better
late than never.

Happier Than a Pig in Mud said...

Congrats on completing the project, it looks great! Since it's fall, I'm thinking a round touch of orange would look great with that black... just sayin':@)

marty (A Stroll Thru Life) said...

Cute post. Mabel looks fabulous in basic black, always timeless and chic. Hugs, Marty

Barbara F. said...

You are so good at this refinishing business, I cannot say that about myself. I think it is a special gift when you can breathe new life into old furniture. I have a little black desk, too, but I can't take credit, it came from Pier I :(. xo,

Kathryn Ferguson Griffin said...

Wow, love the story on this one! She turned out fabulous! Found you via Between Naps on the Porch. Toodles, Kathryn

Ann said...

For whatever reason, I can not see the last photo .... but I can visualize it in my head and it looks lovely. : D

Glad to see you've been busy and not ill.


Ann said...

Of course, as soon as I posted, the photo came up. I was right, it is gorgeous!

The Decorative Dreamer said...

Ooouuu! You know I love it! You did a beautiful job! I bet Mabel has never looked better. I couldn't help but chuckle over Happier than a Pig in Mud's comment. A round touch of orange would be perfect up top. We're just trying to help you loose that crown you know! I also love your American desk as it is now! Though it would look great with a few more round touches of orange too! :)

Denise at Forest Manor said...

Hi Debbie,

This turned out great, and I love those beautiful, curvaceous legs on Mabel! She and Alfred make quite a pair :) Doesn't it feel great to finish something that has been on hold for so long? And here I thought I was the Queen of Incomplete :-) Thanks for sharing.


Karen said...

Looks great! What a journey - so glad it found its resting place. :) I would be interested to know how you fixed the veneer. Enjoy the fun part decorating!

Rettabug said...

LOL! "Alfred" ...Hitchcock chair? LOL!!!
You continue to crack me up, Deb. You could STILL be the next great American novelist if you'd publish your musings. Really, you could!

Great job on Mabel, too. I have an almost 100 year old child's roll top desk that was my Mom's. I need to get some decent photos of it to share.
Thanks for lighting the fires.


Chatty Crone said...

Don't you know we all look good in black - very slimming - Mabel is no different - she looks great.


Denise said...

I had to hop over and check your 101 list. You're doing great. (I left you a comment. I'm nice like that...)

Now. Mabel looks fabulous, especially paired with chair Alfred. You've got some serious talent for this furniture stuff. I've been racking my brains to remember if I have any furniture to refinish. The only thing I can think of is that secretary. I know it has a veneer front. HELP! Currently, however, I'm trying to find some information about making a slipcover. I noticed in another blog that you hoped I would learn so I could help you. I'll let you know when I finish. Let's hope it's not another quarter of a century.

Loved your post. It was replete with talented stripping and humor! Well, of course...

Lori @ Stoney's Crew said...

Saw the link from Met Monday and had to visit.Mabel is gorgeous, no wonder Alfred is happy to be able to sit near her glory!

Sonja said...

I think Mabel & Alfred look terrific! My dil is a designer and she has always said that every room should have something black in it. It's a great pairing, and I can't wait to see what you are coming up with for your walls. I'm working on walls right now in the guest bedroom. I always have better ideas for other people's rooms than I seem to have for my own! :(

Good job!

Janette@Janette's Sage said...

You are just tooooooo talented, from words to deeds...I have a little black desk, not as nice, nor with a story behind it...I cracked it and love using it as an accent

It will never be used to write a great novel...but I think yours has huge potential...go for it...the next "The Help" writer

Marla and Steve @ Always Nesting said...

I'm laughing with you not at you because your furniture journey is truly an interesting, kinda funny journey. Love, love love the black. It's fabulous. Send her to me and I'll decorate her for you and send you photos :)

Kelley said...

Dear Ms. Hemingway,

We are pleased to accept your submission, "Mabel in Black." Enclosed please find a gift certificate good for two complimentary car washes at Dog 'n Suds. (Some exclusions-- the dog-- apply.)

We look forward to future submissions under your pen name, Stripper.

P.P. Publisher
We do it right, or we just don't. Since 1985

Francie...The Scented Cottage Studio said...

I was wondering where the heck my crown went !!! I think I get it back though because I have a xstitch I've been working on for ummmmmm, ohhhhh I really don't wanns say. Just believe me when i say I get to keep the crown.
thank you for your sweeeet comment, I really appreciate it. And I love both of your pieces, esp Mabel because I had a great aunt Mabel

xinex said...

You are so funny, Debbie, LOL! I don't think I owe anything from 1985, but I love your desk now. You transformed it into a real beauty!!...Christine

At The Picket Fence said...

Mabel and Alfred are a match made in antique furniture heaven for sure! :-) Congratulations on your big win and the beautiful transformation of that piece!
P.S. Can I be the runner up? I have an unfinished heart shaped cross stitch from the 80's that I just found in a fabric bin! :-)

FrouFrouBritches said...

I am so impressed with you!!!! Mabel is beautiful in black! Love, love, love it! The history behind each piece is fascinating and makes it so much more meaningful, doesn't it? Looks like you're making progress on your list. Consider me jealous!!!!

At The Picket Fence said...

LOL! Just saw the comment up above from Francie! I'm thinking we need to start an unfinished cross-stitch anonymous club! :-)

Ms.Daisy said...

You may be the Queen of Half Complete but I am the Queen of Never Started. I have two projects that I bought with the intention of painting but...there they sit, quite sad looking, if I do say so myself one in the bathroom (an antique washstand) and one in my upstairs hallway (a sofa end table!) I do a lot of thinking about them though. Does that count?


The Polka Dot Closet said...

In the end it looks fabulous and what a great history! Now, about remember my train ride last year...girl give me some of your memory brain cells, I can't remember what I did yesterday, much less what someone else did!


The Quintessential Magpie said...

You always, always make me smile, Debbie. Love this post along with Mabel and her beau. You do good work, so good in fact that I want to invite you to come over and help me with my first cousin to your desk that experienced a similar predicament, only it happened in the 1970's. We obviously were cut from the same piece of cloth. ;-)

Thanks, too, for being such a good friend, for your prayers and your sweet words. I tried to blog some last night, and only got a little ways down the replies. I am drove down and am checking on the girls and seeing how they are along with Bill. So we are still trying to find a new sense of normal and just taking one day at a time.

Big hugs, my friend, and all my love...



Joan said...

When I saw the title of the post, I thought perhaps your computer had stopped its little swirley thing, but her name is Della I think??

Anyway, Mabel is beautiful and she looks very good beside Alfred.

And Ms. are a writer!

Mevely317 said...

Oh Debbie, your Mabel looks so very PROUD! As she should! ... What a legacy of love!!!

Dayle said...

You've definitely got your groove on, girl. Looking great!

P.S. Been keeping you in my prayers, sweet blogging friend.

Pat@Back Porch Musings said...

Wonderful post Debbie. I love the story and I love the finished black desk.

My grandparents little desk is antique burnt orange from the 70's (my work). I should dig it out and paint it black.:-)

Sarah (Nikki) said...

woo hoo!!! Debbie you are incredibly talented.....first as a writer. I love how you write and then as a furniture stripper beautifier...that desk - amazing. Totally impressed. ☺

laurie @ bargain hunting said...

Debbie, First, I'm so glad to see a post from you. Second, you ARE a writer! I can't say it enough- I love to read what you write, and can't wait for you to join some of the writing challenges in Blogville. Third, that desk was worth the wait. Oh My Word, Mabel looks stunning in black. How wonderful that you have these desks that came from family members and have turned them into such beautiful pieces. And Fourth, I LOVE when you leave comments on my posts. You always have such kind words. You rock! laurie

Christine said...

I like how you name your items.
I do the very same thing. Everything has a name.

This is a treasure that you will cherish.

abeachcottage said...

Mabel turned out lovely, so shiny and so great looking :) Well done!

Canadagirl said...

Wow Mable is sooooooooo pretty! I could imagine you spending a lot of time writing there. She is a beauty. I desperately need to strip and refinish my dinning room table. Too bad you live sooooooo far away.((sigh)) I sure could use a experts hand. You are giving me some inspiration! I will have to give it a try in the spring though. It will happen I keep promising myself. [o=

Blessings and ((HUGS))

Nezzy said...

Congratulations to both Mable and Alfred. They make quite the handsome couple.

Honey, the desk looks amazin' and what a grand addition it must be to your kitchen. 'Can't wait to see her all dolled up. Great job!

God bless ya sweetie and have a most beautiful day!!! ;o)

Kathryn Ross said...

Well Deb, this is great! A terrific tale, well told, and a happy ending for Mabel after all. She looks fab, by the way - and pared with just the right chair. AS to stuff to stuff her with - and that wall . . . well . . . I happen to excel at filling every conceivable corner and wall space with - stuff. My husband tells me so. He's a minimalist. Could do without anything cluttering about. I like my place to look like a delicious booth in an Antiques mall.
Too bad we're not closer - shopping spree would be in order.

Glad you liked your pink tea treat - and hope it arrived in the excellent condition I sent it in! Hope you're feeling better . . .

Carol said...

Mabel looks stunning! Great job.

Tanna at The Brick Street Bungalow said...

Mabel and Alfred look most charming together!! Very nice job, Debbie! I'm still holding out for that novel. ;) blessings ~ tanna

Kelli said...

You're the best stripper I know!! I mean furniture stripper. You are a gifted writer and I thank you for blessing me each time I visit!!!

Kim @ Stuff could... said...

I never get half the things done....but when you do finish your projects, they are gorgeous!

Sharon said...

Mabel looks stunning in basic black. She actually looks a little bit skinnier, too...just sayin'

Better dress Mabel up fast, though. Alfred's got that *ogle* look that chairs get when they sit around too long. Although I think Mabel is a willing accomplice. Look what happened when Alfred asked her to strip and drop down her front.

I'm thinking you should make room for some Mabel/Alfred offspring. Maybe a cute little magazine rack or footstool? Hmmm...

Furniture - never can trust 'em.

Patti said...

I have never taken on a project like that, so I am in awe of you. I think you are an expert and that you've done a totally awesome job!! Mable is stunning!!! I think Aunt Mable would be delighted with her.


Mary said...

Mable is a beauty painted black! I'm impressed with your refinishing & painting skills and equally impressed with your dialogue...I agree with Rett :-)

T.O. Geezer aka ~Ron said...

Mabel and Alfred look absolutely fabulous! :-)

Yellow Rose Arbor said...

Mable and Alfred look wonderful! This post gave me a lot of chuckles! So cute!


Hi, I'm Laura Ingalls Gunn said...

Mabel you are indeed a looker! Love, love, love it! Thank you so much for linking up.

Amy Kinser said...

This looks great. I can't wait to see what you do with her. I know you can make her beautiful..

Pattie @ Olla-Podrida said...

It looks great! You did a fantastic job. I love accent pieces of furniture in black. Nice!


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