One of the most challenging things about moving to a new apartment is resolving the unique design quirks and opportunities provided by a new space and layout. This can be very frustrating when you're not sure how long you're going to be living in a particular space. I can't even count how many times I've had to buy items that I only needed for a year (or even less) before moving to a new place where said essential item was suddenly superfluous. There was the apartment on the Upper East Side with no kitchen cabinets to speak of. The apartment in Hell's Kitchen with the bathtub improbably configured to leak at every opportunity. The railroad apartment in New Orleans with just one shallow closet ( in. the. whole. apartment.). The place in St. Louis with three walls of windows in the bedroom, drafty and drapeless.
Then there are the items that have to be sold or tossed or given away because they no longer fit in a new place. A dining room table, perfectly sized for a little nook off of one kitchen---suddenly becomes a vestigial organ of a past apartment life overnight, as you realize it won't fit into the new smaller dining area of the next place. And so forth. Being that I'm both frugal and sentimental, I've found clever but often unsightly ways to keep my furniture in the hopes that it will serve a purpose 'in the new place', a phrase that for me is invoked with the same dreamy hopefulness as the rabbit farm in Of Mice And Men. Let me just say this: I used a butcher's block as a TV stand for three years. Three years, people. Nightstands became end tables became coffee tables then night stands again. When I didn't even have enough room to stage that kind of Midsummer Night's Dream furniture production, I stacked them on top of each other, blessed the gods of vertical space, and called it sculpture.
In the new apartment, I've been almost at a loss as to how to proceed after so many years of considering my space, well, temporal. I mean, nothing is forever and everything shall pass from this earth and all that, but this place is less temporary. And less temporary has thrown me for a bit of a loop even after years and years of dreaming about paint colors and built-ins and fabric swatches. It's required that I stop repurposing for a moment, at least the way I used to, and think in terms of what I'd like to put in a corner when I might be able to leave it there for a couple of years. Or maybe more.
So Andrew and I have been eyeing the furniture classifieds since we moved in, looking for items that might fill a specific purpose or replace pieces that are in poor shape. Well, it's mostly been me scanning the classifieds. I wanted to get a sense of how much things cost, so I would know a good deal when I saw one. Then one afternoon I spotted a good deal: a dining room set for $600. A hutch and credenza, dining room table with two leaves and covers, and four chairs. All in teak, and Danish Modern, a style that speaks to me for several reasons: I'm Scandinavian, my parents had teak Danish furniture when I was growing up, and there's something substantial about it that seems trustworthy. After a few emails, the set was ours and the movers were scheduled to bring it to our place that Saturday.
The dining set was in good vintage condition, but like any set that's been knocking about for awhile, it had some signs of wear. The previous owners had two cats, and there were some claw marks, which left a mild scoring on the surface. The cats had also found the upholstery on the chairs irresistible and had eaten and scratched their way through to the foam padding---meaning reupholstery of these cushions is a future project. And then there were the dings and scratches that accompany any set that's been used. These kinds of marks don't bother me as they give character to a piece. Even so, I thought a good cleaning and restaining would help these marks recede. Luckily I'd recently read this post at Apartment Therapy about restoring wood finishes. I used Restore-A-Finish to restain, then Feed-n-Wax to polish. By the time I was done, the wood was burnished and glowing.
I let the oils soak in for a few days before loading it up. I am a glassware fiend, and have collected it everywhere I go. I'm one of those people that pretty much have a glass for everything. Parfait glasses, beer glasses, wine glasses, martini glasses, shot glasses, whiskey glasses, rocks glasses, highball glasses, Collins glasses, water glasses, juice glasses...you name the liquid, I can put it in the appropriate glass for you. They mean a lot to me because after years of moving, they are like the amazing little vessels that have managed to survive the tempest. I have packed them in bedsheets, dumped them into boxes with no buffer at all, carried them in my purse...they always seem to be the last thing I pack in a move and they have suffered for it. Leaving Jersey City, I recall a bumpy Zipcar drive at 3am as my ex and I vacated the apartment we'd entered as a couple and exited as friends. We had an open box of glassware between us, and I was so tired at that point that they were just stacked up every which way with no bubble wrap or paper between them. The bumps in the road made them sound like flat chimes. I'll never forget that sound, and the fact that not one glass broke on that move seemed to say something to me that was important, or hopeful, or maybe both.
So these glasses are meaningful. I'm so pleased to offer them a home worthy of them.
There is so much unfinished in the dining room: we have no drapes or window covering (we're currently using a sheet), the dining room table has not been cleaned and restained, the dining room chairs need all of that plus reupholstery. I plan to paint and install crown molding in this room as well. But the hutch and credenza are making me feel like this is a home already.
Some close ups of my treasures:
I have a vintage glass from every city/state I've lived in except Seattle/Washington and New Jersey. I keep checking Ebay!
This figure came from my grandmother. I forget who made her but I have the paperwork on file. I've always liked her expression, which strikes me as an intersection of resignation and hope.
The little juice glasses were an Etsy find. These glasses are the same glasses my parents had when I was growing up. We actually had both this size and a larger water glass size. Over the years, they broke one by one until there were just a couple of these smaller glasses left. When I saw them on Etsy, a complete set, I bought them straightaway. They remind me of my childhood.
This cut glass decanter was something I bought when I was living in Iowa. I was in grad school at the time, and found it at some outlet housewares store. The martini glasses I bought when I lived in Jersey City. The rotational whisky glass is Andrew's---it pivots on a little point.
The clear wine glasses are from that same discount store in Iowa. I once had like 12 of them. Over the years, most of them have broken and I'm left with just 4. The cranberry rimmed goblets are from my friend Joanne. She gave them to me before I left St. Louis to move to New Orleans. They were a set that had been in her family and she wanted me to have them. It was the sweetest thing for her to give them to me and I treasure them.
The blue glasses are vintage reproductions from Anthropologie. The confetti glass is an IKEA glass that was left behind by my ex-boyfriend when he moved from New York to Minnesota last year. I keep it because it reminds me of him and of the year we spent living in the same apartment building (but different apartments) in the year before he ended up leaving NYC. We split the glassware but he bought some of these glasses at IKEA because we didn't have enough water glasses between us.
The tall stripey Deco glasses are from Crate & Barrel. They're fantastic. The assortment of random whisky glasses are from a thrift store in St. Louis. They're unbelievably heavy and satisfying to drink from.
I have a selection of glass mugs for coffee or warm winter cocktails. They're great for hot cider or buttered rums. I also have four parfait glasses in various styles for ice cream or mousse.
This is a terrible picture of my infamous rooster set. It's a juice pitcher and 5 glasses (two were in the dishwasher at the time this photo was taken). If I recall correctly, I got them at Kmart, back when Martha Stewart was designing housewares for them. I love this set. Kitschy and fun.
The birdie sugar bowl is from Anthropologie. The creamer and sugar bowl (sans top, the worst casualty of this last move) are family pieces my mother gave me. They have what looks like a forget-me-not design (I love forget-me-nots!).
The alphabet bowl is something I've had since I was a child. It has nursery rhyme illustrations on the outside. The little rosy plates are something I got on Etsy. They're perfect for tea.
On to the harder stuff, this side of the hutch houses cocktail shakers and shot glasses. The shot glasses have writers and quotes on them. It's impossible to keep writers out of a liquor cabinet, so why even try?
Even closing the hutch doors is a pleasure with these vintage brass key pulls.