Behold! Our Vintage Oak Dining Set

November 20, 2015   //  Posted in: Being Thrifty, Casual Celebrations, Dining Room   //  By: Emily   //  4 responses

It was about two years ago that I began campaigning hard for a table and set of chairs from a local library. It was at that time that the library, after a long, political budget planning process, was finally green-lighted to be rebuilt in a brand-new state-of-the-art facility. That new library opened this Fall.

The old library in town had been last furnished in the 1960’s with amazing, solid oak shelving and library furniture designed in the height of the midcentury era. I’ve admired it for as long as I’ve lived in Rochester, and especially after we purchased our current house and laid light wood flooring throughout. If you want to go into the vault for a minute, Pete and I had purchased a totally radical midcentury danish mahogany table 3 years ago on a whim because it would have been perfect for a home that we had been trying to purchase. When we ultimately ended up in our current house instead and then proceeded to install maple floors, we knew we would want to swap the dark mahogany for something lighter and more fitting to the style of the home.

Something like this here, a photo I snapped years ago:

Vintage oak library table.

I’m totally glossing over exactly how much effort I put into making myself known to the library director and town officials as part of this ordeal (because it was a lot and borderline embarrassing), but as you can sense it was all worthwhile when I was able to go into the closed library last month and select the most solid and damage-free pieces before the remaining inventory was sent to auction. If you’re wondering, we did make a donation in exchange for the furniture in the amount that they were projected to sell for at auction, but it was still far from the cost we would have incurred to buy a new solid oak set for our home. I just lucked into having first dibs without the auction paddle process.

Midcentury oak library table from the Myrtle Desk Company, 1963.

Library furniture that dates back to the 1960’s, as you might expect, isn’t without a lot of wear and tear. It all needs to be refinished, which was part of the appeal to me all along and totally befuddled some of the higher-ups with which I networked. The tabletop itself isn’t is poor condition by any means, and it’s a lot better than some of the other tables that were on site – one or two deeper scratches, and light scuffs.

Midcentury oak library table from the Myrtle Desk Company, 1963.

These chairs have seen a lot of butts, and while most of the pieces are in solid condition and totally void of teenager’s initials and love messages carved into the finish, I can’t even begin to tell you about the gum, oh god, all of that old gum. But wouldn’t you know, the original paper tags from the manufacturer are still stapled to the underside of each chair marking the date of manufacturer, the Myrtle Desk Company from High Point, South Carolina, May 1963. Amazing.

May 1963, the Original Myrtle Desk Company.

Cleaning the chairs was my first effort. Murphy Oil Soap diluted in water and all of my elbow grease removed decades of scuff marks and dust, and cleaned the exposed raw wood in areas where the finish had been worn away. Here’s what each leg looked like when we brought them home:

Damaged leg with scuffs and worn finish on a midcentury oak chair.

No arguing that they cleaned up perfectly. Refinishing the chairs is going to be a long, more time consuming process than the refinishing the table, but knowing that these pieces have withstood 50+ years of use really bodes well for how long we can expect a new finish to last in our home.

Midcentury library oak chair.

One more gross picture: Want to see the underside of the seats, the part you grab when you’re pulling the chair in to sit upon? Yeah, you do. Vom!

Dirty underside of oak midcentury chair.

I’ll document the cleaning and refinishing process in another post someday; for now, with the chairs cleaned and ready for our family, I couldn’t help but get them into position in our dining room.

Attaching legs to our new vintage library table.

Voila – dreams come true.

Midcentury library table used as a dining room table.

The green chair on the end is a piece I bought from Abode Rochester about a year ago, but still haven’t used extensively; it fits much better with our new oak table than it did with the mahogany table, but it still needs to be refinished. For the time being, it’s a nice end seat for our toddler.

Midcentury library table used as a dining room table.

We have 8 chairs total, thinking two could go on each end when we need to accommodate guests. For everyday use, we’ll be keeping three of the library chairs on each side.

Vintage library oak chairs.

I have another story about whole library thing that I’ll fill you in on next week if I have a chance to write the post during the holiday break. Until then, sitting pretty in our home!

Growing Garlic

November 05, 2015   //  Posted in: Gardening   //  By: Emily   //  Leave a comment

Alt title: Keeping my friends at arms length.

I know quite a few people who grow garlic in their gardens in mass, and every time I’m weighing my own garlic in the produce section, I remind myself that this is something we could be harvesting ourselves with, like, zero effort.

My friend Kelly has green thumb (I saw her garden in person last year, and it continues to inspire). She’s done the heavy lifting at demystifying everything garlic – from varieties, to where to buy, to how to grow. I went back to her post on the topic recently as a reminder to get it done now. We were given a bunch of locally grown garlic heads this fall, and they hadn’t been treated with a sprout inhibitor, so I took that as a sign and carved out a space for 9 cloves in our garden. Our soil is very sandy and light and well-draining, and word on the web is that it makes for perfect garlic growing conditions. Hopefully these 9 cloves will produce, and next year I can plant twice as many, and twice as many after that until someday no one will want to come near us because we’ll be emitting garlic scent in a quarter mile radius.

Planting garlic in fall.

I’m also documenting this here so that come spring, I have a slightly improved chance at remembering that I actually did plant garlic during a short lunch break this afternoon, and that I should resist pulling up those little shoots when I’m weeding.

And, hey Pete, that’s why the corner of our garden looks like a burial site. Disregard.

Planting garlic in fall.

Our garden this year was so-so. Not as great as last year, because we lost 30% of our bell peppers and 75% of our tomato plants early in the season for unknown reasons. The best trellis ever (verified) was an overachiever, and gave us armload upon armload of green beans which we converted into jars of dilly beans. Raspberries and blueberries that had been transplanted the previous year are becoming more established; hopefully we’ll begin seeing fruit from those plants next season.

We regretfully didn’t plant squash this year, but already have a list for next year that includes butternut and acorn varieties, along with sugar snap peas, and hot peppers. We’re also going to try using our large fenced in garden for some flowers too – I swiped some giant sunflower seeds and zinnia heads from my mom’s garden when we were apple picking. One of these days, I’ll sketch out a plan for sorting next year’s bed, but in the meantime I’ll leave you with this snapshot of the gardens at the Strong Museum in Rochester – totally loving the checkerboard way of spacing pavers to sort the bed while keeping weeds at bay!

Garden organizing with paver spacers.

Three Fall Projects

October 30, 2015   //  Posted in: Backyard, DIY, DIY Network Projects   //  By: Emily   //  Leave a comment

It’s not too late to knock a few more outdoor chores off your list, take it from me. One of the many outdoor projects I wanted to make time for this summer was building a shelter to house all of our chopped logs. For a few years now, we’ve rotated our fallen branch inventory, trying to keep up with burning the dry branches and keeping the green logs sheltered until they dry. What we’ve really needed all this time, is a great outdoor wood storage unit. The space before? A weedy section along the fence in the backyard.

Make better use of your backyard space with a wood storage container made of an upcycled fence post.

You can buy some fancy units these days, but they’re not all covered, and depending on the materials you want, they can get pricy fast. To create a solution to fit our needs, I concocted an easy tutorial for DIY Network that shows you how to build outdoor firewood storage using a single fence panel, a salvaged pallet, and corrugated roofing. The finished dimensions are 8-ft. long x 3′ high for pretty awesome capacity, making this one of my favorite functional backyard DIY projects to date. And I do love that design-wise it fits right in with Cody’s doghouse and the treehouse.

Make better use of your backyard space with a wood storage container made of an upcycled fence post.

The other new addition is one I’ve wanted for awhile: meet my new DIY bat house, built to the needy specifications of those little critters. I didn’t install it on a metal post high in the air like you might be more used to seeing, but 15-feet up on a south-facing tree in our backyard with no low-hanging branches. Hopefully our garden and backyard are significantly more bug-free next spring and summer when the residents return to roost.

How to make a cedar bat house.

Another project using cedar that I conquered this week is an all-season wooden doormat that adorns out front porch.I had high hopes for it, and it turned out better than I imagined. Originally I was going to use plain wood, but at the last minute I decided to use a variety of stains to create a more variated effect, and I definitely think it looks richer than it cost ($30).

Cedar all-season doormat.