A battered piece of furniture takes on a life of its own.
| I've stripped and refinished it three times, and it still looks like something the cat dragged in. There are stains all over the top, and significant sections of veneer are chipped, separated, or altogether missing. The knobs and their backplates are of entirely different styles and periods, and the latches on the two big doors stick so you practically need a pry bar to open them. Let's face it. This poor old cabinet will never look like anything but what it is - a battered old castoff.
It was 1968 and I was nineteen years old, on my own for the first time and barely surviving on a factory worker's wages. I was out riding my bicycle one Saturday afternoon, just getting the feel of the neighborhood, and happened to pass a weed-choked lot where a man was selling, well, basically a bunch of junk. My first yard sale!
I wasn't going to buy anything, just poke around a bit and leave, but there it was, with my name written all over it. Figuratively speaking, of course. I knew next to nothing about furniture, and I took it for a dresser, but the owner informed me it was a kitchen cabinet, for pots and pans. That was news to me. As far as I knew, kitchen cabinets were always built in, not moveable furniture.
It stood about waist high, maybe five feet long, and about 18 inches deep with two doors, two large drawers, and six turned legs that accounted for about half its height. For six dollars he said he'd deliver it, so I gave him the money and my address and went on my way.
When my then boyfriend (now husband) came over that evening he was appalled. In the first place, why would I spend what little money I had on a piece of junk like that, and in the second place, what was I thinking, giving cash and my address to a complete stranger? He had a point, of course, but I've always tended to trust people unless there's an obvious reason not to do so.
I hauled my "antique" out onto the balcony and stripped and repainted it, no mean task considering the intricate scrollwork on the door panels and the multiple turnings on the legs. Fitting this rather large piece of furniture into my small apartment was another problem altogether, but I managed to cram it into the bedroom and stuffed it full of slacks and sweaters.
Some three years later we moved into a house of our own and got a new bedroom set, so I no longer needed an extra dresser, and the kitchen cabinet-cum-dresser moved into the spare bedroom. Problem: the only place it logically fit was in front of the window, and it was at least a foot higher that the windowsill. Solution: we cut off the legs. Heresy, I know, but owing to the years of sitting out in the weather they were full of cracks and splits and big chunks of the turnings had broken off, so they were more eyesore than asset. Thus the kitchen cabinet morphed into a windowseat complete with a cushion and a fresh coat of paint, and the cats took it over.
We've moved four times since then, and each time my treasured "antique" has gotten a little more battered and bruised. It's big and heavy and clunky and ugly (did I say ugly? I meant unassuming), and I'll probably still be dragging it along when they cart me off to the nursing home forty years from now.