That treasure hunt bug really hits you sometimes. Like checking craigslist every morning just.to.see what might be listed. Or that steering wheel that just somehow takes you on the road to those favorite thrift stores for a bit of browsing. Most of the time- you don’t find too much that stops you in your tracks. But sometimes- you do.
We have been clearing storage bits out and donating or giving away a lot of pieces we have collected over the years that we just don’t use. A lot of the painted furniture I re-did back.in.the.day. for example. I just haven’t been as keen on using those painted pieces in awhile. So Why was I shopping for antiques on craigslist and FB Marketplace you ask? Well, I have a project in mind. And in redoing a few of the rooms in the house- I want to change the look and feeling a bit. And so, I have been keeping an eye on the listings just in case something popped up that might work.
Note: No styled pretty photos of these pieces Yet- read on to learn why
Well, I bumped into a listing for antique furniture. It was listed at around $500 and I noticed the carvings and details and paused for a moment trying to envision the pieces together. Since there were not too many photos showing details and not too many details listed – it can sometimes be hard to tell if something is 300 years old- or 30 years old. But, from what I could see, I was intrigued enough to save the listing to look at again.
I looked at it a few times but since the pieces were not put together in the ad- it was hard to see what exactly it would look like, or the scale and measurements etc. I tried to research a few things but it was in the middle of a busy couple of weeks and so, I left it as saved. A few weeks later, I saw that the listing had been updated and was marked down to a price that made me stop and contact them. What was the price?
Okay, first thought on antiques that are marked as FREE… What is wrong with it. There is always a catch, right? I mean, is the piece haunted? Is it falling apart? Does it water damage or smell like mildew? Or is it not really an antique and was made in the 90’s out of particle board or maybe it is something else not mentioned.
I had all the questions folks. And I asked the questions. The person selling the pieces didn’t have much info other than it was her great-grandparents and brought over from Italy back in the day and they were closing their storage unit and they needed to go. While my husband and sons were loading the mirror and 2 piece cupboard- there was 1 last piece in the storage unit that was damaged that went with the cupboard that they gave them too. I was excited though not having seen them in person- didn’t quite know what to expect when they arrived.
The pieces are gorgeous. Lots of old carvings and details that are really so pretty. Dainty legs and apron, the drawers have old patina and there are original skeleton keys- which I always love to fine included. The 2 part cupboard is much taller and more stately than I thought it would be from the photos- it is probably about 8.5′ + tall and at least 4′ wide. And the mirror is so much different than it looked in photos- again- I thought it would sit on the top of a table and be maybe 3′ tall- it is probably about 6- 6.5′ tall and 4′ wide.
I was able to research a bit about these- I am familiar with French cupboards like this- I have 2 in my home and they are called ‘buffet deux corp’ aka two body cupboard. Since she said these were Italian- I learned all kinds of things while researching. And from the notes I found on the inside of the doors about the other pieces the family had they came from a villa in Brandizzo, Italy- just as the seller as said. They seem to be a family that had a lot of beautiful pieces that they loved.
Age? I am so bad at that one- the drawer construction has areas that are replaced but overall construction, hardware & the dovetails are quite rustic and old. From similar pieces I saw online- probably 1800’s sometime.
Another good point- the wood is a beautiful hardwood that will be perfect for the look I had in mind.
I don’t believe the mirror is as old as the cupboards- or that it even goes with them really. But it is a beauty. It is probably the piece that made me save the listing in the first place.
The Not So Good
Well, there is always a catch right? And with antiques that are Free- there definitely had to be a catch. What we didn’t know ahead of time before going to pick these up (about an hour and 1/2 each way away from us) was that these pieces had a lot of areas that are covered in woodworm holes. YIKES.
Woodworm holes are fairly common in some of the European antiques from what I understand and don’t necessarily mean an active problem. So that isn’t an automatic Stop for me. The armoire in our bathroom has them – I have never seen sawdust or any signs of anything active. You can see them in the closest side of the cupboard in this photo and pretty well in the mirror close up photo below.
I don’t mind the holes-they are like a bit of character and patina. What I DO mind is if the beetles are still in the wood. There are a couple ‘lines’ in a couple of places also- so they definitely enjoyed these pieces for awhile. That is the issue and quite possibly Why the pieces were free instead of sold.
It also looks like these have been stripped in areas and refinished and possibly some of the drawer backs and bottoms replaced at some point in areas as well- maybe because they were treated for the beetles and then touched up. Note: I snapped these while they were outside and they had a nice dusting of pollen on them- that is not wood dust from bugs or anything. And second note- I LOVE the crusty, worn, dinged up patina on that drawer front.
Since I was planning on re-doing a solid piece of wood for a different finish- this is actually good. I don’t have to feel bad about ‘ruining’ an antique by changing the finish. If the finish was in original, hand rubbed patina finish without concern about beetles- I might leave as is and find another piece that is newer for refinishing- though- I have been really leaning towards the natural raw woods rather than dark for furniture in my home. I don’t mind the imperfections in the finish or the areas that are more worn than others- I actually like those little inconsistencies.
Diamonds in the Rough
Ahh diamonds in the rough. I pretty much have a weak spot for something that has that needs a little polishing to shine. Remember how I talked about when I first drove onto our property to look at this house and ‘felt’ the house was waiting for someone to love it? The property felt magical. There was an energy that made me want to get out of the car. Even though at the time- the house was looking quite a bit like a big old chunk of coal. So these are diamonds in the rough to me. I feel like they are far too beautiful to just let sit. I gave them a good cleaning ( and sage) and they are ready for a new chapter.
So far- it looks like they are old holes & they seem structurally sound. But to be safe- my friends at Eloquence shared that you can spray with a termite spray or something like and then wax the holes to seal them before tackling a bleached look.
I am leaning towards stripping the pieces, treating just in case and then bleaching the wood to look similar to the cupboard below in our dining room. Will it work? I have no idea. haha. I haven’t done it before. Will the holes detract from the finish when it is bleached? Again, I have no idea. But since I do have lighter pieces that have those same holes and they didn’t stand out- I think they will look ok and can just imagine how incredible those carvings and details will look when they are a raw wood finish.
I am feeling a tad obsessed with how it will turn out and haven’t even started yet.
Do I have any wood worker or antique pro readers? I would love your thoughts on these on these pieces and any tips.
I am watching for a few more days before tackling anything- so send them my way and stay tuned for the process and how they come together.
Happy shopping all.