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Tuesday
Mar042014

Year 1 Project Roundup

There is something to be said about using old materials. They have this inherently comforting quality about them and evoke a wonderful nostalgic feeling. Plus, they’re just plain built to a higher standard; old materials are made to last, new materials… maybe not so much...

With our first year under our belts we wanted to look back and highlight some of our favourite restorations and projects. Truly humbling to work on these old pieces; signatures of incredible craftspeople that came before us and are the envy of our team.

So then lets look at one of this years highlights!

Globe Vintage Card File Cabinet

Circa 1940's. Not to be left out on our highlight reel, this stunning oak card file cabinet has caused quite the stir in Victoria. We've been looking for top quality units like this one for a long time. Instead of finding them, we've found stories, detailed accounts of libraries putting them on the sidewalk for $5 each or schools giving them away as they transitioned into the digital age. Everywhere we looked we seemed to find the space to which it once occupied and the description of the hunter who found their target. Never discouraged, we continue to hunt away, our list of clients who seek them getting ever larger and our ability to let go of them ever more difficult.

And then this beauty came up for auction at Killshaws in Victoria. Globe units, whose internals were a beautiful painted green metal and who craftsmen had so lovingly build by hand the unit from oak. Fate would have the highest bidder on that day walk away with this piece of history. Our orders from our client were shoot to kill; there would be no remorse, no apologies, our auction frequenting friends were to become our enemies on that day.

2 months later we delivered a showpiece to our client who wanted to give their new kitchen some soul. It was a transformed cabinet with it new lease on life, storing wine for a couple of aficionados. We completed a full restoration, bringing out the depth in the lovely oak striping, removing and cleaning every drawer, every pull and lining each one with wedged foam to cup each bottle softly. We still to this day feel like we should have loaded up the piece and escaped instead to a new life in Mexico.

Canadian Hoosier Cabinet Circa 1900's. You know you're in love with a piece of furniture when every time you walk by it it makes you smile. That was exactly the case with our turn of the century Hoosier, a cabinet made for the kitchen as houses were not typically equipped with built in cabinetry. A smile could be prompted by many things about it: its shape, its providence, or the way it smells like lemon oil. For us, just seeing the cool mint colour had us beaming from ear to ear.

This piece, much like the others, has an interesting story. Originally from Saskatoon it was purchased used over 80 years ago by a colleague of ours. It was his grandmother's and it has made its way west with him and spend the better part of the last two decades here in his workshop. Over the years it was worked on it, stripped of over 5 coats of paint it had accumulated over time. It wasn't until we collectively started seeking a vision for it, putting it together, cleaning all the original hardware and putting a cool twist on the original green (which can be seen on the castor wheels included and enamel top). The paint colour is called 'treat bag' green and has the power to move you.

We still field calls to this day about that cabinet, telling unfortunate souls of its purchase long ago, not quite ready to remove it from the image galleries that remind us of when it used to grace our presence. We are often asked how are we able to let go of something that has become something of a comforting friend over time. It is often the sheer joy and excitement by the individual purchasing it, knowing that it will be coveted for so many years to come. That thought often helps the transition, although perhaps we are never really able to let go.

Indian Door Desk Upcycle

Circa 1900's, this project is striking to say the least. Hand-carved out of hardwood over 100 years ago, these Indian doors are so ornate, so colourful that they stopped us dead in our tracks when we first laid eyes on them. We knew we had to have them, they had potential, although we had no idea what they could be used for as it was unlikely that we would find someone willing to build a house around them. Fast forward nearly 10 months we've completed one of the coolest desks we've ever seen!

We still chuckle when we think of the story about the desk came about. We were already thinking that they would make a one-of-a-kind dining table when a client stumbled in and expressed his desire to find some old, "doors or something" to make a desk from. The doors were in the back of the store in the build room at the time and the conversation went a little like this:

Client walks into store, absorbs a little of what he sees and walks up to ask

"I'm looking for some old doors....something old, incredibly detailed, I'd like to make a custom desk"

"Hmm.... go on". We nod our head, and prompt some more description, sensing we've have it exactly what this person was hunting.

"Yah, they'd be really colourful and like hand carved and have a lot of patina you know."

"Yes, hmm... there might be something in the back, why don't you follow me and we'll have a look".

We lead him around to the back where the incredibly dominating old Indian doors presented themselves, exactly as described. Stunned silence ensues.... then a shared look, then a laugh.

It doesn't usually work out like this, but to say this project was meant to be is an understatement. We went to work, again with our right hand man Doug, deconstructing the door's framing and building the legs and skirt from the beautiful hardwood material. The doors were joined together, no easy task as they were far from straight, and orientated so that the client could have some space for items between the top. The large pained chains and pulls were all preserved, as well as the old nails used to fasten may of the components of the doors together. 3/8th tempered glass with a beautiful beveled edge finished the top, delivering a depth that looked as if the piece were a hologram. The desk and glass is just so solid and has so much structural strength we should have written "emergency earthquake shelter" in big red letters across it. Luckily the legs and glass can be deconstructed to be moved, a necessity when each element weighs a hundred pounds. The finished piece is completely one of a kind, something that we are proud to have worked on and something we've learned a lot doing.

Vintage Survey Tripod Lamp

Circa 1940's as well, this maple and brass antique tripod was transformed from its old life surveying the lay of the land, into its new life, lighting the living room in a beautiful cabin in the interior of BC. This project was unique in a few different ways.

Firstly, the tripod lamp was sold before it was ever finished, the 'vision' of what it would likely become resonating so well with a client that she committed to purchasing it in its beta form. This was fantastic, but also proved challenging, as staying true to that idealized 'vision' can sometimes be difficult as the realities of any build shape its design. In the end, we successfully delivered the lamp to exactly the full glory in which we hoped it would become.

The second interesting thing about this project was that it truly embodied the efforts of multiple contributors. Simply put, this custom lamp was a collaboration between so many different businesses. I've never quite understood how powerful a single customers purchase can impact the people and businesses who contributed until we sold this lamp!

The tripod was sourced by us through Scott Landon Antiques in Vancouver, if your in town pop in and say hello, George and Scott and true trailblazers. [Check out their website too, we routinely bring their items over to Victoria for our clients at no extra cost!] Once we got a hold of the tripod we went to work, figuring out how we were going to facilitate the electrics. United Engineering Limited by Victoria's shipyards machined us the custom brass work and the Victoria Lampshade Shop provided us the shade and a few other bits and bobs.

The matching green cotton twisted cord was custom ordered from the US and finally we commissioned the replacement of all the original leather straps from the Duncan Cobbler up-island. We weren't done yet! The leather was distressed by none other than our restorationist, Doug Zarry, and even the acrylic diffuser, a beautiful textured piece of 'cloud dragon' was imported from Japan by our good friends West Coast Shoji in Vancouver. The finishing touch was the 13.5 watt Phillips LED lightbulb, which gives out the perfect colour, with fantastic low heat properties and other features that round out this exceptional piece.

With so many different tripods out there there really is incredible opportunity to transform these old tools into something new. If your interested in commissioning a lamp, let us know, we'll be happy to build one for you!

There were so many projects in our first year that we can't wait to see what we get up to in year two. Chandeliers, CPR stools, typewriter tables and more are on the way. Stay tuned as we add to our highlights list and recap next month our top custom commercial and residential pieces from year one. If you see something that you like, don't hesitate to contact us and we can work on your very own piece!

A final thank you to our clients, we couldn't have completed any of these projects without you. Also thank you for all the support from all the contributors, businesses, and people who have lent a hand (or a muscle or two), you've helped lay the brickwork to a successful year and we are indebted to you for that.