The Library of Congress: Every home needs a token bookcase to display those texts from college worth keeping and to show off collectible editions of turn-of-the-century forgotten poets and novelists — if not for their elaborate bindings, then for their enriched content? But just like the medley of characters encased upon the shelves, so should a bookcase have character.
This particular case was found along the main street of my college town — simply abandoned on the curb. Covered in dust, some mildew and flaking paint, my peers thought I was nuts to adopt this orphan. Yet, despite the decades of grime, I knew this bookcase had personality — it just needed some tender, loving care. First came the soapy water, then prying off the peeling plywood backing, and then the scraping, stripping and sanding of the case, its shelves, as well as its unique slats and jig-jagged grid of height.
The original plan had been to strip it bare and stain it — but, I found a certain beauty in the distressed look with varied layers of paint and wood grain adding an extra dimension of intrigue. However, I did choose to paint the interior of the case a deep cranberry color to give the piece a fresh, hip look — countering the down trodden message of which this piece speaks and perhaps fluently as my father and grandmother concurred it was most likely a jelly cupboard during the ’20s or the 1930’s Great Depression. (I had previously thought it hailed from the early 1900’s.) My reasoning for placing it so far back, was the intricate woodwork of jagged teeth and slats to determine the ever-variable spacing between shelves. Alas, I stood corrected.
To top off this recessed cove, and to highlight this bookcase, a mirror was the perfect solution. I’m a huge fan of mirrors and in this instance, it adds so much height and depth to this space, not to mention reflective light. Had I chosen a painting or framed print, both the art and the bookcase would have faded into the walls. I mirror brings that extra pop to make the right combination really come alive.
The knick-knacks on top of the bookcase serve as the connection between the mirror and the case — remaining balanced and not over-powering either element. A mini-lamp has a quaint and warm feel to it, while the mantle clock has a traditional line with a pop culture clock face, and the framed photo brings personal touch, as well as the spherical paperweight.
Total Cost of this Reflective Scholar Look: $30
$0 Bookcase — a trash rescue
$0 Paper weight — a gift
$10 Distressed Mirror — moving sale
$10 Mini-Lamp — chain store clearance
$10 Mantle Clock — warehouse liquidator
N/A Books — ha! what’s the cost of a four-year degree?!
Don’t judge a book by its cover — And that’s more than a cliche! There are amazing deals and steals out there, but sometimes it takes looking past the facade to recognize the beauty of your long-lost furniture friend. In most case this also means that once you see the potential, you have to be willing to commit to the restoration project. That sounds intimidating, however, a couple sheets of sand paper, a spackle knife (for scraping) and a can of paint thinner/stripper will do the trick.
The lesson, though, is to consider the potential age of the piece you are working on and the risk of exposing yourself to lead — in the form of sanded-down dust particles. Yes, when I went to town on this piece, I was young and dumb — never thinking about the layers of lead-based paint that I was so feverishly inhaling in pursuit of the “finished” vision I had.
Be wise, and wear a mask … so you can live to get many more “thrifty, vintage, chic” deals of a lifetime!