After: Monteverdi Young Executive Desk

I’d much rather show you before and after photos of my refinishing projects, but in the case of this gargantuan desk you’ll just have to settle for an after. Awhile back when I bought this monster, I unloaded it into my garage in the dark of night and its size and weight also meant it was only getting moved once for picture taking—I thought you’d rather see it all pretty. So, check it out and for a before image just imagine it not this good.

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When I first found this it was in an ad simply labeled, “Desk, $50.” Factual. The photo only showed the drawer side of the desk, but did hint at a uniquely shaped top. Intrigued, I made the call and the sellers confirmed that, indeed, the top was an enormous 84-inch by 42-inch pentagon. I had to go check it out. When I arrived, they pulled it out from against the wall so I could check out the front side.

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I know, right? Amazing. Like someone stole it from Mr. Drysdale’s office at the Beverly Hills Commerce Bank. Its pointiness is at once intimidating and awe-inspiring. Surely some tycoon, mogul, baron or other captain of industry manned the helm of his or her enterprise from behind this desk? As it turns out, this desk came from an executive at none other than—wait for it—Archway Cookies.

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Pedigree aside, it’s a pretty special desk. It’s incredibly well built with all high quality materials—even the drawers were lined with walnut rather than less expensive woods. Although it bears no maker’s mark, a little research revealed it was made by Monteverdi Young of Beverly Hills, California, makers of high-end office and home furnishings in the 1950s and 60s.

Even the drawers are lined with walnut.

Even the drawers are lined with walnut.

It actually wasn’t in terrible condition when I bought it, but the top had some water damage and dark spots from a fried computer monitor, all of which warranted refinishing. I can tell you that getting a great, uniform finish on a giant, continuous slab of walnut is no easy task. Fortunately this big guy is done and a major check off my “get all the projects done before the snow flies” list.

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Weekend Finds: A Harvest of Brasilia

As is par for the course in the Fall, this past weekend was a busy one. While I didn’t go out and hit any sales, I did make room in my schedule to go pick up this beauty:

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A Broyhill Brasilia harvest table! I’m actually pretty proud of myself for recognizing it in the tiny pic in the ad online. The seller never photographed it with the leaves up to expose the top of the leg, which would have been a bigger tell. But I still recognized the sharp taper of the legs and pounced.

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I love, love, love the shape of this table. Its unusual proportions make it a thing of beauty. Unlike a typical drop-leaf table that is more squarish when folded up, this table is long and narrow—six feet by about two feet. It would make a terrific sofa table or console along a hallway. But the best part is that it unfolds to four feet wide, transforming into a fairly large oval dining table when you need it.

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I’m not sure exactly what happened here, but the top of this table has almost no finish left on it. It appears to have maybe been stripped or scraped off. The odd thing is the wood on top and the rest of the table is in immaculate condition, not even so much as a scratch or gouge anywhere. Usually when I find tables with no finish, it’s evidence of a hard-lived life. Not here. But since the finish is already gone, it just makes my job simpler when it comes time to refinish. Hopefully that comes sooner than later, winter is coming up fast and my refinishing days are numbered!

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Vintage Halloween Cardboard Cutouts

With Halloween only a week away, I decided to share my small but growing collection of Halloween die cut paper decorations. I found my first two pieces last year. I’m guessing they date from the 1950’s. Over the past summer I picked up two more. Yeah!

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A large owl and a black cat sitting on the moon.

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I snagged both of my newest additions at a church rummage sale this summer. This first one is a mad tom cat with jointed front body, hind legs and tail. He was made by the Beistle Company. This bright blue is his true color.

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And last is this smiling black cat wearing a bow tie. His body is made of a large black honeycomb making his face pop out. This cat also has the markings of the Biestle Company.

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Hopefully, I can continue adding to my collection this coming year. I can’t believe Halloween is creeping up on us so fast. Happy Halloween!

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Private Tour: Austin’s Guest Bedroom/Office

It’s hard to believe that eight and a half years have gone by since I moved into my house. In those eight years certain areas of the house have changed quite a bit as I’ve replaced old finds with my treasured “forever” pieces. But one room in the house has remained relatively unchanged, my guest bedroom/home office. Interestingly it was one of the first rooms I designed and it has functioned well enough to never need redesigning. Recently, however, I found what may very well be my forever desk and its matching credenza. They’re amazing, they’re gargantuan and they mean that nearly everything in the room—including the bed—must go. Before the wrecking ball swings, I thought I’d give everyone one last chance to take a look.

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You can never have enough pillows—unless you actually plan to sleep in the bed.

When I bought the house I was a recent college grad and my possessions were an unwieldy assortment of mismatched things I had collected over the years. Rather than finding things to fit a design plan for the room, I had to create a design plan that would make sense of the things I already had. Those items were a mint green tanker desk, yards of celery green drapes, odds and ends blonde furniture and some aqua artwork. Color would be my weapon of choice.  I created a palette of greens, blues and grays with accents of orange to help pull all of the close-but-not-close-enough greens and blues together. I feel like it worked. The paintings above the bed were done by a high school art teacher in the 1950s. I found them several years ago at a flea market for just a few dollars each.

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Like the office chair mat? Learn how to make it here.

One of my favorite decisions in the space was choosing not to split up the wall-to-wall drapes I had found at a thrift store in college. The room only has one squarish window in the middle of the wall in the corner, but the wide expanse of floor length drapes creates some needed drama in a pretty tiny room.

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You might have noticed the baby Bertoia chair hanging out under the window. Believe it or not, it was a $4 thrift store purchase my mother found several years ago. I was fortunate to persuade her to give me two of the four children’s chairs she found.

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The room has always been dual duty. I needed a guest bedroom for friends and relatives, but I also needed a home office that’s a real home office. As a graphic designer, a laptop thrown on a tiny writing desk would never cut it. So, my beloved Steelcase tanker desk followed me from a second floor college apartment to my parents’ house and finally to the third floor of my house. For a big guy, it gets around. The Eames aluminum group chair was an amazing $2 garage sale find. But one of my favorite things in the whole room is the giant 1960s relief map of Africa. It was a $10 buy at a surplus sale that I can’t believe I almost didn’t get because I didn’t know what I’d “do” with it. Thank goodness my rational side is easily overridden.

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People either love or hate the Dall ram keeping watch over the room, especially because most don’t even notice him up there until they lay down on the bed. But I find him to look wise and friendly. This was one of the few items I sought out rather than an accidental find. After seeing an antique ram’s head in an antique store (for a small fortune) I was a little obsessed until I hunted this guy down on eBay. I do not regret the purchase.

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You may have noticed the progressively changing wall color. The vaulted ceiling combined with a protruding closet and angled entry creates a lot of small planes and angles in the room—eight vertical surfaces to be exact. I had a little fun with it, choosing three different wall colors throughout the space. Though it sounds like it would be utter chaos, it actually helps harmonize all of the brightly colored objects in the room and creates the illusion of more space.

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One of the more unusual features of the room is this alcove over the closet. Fortunately the builders included a switched outlet making it a great place for all of my fiberglass up-lights. My only gripe is that I wanted to house my entire collection of stretched glass up here but most would not fit under the steep angle of the ceiling. My disgust over that led to me never really doing anything great with the space. The panoramic photo below is of my great grandmother’s graduating class from teacher’s college in 1924.

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Weird little spaces mean weird little places for weird little things. Although I like it, I don’t think I’ll really miss the blonde furniture that much. I’ve always loved the sort of tacky blue and gold art pieces. It’s the color mostly, but probably a little because someone hated them so much they were giving them away for free at a garage sale. I like to root for the underdogs.

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One of the things that people have always seemed to love most about the room is the light fixture. Although it may sort of give off that vibe, it’s not vintage. I actually found this on clearance at PierOne one day while shopping with Angela. I liked it because it brought a touch of black to the room and because the silk cylinder in the middle is exactly the same color as the drapes. It was meant to be, right? Originally it was a swag lamp, but I added the canopy so I could use it as a permanently installed fixture.

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The tough part about being a collector is having to make hard decisions about which things to keep and which to let go. I actually still really enjoy this space as it is and it’s a little heartbreaking to take it apart after all these years. But at the same time I’m ready for something new and the things I’ve found to replace all of this will really be worth it. The transition process will be long, but I’ll share when it’s complete. I have a feeling, however, that my houseguests will be a little less enthusiastic about the changes once the bed is replaced with a temporary air mattress.

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Vintage Children’s Birthday Cards

I love finding old cards, especially when they are still in their original box. I found this adorable box on a table at a garage sale and was pleasantly surprised when I opened it. It was nearly full of old cards. The others, long gone, had been handed out years ago as birthday greetings. The ones that are still in the box are just too darn cute not to share!

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Can you see the Good Housekeeping seal of approval on the lid of the box?

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Inside is a color and cutout lion. What kid wouldn’t love this?

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Continuing with the circus birthday theme is this clown card with another surprise inside.

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Yes! Color and cutout finger puppets!

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Surprise! A mini board game.

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This last one is by far my favorite in the box. Oh I would have loved this one as a little girl!

The cutest little cutout house!

The cutest little cutout house!

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Each card is marked “Made in USA” and made by “A Sunshine Card” company. Printed on the side of the box is a $1.00 price. Can you imagine a box of twenty-one assorted children’s birthday cards with games and cutouts inside for $1.00 in stores today? I’m very excited to use the cards I have doubles of.

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