At the end of the Fall 2019 semester, I was headed for a mental breakdown. A series of events led to a lack of sleep, high anxiety, and a serious check of my health and ego.
I came back from two conferences in which I presented my research and connected with colleagues. During this stretch of travel I was lauded by colleagues for my work, but inside I felt like a fraud.
As the semester closed, I needed to take some time to disconnect from everything. I stepped away from social media for a couple of weeks. I stepped away from email and the responsibilities of the job. I also didn’t agree to take on any new jobs or “get caught up” on things in my inbox.
I decided to spend the winter break doing something that I enjoyed. I loved it do much that I continued the project this past winter break.
I refinished furniture.
Refinish and Repair
I spent my youth heading to auctions and antique houses with my grandparents. I enjoyed digging through someone’s treasures and seeing what is possible with things left behind.
Truth be told, in college I would sneak out of my house on Saturday afternoons and head out to the local auction house. As my roommates were busy drinking beer and watching football, I came in the door with a new mahogany end table and vintage mirror.
My grandparents showed me the opportunities that were present in looking beneath the layers and seeing something for what it is.
The Dining Room
Our dining room is an interesting focal point in our house. We eat there when we have guests over to the house. It is the space for more formal dinners as a family.
As a result of the coronavirus and distance learning, it is now a joint kindergarten and fifth grade classroom.
I focused my efforts in that winter of 2019 on the hutch in our dining room. It is a large piece that was handed down from my partner’s family. It is a very nice, utilitarian piece of furniture that doesn’t fit our style.
I took my time to breakdown the piece and address the areas of weakness and stress. I ultimately stripped, sanded, stained, and painted the hutch to match the vision that my partner identified from some Pinterest inspiration.
This winter I finished up the dining room by finding and refinishing a proper dining room table. The original table and chairs that came with the hutch were horrendous and slowly were gifted to others over the years.
I spent some time on Facebook Marketplace and identified several possible candidates for the dining room table of our dreams. We used the dining room tables from our neighbors as inspiration. Each of these was valued at over a couple of thousand dollars…and looked like it.
I showed my partner several photos of tables that fit our needs and sought approval. After hundreds of options, I finally identified what I believed was the diamond in the rough. My partner saw more of the rough and less of the diamond.
I saw an opportunity to work with solid hard wood. I saw the general dimensions we were looking for to suit our needs. I valued the internal table leaf that would slide out to accommodate extra guests. I also saw the opportunity to match the work that I accomplished the previous year with the hutch.
After receiving a hesitant green light to pursue the project, I contacted the seller and bought everything for $100. 🙂
Somehow I fit the whole set into the jeep and brought it home for the restoration.
After many hours spent sanding, stripping, staining, painting, and sealing I was able to unveil the new addition to our space.
I still have a couple of areas to clean up on the hutch but I’m happy with the finished pair at this point.
My favorite thing to do is sit at the table for a meal, or help my child understand the difference between adjectives and adverbs. I run my hand across the smooth surface and think about the work that it took to make this a reality and enjoy the moment.
I learned many lessons while refinishing and rehabilitating furniture over the last two winters.
Start from the inside and move out.
Use the right tools.
There are no mistakes. There is only character.
Take your time. Patience is a virtue.
Don’t use two-in-one products. It is all about layers upon layers.
When we look around us for opportunities to restore, we develop spaces to search for wholeness and balance. Our bodies are restored by restoration and rehabilitation. Our minds are restored by the disconnect from the noise and repetitive focus on the work at hand. Our spirits are revived as we become better stewards of what we have been given.
When life isn’t going the way you had hoped, take a step back and look beneath the layers.