Friday, September 28, 2007

From Shabby to Chic

So, my whole purpose in life is to find old junk and turn it into fancy-shmancy fabulous-looking things. I started small. I found a black, wrought iron candelabra with a chain for hanging, on the sidewalk near my old apartment in the Marina District of San Francisco. I liked the look of it. It was ugly, and rusty, and clearly someone had thrown it out, but I was going to love it. When I got it home, I decided on its new look: antique white.

Now, I must insert here that this all happened before I knew that spray paint and its sisters, VOC and Cancer Paint, were bad for you. So, I found a lovely crackle-white spray paint. And boy, did it go crackle! I loved the look. Of course, it stank, and don't tell my old landlord, but I got it all over the roof. But, it graced the ceiling of my apartment for two years quite beautifully. And that's where it began: my junking habit. My husband calls it my "trash" habit, but who asked him, anyways?

Now, I have found many wonderful (and free!) items on the streets. I have found a sewing table, a set of two overstuffed chairs, a rocking chair, a set of two oversized iron-cage candle holders, a tall, beveled hallway mirror, and two side tables. Each of these has been restored, re-painted, re-purposed, and has found a place in my home. The above example is a chair I found (for free!) across the street, which has become the chair to match my sewing table.

Of course, there was the one item that got away. It was a Louis XIV chair (imitation, most likely) and when I saw it, it was sitting beside a dumpster in Golden Gate Park, right near Stowe Lake, where I was walking with my husband and my brother.

I ran to it. It was water damaged, yes, its wood was unevenly stained, sure, but it called out to me. Save me. Please, can't you see I deserve better than this metal dumpster? Better than this muddy lawn my beautifully carved feet are sinking into? I touched its arm, to reassure it that I knew exactly what to do.

And then, my brother came up behind me. "Don't touch that! Are you crazy? That's like a drug addict's chair or something."

He took my arm and steered me back to the pathway. "No, no, I want to take it home," I said.

"Don't touch that again, OK? You can get a disease," my brother said. My husband stood by mutely. He had learned to let me pick up whatever "trash" I wanted to.

"It's beautiful," I said.

"It's junk." I looked to my husband. My brother, you see, is much bigger than I am, and can stop me from doing things he doesn't want me to do. My husband usually doesn't, because I can make his life miserable. But my brother doesn't live with me anymore. He can piss me off and blissfully leave the house, then call a week later when I've forgotten all.

My husband sided with my brother. "Yeah, I don't know. You don't know where that's been."

It was a Louis XIV. I knew where it had been. In a grand hall, beside a mirror-fronted dresser and a huge bouquet of pale pink roses. It belonged in my home. I stood my ground, but they are larger than I am. They dragged me back to the path, and I tried to be cheerful as we continued our walk home.

But I was never cheerful again--at least not when I saw a Louis XIV chair. Then, I was sad. For it could have been mine.