Thursday, July 27, 2017

American Furniture Styles: Queen Anne

By Gretchen Sawatzki

Queen Anne side chair circa 1740 -1760.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art via Wikimedia Commons
Queen Anne style:

Named for Queen Anne of England who reigned from 1702 - 1707, the Queen Anne style (1725 - 1750) is a more refined version of the earlier William and Mary style of furniture. It has also been called the toned down version of the French Rococo style that dominated during the time of Louis XV (1715 - 1774).

The Queen Anne style was a departure from rectilinear designs featuring slightly curved backs, legs, and seats.

Queen Anne characteristics:

The Queen Anne style is characterized by its delicate forms and restraint of excessive decoration. The use of tight-grained hardwoods like cherry, walnut, and mahogany further eliminate the decorative nature often associated with oak and pine woods that were predominantly used during the Jacobean Period (1600 - 1690).

The Queen Anne style can be identified by a few key features:

- Carved and curved backsplats
- Cabriole legs
- Curvilinear design
- Minimal decoration

  Buffalo Architecture and History
  The Metropolitan Museum of Art
  Wikimedia Commons

Thursday, July 20, 2017

American Furniture Styles: William and Mary 1690 - 1730

By Gretchen Sawatzki

Side Chair, America, c. 1700, walnut and cane - Brooklyn Museum - DSC09086
William and Mary style side chair ca. 1700,
By Daderot (Own work) [CC0],
via Wikimedia Commons
For the next fews weeks, I'll be featuring a series of short articles on American furniture styles. To kick off this new series, this week I'll be featuring the historic style of William and Mary furniture.

William and Mary style:

Named for the king and queen of England, the William and Mary (1690 - 1730) style of furniture is one of the earliest styles of furniture in America. Blending Old World Baroque traditions with New World materials and ingenuity, furniture craftsman of this era consisted of two skilled artisans - the "joiner" using mortise and tenon technology was responsible for joining straight pieces of wood that carried the weight of the furniture. And, the "turner" who shaped wood using tools and gauges and a lathe to create intricate patterns and trumpet shapes. Together the two artisans produced what we now call William and Mary style furniture.

William and Mary characteristics:

This style of furniture often has a Medieval look drawing on Old World design traditions. While it appears uncomfortable, William and Mary style furniture features a slightly tilted back that contoured better to the human body and as time went on, cane seats transitioned to solid wood seats with cushions. This was a huge departure from previous furnishings. The William and Mary style with its new elegance also ushered in some of the first furnishings with marquetry (a fancy type of decorative wood inlay).

William and Mary style furniture can be identified by a few key features:

- Rectilinear shape with joined corners
- Tall and slender physical shape
- Bun or ball style feet
- Turned legs and stretchers
- Arches and back splats
- Walnut or oak wood with pine secondary woods

The practical book of period furniture, treating of furniture of the English, American colonial and post-colonial and principal French periods (1914) (14778880965)
William and Mary style cabinet with inlay as seen in a furniture book from 1914.
 By Eberlein, Harold Donaldson; McClure, Abbot, 1879- [No restrictions], via Wikimedia Commons

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Before and After: Heywood Wakefield Furniture

By Gretchen Sawatzki

Rare and unique are terms often used to describe Heywood Wakefield midcentury modern furniture. When I found one on the side of the road a couple of years ago, I picked it up scratches, markers, crayons marks and all, because furniture this nice is hard to find.

That being said, from time to time our restoration specialist has an opportunity to work on these stunning wonders, so when a Heywood Wakefield side table and dresser came into the shop, it was a project worth doing.

Heywood Wakefield dresser after sanding.
Photo by Charles Wiesner

Heywood Wakefield side table after sanding.
Photo by Charles Wiesner

Both the dresser and side table needed to be completely refinished. For this project, the customer requested a custom finish. Like most refinishing projects, the furniture needed to stripped and sanded extensively. After hours of sanding with fine grit sandpaper and several houses at the paint store, the perfect finish was decided on.

Heywood Wakefield dresser after refinishing.
Photo by Charles Wiesner
Heywood Wakefield side table after refinishing.
Photo by Charles Wiesner

The first coat was applied evenly and lightly sanded after it thoroughly dried. This step was repeated three times until the finish appeared even and smooth. The end result is two beautifully refinished rare Heywood Wakefield furnishings.

Need help with a furniture restoration project? Our knowledgeable staff and expert restoration specialists can help you realize your next project. Check out our website to learn more.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Photo Friday: Strange Victorian Hydro-Electro Therapy Device

By Gretchen Sawatzki

As the age of medicine was coming into its own in during the Victorian period, many new health practices included the use of gadgets and devices to cure all types of ailments. Of all of the strange Victorian era devices out there in the world this antique hydro-electro therapy wall cabinet may be the strangest.

The Hydro-Electro Therapy Cabinet as seen in the "Universal Naturopathic
Directory and Buyers' Guide of 1918-1919.

Found in the Universal Naturopathic Directory and Buyers' Guide of 1918-1919, one the latest machines for curing pathological conditions includes the hydro-electro therapy cabinet. Mounted on a wall this cabinet contains buttons, switches, and dials to generate electric current to the user who rests inside a bath tub. According the directory some of the best pathological treatments include the use of electric current that pulsates through the body via water conduction.

Hydro-Electro Therapy Cabinet,
photo by Hannah Manning for Materials Unlimited

Today, hydro-electro therapy (also known as electrocution) seems a bit extreme to cure pathological conditions, but for the Victorians this was just another strange device worth trying in a time when medicine and any treatment were worth trying.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Afternoon Tea in the Victorian Era

By Gretchen Sawatzki

If you've ever been to a tea room for afternoon tea, you've probably had small crustless sandwiches, scones, and clotted cream, but have you ever considered where this tradition came from? Today, afternoon tea is somewhat of luxury, as most of us have regular 9-5 jobs, escaping for hot tea and finger foods isn't always a possibility. In the Victorian era, however afternoon tea was absolutely essential as it provided a place to engage socially among friends.

Antique Afternoon Tea service with tray.
Photo by Hannah Manning for Materials Unlimited

The tradition began in 1840 with the Seventh Duchess of Bedford. Due to the long periods of time between meals, the Duchess often grew famished and hungry in the afternoon. To satisfy her hungry, she began requesting a tray of tea, breads, and cakes to her bed chamber every afternoon. After some time, the Duchess began inviting friends to take tea with her and get caught up on all of the latest gossip.

Oddly enough, around this same time the Earl of Sandwich invented the modern sandwich which enhanced the overall tea drinking experience, rounding out the afternoon snacks, and thus creating afternoon tea.

Tea table made especially for afternoon tea.
Photo by Hannah Manning for Materials Unlimited

No tea service is complete without scones, cakes, sandwiches, and of course a hot pot of tea. Accoutrements for this afternoon event include porcelain dishware, tongs for sugar cubes, sugar bowls, tea cups, saucers, butter knives, napkins, special tea tables, and of course a stunning tea set.

  The Drake Hotel, Palm Court

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Before and After: Arm Chair

By Gretchen Sawatzki

We are often asked at Materials Unlimited to take on restoration projects that seem insurmountable. When this antique spindled arm chair arrived in the shop, it was heavily damaged with a broken and missing leg, splintered seat, and overall rough look. It was a true challenge, but the before and after results are pretty remarkable.

Antique arm chair upon arrival. Photo by Charles Wiesner.

Using the same species of wood, our restoration specialist custom cut and sanded replacements parts for the seat for the fill large gap. Regular wood glue wasn't enough to hold the new piece in place, so industrial strength glue was used instead. The new piece was also drilled out to receive the legs comfortably without rocking in the new "socket".  

Once fitted and glued, the arm chair needed refinishing. This process was tricky given all of the nooks and crannies on the spindles of the arm chair. With lots of sanding and several applications of the appropriate finish, the chair went from trash to treasure!

Refinished arm chair. Photo by Charles Wiesner.

Materials Unlimited offers an array of restoration services including rewiring for light fixtures, door refinishing and furniture repairs. Visit Materials Unlimited website to learn more.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Staff Picks: Our Materials Unlimited Favorites Right Now

By Gretchen Sawatzki

At Materials Unlimited showroom in Ypsilanti, Michigan, we see a lot of interesting antique and vintage items stroll through our doors. Like anything, we have our favorites, so we thought we'd share our favorite items in the showroom right now.

Antique barristers bookcase circa 1920.
Photo by Hannah Manning for Materials Unlimited

1. Antique Barrister Bookcase

Tall and with ample storage space this antique birch wood stackable barrister bookcase is Director of Marketing and Advertising, James' favorite in the store right now. With multiples available, "I would love to place them side-by-side to make a wall of bookcases." He notes, "they aren't quite Tudor," which is his favorite historic style, but he says, "these will do."

Antique wood folding wash tub bench.
Photo by Hannah Manning for Materials Unlimited

2. Antique Wash Tub Bench

This quirky wooden bench was once used as a wash tub bench according to the markings on its side. For Hannah, our Shipping Coordinator, Sales Associate (and I can't forget, Wizardess), an item like this is just perfect. "I love repurposing items that were once used more for function rather than form. I could see this being used for plants under a window, or in a bathroom for extra towels."

Antique flush mount light fixture.
Photo by Hannah Manning for Materials Unlimited

3. Antique Revival Period Flush Mount Light Fixture

This Revival Period flush mount light fixture makes Architectural Preservation and Design Consultant, Michael's list of favorites because of its, "smooth lines and shapely conical pan with the original sockets and chain. Its sleek satin bell-shaped shades look timelessly modern, but its highly unusual to find a nickel plated or silver plated finish on this style of light fixture which is typically found in a kitchen or bathroom. Our restoration specialist did a fantastic job preserving and hand-polishing the finish...even the fitters and chains turned out lovely!"