The piece of furniture I’m asked about most is the large antique cabinet in my studio. I totally understand why. It’s an impressive piece and one I would ask about if I saw it! If you read this blog regularly, you know its secret. It’s not one piece, but two. Not only is it two pieces married together, but two pieces that were found 1,000 miles and about three years apart. The bottom piece is a storage counter out of an old hardware store in Maryland. The top is a bookcase from the Wilder School in Minnesota. I bought it from a former student of the school who attended when it was just a one-room schoolhouse. I assured him it was going to someone who appreciated that.
The idea to put the two pieces together came out of practicality. I saw I wasn’t getting the most out of either piece. The hardware cabinet had a lot of empty and unused space above it. For a piece that takes up that much floor space in a hard-working room, it had to do more.
In the same way, the bookcase took up the largest wall in my home office but left about 4 1/2′ of empty wall above it. It could do better.
After a lot of measuring and even sketching it out, I thought it could work. I asked Jeff to help me move it, making it very clear that it might not work and we might end up moving everything back. But it did work. When we put the top of the hutch on (and screwed the pieces together with some metal straps), I could almost hear an angel choir.
Not only did it work great, but both pieces were living up to their storage potential. Together, they filled the wall and maximized the use of the floor space. Sometimes customizing furniture isn’t about painting and refinishing. It isn’t about upholstering or slipcovers. It’s about using the pieces in a smarter way, in a more impactful way.
While the cabinet pairing in my studio is my favorite, it’s not the first time I’ve done that.
I used to marry pieces quite frequently when a constant parade of furniture came in and out of my possession. I often looked for underpriced pieces that could be something more when paired with something else. One of my other favorite pairings was a similar story – a base cabinet and a hutch top that needed each other.
The base cabinet was rough and a part of me still can’t believe I bought it. But, you have to be a hopeful person when you rehab old pieces of furniture for a living. The doors were beyond saving, so I removed those, and my dad I worked together to rebuild the cabinet. (You can read more detail about the makeover of this piece HERE.) It actually cleaned up very nicely!
My friend Emily from Penny & Ivy was visiting me at the time to help out in the studio and she painted the piece in Miss Mustard Seed’s Milk Paint in the color Grain Sack. It was the perfect grey-ish off-white to make the two pieces look cohesive together. (As a side note, you can now order MMS Milk Paint and finishes directly on their website.)
They were a beast to paint, I know, but paint really did the trick when it came to making them look like they belonged together.
I loved that piece. It was a tough one to sell, but it went to a young woman who was furnishing her new home. She came to the Lucketts Spring Market with a list of things she was looking for, a measuring tape, and a budget. This hutch ended up being the perfect size and price for her dining room.
I hope this inspires you to look at pieces in your home in a new way. Do you have any pieces you can combine to maximize visual impact, improve functionality, or increase storage space?
Think beyond just putting one piece on top of the other. What about putting one piece inside another? What about putting a piece in a closet or on top of a counter? Or perhaps you’ll get more function out of a piece by dismantling it…take a mirror off a dresser to make it more versatile or remove the doors from a cabinet to provide open storage for a collection.
Customizing things comes naturally to me. I’ve been making things and tinkering since I was little. But, if anyone needs to hear this – You don’t have to keep things as they are or use them as intended. Make them work for you. Make each piece earn its keep.
And embrace the possibilities that open up when you think outside of the box.