It was about two years ago that I began campaigning hard for a table and set of chairs from a local library. It was at that time that the library, after a long, political budget planning process, was finally green-lighted to be rebuilt in a brand-new state-of-the-art facility. That new library opened this Fall.
The old library in town had been last furnished in the 1960’s with amazing, solid oak shelving and library furniture designed in the height of the midcentury era. I’ve admired it for as long as I’ve lived in Rochester, and especially after we purchased our current house and laid light wood flooring throughout. If you want to go into the vault for a minute, Pete and I had purchased a totally radical midcentury danish mahogany table 3 years ago on a whim because it would have been perfect for a home that we had been trying to purchase. When we ultimately ended up in our current house instead and then proceeded to install maple floors, we knew we would want to swap the dark mahogany for something lighter and more fitting to the style of the home.
Something like this here, a photo I snapped years ago:
I’m totally glossing over exactly how much effort I put into making myself known to the library director and town officials as part of this ordeal (because it was a lot and borderline embarrassing), but as you can sense it was all worthwhile when I was able to go into the closed library last month and select the most solid and damage-free pieces before the remaining inventory was sent to auction. If you’re wondering, we did make a donation in exchange for the furniture in the amount that they were projected to sell for at auction, but it was still far from the cost we would have incurred to buy a new solid oak set for our home. I just lucked into having first dibs without the auction paddle process.
Library furniture that dates back to the 1960’s, as you might expect, isn’t without a lot of wear and tear. It all needs to be refinished, which was part of the appeal to me all along and totally befuddled some of the higher-ups with which I networked. The tabletop itself isn’t is poor condition by any means, and it’s a lot better than some of the other tables that were on site – one or two deeper scratches, and light scuffs.
These chairs have seen a lot of butts, and while most of the pieces are in solid condition and totally void of teenager’s initials and love messages carved into the finish, I can’t even begin to tell you about the gum, oh god, all of that old gum. But wouldn’t you know, the original paper tags from the manufacturer are still stapled to the underside of each chair marking the date of manufacturer, the Myrtle Desk Company from High Point, South Carolina, May 1963. Amazing.
Cleaning the chairs was my first effort. Murphy Oil Soap diluted in water and all of my elbow grease removed decades of scuff marks and dust, and cleaned the exposed raw wood in areas where the finish had been worn away. Here’s what each leg looked like when we brought them home:
No arguing that they cleaned up perfectly. Refinishing the chairs is going to be a long, more time consuming process than the refinishing the table, but knowing that these pieces have withstood 50+ years of use really bodes well for how long we can expect a new finish to last in our home.
One more gross picture: Want to see the underside of the seats, the part you grab when you’re pulling the chair in to sit upon? Yeah, you do. Vom!
I’ll document the cleaning and refinishing process in another post someday; for now, with the chairs cleaned and ready for our family, I couldn’t help but get them into position in our dining room.
Voila – dreams come true.
The green chair on the end is a piece I bought from Abode Rochester about a year ago, but still haven’t used extensively; it fits much better with our new oak table than it did with the mahogany table, but it still needs to be refinished. For the time being, it’s a nice end seat for our toddler.
We have 8 chairs total, thinking two could go on each end when we need to accommodate guests. For everyday use, we’ll be keeping three of the library chairs on each side.
I have another story about whole library thing that I’ll fill you in on next week if I have a chance to write the post during the holiday break. Until then, sitting pretty in our home!