Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Silver is the New Green.

The house we bought when we moved to Oxford was a jewel in the rough that no one else seemed to want to polish. Our realtor was a little surprised that after all the homes he showed us in town, “this” was the one that caught our eye. We were not looking for cookie cutter houses set in treeless subdivsions, but something with a little character that we could make our own. The 1958 split-level with worn white aluminum siding and crumbling red brick had the curb appeal of warehouse, but we saw it as a vintage jewel. It’s been five years now and we are still polishing.

Renovating an older ranch style home is a little like preparing for your class reunion; you can do one of two things. You can go the Botox/lipo/nip-tuck route and show up looking like a well-rested Michael Jackson. Or you can embrace your age, put on some confidence and work with what you’ve got. Slapping some columns and a few Bahamas shutters on our home was not going to make it a Tuscan villa so we decided to let the house be what it was and restore it to its retro glory days of the 1950’s and early 60’s.

This decision was bad for my Pay Pal account and good for e-bay retro antique sellers. I spent way too much time in front of the monitor researching 50’s period d├ęcor and trying to outbid other mid-century fanatics for a giant globe light for the porch and Eames chairs for the den. Happily, I found that in Oxford not many people got that excited about Herman Miller office chairs or a knock-off Saarinen dining set. So most of the pieces that now grace our home were someone else’s cast offs. My teak stereo credenza was a steal at forty dollars from the Salvation Army, the Fritz Hansen Danish desk chair was put out on the side of the road on moving day (yeah, you heard me) and the cobalt blue Miller chairs in the parking lot of a thrift store, which caused me to do a U-turn on two wheels with a van load of screaming kids, were a fraction of the price I had been tracking them for on e-bay. It pays to have quick reflexes, a mini-van and a good eye for roadside trash. But alas, I have also experienced complete disasters in vintage treasure hunting that I will never live down. Like the time I dropped off a load of clothes at the back bay of the Salvation Army to have a worker ask me, no beg me, to take a crazy looking broken upholstered ripped chair for five bucks. It was funky and somewhat familiar but it was in need of repair and as you may have discerned by now, I had enough used furniture to redo already. So I left it. A few days later when looking through my Atomic Ranch magazine (yes, there is such), there it was – the Hans Wegner Papa Bear Chair. Such a rare treasure, they have been known to sell for more than $12,000 at auction. By the time I got back to the store the next day they had already sent it to the dump.

Like most things in need of constant care and attention, this house has given us feelings of deep satisfaction and at times complete frustration. But she is what she is. She’s still a little lackluster on the curb appeal and worn around the edges, but just like your momma told you, it’s what’s on the inside that counts. The 6ft. shiny aluminum vintage Christmas tree that dons our living room is our ultimate homage to the spirit of this house. Wally and the Beaver have nothing on my boys who think it’s just “swell” to slide dozens of frilly metal limbs from their original wax sleeve and stick them in the holes of the silver painted stick trunk to the tunes of Nat King Cole and Bing Crosby. All that is missing is the matching vintage color wheel, casting it's crayola box light show against the tinseled branches. If you happen to have one collecting dust in your attic, I know a family who will give it a really nice home.