Iconic graphic designer Milton Glaser said “There are three responses to a piece of design: yes, no, and wow. Wow is the one to aim for.”
For the past year or more, Paul and I have been leaning more towards bolder, more modern designs for our furniture. One reason for this is because our style has changed.
For me, Coastal Cottage has been replaced by clean Mid-Century design. Paul has moved from Art Deco to a fondness for bright color and a mix of old and new.
So, when we found out that we were accepted into the Clover Market for their first fall market in Bryn Mawr, PA, Paul and I started to talk about the look we wanted for our booth.
Typically, our booth would be like our shop – an eclectic mix of styles. But I suggested that since we’ve been doing more modern, urban designs perhaps the booth should contain a cohesive collection in that vein.
Before the suggestion came out of my mouth, I could tell from the look on Paul’s face that he was tracking the same train of thought and so, it was agreed.
Classic style would meet modern finishes in the Soldier58 booth.
The next step was to identify the pieces that we would be working on.
There’s something that most people don’t realize when Paul and I are creating a booth for an event. We don’t take furniture out of the store to fill the booth. Instead, we create an entirely new collection of pieces.
Typically, we start by identifying 3-4 large pieces.
We’ve had this blond Mid-Century server in our living room for years. It wasn’t intended for the living room, but it’s really heavy and our studio is down a flight of stairs. So, we decided that we would just ‘temporarily’ keep it in the living room. Well, the next thing we knew it was two years later, the printer was sitting on top, the office supplies were in it, and the drawers held files.
This piece was officially entrenched in our lives.
But, because we would see it all the time, it was frequently the topic of discussion. Paul and I both loved the lines, the large side cabinets, and that hardware…oh, that beautiful hardware.
This piece was reimagined a hundred times over two years of evening cocktails.One thing we knew for sure was that this piece would be the first of the large pieces we’d do.
Our discussion of finish began.
Here’s how it works with us…sometimes we collaborate on color and finish, and sometimes one of us will feel passionate about the direction of a piece and the other one of us will just step back and say yes, do it, it’s all you.
Recently I have become exceptionally fond of orange and had seen it paired with gold and I was insane over the combination. I was sure, this was the right call so I suggested it to Paul and held my breath.
“I love it! Do it!”
Wow, that was more encouragement than I expected, so out came the paint.
Barcelona Chalk Paint® by Annie Sloan was the color I chose. I briefly thought about deepening it by adding a little red, but I was afraid it would be too dark and I’m glad I didn’t do the mix, the Barcelona was simply perfect.
Painting with orange is a lot like painting with red or yellow. If you’re going for solid coverage, you’ll likely need an extra coat of paint or two. Honestly though, I was so excited about this project that I would’ve happily painted 10 coats if I needed to in order to get the look I wanted.
But three coats were all that were needed.
Paul and I discussed a variety of colors for the interior…Duck Egg Blue, Napoleonic Blue, even several greens. At the end of the day, I was reminded of something Annie Sloan said about painting furniture in a neutral color: “if you make it quiet on the outside, make it a riot on the inside.”
Well, ours was a riot on the outside already, so I decided that the inside should be quiet. A neutral Paris Grey Chalk Paint® would be perfect. I liked the idea that nothing would distract from the exceptional color on the outside.
To finish the outside we used Clear Chalk Paint® Wax and although I originally toyed with the idea of buffing it to a very high shine, I was afraid the shine would then become a design element and again, I didn’t want anything distracting from the color and the hardware. So, we kept the soft, velvety matte finish that the unbuffed wax provided.
The final step was to revive the original hardware. Paul and I always prefer to keep the original hardware on a piece of furniture and that was especially true for this piece. The hardware is absolutely spectacular.
When it comes to old hardware, our process is to go for the path of least resistance first…clean it. But even after a cleaning, the hardware was still dark and discolored. I pulled out my new favorite product, gold Gilding Wax and brushed it over each knob and pull. They were bright and shiny again…perfect!
When I put the hardware back on this piece and it was all finished, I almost cried. It was exactly as I had imagined…maybe even better. This one is officially my new favorite piece.
“There are three responses to a piece of design: yes, no, and wow.
After finishing this piece, and many others we’ve completed in the past few months, I understand Milton Glaser’s statement even more. It isn’t really about whether people like or hate what you’ve done, what’s most important is that you’ve shown people something special and something different.
This piece is in our shop, so stop by and take a look!
We're Paul and Johanna and we write about our life in the furniture business. The things we love, the places we go, and the treasures we find along the way.