Several years ago there was a phone conversation with my Grandmother about some furniture that had been her father's (my great-grandfather), which was purchased by a friend, many years ago when they were cleaning out his house. That friend was now no longer interested in owning the furniture and she kindly called my Grandmother back, after all those years, and asked if she'd like to have it again since it was a bit sentimental. She didn't want it, but she wondered if I did?
I think I had just gotten married and we had NO PLACE to put that furniture, but I have a disease where you love old family furniture even if it's ugly and in need of repair and you just can't stand to see a STRANGER own that bit of history (heavens no!) so you collect things you have no business owning. It's a very strong genetic trait that my mother passed down to me. I couldn't say no. In fact, I had never even seen it when I told her YES I WANT THAT PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE.
It was...not a pretty as I'd hoped. But, still. SENTIMENTAL. Plus, we were already there with a truck and several sets of strong hands and it would have been terribly rude to back out at that point. At home, we crammed it into places that it didn't really fit. Chris understands my disease (kind of) so he didn't ever say much, but it was pretty clear that this furniture was...not his favorite. It stayed, awkwardly, in our home for a while. Then I got pregnant and the problem of too much furniture really presented itself. It just...had to leave the premises of our house. There were no extra bedrooms, no more closets to cram it into, no bed to slide the headboard under. We were at max capacity and we were about to bring another human home with all of the frillions of plasticky things a baby needs these days and there was just no place to put the stuff.
Obviously, selling it was out of the question (my disease has no cure or treatment plan) so I called my grandmother and asked if she would store it for me, in her house that isn't any bigger than mine. I wanted the furniture and felt strongly that it would have a place in my home some day, but not today. Not in my (then) small home with a baby. Because she's really nice, she crammed it into her guest bedroom where it didn't match her carefully chosen decor and she never said a single word about it. It stayed there for several years until I decided a few weeks ago that I wanted it back.
I have been thinking about Charlotte's room as a big girl room, a room without a crib. Not that we'll be there any time soon (OH HELLS NO, she's only 8-months-old), but I knew that if this was the furniture destined to be hers it was going to need a lot of work and time to be improved enough to be something I'd want to look at every day.
For all of the sentimental value, this furniture is no prize upon first look. I KNOW Chris thinks I'm crazy and you'll probably think I'm crazy too. (That's okay. I'm pretty sure this whole scheme might be the worst idea I've ever had, but I'm going to see where it ends up. I mean, I'm several years into it at this point. Can't jump ship NOW.)
Are you ready? Here it is. (Crappy iPhone pictures with flash. SORRY.)
Chest of drawers:
Dressing table with mirror and chair:
(Not pictured: headboard/footboard.)
It's walnut (I think?). I initially thought it was manufactured about 1914 since there's a stamp that reads, "1914-WAL." Another piece is stamped, "1944-WAL," so now I think that's actually a product or reference number. It's thinly veneered and is chipping in several places. The chest of drawers actually fell off a moving vehicle sometime in the 80's or 90's and the top half broke off in (what I am told) was a very dramatic traffic event in Plano, Texas. The interim owners had it repaired and the damage is only visible from the back. There are several dings and gouges. The finish is worn and tired-looking. It's also dark. DARK. I'd say it's almost black but it's just a very, very dark brown. Someone might think this color is pretty but it's just not my style. I don't have anything this dark in my house.
I also don't have anything this cutesy or feminine in my house, which is why it seems to be IDEAL little girl furniture. (Let's all pause at the hilarity of my disease that made me accept what could only be little girl furniture BEFORE I WAS EVEN PREGNANT IN THE FIRST PLACE.) I feel like this could be cute and sweet in Charlotte's room, even though it doesn't match, uh, anything else in the house in look/feel/tone. I would have LOVED having this dressing table as a child and teenager, to store all of my important things in and have a place to get ready. I also tend to think the ultra-feminine style might contrast well in her room, which I intend to keep as blue/pink/red.
The veneer is so thin and chipped and cracked in so many places I don't think I have the skills to repair it and stain to something lighter. I think it would look pretty terrible if tried that. My plan is to paint it white. Charlotte's blue walls contrast nicely with the white furniture already in there and I think this would look pretty sweet in a creamy white color. Lots of internet research needed on that project, but I think I can pull it off. I am hoping I will end up with something like this:
Or, if I become truly insane I will paint it all an actual color (probably not pink).
See how this style could look in a girl's room? It can be cute! I will probably not go as bold as this, but you get the idea. Old/new!
Anyway. The mystery. WHERE IS THE MYSTERY YOU WERE PROMISED? I spied a worn label inside a drawer tonight:
Curious about its history and expecting something obvious to pop up, I Googled. Nothing popped up. Forty minutes later I was looking at all kinds of archives in the state of Arkansas, Fort Smith Historical Society pages, newspaper archives, research manuscripts and finding a whole lot of nothing. Out of all that, I only found two obituaries that briefly mentioned a deceased individual that had worked at Garrison Furniture in the 1950's. There's an address and phone number for a Garrison Furniture in Fort Smith today, but when I looked at the building via Google street view it didn't seem to be an actual furniture company any more. It was sort of a smallish office park, where you might find a local CPA or lawyer.
There weren't any mentions of anyone collecting this brand of furniture or anyone that owned this brand. Nothing on eBay or any lists of collectible or vintage brands of furniture. Searches of antique store inventories came up empty as well. Finally, I ventured over to the Arkansas Secretary of State's records and was pleasantly surprised to discover that a Garrison Furniture Company was incorporated on December 23, 1940. BINGO. That HAD to be it. Curiously though, the company hadn't been dissolved in more than 70 years and was listed as still in good standing with the Secretary. Searches for the two listed individuals came up empty though. The address appears to be a residence.
It appears that the furniture was probably purchased in the 40's or 50's but I don't know much else about it other than that, which is so STRANGE to me that Google would leave me so empty-handed. I've asked my grandmother for more information, but I'd be interested to know if her parents traveled to Ft Smith to buy it or if it was purchased at a furniture store in Ft Worth (where they lived). I would also be so curious to know what it originally cost. I know that my great-grandmother died in about 1958 (I think) and this furniture is SO feminine, so it feels like she must have been the one to choose it, which also fits the time line of the company above and the company that was mentioned in the obituaries. I can't imagine a widower picking this out from a store. I think I'll call the Garrison Furniture Company that's currently listed, tomorrow, and see if the person who answers knows anything but I'm not expecting a whole lot.
So, that's the mystery. I suppose the second mystery is, "Will she be able to turn that furniture into something cute enough for Charlotte's room?" (We might be waiting a few months on that one.) (And, trust me, THAT IS DEFINITELY A BIG MYSTERY.)
*You have no idea how pleased I am to use a Carolyn Keene Nancy Drew knock-off title for this post.