Wednesday, November 9, 2011


"Down with pretense, sham, aesthetic quackery, up with honesty, sincerity."
 Charles Locke Eastlake, Hints on Household Taste, 1870 
 It is no secret that I love cottage style design furniture and while scouring for furniture finds for the farm I lucked upon two extremely affordable Eastlake pieces.  So what if they needed a little LOT of TLC, I happily lugged them home.  

It mattered not to me that if you actually sat on this sweet little stool that it might further split up the center base and toss you onto your keester... 
Or that its original upholstery is a little ratty and the trim is trailing off...
Just look at its cute little legs!  A bargain in my book for only $10.00.
I have not touched it yet because I have not decided its fate, to stay here at the Quill and join the eclectic gathering of furnishings in the living room or it could live in the writing cottage as a tiny side table with a tray topper or it might be the stool for the computer corner at the farm, or it might be a sweet seat in the farmhouse guestroom where a lady could primp and preen.
It mattered not to me that someone had removed the mirror and either marble or wooden top from the dresser and tried to disguise it as a hideous faux "French" dresser (Wow, I never thought I would use the words, hideous and French, in the same sentence, after all, the French are known for their impeccable taste and style!)...  
You have to trust me here as I describe to you its condition because I whipped out a heat gun and stripped it of its fake French embellishments before I even thought to take a photo.  The wooden replacement top was covered in peel and stick tiles, I suppose those were supposed to make it appear as if it still had a stone top?  NOT!  It was painted a dull icky indescribable putty color with some sort of new square basket weave hardware in a bronze finish on the drawers.  The center of the bottom drawer was papered with a left over piece of wall paper that featured tiny Eiffel Towers floating all over it.  I suppose this was the "French" part?  The entire piece was pretty badly wracked and had to be contorted, clamped, and re-glued to get it in any reasonable shape. 

I had intended to strip it and reveal its natural wood grain for staining but after stripping, sanding, and scraping for days through multiple layers of various shades of paint I gave up, gave the base an allover good sanding and decided to prime and paint going with a more cottage feel.

I left the battered wooden replacement top in place and sanded with and against the grain using a dry brushing technique with white and cream paints to create an aged patina to the top surface.  
I sealed the entire piece with a non-yellowing satin finish sealer and replaced the hardware with new simple black pulls and an Eastlake keyhole cover I pruchased on Ebay.  
I left it on its squeaky wooden wheels and I am happy to say it no longer looks like it needs to be tossed in an East Lake like Handy Hubby said it needed to be.  
It is still a little wracked and there is a small gap below the bottom drawer but I am not going for perfect here, just comfy cottage cozy.  This will be the new TV stand and video storage at the farm.  This piece was $18.00, a steal.
The Eastlake Movement, generally considered part of the late Victorian period in terms of broad antique furniture designations, was a nineteenth century architectural and household design reform movement started by architect and arts writer, not a furniture maker, Englishman, Charles Eastlake (1836-1906).  In atchitecture the Eastlake Style is part of the Queen Anne style or Victoria architecture.
(The above piece is a sample of an Eastlake dresser with it marble top, the wheels have been changed out with a modern version, big mistake in my book!)

This new simpler style began as an idea Eastlake defined in his book: Hints on Household Taste in Furniture, Upholstery, and Other Details.  It changed the way many people thought about style and health in the home.  People had filled their homes with large pieces of carved furniture, thick upholstery, and heavy draperies that collected dust and germs and kept out healthful air and light.  He thought the objects in people's homes should be attractive and well made by workers who took pride in their handwork or machine work.  As the book became popular in the United States, furniture manufacturers took ideas and designs from the book and made what was named Eastlake Style furniture.

The Eastlake furniture came about in response to Mr. Eastlake's dislike of the over-the-top Rococo and Renaissance Revival styles popular during the Victorian era. Although Eastlake furniture is technically considered Victorian, being popular from 1870-1890, it breaks away from the excessive high relief carving, classical elements and numerous curves of other styles produced during this time frame. 
(I love the upholstery on this stunning example of an Eastlake chair.)

In contrast with other Victorian styles of furniture produced in America featuring classical motifs, Eastlake furniture is more geometric and incorporates modest curves, low relief carvings, incised lines, moldings, geometric ornaments, and flat surfaces which were much easier to keep clean. It sometimes includes mild Renaissance and medieval influences that do not overwhelm the design. Ornamental carving are lightly incised rather than deeply carved. Wood grains were often emphasized, with oak, cherry, and other fruitwoods often used in Eastlake pieces.
(This ornate table is another fine example of the Eastlake style but I much prefer the simpler pieces and designs in the Eastlake collection.)

Also known under the name Cottage Furniture, the mass-produced pieces were much more affordable than the fanciful revival pieces.  Eastlake encourage "honesty" in construction and finishing.  He called for hand crafted, solid wood furniture with rectangular joinery.  He condemned the practice of using stains and varnishes to disguise inexpensive woods, calling instead for oiled, naturally colored finishes.  Eastlake Style furniture is frequently seen in antique shops all over the United States, but especially in the east and midwest.  It was manufactured by factories in the east that had branch offices in midwest cities.  Carpenters also made pieces of furniture from patterns in this style for their homes and for customers.  The style differed from the original concept of Charles Eastlake; some versions were more ornately carved and others were minimally incised, perhaps having only reeding and comfered corners.  The concept of simple affordable, attractive cottage furniture survived.
(This more plain and simple Eastlake dresser with ornamentation over the mirror is more to my liking and is a cousin in design to the one I purchased, they have the same rolled feet on front and are very close in shape and design, mine does not have the bow front drawers and as before stated the original top and mirror had been removed.)

(Information sources here and here and here)

While I might not have fully reached the vision of Charles Eastlake in terms of emphasizing the natural wood grains of the dresser, (that stool might also get a coat of paint), I have fully embraced his vision of light and airy, attractive, well made (even if they need a wee bit ton of restoration love), furnishing that I can take pride in my handwork by giving them new life and function in my farmhouse design.

I hope you have enjoyed a little peek into Eastlake history.


Vee said...

Certainly have enjoyed the education and now recognize my great-grandmother's bedroom furniture as Eastlake-like. Massive pieces, little ornamentation, boxy, and solid. They're long gone to the antique dealer now along with the family Bible, but that's another story.

You've done a beautiful job with this piece and it will serve beautifully as the tv table. Looking forward to seeing what you'll do with the stool.

(As for the sewing room...three shelves and one corner cleaned do not make a dent. And that's three hours later. I need three weeks.)

Vickie said...

Hi Miss Sandy. I believe I've seen a couple of those Eastlake pieces around my grandmothers' homes, too. I found one old piece with those curved legs that was about to go into the dumpster where I work. I took it home and got my dad to do a bit of "fixing" on the drawers, and daughter and I painted it turquoise and she stole, rather took, it off to her college apt. I aim to get it back one of these days if I can! You did a beautiful job of revamping that piece, and I'm sure you'll do something completely wonderful with that cute stool! I'm sure anxious to see some peeks at your cottage!

Dorthe said...

Dear Sandy,
I don`t think I have ever seen such a Eastlake furnichure here in Denmark.
I enjoyed reading all about them, and seing those wonderful pieces.
I must say I`m also more to the "simpler" ones, and love your fixed piece, it looks beautiful, now.
Also the little stool will be a wonderful piece, when you have had your hands on it.
Thankyou so much for your so kind and sweet visit, dear Sandy, made me glad !
Hugs and love,

Hi, I'm Laura Ingalls Gunn said...

Ah Eastlake! Love the details. What a great day it as when that piece found someone who would love it back to life.

sonya said...

Hi Sandy,
I love what you did to the Eastlake piece.Perfect for a TV. That's the kind of drawer pulls that I want for my kitchen. Love them!
I look forward to seeing how the stool turns out and where it will end up living! :)
Glad to see that you are feeling better.

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