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Diary of a Mad Renovator: The "Brokefront"

Written by Jaqui Lividini

In this renovation—about which you've been reading with what, I'm sure, is bated breath—I know it seems many a disaster has befallen us. But I can honestly say a true one did last week, when something near and dear to my heart had a near-Dumpster experience! Near-Dumpster is to furniture what near death is to humans! There is a piece of furniture John and I have had for almost 20 years: It was our first major purchase as a couple and our first bona fide antique.  It's a beautiful breakfront originally from an old general store in Rhode Island, and it dates back to the mid-19th century.  Besides its spectacular size, it's also authentically grain painted.  Grain painting was used in the 1800s to decorate rather plain and modest wood furniture. It became highly collectible in the 1990s as part of the American Folk Art Movement.

Breakfront -- in one piece (missing its drawers only)

Turns out furniture–like fashion–is cyclical. We were looking for a bookshelf for a rather large wall in our apartment at the time: It was love at first sight with this piece.  We bought it at one of the Armory antiques shows in Manhattan, and I'm sure we paid too much. But just like your first love, reason and rationality does not figure into the equation.   The piece was so big that we had to have it hoisted through the 10th and 16th floor windows in two different apartments respectively. By apartment three, we decided to retire it for a few years to my Mom's basement.

I love how furniture can retire then come back into the mix in style. People can never do that can they? When we bought the cottage we knew we found the perfect home for our beloved piece. We even redesigned the front of the house so as to create a nook for it in the kitchen.  The breakfront has been living in our cottage ever since, a silent witness to all the renovation craziness.  When visiting last week I discovered it missing. There was a terrible misunderstanding—and upon my searching for it I found it in pieces by the Dumpster!

Dumpster and breakfront -- death row!

The only saving grace was that the Dumpster was full, so instead of the garbage men coming Friday they came Saturday.  As a result, the piece wasn't discarded but was just taken apart; on Death Row so to speak.  Well, hysteria transpired, let's just say it wasn't my finest moment! Thankfully Norbert (one of my DD team members) was with me.  He patiently and meticulously went through the pile, extracted every last piece of my broken and discarded breakfront and placed the pile out of harm’s way.

Breakfront in the junk pile

 

Breakfront in a neat pile on the porch awaiting rescue

My next call was to Chip Brian (founder and owner of Design Development). He searched his file for a photo of the breakfront, spoke to his master carpenter and Norbert, and was pretty confident that they could bring my most cherished piece of furniture back to life.  The breakfront is currently in the Design Development furniture hospital recuperating—as is my heart!

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