Friday, February 8, 2013

Inspired by Pottery Barn: Custom Sideboard with Wine Inserts

Heirlooms don't come wrapped from Ikea. They are wrought with love and craftsmanship. When your heart is linked to the creator, then an inanimate object takes on the story and history which is rarely store bought. 

It was a piece of Pottery Barn modular furniture  that inspired our wedding gift to Shannon and Kenny. It sounded so simple to convert the idea into a single sideboard with a modular wine insert.  

Little did we know the richness of the experience building it would entail. The time. Or the work. But the story of this sideboard could not be bought. It could only be made. 

It is a gift wrought with memories of  hand selecting woods, design changes necessitated along the way, of perfecting products and techniques. Of multiple runs to Reel Lumber  in search of the "right wood" when their deliveries of black walnut were fresh.

There was frustration when finishing required leaps of faith over hurdles of every day reality - like fitting time to work on within  my husband's normally abnormally busy work schedule. Of surviving a mystery illness and then his miracle recovery with a long pause due to a surgical accident interfering  with the coordination of his predominant hand. All of which make this heirloom more precious than it cost. 

The cabinet is a symbol that this marvelous family that I had the good fortune to marry into motors its way through life fueled by patience and perseverance.  

Brea Canyon Pass at Sunset
And so,  after three years of hogging my car's spot in the garage, the cabinet was swaddled in blankets within the bosom of my husband's Avalanche. Time to take a drive from Diamond Bar to its new home in Huntington Harbor. 

The front entrance to the condo is reached up a steep enclosed set of stairs with a couple of hair pin turns to maneuver  Thank God our oldest son Trevor was home to help his brother deliver the cabinet without scratching. 

Or dropping.  Amen. 

 The construction is all hand-selected black walnut.

 It was the third try to build the top of bookmatched boards jointed from 2" thick lumber  that finally satisfied the artistic desire for flowing wood grain. 

Now, keeping the expanse of  board flat took experimentation.  Right before I was going to go shopping for granite- Gerry found that setting the unfinished top on the lawn for an hour under the California summer sun  worked. His hypothesis is this allows  moisture from below and heat from above to loosen the bow in the center enough to plane and hand-scrape the top flat. Because of the organic nature of  timber, it could not be bolted to the cabinet frame- figure 8 fasteners allow for movement. 

Gerry sliced extra thick veneer inserted into the stiles and rails carved with a teensie ogee router bit. 

The luminosity is achieved with 8 coats of finish.  Between each coat, imperfections were hand-polished out with the finest steel wool.  The depth of wood grain was enriched by four coats of a custom - blended brew of three part blend of tongue oil, semi-gloss polyurethane and paint thinner.  4  coats of gloss urethane  then protect the finish from liquid spills.  Renaissance wax massaged onto the surface is the secret to the gleam that is only found in the finest pieces of furniture.

The original design had pulls purchased from Pottery Barn. When Gerry went to install- they were a tad bit larger than the drawers allowed. So he opted for pulls from one of his favorite haunts, Woodcraft - then accented the figured walnut drawer fronts by inlaying a shadow-line with a  raised framing detail. 

Dovetail joints on drawers. 
Dovetail joints are to cabinetry what lingerie is to a woman's wardrobe. It is the opportunity to hold things together beautifully.

One of my favorite details is the bookmatched veneer on the door fronts. In a Rorschach  sort of way- do you see that fine set of 6-pack abs that I do?   

While the vibe is very traditional, the grid wine is constructed with the exacting minimal variance tolerance required in modern architecture. Unless you actually inserted wine bottles into the slots, your eye would never notice the pattern is not exactly squared. This required a field trip to Total Wine for an assortment of bottle sizes to model from):- 

Soon it won't just be wine bottles the couple needs to store.  Next month come baby bottles. 

Linking to Show and Tell at  My Romantic Home.


Anonymous said...

We have been waiting for a very long time to get a look at this amazing piece of furniture that Gerry so lovingly and painstakingly made for Kenny and Shannon's wedding gift. Well, it was well worth the wait. Absolutely gorgeous! Gerry is definitely a craftsman. I love the beauty of the wood he chose. Such depth.
Now their children will have something super special to pass on to their children and on thru the generations.
It sounds like you were right in there with him deciding and purchasing and watching as you know every detail.

Congratulations to Gerry for a job more than well done.

Hugs, Trisha

Lydia said...

Thank you for appreciating Gerry's craftsmanship. My main contribution was "supervision"):- Kenny's older brother, Trevor was a great help when he was in California on the closing laps of the project.

Oregon Sue said...

That is one of the most beautiful handcrafted pieces of furniture I have ever seen! Gerry is an artist for sure! A gift of love. Thanks for sharing it. xo

OldLady Of The Hills said...

This is MAGNIFICENT, LYDIA! Bravo to your dear husband...How many people have such a beautiful piece of furniture made with so much love?
A True Treasure of ART!

Anonymous said...

Now Lydia, these photos are as good as the product. The first pic you sent the Daily Drivel, although it was beautiful, didn't do it full justice.

I'm sending this link to my son in love, Mark. You know that Mark is a fine cabinet maker by profession. For 20 years he took custom orders and would even design furniture for very wealthy people. All I can say is I know he will understand the work involved and appreciate this post and enjoy seeing Gerry's quality work.

Me thinks Gerry may have missed his professional calling by not doing this type work full time. However, his engineering job has probably been more steady and financially productive. ;-). Kudo's to him and congrats to the kids that will pass it on for generations to come. What a work of art!

Judy in Seal Beach.

Cindy @ Dwellings-The Heart of Your Home said...

GORGEOUS...Oh my, absolutely beautiful!!! What a labor of love and piece to be kept and passed down from generation to generation!!!

nikkipolani said...

So much love imbued in every inch of this magnificent piece!

Lydia said...

Thank you EVERYONE for writing in.

Joan S Bolton said...

This is so beautiful! I love, love, love the black walnut and the way Gerry worked with the grain. How wonderful to know that he created such an incredible heirloom. Although it may spark more than a few tussles among your future generations over a who gets to claim "ownership" during their time.