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Design

Farmhouse Update – My New Antique Hutch From Sweden, Some “Rules” Of Mine That I’m Breaking, And Y’ALL THE SHOPPING HAS BEGUN

When I moved to New York at 21 I had been exposed to zero good design. I thrifted and garage sale-d my way through Coos Bay Oregon, and I DIY’d a lot for 4-H but that’s where anything home decor related started and stopped. This is before the internet. No Pinterest. Small town America in 1980 wasn’t dripping with trends outside of coloring a blue square on the back of your white sneakers to pass as Keds because your parents refused to buy them. We drove to Eugene, 2 hours away to go prom dress shopping (which is hilarious as it wasn’t a fashion mecca – it simply had an Express). So when I moved to New York after college and started assistant styling (aka shopping and decorating sets for a living) I had a huge learning curve of what was “good”. If you’ve never shopped for a club chair before how do you discern a “cool one” from a “generic one”? With my narrow exposure, I liked a LOT of things – all of them really – as they were all new to me at the same time (thank god Cindy, my boss/mentor guided me and told me where to shop). My apartment looked like a vintage/thrift store threw up – I just loved it all. But now, I stare at the internet all day every day and I know where every chair is from. I’ve literally seen them all and the more affordable it is, the more “everywhere” it will be AND THAT’S GOOD! I appreciate how the internet has democratized good design and exposure for everyone. But when you’ve seen the same _________ over and over and over it becomes simply less exciting to you, and that’s ok and to be expected. A chef doesn’t want to cook the same meal that they’ve tasted a million times even if it’s delicious – they want to create their version of it. And listen, there is something comforting about seeing the T-shirt you have from J. Crew being worn by Natalie Portman – it’s a nice validation. But for the red carpet – everyone wants their dress, their look to be unique and unrepeatable. It’s part of pushing ourselves creatively and our homes are a display of our style and personality so understandably the deeper you get into being a designer, the less you can/want to just “throw a room together” with stuff off the internet.

Now there are some things that I LOVE regardless of how much I’ve seen them like the esters chair, my schoolhouse quilt, a Noguchi lamp, etc, etc. When you find a gem that works over and over and over you keep it. While shopping I have found really good dining chairs, coffee tables, nightstands, etc at big box stores that I love, but I’m just not willing to pull the trigger YET because the guttural excitement isn’t there. I’ve simply seen it too much or, I’m ABOUT to see it so much (likely because it’s really good and priced well). And again, THAT’S OK. I’m not saying I won’t buy those things if needed (I’m likely buying a set of dining chairs you’ve seen for decades for our sunroom), but right now as I’m in the early stages and not desperate for anything, I’m waiting for my stomach and wallet to agree, and when my stomach freaks out about something – I know that it’s good. I usually do a big intake of breath and my heart pounds. Then I show it to Brian and if he loves it (often without showing him the price) then I let myself seriously consider it.

So on my quest for uniqueness (ha) I’ve only been pulling triggers on vintage pieces because by nature of being vintage, they are barely or rarely repeatable (and more affordable than custom – the other choice designers usually go for). Of course jokes on me as most big box stores just literally do the cheap version of the OG 1970s Scandinavian maker that I’m stalking and then sell for 1/100th the cost. But that’s ok, too. And after dealing with customs on a few pieces from Scandinavia I’m frustrated enough to try to find it within the states. That’s all to say that I have started buying vintage pieces and I thought it would be fun to do a show and tell on one very special piece.

So I’d like to introduce you to my new old hutch. This lady was built in 1870, from Sweden, and is 100% pine, with original paint on it (that is quite patinated and faded as you can see). I actually broke a rule of mine which is don’t buy something just because you love the finish as the finish can always change, the shape you often can’t. And listen, I do love the shape (simple/classic) but it’s that aged bright blue that absolutely GOT ME. OH, it’s just so perfect. It’s bright but since it’s old and faded it doesn’t feel too bold to me. And even if in person it is much brighter we all know that blue is the “bright color” that feels almost like a neutral to me. Both kids have requested more color in this house than the mountain house and living in Oregon, I’m drawn to having more color as well. I will still likely lean more neutral than bold, I’m slowly pulling triggers on some pieces that are indeed colorful.

I also broke another rule of mine which is “know where it’s going to go before you buy”. But here’s the deal – I have four different places it can go. And one of my OG rules from styling was “pretty always looks good next to pretty” which may not always be true, but that’s what stylists tend to do – not “design a room” but collect awesome stuff and put it together. This hutch could go one of two places in the living room, in my writing room/sunroom (on the solid wall) to house office stuff for me or servingware, in the upstairs landing as a linen closet, and I’m not above putting it in a bedroom. If it would fit in a bathroom it would be awesome. I even thought about integrating it into the custom pantry that we are having made, but you can’t put this baby in a pantry. NO.

So the annoying part is that I don’t have it yet – it’s stuck in customs. Y’all customs paperwork is annoying and while it’s not a deal-breaker, it’s a true Achilles heel for me. I hate paperwork to the point of it being debilitating. It’s why I don’t have a car (a new lease – I just can’t do the paperwork) or a lawyer (WME’s lawyers look over my larger contracts, but otherwise I just sign anything in front of me). It’s a huge part of adulting that I fail at and thankfully have people (Caitlin) to ensure that I’m not signing away my life. So I tried to do this myself, but kept getting it wrong and finally sent it all to my accountant who also does my bookkeeping, HR, and will handle anything in the “annoying paperwork” realm, for a fee, obviously. But you should be warned that buying from Europe will A. take a couple of months and B. make you track down paperwork you likely have filed away as a normal person but I don’t. Also, I’m sure mine is trickier because I bought it under my business so I could write it off which made it more complicated. I’ll let you all know when it comes.

So How Much Was It?

She wasn’t cheap and honestly, it’s one of those things that I might have been able to find at Round Top Texas for $1500, but I pulled the trigger because I couldn’t stop thinking about it and picturing it in our home. I saw it styled out in future shots, that burst of patinated blue making me so very very happy. Also, it’s not lost on me that buying vintage is green, yes, but shipping from Europe is NOT. But I’ll use and appreciate it long term. It was listed for $2700 and I offered $2250 which was accepted by the dealer. It cost $1200 to ship from Sweden which was to be expected. So all in, it was around $3500. It does coincide with my rule on what to splurge on – it’s NOT the functional sofa (there are so many great affordable ones these days – see this roundup and review) and it’s NOT the dining table you eat at every day. No, I splurge on conversation pieces, furniture, or decor that makes your/our house unique and for me, that’s likely something vintage or custom made. A piece like this elevates everything else near it – so you can mix it with normal internet-famous big box furniture and it just makes it look cooler. IMHO 🙂

So that’s where I’m at and I’m feeling really good about it. xx

Opening Image Sources: Chairish and 1st Dibs

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Okay, so that is sooooo beautiful. That color is something special. And the way you describe it sounds like your a favorite pair of vintage blue jeans you find when thrifting. Blue, faded, such a good color, but almost a neutral.
Also, i love vintage too for the its ability to make your home unique.

🥰 Rusty
9 months ago

Whoo! 😃
It’s totally gorgeous and totally wah-really expensive! However, your budget’s not my budget and IF I could, I’d also buy things that speak (or shout) directly to me … as in talk … talk … talk … talk and keep me awake thinking about them!
I don’t think I’d choose those kind of travel miles though. I’d for sure, look indepth, drill down, closer to home, because 🌏.

A few years ago, I had a stripped, antique pine hutch-dresser that was beautifully worn and imperfect in all the right ways.
Unfortunately, I was forced to either sell it or give it away (prior to being free), so I asked my darling neighbours at the time, who were renting, if they’d like it.
They totally lurved it and it now lives with them. It’s already moved twice and is their pride and joy.
So, while I wouldn’t have ever got rid of it, it’s certainly bringing a lot of joy to them! Happy ending.🤗

Heather Amsden
9 months ago

That hutch is SO you- you will have it the rest of your life. Wonderful purchase. Rules are guideposts and we can’t follow all of them all of the time, right? ‘Collect awesome stuff and put it together’ – that’s my favorite rule and I learned it from you.

Nina Rosenblatt
9 months ago

this was my fave! It’s beautuful!

Megan
9 months ago

If you hate paperwork, you should definitely have a lawyer (source: am a lawyer). That is literally what we do for our clients-handle ALLLLLL the paperwork. AND if the other party has a lawyer the lawyers can handle all the paperwork between themselves and the clients never even have to see it. We aren’t all stuffy, boring, old white guys!

Meredith
9 months ago

I appreciate you being so candid about your decision making (and budget) and all the good and bad that goes into buying things for your home. The hutch is beautiful!

Susan
9 months ago

Yesterday, My splurge was $11.50 leather clogs made in Poland. I was so happy I was levitating. The $ might be different but the story is the same. My heart skipped a beat. What’s amazing to me about your piece is, in the entire life span of it, no one foolishly gave it a new coat of paint. The patina is so so perfect and can’t be replicated. Nice find

Elizabeth
9 months ago

I laughed in recognition about shopping in small town America – though for me it was the early 70s in Eastern Oregon. We also drove two hours to shop, but ours was a JC Penny’s. Even then you ran the risk of having the exact same outfit as someone else. And, when you wore them to school on the same day – oh the horror! My mom and I sewed almost all my clothes, with the added benefit of saving at least half the cost of store bought. Luckily, my mom did have an eye for good design and subscribed to every magazine known to womankind from Vogue to Architectural Digest to Good Housekeeping. When she passed away a few years ago I found her “idea tin” of magazine clippings – the original pinterest. Thanks for the nice walk down memory lane this morning.

Kelsey
9 months ago

Is this piece old enough that you aren’t concerned it might be lead paint?

Danielle
9 months ago
Reply to  Kelsey

My thoughts exactly! I just purchased a coffee table with it’s original paint. My daughter was concerned it was lead and asked me to test it. Sure enough, the testers came back bright red. I took it to a professional to be stripped and repainted, but they couldn’t strip the old craggy wood well enough to remove the paint. Such a bummer.

Kelsey
9 months ago
Reply to  Danielle

That would be so disappointing for me too! Better safe than sorry but still sucks!

Cris S.
9 months ago
Reply to  Kelsey

Yep – I hate to be a party pooper, but I bought a fantastic hutch at a flea market (I mean, it had a hole at the bottom of one of the doors where mice had eaten through it – I LOVED it) in a beautiful original blue. Got it home and watched my two little kids crawl in and out of it and hide inside of it and suddenly thought “Oh no, lead paint and dust.” Had it tested and yes, lead paint being scraped to dust by the old doors, etc. I was devastated – but not so much that I could continue to risk the health of two kids – one with hearing loss already and one who came with developmental difficulties. It was quite a fight with the vendor about returning it. Eventually we compromised on his building an exact duplicate (except for that mouse hole sadly) and swapped it for the genuinely old but lead infested one.

Anna
9 months ago
Reply to  Kelsey

Lead paint (for indoors use) was baned in Sweden in the 1860, so this pieces should be ok.

Anna
9 months ago
Reply to  Anna

Any way it´s mostly dangerous when you try to remove the paint and dust from the paint spreads in the air. A single furniture painted withe lead paint isn´t a problem.

BW
9 months ago

Can you share where you purchased it from? Looks like it might be Chairish or 1st Dibs from the photo credit for the first image in the post.

🥰 Rusty
9 months ago
Reply to  BW

I used “lens” on my phone and found IT, but coz I’m in Australia, it sent me to a dealer here.
Take a photo of the image, click on lens and it finds it and similar items filtered to your location.
This is a grrreat way to find dupes for high end pieces!!! Hehehe … 😏

BW
9 months ago
Reply to  🥰 Rusty

Thanks! Just find it odd they are not including the source.

BW
9 months ago
Reply to  🥰 Rusty

Google Lens takes me to a spam site 🤷‍♀️
Finding new sources for interesting pieces is a big reason I read the blog, so I’m disappointed with this post.

Kathleen
9 months ago

This is lovely!! We bought a summer house in my husband’s hometown in Sweden and I’ve spent the last year filling it with amazing vintage/antique finds. Sweden is a gold mine of things like this (and the cost in a loppis (thrift store) or on Blocket (Swedish Craigslist) or market place is soooo much lower than going through a dealer on First dibs. I’ve gotten some amazing handmade antique furniture similar to this for under $100. It’s been so much fun!!!

Ryan
9 months ago

I love the conversation at the beginning of this post. I’m in my 20’s and living in LA, and due to cost, my place is filled with target, wayfair, etc. I love the idea of splurging on not the big items but the more misc. items like the art and lamps, etc. I suppose it’s the thrill of the hunt I need to be after!

Roberta Davis
9 months ago

I love it but the completely-worn-away finish and dirt is a little more than I would want.

Shannon
9 months ago
Reply to  Roberta Davis

Yeah, it’s hard to tell just from photos, but it strikes me as dirty. Are these all just stains or is this pre-cleaned up? I think I would have a hard time not being grossed out or feeling the need to clean.

9 months ago

It’s a beautiful piece, and I love the patina. To me, the main part in any piece of furniture is the bones – get the right bones and you can achieve the right finish. There are so many products available these days that old aged patina can be achieved. I refinish furniture and trying to achieve that ‘authentic’ patina is the best part of the job!

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Lea
9 months ago

Love it and LOVE that color and patina. Also, it’s VERY versatile like you noted. I almost LOL when you said “write it off” my brain immediately went to that episode of Schitt’s Creek where Dan is talking to his dad about the “write off people”. Now I’m LOL’ing

Rebecca N
9 months ago

I know you are a sensitive person Emily so you will understand why I am making this request. Could the posts by you and your team stop including the phrase “pulled the trigger” when describing making a decision? There is just so much gun violence in the US and this wording brings that into the every day when it is used so casually.

Kimberly
9 months ago
Reply to  Rebecca N

I actually was debating commenting on the same thing. I don’t want to be negative on a fun post, but my sister died from suicide two months ago and that phrase just makes me feel so gut-punched now whenever I here it or read it (and it showed up at least three times in this post). I don’t know what a good phrase is to use in its place—if anyone has any suggestions because I myself catch myself almost using that phrase and want to replace it with something better.

Kimberly
9 months ago
Reply to  Kimberly

*whenever I hear it, pardon my typos

L
9 months ago
Reply to  Kimberly

Kimberly, I am so sorry for the loss of your sister.

RuthAnn
9 months ago
Reply to  Kimberly

Oh Kimberly, sending heartfelt thoughts about your loss of your sister.

Cris S.
9 months ago
Reply to  Kimberly

Kimberly – I am so sorry for the pain you are feeling and the loss of your sister.

Elaine
9 months ago
Reply to  Kimberly

I’m so sorry for the loss of your sister, Kimberly. Grieving the loss of someone you love and who died from suicide is complicated. It’s such a complex grief. Sending thoughts your way.

Maybe you could think about phrases such as…’go with/going with/went with/decided on/take the plunge/commit to’.

Emily
9 months ago
Reply to  Rebecca N

Good note, Rebecca. We actually committed to avoiding “violence-induced language” in my workplace a few years ago. Now I am sensitive to these phrases as well. Plus they don’t translate as well for a non-English speaking audience.

Kimberly
9 months ago
Reply to  Rebecca N

Thank you L, RuthAnn, Cris S., and Elaine. We miss her so much. Elaine, those are good suggestions—I especially like “take the plunge” because it sounds like you are drastically committed without using any violent language.

Joy
9 months ago
Reply to  Rebecca N

Rebecca and Kimberly, thank you for making me pause and consider whether and how I use this language as well. I appreciate the opportunity to be more thoughtful moving forward. Holding space for you, Kimberly.

Sarah
9 months ago

I want to shop vintage more for the reasons you listed, cool, less waste etc. however I’m paranoid about old materials having materials that are dangerous like lead paint. How do you avoid this?

Melissa
9 months ago

It was immediately clear which of the hutches in the photo at the top was going in your home – so perfect! And I’m laughing because I also drove (over) two hours to Eugene for my prom dress (from a small town south of Roseburg)!

Betty
9 months ago

Good buy! I have a similar one, the top doors are glass, though, the rest is the same – natural pine wood though. Bought it at a garage sale for $200 and it was an antique piece the sellers grandmother brought to the US from Panama. I love that hutch and it’s been with me for over 30 years and counting.

E
9 months ago

Thanks for taking us on the journey. Very pretty piece. I’m amazed at what I could sell some of my awesome furniture for on Chairish … Things I’ve inherited or found on the hunt for cheap. But alas, I cherish them and couldn’t part.

9 months ago

I have a very old hutch that was hand built in inda,i bought it cheap because three peices of the glass on the triangle shaped was missing .it gave it character, and a beautiful key lock door in a dark and light finish for 50 dollars. I have put things in it before, but I think it takes away the beauty of the peice. Any ideas that would look good ,but not look busy and over done ?

Renee
9 months ago

So excited to see where you place this lovely lady!

9 months ago

Thanks for sharing this informative and interesting post.

Marie Coolman
9 months ago

It’s beautiful!

Trudy
9 months ago

Nice post, Emily. Love the color of the hutch, but I’m wondering if you have an antiques person to advise you? I ask because I looked at the 1stDibs pics and I’m not sure that this is old, so sorry to say. The back is covered in one piece of something that looks manufactured and not like wood. No picture of the sides of the drawers pulled out, so no way to know if it has has hand-crafted dovetails. The wear on the finish is odd – on the top doors is is correctly located, but the wood underneath looks new-ish. Some of the other wear is not correctly located re: where wear actually occurs. I am a long-time antiques collector and former dealer offering mho.

Claire
9 months ago
Reply to  Trudy

Ooh, I’d love a guest post by you (or other antiques experts) about what to look for when appraising items, how to negotiate, how to gauge worth through finishes or details like dovetails, etc.

Trudy
9 months ago
Reply to  Claire

That’s a great idea, Claire. I’ve always loved antiques, but when I started looking at real furniture my father gave me a copy of Good, Better, Best by Albert Sacks. There are two versions – 1950 and 1993 or so. Both versions focus on Early American furniture and show three versions of a type of furniture, one good, one better and one best. Early American furniture is not my thing, nor is it in my budget, but the tools the book gave me taught me to see details, shapes, scale, type of wood, the finish, metal work, etc., in a way that educated my eye. The same skills can be used to look at other types of antiques, not just furniture. It’s a great place to start.

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