I Want To See You…Stripped

Some years ago I visited Country Side Antiques on the tail end of a long bike ride. As usual I parked my bike by the barn and wandered inside, half-thinking of finding a nice long couch. A small MCM loveseat is the cats’ fur-niture, and sadly too short for me to stretch out on full length.

In the top section of the main barn was a lovely camelback settee from the 1800s with a solid walnut frame. It had a passing nod to the ornate, heavily carved Victorian furniture associated with that period but in actuality is more Arts and Crafts.

Before, with a layer of stripper on it making the stain bubble slightly. Runnels of poorly applied varnish further marred its beauty.

Still, I couldn’t help but lay down on it and be delighted to find that it accommodated my height with ease. The price was right, and a willing neighbour helped me bring it home and wrestle it into place in my den.

There was only one thing about the settee that I didn’t like: a dark, heavy stain overlaying the walnut underneath. I didn’t get around to doing something about it for years. Then, finally, the limbo between this Christmas and New Year’s rolled around.

Now I had the time, inclination and supplies together. As I stripped away the stain, which was dark brown to the point of almost being black, and so sloppily applied that long runnels of it made it easy to find and remove – was something I never expected to find.

After. The difference that the stain removal made is just amazing. I hadn’t yet begun to refinish it.

The walnut below is just stunning.

The natural tones and colours leap to life in vivid, sinuous patterns. In fact I even wondered if it might be flame mahogany. It isn’t, but I did learn something new: flame walnut exists, and the colours and tones are consistent with other samples I’ve seen. Buffing out the final layer of finish on a piece of furniture has never been so satisfying.

What compelled someone to bury the magnificent grain of the walnut below a disgusting layer of stain? All I can think of is the Victorian-era love for dark woods in their furniture.

Maybe the lively, leaping pattern of the flame walnut offended the deep dark Victorian sensibilities of a past owner. Oak was a favourite wood and so I attribute the stain to someone trying to make the walnut look like oak. Who knows.

All that matters now is that the ugly stain that cloaked the settee’s beauty for so long is now gone.

Sometimes, sloughing off the grim darkness of the past to reveal everlasting beauty below is the only way to go.

Have a safe and happy New Year’s Eve everyone!

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