Friday, August 7, 2009

So, what do *you* think?

My Mom and Dad sent me out this cradle to use for our new little one. They weren't really sure of the age or even if it was the natural wood or if it was painted. We decided to use a little stripper in an inconspicuous spot to see just what we were dealing with and if it was the "original finish" we would leave it as is, but if it wasn't, we would refinish it. That seemed the safest course as we were concerned about multiple layers of lead based paint. As it turned out, it was multiple layers of paint, 3 to be exact. Brown then black then green. Really bright green! Below is the cradle partially stripped, you can see the green running down the side.
So, we stripped it all the way and sanded it, but the best we could get it is pictured below. We wanted a more accurate date for it so we asked an antiques dealer that we know and an antiques restorer for an age estimate. They place the date in the 1840-1850 range, we also found out that it was definitely homemade, hand planed, square nailed and the original color was green. Since the paint is milk paint that explains why we couldn't get it all out. The restorer said that we now have basically 2 choices: leave it as is, add a light stain and seal it. You will always be able to see the green this way. Or, choice #2, paint it again as it originally was. The original color of milk paint can be viewed here, it is the one called Tavern Green. Or I suppose we could paint it some other color.


Almost nobody likes the idea of repainting it, it runs contrary to our 21st century sensibilities that prefer natural looking wood. However, even though I wouldn't want a whole house full of painted furniture, I do like it for some pieces. When this cradle was built it wasn't fashioned from oak or cherry or another "beautiful" wood, it was made from utilitarian poplar which isn't really considered pretty. It was designed to be painted and brighten the home where it was used, as painted furniture is very, very common from this era.

So, the question is: what do you think I should do? Please tell me truthfully, I really want to know! If everybody thinks painting it would be hideous, then I'll probably bow to your wisdom and not repaint it. I'm starting to doubt myself here. ;-) I'm inclined to paint it mostly so it will look as it was intended to look but I'm afraid that I'll wish I hadn't once it's done. Oh, the indecision!!! Opinions please. ;-)

11 comments :

  1. Paris, I would paint it. Match the original color as close as you can and I think it'd be really neat!

    Mrs. Beers

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  2. it would be cute painted white or cream! I think it kinda looks ghastly unpainted (no offense to those who like it that way, just my opinion!, and because of the green that is stained into the wood it seems to look in the picture almost like it has rotted! It is a super cute cradle and I think it could look spectacular with a neutral base coat and something stenciled on the sides. Good luck!

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  3. I would paint it, not doubts. Maybe even add a little painted detail at the head. I think it will be very pretty, and cheerful once painted.

    Lyn

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  4. I agreed with Lyn, paint it, put some decorative detailing or something at the head and foot. I don't know about the green, but I'm sure you'll do some research and find a period correct color. It'll be a stunning piece once you've finished. :)

    Robyn

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  5. I'm a traditionalist - if you know it's original color, I would get it as close to that as possible, and maybe add what Robyn mentioned, some decorative detailing.

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  6. I would agree that you should paint it with as close a color of milk paint as you can to the orignal color; that is how the maker wanted it.

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  7. Well...seems I am out on this limb alone.... :) I would NOT paint it, I prefer the natural wood. I would possibly try and even out the color but not sure what means you would use since I am assuming you don't like the idea of stain. Or maybe I have forgotten already what your option stated as to leaving it natural. Either way, I don't like painted wood. To me it seems such a waste to cover nature. How's that for philosophy? ;)

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  8. Oh, do paint it as close to the orginal color as you can! I think it looks kinda sad and 160 years old the way it is. A freash coat of paint will make it look new again.

    ~Nona

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  9. I love the shape, but I would paint it. You could do some lovely stenciling on it as well :-D

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  10. Coming in quite late to the coversation, but I too would paint it, either a milky blue-gray with cheerful red stenciling or the original green color. I too agree it looks a bit sad the way it is. If it was meant to be painted when it was made for that little unknown babe 150 years ago, then I would try to keep it that way. :)

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  11. Paris, Wife and I love your blog. I would leave it alone and wax the outside only to brighten the natural color and protect the wood. Leave the inside alone where your baby will sleep.

    I use Minwax with a little color, but Johnson's Paste Wax or even your own beeswax and some turp work well. (I haven't tried it, just heard it.)

    Keep up the wonderful work on your blog and in raising your beautiful family.

    Frank and Pam

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