Welcome, Wayward Furniture

china-cabinetMy husband and I have opened our home to wayward furniture. We pick up stray tables, abandoned chairs, and old stoves past their prime. We take in an assortment of curbside castoffs and rummage sale rejects and offer them a chance to begin again.

Why buy new when there’s an old piece of junk that can be repaired, restored, or appreciated as is? It’s our version of urban renewal. Just about every item in our home tells a story.

In its first life, this china cabinet was my grandparents’ wardrobe, but I remember it out in the shed, covered in grime, and filled with nails, screws, and assorted metal a farmer might need. In the 1970s my mother saw its inner beauty, removed its farm-shed contents, and refinished it. Her carpenter uncle added new shelves to the interior and Plexiglas inserts to the doors. Mom used it as her main china cabinet for roughly 30 years. I inherited it after she died. It’s the finest family collectible I have.

An old kerosene three-burner stove from the farm serves as our family’s message center. We store our CDs in a converted gun cabinet acquired for $5 from a roadside sale. Our vinyl records and stereo equipment are kept in a former kitchen base cabinet, early 1900s vintage. A freestanding farm scale topped with a wooden milk crate is part sculpture, part magazine bin.

We’ve placed pieces from our collection onto our curb as well, cabinets and tables we decided not to refinish, chairs that were too big or too small. We live in a college town and curbside shopping is common here. It never takes long for our former furnishings to find a new home.

We also collect transient textiles and faded ephemera, but that’s another story.

Laura Sternweis


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