The Lillian Shelf: Making the ’60s work in 2015

Once upon a time, a colorful young woman (who grew up in a hotel in NYC!) married her piano teacher’s brother. They lived in Levittown, NY, then worked for NASA in Huntsville, AL (both of them–their mission was putting a man on the moon!) before NASA transferred them to DC. The timing was perfect–Levitt was building another community in the Maryland suburbs, so they called the builder and bought before the house was built. They requested the house be built across two lots on a corner and with their own customizations–kind of scandalous when Levitt was making his name as the Henry Ford of home building. They bought fashionable 1960s items to furnish it and filled it so full of stuff in their 48 years there that it took their buyers (a young engaged couple–the house’s second set of inhabitants) more than a month and three dumpsters to empty it all after the husband died and the wife went to live in a nursing home that could handle her Alzheimer’s.

This adorable little bookshelf is among the things that I took from the curb when the emptying progressed from dumpster to curbside. Later, I saw its two mates (and a matching dining set) at the yard sale the young couple put on to raise money for the wife’s nursing home care.

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The wife–Lillian, who was one of my favorite people in the neighborhood, and who remained a colorful character well past recognizing me, or even her own surroundings–died this year. The adorable little bookshelf has been calling to me from its ignored spot in my garage.

Thing is, the bookshelf is in horrible condition. HORRIBLE. While it appears to be a good piece of furniture, it’s scratched and gouged and generally showing fifty years of hard use.  That’s part of why it’s been sitting in the garage–refinishing back to bare wood is just not something I wanted to do.

So when I heard about Amy Howard’s live webinar for Ace Hardware, pitching her “One Coat Paint” created especially for “recycling” refurniture without full-on refinishing, I watched the video and decided to give it a shot. Chalk-based paint–who knew? And it was able to be tinted to the color I really wanted–aubergine!

Here are the before pictures. So far, I’ve washed the bookshelf with diluted Simple Green (twice–it was really dirty) and have re-glued the loose dovetail joints on top. Next step (and post): The first coat. I’m starting with those cute little feet!

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