Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Found Treasure: J & J Kohn Bentwood Chair

Who's up for a little furniture history lesson? I recently found a treasure. Well, technically I thought it was special all along but had never taken the time to do any research. Remember when we found the crate of milk glass in the attic of our tool shed? How We Stumbled Upon an Attic Time Capsule

Twenty-eight years ago I saw this chair hanging on a nail in my father in law's shed and asked if I could have it. He couldn't get it down fast enough.

It was missing the seat but I found a rush seat bottom at Pottery Barn Outlet and it worked well enough, even though it has never been actually attached in any way. I recently moved the chair into the studio (update on this room coming up soon) and began to wonder more about it. The lines are very interesting.

The other day I turned it over to see if there were any markings. I found this label.

Now I'll confess to not being a furniture or antique aficionado, but hey, that's why God made the internet, right? A quick search led me to Thornton just based on the style of the chair. My chair didn't have a burn marking though. At first, I didn't pay much attention to the paper label but upon further inspection and a bit more research it did yield some clues.

I found this snippet in a forum where someone had asked about a similar chair:

 In 1849 Jacob Kohn and his son, Josef, of Vienna (Wien), Austria, founded a company that made wooden parts for buildings. The company began making furniture in about 1867 and eventually established factories in several cities. The Kohns manufactured bentwood chairs similar to those made by Thonet. The Kohns’ company merged with Mundus in 1914 and the name became Kohn-Mundus, so your chairs were probably made before 1914. Kohn-Mundus merged with Thonet in 1922.

And this from the Smithsonian Libraries about the J & J Catalog:

Chairs available in the Jacob & Josef Kohn of Vienna : catalogue, 1911-1912.

Manufacturers and Importers of “J & J Kohn Bentwood Furniture” of Vienna, Austria was founded in 1849. They had branches all over Europe and America and in Toronto, Canada, with the main office and showroom floors in New York City. They were the major competitor of Gebrüder Thonet (Thonet Brothers) in bentwood furniture production. All of their bentwood furniture was made from Austrian Beechwood that was available in many finishes and colors. They made every kind of furniture imaginable, for both indoors and outdoors: Seating furniture, tables, coat, and hat racks, plant stands, even doll’s furniture! The firm’s earlier designs were in the Art Nouveau style and at the time period of this 1911-1912 catalog, worked in collaboration with Josef Hoffman and the Wiener Werkstatte. This catalog includes 109 pages of furniture designs and 7 pages of photographs of restaurant and hotel dining rooms around the world furnished with J & J Kohn furniture. It has the original price list with specifications for all size and design options.

 Characteristics of Art Nouveau include sinuously curving lines, sometimes in the form of whiplash curves that bend back on themselves.

And just like that, this chair that I always thought was really cool has some historical definition and respect. While it does appear that the original chair would have had a fabric-covered seat, everything about the shape of it says it wants a cane bottom. 

And this is why the project list is never finished. 

Thursday, July 25, 2019

The Spring 2019 Honey Harvest is in the Books

raw honey

People are constantly asking me if I have any honey. Once I'm sold out the question becomes "When will you have honey?" Currently, the answer is right now! 

Some people are more specific. "When will you have (spring, fall, or some with comb)? Everyone has their favorite. I usually remind them that I am not in charge of the bees and their schedule and that "I work for the queen." What I'm doing with the bees is a delicate supply and demand dance, one in which my first priority is to ensure their survival in the coming winter.

When the bees' personal space is full of honey I add a super. That's just a shallower box that goes on top of the other two bigger boxes where the bees actually live and where the queen lays eggs. The bottom two boxes which are larger are called deeps and that entire part of the hive is called the brood chamber or nest. Read my last update from earlier in the season. 

The amount of honey I take from the bees is the honey that they can afford to lose. They don't know how much is enough for winter and never think, that's enough work, let's take a vacation. They eke out all the production they can as long as the weather is warm enough and there are nectar-filled plants available.

This season I had a lot of swarming so honey production was slow. The saying among beekeepers is that you can make bees or honey. If the colony swarms or splits in two, you get more bees YAY but less honey BOO. The weather was also quite rainy which means fewer days that the girls can go out to forage and the longer it takes for the honey to dry out. The moisture content of each cell of honey must be 18.6 % before they cap it off. Rainy weather and high humidity make it take longer to get to that point.

I ended up with 5 gallons of spring honey when it was all said and done. The said and done includes harvesting (the hardest part because everything is SO heavy!), extracting, jarring, printing labels, punching out labels,  labeling and cleaning up the jars. Also cleaning up the Pen & Hive kitchen from all that.


This year I was also keen on protecting my newly painted brick floor. Read about it here. Giant cardboard boxes opened flat worked great. 

Right now the bees are working on creating a dark honey with a lot of complexity in the flavor. Spring honey taste like, well...spring. I always say it's taste like a bouquet of flowers.

It has all the nectar from those first apple, blackberry, clover, blueberry, and honeysuckle blossoms. And it's remarkably clear. I think it's my favorite.

Right now I'm selling the spring honey and waiting for the girls to wrap up the late summer foraging. Normally I harvest honey in September or October depending on the weather.

Currently, the focus is on keeping the small hive beetles in check and letting the girls get their work done. I'll keep you posted on the fall honey sitch. You can read about my very first honey harvest ever here! 

XOXO Y'all!

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Garden Overhaul: One Year Later

A year ago our last chicken died (You can read about our chicken adventure here) and as I pulled up the fencing that had surrounded the chicken run I was struck with a vision of what could be. The number one thing I envisioned was a straight line from the kitchen window (which also lines up with the front door) all the way through the garden to some sort of focal point. I promptly created a garden vision board. 

The vision board kept me motivated and on track. I hauled 3 and 1/2 tons of gravel from the driveway to the back yard. I moved and spread what felt like an equal amount of garden soil. I dug, arranged brick, laid out paths, spent hours planning, and suffered both dehydration and a nasty case of tendonitis. There was a lot of ibuprofen and I wore out two water bottles. 


Exactly one year later I've created the garden I envisioned. Now that the massive work is finished (blood, sweat, and tears anyone?) I'm having fun doing small projects and propagating plants. 

Let's look at some other before and afters: 

Not only did the garden proper get an overhaul but small things that needed to be done like removing the old satellite dishes from the tool shed  (Thanks, Honey!) were accomplished.

 Everything got rearranged and the potting shed got quite the makeover. You can read about part 1 of that project here

Now I should probably point out that these before pics of the garden are actually during my renovation so it looked extra disastrous, normally it was actually charming in all its cottagey wildness. But you know I love the worst possible before photos.

The problem with before and after photos in a garden is before and after what? Here's a spring photo from a couple of years ago.

Compared to photo in the lushness of summer.

Then during the garden overhaul.

And today.

Here's one of my favorite photos ever of my old cottage style garden.

Oh, the wildness of it! It was romantic to be sure. Some of this feeling remains. About a third of the garden has gravel paths and brick edged beds; the other 2/3 still feel rambly but reined in a bit into tidier beds.

Weeding is manageable. I can turn on the water without looking for snakes. I can even walk in the garden at night if I'm careful not to step on the multitude of toads that act as our natural mosquito control.

This project took either 27 years or a year. It all depends on the before you are looking for. A garden is always changing.

Oh and whatever that thing is you envision doing...just get started and don't quit. You can make it happen. 

XOXO Y'all! 

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Deconstructing a Loveseat

DIY loveseat

It's a fact of life and DIY that things get worse before they get better. If this project had a quote it would be by Churchill, "When you're going through hell keep going."  

Because really, who wants to stop and rest in hell? 

It took me several years to know what to do with a free loveseat some friends gave us a few years back but then it came to me like a flash. Here's what I started with. A well made functional loveseat with some fairly dated fabric.

You might not recognize it because for the past couple of years it has looked like this.

How did I miss the micro-trend of deconstructed furniture? Why didn't y'all tell me? Check it out on Pinterest if you have no idea what I'm talking about. 

It basically involves ripping all the fabric off a piece of furniture. Then adding back however much you want. I wish I could tell you how to do this. It is what it sounds like. I had to stop two hours in to run to Walgreens for Acetaminophen and Ibuprofen. Here are the other tools I used. 

I found that the handiest tool was a really long skinny flathead screwdriver for prying fabric loose and then needle nose pliers for gripping staples and pulling them out. I now officially hate staples. 

I should also say this: Actually reupholstering it would have been easier, so if you think this was the easy way out, keep reading.

Let me give you some advice if you are going to attempt this form of abuse. 1. Don't do it in your house if you can help it. It's nasty every step of the way and this piece wasn't even that old. 2. Wear gloves.  So many staples. 3. Take a lot of breaks. It's like an all-day wrestling match. But eventually you get down to the bare bones of the thing and in the picture below you can see that I started reupholstering parts of it with drop cloths.

deconstructed sofa

Again the how-to of this thing is really however you can, but taking off the back reveals how a lot of it is put together. I used a paint stirrer to shove the new fabric under the back and then tacked it to the frame. The sides worked the same way. Turning the piece over makes it much easier to do some of the work.

I was so happy when I uncovered the frame of this arm. I knew I'd be leaving this exposed.

deconstructed sofa

I used drop cloths for the inside areas where you sit. On the outside areas, I used burlap. That is what was under the fabric on the back but it was old and dirty. I removed so much batting which immediately made this piece seem daintier and more streamlined.

In the photo above you can see some kind of indestructible fabric which was obviously created by Satan. I pried. I pulled. I cut. I cried. WHAT IS IT? It had threads of plastic running through it that reminded me of some old school tape from the 70s my dad used to use when he didn't have duct tape.  I ended up cutting most of it out then just tucking the rest of it inside as I tacked on the new fabric.

deconstructed furniture

 You could speed the process up by using some kind of adhesive or a staple gun, I, however, chose to just use upholstery tacks for the entire project. My favorite part was putting the fabric on these curved arms. You could use the material you remove as a pattern for the new fabric but I just tacked and cut as I went. Carefully. 

drop cloth upholstery

I knew on the back I wanted to add a detail, so I stamped No. 72 using Iron Orchid Decor Stamps. To me that makes it feel so legit. I stamped the burlap before attaching it.

I'm all finished except for covering the cushion which will be sewn.

I love the little pom poms of batting that are stuck in the wood. I still have lots of staples to remove but I'll probably leave these.

how to deconstruct furniture

Why 72? I have no idea except when I saw the finished piece in my mind that's the number I saw there.

DIY furniture

I loved this project. But if you are tempted to try this at home, let me warn you, it's a bloodbath. Well, there wasn't any actual blood but it was a battle. It's not for the faint of heart (faint of anything for that matter) but I cannot get over how it turned out. For the sake of these photos, I covered the cushion with some grey burlap. 

I am in love with this project and if there is an actual bloodbath it will be if the cat tries to continue to use it as a scratching post.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

The Evening My Dad Became a Time Traveler

The best gift my dad ever gave me was teaching me to tie a half Windsor, but I couldn't have known it at the time. 

It was several years ago and the night of my son's first high school dance. As luck would have it my husband was out of town so I was in charge of helping him get ready for his big night. He hung out around the house all day and around 5:00 casually said that he should probably take a shower. I imagined the frenzy that had been going on all day at the girl's house and laughed. I'd pressed his clothes already and after he was dressed he came downstairs to borrow one of his dad's ties. He stood in front of the full-length mirror and studied himself. He held up the tie he'd chosen. After years of wearing nothing but t-shirts, the moment had come when he had to put on a coat and tie.

 "Mom, do you know how to tie a tie?"

I stopped in the doorway and time stood still.

I heard my dad's voice. "Let me teach you how to tie a tie."

I stepped into the room where my son stood and said: "Let me tell you the story of how I know how to do this."

I adjusted the tie around his collar. "This is the half Windsor knot. " Start with the wide end of the tie on your right and extending a foot before the narrow end. 

"I was just your age and I was getting ready for church on a Sunday morning. As I passed my parents' bedroom my dad said 'Hey come here a minute."

"I'm trying to get ready!"

"I know but I want to show you how to tie a tie."

Cross the wide end over narrow and turn back underneath.

 I said "I'm a girl. Why do I need to know how to tie a tie?"

 Bring it up and turn it down through the loop, Pass the wide in from the front, from the left and to the right.

"Because someday you are going to have a son and you will need to teach him how." 

"Won't my husband do that?"

"What if he isn't around for some reason?"

 Then, end up through the loop, and put it down through the knot in the front, tighten the knot carefully and draw it up to the collar. 

"And here we are. I know how to help you because my dad imagined a moment just like this."

"Wow. You never told me that."

I realized I had forgotten it completely until this evening. How like my father to teach me something I'd need long after he was gone. Teaching someone something is a way of reaching into the future.

I straightened my son's tie and stood back to notice how tall he had gotten the year before. How much like his grandfather he looked. I tamped down emotion and smoothed over freshly unearthed pain.

"Thanks, Mom."

I smiled at the son I'm so proud of and wished my dad was here to see this moment. My son is so like him in looks and personality. They would have loved each other so. I hate that they missed each other in time.

"Thanks, Dad," I whispered to myself as I left the room. I silently marveled at what had just happened. Through whatever means; premonition, fatherly foresight, dumb father had managed to show up just at the moment I needed him and be part of a special event for his grandson.

Thanks again, Dad.  

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Frame Makeover Part 2: From Somber and Serious to Fancy and Elegant.

antique painting

In the end, this frame did not want to be dark and serious. It wanted to be fancy and light. You can see that the dark frame just didn't suit the room. Thank goodness I propped it up to see what it would look like before reframing the painting. Read about how to recreate this look. 

It wouldn't have been terrible, but the gold is so much better in the space. The solution to the final finish was Modern Masters Metallic Paint in Pale Gold. 

metallic paint pale gold

I just brushed it on around the gold-leafed details and then went back and hit the high spots of the embellishments to give it extra shine. I had darkened the gold leaf significantly by going over it with the stain previously.  It needed a little pick me up around the edges to tie in with the new finish. 

Any trepidation about going over the stain was dismissed as soon as I saw how fantastic the gold looked! This was definitely the right look for this frame.  

acorns and oak leaves

I mean, yall. I seriously almost couldn't stand how beautiful it was and it only took me about 20 minutes! Although I do think the look benefitted from the layered process I did. The depth and dimension are from all those under layers that show through here and there. 

gold leaf frame

Oh my gosh. Oak leaves and acorns are my favorite motif! 

It was all I could do to let the paint dry before putting the frame back in and hanging it up! This painting is so cool. I wish I knew the history of it. I don't see a signature anywhere. 

I doubt it's worth a million bucks but it sure looks like it is hanging up in the dining room.  I looked for a blog post about how I switched the dining room and living room and couldn't find it. But if the rooms in your house aren't working for you, then switch 'em up! Do we need a post about that?

Meanwhile here are some photos of the current state of the dining room with the painting. You'll notice I didn't say completed or finished dining room. I have a couple more projects up my sleeve for this room.


I love a sideboard or bar that looks like it's set up and ready for an impromptu party!


This beautiful lead crystal decanter was a recent estate sale purchase for ten bucks! I'm afraid to use it but it's stunning! 

lead crystal decanter

Second-hand silver is a real weakness of mine.


Now let's step back and see how it all works together.

living room as dining room

Read about my free dining room makeover from last summer. 

Also, one last thing. Who thinks this loveseat wants to be deconstructed? 


You don't have to have all the answers when you start a project. Just know the direction you want to go and get started.

XOXO Y'all!