Sunday, September 14, 2008

What's the story, Morning Glory?

Owning a home, and decorating that home, is a learning experience for anyone. In our case, we've learned that what you are looking for dictates where you shop. For example, new furniture stores are great for mattresses, linens, and anything disposable. We've found a couple useful pieces of furniture that serve a great purpose now, but that do not play a role in our long term decorating plans. Nice, solid pieces take more work to find, but when you do find a great old piece of furniture at an antique store or auction, it usually has a great story to go along with it.

Last weekend, I decided that we need a mantel in our living room. No, we don’t have a fire place. Yes, I know this. But I cannot tell you how many times in the last year I have thought to myself that if we did have a mantel, I could do some cool things to decorate it. So after a year of thinking, I decided that we had to do something about it, and lucky for me, J agreed to play along.

So we set off last Saturday in search of a mantel. After a year and a half working in Jessamine County, I was sure we'd have no problem finding any number of junk stores and antique shops with old wooden mantels just lying around. Sure enough, we found a junk store, but they were fresh out of old mantels. Traveling deeper into Jessamine County, we found an antique shop run by an antique old woman who recommended checking out the antique show in Lexington this weekend. I took her card and assured her we'd check it out, but I hadn't gotten my fill of searching for the day, so we headed back to 27 South.

This is where our story gets...well…interesting. Just after passing into Garrard County is an old sign for "Rocky Top Antiques" with an arrow that points up a gravel drive. Now, I've passed the sign probably 50 times since starting my job and every time wondered what might be at the top of the hill. It seemed like a great time to find out, so we pulled up to the large metal building and parked out front. J questioned whether or not the place was open, but I found the front door unlocked and walked into a dark warehouse that J describes as “Deliverance meets junk shop”. He was ready to walk back out, while I was willing to tempt the inevitable shot gun for a few minutes to check around for a mantel. The sound of gravel crunching outside convinced me to join J on the run back to the car, and we pulled around the corner of the building to discover the owner and several other men unloading furniture into the back side of the building that apparently serves as an auction house on Saturday nights. We pretended to have just arrived and went inside to see what they had to offer. The back side of the building was more disorganized than the front had been, and I spotted what I thought was a mantel against a back wall. While I went in search of someone to move six feet of ‘stuff’ to check it out, J wandered off to check out the rest of the collection. My ‘mantel’ turned out to be a bar mirror, but J did find a pretty cool chair that he deemed “excellent for playing video games”. Having had enough excitement for the day, we left a bid on the chair and headed back to Lexington.

Again, unfortunately for J, curiosity got the best of me, and I followed another sign that I’ve passed many times on the drive through Jessamine County. This sign took us to a locked gate outside a barn labeled with a couple of signs for antiques. A group of people relaxing outside the barn noticed us pull up, and, though they had just closed, offered to unlock the gate and let us in. We did, and as we got out of the car, learned that the “antique shop” was closed and was instead the ‘welcome center’ for an animal refuge. It was then that I noticed the chickens pecking at our feet and the pungent smell of the animal droppings scattered around the parking lot. We were greeted by a woman who declined to shake our hands by telling us we “wouldn’t want to know” what she’d been doing with them. Wow. She offered to give us a tour for $5, then for nothing if we’d just send a donation later. J, again showing more wisdom than me on this one, turned back to the car. I felt bad for them and tried to politely decline. When that didn’t work, I ran for the car, too. So much for finding a mantel there, but boy did we find a couple of great stories!

We learned this week that we won the chair, so we’re now the proud owners of a pretty great chair for playing video games. We plan to re-cover both this chair (the blue chair with the swan head arms) and an old chair of J’s (Nonnie—you might recognize that one!) to go with the family room.

Still in search of a mantel, I dragged J to the big antique show here in town on Saturday, where we found several mantels and more great stories (Remember, good antiques always have a story.). We finally decided on one that came from an old estate in Lexington and is about 200 years old. I need to spend a bit of time researching how to conserve it, but I love the style and am thrilled that I now have a mantel to decorate!

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