hi friends, Happy Christmas Eve! Today’s post is a fun one as my handsome assistant, Looper, makes an appearance! While my pictures may always look calm and collected, it’s normally anything but that behind the scenes. What you don’t see is me frantically pushing the dogs out of the way or holding Looper in a leg lock and shout at Tessie while I try to snap, snap, snap away.
Anyhoo, back to the subject at hand… Today’s post is about an old, forgotten gossip bench. It’s a Christmas gift for my best friend Ellen’s boyfriend Rob’s Mom. Try saying that three times fast!
Ellen dropped it off the day of the big house move with a simple, “do whatever you want, I trust you, she just mentioned something about doing blues, no rush, just need it by Christmas!” Here it is.. just a simple little piece that had a few coats of black spray paint paired with a gold and black stripped cushion. Kind of forgettable, right?
I was a little nervous. I didn’t have a vision for this one.
I just didn’t feel like a French-esque baby blue color was going to work.
To me, gossip benches (also known as telephone tables) if done wrong, can be very hackneyed and a little “kitsch.” I wanted to keep it period appropriate while making sure it fit into her space and with her style.
So I did a little light reading. I’ve seen these pieces floating around and had a vague understanding of them, but wanted to be sure. These cute little pieces were all the rage in the 1940’s-50’s and acted as a place where housewives could sit down with their rotary phones and chat with friends and family… hence the name – gossip bench! Most come equipped with a bench or second shelf to hold a phone book.
It really makes you stop and think about how far we’ve come in the last 70 years. Now we carry our rotary phones and telephone books in our pockets – and real housewives (not the ones on BRAVO) are very few and far between.
I had been chewing this one over in my head for a few days when Rob, Ellen’s boyfriend, got back to me with some pictures of his mom’s living room and some more direction about her style, which I would call “Country Americana.” He also clarified Ellen’s “blue” comment to mean “country blue” which gave me a way better understanding of what she was dreaming of! Perfect!
I started thinking about life in the 1940’s and what it might have meant for a housewife living out in the country. She might have been out in the yard picking some apples to bake into a beautiful pie for that night’s supper when she heard the sound of the phone. Maybe she ran inside with her basket of apples when she sat down on her gossip bench to take a call from a friend about some sort of drama going on in town. Maybe the weather wasn’t particularly great the last few seasons and her husband’s grain business wasn’t quite that successful. Maybe instead of asking for a few dollars to buy some new fabric for her beloved bench, she took an old grain feed bag and scrubbed it on her washboard until it was nice and soft. Maybe she took her time and crafted that feed bag into a new bench seat to rest her achey bones on.
That’s one of the most fun parts about my job, I get to imagine all the different lives and stories that have touched these beautiful pieces and think about how I get to give them a second, third and sometimes a fourth chance at a new story.
Here’s a look at the finished piece. I began by sanding down the bench top to get back to the original wood. It was perfect! I stained it using a Mahogany stain+poly mix for a smooth, shiny top. I went with a single coat of Annie Sloan’s Old White on the body followed by two thick coats of Annie’s Napoleonic Blue. I had a blast sanding down in places that might be well worn by time to let the white pop through. I finished it off by recovering the seat with an old grain sack that my amazing sister-in-law, Jess, found at the flea market. Here’s a look:
All my love,