Saturday, June 28, 2014

REBECCA'S SIDEBOARD: A TRANSFORMATION





One of my biggest weaknesses when it comes to the 18" doll lines, is the furniture. Miniature, true to life, wee versions of things just make me swoon.  A couple of years ago I visited the Art Institute of Chicago, where there's a permanent wing devoted to displays of rooms in miniature- ranging from the 13th century to the 1930's.  They are the Thorne Miniature Rooms.   The scale is much smaller than the 1:3 scale of American Girl dolls, but still it is a wonder to see.   I could have spent a couple of days in that wing alone, perusing.  I have always had a love of antiques and learning about different styles of furniture and how it has evolved throughout history.  Had it been a more practical choice, I might have studied it in school.


Coveting From Afar


I could definitely write a comprehensive book on coveting from afar.   Personally,  I feel longing can sometimes be a good thing,  especially when the object of your affection is generally attainable.  When it's not.... then that's a whole different book.   
So when American Girl introduced Rebecca's Sideboard a couple of years ago,  I was very oddly content to sit back from a distance and just covet.    I suppose I convinced myself that I did not need it, since I did not collect for Rebecca.  Mostly I felt something about the scale was a bit off, not horribly off... just off enough.   Rebecca was either too tall or that sideboard was too short.  

Here American Girl cleverly photographed Rebecca "next to" her sideboard. They positioned her just to the right and slightly in front of it to fool the eye a bit.  


The reality is more like this:



But shortcomings notwithstanding, the sideboard is still a fabulous piece.  The turned spindles, the scalloped front pieces,  the velvet lined drawer- all elements not lost on me.  

I had seen another collector ingeniously mount legs to the bottom of the sideboard to give it some much needed height.  And that was it! Those few inches made such a vast difference to me.   

With each visit to an American Girl store, I would casually pass the display case with Rebecca and her collection and each time I would secretly admire and long more and more for that sideboard, thinking I could also improve upon it's design and scale a bit, adding legs too.   So one day I finally stopped just coveting and the sideboard came home with me.  


I decided almost right away that, in addition to legs, I wanted to add a bottom section to increase the height even just a bit more. I found this piece of 1/2" thick oak planking at my local home center that I figured would work well.  I chose oak since that's the wood that Rebecca's sideboard is ostensibly made from. 






I measured around the sideboard then cut the piece about a half inch bigger than the bottom dimension, to leave room to route around the edges.  I did not add that 1/2" on the backside- because I wanted the back to be flush with the back of the sideboard, routing only the front and sides.  



 I used a 5/32 Roman ogee bit to route the edges.







The routed piece added 1/2 of an inch in height to the sideboard.  

Next I needed to find legs to mount to the bottom.  What I had envisioned and what was readily available at craft stores and on the web were two very different things.  Eventually I decided on the candle stick pieces below.  They would require some modification though.  




Out of the bag they measured three inches,  too tall for my purpose, so I cut them down to 2 1/4".  

Ideally, I would have liked the smaller end to delicately taper a bit more, but short of turing them myself, this was my best option. 


Next order of business was to stain the pieces to match the sideboard.  I used this summer oak color and gave the pieces several coats until I felt it matched the sideboard closely.  It wasn't perfect, but pretty darn close.









I then used wood glue to attach the legs to the oak board.  After that was dry I lightly coated the whole piece with a clear sealer.  The sideboard has a bit of a satin finish to it so I did not want to use a high or even semi gloss varnish.  



The end result added 2 3/4" of height to the sideboard,  enough to at least match the size of the dolls.





This project, like most for me, took far too long to complete, but was well worth the effort.  Now I just have to build a room to go with the sideboard! hah  It would be completely plausible for Kit to have a piece like this in her 1930's home.   Can't wait to make it happen...someday.  














If you have any questions about this project, or any other,  I am always happy to answer.   

Teresa