What’s big and tall and fills the south wall? Der Kleiderschrank, of course! Kleiderschrank is German for clothes closet, wardrobe, armoire. This one has been in my family for many years. It’s another piece salvaged from my grandparents’ dark and mysterious basement. It probably originated at my great-grandparents’ lake house outside of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I’ve always admired its simple lines. It’s so different from the other Eastlake pieces that came from “the lake.”
In Wisconsin, where I was born, my family always called it the kleiderschrank, but, as no one out West seems to know what that is, my tongue fumbles around for a more commonly understood word, until I haltingly spit out “armoire.”
My dad refinished the piece and replaced the wooden door panels with glass in the 1960s, before anyone suspected that antiques were more valuable with their original finishes. Otherwise, I’d have a green kleiderschrank in my living room now … and I’d probably love it. Antique greens are some of my favorite shades. But, if Pop hadn’t refinished it, I wouldn’t be able to enjoy the mellow glow of the wood when the lights are on, or the aroma of the old walnut and wood stain when I open the doors, which brings back childhood memories. It’s smelled like this for a half century.
In my parents’ house it held china, much of it hand painted by my great-aunt Alvina. (Painting china was a popular ladies’ craft at the turn of the 20th century.) In my house, I use it to display my small collection of vintage tabletop radios, along with selected china pieces that survived the Nisqually earthquake of 2001, when I came home to find half of its contents shattered on the floor. Eric has added a few vintage cameras.
It’s also Rose’s safe spot. It’s a long leap from the back of the couch, but 13-year-old Rose can still do it. She’ll have to find another high point while the living room walls get patched and painted.
This piece is too big to move, so we have to disassemble it. Remarkably, the kleiderschrank has no nails. It’s all put together with joinery. Watch as we “knock it down into a pile of lumber,” as my mom used to say. Look out, Rose!
I began by taking everything off the shelves, packing it in plastic tubs, and storing it in the library. I’m not keen on cluttering up the library, but the stuff’s got to go somewhere. It’s just temporary, I reassured myself.
Knocking it down is an easy job for two people. Eric carefully removed the doors, which are attached with standard inset hinges.
Next, we slid the wooden locking pieces toward the narrow end of the rails (toward the back of the kleiderschrank) and removed them. This freed the top of the unit, which we carted off to the dining room.
The shelves simply lift out.
A different kind of wooden locking pin holds the side walls to the base. The side walls lift up out of slots in the base.
My dad replaced the back wall with two pieces of walnut plywood that fit into slots in the central spine.
That left us with the base … and a black cat. Can you make out Lacy peering beneath the center support?
So that’s it. In a few minutes we went from having der Kleiderschrank standing in our living room to lying on our dining room floor like a new piece of IKEA furniture. Who wouldn’t want a dusty antique pile of lumber lying in their dining room during the holiday season?
Wall color update
And who wouldn’t want a mantel decorated in festive paint sample containers? Kind of looks like the mascot for the painting Olympics.
Subtle changes are afoot in our color selection! Thanks to my blog friends, Jo from Let’s Face the Music and Jacqui from Home-in-the-Making for suggesting a greener gray to help coordinate the new paint to the existing wallpaper. Their advice sent me back to the stores for more samples. I’ve sampled eight shades of gray for this project—something I’ve never done before (not that I’ve never made a mistake with paint, but usually I’m quite sure of what I want).
Displaying paint colors on computers is almost useless because monitors are hardly ever calibrated for color accuracy, but just for kicks, here are my first color choices (top) and the new wall color (bottom).
I know … they look virtually identical, don’t they? I have no idea how they look on your monitor. On the wall, Jogging Path is noticeably greener than Anew Gray. Suffice it to say, this paint pickin’ exercise drove me a little crazy, and I hope the results are similar to the fabulous, light, and crisp paint job that exists in my imagination. I’m usually good at visualization, so I’m cautiously optimistic. Grays have been tricky.
We’ve lived with these samples on the walls for long enough now that I think we’ve bonded. The winner is the top color in the photo of the mantel, above. Enough sampling, already! Let the fun begin!