Monday, February 25, 2013

A Dresser Dream Fulfilled

It's been a long held dream of mine - to be the owner of a kitchen dresser. When we were newlyweds living in a tiny one bedroom flat in London with an even tinier kitchen I would flip through pages of Ideal Home magazine which featured beautiful and expansive farmhouse kitchens in the English countryside. When we were packing up tea chests of wedding gifts to send across the world to New Zealand I had to cull my stack of Ideal Homes so I pulled out the pages to create a scrapbook of the homes that appealed to me the most. Almost every kitchen picture featured a timber dresser stacked with china. I still have some of those original pictures and even though the magazines are from 1989 those farmhouse kitchens have a timeless quality with their AGA stoves, butler's sinks and timber dressers with open shelves.

The dream of a living in the country was realized and for the last 23 years we have been blessed to live in a beautiful part of the world in country towns and rural locations. Our first kitchen had orange bench tops and dark veneer cupboards and my husband built me a new kitchen with cabinets using recycled rimu, a New Zealand native timber - it was beautiful but it didn't have a dresser. We moved onto a 300 acre dairy farm with a stone farmhouse. It had a small kitchen with timber units but no dresser. We crossed the Tasman and the country living dream continued when we found our eight acres of eden. The redeeming feature of the interior of the owner built house constructed with a hodge podge of recycled materials was the fact that it had a new country style kitchen with solid cabinets constructed from brushbox timber. It even had a buffet unit - almost but not quite a kitchen dresser.

The buffet unit which used to live in the kitchen has moved into the dining room.
 It houses a growing collection of vintage glassware!

The dream of a dresser lived on but it was still very much a want and not a need until this year when my husband agreed that we needed a practical storage solution for the the vintage china we have collected over the last year which is going to be hired out for events and hopefully earn us some extra income as we set out to see another long held dream realized and establish a family business.

And so the search for a dresser began. One that would fit into our home which has limited wall space - one of the drawbacks of having so many French doors! I looked in secondhand shops and saw some very nice dressers and units but all were beyond our present budget. The dresser would remain a dream. We spotted a beautiful walnut sideboard in a vintage store. We both liked it. It had once been a dresser. It could be turned back into a dresser with added shelves but its price tag was already more than we wanted to pay. We debated and in the end I made the decision to walk away saying to my husband 'We'll kick ourselves if we walk into a garage sale and find a dresser.' As if that was going to happen.

Of course you know the end of the story. The very next day we walked into a garage sale. The owners were moving house and there it was against the garage wall, a timber dresser at an amazing price. We didn't hesitate, gave the lady a deposit and my husband raced off to the ATM and returned later to pick it up with the ute. When he returned the lady told him that she could have sold it ten times over. He was also treated to coffee and cake and the lady seemed very pleased to know that her dresser would continue to be loved by its new owner. It was quite a day for garage sales that day. I also found china and a beautiful floral quilt which now graces my bed!

Our road to nowhere during the floods of this weekend which kept us at home.
We used a beautiful vintage oil lamp in the evenings when we were without power.
Our home is on a hillside and does not flood, though during the high winds a large gum tree fell onto our  farm shed causing thousands of dollars of damage. I will be calling the insurance company today.

You see the reason I have been away from the blog is nothing to do with having just been flooded in for days without power. No, I have been spending lots of time in my kitchen standing and staring at my dream dresser as I bake at my kitchen island. Yes, it is in the kitchen after the dining room wall where it was supposed to go proved too small thanks to an internal power box. The kitchen buffet unit was moved onto that wall and the dresser fitted perfectly on the kitchen wall. As it was narrower it created more space in the kitchen - much needed when twins and a three year old boy drag over chairs to help mix cakes around the island!

I now know why people love dressers. They hold so much china! The cupboards hold over 70 trios, dinner plates and bowls. The shelves display a Royal Albert dinner service and a total of 10 teapots and a whole row of bone china milk jugs. Favourite books are stacked at the end. A jug of herbs and a set of 12 modern vintage style teacups are set out always at hand for when a friend calls in for a cup of tea. The drawers hold vintage napkins, cake servers and cutlery sets. When I needed to pull out china to photograph for our website there was no reaching into the back of a deep and dark cupboard. I could see at a glance exactly which china I needed. Oh I could sing the praises of my dresser all day long! It was worth waiting 23 years for!

I resisted the temptation to take to it with the antique white paint. When you live in a house with white tiles throughout, a white kitchen would be far too clinical and there is something about the warmth and homeliness of natural timber that tugs at my heart and prompts me to not even entertain thoughts of white or faux painted finishes.

There is one more kitchen dream to be fulfilled. I have a wood stove, a cooks shelf, a dresser and all that is needed now is the walk in pantry. One that is large enough to hide away the big stainless steel fridge freezer and have enough shelves for all the jars of preserves, if our guavas and passion fruit continue to keep producing as they have this year. I made mango chutney over the weekend and thanks to having a gas stove top I was able to keep on cooking when the power was out. Time to go and make some bread now I can bake again. Any excuse to be near to my dresser!


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