A History Lesson

by Pat Bresnahan

History is very important to us at Grain Designs. I’m not necessarily talking about who was in the War of 1812 or who won the Battle of New Orleans, more so I am talking about individual or local history, holding on to where we come from and maintaining connections to the people we love. We truly enjoy repurposing old wood and other materials and love seeing the reaction we get from clients who have seen their old piece of the family farm or wood from the company they worked at preserved in a functional piece of furniture or home decor item.  There are different ways of doing this, for the most part we take raw materials such as boards from an old barn or factory and create an entirely new piece from that material, such as a dining table or a sliding door. However, you don’t always have to build an entirely new item when repurposing.  Sometimes just a slight tweak to an existing piece can change it from being outdated to exactly what you might be looking for and at the same time hold on to the history of the piece.

For my blog this week I decided to take care of a few different problems all at once. When my parents moved down to Arizona for their retirement, I was given quite a bit of furniture that I had little use for and definitely didn’t have any space for. Shortly after I was hired at Grain Designs, I convinced the rest of the guys to let me store that furniture at our shop for a couple of months while I worked there and while I figured out what to do with the furniture. A little over two years later and I’m still working at Grain Designs and that furniture hasn’t moved an inch, which Blain says might be his single greatest regret. I still haven’t decided whether the regret he is talking about was hiring me or letting me store the furniture here.

Anyway, most of the pieces of furniture I had received from my parents had little importance to me and mostly I just wanted to get rid of them. One of the pieces however, was an old pie safe that my grandpa had built and that did hold value in my eyes. I really wanted to repurpose the pie safe as it was important to me to preserve the memory of my grandfather, but I simply didn’t know what to do with it. Recently, my girlfriend decided that we needed a new entertainment center for our apartment and I slowly had my eureka moment as I realized I could use that old pie safe to satisfy my girlfriend’s desire for an entertainment center and simultaneously get it out of our shop, which I knew would please Blain immensely.

Initially, when thinking of a way to repurpose the piece, I had considered ripping the entire thing apart with the idea of just using the wood to build something completely different. As the need for the entertainment center arose however, I realized I could just paint it to match the décor in our home and leave it just the way it is. I purchased some chalk paint from Maria at Eco Chic Boutique and got to painting. It turns out that sometimes even just repainting something can take quite a bit of time. After painting a couple coats over the course of a couple of hours, I came to the conclusion that I didn’t’ like the color, so I switched from a bright white to more of a cream color.

As I pulled the drawer out of it in order to more effectively paint it, I came across something that to me sums up why repurposing an item can be so cool. It was an engraving my grandfather had left when he had built it. It said R. Ranney 1987. I paused and in that moment all of the great memories of my grandpa came flooding back and I felt close to a man who had passed away almost 20 years ago. After I painted the drawer, I put my own engraving right beside my grandpa’s and put the drawer back in. I then thought about how perhaps one day my grandkids might get stuck with their parent’s old entertainment center and possibly stumble across those engravings, reminding them of the great times that we hopefully shared.

Working at Grain Designs has allowed me the chance to preserve history for other people to enjoy. We love creating pieces that have their own story and it is even better when that story holds a personal connection to the client. I got the chance to do that for myself and it gave me an even deeper appreciation for the job that I have.  So if you have a piece whose history you want preserved, contact us and we would be more than happy to help.

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