06 Mar Two Are Better Than One
Written by: Laura Nell Burton
Photography by: Christin Gish
Five months pregnant, I’m wandering through now-closed Izzy’s on McCullough in Olmos Park. I love junk stores…layers of dust, poor lighting, disorganization, unmarked prices, no pretention—low-rent safe havens hiding away that one prize that will be missed by most, on account of the company it keeps. This, my friend, all adds up to magnificent treasure hunting (and real bargaining power).
I come upon a pair of nine and one-half feet long, circa 1920’s French sideboards—mahogany veneer, beautiful brass detail, the original key, and practical storage inside.
I was wondering if after all these years you’d like to meet…
I had just seen designer Annie Brahler’s spread in House Beautiful featuring a kitchen island made from a single-sided, retrofitted French demilune chest with similar brass detail. The creative wheels are turning, and my heart is reacting, racing…
There’s such a difference between us
And a million miles
Hello from the other side…
How is this pair still together? What is their provenance? I bought a mirror from Izzy on another occasion that was stamped San Antonio’s historic St. Anthony Hotel on the back, so given their scale, and the fact that their marriage has withstood the test of a century, it wouldn’t be too far fetched…but part of shopping at a junk store is that origin answers must remain an ultimate mystery. I’m fine with this; I buy what beckons me, pedigree or none. They are priced as single pieces, and I find I’m feeling called to rescue this one-hundred-year-old love affair from a world where so many marriages end.
For as long as I can remember I have always been drawn to objects in pairs. Perhaps it’s because I’m a child of divorce, and my whole life has since been a quest to reclaim happily ever after. Perhaps it’s because symmetry is just so satisfying. Whatever the reason, I find comfort in twos.
Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 says: “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion.”
I place the sideboards on hold to consult with architect Hilary Scruggs, who advises that real estate for kitchen appliances will be limited by this decision, but quickly draws the island into our plans featuring a cooktop. It’s love at first sight.
A few days later, the sideboards say farewell to Izzy and hello to Watkins Furniture. Tom Watkins joins the two pieces together, fabricates additional legs for support, and retrofits the interiors to serve functional roles for modern-day living, including accommodating a six-burner Viking cooktop and downdraft ventilation.
The island is then placed with care in storage by Eddie Pintor Moving Service until construction is nearly finished. When it’s finally installed in our nearly-finished kitchen, we discover that the cabinet crew onsite must fabricate a base underneath, set back behind the legs, for added support before the graphite marble slab top can be installed. Ted Voss Metals then arrives to remove and number all 53 pieces of the decorative brass hardware, which were originally lacquered and are covered in a century of grime. He removes all hardware, salvaging original nails, in order to strip the brass to a living finish, and returns after the painters finish to reattach each piece, nail by tiny nail.
As an after thought, with the cabinet crew onsite, we opt to upgrade the drawers to side-mount, self-close slides. We select paint color Farrow & Ball Slipper Satin, the same color that, in varying sheens, graces nearly every surface throughout our house. We considered a faux finisher, but ultimately priming, painting, and glazing for an old-world feel is mastered by our trusted contractor, Mauzé Construction Corporation’s painting crew.
“Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate” Mark 10:9.