Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Map Cabinet

My husband Ben collects antique maps. Since no one would ever call us minimalists, this means we have a *lot* of maps. For years we've been browsing eBay and antique stores, looking for a map cabinet to store all of these maps in. We haven't had much luck. Nice looking wood antique ones tend to be very expensive (and often not in functional enough shape). Metal ones are a bit too modern industrial looking. Nothing is "just right."


Recently, however, I stumbled across these two pieces and thought they might do. They are part of the "Martha Stewart Living Craft Space" collection at a site called Home Decorator's.


I worry about the "scratch resistant coating" on the top (just what does that mean???) and would like to see the quality first, but these might be an option.

How would you make them more steampunk? Paint? New hardware? (I like the idea of black paint and bin pulls with labels.)

21 comments:

Melissa Dominic said...

ooh wow these are really pretty so far! some black paint and maybe some bronze touches? perhaps on the pulls. that would be nice. maybe even some really dark brown paint...

mamacita said...

My parents had a beautiful oak map cabinet. Unfortunately, it was downstairs in the flood. I remember hiding stuff in each of the drawers when I was a kid.

Dani said...

Personally I'd go with dark brown rather than black and use gold of bronze paint on the raised part of the wood (I'm sure there's a real name but I don't know it). I like the idea of drawer pulls with label holders too.

The Fat Lady Sings Online said...

Looks like you could add a thin horizontal brass rail just above the top drawer. Have curved sides, so it serves the purpose of guiding things (passerby's clothing) away from the drawer handles. Could put a similar one below all the drawers.

Or if not a tubular rail, a piece of brass with rounded ends. Maybe one with a triangular cross-section, so you have a sloping surface to glue/solder/weld some brass details. (Hobby stores have assorted brass shapes)

Kerry said...

I'd second Dani's comment and say dark brown instead of black.

I saw some neat map-drawer furniture at Pottery Barn, too (although probably more expensive than Martha Stewart):

Coffee table - http://www.potterybarn.com/products/map-coffee-table/

Console table - http://www.potterybarn.com/products/map-console-table/?pkey=e|map%2Bconsole|1|best|0|1|24||1&cm_src=PRODUCTSEARCH||NoFacet-_-NoFacet-_-NoMerchRules-_-

DouglasT said...

I'd go with a slightly aged brown finish, new pulls and a hammered copper or bronze top.

Jude said...

I'd try and "frame" some old-looking maps on the side panels, if they're going to show; or (and this is actually what I'd do) "frame" some airship pirate pics. :D

becca jo said...

from the reviews it sounds like they are kind of shoddily constructed. it might be better to hold out for the right color and right quality instead of trying to make this one into what you want.

oh but they are 20% off through valentines it looks like...hmm. that's a tough one.....

The Fat Lady Sings Online said...

36"H x 42"W x 28"D.
28 inches deep. Are you storing your maps rolled up instead of flat?

Shoddy construction? MORE BRASS!

Cyndia said...

Sara, I may have just what you are looking for. I possess a 1920s map case that came from our local post office when the warehouse was torn down. It is solid oak, quite large, and a fantastic piece. You may email me at gardenspirit1@comcast.net and I'll send you pictures.

William said...

I used to work for Home Decorators several years ago, and here are several (I believe) salient points: a) this is probably MDF (medium density fiberboard) which while sturdy is not a good option for sanding/staining; b)be there when the items arrive and insist on inspecting the parts for damage and refuse the shipment if the item in damaged or not as advertised. It'll annoy the UPS driver but speed up your refund/exchange as well as avoid the trouble of having UPS come pick the item up; c) above caveats aside, the HDC merchandise is generally very sturdy and looks good. Every room in my house sports HDC furniture, and I am very happy with it.

fishgirl said...

When I needed storage for my maps I scoured craigslist for months using "flat files" as my key word search until I found a guy willing to part with a gigantic metal flat file for $80. It was grey metal and had a few dents but man it was cool. I couldn't take it when I moved east and have been heartbroken ever since. LOVE your blog btw. I think I would decoupage some steampunk papergoods like the skeleton cards etc onto these white file cabinets to demartharize them :)

Roving Jack said...

You might be able to decorate it with map borders, windroses and a radiating longtitudinal-concentric lattitudinal grid.

Some aspect of it could be done with a gold leafing pen.

Or reproductions of maps, keys, distance scales, ect could be decoupaged onto the surfaces.

Jason said...

Find someone on Ana-White.com to figure out the plans so you can make one yourself? Because everyone has so much time on their hands, right? :D

R designs said...

It would be a shame to settle for something that merely "would do". A couple of thoughts did cross my mind as I read this though.

The scratch resistant surface makes me think that the top may be veneered with melamine. If so, it will will be paint resistant as well as scratch resistant. And as William pointed out, it may well me made with medium density fiberboard. That being said it is also likely that the manufacturer didn't step up to MDF quality and is using particle board instead. You actually can stain MDF (if you sand it and break the glaze). It does come out differently than most would expect. The stain would be monochromatic and darker than you would think. In short, it wouldn't really look like wood.

Have you considered asking a woodworker near you how much they would charge to build something similar to the design you show? It is pretty straight forward and could be embellished pretty easily. Such as incorporating leather onto the top. Or an accent wood veneer on the panels of the drawers. Depending upon which options you preferred, it might not be too outlandish cost wise.

Oh, and LeeValley.com might have some hardware you would like. They carry great quality stuff.

Josie said...

I'd be tempted to cover the scratch-resistant (mysterious, ominous) top with leather and nailhead trim. Or possibly a piece of glass cut to fit, sandwiching a map or diagram?

And cover the side panels with tin ceiling tiles. Or wood fretwork/gingerbread.

I would like to put a back piece on the top, even in a very simple shape. Just something to give it a little more detail rather than the flat top.

R designs said...

Those are some pretty good ideas Jose. Since it is a map cabinet, you could put a map of some sort on the top (spray adhesive and a J-roller). As an alternative to having a glass top cut, you could also use something like Bar-Kote. It's a 2 part epoxy finish that will provide a thick layer of protection. Just remember to sand the top some first, just to give it some "tooth".

I like your idea for the sides too. In fact, you could get some 2oz leather, dye it and then veneer it to the sides. Then use the fretwork over top of it. Or perhaps fretwork corners, leaving the bulk of the field on the side exposed.

Adding a piece to the back would be cake, if you have the tools.

Josie said...

Ooh I like the idea of not needing a glass top cut.

My problem with my other idea, applying antiqued mirror, to the sides and top was simply the cost of buying it and having it cut. Even if you antique the mirror yourself that's not super cheap. And with MDF I would worry about the weight. Maybe just the top and drawer fronts, and put the tin panels on the sides?

On the other hand, antiqued black smudgy mirror has a wonderfully Victorian look (if slightly Hollywood Regency as well) and with cut glass knobs would be kind of amazing.

R designs said...

I wouldn't be too concerned with MDF being able to hold the mirror, should you decide to go that route. Of course, the first question is if the material being used is actually MDF. MDF and particle board are two different materials, but they tend to get lumped together as the same thing by many people. With MDF, the wood is shredded into fibers, making them longer and thinner than the elements of particle board. The length of the fibers and that they will wrap around each other gives it additional strength compared to particle board. Being thin and flexible, they compress and pack together better as well. Particle board uses a bunch of small chips of wood pressed together with glue (although not pressed as densely as MDF). Both are eco friendly forms of construction. When used properly, particle board is adequate. MDF is a superior product to particle board. It is also about twice the price, which is why most of the stuff that people refer to as MDF is actually particle board. Both often get used for parts that, um, emphasis the weak points of the material. Which has something to do with the bad name MDF has gotten for itself. Now that I've trash talked particle board (and I admit, I'll use it for a quick template or a cutting guide but otherwise generally hate the stuff. MDF I'm ok with when it is used properly. A topic that will someday get addressed on my own blog.), particle board is almost certainly what your kitchen cabinets are made of. Both the uppers and the lowers on the side with a solid wood front. The panels are 1/4" particle board. Unless you have something like Thomasville cabinets, in which they are made of.... oh wait they were made of 1/4" particle board last time I looked. If you have a laminate counter top (Wilsonart, etc.) they are made of particle board. Ever stood on your counter top or placed something really heavy on it? You stood on a piece of 1 1/4" particle board supported by 1/4" particle board. Kind of disturbing huh? The point of all of this being, it will hold a mirror. You will have a bigger issue with the adhesive bonding than you will with the cabinet being able to support the weight. I'd be thinking a tube of construction adhesive and don't skimp on the construction adhesive. Again, be sure to sand the wood where you are going to adhere the mirror to scuff it up enough to ensure that the adhesive has something to grip to.

R designs said...

What if you were to hybrid the idea? Instead of getting a mirror cut to your specific size, get a stock mirror that is smaller (and much less expensive). Then antique it, adhere it to the center of the side and then surround it with punched tin or brass? You could look for pre-made brass edge banding of some sort or even go to some place like McMaster-Carr and get some brass shim stock ( for example: http://www.mcmaster.com/#brass-alloy-sheets/=avy4kw). You could then punch it, use a jeweler's saw to cut patterns into it, etc. Drill some small pin holes and attach it with brass brads.

I like the glass knob idea although I'm not sure I would do mirror on the drawer fronts with the glass knobs. Here's a couple of knobs/pulls you might like. http://www.leevalley.com/US/hardware/page.aspx?cat=3,46742,44008,50451&p=50451
http://www.leevalley.com/US/hardware/page.aspx?cat=3,46742,44008,48493&p=48493
http://www.leevalley.com/US/hardware/page.aspx?cat=3,46742,44008,41943&p=41943
http://www.leevalley.com/US/hardware/page.aspx?cat=3,46742,44005,50467,48604&p=48604http://www.leevalley.com/US/hardware/page.aspx?cat=3,43520,43521,43561,50371&p=50371
http://www.leevalley.com/US/hardware/page.aspx?cat=3,43520,43572,41818&p=41818
http://www.leevalley.com/US/hardware/page.aspx?cat=3,43520,44199,50374&p=50374
http://www.leevalley.com/US/hardware/page.aspx?cat=3,43520,43521,43561,58453,58292&p=58292
They have the last link in other finishes such as bronze, pewter and nickel.

Van Dyke's Restorers has some interesting stuff too. This (and the related products caught my attention as possibly being useful.
https://www.vandykes.com/product/bakelite-pull2

The also have tin punch sheets, tools, and aging liquid.

Susan Shaw said...

Pottery Barn has some nice wood map cabinets that double as coffee tables...

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