Leake’s Furniture Makers, York, South Carolina

John and Jay Leake are a father & son team making furniture in rural York, South Carolina (about 25 miles or so outside of Charlotte, NC). Leakes is a 4th generation business that started in the 1950’s as an antique dealer and has evolved into a custom furniture business. I could go on and on about John and Jay. But let’s keep it simple-I was fortunate enough to get the chance to visit them last week and they showed me what southern hospitality is all about. From lunch at a local restaurant to a great tour of their shop and showroom. Real southern hospitality, food, and company.

Anyway, the Leakes make a beautiful southern cellarette that I wanted to share with you. A cellarette is, in essence, a liquor cabinet with a pull out tray to pour on and a space for glasses. This design is specific to the south in general, and specifically a region covering parts of South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia. It is a two piece design and the box on top comes off the base so that the bottles can be filled and loaded from barrels (traditionally, liquor was stored in barrels in the basement and decanters were filled as needed). The primary wood is solid walnut with poplar as the secondary. The piece is hefty-a full 7/8″ thick, with handcut dovetails and inlay-of course. Each piece is delivered by John and/or Jay and even comes with that a starter for your liquor collection-you can see it right in the picture. By the way-I highly recommend the contents of the jar.

Leakes southern cellarette

Leakes southern cellarette


Each piece signed by the maker-

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It’s not Bombay, its Bombè!

Brett from Colorado was kind enough to share his gorgeous Bombè chest with so much curve on the bottom, I think this piece has been doing squats.

The chest wears our classic H-81 Chippendale pull. If you’ve ever tackled a project like this, you can imagine the incredible work that went into making it.

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Suggestions for Restoring Antique Furniture: Hardware and Refinishing

A piece of antique furniture comes into your possessions, either through a yard sale or, perhaps, an inheritance. The wood patina and intricate, elaborate design has promise, but tarnished, dented hardware and slightly dirty, unfinished surface is in dire need of restoration. But, in order to keep up the authentic appearance, what should you consider?

Assess the antique first. Do you know the name of the craftsman? An antique could end up being a run-of-the-mill piece or one from a well-known architect or furniture maker. Knowing the difference is particularly crucial, as making too many changes can reduce the value.

Additionally, while restoration could involve creativity, aiming to reproduce the original look, as opposed to adding your own interpretation, is recommended for maintaining period integrity. The result, if you stray from period sensibilities, may be an awkward amalgamation of modern and past facets.

Refinishing makes a drastic difference, but it can also completely change the character of the furniture. Before deciding on a finish, however, clean the wood first. In general, avoid oil-based cleaners, as these can cause oxidation years down the line. For a finish, first, determine if the original is shellac, lacquer, or varnish.

Once the overall exterior is cleaned and restored, consider hardware. Unfortunately, finding true reproduction, or antique-style, hardware is a challenge. Horton Brasses, in our Cromwell, Conn. location, produces antique-style hardware that replicates the original look, down to the smallest details. As we strive for the most accurate look, period techniques used by early American craftsman and tools are employed.

While Horton Brasses has a wide selection of hardware, representing 17th through 20th century architecture, staying true to an area and style is crucial. Otherwise, selecting knobs or pulls from a different period or style creates a jarring appearance with the rest of the furniture’s design. In this case, research the furniture and architectural style beforehand in order to make an educated and accurate decision.

A Shop Shaded by Trees

Under the spreading chestnut tree / The village smithy stands

-Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

The blacksmith shop, along with all the other buildings on our
property, is heavily shaded by trees in the summer. We did this
deliberately when we laid out the buildings, orienting them so
we’d have to cut as little as possible.

The shop itself has a large hickory in front, slightly smaller
hickories on the northeast and west corners. Sassafras saplings
ring the building and there’s a small cedar by the door to the
shop addition where George works. The large hickory in front of
the shop is almost 22 inches in diameter. In the fall hickory nuts
hit the shop’s tin roof with a bang.

The canopy provided by the trees surrounding the shop means
that in the summer it is almost fully shaded. Not only our shop,
but our entire yard is in shade. This makes a huge difference in
temperature. In the yard it could be 77 degrees F; in the open,
in our garden, it would be 88 degrees F. Having a coal fire in
the shop addition, even with all the doors open adds an extra
10 degrees of heat in the summer. Because of all the trees the
shop is no hotter than the garden – hot, but not withering.

All the shade in our yard (in some areas only moss and trees
grow) severely restricts the amount of light that reaches our
forges on rainy days in the summer. Our non-electric shop
makes us feel very connected to our brother and sister smiths
who made the original ironwork years ago, particularly on dim
days. Once leaves fall, things brighten up until next spring.
Having everything brighter is one of the benefits that come with
cooler temperatures.

Sassafras trees spring up anywhere they can in our woods.
They’re the first trees to appear in a burned area. They have
variable leaf shapes on the same branch. The mitten shape is
an identifier. When we cut through sassafras roots in building
our shop, the air became scented with a pleasant root beer-like
fragrance. This is a small sapling by the large hickory in front of
the shop.

To the south of the shop is a huge red oak. It’s 41 inches in
diameter. The photo doesn’t at all give a proper idea of its size.
This tree and the woods surrounding it mean that the shop
addition, in spite of all of its windows, is darker in the summer
than the rest of the shop. Other trees growing in our yard are
pine, maple, paw-paw, poplar and white oak. One autumn day
we counted the trees and found there are more than 200!

Summers aren’t getting any cooler and we’re glad to be able to
live and work in the shade of the trees. The birds they host keep
us pleased by their song (our favorite in early summer is the
wood thrush’s). The nuts falling on the tin roof keep us alert in
autumn. The fallen leaves provide as much mulch as our garden
could ever need. And winter’s daylight, though short, is bright.

Sinks, Sinks, and more Sinks

Be it a casual cottage or gingerbread Victorian, the soapstone sink takes center stage in when included in a kitchen designs. Often featured alongside such quintessential details as inset cabinets, bin pull and latch hardware, glass door fronts and wooden flooring, the soapstone sink simultaneously engenders period accuracy and au currant kitchen styling.

Unoiled Belvedere Soapstone counters and sink, courtesy Focylrac.


Many people still consider granite the pinnacle of kitchen stones—and it surely seems to be earning its place as a kitchen design classic. But a cadre of remodelers in the know often defer to soapstone as the perfect material for their fabrication. It makes a terrific countertop choice. The same qualities that make it desirable as a countertop also make it desirable as a sink. Soapstone is non-porous so it is completely stain-proof. It is non-reactive, heat-proof and, despite it’s reputation as a soft stone, is available in very hard varieties.

Soapstone sinks are a historically accurate choice for a period remodel. They can be fabricated from one single block, although the size of this style sink is somewhat limited. However, soapstone sinks made up of epoxied slabs are custom made according to the customer’s specifications. With such a custom sink, width and depth are within your control, making the back breaking labor of hand washing pots a customized breeze.

Block sink from Bucks County Soapstone.


More often than not, these sinks are done with apron fronts–thus creating an instant focal point in the kitchen. Sometimes an integrated backsplash is incorporated into the design, with wall mounted faucets providing additional charm and integrity to the period mise en scène.

Salvaged soapstone sinks are a great find. With a lot of elbow grease and just as much low grit sandpaper, you can resurrect an antique treasure. No matter how ickly blicky that sink appears, underneath is a just-from-the-quarry beaut waiting to reveal itself. Epoxy any cracks and pick out your faucet. That baby will definitely hold water.

Soapstone sink in kitchen of James Whitcomb Riley Home. (photo: Kim Galeaz of Urban Times Online)



While the Riley House sink is original to the house, Garden Web Kitchen Forum member Trailrunner restored a salvaged sink for her kitchen remodel.



Why stop with the kitchen sink? Trailrunner also restored a sink from salvage for the sunroom.



Bloggers Tony & Kate  also scrubbed up a retired sink for use in their remodel.

Of course, new sinks look pretty good too! And the only work they require on your end is plunking down the credit card.


Love this 60″ custom sink! Okay, this being my sink probably pre-disposes me to some sink bias. Belvedere soapstone sink fabricated by M. Teixeira Soapstone. “Where can I purchase those lovely Victorian pulls?”you ask. Well, step right in to the Victorian Pull Store.



Slope front, dual bowl sink from Vermont Soapstone.


These sinks are not just eye candy. Like their early American lineage alludes to, these sinks are workhorses. Oversized canning pots, bushels of vegetables, vases of fresh cut flowers. Whether you fancy yourself an urban homesteader (or an urban homesteading wannabe) or enthusiast of early Americana, the soapstone apron front sink’s apeal will more than compensate for its price tag.