Have you ever searched for years for just the right piece of furniture, only to find it in an unlikely place?

Well, we have. We spent the last five years or so looking for the perfect sideboard for our dining room, but we had a case of sentimentality combined with utility that kept getting in our way. As a result, the hulking buffet/sideboard from the photo below remained in our dining room, in spite of its scale.

Shortly after we bought our row house in 2003, we discovered the amazing antique and salvage row of Cleveland's Lorain Ave. Nestled just a stone's throw from downtown Cleveland you could find yourself smack in the middle of shop after shop of affordable vintage finds. Whether you were looking for a little architectural salvage or a full room of vintage furniture, you were bound to find something your heart desired.

Today, as Cleveland has undergone an urban revival, many of these shops have shuttered. Victims of the rejuvenation of the trendy Ohio City area and the rising rents, their closure ultimately means progress for a city that had fallen on hard times in the late 1990s and early 2000s. But at the same time, the amazing antique resource that was Lorain Avenue, is a dwindling memory from our newlywed and first home honeymoon days. 

During one of our visits to Cleveland in the early 2000s, after we'd owned our home for just a short time, we found ourselves a vintage dining room set for only about $1,100. A beautiful table, six chairs, china cabinet, and a large buffet. A matching set, they were all from the 1940s, built by a furniture maker in Youngstown, Ohio, and in pretty decent shape overall! The whole set's scale was large for our 15' wide row house, but it was a great price and has moved from room to room as we set up our dining room in a few different areas of the house.

In addition to antique shopping during those early days of old home ownership, we were also welcomed into our neighborhood by many of the wonderful neighbors we'd get to know. Whether attending gatherings in neighbor's homes, or enjoying their company around our Cleveland dining room table, getting to know our neighbors, many of whom have become lifelong friends, was the unexpected element of homeownership that we were fortunate enough to find ourselves amidst. 

Sometime during the last six or so years, we looked at our vintage dining room set and said, "You know what, as great as this set has been, it's not quite right for our house. I think we need to make a change. And that change needs to start with the buffet...It's always been way too big for our house, so what about getting something new?"

Yes, the large buffet has been the workhorse of our dining room for years. The amount of storage it offered allowed us to look beyond its clear and ever present flaws. Its gargantuan width somehow fit between the window and door casings with only millimeters to spare, as if it were divined to live in our dining room. It even doubled as a storage area during our dining room renovation.

Much like a beloved car with 200k miles, that smells a little off and is always a quart low on oil, but has always successfully shuttled you from point A to B with little fanfare, our buffet could only be replaced with a piece of furniture that's juuuuuuust right! It's not that there aren't better buffets, it's just that this buffet was "good enough" and we had developed a bond.

From antique store to auction house, every piece we'd ever found had some inherent flaw. Too fancy. Too big. Too delicate. Too small. Too modern. Too rustic. We knew we wanted something smaller that would fit well in the space, but we still needed storage. Beyond all of that, Wendy had it in her head that whatever we chose needed to have a white and gray marble top.

We'd literally searched for years, and were starting to give up hopes of finding the right piece. Our sentimental attachment to the oversized buffet, not to mention the plethora of utilitarian storage it offered, seemed to be  thwarting our efforts as much as our exacting desire to find that perfect piece. This may sound corny, but we had what seemed an unrealistic need for our eventual find to fill the storage and sentimentality void giving up our buffet would mean. A pretty impossible task when the search is more or less scrolling eBay, FirstDibs, or auction websites.

About a year and a half ago, one of those neighbors that we'd mentioned, whom made us feel so welcomed in our new home, and that we'd become lifelong friends with, passed away. He was elderly and in failing health, but it still felt sudden and unexpected. He was one of the first people who'd invited us to a party at his home after we'd moved into the neighborhood, and we'd always enjoyed chatting with him and catching up. 

After our friend's passing, we had the opportunity to get to know some of his wonderful family, including his nephew who was handling the estate. During this time, and after his family had selected the items they wanted to keep as mementos, our friend's nephew asked if there was anything from the estate that we'd like to purchase before it went to auction. 

Hoping to find something that would be meaningful and would remind us of our friend and neighbor, we looked over his remaining belongings, hoping to find something to remember him by. To our surprise, we found several wonderful items. He had owned a mid-sized antique marble topped cabinet that he kept in his dining room. It was really lovely, and we were very surprised nobody in his family had wanted it. After speaking with his family, measuring the piece, and deciding it seemed about right right, we realized we'd maybe found our unicorn. Wendy snapped this photo and we decided it might be perfect, but even if it wasn't, it would be perfect for us.

The piece not only looked great, had a marble top, and offered some needed open storage, but it also had the sentimental connection we'd hoped for. We'd always be able to think about our departed friend and neighbor when we looked at it nestled in our dining room.

In anticipation of the new piece we had to clean out the old buffet. With four large drawers, two cabinets, and two smaller drawers, all completely full, to say we were shocked at the amount it held is an understatement.

We had napkins, candles, tea lights, and placemats galore...

...Bags of table linens, runners, and pillow cases...

...And More liquor than we can ever reasonably drink. After removing and re-homing a majority of those items, and reserving the new cabinet as more of a napkin and liquor home, we moved the old buffet from its longstanding location and wished it well. The location for our new sideboard was ready, and looking quite empty.

After gingerly carrying it from its prior home into our home, we placed it to get a sense of scale. It was a shock, as we'd grown used to the monolithic monster completely covering the wall between the window and door, but this was a breath of fresh air. The size seemed to be ideal for the room.

We rejuvenated the dried and cracked finish a bit by using a little Howard's Feed-n-Wax, an placed the marble top. It really was perfect!

The cabinet is a solid antique with dovetail joinery, and what I believe is a mahogany or walnut veneer.

The finish isn't perfect, but the small chips and dings do nothing to detract from the piece.

At first it felt small, especially while we got used to the scale in comparison with the old piece. But before we knew it, it felt just right, ideal for the room.

If you're wondering what happened to the old buffet, don't worry, it's not gone and separated from its set for good. Wendy's parents needed a larger piece for their dining room, so they took it off of our hands. It's now right at home in their dining room. Like our Mustang that they bought off of us back in 2012, we get to visit it every time we're back visiting Cleveland.

We'd nearly given up, but stumbled into the right piece that not only met our needs in what we'd hoped to find, but also provided us with a tangible connection to a dear friend. 

We like to think that our friend, in lieu of his family taking the cabinet, would be happy to know that it's sitting in our home just a few yards from the home he lived in and loved for so many years. At the very least, we like knowing that we'll always have something in our home to remember him by.

Comments 9


Julie C
4/22/2019 at 6:21 PM

Sigh. This post needed a kleenex alert. This hit a spot in my heart today which is the birthdate of a beloved family member who died last year. I think of her and other family members when I use the Armoire from her home.

4/22/2019 at 6:29 PM

What a great story! It really does look perfect there. And I'm really happy the old buffet has, in a way, been kept with its set. I was kind of worried about that!

4/23/2019 at 3:26 PM

OMG I was not expecting to hear about Cleveland and Youngstown, OH when I started reading your post. I am from Youngstown and now I want to go visit the antiques district you mentioned in Cleveland. The Cleveland buffet you had looks a lot like the one my grandparents had as well. Glad it got a nice new home.

Kelly Lundin Lang
4/23/2019 at 6:08 PM

What a beautiful story.

4/24/2019 at 6:33 PM

Not too big, not too small...just right! i looked TEN years for the perfect color leather sofa...we've had it 15 years now...it's still perfect...franki

4/25/2019 at 3:33 PM

Such a lovely piece of furniture, perfect for the location and will always remind you of your friend.

5/5/2019 at 12:10 PM

Did I miss a post? Who's that laying on the floor with Lulu? Have I forgotten a member of your family?

9/30/2019 at 10:50 AM

Love it!

10/16/2020 at 1:40 PM

This looks beautiful! Need a lamp for a buffet and I love your white one! Can you tell me wheee it’s from? Thanks!

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