Bill and Tom are in my bedroom as I write. They are wearing helmets with lights, like coal miners. Their ponytails are secure, to keep hair away from their eyes as they peer into the depths of my walnut armoire and build it, and then re-build it when they discover the sides are upside down.
These are the Pros from Dover, sent by my international shipping agents S&K, in what is called a Third Party Procedure. Most of my French farm furniture is a few hundred years old and impossible to assemble unless you are French or have put together several hundred of these babies, as have Bill and Tom, who have been antiques experts for over 30 years. Vive la différence.
Moving Made Easy is yet another firm contracted in this international move – S&K has been able to send these guys over here, putting the number of sub-contractors at five. They drove 60 minutes from Santa Maria, California to get here to rescue me – that was the closest town that had the experts guaranteed to be able to remonter this sucker. God bless S&K…and do they know where my missing mattress is?
Having antique furniture brought to America can be a problem because older pieces, especially rustic and farm pieces, use a series of pegs and dowels, but no metal hooks or hinges. These items are easily demontés in France, where boys probably stand at the knee of père/papa or learn these tasks by osmosis. Rebuilding them, however, takes more than the vision of understanding where the parts line up. Seeing how it works and getting the monster built are two different tasks.
Each time I have an elaborate piece of furniture deconstructed, I jokingly ask the moving team if they will be coming to America with me to re-build the furniture. This usually gets a good laugh and some willing volunteers. This move, the German team scoffed at my suggestion, saying, “Aw shucks, you don’t need us, the moving company will send someone who knows exactly how to do this. They will take good care of you.”
It took careful research through my contract and old emails to remind S&K of the services that I paid for. Once reminded, they were fabulous and contracted their agents in New Jersey who run a network of handymen and antiques dealers. Bill and Tom specialize in the German shrunk, an armoire similar to the French style, which can be totally knocked down for travel and is the basis of the IKEA concept. Because there are a number of military bases in the area, they have a business doing shrunks and all sorts of restorations, even china. Hmmmm, is it time to show them the Winblad?
There were three items that were démontés in France, so basically I was entitled to having them rebuilt in the US. The baby crib, I did not need and will wait for a grandchild before I bring out of the garage. But I wanted the berceau, a wrought iron cradle from the 1930s. The bassinette did not have its screws attached, which was unusual as it is the custom with movers to carefully attach all parts and findings. Bill and Tom had to scramble through my stuff and their truck, trying to find an acorn nut bolt that would do the trick.
No such luck, so they called HQ and actually got authorization to do the job right. They headed off to the hardware store in search of the metric acorn and then returned to build the bassinette. They spent three hours with me and shook hands goodbye like proper Frenchmen.
Lafayette, I am built.
When I am finally alone, I can drape the nets and tissus indiens on the bassinette and fill the shelves with sweaters and towels.
Now I can sit back and try to figure out what I will be reimbursed for the missing mattress, the also-gone antique bamboo end table and all the broken dishes. At least I’m not dealing with British Petroleum…and I have pictures.
Suzy Gershman is the author of Suzy Gershman’s Born to Shop California Wine Country, due through Amazon in September. She has a storage unit in San Antonio, Texas filled with more furniture.
Take trips, not chances. For peace of mind each and every time you travel, enroll for MedjetAssist evacuation services. If you’re coming to France (or for that matter anywhere) you can reserve your hotel here. To rent a car, Bonjour Paris recommends Auto Europe.