Auctions & Victoria Elizabeth Barnes Furnished my Dining Room

empire bookcase victorian key

Never before have I been able to find not just one, but the TWO main pieces of obscure furniture for a particular room in such a short time. In this case, two pieces that seemed to only vaguely live in my design dreams for the dining room.

…And that they were in my price range….AND it was all within the span of 2 WEEKS that they appeared out of thin air and came to live in our dining room after 2 years of searching.

When it rains, it pours, amiright?

The closest I’ve come to this was when I found my $15 marble coffee table just 3 weeks after I put together the living room’s mood board.

Pictures are worth more than words for what landed in my lap this past month. Hence, behold:

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The pictures do not do it justice with showing just how ginormous it is! The top of it comes up well past my waist, and I’m no shorty!

The “acquirement” story of this buffet of my dreams (only it turns out it does exist!) was at a recent local auction. From my 2 years of patrolling Craigslist for this piece, I had seen most go for $300 and up. If they were less than that, it was usually because they weren’t as impressive or would take us a 3 hour round trip to possess it. So when I saw it as a piece at an upcoming local auction, I knew I had to be there. As it so happens, I’d been to another auction of theirs with a similar but smaller piece some weeks before, and that one had gone for $165. I had stopped midway with my bidding on that piece because it wasn’t THE piece, and so I wasn’t willing to pull out all the stops to get it.

At the fateful auction for my buffet, I came prepared. I had brought Karl, I had a truck, and there was no turning back in my mind. I was determined to not leave without it.

It came down to me and one other bidder vying for it, and I pulled out all the stops; I wasn’t backing down this time, ooooh no. I walked away with it (or more like I pushed the stroller away while Karl and my very kind father-in-law trudged along with the heavy buffet) for $185. I would have taken a video of us walking out with it in slow-mo for a dramatic “we scored a deal” scene if I could have, but alas, I was too stoked to think straight and capture such an awesome shot.

As for the 2nd treasure that came into actual existence. Brace yourself. This is an even more awesome story.

…because this piece has a story already.

It begins with Victoria, the former owner of the piece.

Victoria Elizabeth Barnes, to be exact.

To any of you now re-reading that, I applaud you for knowing who my blogging hero is. For those of you still waiting for the punch line, she is the amazing, witty, humorous, genius of a blogger who has scored countless GFTs and leaves us readers laughing and quoting and begging for more inspiration. Go to her blog. You will never regret it.

Over a year ago she found this gorgeous antique tall Victorian empire bookcase via her skills with Craigslist. I was smitten and it became my source of inspiration for (somehow) finding a similar piece for our own dining room. It seemed folly to even think I could find such a gem, but when an idea gets a hold of you, nothing else seems to take its place.

A few weeks back I was perusing Craigslist and saw a familiar bookcase for sale. It looked like this:

victorian empire bookcase stepback antique victoria elizabeth barnes victorian empire bookcase stepback antique victoria elizabeth barnes

I contacted the seller, and we chatted back and forth a bit about price, and then in all kindness she said it was taking up space in her house and that she accepted my offer!

By now I was 99% sure it was actually Victoria that was behind the Craigslist listing. All week I was SO excited to meet Victoria in person. Karl and I planned to go pick up the bookcase that coming Saturday. But…the night before that Saturday, my baby girl was up all night from teething and miserable, and thus I was tired and miserable. Plus baby girl needed her mama that Saturday because she was still miserable.

It’s as if she wanted to test me to see if she still wins even when I get a chance to meet awesome people.

Yeah. She wins. Darn my bleeding mama heart.

Karl went on my behalf, the lovely hubby that he is. Of course I was, according to Victoria, doing her a SOLID by only sending Karl. As she said,”…I am certain that she was just doing me a solid: demonstrating to Paul that ALL HUSBANDS DO CRAIGSLIST WITH GOOD CHEER AND ENTHUSIASM!”

Yes. All the yes.

My favorite line that Karl recounted to me on his return from getting the bookcase was of a moment when Paul was instructing him on all the do’s and don’ts for how to dissemble and reassemble the bookcase (it’s a knockdown piece). Victoria quipped, “He’s not telling you all this because he thinks you’re stupid. He does this to everyone.”

I could just picture this scene and it makes me giggle.

Even though my first time seeing the bookcase was when it was all in pieces, it was hard to contain my excitement.

victorian empire bookcase knockdown victoria elizabeth barnes

victorian empire bookcase knockdown victoria elizabeth barnes

The keys! (and bolts for the sides of the bookcase)

antique bookcase keys

Isn’t it so neat how they built such huge furniture but made it easy to break down and move (such as up narrow staircases)? Victorian era furniture makers have Ikea designers hanging their heads in shame.

victorian empire bookcase glass doors

victorian empire bookcase

victorian empire bookcase knockdown dining room victorian empire bookcase dining room victorian empire bookcase setup

I’m still boggled at the fact that the very bookcase that was my inspiration IS NOW IN MY DINING ROOM. From Victoria herself!

In case y’all are curious, yes…I do find myself standing in the room and staring at it. A LOT.

empire bookcase victorian key

antique empire bookcase dining room living in a fixer upper

antique empire bookcase dining room antique empire bookcase fixer upper dining room

I love antiques for many reasons, one of them being the stories that come with them. I love the story of this bookcase and will certainly cherish it.

A big THANK YOU to Victoria (and Paul) for her amazingness (edit: and the surprise shoutout! Holy crap!)


Get all the “before” details of our dining room restoration, full of scalloped 60’s wood and pipes through the original wood floors. Then came dining room demo day and removing four layers of wallpaper. Getting the walls glue free made a heck of a difference. 


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  1. SOOO I had to check out anyone who is infatuated with VEB as much as I do. You are such a better Mom than me, for I believe I might have pawned my child onto a neighbor in order to meet Victoria Elizabeth Barnes. Congrats on the purchase. So glad I found your blog.

  2. This piece(s) was clearly made for your space! Gorgeous, and that gold chandy, I see peeking in some of the pictures so awesome!!! I love VEB, and so cool that you got this piece from her!

    1. Aw thanks! Yes, the gold brass chandy is another antique bargain we found that sat on our dining room floor for over a YEAR (the poor thing). We finally got to install it this past summer.
      So much fun getting to meet other VEB fans lately!!

  3. I’m not sorry to admit that I’m jealous! I’m jealous of your new awesome piece and jealous of the righteous cache of having procured it from none other than our hero and leader of GFT, Victoria Elizabeth Barnes. However, that won’t stop me from loving your blog, too. Congratulations on your new dining room!

    1. Long live our GFT hero! ;) Thanks for the awesome comment, Katherine! I know I am one lucky duck and will hopefully do the piece proud as I finish decorating/finishing the room!

  4. Kelly, What was the auction you went to? Looking for new places to explore as i’m in a fixer upper across the river in jersey. Thanks!

  5. hello, I saw this post and have to share… I found a very old breakdown armoire and gave it to my sister who rehabs furniture. The varnish was old and cracky and the wood grain obscured. She has a soda blaster and she went to work on it. OMGOODNESS!! The wood on the piece was so amazingingly beautiful. I suspect your bookcase would be the same. The veneers were symetrical and so amazing. It is a showstopper. If you ever try to refinish,(maybe you like the chippy varnish) look into having it soda blasted. No goop, smell and it goes fast. If you want to see a picture of it let me know and I’ll text you one. Not only did the builders make cool stuff they used the woods as part of the art. The old varnish really hides that part of the work. It becomes almost like paint and you can’t see the grain. Victoria will want it back!!! (: Blessings on your day.

    1. Hi, Alice! YOU ARE AMAZING FOR SUGGESTING THIS! Thanks so much! Ironically only a few weeks ago I just learned OF soda-blasting (I’ve only had knowledge of sand-blasting) from my neighbor who is restoring/repainting his old radiators. Now I’m learning it can work on wood too? So cool! I’m going to have to seriously look into this! If you could possibly email me a pic of the piece at info {at] livinginafixerupper {dot} com or a message via Instagram, that would be super. THANKS!!!

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