Furniture Project Fails

Since college, I have redone or painted, let’s see… at least 7 pieces of furniture:

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And the one that started it all…

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Then, during all the baby-having madness, I took a long hiatus.

Somewhere in that time period, I must have lost my knack for bargain hunting, because I have really been striking out lately on furniture projects lately.

Fail #1:

About a month ago we started looking for new nightstands for our bedroom so we’d have more storage, and we found some great ones on Wichita Falls Trading Post for only $20.

It wasn’t until we got them home that we realized they absolutely REEKED of smoke.

Overnight airing out wasn’t enough, neither was three more days of airing out. After researching ways to get rid of the smell, we realized we’d have to coat every square inch with Kilz and it might not even completely take away the smell. (And painting just to find out would cost us more than we spent on them to begin with.)  I thought about bringing them back, but honestly $20 wasn’t enough to shame the lady about her unhealthy habits and reload them back into the car. And I couldn’t just sell them to the next unsuspecting person.

So we did the only thing we could – we put them in the trash.

Ladies and gentlemen, that is how disgusting smoking is.

Think about it – if that’s how much it permeates solid wood in your home, imagine what it is doing to your lungs.

(Okay, rant from a former American Cancer Society employee officially ended. But if you do smoke and want resources for quitting – click here.)

Fail #2:

This week, I found a large dresser on Facebook that I thought could replace one in our bedroom that I have never liked. Even better, it was already painted in a color I liked, so for the first time in my life, I was just going to buy something someone else had redone and leave it as-is.

Well, it was $135 for a reason because the paint job was not smooth (I doubt there was any sanding involved), there were a few splintered away section on the drawers where there was no attempt made at patching, they were simply painted right over, and even worse, all the cute knobs and drawer pulls we liked in the picture ended up being cheap plastic and all need to be replaced.

So right now I’ve got two nightstands in the trash and a major project waiting for me in my garage.

Maybe this is a sign?

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DIY or Do I Buy?

For as long as I can remember, I have had this uncanny ability to preempt purchasing trends. This has been both good and bad.  I find myself frustrated when what I want doesn’t seem to exist in any stores, but because I can’t, I end up creating it for a lot cheaper than when it gets popular.

Two examples:

  1. Mid-Century Modern furniture – Okay, so I can’t truly claim this trend, because I am pretty sure it never really went out of style. BUT it’s become so hot, they are selling it at West Elm for $900 at a time.

West Elm today:

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And the dresser I bought three years ago for $80:

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(And here is further evidence of my obsession with MCM furniture, as early as 2012.)

2. This 2013 doomed-from-the-start lamp project. There is often a very large disparity in my vision for a project and the realization of it. And sometimes I assume quite wrongly that if I just have the necessary raw materials, surely I’m halfway there. Wrong.

For a grand total of $7 at Goodwill I bought this lamp that eventually ended up in the trash after being spray painted. The embroidery thread I’m still holding on to, in the vain hope my skills improve. (Pet Wookie not included):

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And these beautiful, $187 lamps currently on Etsy:

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This is probably why I have never spent more than $200 on a single piece of furniture and still managed to decorate a three bedroom house rather nicely. It’s also part of why my husband thinks I’m nuts spending hours on the internet looking for milk glass and hoarding old wine corks.

The good news is YOU can do this same thing, only in reverse, and save yourself some money. Found something you love online? I guarantee you can find something similar on a Facebook Trading Post, Craigslist, or Goodwill for a fraction of the price.

I have to admit, just looking at these pictures inspires me to try again with the lamp…

Before and After: Church Organ Bench

Thrifters rejoice, church partitioners/organ players avert your eyes.

Last weekend while on my routine trip to Goodwill to peruse for projects, I came across a 70s church organ for $49, with the most beautiful, solid-wood bench with floral carvings. So I asked an employee if they’d break up the pair, and sure enough they let me take home this beauty for just $12.99!!!!

Today, $20 in fabric later, it’s a little more modern and a little less vinyl-y.

Learnings:

  • When reupholstering, make sure you buy staples with the proper depth before staple-gunning everything together.
  • Remove as much old hardware/fabric/staples as you can to allow yourself a clean surface to work on.
  • But make sure you mark the place where your returning hardware (such as hinges) needs to return, before say, covering those pilot holes with fabric. Or something.
  • Measure twice, cut once.
  • Corners are hard. I still have yet to figure them out entirely. In the photos below, you can see I attempted to fold the edges like wrapping paper around the sides of a present, but the result wasn’t quite as sharp and neat as I’d hoped.
  • Picking a (much cheaper) lining fabric for the backside of your upholstered piece – especially if its visible like it is on the inside of this bench – can cover a multitude of indiscretions/sloppy staple-gunning.
  • I think I’ll leave anything more complicated to the experts. My aspirations of recovering wingback chairs have been met with cold, hard, under-qualified reality.

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Before and After: Mid-Century Hutch #2

Related:

Supplies:

  • Valspar “Little Sprout” greeny-yellow paint
  • Decorative aluminum sheet metal
  • Silver spray paint for the hardware (as long as you use an accompanying primer spray paint, any will do)
  • Glasses Wrapping Paper from Paper Source
  • Vanilla Ginger arrow-patterned drawer liner paper by GC Fragrance Co. (found at Marshall’s Home Goods)
  • All the usual suspects: primer, electric sander, sandpaper, brushes, painter’s tape, etc., etc.

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Best of: Free Printable 2014 Calendars

After falling hopelessly in love with this Rifle Paper Co. wall calendar (and spending the money) I did a little research and found that there are quite a few beautiful, totally free printable calendars out there for the taking.

So, buy a little pack of card stock, use that special tray on your printer, and check these lovelies out:

From Oh the lovely things:

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From Elegance and Enchantment:

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From Design is Yay!:

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From eat drink CHIC:

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Winning the Lottery and Painting Furniture

I know exactly what I would do if I won the lottery. And like Peter from Office Space, I know exactly what I would do. But surprisingly enough, it wouldn’t be nothing.

My lottery list:

  • Pay off all debts
  • Help my family
  • Buy a house in Houston to use as a home base
  • Travel the world
  • Open a furniture store where I sold unique pieces (some of which I refinished myself) and original artwork and accessories (I would only curate – my skills aren’t that great)
  • Travel the world again, looking for cool items to put in my shop

THAT’s how much I love interior design. Sometimes I think I missed my calling. I mean, what kind of person uses rearranging furniture as a relaxation technique? Seriously, when I can’t fall asleep at night, I calm myself into my happy place by mentally moving around the furniture in my house and finding creative ways to mix it up.

With my latest project, I do feel a little like I won the lottery. The hutch is exactly the style I love, oh-so perfect for my home office needs, AND has some great open shelves just itching to be backed in wallpaper.

Here’s progress so far:

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photo 1 (1)

photo 2

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Now I’m just down to one final decision – what “wallpaper” should I use to match the paint? The color paint I chose is called “Little Sprout” and is a pale greeny yellow. The sample image from Valspar looks a little neon, but here and here are some good pictures from other bloggers who used the color. (I also managed to find the hex code for the color. You know, just in case I’d like to match things on my computer to my office. Don’t you just love the internetz?)

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TANGENT.

What this is all very slowly getting to is the fact that I am now at a standstill. I’ve narrowed it down to three paper patterns, and I’m not sure which to use:

1. Rifle Paper Co. “Midnight Floral” paper

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2. Glasses wrapping paper from PaperSource

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3. “Spring Rain” by ChicShelfPaper.com

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Please vote in the comments below!

Because one can never have too many retro mid-century china hutches…

This city doesn’t have the best Craigslist furniture selection. I’ve been going through a project dry spell, but today I managed to find (well technically my husband found) and secure this lovely piece:

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So now I will have an office hutch and a kitchen hutch (the hutch below). Because really, who can subsist on just one? (Hello, I’m crazy. But stay tuned to see painting updates!)

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And now for something light…

I can’t sleep.

Shocking.

So I decided my blog needs a button. I’ve reached the point where I’m getting tens of readers a day, so I feel it’s definitely time. (For those less familiar, that would be my self-deprecating humor at work.)

I am also AWESOME at graphic design (sarcasm), especially after I’ve had like 8 hours of sleep in the past 72. So I decided instead of getting more sleep, to stay up doing these.

Question – be BRUTALLY honest. Do you like any of these? Are any halfway decent enough that you would consider imbedding the design on your own blog to share the love? Do the fonts need work? What do you hate and what do you hate more?

Don’t let my increased vulnerability after this week’s events get in the way of honest feedback. I can take it. I’m tough as nails these days.

No frame:

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Frames:

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PS – A delightful little cheat for those of us that get annoyed when new versions of Photoshop come out (rather than excited by the “new” features) – I made all of these in Keynote. (For the true squares out there, it’s like Powerpoint, but for Mac people.) Keynote makes editing images like these a breeze.

128 days until Christmas

(Or if you’re reading this later, go here for an up-to-the-second caclulation: xmasclock.com)

But I’m already ready already.

I also proved this weekend that you can class up an ebay find with a picture frame AND make your own mat with fancy poster board from Hobby Lobby and an exacto knife. (At least I derived some practical value out of all those advertising classes where you had to cut foam core for every presentation.)

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Ain’t it perdy? Totally something I can hang up now, right?

Before and After: Wooden Bread Box

Okay, so I kinda forgot to take a real “before.” The before on this project was my mother in law’s retro wooden bread box she’s had since her and my father in law were first married. Over the years in the kitchen, next to the preparation of lots of yummy food (which I routinely enjoy every time we’re in Austin) it’s gotten a little dingy. Well, a lot dingy. So Aaron and I took it home with us on our last visit, and gave it a complete refurbish. We sanded off all the stain and grime, removed and replaced hardware, restained and polyed – the works.

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(Here’s the first “before” I remembered to capture – this was after scrubbing the wood with Comet bleach powder to remove the grease and goop, and starting to sand with a brutal 60-grit sandpaper.)

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The 60-grit on our orbital sander (my new favorite toy) going to work – oh, and Aaron going to work too, haha. Thank the Lord for a husband that enjoys these projects as much as I do.

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The wood, in its original, naked glory.

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New knob and hinges next to old knob and hinges. The only trouble with replacing hardware on something old? Rarely do they sell the exact same size hardware to replace it. Always a bit of retrofitting and wood-filling to do.

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The stain. Which I have to admit, was a little darker than I liked, especially after spending so much time sanding off the original stain.

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(Not pictured – the two coats of polyurethane we gave it to protect from future kitchen hazards.)

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And the finished product!

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Before and After: Gumball Machine

I know, I’ve been a blogging delinquent.

Believe it or not, I have a typed out to-do list (or “to write” list, rather) of all the things I want to talk about here, but honestly haven’t had the time/mental power to do so.

In the meantime, enjoy photos of one thing (as of yesterday) that I checked off my real-life to do list:

Remember my impulse Craigslist buy?

It got a bit of an overhaul:

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Some similar inspiration pieces:

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Living in the Projects, Part 2

Like before, they’re stacking up.

Our house is currently home to two unfinished lamps, a disassembled wooden bread box ready for sanding, and as of 6 pm last night, a gumball machine that needs to be cleaned up and refinished.

Inspiration piece:

(Spotted at Paco’s Tacos in Austin over the weekend)

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And my serendipitous Craigslist find that just happened to be $20 and less than a mile from our house:

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Is it the weekend yet?

Father’s Day Gifts

My dad is the best dad ever. Everyone says so, but they’re all liars. Except my sisters. I could write a whole novel on what makes me right about this, but let’s stick to something Father’s Day-related that can be said in just a few words.

Buying my dad presents is impossible.

Like most, he always says he doesn’t want anything and doesn’t want you to spend money. He says he could use perhaps a new pair of shoes, but will not want to shop for them. Dillard’s gift cards will grow dusty. Expensive items are accepted begrudgingly because the cost (even if he didn’t pay it) is a killjoy for a man raised by depression-era parents.

I’ve learned that the key to the perfect dad gift is to appeal to his values as much as his interests:

  • Value. He cares about getting value for what you pay. IE, paying as little as possible.
  • Wit.  We both share a love of novelty. We’re all about the fun and geekery.
  • Practicality. He’s got that engineer brain.
  • Love. He’s the most genuine person I know in believing it’s the thought that counts.

With these in mind, yesterday I surprised him with the perfect gift (or what I hope is the perfect gift, since I am writing this a week out and scheduling this post in advance…)

  • Awesome Star Wars Yoda Lego clock bought on clearance for 90% off the original price/what people are paying at Target
  • Reusable cups for his Keurig (a Christmas gift he begrudgling accepted, but we all know he loves) so that he can save money by buying ground coffee instead of K-Cups.
  • Inexpensive gift wrap with “handmade” touches

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Finishing the Bottle

So, like most of my projects, this resulting blog post really serves more as an incident report than it does as a DIY tutorial.

Either way, here’s what happened:

Started by soaking to get the labels off

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When that only worked on about 30%, I broke out the Goof Off (which I suppose was a poor man’s Goo Gone, since it didn’t work too well) then sacrificed my cute piggy scrubber to finish the job. (I now know that sacrifice was in vain…)

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It deteriorated from there…

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…until finally I brought out the big guns and decided to use my 100% acetone nail polish remover, which worked frighteningly well considering I use this on my own skin.

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Then, after inhaling acetone and Goof Off fumes and downing a couple of glasses of wine, I decided it was the perfect time to read a complicated instruction manual and assemble something requiring sharp objects.

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Eventually, it was time.

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After running the hot water, the cold water, the hot water again and observing nothing but a small, incomplete crack, I began to observe a similar crack in my psyche, which led me to lightly tap semi-slam the bottle against a towel on the countertop, which resulted in what you see below.

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Round 2 – Perrier bottle

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Perfection. Which by this time my overworked, slightly inebriated brain decided that this was me getting the hang of things, and not what I later realized was incredible beginner’s luck.

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Attempts three through six. Abysmal.

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Apparently, there’s really no way (that I can find) to ensure that the glass cracks along the score line all the way around.

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Results? Annoyance, and a lot of recyclables.

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Lessons learned:

  1. This guy doesn’t know what the fudge he is talking about
  2. When the man says hot, what he actually means is boiling. If you think you can just brew up a cup of plain hot water in your keurig, you would be wrong. Or something.
  3. When he says cool water, what he actually means is practically ice. Which is super easy, when your fridge doesn’t have an ice maker and you really don’t feel like thawing all your frozen smoothie fruit.
  4. On the instruction manual for the glass cutter, they’re realllll serious about making sure you have a right angle before scoring the glass. And by right angle, they mean impossibly perfect angle that takes infinite adjusting so the sharp end doesn’t just slide dully across the glass.
  5. There’s a lot more to making this DIY work. Or else the secret is Perrier bottles, because that was the only one that turned out. Since I bought the Perrier on a fluke and didn’t even like it, the world may never know.