One day, I happened to stumble upon an amazing blog, by a woman named Lindsey, called Better After. Now, I visit Lindsey's blog nearly every day. The blog features peoples' creative before and after projects and is both inspiring and funny. Even if you are not into DIY projects, just reading Lindsey's comments is a humorous pick-me-up every day! So, since learning about her blog, I became inspired to start my own projects and began recording the befores and afters. Although some of these projects are rather simple, I have had a fun time with each of them and that is precisely the point!
After coming off of my last furniture project high, I knew I needed another project ASAP. I began trolling Craigslist (a now daily habit of mine) and visiting all of my usual thrift shop haunts. Surprisingly, the first piece I saw, a dresser on Craigslist for $40 was the most promising. The only problem was that I didn’t have anyone to help me load it into my car (the seller had a bad back).
The weekend went by and on Monday morning I saw the same dresser still on CL but now for $35. This time, I had a friend to help me load it into my car after work (thanks, Joe!). When I went to pick it up, it turned out that the piece also came with a mirror that attached to the back. Unsure of whether or not to take it, I ended up loading it into my car too.
Now, let me take a moment to tell you about Honda Elements. They are excellent cars and mine is no exception. They are water proof on the inside and therefore stress free if you happen to track mud and snow into your car often like I do after hiking on the weekends. The seats flip up easily for impromptu free furniture pickups on the side of the road. One can easily stand up two bikes in the back on a moment’s notice negating the need for a bike rack. One can even live out of their Element. I know – I did it comfortably for two weeks. And many large, tall pieces of furniture can easily fit into the back of the Element, which is not possible with many other types of SUVs. It’s so nice to be able to pick up and deliver furniture without having to rent a U-Haul or pass on interesting projects.
Okay, back to the furniture. My latest dresser looks like it came out of the 70’s. Large, chunky paneling, and painted olive green – in was not easy on the eyes. But as soon as I saw it, I was able to envision what it could be. I saw the dresser painted in a soft, medium grey with crisp white accents for contrast. Simple pulls would make the dresser look less gaudy and the new color would bring it into this century.
After bringing the dresser home on a Monday evening I was armed with the perfect shade of grey and set about painting by Tuesday evening. Now, for those of you who have never painted furniture before, you should know that sometimes you can start painting with minimal prep work and sometimes you can only start painting after a lot of prep work. If a piece of furniture is stained and varnished, then you must either strip it or at least sand it to rough up the surface. Paint will not hold onto a shiny, varnished surface. If however your furniture is bare wood, which is best or is already painted, you may be able to begin painting. If the painted furniture seems quite glossy, I advise roughing up the surface a bit. This can be done with a light sanding or there are deglosser products out there that should also work. Having once painted my kitchen cabinets, I have a bottle of left over deglosser that gets rid of the gloss and a primer type paint that then adheres well to the surface after that. I have also tried a solution called Liquid Sandpaper, which is supposed to act in the place of sandpaper by gumming up the surface so that paint will then stick. I haven’t however had too much success with that product.
In the case of this particular dresser, it was already painted. I also purchased primer and paint in one when I bought my quart of grey paint at Home Depot. Primer acts as a good base layer and tends to stick more strongly to a surface than just regular paint. I figured because of this, I would be good to go. But…unfortunately, I was wrong. As I was beginning to paint my second coat of paint onto the dresser, I noticed that the paint was easily coming off if I happened to gently nick the surface. This was not good. At this point, I had two options. One, strip the whole dresser and properly prep the surface or two, finish the dresser, then add a coat of polycrylic, which acts as a shiny protective coat, and hope for the best. Being the type of person that doesn’t mind hard work until I have to backtrack, I chose option two. Luckily, it worked out in my favor.
Below you can see the final product. I think she came out well though I am still undecided about whether or not to add legs to the dresser. I suppose if I decided to keep her I would have added the legs but since I ultimately decided to pass her onto a new, happy buyer, I left out the legs in favor of a higher profit margin. Either way, this was a fun project. Now, I must go find another piece of furniture to feed my project addiction. :)
Dining Room Side Board
A few months ago, while driving home from a hike, I decided to stop by Good Will “just to see” what was there. Really, I can’t help myself. I love stopping by second-hand stores “just to see” what is there. Well, this time, there happened to be an absolutely beautiful piece of furniture. For me, this was the first time I had a maternal instinct towards a piece of furniture. When I saw this beautiful but neglected and slightly beat up side board, I wanted to rescue it. I wanted to protect it and give it a new lease on life. Never mind that it was likely too big for my small condo. I simply had to take care of it. And before a more rational thought could enter my brain, I tore off the purchase tag and took it to the checkout counter.
This is how I ended up with a piece of furniture I didn’t need but very much adored. It would be “my project.” And I suppose a furniture project is better than a boyfriend project though both can be challenging. ;)
So, let’s talk about the challenges with this project. The finish on this side board was quite scratched up. Some shelves were missing, one of the pieces to keep the cabinet door shut was broken, a chunk of wood in one of the feet was missing, and parts of the veneer behind the drawers were gone. A project indeed!
To begin with the repair, I first stripped and sanded everything that was real wood. Again, I felt bad for my neighbors who had to listen to my sander but I tried to make sure I only ran it during normal waking hours and when no one was outside on their patio enjoying a warm afternoon.
Next, it was time to stain the wood. This time, I tried out a new product that combined the stain and polyurethane in one. Unfortunately, my attempt at using this product did not go so well. Normally, when applying stain, I use a paper towel to evenly rub the stain into the wood and then I use a second paper towel about ten minutes later to remove the excess stain. But with stain and polyurethane in one, I had to apply it with a brush and be careful not to let bubbles sit on the surface of the wood as commonly happens with polyurethane. The trouble with this method though is that I couldn’t figure out how to get an even coat of stain on the wood. I ended up applying two coats of stain and both came out uneven. Although I was displeased, my perfectionist tendencies did not kick in and thus I did not return to square one. After the second coat, I determined it was time to keep moving forward. Like a bad boyfriend, sometimes you just have to make the best out of what you got.
With the real wood taken care of, it was time to decide what to do about the missing veneer. I was not inclined to replace the veneer and so instead I decided to fill in the gaps as best as I could with wood filler and then paint that part of the side board. I also attempted to fill in the missing foot with wood filler like I have done on other past projects but once the filler dried, it kept fall off of the foot. Ah well.
I originally painted the background a dark, dusty blue but it didn’t look very cheerful against the already dark mahogany stain. So after some deliberation, I ended up painting the background a light sky blue which I think made a nice contrast with the stain.
After applying some new clasps to keep the cabinet doors shuts, I declared the project “complete!” And then….it sat in the middle of my living room for the next two weeks. I kept looking at the furniture in my home and trying to decide whether or not there was realistically a place for it to go. My eventual conclusion though was that while the project was fun to complete and I loved the curved lines of the drawers, she wasn’t mine to keep. So up on Craigslist she went and eventually she was delivered to the home of an ecstatic buyer.
In conclusion, I recommend taking on furniture projects but not boyfriend projects. Unlike boyfriends, furniture projects can often be molded to your vision without too much effort. And if after sometime together you just don’t think it is going to work out, they can always be sold for a nice profit ($130 in my case), which is more than one can do with a failed relationship!
May your relationship with furniture be fruitful!
Here is my latest project. One day, while returning home from a walk with a friend, we saw this baker’s rack at the end of someone’s drive way with the sign “Free” taped to it. Immediately, I circled around it several times pouring over the possibilities of what I could do with this piece. I knew the wood would likely have to go and that I would have to create something new. This intimidated me a bit but other than that, I was ready to carry it home. My friend however was more skeptical. Like a good friend though, she helped me carry it the two remaining blocks back to my house. And there it sat, for about a month until I had the time to return to it.
After quitting my job though and returning from a two week road trip, I had plenty of time to work on this project and the inspiration to get started. After doing some research on the internet about how to revive warped plywood, I determined that the pieces of wood that came with this furniture were too far gone. Thus, it was time to return to my favorite place on earth…Home Depot! I decided, since I was going to paint the wood, and because I am on a very tight budget (yeah, unemployment will do that to you :)), to use MDF board rather than real wood.
Next came the cutting part. This was the part that intimated me. My good friend however lent me his jig saw, gave me some instructions, and away I went. Now, I don’t actually have a work shop so cutting the wood to size involved me steadying heavy pieces of MDF board the my small bistro table on my patio with a few large flower pots on top of the wood to hold it all in place. It kind of worked but I really don’t recommend it.
By the time I was cutting the third piece, I began to create a better strategy for rounding out the corners. I’m still not so great at it or even cutting in a straight line for that matter but still, the process on a whole was pretty fun. Actually, I found it quite empowering and I now have visions of one day getting my general contracting license. Who knows, it could happen.
Another important lesson I learned is to always wear ear plugs. I was surprised to find that my ears were ringing after cutting the first two boards. I had my safety glasses on (when I remembered to take my sunglasses off my head and actually put them over my eyes) but the ear plugs were a new concept to me. Thank goodness I had some in the house. I suppose it could be a while until I get my general contracting license… :)
Anyhow, as for the project, I’d say it turned out to be a success. What I didn’t expect was how versatile this piece of furniture actually is. While it is great for dishes, glasses, etc., it could also easily be a work or craft station. As a work station, one can put their feet on the bottom shelf, a key board on the second, their monitor on the third (the height is actually perfect for this) and then books/files on the top. As a craft station, I could easily see setting up a sewing machine on the second shelf and then storing fabrics and other materials on the rest of the shelves.
So in summary, this is a really neat piece of furniture that was a lot of fun to work on. Who knows, I just may go after that general contracting license after all.
Home Office Desk
Earlier this year, I decided that I needed to turn my second bedroom into my office, which of course necessitated me finding a desk. I got very excited about this project and obsessed for a while about finding the perfect desk. I visited tons of DIY blogs (there are so many great ones out there!) to see what kind of desks people have dreamed up for their in-home offices. I then visited several thrift stores, my favorite place, Home Depot (I’m a minor celebrity at my local Home Depot because I go there so often. It’s no surprise that my parents are also minor celebrities at their local Home Depot), and ReSource. I had tons of ideas for different ways I could build my desk but nothing seemed like the perfect solution.
One day while I was at work, around 3pm, I got the sudden urge to visit Good Will. I thought that was odd because I had been there just a few days earlier. Not one to ignore my intuition however, I headed to Good Will after work shortly before choir rehearsal was to begin. Lo and behold, after almost two months of thinking about finding the perfect desk, I found her!
You may see her glorious transformation below. :)
This stand serves me at my desk at work. If you have read The Theory, you know that making my office more aesthetically pleasing is important to me. The idea for this monitor stand came out of the desire to have a more streamlined look in my office. I have two large monitors at work and one was sitting on a bulky stand and the other was sitting on top of a couple of books while my laptop, key board, and mouse were taking up additional desk space. After looking through the on-line Staple’s catalog and not finding what I needed, I realized that I could easily make my own solution.
Off to Home Depot I went and a very nice, older gentleman cut several pieces of wood for me. Although the blue that I painted my monitor stand – Mermaid Treasure to be exact – is not my favorite, it was a color I had on hand after an inspired idea went rather wrong… okay, I admit that for several months my kitchen was the color of Mermaid Treasure. Well, at least the color helped me wake up in the morning.
Having my monitor stand at work has very much contributed to my mental clarity. I like that it doesn’t take up much room and is much more streamlined than having two bulky monitor stands sitting side-by-side. Plus, I like that at the end of the day I can tuck my laptop, keyboard, and mouse underneath it. I really am one of those people who tightens things up before leaving my office at the end of the day. For me, it contributes to a sense of well-being when I walk back into my office the next day.
Anyhow, here is a simple project that makes me happy.
So, in addition to having good luck at thrift stores, I tend to find furniture on the side of the road on a rather regular basis. I have actually passed up quite a few opportunities too because I often have too many projects going on at once. As for the table at hand, one day, I was taking a walk with a co-worker of mine and we found this bar stool height table on the side of the road. Heck yeah, thank you very much!
Being a good friend, my co-worker helped me carry the table back to our office. Besides being scratched up and a bit wobbly, the table was in good condition but in my office it sat for several months. This was before I realized that I ought to be more judicious about the projects I take on. Anyhow, still without any inspiration for this table, I finally decided to put my “lovely” Mermaid Treasure blue paint into action once again. I figured that if I already had a bulletin board painted that color in my office, I could paint the table that color and put it back into my office until a more inspired idea struck…and that is where it has been sitting since.
The changes in my bathroom haven’t been huge but it certainly feels like a nice oasis to me now. When I first bought my condo, the walls of the bathroom were this sterile-hospital light blue with white tiles on the floor. There are actually a few nice blue tiles here and there on the floor as well. Lucky me, I moved in with “lapis” (that’s what the tag says!) blue towels. I figured I was off to a good start with my blue motif and that it must have been meant to be. The sterile-hospital light blue walls however were not meant to be.
I envisioned having an orchid in my bathroom but as there is no natural light in that room and I am a real dunce when it comes to speaking plants, I settled for a fake orchid. Some people do come over and ask me if it’s real – go Jo Anne Fabric’s! Finally, with a little art, a more settling wall color (it actually matches the rest of my home – I figured I was being smart and maintaining a “flow” with the rest of the rooms), and a door for the bathroom vanity, I called my bathroom complete…for now anyhow. :)
One interesting note: one day, while my mother and I were pondering where the bathroom vanity came from, for it certainly doesn’t seem like a bathroom vanity, we were flipping through an Ikea catalog and stumbled upon what is my exact vanity but in a kitchen. What currently houses my sink, housed an oven in the catalog. Unusual I thought. Oh yes, and my dad made the door. Points for him!
I tend to have the best luck when shopping at thrift stores. Often times, I get an overwhelming feeling that I must visits a particular store at a particular time and I am almost always rewarded for doing so.
For a while, I have been wanting to find a way to organize my pots and gardening tools. I figured, when I was ready, the right piece of furniture would come into my life. Thus, I wasn't surprised when I walked into my local Saver's a found this ... "table" ...(still not sure what to call it) with a sheet of green pebbles resting on top of it. The table had just been dropped off and was siting by the front door. It appears that someone intended to cover up the deep burn hole in the table but never got around to it. Although I have never done any grouting before, I decided this would be a nice time to learn.
Behold my now organized gardening items! :)
Once upon a time, when I got my first real job out of grad school, I decided it was time to upgrade to a full size bed… which I bought off of Craigslist. I know, I dream big! Funny side note, the first thing I did upon fining out that I got my first real job (literally, within minutes) was walk to my local drug store to buy an iron. I figured if I was a professional then I was definitely going to need one!
Well, back to the night stand at hand. When I bought the bed (this was before the bed bugs scare), the couple who was selling it (don't say eww, it was the bed from their rarely used guest bedroom) threw in an old night stand. They were moving and needed to get rid of furniture. At the time, not owning much furniture myself, I thought this was pretty great. Although the night stand wasn’t much to look at, it turned out to be perfect because it bridged the gap between a small set of cat stairs and my bed. My cat is old and can longer jump so Boo and I both lucked out with the purchase of the bed.
Well, fast forward a few more years and I decided that it was time for this night stand to receive an update. Both Boo and I are pleased with the results!
You can see in the before picture that Boo was so disappointed that she had to turn her back to the night stand. She knew I could do better.
Chicken Coop Chairs
Okay, this was a really simple project but it turned out to be a very useful one too.. until I took the chairs to Good Will. Anyhow, I call these chairs (chairs? stools? whatever!) chicken coop chairs because the wood out of which my dad once made these chairs came from the chicken and duck coop, which he also made. No joke, although I lived in a very suburban neighborhood growing up, I had a pet duck named Simone and my brother had a pet chicken named L.B. for Little Buddy. My mother also had a pet chicken but my dog’s initial curiosity got the best of poor Della soon after we got her. Our dog, Charlie learned from his mistake though and the duck soon came to worship him. Yes, she would often try to climb into bed with him because she idolized him so much! Poor Charlie.
As for the chairs, the reason they became so useful is that I covered them with outdoor fabric. This gave me the opportunity to store my extra seating (yeah, I’m not that fancy) outdoors and I could put flower pots on top of them since my gardening is limited to my porch. Simple and effective. I’d say it was a win-win and hopefully they were a win-win for the next person who picked them up at Good Will.
Disappointment strikes again! Boo is walking away.
This was the first project I did after becoming inspired by Better After. I have yet to figure out how to properly reupholster furniture (those corners are confusing, it is not like wrapping a present), but I think I have figured out how to stain furniture. This was my first time staining furniture. I learned, a little late, to not shake polyurethane. Whoops!
What I particularly liked about these chairs was their infinity symbol. At that point in my life, the infinity symbol kept popping up no matter where I went. I didn't even realize that the symbol was in the chairs until a few days after I brought them home. I like to think that this was the Universe's way of saying that it supported me in the personal growth I was doing at that point, which was rather painful but ultimately very healing.
Anyhow, onto the chairs!