Category Archives: (re)fresh

upcycled, recycled and repurposed projects

It Has Got the Midas Touch- a tired chair gets a golden touch on the cheap

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It Has Got the Midas Touch- a tired chair gets a golden touch on the cheap

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I don’t know how many tired, dirty saggy chairs I have passed up while thrift shopping for my projects.  Over and over I walk-on-by because somehow I had the impression that upholstery is an expensive hobby.  Perhaps it is all the tapes, nails and underlays that I see at the upholstery store – or the $50.00/yard price tag on some of the fabrics I drool over.

This project is proof that with a little creativity, a lot of staple pulling and some clever shopping – a dusty old thrift store find can become the golden girl in your room.

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Before you begin, grab a notepad or even your camera and document how you take the chair apart. You’ll be glad you did, trust me!

There is no need to break a sweat sanding every surface – just smooth out any chips, then paint with a can of your favorite spray paint. I got started with some heavy sanding first, then decided that it really wasn’t necessary.

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Money saving tip #1: Use as much of the original foam as possible. We added a thin foam underlay and a thick quilt batting to the top of the original yellow foam. A few whip stitches keeps it all together. Or if your foam isn’t reusable, find a camping foam or foam baby mattress to upcycle

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Pick apart the original pieces to make a pattern for the new covering

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Money Saving Tip #2 – Don’t buy expensive upholstery fabric.  Look for discounted tablecloths or curtains. Or, hit your favorite vintage shop and find something fabulous.

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Add a covered button for a little style – and to secure the fabric tightly to the curved back.

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Then put it all back together – and fasten where needed.

No longer tired and saggy – this chair has got some style.

Cost for this project:

Chair: $5.00

Paint: $4.75

Foam and Batting: 10.00

Curtains for covering: $11.00

Because we all need a little lift- a pot stand turned foot stool

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Because we all need a little lift- a pot stand turned foot stool

I love to cruise through my favorite bargain shops- it’s a bit of a fast paced buzz through, scanning quickly aisles and end caps looking for some clearanced cast off that no one wants. Too much time thinking results in a cart full of mediocrity. But if you work fast, only the truly inspirational things jump up and scream “Take me! Take me!

  
On one of these trips, an odd little four legged pot stand (at least I think that is what it was) made me do a double take. It sat on top of a rickety desk acting like it was 3 feet tall.  

  
But when I picked it up- it transformed in my imagination into a luxurious place to put up my feet after a busy day- or a great little place to rest a cup of coffee while I curled up in my favorite reading chair.  

  

This is one project that was pretty simple- and with a couple little tips and tricks, anyone could accomplish. 

Supplies are minimal: 

  • A round surface with legs- just imagine all the items you could repurpose! Stools with shortened legs, plywood circles with legs attached…)
  • Fabric- enough to cover top and sides and wrap under the surface
  • Foam- choose your favorite thickness, factoring in how high you would like the finished project to stand
  • Shank style button, large size
  • Stapler and staples
  • Cambric or a light weight fabric to finish the bottom of the stool. 

Step 1- cut the foam to the diameter of the surface being covered.  Tip: use an electric knife for easy cutting.  I used a good old fashioned bread knife. Not pretty, but effective!

Step 2: cut the fabric, allowing enough additional fabric to cover the top, the sides and at least 3 inches underneath. Trick: tie a string around a pencil with the tail measuring half of the following equation:Diameter+depth of foam+ 3 inches.   Hold the tail in the center of fabric and trace a complete circle.  Cut out just outside the circle. 

  
Step 3- placing the button

Find the center of the foam circle and the center of the fabric circle. (Tip: fold the fabric circle into quarters and pin the point to find the center). With a sharp pointed instrument (open scissor blade, awl, thin knife) poke a hole through both the center point on the foam and the fabric. 

Lay the fabric over the foam, right side up. With a strong thread, or dental floss, thread through the button and the foam a few times.  Pull quite right and tie off. 

  
Step 4: Stapling the fabric

Place the fabric covered foam with the fabric face down on a smooth surface. Center the wood surface over the foam. 

Now comes the fun part! 

Starting at one side, staple the fabric edge approximently 3 1/2 inches from the bottom edge.  Then, working directly opposite, pull the fabric tight and staple. 

  
Trick: work the way around leaving large spaces between staples. After placing a staple, immediately work the opposite side to keep the fabric straight and taught. Don’t be afraid to pull tight (but evenly) all the way around for a smooth firm surface. And if necessary, don’t hesitate to remove a few staples to make adjustments if needed.  

Once staples are place evenly around the wooden surface, begin softly folding small pleats to take up the slack in the fabric. (Note: if using a foam that is thinner in depth, this may not be required as slack can be eased in as you move around the circle)  
Now! Have fun with the staples! After having done a few smaller upholstery projects and removed an unimaginable number of staples- I can be quite sure that inserting staples in massive quantity has therapeutic value.  This must be why upholsterers are such happy calm people! 

  
To finish the stool off properly, attach a thin fabric such as cambric or even sewing interfacing to hide the raw edges and staples. Simply cut a circle just shy of the diameter of the top, and while folding under the edge, staple it neatly in place. 

Finally- and most importantly- grab yourself a cup of your favorite beverage, sit in your favorite chair and prop your feet up on your beautiful new footstool. You deserve a rest! 

Play with Color! Jazz up a canvas with a paint scraper

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This project is a great one to (re)create a a canvas into a fun bit of wall art. All you need is some paint, a paint scraper or putty knife and an old (or new) canvas -you know the one that you bought at the discount home decor store that is outdated? Or the juvenile print that your teenager has rejected?

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  1. For this bit of “art”, I had a ton of fun playing with color.  Rainbows were a favorite of mine long before they became symbolic of anything other than a promise and this project combined an image I love – a tree by a stream -with the beauty of a mosaic style background.  It felt reminiscent of my childhood days when I could squish my fingers into plates of  paint – and brought about a ton of joy as I played with the color.

The supplies are pretty simple – Acrylic paint in the color of your choice, gel medium (I recommend matte) to keep the edges of your paint raised, a paint scraper/putty knife measuring the width of the squares you would like to create and a standard paint brush to create the tree trunk and leaves.  A large plastic tray works well as a palette for mixing the color, but you could easily use disposable plates.

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First things first: choose your color palette.  The beauty of this style is that you can choose almost any color.  Blues (imagine water, sky and clouds!), greens (a deep forest, or a wide open meadow) or your favorite colors, swirling and rolling across the canvas.

Next, plan the placement of your focal point, if you have one – and the outline of how you would like the colors to lay. Sketch them lightly on your canvas with a pencil for reference.

Now, roll up your sleeves and get ready to have some fun!

Start with the lightest color, mix 1 part gel medium to 2 parts acrylic paint. This will create a paste like paint that will be slightly more opaque than it will appear when dry.  Load the putty knife’s edge with the color and beginning in the center of where your focal point will be,  lightly stroke down for one square and then stroke to the side for the second.

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Next, without cleaning your putty knife, pick up a bit of the next color and stroke on the paint palette to blend the color slightly.  As you work across your canvas, you may need to pick up some of the previous color along with the current color.  Remember to stroke the paint palette to blend the color ever so slightly on the putty knife.

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Continue  to work through the design, laying down the background in the same “stroke down, stroke across” pattern. The gel medium will give your paint body, and the edges of your squares will be slightly raised.

Once you have completed the background mosaic, allow the paint to dry completely. Because of the added gel medium, this will take a little longer than standard acrylic paint.

When the background has dried completely, begin to paint your focal point.  A field of flowers? A boat? A silhouette of a child?

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For added interest, you can add a significant amount of gel or modeling paste to the acrylic paint for the final details of your focal point.  For my tree, the leaves were quite raised.  The pedals on a flower stem, or the sail on a boat would also look quite interesting.

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Go ahead and give it a try! It might just take you back to your childhood as well.

All For the Love of Fall- A Front Porch Adorned 

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All For the Love of Fall- A Front Porch Adorned 

After living in South Africa for 9 years (where there are two seasons: HOT and Brrrr) I have a new found appreciation for all four seasons.  And here in the Pacific Northwest we get a good taste of all of them.

But when autumn hits, there is something inside me that fires up.  Maybe it’s the sensory stimulation I get. Who can’t love the brilliant colors, the crunch-crunch of leaves and that wonderful fresh fall air?

My creative juices get flowing.
And it doesn’t take much to add a little bit of seasonal flair to a space.

This year I have paired a hand painted sign I made last year with an antique  water pump and crate on my front porch.


A couple rustic wreaths….


(Isn’t this one amazing? A sweet friend makes these for sale! If you are interested in buying one, leave a comment and I will contact you)

And an old ladder with orchard buckets full of herbs…..


Now my porch is a little bit of everything I love about fall.

How Not to Get Schooled – A Roll-Top Desk Chalk Paint Revamp 

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How Not to Get Schooled – A Roll-Top Desk Chalk Paint Revamp 

My baby is starting highschool this year.  And, yes, I am avoiding pondering the significance of this very thought.

In preparation for the year ahead, it dawned on me that she needed a better space to study. A place not tucked into the deep recesses of her room, but also not in the midst of the family noise.  I found a perfect place- however, it is the first room you see when you walk in the front door. This posed a little aesthetic problem for me.  Visions of paper strewn about, piles of books and pencils scattered was enough to send me digging into my garage looking for a solution. 

This is my knight in shining armor

  
He has the answer to all my problems- deep drawers, cute cubbies and best of all- a fabulous roll down top to hide any residual chaos. 

While I planned on using this to help my my daughter’s education, this desk had more than a few lessons to teach me.  And I thought perhaps I could pass a few of them on to you- to keep you from being schooled by a roll top desk. 
Lesson #1 – Deep dark wood grains are hard to cover with white chalk paint.  

   

   Despite sanding and cleaning, the wood grain and some persistent stain kept seeping through. I had hoped three coats would cover, but it did not. 

  
Solution: Ideally, I read that sealing the wood before painting is the best option. There are primers and sealants on the market designed to do this, but I read mixed results on them. I tried a few less expensive options. First, I tried waxing the stain seepage. Sadly, it didn’t completely block the stain.  

 Next I tried a poly-coat test over one particularly dark area.  It blocked it a bit better, but sadly, not completely.  

After a determined effort, I finally decided to go with the flow, and changed my plans for the desk to include an aged appearance. A little dark wax rubbed here and there at the end and the imperfections just seemed to disappear.  

 Lesson #2 -Moving parts and paint don’t like each other. 

  
I suspected this may be a challenge, so I read up on how to best paint the roll top portion of a desk. Light coat, avoid tracks etc.  Sadly, even following these well meaning tips- it was very difficult to roll up and down.  

Solution: remove the roller cover completely, clear channels and repaint while detached.  Once it was dry, a simple light wipe with the paint in the channels lessened the contrast of the dark channel with the ivory top, yet still provided the flexibility it needs to roll freely. Once dry, I tightly rolled the cover a few times to make sure everything was nice and loose. 

In addition to avoiding getting paint in the channels, it is also important to not allow a build up of paint on the edges where the cover fits into the tracks on the desk. I sanded the edges of the cover 1/4″ from the edge to keep the cover moving freely in the grooved tracks.  A bit of candle wax rubbed into those tracks before reassembling the top helped everything to glide smoothly as well. 

    

Lesson #3– Cubbies may be cute but they are painful to paint.  

   

 This may be obvious to everyone but me, but long handled brushes and tiny spaces make for a clumsy effort. Brush strokes, unintentional paint build up and the incessant “knock-knocking” of the brush handle just about made me pull out my hair.  

Solution: A shorter handled brush, if possible; a bit of patience and determination;  and, eventually, removing the back panel of the desk for better access.

   

In the end, it was all worth it.  It has a lovely old world charm that works so well in my room, yet will give my daughter all she needs to achieve her scholastic goals. A win-win for sure.  Don’t you agree?

   
    
 

Stand by Me – a new look for an old nightstand

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Stand by Me – a new look for an old nightstand

I have nothing against the early 80’s, I promise! I loved big hair, cassette tapes and the Cosby Show. And while big hair may make a comeback, there are just a few things from the 80’s that could use a little updating.

This handsome guy was found in a sweet little shop while browsing with a friend. There wasn’t anything wrong with it. It just needed a little something. 

Functionally, it was exactly what I wanted.  A nice surface for a lamp and a book? Check! Drawer?  Check! A place to stack some necessities for guest room residents? Check!
Now it need just a little (re) freshing!

After taping off the top, I lightly sanded the sides, shelves and drawer front. I whipped up some of my favorite diy chalk paint in an ecru color and painted away.  (I know it is all over the Internet, but I love the way chalk paint finishes! Soo smoooth!)

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While this looked good, I wanted a subtle nod to age. So, bravely I grabbed a wide brush, a can of walnut stain and a clean rag. Ever so softly dry brushing the stain, then wiping it a bit with the clean rag produced an aged look that kept it from screaming “Look at me! I just got a fresh coat of paint!”

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A soft distressing of the edges revealed the darker first layer and added some great depth.

 I then took the same walnut stain and overstained the light sanded top. It deepened the color nicely.

A coat of clear finishing wax buffed to a shine and a new brushed copper pull and that little nightstand became my favorite faithful bedside companion.


I love feedback! What do you think?

Once more a princess – the Cinderella table project

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Don’t you just love a happy ending?  One where the forgotten maiden, dressed in dust and rags, has her true beauty revealed and then goes on to live happily ever after?

I almost walked away from this little table. I found it advertised online.  The photos were cleverly taken to mask her true state.  When I arrived to pick her up, my heart dropped a little.  Her drawer was chipped and stuck, her leg was loose and she was covered in 3 colors of chipped, weather beaten paint.

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But looking at her a second time, I could see something beyond that – her graceful curve, the regal smooth top.  And I wondered…just wondered…if there was hope that she could be saved.  So I brought her home.

It took a little while to gather up the courage to begin stripping away all that nasty ivory, gold and black paint.  After struggling with scraping and sanding, my daughter encouraged me to get some stripper.  What a difference!  I found this product at our local DIY store and got busy.    (this is not an affiliate link – I just love this product!)

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and this is what wonder it made:

 

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(immediately after application and after it did its magic)

After removing all the goo – I finally began to see what a beautiful little table she was

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A little repair work, some sanding, paint and stain and there she was!  Here regal top had a beautiful grain, and her pedestal and legs got the attention they deserved.

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And she lives happily ever after with her new owner in a beautiful guest room palace.

I love to hear your comments – what do you think?

The Monster in the Room – An Ugly Bookshelf Made New

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The Monster in the Room – An Ugly Bookshelf Made New

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Years ago, we picked up a second hand bookshelf for my son’s room.  It was to be a rough and tumble catch-all for his collections of model cars, magazines and the occasional forgotten empty dish.  It was not a prized piece – particularly after a pen leaked all over the top.  It looked so much like a grumpy old monster – it just needed some eyes…and an encouraging thumbs upbookcase top

Now that my son is grown, this poor shelf has become the unwanted eye-sore in every room I’ve tried to place it (read: none of the rest of the family wanted it either).  So, it ended up in my room…and was crying to be redone.

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Now the monster is a princess – all the sanding, trimming, painting and aging has paid off – and this might just be worth hanging on to for a while longer.

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Autumn! I’ve fallen for you!

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Deep inside of me, somewhere under the hardworking business women and responsible mother, lies a pensive little girl, who gets giddy at the sight of a tree full of yellow, red and orange leaves – who cautiously looks around before running pell-mell into a pile of leaves and whose mouth waters at the thought of cinnamon spiced apple cider and pumpkin bread.

While I can easily ignore the urge to decorate my porch during the summer – once those leaves start to turn, it becomes a constant hum in my imagination. A hum that can easily turn into a melody that just demands that I hum along!

With that said, I say WELCOME!  to Autumn – to my friends – to my family who make my life a beautiful heap of color.

Welcome sign

While this particular sign is happy on my porch, I am taking orders for any who might be interested.  Made from repurposed pallet boards, this welcome sign has a rustic charm.  It measures 6″x30″ and has a saw tooth hanger at the back, so you can display it in your favorite place. I’m asking only $30.00 each, but will have a limited number that I am able to make.  You can expect the finished product to be ready for delivery or collection 4-5 days from order.

Desk (re)fresh in one evening! Sometimes you don’t have to move mountains

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Desk (re)fresh in one evening! Sometimes you don’t have to move mountains

Those who professionally refinish furniture believe strongly in two things  1) Never paint real wood 2) Never skimp on the finish.  My brain interprets it as :  never take short cuts and keep the standard until the end.  Good advice for sure… until you need something quickly.

Since my adult children have moved out of the house, and I now have a spare room to claim as my own… I am in need of some work space.  Not the kitchen table – though it has served me well for years. But a true-to-form space to work on my projects, and a desk for my computer.  All. For. My. Self !

Enter: the great game of Musical Furniture.  If this table can go there, then this desk can move there. Then hubby will need a desk, and I will need a shelf…and so forth and so on.  A quick trip to the thrift store in a nearby town produced not one but two solid wood desks.  Sadly, both looked rather tired and beaten down. These babies needed a little TLC.DSC_0351

Since hubby is currently in the mood for this game of Musical Furniture – I really must have this done pronto!  Not this weekend, not next week – but like TOMORROW.

So, despite the voices of all elderly wood working mentors ringing in my head, I blitzed over to my local home store and grabbed a container of Restor-A-Finish and a bag of #0000 steel wool.

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This stuff is magic. One step restoration of color to faded wood, blending of scratches and blemishes and even removal of those beautiful white heat rings we all love.  Simply choose the color that matches your project and using a soft rag, or the #0000 steel wool for deeper scratches, rub it over the surface. The finish softens, the color blends and when you wipe it dry, a beautiful stained surface remains.

Literally 2 hours after I brought the big desk into the garage, the hardware was off, and the magic bottle of Restor had done its duty! Drawer fronts, top trim and desk facing had been refreshed!  Even the worst of the chipped off areas blended into the stain. There was some elbow grease needed when it came time to finish the piece. A coat or two of furniture paste wax was needed to provide an even sheen and projection.  (Important to note that polyurethane cannot be used over this product). I guess you just can’t have things tooo easy!

DSC_0361 This lovely desk went from shab to fab with literally 3 hours of work – and tomorrow it will be all settled in hubby’s office ready to store all those hundreds and thousands of things that are currently scattered across his table. And his current table will be nestled under the window up in my new studio- just waiting for the next project.