Category Archives: Techniques

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! 

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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.

Because the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree – A Family Tree for the wall

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Because the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree – A Family Tree for the wall

I grew up listening to my grandmother recount all kinds of facts about her extended family – Great Aunt So and So who loved fine china and Great Uncle So and So who grew hops out in the country.  It was a blur of names combined with interesting stories of days gone by.  These days, it is my mom who is busy researching her family tree – and she has been pretty successful.  It certainly will make passing family history down a lot easier for me (Thanks Mom!)

This year, as a little token, I decided to make Mom a little family tree for her wall.  Not generations and generations, but just her offspring – because one day we will be not just a little sapling, but a grand old oak.

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I dug into my stash of salvaged cabinet doors.

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I loved that they easily convert to a “preframed” surface just waiting for something fun.

After a quick primer coat of paint on the front and back, it was a pretty simple process. (You can totally do this!)

Here are the items that are needed to complete this project:

  • 1 salvaged cabinet door  (mine was approximately 12″ x 24″)
  • Paint brush for base coat (1 1/2″ works well)
  • White primer spray paint
  • Painters tape
  • Black chalkboard paint (or black paint with a flat finish)
  • Acrylic paint in your favorite color (for the “frame”)
  • White acrylic paint pen
  • Clear Matte finish coat

Step One:  Prepare surface by applying a thin coat of white primer spray paint to the front and back.  This makes any type of cabinet surface paint-able. Nothing is more disappointing that putting time into something to have it bubble up or slide off!)

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Step Two: Paint the frame and back. It doesn’t take much paint, so a small bottle of your favorite color purchased from a local craft supply store will give you more than enough to put down two good coats. (hint: prevent “oopsies” by taping off the “chalkboard area” with painters tape)

Step Three:  Base coat the “chalkboard”. Two coats will give you a good surface, but if you have a quality paint, one coat may just be all you need! Again, it helps to tape off the portion of the surface that you don’t want to paint – in this case, the freshly painted frame.  Make sure the paint on the frame is completely dry before you tape, or the tape may lift off the paint.

Step Four: Free hand draw, or transfer an outline of a tree.  There are many images online that work well – and you can follow a simple method such as the one used here- to transfer it onto your surface.  While you are at it, you can also free hand or transfer printed text – perhaps your family name, or “Family Tree” – or your favorite quote. (search “curly tree” for inspiration)

Step Five: Outline the transferred image with a medium tipped paint pen.  These pens work great if you are patient.  Shaking them, then pressing the tip onto a piece of scrap paper brings the paint to the tip.  Once wet, it flows pretty smoothly, giving a nice steady line. Add the names of each of the people that branch off the family “trunk” – children on the main branches, and grandchildren on the smaller branches.  Add a sweet pink heart to the trunk of the tree using either a small amount of acrylic paint, or a pink paint pen

 

Step Six: Top coat to protect the painted surface.  Make sure that your work is completely dry before application.  One or two coats of a matte finish varnish or acrylic top coat provides scratch protection as well as some moisture resistance.

Final Step: Attach hangers – such as the ones shown below –  to the back of the plaque.

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Display your Family Tree with pride, because one day, your great-great grandchildren will thank you!

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?

   
    
 

Little touches that take up big space- Guest Room Wall Art

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Little touches that take up big space- Guest Room Wall Art

My husband has a favorite hotel. It’s one where he stayed many times when he traveled for business. When he arrives, they speak to him as if they know him personally; the cook at breakfast remembers the way he likes his eggs; and when he walks into his room, he is greeted with not only a comfortable bed and chair, but a little box containing some refreshment and a newspaper.

Now that my children are (mostly) grown, I have a guest room! This brings me all kinds of happiness because I love having guests. It is important that they feel welcomed and a part of our family.  And it’s the little things that makes this happen.

One little touch I made for this room- that actually takes up quite a bit of space, is the wall art I made for above the bed.

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The process wasn’t too complicated at all and required minimal artistic effort.

First, I cut 4 boards to the same length. I have to confess – I’m “that lady”  who approached the work crews who were working on installing new siding to several houses in our neighborhood. Those long pallets were just so appealing! 20131104_143756

After sanding them smooth, I screwed a brace across the pieces to join them together. Depending on how long the boards are, a few may be required to hold it together firmly. All the nail holes and chipped edges added to the rustic carefree feeling I wanted for this sign.

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Next, a base coat of my favorite DIY chalk paint was applied. A light sanding makes the finish so smooth.

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The wording looks great and is so simple to do, thanks to my computer. I simply printed the letters out on my pc, and using transfer paper, traced the outline onto the boards. Once painted in, there it was! Beautiful text!                                           (Here is a helpful hint: outline your text with a paint marker for a smooth clean edged  letter). 

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Like the nightstand I painted for this room, I wanted to give it a slightly aged look, so I dry brushed and rubbed a stain into the nooks and crannies.

As a final touch to compliment my sentiment on the sign, I painted a sleeping bluebird and wrote out a favorite verse. 20131111_125209

To finish the sign, I rubbed it down with finishing wax and added some saw toothed hangers to the back.

A sweet sentiment which now defines the room as a place of rest.

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What do you think?

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?

Tongue Depressors turned Garden Markers – Just say Awwww

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I am sure I am not the only person on the planet who has a stash of things that, upon collecting them, where JUST what was needed for that ONE idea. Seems that I am quite good at collecting, but not always so good at completing.

I’ve moved over the ocean twice in the last 10 years – and I can honestly say that it did help me to clear out a LOT of those things… but there were a few that just had too many things that they could become and I hung onto them… and packed them over the Atlantic TWICE. Why? You’ll have to ask my therapist.

One of these things is a small box of wooden gizmos- stars, hearts, wooden spools, wooden pegs and a rather strange collection of Popsicle sticks and tongue depressors. Bits and pieces that I’ve gathered from other projects, garage sales, and even an occasional Popsicle.

In search of a much needed gift for some gardening friends, I dug into my stash recently and painted up a few garden markers. I’m no artist, but I love to paint.  And these guys were crying to be put to good use.

It’s a simple project that can be completed in an evening. So simple in fact that there are really no instructions, just a few tips to make it go smoothly and to insure that they will last at least one season.

  • When base coating your sticks – it helps to either hold them with a spring loaded clothes pin. This way you can paint both sides (and not too much of your fingers). If you have a brick of styrofoam or florists foam around, you can poke the end of the clothes pin into the foam while the stick dries.
  • When painting your letters, it helps to print the words out in the font of your choice. If you don’t have any carbon paper, simply color the back of the paper with a pencil. You can then outline the letters and the pencil will transfer onto your base coated stick.
  • Finally, make sure that you seal your finished product with at least 2-3 coats of poly-urethane type clear coat. You can use clear spray-on top coat or the brush on style. Just make sure you get all sides well covered and allow them to dry completely.

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.