10 Feb

White Vanity Table

Painted Wood Vanity

I got my own room when I was 11. My sister is five years older than me and when she turned 16, convinced my mom to let her move to the basement. I invited my best friend, Jenny, over and we painted the bedroom walls green. It was the first time I had painted anything.

Twenty-seven years later I’m channeling my inner tween with the latest batch of commissioned projects.

My client, Carrianne, wanted to surprise her 11-year-old daughter with a bedroom makeover. She ordered new bedding and picked up a second-hand dressing table. My job was to paint the vanity so it worked with all the elements in the room.

black white pink bedding

Silver Medallion Bedding – Macy’s

White Dressing Table

oak vanity – before

And quite honestly, I was dreading the task. Not because I didn’t think it wouldn’t look great and not because I didn’t think I could get the job done, no, I’m just not a fan of anything in all one color. Especially, if that color is white (seriously, white isn’t even a color). In the past, I’d use fabric on the seat to pull color into a neutral design. The problem was that the vanity didn’t come with a matching seat.

As I was stalling, milling around in the basement I came across an end table I’d picked up during one of my trash runs. The legs were identical to the vanity and the height worked so I brought it upstairs for further inspection.

White Dressing Table

With the tabletop removed and the base painted white, I fabricated a new seat from plywood and secured it using the existing screws and holes.

Painted Wood Vanity

attach plywood seat base

White Dressing Table

converted seat

Since I knew there was no way I could color match the hot pink in the bedding, I opted for a simple faux black leather seat fabric (and still no color). I thought about stenciling a swirl pattern or floral blooms across the top but couldn’t decide what color (other than bright white or black) to use. I was running out of time when I went digging through my office for last ditch inspiration and found this sheet of scrapbook paper.

foil scrapbook paper

from The Black Currant Stack

Now, I have this little game I like to play called “What Would Pinterest Do?” where I imagine how other bloggers / DIYers would complete my projects. Then, I challenge myself to ‘one up’ them and really think outside the box. I was fairly certain that most folks would take the pattern as it was, crop it and attach it to the front of the drawer a la Mod Podge.

So, I didn’t. Instead, I cut out 6 squares, lined them up side by side and created a new pattern. Then I applied the sticky stuff.

White Dressing Table

Yay! I win. Dee – 85, Pinterest – 0.

I just happened to have that single, solitary, random pull in my stash. (I bet you thought it was one of the flowers huh?) And it worked perfectly. I cleaned it up and brushed on some paint to pop the details and voila! It never ceases to amaze me how the little details come together at the end of a project.

I knew I was taking a chance deviating from the client’s instructions but I was willing to risk it. I mean, look at how this piece turned out…

White Dressing Table White Dressing Table

Heck, it was even pretty in the spots you couldn’t see! (that’s black and white polka dot paper. Who knew Carrianne had a thing for polka dots? Details I tell ya…)

White Dressing Table

Turns out, the risk was worth the reward because when Carrianne walked in the door for pick up she made a beeline for the drawer. Kneeling down she said “wow, I just love what you did to it!”

And today, when her daughter saw the painted vanity she loved it too. I’m tickled pink at how well everything coordinates.

White Dressing Table

And that green wall makes my inner 11-year-old smile.

White Dressing Table

Pin This!

06 Jun

Small Desk, Big Color

painted desk

I’m convinced that if I could get my office pulled together the rest of my house would, once and for all, stay clean. Now, it isn’t dirty in a half-eaten-plate-of-food-sitting-on-the-counter sort of way but every horizontal surface in the main living area is obscured by a pile of crap that should go in my office.

The problem has always been finding the right desk.

I thought I had done so a few months ago after responding to a local online ad. But when I went to pick the desk up, I remembered why measurements are important and photo cropping is a bad idea.

small wooden desk

Can you tell just how small this desk is? That’s a kindergarten chair off to the right (which I’ve been known to use while painting). Not only was the desk smaller than I had anticipated, the drawers didn’t fit so into the project pile it went and my search continued.

When my neighbor asked if I had a kid’s desk in stock I knew it was the perfect size for her 6-year-old son.

prime desk

So it got the typical sanded top and primed base treatment before being painted with a semi-gloss blue paint.

painted desk

That I absolutely hated. I really should have known better. Semi-gloss paint is very unforgiving and I have a tendency to over-brush. It wasn’t so bad on the chair and drawer fronts after toning them down with a bit of glaze, but the desk side panels excited my ulcers. I whined about it on Facebook a couple of times before engaging the paint stripper and a razor blade. Good times I tell ya.

Once it was back to bare wood, I mixed up some flat blue paint with Paint Minerals and repainted the desk base.

painted desk

After two coats I was back in business. But then I decided to make some last-minute design changes.

It’s a good thing I’ve already done a few pieces for this neighbor – she wasn’t surprised that I tacked on a few more hours (after telling her the desk was done) because of a great idea I’d had. It’s always nice when clients trust your instincts and work with your insanity creativity.

painted desk

I decided that I wasn’t a fan of the decorative trim pieces under the drawers so I removed them and had to do some touch-up.

drawer hardware

The wooden corner accents, originally under the seat front on the chair, were relocated to a more prominent location and I flipped the drawer pulls around after staining the ‘grips’ to match the desktop.

painted desk

I figured a kid was more likely to use a finger-over approach to open the drawers anyhow. Plus, it looked better this way. Some slight distressing accentuated the glazed drawer fronts and the stained seat pulled it all together.

painted desk

But my favorite part might have been the pull-out secretary return.

painted desk

painted desk

…or knowing that little boy has the perfect spot for all of his crap.

painted desk

Someday I’ll know what that feels like.

painted desk

19 May

A Tale of Trash in Two Cities

close up carving detail

Lately, the weather in southeastern Wisconsin has been all over the board. For those of you who live in an area that doesn’t see much change in temps from spring to summer and fall to winter come hang out with me – you’ll probably experience all four seasons in one day.

This past Friday I managed to get a sunburn while it snowed 15 miles south. A couple of days before that I was sweating bullets in the garage while tornado sirens blared. About two weeks ago I had to skip my weekly curb surf rounds due to early morning sleet and hail.

Although it certainly didn’t feel like it, the next day the kid and I headed down to visit my folks for Spring Break. It’s about a 3-hour drive to a small town of 1500 people. The last time we went for a visit I spent most of the time bringing a vintage wardrobe back to life so this time I planned on visiting family and friends.

Funny thing about plans though…

About half an hour after we’d settled in my little brother popped over and made mention of the town’s curbside pickup scheduled for the following morning. I perked up – wait, what? My mom insisted nothing would be set out until the designated 6:00 pm start time yet as I cruised up and down side streets at 2:00 pm I immediately came across these three vintage wooden chairs. One was stamped ‘Grace Bible Church’ along the back and all had years-worth of dust and cobwebs.

vintage church chairs

I’m pretty sure I lapped that small town ten times in the course of 2 hours and while most of the stuff was trash, I was fortunate to find a really cool old rocking chair.

antique rocking chair

The guy at the antique place uptown estimated it being from the late 1800’s (however I’m guessing the shitty paint job is Circa 2010). If you look closely you can see the floral stencil along the back top rail.

large hinged box

Probably not an antique yet pretty cool in its own right was this large, hinged wooden box just hanging out on a dirty mattress. That’s duct tape and a nickel glued to the top.

old wooden table

I’m not sure if this is a dainty side table or a stool for a very, very lightweight person. The top is slightly curved so I doubt anything could be set on it without being off kilter but I can’t imagine it would be sturdy enough to allow anyone to sit on it. It would make for a perfect feline perch though.

I had come across a really nice coffee table that didn’t need much work but passed it up thinking someone might really need it. Sure enough, when Mom sent me back out for it, it was already gone. Apparently I wasn’t the only one out treasure hunting.

While we were out of town, the handyman I had install plumbing and electrical in the basement shop dropped off a Lane table he thought I might be able to do something with.

Lane side table

And a couple of days later I scooped up a chest (along with a random drawer) the neighbors set out on the curb.

short dresser

At the same time I noticed a large cardboard box taped up and laying on the ground. Four days later the trashmen had come and gone yet the cardboard box was still on the curb. I had no idea what was inside but I tossed it into the back of the SUV and took it home.

Imagine my surprise when I opened up the box to find this…

vintage full size mirror

close up carving detail

By the way, all the paint in the mirror’s reflection? Yep, nearly full and left on the curb after someone’s rummage sale.

I guess the weather isn’t the only thing fickle ’round these parts.

23 Nov

Bachelor Pad Island Makeover

So I have this friend of a friend who recently reclaimed his kitchen. He asked me to keep an eye out for an island so whenever I stopped into a thrift shop or GoodWill I looked but nothing caught my eye. Now, plenty of things found their way home with me but nothing that would work for him. Good old Craigslist and my go-to online garage sale sites turned up squat too. Sadly, I was *this* close to telling him to buy retail {gasp}.

You can imagine my giddy when I was on the way home from running the boy to school one day and caught something out of the corner of my eye. I slammed on my brakes cautiously turned the corner and pulled up in front of the neighbor’s house. Who am I kidding? I’m betting those folks still have skid marks in front of their house. I hopped out of the truck to get a better look.

diy kitchen island

This chick had great bones. She was solidly built and other than a few dings was in good shape so I loaded her up and took her home. I had no immediate plans but a free desk is a free desk. Being greedy generous, I posted a pic on my Facebook page thinking someone might spot me $20 for need a desk. I had no takers but I had an idea.

I sent the photo over to my pal and told him all the awesome things I could do to recreate it as an island. He was a good sport and entertained my nonsense but wasn’t a fan of the dark wood. Plus, he had his heart set on a butcherblock top and didn’t think I could do much this boring old desk. Sigh. So. close.

And so it sat in my garage all summer and well into the fall. Cleaning up after our neighborhood rummage sale, I pulled it out and grabbed some sandpaper. It didn’t take long to see some potential. As much as I hated the veneer top I loved its rounded edge. Since it was secured with screws it came off easily. I set it on the ground and placed the desk on top of it. Wait a minute…

I was stoked and broke out the primer.

The original desk’s height was 30″. Standard counter height is 36″. Even with a new top, I’d need to make up a 4″ difference. The obvious choice was to add feet. Surfing the ‘net I found a few retail options priced at $7 or more – each. Uh. Yeah. No. So I headed over to Menards and grabbed a hunk of 3″ x 3″ x 36″ hardwood for $12. I used a jigsaw to bevel the corners at 45 degrees. It felt a tad chunky so I manually rounded out the edges. The result wasn’t exactly the same as my inspiration but totally doable.

{Tip: It’s not a bad idea to bring your inspiration piece home to use as a sample. Just be sure to keep your receipt and take it back when you’re done. $7 can buy you a gallon of Oops paint yo!}

Ideally, my buddy wanted open shelving and a concealed garbage area. The measurements of the existing chair opening proved too narrow, so I performed minor lumber surgery where the drawers had been and found plans for a tilt-out trash can on a fellow blogger’s site. Since I was restricted by the desk’s original dimensions, I made slight modifications to the plan (read: I crossed my fingers & cut) but overall it was a very simple build.

The drawers weren’t the same size and after framing out the fronts, I opted to flip-flop them and cut off a bit of the overhang. I cut the shelf out of plywood then glued and screwed it to the existing supports. To play off the once-top-now-bottom’s rounded edge I nailed in some scrap shoe molding to the shelf (this did double duty to hide minor gaps).

Are you feeling overwhelmed yet? Don’t be. This stuff is easier than it looks. For the record, I don’t worry about being too precise in my measurements. Spackle and paint make a girl what she ain’t.

See? A flawless finish.

As you’re working it’s a good idea to frequently step back and give your piece a once over. A few times great ideas in my head didn’t look so hot in reality. Originally, I had grand plans to hand-fab the wood top out of 2″ x 6″ rosewood lumber. I placed the wood on the base and snapped a photo and sent it to my friend for a second opinion who was quick to point out that I had installed the hinges incorrectly.

Being a hobby woodworker, he wanted to know how I planned to square up and plane the hunks of wood for the top. Um…well….yeah, it didn’t take long before I realized that I didn’t have the proper tools (table saw, planer, wood clamps, etc.) to accomplish the task. Grrr.

So I did what any good DIYer would do – I turned to alcohol Google for advice. At 2:00 am, I stumbled upon a pinned photo of an old dresser turned kitchen island. So the next day I picked up a 30″ x 60″ edge glued slab and cut it down lengthwise; sanded it down and brushed on some wood conditioner. Then I trimmed out the edges with lattice and (3) stain and (4) seal applications later the top was done! Crisis and alcoholism averted again.

Lattice trim was cut, mitered and installed on the garbage door front and island side panels. Then all the holes were filled and the entire piece was sanded, primed and painted. And sanded and painted. And painted.

And then I decided I didn’t like the monotone all-over green color and took some designer liberties.

{Tip: Adding some white to your paint will maintain the tone but modify saturation resulting in a lighter shade. This is much easier than trying to coordinate color swatches at the store. Plus it’s quicker and cheaper and all the rage now thanks to the ombre effect.}

After the paint dried, the back (1/8″ mdf) went on along with support brackets ($1 thrift store shelf arms) and trim (1/4″ wood lattice) with glue and nails.

I was in such a rush to get this delivered, I completely forgot to take photos of the top install. (Assuming you’re still reading I’ll describe the process.) I placed the finished wood slab upside down and flipped the cabinet base on top. Using a nail to mark the existing holes in the frame I marked out where to pre-drill the wood (to prevent splitting). I reattached the original screws and flipped it back over to add my ReStore score hardware {$0.25 a piece!}.

I’m so glad I decided to pull designer rank because the lighter door fronts contrast the darker base perfectly. The hardware is modern and that tilt-out door is just sassy. Sassy I say.

Can you believe it’s even the same piece?? Let me save you the trouble of scrolling back up…

I know right? And he didn’t think it could be done…pshaw.

Thank you for making it all the way to the end of this post. I feel like you should win a prize or something.