Posts Tagged ‘furniture’

Late last fall, I undertook the job of refinishing our nearly 30-year-old kitchen table and chairs. (Wow, that just sounds so…old.)

The table is a well-made classic oak clawfoot table – it goes from a 4-foot round to a 5- or 6-foot oval with the addition of one or two leaves.

The chairs are Windsor-style. The table was a hand-picked gift from my parents and four chairs were bought as unfinished from Builders Square (before they were bought out by The Home Depot.)

If you’re not a kid, you remember oak in the mid-80s. It came in one glowing hue, fondly termed “golden.” Mine was a tad darker than some, but it still gleamed brightly. When Swimmer Girl outgrew her high chair, baby made five, and I found a pair of chairs similar to the others. They were pre-finished and didn’t match the others, but at least we had seats for everyone and one to spare.

I overlooked the set’s dated and mismatched stains as long as possible, but the table’s top was starting to show its age in profound ways. In many places, the finish was finished. Gone. Finis. Drinking glasses left dark water rings that soaked into the wood and took forever to dry. This is the “before” picture.

IMG_4545And truth be told, I finished those four chairs in haste so we would have seating – they were never my proudest project.  Looking back, I was juggling a toddler, a full course load in college and trying to manage household duties. In those days, DIY was just coming into vogue – there were no blogs or cable shows to inspire us, and home improvement store selection was pretty bare bones. I had little time or money to spend on stain and sealers, so I did what I could with what I was readily available. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

As I started stripping and sanding, I had to smile at the chair that was the designated toddler seat: it had bare spots rubbed where the booster seat slid back and forth. And it had a chewed spot on one of the rungs. My best guess is frequent toddler food spills led to enthusiastic dog licking…and occasional gnawing.

After a quick strip and light sanding, my pieces were ready to stain. I used General Finishes gel stains in nutmeg for the table and java for the chairs, and a waterproof sealer.  That sounds really fast, but the fact is I did it as the season was cooling down into damp, rainy weather, so there were several days’ drying time between coats, and I changed my mind on the finish coat, so instead of finishing in a week, it was more like a….month? (I’d like to say we ate in the dining room every night in the interim, but the truth is, we ate out more than we ate in that month.)

I admit my mind wandered while I researched stains and labored over the refinishing process. I thought of my friends who either have or covet a rustic farmhouse table: rectangular shape, plank top, and chunky legs. Bench seating mixed with old-style sturdy chairs.

I briefly contemplated changing out our table and chairs for something new – either a farmhouse table, or an old-fashioned school table with swing-out seats, like this one from World Marketschool cafeteria tableBut I couldn’t justify the expense OR the waste of discarding a perfectly good table and chairs that just needed a little TLC.

When I was I looking around at my options, I discovered that “farmhouse table” isn’t as narrowly defined as I thought. It seems the common tie that binds this style is rusticity. No sleek, glossy, polished glass, brass or chrome in sight. No lovely, delicate Queen Anne-style cherry legs. Those pretty tables are reserved for formal dinners and diners.

A farmhouse table is for leisurely, boisterous, talkative family suppers and hearty breakfasts. Claw-foot and other pedestal tables, be they square, round or rectangular, are now incorporated into the farmhouse family. And that suits me fine…now that its finish is updated, it will hopefully serve as our family’s favorite eating spot for many more years. No pretense, just a sturdy spot to gather us together for the holidays and the everydays.

Have you refinished any furniture lately? It’s not hard, just time-consuming. But I can vouch for the fact that the time you spend sanding and staining may give you time to reminisce…and that can be a pretty good use of your time.

Happy refinishing,

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Swimmer girl and I dropped off her friend and arrived home safe and sound from fall break early Friday evening.  We barely had time to catch our breath on Saturday before we hopped in an eastbound car and headed for Knoxville for a 6 pm game.  (I have almost no voice after my failed efforts to cheer on the Vols and I was practically speechless watching the Titans lose on Sunday.)

But before we headed to the game, my mental wheels were turning:  what was my gameplan for food and “fun” on Sunday?

I determined that food was in place, but I didn’t have anything in mind (except maybe a nap to catch up on some lost sleep.)  I’ve been wanting to paint our front door since the first day I laid eyes on it. and I decided Sunday would be as good a day as any to transform it, so I ran to The Home Depot for door paint and patted myself on the back for ensuring my Sunday was lined out.

After grabbing a quick bite for Sunday lunch and mixing and measuring for a pot of chii in the crockpot, I set to work transforming the door from UT (that’d be Texas) burnt-orange/red to “French Roast,” which is blackish brown just like the coffee beans.  A couple hours later, the door and my fingers were well-coated in paint.

See, I did my part to help us avoid the stores and eateries.

However, my mental safety net didn’t extend quite far enough and Mr. Official and Swimmer Girl had other plans:  they headed to town to look for a new sectional sofa for the bonus room while I was tied up painting.  One of the furniture stores is threatening to go out of business soon (and will continue to threaten to “close their doors forever” for the forseeable future), so dad and daughter did their part and took a sofa off their hands. Then they hit Sonic for happy hour, and brought me a diet cherry limemade as proof.  I drank it with a small twinge of guilt. 

Now let’s just hope the sofa fits in its new spot when it arrives.  (They traipsed off without a tape measure or room measurements.  God love ’em both.) Next week I’m determined to keep us ALL out of the retail establishments.  Wish me luck!

Happy Monday,

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Say “china hutch” to any woman under the age of 40 or 50, and you’ll likely get a suppressed yawn. Or a look of disdain. Yes, of course there are women of my generation and younger who proudly display their wedding china in a china hutch, and it probably matches their formal dining table and chairs.

But some brides don’t place a lot of stock in traditional wedding china, and therefore don’t need to worry about picking out a big new formal hutch to put those dishes in. I was one of those brides.

Somewhere along the way, we stopped renting apartments and our homes started coming with a formal dining room. These rooms seem to cry out for a few pieces of furniture besides just the table and chairs. But my budget and tastes didn’t run to buying a massive formal hutch. What’s a non-traditional girl to do when faced with a decidedly traditional room to furnish? Sometimes, serendipity just strikes.

A nicely proportioned Edwardian period display case was sitting on the side of an Oklahoma road one day about a decade ago. My head instinctively jerked around as I zipped past, so I slammed on the brakes, turned around, looked it over…and bought it. Then I rushed home, grabbed our trusty big red truck and went back to pick up my find and haul it home.

Here’s the thing with vintage and antique pieces, especially those you might find sitting on the side of the road: they aren’t always in pristine condition and they don’t necessarily hold the oversize platters that are now sold as “dinner plates.” This can be both good and bad. It means you can buy vintage china and it will fit nicely in a piece of the same era. And being in less-than-perfect condition means you can do things like drill holes in the interior, something you wouldn’t do with a brand-new piece. And that’s just what I did–six holes to be precise.

I pre-drilled and mounted three brackets in the upper back piece of the cabinet. Why? To provide a way of suspending my teacups. A thin dark cafe rod (under $3) rests on the brackets and holds decorative “S” hooks. Depending on the number of cups I want to display, I can slide them around and adjust the spacing, turn them to face the front, or to either side. It’s a great way to show off the cups and it’s more flexible than installing hooks along the back. It’s also a lot safer than stacking the cups in topsy-turvy fashion on a shelf.

An alternative to cup hooks

wire “s” hooks

Inexpensive cafe rod mounted inside

wood dowel attached to suction cups

The second challenge was the lack of plate rails or grooves in the glass shelves. This one required a little more creativity, but I came up with a way to accomplish this without compromising the cabinet’s interior with any other holes or cuts. Two thin wood dowels (36 inches long, under $1 each mounted on clear suction cups let me create adjustable plate rails on the two glass shelves. To further protect the gold edge on the plates, I cut a 1-inch strip of clear rubbery drawer liner and placed it on the glass just behind the rail. It gives the plate edge a cushioned and non-skid surface to rest on, and it’s hardly noticeable.  (Acrylic rods are also available but more expensive – roughly $6 each plus shipping, unless you can find them locally in a craft/hobby store.  I couldn’t.)

The third challenge was to make my pieces visible, and the best way to do that was to lighten the color on the back wall of the cabinet. When I bought this piece, it had some very dated wallpaper pasted on the back wall. The paper was in poor condition, so the first thing I did was spend an evening gently removing it. I’ve loved the glow of the mahogany interior, but it is dark and pieces tend to recede instead of stand out against it. I discovered that applying printed wallpaper or fabric on the back of these cabinets is a pretty standard practice, for that very reason.

I really didn’t want to commit to wallpaper (neither to buying an entire roll, nor the idea of having to strip it off later) so I found a fabric I really like ($12/yard). It’s meant to look like Shakespeare’s handwriting and contains the names of flowers he mentioned in his sonnets and plays. Instead of just tacking it to the back wall with adhesive (I considered it), I purchased a foam 36″ x 48″ science fair display board (under $10) and cut it to precisely fit the back of the cabinet. Then I simply wrapped the fabric around the cardboard. After making sure it was as straight, I stretched it taut and glued it down. Now I can slide this piece in and out, replacing the fabric as often as I want to. (Fortunately, the glass shelves weren’t quite as deep as the space, so the 1/4-inch or so of the fabric-covered foam board actually helps fill a void and provides a little cushioning for the dishes.)

And there you have it: three easy and cheap ideas to retrofit a china hutch so it works the way you want it to.  It took this hutch from this:

the hutch before I began

to that:

the hutch after some work

Well, the violet dishes helped, too.  But that’s another story that started here and continued over here.

Happy decorating!

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Time to Strip!

My kind of stripping is exciting and a little dangerous:  it involves slowly peeling off layer after layer, until you get down to bare…wood.  Using chemical solvents and a palm sander.  (What were YOU thinking I meant?)

What am I stripping?  Dressers and bureaus and chester drawers, oh my.  (Hey, who knew they all mean the exact same thing?)  For whatever reason, throughout our marriage we have always crammed ourselves into one shared dresser, (plus closet space for hanging clothes, of course.)  I’m not sure why we’ve always scrimped on dresser storage. At various times, our bedroom has been too small for much furniture, but even when we have had plenty of room, we’ve always been constrained to 4 to 6 drawers. Which means the closet is often crammed full of things that would be better relegated to a drawer.  Things like t-shirts and sweaters. And socks.  Yeah, even socks.

When we finished our bathroom addition two springs ago, an added bonus was trading the wall closets for a walk-in, and gaining a blessed additional 28 inches of floor space along one wall – and it is usable wall space at that, no longer taken up by mirrored closet doors (shudder). Finally, this master bedroom was master-bedroom-sized.

I frugally shopped for a new platform bed (actually it’s a faux platform – our box springs are nestled within its frame) with a seriously comfy leather headboard. It was worth every penny I paid for it at S&E Consignment…and it wasn’t all that many pennies. The next bargain I scored was two night stands from World Market. (Another store that is near and dear); they were marked down and a coupon arrived just in time to knock another nice chunk off the tab, too. With those pieces, the room began to take shape – an eclectic mix of modern and East Indies, dark woods and green and fawn shades. Relaxing and streamlined. A heavily discounted Tommy Bahama duvet cover and shams (Overstock.com, you are da bomb); a man-sized brown slipper chair, new lamps and drapes completed the transformation from this:

to this:

Then it was time to consider storage. I searched high and low for a set of dark wood low and tall dressers.  I found a few I loved, but gasped at the sticker price. I found a few that were within my self-imposed budget, but they were flimsy. (Dear Target, You do many things well, but please understand that real furniture does not contain laminated plastic “wood grain” finishes or glorified cardboard anywhere in its composition. Hugs, Terry)

The 4-drawer tall bureau in the photos above has been our one-and-only for several years.  By my best guess it’s a circa ’30s or ’40s vintage piece, which we snagged from my grandparents estate sale. Nothing flashy, nothing trendy…just a very well-made, solid wood, mahogany-toned, clean-styled piece…and then the epiphany struck. What I was looking for was here all along!

AND we had the matching low 6-drawer dresser in our storage shed. That piece is a little more scuffed up than the 4-drawer tall bureau, but it is repair-able.  A few bucks for stripper and sandpaper, a quart of stain and a bit of wood finish, and voila.

And…that’s as far as the idea.  For the past year, the low dresser has sat in our garage, patiently waiting for me to start working on it. But last weekend, I decided the time had come.  So I suited up with ratty clothes and protective gloves, and slathered on the stripping gel.

As I finish each piece, I’ll post some before, during, after shots.  Maybe somebody can help me figure out the correct name for the style and period of these two pieces.

Happy (and safe) stripping!

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