Monthly Archives: January 2017

An Old Soul

I found this chair on the curb in front of a barber shop. I thought of all the people who must have sat in it and all the stories they had to tell. Maybe I was being romantic, but I felt that under its shabby exterior, there was an old soul.

I freshened the chair with a bright coral I created by mixing two parts Annie Sloan English Yellow and one part Emperor’s Silk. You really get to know a piece with the first coat of paint. Sometimes I’ll start with a coat of Pure White just to get a better idea of my “canvas.”

This time the paint highlighted an area where the rattan had begun to separate.

I removed the damaged back with a utility knife and was surprised to find yellowed batting underneath. It left me with  with an area that had to be filled in and covered.


I cut out paper templates for the back and the seat.

What followed was a series of “failures” that I prefer to think of as “learning experiences.” First of all, don’t upholster with carpet padding. Hey, I was trying to be thrifty. The foam rubber was too thin but at least it helped me make a sturdier template. (I used duct tape around the edges and used the utility knife to trim away the excess.)

The one and only winner, of course, was batting. And to cover the batting? Hmm, those are very nice curtains, aren’t they?

Confident that I could succeed with the upholstery, I added clear and then dark wax to the wood. There was the depth I knew was hiding in that chair!

I was careful not to wax the area to be covered because I knew from experience that wax resisted glue. (Wake Up Little Dresser!)

Time for the fabric.

“The moss-green velvet curtains felt prickly and soft beneath her cheek and she rubbed her face against them gratefully, like a cat. And then suddenly she looked at them.” – Margaret Mitchell, Gone With the Wind

Sorry about the book reference but it gives me a chuckle: Scarlet O’Hara made a dress from her curtains. I used mine to cover a chair.

I used spray adhesive to attach the fabric to the batting and the batting to the chair.

What followed was another “learning experience.” I learned that my talents do not include sewing chair cushions. I did, however, come upon a rattan-ish seat cushion at Bed Bath & Beyond.

By then I was spray-adhesive-happy. I traced the cushion outline onto my curtain panel fabric and cut around it with a good three inches to spare. Because I only wanted to cover one side of the cushion, I used painter’s tape to keep the spray adhesive off of the bottom half of the cushion.

Once the fabric was stuck in place, I trimmed the excess to the edge of the painter’s tape.

I rolled a bead of Unique Stitch (Time to Play Dress-up) under the fabric where it was a little loose on the edges.

All it needed was a bit of trim to pull it all together. I had some twine and used Unique Stitch to glue it along the curves on the back and also around the edge of the seat cushion.

I’m glad I was able to see beyond the surface of this time-worn chair. It already had a long and interesting life before I came along. That’s the beauty of it.

Bones, depth, character, soul…

What I learned:

  • When upholstering, use upholstering materials.
  • Curtain panels are a terrific source for fabric.
  • Art rejuvenates the soul.

Bloom Where You’re Planted

Betty and I had both grown up in the same Long Island town and stayed to raise our kids there too. Betty was as settled as a flower in her backyard garden. I almost fell off my chair when she told me she and her husband were going to empty-nest in an apartment in DC. That was a whole lifestyle away.  I wanted to add a little bit of garden to her terrace.

Because every garden needs a picket fence, I started with a wall hanging I wasn’t using.


It was cute but not used, so off came the birds and the hooks, to be saved for a future project…


…and on when two coats of Annie Sloan Pure White and two coats of clear matte polyurethane.

I’ve always been a fan of Mary Engelbreit and I knew it was Betty’s style too. I ordered fabric from Ebay adorned with Engelbreit’s artwork.


I cut designs from the fabric and decoupaged them onto the “garden fence.” The fabric worked very well on the uneven surface of the wood. Ann Estelle, one of Engelbreit’s recurring characters, reminded me of Betty.


The quote I chose suited the situation perfectly: “Bloom where you’re planted.”


But there was more to my wish for Betty to bloom where she was planted. I wanted her to plant where she bloomed! I wasn’t “hung up” on a solution for long.


I purchased a wall planter, spray-painted it white, and add some touches of Antibes Green.


I screwed the planter onto the faux fence. It was removable so that, if need be, the planter and the fence could be used (or not used) separately.


I had in mind that her gift should be compact, not only for use on a terrace but, as Betty downsized a house full of memories, easy to pack. I hope this mini hanging garden will help Betty grow new roots, and also remind her that she’ll never lose her hometown friends.


What I learned:

  • Fabric works well for decoupage on uneven surfaces
  • Bloom where you’re planted!

Time to Play Dress-up

Here’s the second step in my plan to liven up a corner in my living room. You can see the first part in If At First You Don’t Succeed.

I’m not a fashionista but sometimes a new dress with matching shoes makes me feel good about myself. It’s the same with furniture. This old chair I inherited needed a pick-me-up. The slipcover, like an old bathrobe, had to go.


The best thing about an old chair with a slipcover is what you might find underneath. Say for instance, perfectly preserved ivory silk upholstery. Instant new dress!

Matching shoes would come in the form of a coordinating footstool. I found the one in the size and shape I wanted  but the owner was stubborn about selling the pair.


I relented but in the end I was happy. It gave me a chance to try on two different outfits. The process of changing the look for each footrest was the same: replace the fabric and paint the legs.

Replacing the fabric:

  • Flip it over, remove the screws (keep them handy), and pop off the top.
  • Remove the nails or staples holding the old fabric in place with pliers and/or a flat-head screwdriver.
  • Reuse or replace the batting, depending on its condition.
  • Position the batting and backboard over a strategic area of your fabric
  • Cut the fabric wide around board, leaving plenty for the wrapping process.
  • Pull the fabric tight across the backboard and use a staple gun all around to secure it. Play with the corners to get the look you want.
  • Paint the legs
  • Re-screw the bottom to the top.

In this case, the footrest is painted with Antoinette over a coat of Paris Grey with the pink sanded down to reveal the grey. Then a coat of clear wax.

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Leftover fabric became matching pillows. I cut two identical rectangles, about 2 inches all around larger than the dimensions of the ottoman. I glued the pieces together, good sides facing each other, with a uniform line about a half inch inside the cut. I used Unique Stitch fabric glue, (but if you can sew, go for it. Don’t forget to leave an opening unsewn or unglued to leave room to add the filling. Turn it inside out, stuff it, and close up the opening.

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Chair legs can be painted to match the legs of the footrest. (A little Photoshop magic on the legs here.)

Now for the main ensemble, suitable for an elegant evening. First, on the legs of the chair and the footrest : two coats of Graphite and one coat of Black Wax.

A new dress (upholstery), accessories (a blue velvet pillow), sleek hose (painted legs), and matching shoes (a footrest), will help make this chair a stunner in the corner of an eclectic/contemporary living room.


Like the clothes we pick for a mood or occasion, the basic elements of shape, color and accessories define the “look.”

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What I learned:

  • Furniture style boils down to shape, color and accessories.
  • For seating, accessorizing can be as simple as a new pillow.
  • To bring an ensemble together, coordinate the colors.
  • Two new outfits are better than one!

If At First You Don’t Succeed

This little table is the first of a three-part plan to decorate a corner in an “eclectic contemporary” living room.

I knew right away the side table would be Napoleonic Blue because it would share a room with a dresser in the same color (The Tale of the Ugly Green Dresser).

I loved the Napoleonic Blue with clear and black wax.

I didn’t love the rubbed bronze metal on the legs and knob. I decided to paint them Old White and highlight the paint with wax. “If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again.”

Try number 1: Because it was metal I decided on a first coat of primer. In the end, it didn’t matter and I didn’t need it. But how do you like my high-tech method of letting the paint dry on a knob?

Try number 2 (below left): Old White. Boring.

Try number 3 (below right): Old White with clear wax and then black wax. Not bad. I could have applied even more black wax but I wanted to try another method.


Try number 4 (below left): Old White rubbed directly with black wax (no clear coat in between). Black wax on its own is more of a stain. It did have an interesting look, almost a silver tone on the white, but it still wasn’t what I was looking for. I took out the mineral spirits to clean off the wax .

Try number 5 (below right): This is what it looks like when you grab the wrong can and, instead of mineral spirits, dump a glob of paint remover on the paint you had so carefully applied. When I was done cleaning this toxic product off of my unprotected skin and calling myself all sorts of names, I took a look. This might be a method to catalog for another time. But not this time.


Try number 6: I gave up on the Old White and went to Graphite. This is the first coat.

Two coats of Graphite and an application of black wax gave me what I was looking for. What I really wanted was so much easier than what I thought I wanted!

The table, by the way, was one of a set of three I bought together. This is Charlie checking out my work. Charlie is the reason I have to watch out for dog hair in my paint.

Try number 7: Since the knob had been painted Old White and then Graphite, I sanded down some of the Graphite to reveal the white. I liked it. Finally, success.

What I learned:

  • Pay attention to the product label before you open it!
  • Don’t be afraid to experiment.
  • Mistakes are a learning experience.
  • Sometimes simple is best.
  • If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again.