Monthly Archives: March 2017

Just in Case

Be still my heart! Two wooden suitcases at Goodwill for six dollars each!

Fumigation not included.

I had a big idea for this small suitcase: A table when it’s closed and a vanity when it’s open. You know, “just in case” I need to freshen up.

I paired the suitcase with a table waiting for the perfect partner.

Stripping the inside of the suitcase involved experimenting with a few cleaning products. Goo-gone won first place in glue removal BUT it soaked through in some spots and darkened the exterior. Decision made. Paint!

Magic Eraser did such a good job cleaning up the trim and handle that I decided to leave it as is. Before painting, I taped the trim and the hardware.

The suitcase and table were graced with two coats of Annie Sloan Cream. In this “case,” I didn’t need the tabletop. I removed it and saved it for a future project.

I taped off stripes on the suitcase and added pink and peach highlights to the table. The pink is a combination of Emperor’s Silk and Cream and the peach is a combination of Barcelona Orange and Pure White. I don’t know the proportions. I just mixed until I liked the color.

It looked a little stark so I did some distressing and added images. Thank you to the Graphics Fairy and Diana Dreams Factory for the “Shabby French Roses Furniture Transfer.” The complete transfer is on the bottom shelf. I enlarged some of the elements for the top of the suitcase. Heirloom Traditions 1gel is a great transfer medium.

On to the “Just in Case” vanity…

I had some beautiful fabric and used a craft paper template to cut it to fit the back of the lid. I brushed the fabric with Mod Podge before the final cut. That made it easier to get a true cut without loose threads and it also helped align and decoupage the fabric to the surface

Before I glued the fabric to the suitcase, I cut an oval in the center about half an inch smaller than the mirror.

For more secure adhesion, I wanted to be able to glue the mirror directly to the the bare wood (and granite-like cardboard residue). To avoid sharp edges, I’d purchased an inexpensive mirror with a beveled edge

After the Mod Podge dried, I sealed the fabric with 1gel. 1gel is much more expensive but I find it leaves a harder, more protective top coat.

Gorilla Glue gel held the mirror beautifully.

To attach the suitcase to the table base, I needed a sturdy piece of plywood that fit inside the bottom. I was excited to break open my brand new jigsaw but I waited until my brother Jim was available for some lessons and guidance.

(I asked to borrow a sweatshirt. Apparently he only owns NY Giants sweatshirts. Worked for me.)

A perfect fit!

I rested the board on a smaller table and flipped the open suitcase on top of it. I screwed the table base through the bottom of the suitcase and the board at the same time. I’m sorry I didn’t take a picture. I was on a roll.

This is the flip-side after the operation was complete.

The interior came to life with another piece of fabric decoupaged to the board on the bottom and sealed with 1gel.

I used the same method for the trim that I used for the Pretty as a Peacock Chair. I soaked clothesline in water, then soaked it in paint, and hung it up to dry. No wax if you’re going to glue it!

I felt like Willie Wonka on the cusp of inventing bubble gum licorice.

“I am the maker of music, the dreamer of dreams!” – Roald Dahl, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

With a little extra help from Beacon Fabri-Tac, pink trim!

With repurposed clothesline, repurposed clothespins seemed the right choice for some handy hooks.

A suitcase side table…

with a surprise inside.

Just in case.

www.karenraelevine.com

Pretty as a Peacock

Call me crazy, but look what I picked up on the side of the road, in the pouring rain, wading ankle deep in a curbside torrent.

There were a few times in the course of this transformation that I thought my skill set would run a sorry second to my imagination, but I managed to pull it off.

Phase 1, The Frame:

The vinyl upholstery had to go, which left a problematic hole in the back (to be tackled in Phase 3).

I cleaned my “new” barley chair and because some of the wood was flakey, sanded it too. I took my fabric to Suite Pieces, my favorite place for inspiration, where I received many ooh and ahhs and some great advice: Annie Sloan Giverny and Provence.

Highlighting with Modern Masters Olympic Gold popped the details on the top.

I treated the whole frame to a soothing coat of clear wax.

Phase 2, The Seat:

As for the seat, all I can say is, Yuck!

The wooden base had obviously been a patch-up job.

The cushion was originally meant to sit inside the frame. My handy, helpful brother cut the board down to size.

I covered the board and two inches of foam with fabric, then pulled and stapled the fabric to the back of the board.

The fabric had been slated for a different project but this chair had “peacock” written all over it.

Phase 3, The Back:

Get ready for a long and sometimes painful operation.

Two generations of staples and some residual vinyl had to be pulled and pried from the annoyingly deep crevice. I did this before I painted.

Post-painting, using craft paper for an initial template, I cut a form of heavy cardboard to fit inside the gaping hole.

To make it easier to find the right section of fabric, I made a silhouette by tracing the form onto another piece of craft paper. I cut two pieces of fabric, about four inches wider than the opening, one for the front of the chair and one for the back.

I made a diagram of the next step because I didn’t dare lose my concentration by taking pictures. I basically sandwiched the board and some batting between the two pieces of fabric, attaching each layer with spray adhesive. I made sure the fabric stayed nice and smooth on both sides.

From the front, I pushed the fabric-covered board into the opening far enough so that the front-facing fabric was even with the front of the chair. This created a nice flat fabric-covered surface on the back.

A double layer of fabric, from both the front and the back pieces, poked out in front. I pulled both layers taught and pushed them tight into the crevice.

I used brads to nail the fabric to the chair because that pesky crevice was too deep for staples. The brads, I soon discovered, were too long to nail straight in — the first three poked out of the back. With that lesson learned, I nailed the brads in about a quarter of the way and used an awl and a hammer to bend them over.

Next, I trimmed away the excess fabric. I only poked my fingers with the utility knife twice. (There’s a reason I stay current on my tetanus shots.) If you try this at home, please be careful.

I needed trim to cover the raggedy edges. After a series of internet searches, I couldn’t find anything I liked. Necessity is the mother of invention. I bought a clothesline.

I soaked a section of the clothesline in water and then in a bowl of slightly watered down Giverney paint. I let it dry on paper towels until it wasn’t dripping and then hung it over a chrome shower curtain rod to dry thoroughly. (Don’t do this on a decorative rod because the damp cord will leave some paint.)

The cord was a bit stiff, but pliable. I didn’t wax it because wax and glue are never a good combination. I ran a bead of fabric glue and pressed the trim into place on top of it.

Inexpensive and a perfect match. I love a successful experiment!

Phase 4, Enjoy my chair!

After some touch-up painting on the back where the nails had poked through, my pretty peacock chair was finally finished. Paint me proud.

www.karenraelevine.com

Peace, Love and a Volkswagen Bus

My son always harbored the romantic notion of driving across the country in a Volkswagen bus. The trip never happened, at least not yet, but I never discouraged his dreams and imagination. At the advanced age of 22, I wasn’t sure Andrew would want it, but I decided to go ahead and create “mom’s version” of a VW bus.

It was a Pinterest post that sparked the idea and then, as fate would have it, I found the perfect little dresser.

I knew this project would require a good deal of measuring and planning. Between finding and ordering the right size accessories (like the lights and the VW decal), deciding where to paint and drill, and then the actual painting, it took about three months. Don’t get me wrong. There were plenty of pit stops on this road trip. I worked on other projects while waiting for supplies to come in and ideas to pop up.

A coat of Annie Sloan Pure White gave me a blank canvas.

My plan included changing and rearranging the pulls so that they were functioning design elements. I laid these out before I drilled the new holes: windshield wiper pulls on the top drawer, reflectors (wood knobs I painted orange) in the middle, and something resembling a grill on the bottom. I filled in the existing holes of the drawer pulls with spackle and sanded them smooth.

I drilled new holes for the updated hardware. Tip: Because I wanted the middle and bottom drawer pulls as low as possible, I drilled the holes from the inside of the drawer.

The top drawer had a double raised bevel, making it easy to tape and paint a Paris Grey windshield.

On the Paris Grey base, I painted rectangles in Graphite to resemble tires.

I’d left room on the bottom drawer for the headlights I’d ordered. The extra planning paid off because, although it wasn’t time to attach them, they were just the right size.

  

The biggest design challenge was creating the curved lines that defined the front of a two-tone VW bus. I taped a piece of posterboard on the front and made a freehand swoop with a pencil to draw a curve from the top corner to the bottom. It actually looked good on the first try. I cut the posterboard along my mark with an exacto knife.

I’d saved  the waxy paper remnant of peelable contact paper. The tape I’d apply would come off of it without losing its stickiness. I taped my template to the shiny side and traced the curve onto the paper.

I lifted the template, applied strips of painter’s tape over the penciled line, then put the template back down and traced the same curve onto the the tape. I cut the tape and paper together along the curved line.

After pulling the tape from the paper, I stuck it to the face of the dresser. It took some trial and error to position the somewhat wiggly strand of tape.

I flipped the template and I used the same method for the opposite side. I taped both the drawers and the frame in the area between the two curves.

I cut the tape through the slits between the drawers with an exacto knife, removed the drawers, and with Napoleonic blue, painted the base and the drawers separately.

 

***

There’s a reason I chose blue for Andrew’s bus. He’s colorblind. Blues and yellows are the most vibrant colors he sees. When Andrew was young, I was surprised to learn how many teachers knew little or nothing about a condition that would surely impact a child’s experience in the color-oriented world of early education. Because of Andrew and so many others who are colorblind (1 out of 12 boys and 1 out of 200 girls), I made it my mission to help parents, teachers and children understand and cope with color blindness. One result was the publication of my first book, All About Color Blindness: A Guide to Color Vision Deficiency for Kids (and Grown-ups Too!). It won a five national book awards, including Mom’s Choice.

***

Meanwhile…

I’d found the perfect peel-and-stick VW decal from Ebay and centered it on the center drawer. The decal and the stick-on lights answered the “wax or varnish?” question. Wax would loosen the adhesive and they’d all slide right off.

I chose a satin finish because a real VW bus has a little shine. I’ve had success with Polyvine wax finishes before and it’s my go-to for varnishing.

 

I positioned the headlights using the paper that covered the adhesive. The stickiness of the stick-on lights would have been good enough for use in a closet or drawer, but I imagined the front of this dresser would get a lot more action. I rolled off the adhesive pad with my thumb and attached the lights to the drawer with Gorilla Glue.

Because I wanted the lights to last as long as the dresser, the ability to change the batteries was important. A little twist freed the body from the backing and exposed the battery compartment. The lights turn on and off by pressing the front.

I’d spent a good deal of energy on this little dresser and it looked like it was ready to roll.

But does anyone love a car just because it looks good on the outside? This baby had to be good-looking on the inside too.

I ordered a US road map that was three feet long, just the right length to cut and line three 12-inch deep drawers. Mod Podge on the bottom was all the glossy paper needed.

I painted the sides of the drawers Pure White. When they were dry I added thin strips of painter’s tape and covered paint and tape with two coats of Graphite. When I pulled up the tape it had the look of white-lined roads. These pretend highways got a coat of varnish too.

And at last it was good to go.

Since Andrew is a college graduate with a grown up job and his own apartment, I thought he might consider this a bit too childish. I included a photo in a text, assuring Andrew that I wouldn’t be insulted if he didn’t want it. His low-key response made me smile. “I can take that off your hands.” My man-child was like me. He hadn’t lost his sense of humor or his sense of whimsy. Good news for both of us, I think.

www.karenraelevine.com