Category Archives: Furniture

Love Grows Here

This chair needed some love. And maybe some flowers. I imagined an outdoor planter for a certain house already filled with love.

I brightened it with Annie Sloan Burgundy. During the month I purchased the paint, Suite Pieces donated a portion to breast cancer research. I was already off to a loving start.

Because this chair would spread the love outdoors, I added two coats of polyurethane to the paint and the cane, sanding between coats. With all that detail, these steps took some patience. I knew that polyurethane could yellow, but even if it did, I decided it wouldn’t diminish the integrity of the color.

Dressing up the cane back was easy with pieces of a cranberry garland glued inside a twist-tie burlap bow.

My plan had been to cut a hole in the seat and insert a flower pot, but the cane was so sturdy I hated to break it. Because this could end up being used as a chair, I tightened some creaks with Krazy Glue. Letting drops of this glue seep into the joints isn’t the most professional finish, but it works for minor creaking, and I felt a quick fix was adequate for this chair.

I didn’t give up on the planter idea. I broke up a drawer ottoman I wasn’t using…

…and painted the drawer to match the chair. I drilled holes in the bottom of the polyurethaned drawer for drainage and glued strips of rubber shelf liner to the bottom so the planter wouldn’t scrape the seat.

The front section is a chalkboard created with three coats of Graphite with a light sanding between coats. I wrote a message that truly describes the home of my youngest brother and his family.

The chair and the planter could be used together or separately.

It was a gift from the heart and I loved my sister-in-law’s reaction when, during the big hug she always greeted me with, she spied the chair over my shoulder. Her jaw dropped and her eyes lit up. My brother’s reaction was just as positive but, as usual, more low-key. I knew they both loved it.

Lynda has changed the flowers with the seasons but she’s never changed the original message. Love really does grow there.

www.karenraelevine.com

Travel Buddy

What’s better than having a travel buddy who shares a love of history, antiques, flea markets, and four-legged friends?

Camilla and I live 400 miles apart, which means there’s a good deal of traveling that has to happen before we get together and shake up some dust. A great surprise for my BFF would be a funky update to a vintage train case I’d bought on one of our jaunts.

Out came the insides, including the mirror.

The fabric inspired the paint colors: Annie Sloan Florence and a pink concoction left over from Just In Case.

At first, I cut the fabric in the shape of the old liner, but I lost patience trying to glue a lightweight fabric into a cramped space. I took a different route.

I painted the interior, then cut pieces of fabric and thin foam to fit the bottom. (I thought it would be nice to have a little bit of cushion, especially if the case might hold a fragile flea market find.) I sandwiched the layers with spray adhesive.

I measured a length of fabric to wrap around the inside walls and cut the top of the strip in a wave, leaving only whole, jumping dogs at the top.

Honestly, because it didn’t have to line it up with top edge, the wavy cut made it a whole lot easier to position the strip and adhere it with Mod Podge.

Painted clothesline, also left over from Just in Case, neatened up the inside. I coated the whole interior with Heirloom Traditions 1Gel. [A note about 1Gel: It’s expensive. I only choose it over Mod Podge when I want a tougher topcoat. It’s also a good transfer medium.]

I created paper versions of the dogs by scanning and printing the fabric. I decoupaged the doggies with 1Gel and let it dry. To seal the paint and and create a uniform sheen, I gave the whole exterior a coat of (you guessed it) 1Gel.

I stuck on an oval mirror from Michaels with thick, double-sided tape. The clips in the corners are Gorilla-glued clothespins disguised by decoupaged doggies.

For reasons too silly to explain, I sometimes call Camilla, “Rosie.”  Behold a doggie train case a la Rosie the Riveter. The whole mish-mash kind of says it all.

Love ya, Rosie! Where are we going next?

www.karenraelevine.com

 

 

 

 

I Can Top That

Thrift store. Ten dollars. Need I say more?

First it got a good cleaning.

Then I took the top off…

and popped out the particle board insert. It took a little elbow grease to scrape off some of the glue it left behind.

I painted just the table top and the ball feet with Provence, and the rest with 1:1 mixture of Annie Sloan Duck Egg Blue and Provence. I tried Old White on the insert but decided to toss it all altogether. I had an idea for that gaping hole in the table top.

But first the wax. As usual, every surface got a coat of clear.  I wanted to highlight the details with dark wax but didn’t want the stark streaks it often produced. Before I brushed on the dark wax, I directed a hair dryer on the can, which gave me a little puddle of melted wax in the middle.

Brushing on a warmer, wetter wax helped provided a smoother effect. You can see my progress in the photo below. All but the leg on the right have a coat of dark.

Notice that I didn’t screw the top back on the base. I reimagined the tabletop as a removable tray.

I bought two of these handles on Ebay from a seller who had six of them. (I loved them so much, I went back on Ebay and ordered the remaining four, for future projects.)

Now to take care of that big hole in the tabletop:

I took the top to Cooper’s Glass and Mirror, and for forty dollars, the enthusiastic owner of the local shop had the glass cut and siliconed inside the grove. He even had it ready for me the same day! More often than not, artisans are happy, and sometimes even excited, to be a part of the creative process.

I glued felt pads (normally used for chair feet) to the bottom corners of the tray. These keep the tray from slipping around on the legs and it also protects the surfaces wherever else the tray might rest.

I love the subtle difference in the two paint colors and I also love the functionality of this table.

Imagine bringing drinks or snacks from the kitchen and having a handy place to rest the tray. Even if the tray stays put, it’s a pretty great side table. It’s hard to top that!

www.karenraelevine.com

Wood It Work?

I’m an empty-nester now and I have more time to devote to my new obsession with chalk paint. But even before chalk paint, when my nest was still full, I managed to find time for faux finishing. I had a happy reminder of those times when I came across a wood-graining tool I hadn’t used in I don’t know how long.

About the same time I had to decide what to do with an old Bombay table I’d moved from room to room over the course of three houses.

  

I started with two coats of Annie Sloan Burgundy, leaving the top for an experiment with my new old tool.

On the top, I used two coats of Annie Sloan Old Ochre for the base and let it dry.

Then I got together my other browns, Honfleur and Coco.

I made semi-haphazard strokes of Honfleur and Cocoa across the top with a chip brush, coming back with Old Ochre to tone it down when any of the spots felt blotchy.

I worked fast because the paint had to be wet for the next step.

The wood graining tool works by dragging and rocking it in horizontal lines across the wet paint. The graining will change by how much you drag or rock. For each pass, I started with a different spot on the rocker so the lines of grain it created wouldn’t line up.

I found myself holding my breath each time I made a pass with the graining tool!

When it dried, it looked too stark.

A wash of Old Ochre softened the faux grain.

Then the “wood” and the Burgandy got a coat of clear wax. I added a new knob and lined the drawer with a wallpaper remnant I bought at a garage sale for a dollar.

This beauty now has a prominent and permanent place in the living room. It’s gotten some oo’s and ah’s and I have to admit, I have fun showing off a bit by revealing that the top is actually painted.

Would you think it’s wood?

www.karenraelevine.com

The Golden Touch

My King Charles Cavalier didn’t seem impressed with the royal treatment the middle child of this nesting table family received in If at First You Don’t Succeed, so I decided to dress the eldest for a coronation.

With gold spray paint.

It looked as if King Midas had come for tea.

King Midas and the Golden Touch by Al Perkins, Pictures by Haig and Regina Shekerjian, Scholastic, 1973

To tone down the gold, I experimented with a wash of Annie Sloan Old White. The paint beaded on the glossy surface and I let it dry like that. It was an interesting effect but still left too much of a Midas touch.

Out came the Black Gel Stain. I applied it to the surfaces as if it were paint. Gel stain is oil-based and thick. I doesn’t behave exactly like paint but if you’re patient and let it cure between coats (in this case, two days), it leaves a rich and solid finish. It’s blacker than Annie Sloan’s Graphite chalk paint and it doesn’t need wax or varnish.

I learned from A Cup of Joe to Go to wear gloves and use a foam brush.

I wouldn’t take all the gold away from this rich little table. The metal base and pull, as well as the inside of the drawer, stayed golden.

The random raised pattern left by the beaded white wash gave this little prince some depth.

Quite regal.

www.karenraelevine.com

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

 

 

Better Than Watching Paint Dry

I usually tackle two projects at once so I can work on one while the paint dries on the other. In the middle of transforming a side table, I emptied an old laminate bookcase. Before dumping it curbside, I decided to see if it could be saved.

One coat of Annie Sloan Graphite covered the fake wood. Just that little bit of transformation put my creative wheels in motion.

I slid over the can of paint I had out for the side table and dipped a brush already wet with Annie Sloan Burgundy. I guess I’d call it “wet brushing” because all I did was brush it on. I kept my strokes light and straight and didn’t fill it in where the Graphite showed through. Where I thought the paint was too heavy, I wiped it back with a wet rag.

To be sure the paint stayed wet enough, I painted one section at a time.

I thought this bookcase still might end up on the curb…

…but the more the paint dried, the more I liked my quick little experiment. The muted color combo had sort of a mahogany look.

I didn’t think the cardboard back panel would survive the pressure I’d need to add a coat of wax. I left it alone and applied clear wax to the stronger surfaces.

(Two of my books are on the bottom shelf. You can learn more about them here. Read the story of the storage cubby on the left in Ode to My Favorite Veteran.)

The bookcase wasn’t the best piece of furniture I owned but it was a quick and easy job to hide the just-plain-ugliness of the “who are you kidding?” wood-look laminate.

Instead of tossing the bookcase, I’d used it to experiment with a paint technique. Not only did I save a useful piece of furniture, I applied what I learned to the more complicated cover-up of a project already in progress. (Stay tuned!)

What I learned;

  • Don’t be afraid to experiment, especially on pieces that couldn’t possibly look worse.
  • What you learn from experiments, successful or not, can be applied to another project.
  • Some people think that creative exercise is as exciting as watching paint dry — but I’m not one of them!

www.karenraelevine.com

Rock on!

An antique dealer told me rocking chairs were dead. Dead??? It seems as a society we’re more prone to hunch over a computer then sit back and relax.

But not all of us! When a friend spied my old rocker, she sank into it and closed her eyes. What was her favorite color? Blue. Old rocker, new paint, happy friend. Done deal!

First I tried Aubusson Blue but I felt it was too light. The nicks and scratches would remain part of the character of the chair but wouldn’t be as prominent with a darker color. I chose Napoleonic Blue.

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It turned out the rocker needed more glue than paint. It was obvious that it had already been glued a few times in the past. I used wood glue where I could and squeezed Gorilla Glue Original (like Krazy Glue) into the smaller joint crevices. It wasn’t always pretty but it held the joints well enough to quiet the creaking.

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I somehow managed not to glue my fingers together.

A girl scout song helped me choose the accent color. “Make new friends but keep the old. One is silver and the other’s gold.” After two coats of Napoleonic Blue, I gave my old friend a wink with touches of gold.

First up, a gold stripe on the spindles. I positioned two long strips of Frog Tape (my favorite painter’s tape) in nice even lines across the bars, then cut in between so that I could wrap the tape around each spindle.

gold-stripe-horizontal

The gold paint of choice was Modern Masters Metallic Paint, Olympic Gold. At Suite Pieces, I got a little friendly advice about this paint.  It works well over chalk paint but direct application to wood requires more prep work. It’s oil-based and needs mineral spirits or paint thinner for clean-up.

I stenciled a leaf design on the left and then flipped the stencil for a mirror-image on the right. Positioning was trial and error but as you can see in later photos, I think I got it pretty close.

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I used the same stencil for gold leaves on the arms. I made my own design using two different leaf shapes on the stencil, and cut a paper template to make positioning them easier.

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Another long strip of painter’s tape helped align the template and the (flipped) stencil on the opposite arm.

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How did a picture of my mother’s hand get in there? Oh, that’s my hand.

I hand-painted some gold lines in the grooves of the legs and crossbar and gave the whole chair a coat of Clear Wax.

legs

I gave the rocking chair a long and luxurious test run by the fireplace.

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Maybe I can give the rocking chair a new life by calling it a meditation device. Batteries not required.

What I learned:

  • Gorilla (or Krazy) glue helps bond furniture joints that can’t be removed.
  • Modern Masters Metallic Paints are oil-based and are easily applied to chalk painted surfaces.
  • When combining stencil elements to create a unique design, cut out a paper template to help position them.
  • Take some time to sit back and relax.