Tag Archives: Emperor’s Silk

Portable Potables

I wanted to make a portable, compact bar unit to help my son entertain in his small apartment. The designs I came across reminded me of the media cabinets my generation used to organize VCR tapes. And I found one.

Outdated storage units tend to be inexpensive. I like inexpensive.

The cardboard back needed to be replaced with sturdier particle board, and for ease of painting, I took the doors off too.

It was so much easier to paint everything separately. If I had nailed the panel to the back and then painted, I would have had a lot more pesky corners to deal with.

The colors of choice were Annie Sloan Emperor’s Silk and Graphite.

For the bottom and exterior I wanted a deeper black. For this I used Artisan Enhancements Scumble and General Finishes Glaze Effects in Pitch Black, making long even strokes over the paint with a chip brush.  Scumble keeps the glaze wet longer so there’s more time to “play” with it. (You can read more about this glazing technique in Backgammon Anyone?)

Exterior of the cabinet doors. One door with black glaze and the other without.

To give the interior some shine, I sealed the red paint with Satin-finish General Finishes Topcoat.

After letting the black glaze dry overnight, I was pleased with the dark, textured look.

Fortunately I was able to put the whole thing back together again.

Two additions I made were casters and handles. The handles (large cabinet pulls) help maneuver the rolling bar, and they also make a convenient place to drape a towel.

I included a fifth caster in the front to keep the unit from tipping forward when the doors are open. To keep the glasses from sliding around, I cut up some gray rubber shelf liner to fit the shelves on the doors.

A fun addition was motion sensor lights.  Double-sided tape adheres a metal strip to the surface (one under the top and one under the shelf). The metal attracts and holds the magnetized light. The lights can easily be taken out and put back in. Instead of batteries, they recharge with a USB port.

Setting the lights to motion-activation means the lights will go on when the doors were opened. Fun!

I’m sure my (very) responsible son will enjoy the storage and versatility of his rolling bar cart. And I know exactly what he’s going to ask when he reads this. The answer is, “Sorry, David, the liquor is not included.” (He’ll get a chuckle out of that.)


(P. S. Not that I wouldn’t mind, but I’m not paid to endorse any of the products.)


From New York to London

I’d been on a suitcase kick and I wanted to try a trunk. As it happened, there was one waiting for me at a thrift store! I decided on a fantasy excursion to the birthplace of the Beatles.

I gave the whole trunk a light sanding and filled in some nicks with spackle.

I used a foam brush to apply black gel stain to the trim and hardware, and while I was at it, I went ahead and coated the whole exterior. Gel stain doesn’t cover metal completely. It leaves a bit of a distressed finished that I like. The trick always, when using gel stain, is to give it plenty of time to dry.

On Pinterest, I found a guide to painting the Union Jack.

To prevent painting over my treated trim and hardware, I had to tape it. I used an exacto knife to trim the tape so that the tape only covered the metal. This had to be done in two steps: once for the lid, and then again for the base.

I started with a coat of Annie Sloan Napoleonic Blue on the lid. For the red and white stripes, I chose Emperor’s Silk and Old Ochre.

It sure was easier pulling the tape off the trim than it had been applying it. And that was just for the lid. I still had to tape up the trim before I painted the base!

When the trim on the base had been taped, I continued the stripes down the front, back and sides, even painting the front handle.

I decided on bun feet for my British box. I purchased the mounting plates and the feet at a home improvement store. The mounting plates are designed to be used with different styles of “quick mount” feet or table legs.

Since the wood bottom of the trunk wasn’t thick enough to hold the mounting plates, I cut triangles of scrap wood and glued them to the corners with wood glue. (The paint cans pressed the wood together while the glue dried.)

From the bottom, I screwed the mounting plates into the trunk and through the wood triangles glued inside the bottom.

I gave the bun feet two coats of Emperor’s silk and screwed them into the plates.

I coated all of the painted surfaces on the outside with clear wax. The Emperor’s Silk on the interior pressboard didn’t need a sealer.

Closed, the trunk is a fun coffee table or linen chest.

Open, it’s a display and storage piece for an entryway or mudroom. Either way, it’s a treat for anyone who loves Great Britain or the Beatles!

From New York to London, “With Love From Me to You.”


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.

City Tree, Country Tree

I wanted to give special gifts to two different people, separated by miles and styles. My “city” friend lived in a small apartment and my “country” friend would be bringing his gift home on a plane. Their gifts had to be small and portable.

It felt like one of Aesop’s fables…

country-mouse-city-mouse-scott-g-detailDetail, The Country Mouse and the City Mouse by Scott Gustafson

For my human friends, I started with $20 flat-packed wooden trees from Crate & Barrel.

bare-1 bare-2

This project required very little paint, and I used the paint I already had.

For my country friend, I painted the branches with Annie Sloan Amsterdam Green.


I brightened it by painting the little leaves with Antibes Green and the star with Emperor’s Silk. (I forgot to take a picture with the red star).


I loved the look on my husband’s face when I asked him to pick up a bottle of white nail polish. Time to polish my nails? Nope. Time to make some snow.


Nail polish on the branches was fun because it created raised, shiny snow on this country tree’s branches.

For my city friend, it was modern all the way. First, Pure White, then a repeat of Emperor’s Silk on the star, and sprayed all over with silver glitter.



I cut some beads from of a red garland (it’s shown in a couple of the previous pictures) and stuck them to the branches with tacky glue.


It was quite a balancing act to keep those beads in position while the glue dried. I had to play go fetch more than a few times when those red balls rolled out of reach. Much much better to use a hot glue gun.

Aesop’s fables always ended with a moral. The moral of this story is that style, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.


Which one would you choose?

What I learned:

  • For small projects, try to use the paint you already have.
  • It’s fun to paint with nail polish.
  • Style, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.

The Orient Express

I had an old Pier 1 cabinet and my husband needed a new night stand. Here was the perfect opportunity to paint, refurbish and reuse.

The cabinet had an Asian look and a nice design but the color was boring and some of the paint was chipped. My idea for it was ambitious. Not only would I paint it, I would add a custom design.



The color it called for was Emperor’s Silk, a beautiful deep red. Even the name sounded Asian. I made it darker, mixing two parts Emperor’s Silk and one part Graphite.



After two coats, it was time to add the decoration. Because I’m not exactly a fine artist, I sat down with my computer and found just the right stock art to buy and copy.


It was more complicated than I wanted but I knew I could break it down. I may be middle-aged but I’m no stranger to computers. I’ve been working with them since we used card punches for computer programming. If you’re not familiar with these, click the link and have a laugh.

I broke down the image (an Adobe Illustrator file) to the piece I wanted to use and resized the design. I copied and flipped so that I would have two mirror images, one for the right side and one for the left. Because they were taller than the standard 11” paper size, I had to print each of them out on two pages and tape them together.

bamboo-decoration-copy             bamboo-decoration-copy-right

Time to dig out my trusty graphite paper. I used painters tape to attach both the graphite paper and the image. I left a flap so that I could lift both and check my progress. I traced the image on the paper with a sharp pencil. In the image below, you can just about see the transferred outline on the left side.

Check your progress. If the graphite paper is upside down you’ll waste time transferring the image onto the back of the paper. Check once in awhile to make sure you didn’t miss a spot.


Once I had the outline transferred, I used paint pens to color in the lines. I was like Kindergarten, only a little more nerve wracking. Paint pens are good for smooth lines and color but, being oil-based, they are not as forgiving as crayons.

I wasn’t too worried about the details. A rough rendering of the flowers, for instance, would be pretty enough.



When I was finished, the front seemed like it had too much blank space. I added, using the same print and trace method, the Chinese symbol for love, borrowed from Google images and checked by Google translate. Those of us who have dropped a pile of carefully ordered pile of 1980’s card punches never take Google for granted.

With a sigh of happiness, I applied a coat of clear wax. The result was good but not great.


It needed a coat of dark BLACK wax and I applied it hesitantly, hoping it wouldn’t take the pop out of the design. No worries. Not only did the dark wax create more depth, but it settled in the grooves of the faux bamboo edges and showed it off very nicely.

Pier 1 table dark wax 3

I didn’t have to do a thing to the knobs from the original piece (except not lose them). They were perfect.

bamboo-after-front  bamboo-1

Mission accomplished!

What I learned:

  • If you can’t draw, trace
  • Go easy with the paint pens. Mistakes are hard to correct. Use a gentle touch with the side of the nib.
  • Waxing over paint pens is not a problem.