Here’s my first video blog! I had a great time converting a vintage suitcase into a dog bed. Sometimes dogs are my favorite people!
Here’s my first video blog! I had a great time converting a vintage suitcase into a dog bed. Sometimes dogs are my favorite people!
Three big and beautiful industrial gears from Mike at Funk and Swagger Antiques in Huntington, NY got my wheels turning.
I knew the largest one, 17.5 inches in diameter, would become the top of a coffee table. Geared up for this big idea, I commandeered the base from an old industrial stool …
… and spray painted what would become the coffee table legs.
It looked a little boring so I broke out the Rub ‘n Buff wax, rubbing on patches of bronze and black.
The next problem was finding a way to secure the gear to the base. For this, I anxiously awaited the next meet-up of the Long Island Makerspace. It’s a group of people who, well, like to make stuff. We meet in a small industrial plant with access to, among other goodies, a 130 watt CO2 Laser Cutter.
Oh, I was itching for my turn with that baby! As a novice, circles seemed like a good start.
With a little help, I programed the laser to cut a few perfectly perfect circles from a melamine panel.
No, I wouldn’t be rounding up all of these disks for my gear table. I just needed the six “doughnuts” I’d cut. I frosted them with wood glue and stacked them up like a layer cake.
When dry, the glued layers received the same paint and wax treatment as the base.
Four existing holes in the base made an easy job of screwing the base to the melamine from underneath.
Not only would this laser-cut-layer-cake pull the base and the gear together, it would add a few needed inches to the height of the table.
The rough feet of the base needed rubber tips. I had to cut them with a utility knife to make them fit. Not beautiful, but they did the job.
Four screws with washers, camouflaged with a repeat application of paint and wax, secured the gear to the top.
In anticipation of the final step, I pressed eight self-adhesive plastic “buttons” around the rim.
There wasn’t a structural purpose for a center-hole design, but I liked how it looked.
For a little more bling, I iced the gear tips with Rub ‘n Buff bronze.
The final step is a 24″ inches in diameter, 3/8″ tempered glass top I purchased from Noel at Awesome Glass in Huntington Station, NY.
All in all, a piece of cake!
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?)
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.)
Thrift store find, $16.99!
The top told me it needed to be a backgammon table. (Furniture talks to me. Don’t ask.)
My backgammon idea challenged me for quite a while. I’d run through all kinds of color and design options in my head but none of them seemed right. It wasn’t until I took a General Finishes class at Suite Pieces that I knew glazing was the answer.
First, two coats of Annie Sloan Country Grey.
With a light distressing and some clear wax, I could have stopped there, but of course I didn’t.
For a two-tone look, I taped the edges of the top and the sides to get them ready for a glaze finish. The first step was a coat of Artisan Enhancements Scumble. Scumble is a water-based extender. It keeps the glaze wet longer so the glaze goes on smooth and there’s more time to “play” with it.
The Scumble has a sheen when it goes on. I tilted the table in the light to find the sheen and make sure it covered the entire surface that would be glazed.
I brushed on the glaze, a 1:1 mixture of General Finishes Water Based Glaze Effect colors Van Dyke Brown and Winter White. I used a chip brush to move the glaze in straight(ish) lines along the top …
… and across the drawer, and the sides.
I let the glaze dry overnight, then taped off the glaze I’d already applied. On went the Scumble and the glaze in Van Dyke Brown. Again, I used a chip brush to move the glaze in the direction I wanted. On the top, I followed the shape of the rim. On the bottom, I brushed downward and followed the line of the legs.
I changed the drawer pull and could have stopped then, but of course I didn’t.
I mapped out the backgammon triangles in Photoshop. I had a few different options to apply them. I could decoupage paper triangles, transfer images that had a triangle shape, make my own triangle stencil, or tape and glaze. I decided to tape and glaze.
I taped the table top and used graphite paper, pencil and ruler to trace my triangles onto the tape.
(I should buy stock in FrogTape Brand painter’s tape. I think I’m keeping them in business.)
I used a ruler and exacto knife to cut the tape around every other triangle.
I applied Scumble and Van Dyke Brown glaze. This time I brushed a cross hatch pattern, stroking the glaze first along the triangles and then across them.
In the photo above, you can see a little smudge on the bottom where I forgot to tape. I caught it while it was still wet, and wiped it off with a damp paper towel. The advantage to glaze is that it leaves a nonporous topcoat. Bare chalk paint would have absorbed that little goof and I would have had to paint over it.
The following day, I used my ruler and exacto knife to cut out the triangles that would receive a lighter glaze. I applied a fairly heavy coat of Winter White and with a damp paper towel, carefully wiped the glaze from each dark triangle.
Because the coat of white glaze was heavier, I removed the tape right away so that I could catch and wipe away any glaze that had seeped through the tape.
There were a few times during the process I could have stopped and still had a nice looking table, but I’m glad I kept going.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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;
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Another long strip of painter’s tape helped align the template and the (flipped) stencil on the opposite arm.
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.
I gave the rocking chair a long and luxurious test run by the fireplace.
Maybe I can give the rocking chair a new life by calling it a meditation device. Batteries not required.
What I learned: