Refinished Antique Dining Chairs

This post is about a project completed three years ago and it’s a prime example of my Never-New mentality: I dragged my parent’s set of antique garage sale chairs through three moves because I didn’t want to shell out the cash for new ones someday. I mean, it was a set of 6 gorgeous ladder-back chairs, complete with 2 captain’s armchairs! Who in their right mind would throw them out?

Sometimes I miss that old Victorian house, look at those gorgeous pocket doors! *Sigh*

OK, they looked much worse in person. I fully intended to refinish them but it wasn’t a priority. Well, moving time came around again, but this time Mr. Never-New said they weren’t going to be Tetris-packed in the U-Haul as ugly as they were. So I had to act.

Silly ol’ me thought this would be a walk in the park. I was wrong. I will never, ever, ever do anything like this again. Projects of this magnitude are the real test of a relationship. These chairs had so much more surface area to them than it seemed and each inch of it was a pain to reach. We (it went from my project to our project in a hurry) We used Mostenbocker’s Lift Off to remove the old finish since it was “environmentally friendly”. Well, we tried, using it. And tried and tried. It turned the old shellac finish into sticky, non-water soluble goop, despite the “warm water” clean-up instructions on the bottle. As referenced in my French coffee table post, use Klean-Strip if you want to finish your project quickly AND put some hair on your chest!

After removing as much goop as we could, we sanded down to the bare wood, used wood conditioner to prep for stain, then stained, sanded, stained, sanded, applied a polyurethane finish, sanded and applied a second coat of finished before we were done. Was that last sentence exhausting to read? Good, then you get the idea. Don’t try that at home without at least considering an easy paint transformation. If I could go back, they’d be painted now.

But they do look quite lovely and they are a breeze to reupholster.

Next week you’ll hear about that French blue writing desk!

Furniture Feature Fridays

Decoupage Vintage French Tables

I just gotta say, I have a super-duper mother-in-law. She’s the best and she gives us furniture. And not just brand-spanking-new furniture for house-warming gifts, she also gives us furniture that I can paint!

She was updating her living room and she gave us her old coffee and side tables. Oak finish, faceted glass inserts, very chic in the early 90s. In fact, my husband played with his Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on those tables. (He’s on the edge of that photo playing video games so not much has changed.) They are wonderfully solid and still have another 50 years use in them. These tables didn’t need an update, they needed vintagefication! I was going to throw this look BACK to a French provincial style.

I unscrewed the table tops from their respective bases and stripped the poly finish off with Motsenbocker’s Lift Off Paint & Varnish.For the record, I was kinda “meh” about Lift Off. I’m an impatient person and I’ve come to prefer the “heave ho” power of the nasty, stinky, tear-through-nitrate-gloves, make-your-skin-peel kinda stuff – Klean Strip Paint Stripper! Disclaimer: Use it with legit chemical gloves.

After stripping and sanding, I stained the tops with True Value’s Dark Walnut stain. Now it was time to use – THE PAINT. I’d heard so much about Annie Sloan Chalk Paint but I was nervous about using it because it’s so pricy. My fears were allayed almost immediately. It’s the easiest product to work with and it’s very forgiving. I painted the table bases with Old White, distressed and used some dark stain to bring out the details.

We used them for a while with the original glass inserts but I wanted to make a bigger change. Well, that and I HATED cleaning them. Mummy-in-law Dearest is a very neat person so I’m sure this was a non-issue for her. However, her son and I can be utter slobs. I had to vacuum the glass before Windexing it or crumbs/grit/whatever would get wet and lodge themselves in the millions of tiny grooves.

I wanted a flush, no hassle, just-wipe-it-down table top. I intended to replace the glass with hardwood-veneered plywood and stain it, but alas, plywood is fickle. The pieces bowed in a matter of hours once they left the dry conditions of the Home Depot warehouse. I wanted so badly to have a solid wood table top but I gave in and bought MDF, which is stable but doesn’t stain well.  Mr. Never-New manned the jig-saw for me and cut the pieces to size; not that I can’t do it, he just wants to keep digit loss to a minimum in our family.

The MDF panels didn’t exactly pop right into the spaces, there were gaps that I had to fill with putty. I used Durham’s Rock Hard Putty rather than my usual go-to Minwax Wood Filler just because I needed something that would withstand a lot of abuse. Precision work here, really:

Mr. Never-New came up with the final design idea. I have a book of vintage poster reproductions and he suggested that I pick a few and decoupage them onto the panels. Well, he didn’t say “decoupage”, few straight men do, he said, “glue some crap down, or something.” I love him. He even trimmed them to size for me with the utility knife. Where does he get the impression that I don’t work well with sharp objects? *2007 ER flashback* Uh, nevermind…moving on!

I wanted to achieve a plastery-finish, like I tore the real posters down, wall and all. I laid the paint on really thick to achieve some extra texture.

Now I had a blank canvas to work with. Here are a few good tricks for getting clean paint lines from Centsational Girl.

Three coats of Hard Finish Mod Podge followed by three coats of Minwax Polycrylic finish and these newly vintaged tables were ready to grace my living room with retro/modern Frenchiness.

Left to Right: Jules Cheret “Palais de Glace” 1899; Maurice Neumont “Guiet et Cie” Electric Automobile, 1899; Henri Privat-Livemont “Bitter Oriental” 1897.

Francisco Tamagno, “Terminus Absinthe” 1892

Furniture Feature Fridays

Wedding Ring Pillow

A friend back home will be getting married soon and knowing the avid knitter that I am, she asked that I make a little sweater pillow for the ring bearer to carry down the aisle. I kinda took that idea and ran with it. I knew I couldn’t efficiently knit a non-chunky looking pillow (think size 2 needles and 200 stitches a row) so I found a soft knit sweater in the appropriate color and tore it apart.

Now, keep in mind that I tend to jump into things and I’m still reminding myself to stop and take better “in-progress” photos. I’d already taken my pillow form and fit it snugly against one existing side seam to get the party started. I trimmed the bottom ribbed band off to keep a straight line and ran it through the sewing machine. Now I had two sewn sides to this pillowcase and from there I simply machine sewed the third side, flipped it right side out and hand stitched the whole business closed. Phew.

Next up was the trim which I made by layering satin ribbon, two pieces of lace (back to back, scalloped edges out) and another bit of pearl/lace trim. First I tried to stitch the lace directly to the ribbon but after several unsuccessful attempts to fine tune the tension settings at the machine I muttered, “Screw it,” and whipped out my bottle of Aileen’s Tacky Glue.The pearl trim covered the center seam from the back to back lace pieces and gave it a bit more glamour. Ms. Bride-to-Be’s motif was cream lace and pearls so I was on the right track.

The original plan was to cut ribbon and lace “petals” from the leftovers and construct a fluffy layered flower but the ribbon kept shredding and the lace wasn’t cooperating either. What was I to do? “To the craft store!” I exclaimed, hands in fists upon my hips. I brought home the biggest, fullest and flattest silk flower I could find, pulled the plastic stem and stamen out and hot glued it down in a flash. I made the replacement flower center from the pearl/lace trim with the pearls pulled out. I wish I had thought to take a photo of this next part – with the pearls removed, the lace had a ladder-like pattern to it, I weaved the ring tie ribbon over and under, gathered the lace into a bunch and glued it down.

Those are our rings in the reveal photo, by the way. Mr. Never-New’s and mine. We didn’t have time to designate a family toddler for this sacred duty so the best man held on to our rings.

Dude, Are You Sure?

What was I talking about? Oh, yes, a lace and pearl knitted ring pillow in the chosen colors of cream, violet and sage. Voilà!

What’s that, you say? This is perfect for your upcoming fall or winter wedding and you wish you could have one made up in your colors? That’s what I thought you said. No worries; skip over to my Etsy store and shoot me a message with your ring pillow wish list.

By the way, Mr. Never-New was sure.

As for me, I didn’t have the presence of mind to grab my bouquet for the return trip, which is why you see the “crap, what am I missing”  look on my face. Now you see why I forget to take  “before” and “in-progress” photos all the time.

Mystery Baby Sweater

Just about every woman I know is pregnant right now. One of them is having baby #3 and wanted the sex of the baby to be a surprise. Now, would I knit something green or yellow and call it a day? C’mon, now. This is ME we’re talking about. I went for a simple pullover hoodie (no buttons to avoid the whole blue/pink issue) and adorned it with button-on crocheted details. All Mummy Dearest has to do is pull of the inapplicable appliqué:

You’ll have to excuse the passenger seat photo shoot – I was in the post office parking lot ready to mail this out before I realized I didn’t have any pictures of this!

I used this pattern from RedHeart but I worked in stockinette instead of seed stitch and used a worsted, non-fuzzy yarn. To get the pattern, click on the adorable baby. You know you want to.

For the girly accent, I used this pattern from SkaMamma’s Bone Hook. It has a spicy special stitch that makes for a full, fluffy flower.

Side note: I wanted to do a dual superhero theme but I could not find any distinguishable female superhero logos (at least those that were not piggybacking on their male counterparts)…would you like to know why?

Boobs, dude.

With all that cleavage it’s not easy to showcase a crest, and let’s face it, where else would it go? Poor Batgirl is the only one with a logo and 1) it’s not original to her and 2) she’s only able to let three square inches of her skin breathe.

Moving on… I chose to crochet the Captain America shield icon because of it’s sheer simplicity and clean lines. I made a star using this pattern then made a simple circle, switched up the colors to complete the look and stitched the star into place. I know it technically needs one more row of white but I was running out of space on the tiny baby sweater tummy.

To make sure it wouldn’t be a hassle to remove one of the appliqués, I sewed on buttons small enough to fit through the sweater stitches.

Breaking News: It’s a boy. Time to move that flower onto something for Mommy.

Thrift Store Drawers to Shoe Shelf “Trunk”

As long as my husband and I have been married our living room has always had a pile of shoes by the door. So when I spotted this short chest of drawers at Goodwill, I knew it was destined for shoe storage.

I fell in love with the rustic bail pulls!

It was $10 marked down from $15; what a deal! But this guy was too far-gone to be called “rustic”; more like “fugly”. There were chips chunks missing from the corners and a big gouge along the back edge of the dresser top. The drawers were wobbly and the runners were broken. I had intended to glue, clamp and nail them back into shape but I got a crazy idea – chuck the drawers altogether. But what about that amazing hardware??? I chose to slap the pulls on the sides and go for a trunk look.

First things first; sand all surfaces smooth and patch up with wood filler! I used my favorite, Elmer’s Stainable MAX Wood Filler. It’s extreme!!! Not really, it’s just pretty darn great.

It even works well to secure peeling veneer.

Here’s what the filler looks like after being sanded and stained…it’s not even noticeable unless you know where it is.

Since I was planning on chucking the drawers (a decision based chiefly on the existence of a sound plywood insert that I could use as a shelf) I removed the broken runners.

I almost ran out to buy a new bottle of my old stand-by, Restor-a-Finish, but I still had tons of dark walnut stain so I just used an old dishrag to rub the color into the wood. I didn’t apply it like a regular layer of stain – which you’d normally apply, let sit, then remove the excess – since I was only freshening up the finish, I rubbed it on and immediately mopped up the rest.

The stain brought out all the dings and highlighted the nail holes which I love; it was starting to look legitimately “rustic”:

As you can tell from the dangerously half-hearted attempt to shield the floor from debris and stain, this was a spur of the moment project. I was about to tidy up the living room and when I came to the aforementioned pile of shoes by the door I snapped. Well, I digress…back to business. The plan was to line the inside with contact paper but I couldn’t find any patterns that I liked and after contemplating how much wear and tear this piece would endure, I landed on burlap as the perfect solution: $3.99/yard at Hobby Lobby with a 40% off coupon! I only needed two yards. Score!

There is a trick to cutting burlap; the weave is pretty broad so using this technique will keep the cut straight and prevent the fabric from fraying. Pull a thread out where you want to cut and drag it out of the fabric itself, you’ll be left with a nice straight line to follow. I loved doing this, I didn’t even really use a measuring tape.

Aileen’s Tacky Glue is amazing, it allows for some movement when applying fabric and I highly recommend this over hot glue for this task. However, the glue seeped through the burlap and got all over my hands while I worked.  If you choose to attempt this yourself, a damp rag will help remove the never-ending buildup of sticky burlap fur. I mention this so causally, you’d never know that I was muttering curses under my breath as I tried to work with Grinch-like fluffy fingers.

A hot glue gun and some jute rope covered the raw burlap edges. Another Hobby Lobby find, $4.99 minus 40% off.

The sides of the chest weren’t thick enough to support the hardware brackets so I pried the wood facing off the drawers to bolster them up. They got the same sand and stain treatment then I used them as a template to drill the holes for the hardware. I just centered and went to town with the drill. There was no need to otherwise fasten the wood pieces to the chest, the hardware did all the work.

A little Brasso polished the hardware up beautifully. I know I was going for a rustic look, but the dark tarnish made those amazing pulls disappear into the woodwork. Now there’s no way you can miss them!

Here it is!

A little trick I figured out; placing shoes facing toes out versus the heels out takes this look from bowling alley to boutique. This is by no means all of our shoes (chuckling to self) just the ones that get the most wear (and most often end their day by the front door).

Here’s one last look at the big picture;

chest of drawers turned into a rustic shelved faux trunk!

Total Cost: $17.79!

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