Wednesday, August 11, 2010


When you build a big house, everyone has furniture you can "have." And when I hear "have," what I really hear is "ugly." One of the things I received was an old china hutch (that matched the dining table that replaced the picnic table we were dining on in the kitchen. Yes, a honest to goodness picnic table!) It spent a good couple years floating around the basement until I found the perfect project for the piece! Here is my inspiration...

...and this is where i started.

(It was taller but in this pic the legs had already been cut so this cute bench
would fit neatly under my bedroom window.)
This was my first semi-professional furniture re-purposing so bare with me if I include way too many details...

Step 1:
Take off all hardware. Mine had locked doors which literally took me days to pick open and after they were opened I vowed never to put them back in but install generic knobs instead. Removing knobs and hinges may sound elementary but too many times I have rushed through projects neglecting this step and left the final piece looking sloppy. May I suggest collecting all screws and hardware in a ziploc bag. I'll admit that is usually my number one rule but I skipped it until I was halfway through this project and realized I had lost one drawer pull. (It was in the kitchen by the way...)

Step 2:
Sand it. Do you own a random orbital sander? Get one. Love mine. We do this to roughen the surface so the paint will want to stick and not peel off the first time it is challenged. (Again, another step I have unfortunately left out and deeply regretted later.) Start with a lower number sandpaper, say 60 or 100, and sand it once. Then a second sanding with a high number, like 150 or 220. I just used what I had.)

Step 3:

Wash it. Just soap and water, nothing fancy. You want it to be free from sanding dust and storage cobwebs. Now you are probably looking at something like this and wondering what have I done? Push through.

Step 4:
Paint. This is where a few bucks came in on this fantastic remodel. I splurged and bought paint. Usually I use what I have but since I had a picture in my head what I wanted the final product to look like I needed dark paint. I always have tons of paint brushes and foam brushes. You want to make sure to get paint in all the wood details which is why a variety of brushes is a good thing. I did three coats, two of which were in the dark which is probably why it even needed three. You could probably get by with two. I also spray painted the hardware. Now I am begining to see it.

Step 5:
Up until now, these are expected and standard steps in refinishing. Step 5 is to sand again. Hear me out. To give this piece character and interest, I took sandpaper and strategically hand sanded places where normal paint ware would occur, Places like around edges and raised surfaces, corners too. Trust me.

Step 6:
Paint detail. First I sketched it on paper and then drew it on the bench with chalk. Brilliant. Now you can erase with a damp cloth! Mix some paint with whatever colors you have. Something contrasting. Since my base was dark I chose a much lighter shade for the detail. Free hand paint your design. Stand back and admire your creativity! You are amazing!

Step 7:
Put hardware back on. Find ziploc bag with all the parts and pieces. Aren't you glad you didn't skip this step?

Step 8:
Move your beautiful piece to its home! Admire daily.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Why We Do, What We Do

Stuff. Yes, STUFF. Stuff has literally been on my mind. Try to follow my train of thought if you will. I wanted to share all the trash picked and used items we have received in the last week.
  • 8 - 4"x8" Plexiglass windows
  • 2 - mostly wood nightstands I hope to re-purpose to suite my needs
  • 1 - broken dresser
  • 1 - van full of baby clothing and toys from a cousin visiting out of state
While I love free stuff and depend on it actually. There is a point of no return. Do I really need to trash pick a broken dresser? Is it worth the time to fix it? Will I use it? Do I "NEED" it? I might for all the children's clothing I have. But as I sorted through the clothing, I realized that I have more than my new baby could ever possibly use or need or WEAR! Why do I keep this STUFF?

Re-purposing and recycling stuff is part of what is "green", "sustainable", "eco-friendly", and shall I say it? "Trendy". I hate being "trendy". But I do believe in the concepts mentioned. I believe that we are called to be good stewards of the Earth and everything in it. It is our responsibility and duty to others and ourselves. In addition, it is a necessity for our family pocket book. For example, if we want a fence around our yard we do the work to salvage two old and discarded decks.

At some point though I have become a bit obsessive. I force myself to not take home kitchen scraps from my parent's house because they don't compost & cringe over every container, no matter what kind, I throw out thinking about what I could possibly use it for rather than pitching it. Never mind that I have zero place to store them in the meantime. Our house is small. Under 1000 square feet and lacks good storage.

But becoming a pack rat is not practical or responsible. I don't want to keep "STUFF" just to have it. The dresser will probably end up back in the trash after the drawer tracks have been removed to be reused (just remember it was someone else's trash first) & much of the baby clothing and toys donated to a non-profit after my other cousins have a look at them. I will continue to weed through my stuff and keep what I need and find new homes/purposes for the rest but the truth is that our family has much work to do to continue to be "sustainable", "green", and "eco-friendly".

To help keep me focused I have visited some helpful websites and close this post by sharing them with you.

The Story of Stuff - The title is self explanatory.

A Throw Away Culture - A UK site but my Graphic Designer self really enjoyed the icons and layout of this site.

Ecological Footprint Quiz - My footprint is misleading but I couldn't find the original carbon foot print quiz I took years ago and liked much better. According to this quiz if all people lived as I do we would need 3.54 Earths. However, I would dispute those results (to be discussed on a later post - maybe).

Please feel free to share how you deal with "STUFF". What motives you to live with less? What ideas do you have for re-purposing old stuff.
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