Category Archives: Apartment Love

A Tale of a Vintage Metal Bistro Set

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A Tale of a Vintage Metal Bistro Set

To say I’ve been obsessed with upholstery is an understatement. Its hard not to get passionate when the universe keeps providing signs that this is what you are supposed to be doing! And I will take the signs of cute, all be it sad and neglected, free pile furniture as a sign.  Dan would be quick to tell you its a sign of a future episode of Hoarders. But I take it as a sign I’m supposed to give life to once grand pieces.

When my neighbor moved out at the end of July and her vintage metal bistro set was up for grabs I knew it was left for me. Dan and I, very ninja like, swiped the table and chairs and carried it up our very steep drive way into the apartment.
The score of the summer PRE me working on it

The score of the summer PRE me working on it

Once in the apartment I examined the project. There are two bistro chairs with cute legs and a matching bistro table, all with a fair amount of surface rust but overall very study. Two very gross, smelly, cushions.  But the cherry of the set was the glass! The round glass top was in perfect condition and in tact! Working in a salvage yard, I have learned that the glass is the most sought after piece because without that the set is worthless. I had the set and the ambition. Now if I only knew how to clean surface rust off metal.
a close up of what lay ahead of me

a close up of what lay ahead of me

Table actually looked worse than the chairs...

Table actually looked worse than the chairs…

After some research I learned to clean surface rust you can either sand the metal OR sandblast the metal. I wanted to sandblast it! I watch the restoration shows all the time and it didn’t look THAT hard.  Sadly to say, it was going to be far too much work to sandblast the chairs and table. I was going to have to do it old school and sand the set.
But I am one smart gal and on my way home from HomeDepot, I had 2 sets of sand paper for metal, steal wool, gloves, and of course face masks.  SAFETY TIP: Do NOT sand metal without a mask! Breathing in the metal particles is bad for the lungs. On my way home I picked up some beer, I had no intentions of sanding the set alone and I knew Dan would need a little persuading, After one movie, a pack of beer, and lot of sandpaper, the set was sanded and ready for painting. I went with Rustoleum Shell White and a clear gloss protective coat.
Perfect for a vintage-y look

Perfect for a vintage-y look

I was at a loss for a cushion fabric.  I knew I wanted it to be a neutral fabric for easy resale but I still wanted it to have personality. While I was home in Eastern Wa visiting my mom, we found ourselves at the fabric store and there on the flat fold table was the perfect fabric: a blueish teal, Sumbrella outdoor fabric! Best part? It was on SALE! I snapped it up and in a day had 2 cute new cushions.
Check out the legs and curves!

Check out the legs and curves!

I ordered new feet for the set and got rubber glass bumpers but the rest was all down hill.   Once it was complete it was ready for sale.  Sadly (or not too sadly as I’m still not sure I want to sell the set) I didn’t finish it in time to sell before the end of the season.  At the moment, it is being stored safely in my storage unit waiting for the promise of warm sunny days ahead.
Secretly want it for my house ;)

Secretly want it for my house 😉

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Let a little light in

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Let a little light in

As every body knows I kind of have a thing for up cycling and re-purposing.  I also have a thing for decorating my apartment. Recently, while changing my decorations to early spring (pinks in February and greens in March) I needed an easy to change centerpiece for my table.  So I was constantly keeping my eyes out for the “perfect” item.  At work I love the light fixtures known as “bare bulb” lights.  They were  used in the early 1900’s and these beautiful fixtures (also known as pan lights) had decoration in the sides and in the fixtures but no glass shades over the bulbs.  The idea was that if you were lucky enough to have these fixtures in your house you were also lucky enough to have these fancy new things called a light bulb.  And by showing off the light bulb you were showing off your luck. But what strikes me about these light fixtures if how detailed they can be and how most look like flowers.

The bare bulb light mid way through paint removal

The bare bulb light mid way through paint removal

As I was putting away a new stack of these fixtures (all badly broken, heavily painted, and less than perfect) it struck me.  The single light fixtures could be used as candle holders! I grabbed three of my favorite ones and started to strip the paint. I then swapped out the fairly nice light sockets for ones that no longer worked with my lighting lady at work.  Because why do I need to have working sockets hold candles on my table? Once all the paint was removed and sockets placed inside I became kind of sad, the metals of the fixtures weren’t very pretty.  So i bought a very pretty purple can of spray paint (Krylon Rich Plum) and spray painted a nice solid color on the three fixtures.

Just something about "rich plum"that says it all

Just something about “rich plum”that says it all

They were still missing something.  That’s when I took them to work and showed my coworkers.  My lighting lady pointed it out almost immediately flowers aren’t one solid color, they are several colors. So with a lighter lavender and a pink we spray painted the tops at an angel as the paint just glazed the fixtures.  Adding depth and color to my new flower candle holders.

A close up of my candle holder

A close up of my candle holder

My candle holder with Easter decor

My candle holder with Easter decor.

Mid Century Glory

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Around the apartment there are items we date with the letters BD (Before Dan).  I started doing this because I honestly can’t remember when I got an item/project . I can remember when I got it based on my relationship with Dan.  Right around the the time I met Dan, I acquired an amazing mid century teal chair. It was perfect! This sexy little chair had its original teal vinyl upholstery, dark stained legs, and brass feet. The moment I saw it I knew I had to have it! I had no room in the apartment for it, and my Mom who was with me when I fell in love, only encouraged me in to needing it. So the chair came home with me.

As it would be pointed out by Mr. Practical Dan I was wearing rose tinted glasses (seeing a pattern with me?). The chair wasn’t perfect. The upholstery had two giant tears in it, the legs were in desperate need of refinishing and the brass fee…to the untrained eye would have thought them to be rusty steel. But it was “perfect” and found its way into my living room where a blanket would cover the tears. Fast forward 2 plus years to December of 2014 when I discovered a new passion…Reupholstering.

My "dead" chair moments after class began

My “dead” chair moments after class began

This is something I have wanted to do for a while but never got around to.  So as a Birthday/Christmas present to myself I paid for an upholstery class.  I walked into class that first Monday of December with my coffee and chair and was ready to get down to business.

We started by removing all the staples, tacks, and nails in the original upholstery.  For my chair it went quickly (others were not so lucky) and within an hour I was on to the next step, buying fabric!!

I was panicked! I had no idea what fabric I wanted. I was worried the fabric would only look good on a small scale but over a whole chair, it would be tooo much. I was stressing and finally narrowed it down to two fabrics. Good old inny-minny decided the chair’s fate and I began cutting out the pieces needed to put my chair together. I left the first day of class in LOVE!! I was enjoying it soo much that I couldn’t wait for the next class.

The first of the two fabrics I considered for the chair

The first of the two fabrics I considered for the chair

The second and BEST option of fabric

The second and BEST option of fabric

Weeks two and three flew by in a blurr of stapling, laying out fabric, cotton stuffing, and sewing chair welting.

My chair without its teal

My chair without its teal

Here's the chair in the process of being reborn. I mean rebuilt

Here’s the chair in the process of being reborn. I mean rebuilt

My chair was coming together nicely until it came time to repair the chair itself.  Over the years, one of the wood joints had popped out of its socket and needed to be pushed back together. Sounds simple enough..WRONG!!! I bought a bar clamp to squeeze it together and used Dan’s muscles to tighten the clamp to apply even pressure to pop it back into place. Within moments, the bar clamp was bowing and creaking while the chair wasn’t moving at all.  Then, the clamp handle snaps off because we were cranking it too hard. Quickly, we grabbed a wrench added it to what was left of the handle and tightened the clamp and chair together. Add some wood glue and let it sit for several days (neither of us wanted to pull the clamp off) and it was ready to be finished.

 

Almost finished

Almost finished

 

Check out those legs

Check out those legs

As I walked into class for week four I was both sad and excited.  I didn’t want my class to end, yet I couldn’t wait to see my chair finished. Within 3 hours it was complete! It even has a dust cover on the bottom! You know the piece isn’t from Ikea when you have a dust cover! I have to say, I’m pretty proud of myself and my chair! And I can’t wait for spring when I can take another upholstery class!!

oooh lala

oooh lala

Cat tested! and Approved

Cat tested! and Approved

The Age Old Question…

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When refinishing my chair, I not only had to pad and reupholster it but I had to do something with the wood itself. The chair and wood weren’t too terrible just really worn and dull. Which, if I was a 70 year old chair I would probably be dull too. Since I had everything off the chair and it was just a wood base/legs I figured now would be the time to do something about it.  So I spent two nights hand sanding the frame down to the bare wood.  It is important to note, IF one is staining wood a darker color than what it currently is, it does NOT need to be sanded perfectly down to the wood; just the top coat needs to be sanded off. Since I was unsure of the end wood color, I did a complete sand.

Once it was sanded, I stopped by Home Depot to pick out a stain.  Since it is a mid century chair, and mid century is known for dark, rich woods (especially mahogany) I decided to go with Varathane “Red Mahogany” stain.  I got home and was all ready to stain.

The Stain

The Stain

Do I stain my chair with a brush or with a rag? You ask anybody who has worked with stain and they will both tell you it depends on your comfort and the size of the project. I did my research and found that since my chair was round and had smaller work areas, I went with a rag. I dipped my rag in the stain and started slowly working in a downward motion (so I would always been wiping up drips and the drips wouldn’t ruin my work). I did the first coat alone.

My "excited to start" look

My “excited to start” look

Dan was worried that the color in the jar was too dark but after the first coat, he was shocked and impressed.  I ended with three coats of stain, to make it look like mahogany.  I then added a clear coat for protection and to give it that nice finished look.

Working hard

Working hard

 

Getting all the little spaces

Getting all the little spaces

 

I would quickly realize its better to move than to reach over wet stain

I would quickly realize its better to move than to reach over wet stain

I then added the clean brass feet, and took it to class to finish the upholstery.  Everybody kept oooohing and ahhing over it. Now Dan wants to refinish all the wood in the house mahogany……

My love for Nativity Scenes

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When I was a little girl I loved to help set up my family’s nativity scene. The Nativity Scene was a gift from my Dad to my Mom and every year he would give her a new piece to add to the scene, which in turn gave me another piece to play with…I mean set up.  I was so into “setting up the Nativity scene”that it changed daily and mom had to rubber band baby Jesus into the manger so he wouldn’t get lost….

Fast forward a few years its safe to say I still love the nativity scene and I still secretly love playing with it. I now have several, a hand made one from Mexico, a recycled paper one from Africa, and one that every year my Grandparents add to.

My growing set from my grandparents

My growing set from my grandparents

Each year I get just as excited as I did when I was a little girl about setting up my Nativity Scenes.  I arrange them all several times until they are perfect! And every time I see a cool set in a store, magazine, or at somebody’s house I have to stop and admire the beauty (and secretly wish I had a spot for another set).

This set was a birthday present and it was made in Africa

This set was a birthday present and it was made in Africa

The other night while I was laying in bed cruising Pintrest I came across a board with tons of pins for nativity scenes.  I instantly became wide awake as I drooled over each and every one plotting my next move! And then I found it, the cutest handmade, wood nativity people ever! So what did I do? I went to work the next day dug through the lumber rack, found me some materials and made me one (and a barn because I can’t have baby Jesus getting wet and sick).

 

The newest Nativity

The newest Nativity

What once looked like a coffin..

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A  little over a year and a half ago Dan and I had the conversation about him moving in with me.  It just made sense, I had a big enough apartment and he basically already lived with me. While I have never doubted that it was the right decision (after all we did get married) at the time, it scared me.  Having lived with a boyfriend before and it not ending well, I was nervous; scared shitless would be a better way to describe it.  Plus I had been living solo for 5 years, I’m not the easiest person to live with and now Dan was wanting to move into MY SPACE!! Every reason I could think of for keeping him out was debunked until I found the perfect reason: “but where will your clothes live? You don’t have a dresser and I don’t have room for another one. No room for clothes! No room for you!” That worked for a few weeks until “The Coffin” came into my possession.

“The Coffin” is a 1930’s art deco, wood locker that was heavily painted a DARK DARK DARK brownish purple black color.  It has the beautiful straight lines of a vintage locker and really funky deco hardware.  This amazing piece of furniture was brought into my bedroom where there was NO room and smashed against the wall.  That one piece took an open feeling room and made it wall to wall furniture. I was not happy.

check out this amazing hardware

check out this amazing hardware

Before I could begin to strip this piece (or even find a good spot for it) I had a nightmare from watching scary movies and I woke up to this HUGE DARK MASS looming over me, much like a coffin with a vampire in it would. THEN out of nowhere the door creaks opens and out pops one of the cats. Can you say scared?! Needless to say that was the moment it went from being a cool wood locker to the “coffin”.

I took the door off to make it visually lighter. Then I rearranged the bedroom so the “coffin” would fit better. I used bleach to wash the inside because it had a wonderful smell of rotting flesh….I mean mildew…in it. Once it was clean (ish) Dan put his clothes in it and that was that.

I have been slowly stripping the the paint from the coffin…I mean locker…with the idea we would repaint it, making it look clean and new again. Dan’s request was green (something manly) and I had the idea it needed to be a classic gray. Once it was stripped I realized under all the layers of paint as beautiful clear vertical grain fir.  So we thought about staining it and being done. Sadly the wood had been damaged by the paint and it needed to be repainted.
We decided seahawks green (I do live in Seattle afterall) and a mid level gray. We painted it over a long weekend, added the gray chevron shelf paper while watching a movie. Dan’s clothes went back in about 4 days after we started painting it.  I love that this once dark coffin esk piece is now a bright happy (but still kind of adultish) piece.  I guess Dan can now move in 🙂
The finished Piece....I lost the "Before" pics when the computer died

The finished Piece….I lost the “Before” pics when the computer died

look how nice his clothes look NOT on the floor

look how nice his clothes look NOT on the floor

Please Don’t Look at The Mess

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Did you know a goldfish will grow to be the size of their bowl? The bigger the bowl, the larger they get. I am a bad goldfish! Over the course of 5 years, I have grown to fit my space.  When I first moved, my place was empty and huge as it should be coming from a 400sq ft place and moving into 875sq ft. I had to pare down when Dan moved in last year but I only did what needed to be done for him to move in.  Like most people I don’t like getting rid of MY stuff and I especially don’t like others (like Dan) helping me go through my stuff! It’s MY craft area, MY fabric, MY shoes; YOU stay out!

Due to not paring down enough, both of us acquiring more stuff in the past year, and wedding gifts, I lost a corner of my apartment. I could not handle it any more! So, WE sat down and discussed our options. We came up with two very viable ideas 1) we could move to a bigger space or 2) WE, as a team, could cut down on what we had.  While the first option was a fun idea, it wasn’t practical. So the team started to clean.

I was amazed at how easy it was as we finished the bedroom and hall closet in a day, the bathroom in an hour (we do not need to buy shampoo for a year), the kitchen in a day (the reward was getting to use new wedding gift pots and pans) and our storage locker in just 30 minutes. Not only was it easy, I felt satisfied to take the stuff to the GoodWill and know that it would be used and not collect dust in my closet.

My NEW favorite cupboard! Its nice not having Tupperware fall out at you

My NEW favorite cupboard! Its nice not having Tupperware fall out at you

All of that was easy! And with each area cleaned, the dreaded stacks became smaller and smaller until I could once again get into my craft/project area. That’s where I wanted to stop! But the TEAM (ie Dan) said if we were in cleaning mode we needed to finish and clean that area too. So he picked up a bottle or two of wine and we started.

The moment we "found" the part of the floor near my craft area

The moment we “found” the part of the floor near my craft area

It’s not finished, I would say the space is 85% complete. But what makes me happy about this whole process is that a year ago HE had to clean out HIS stuff to move into MY place.  I had to clean out MY stuff in MY space for HIM. Now we are cleaning out OUR stuff in OUR space.  It’s team work and everything is better as a team….OUR team!

My favorite picture from the honeymoon in San Fransisco

My favorite picture from the honeymoon in San Fransisco

Sunny in Seattle

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As a Seattle-ite I have learned the true meaning of beautiful summer days. It is rainy, gloomy, over cast for what feels like forever and a day (more like 3 to 4 months but who’s counting) but with that first day of sunny 70 degree weather my life (and all of Seattle’s) is instantly better. We LIVE for these wonderful sunny days and when it hits every patio seating area, garden store, and park in Seattle is full of sunny, happy, smiling faces. It’s pure heaven!

Several months ago  was the first 70 degree day of the year and my heart (and head) has been racing since! It’s time for outdoor projects!! I started my outdoor life with my plants and garden but had been on the hunt for the perfect outdoor table.  I decided I would make one! I have to say I always sound so optimistic! *in upbeat voice* why buy a table when I can spend MONTHS making one?!

As soon as I put it out to the universe that I needed a funky bistro sized table, the universe responded with a SWEET decorative wrought iron bistro table base at my work. I quickly learned that a base would be the easy part of the challenge.

Sweet legs ;)

Sweet legs 😉

Now I needed a top. Traditionally it would have had a round marble top. But lets face it, I am a lot of things, but marble is not “Me” (plus I cant afford it). So my coworker and I started thinking out side of the box and tried many different wood/Formica/glass/even windows on the base. We found the correct square size but the materials were still off. I left work defeated BUT had a base and a jumping off point.

As I drove home it hit me! A past coworker made tables and frames out of lath.  My work happened to have a bunch of cool, weathered lath! Lath is a thin narrow strip of wood (normally fur) nailed to rafters or studding in an old house as a groundwork for plaster.  We don’t get lath in very often; it is very labor intensive to pull because the plaster must be pulled off first. But because I’m lucky, we have a garbage can FULL of it.

Lath but not least!

Lath but not least!

The completed table top.

The completed table top.

So with the help of wood glue, set nails, the work Chop-Saw, and help we built the FIRST table top.  Note to self do NOT use brand new 2x4s for a frame.  Not more than a month in the hot sun and my table framed warped REALLY badly. So back to work I went with a “ruined” table that sat in the office for a month until my coworker and I used the premium lumber (old growth, resawn fir) and built my lath a new frame. FINALLY a table top that wont warp. I sent a few nights pouring resin into the top. Attached the heavy heavy top to the base.  And now I can truly enjoy my porch which is good because it has been HOT in Seattle.

 

A little romance on a hot summer night

A little romance on a hot summer night

Love at first light

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With all the craziness going on these days (work, wedding planning, life) it’s hard for me to listen to the universe and all that is tells me.  This past week it FORCED me to stop and listen.
My apartment was built in the 1940’s and has an amazing open floor plan that was hip to the era.  It was updated in the 70’s and hasn’t changed much (unless it NEEDED it) since. The apartment has charm even without my funky, eclectic style.
The major problem in my apartment is lighting. THERE IS NO CIELING LIGHTING OUTSIDE OF THE KITCHEN! This means my living/dining/office area is withouth over head lighting, which is fine because I’m not a fan.  I have gathered a rather large collection of accent lighting (mostly table lamps of all eras and style) but no matter how much lighting I put in my space, the dinning “room” remained dark.
I always imagined the original idea of the apartment was to have sweet, new fangled swag light above the table. I have always kept my eyes open for the piece that would finish the space.
At work about a month ago, this adorable mid century light came in.  It was gold and had colored poka dots on it (oddly enough the colors are the exact colors and shades of my apartment) AND it was a swag light.
I got a new phone so all the original pic of the lamp in the store is gone :(

I got a new phone so all the original pic of the lamp in the store is gone 😦

I fell in love but for some reason I didn’t buy it. I thought about it for a week and when I decided to buy it, it was gone!!! Somebody had bought it (or so I thought). Last week it came back into the store! It had been rented for a movie set and had finally come back to…another customer!!! It was not meant to be mine! But now I knew what I wanted! I went home and searched the internet and found one that could work. I went into work the next day AND that damn light had come back to the store AGAIN!!! Before anybody could take it away from me AGAIN, I bought it and made it mine! We went IKEA to buy a new swag light kit and hung it the moment I got home.
It is love at first light…I mean sight 😉
Now I wont eat in the dark again!

Now I wont eat in the dark again!

Where projects WENT to die

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It’s the running joke that without my car’s trunk I would be lost.  Before I moved into my current apartment, the trunk served as a closet and shoe storage (my apartment didn’t have a closet).  Now it is not so fondly referred to as the place projects go to die.  One day, I was planning on using the tools at work to complete a project (which did not happen). Next thing you know my trunk is FULL of projects that I needed to do something with. This past week I got mad because everybody started teasing me. I cleaned out my car and evaluated ALL projects that I had completely lost interest in! Then I picked the easiest project!

Check out my oversize stair spindle candle holders!!

The end result

The end result! Minus where they will be in my house

It started as 3 angled stair spindles (forgot to take a picture of them at this point). I then used the chop saw to even the tops and cut the spindles into different lengths. I cut square bases from them to sit on (mostly to help balance them).

At work playing with ideas.

At work playing with ideas.

I sanded the spindles to get a smooth, paintable surface.  Then I spray painted!! have to tell everybody, I SUCK at spray painting so I bribed a coworker to do it for me!

If only I could spray paint this nice!! This is 2 coats in

If only I could spray paint this nice!! This is 2 coats in

Once everything was dry (2 spray cans and a clear gloss coat later) I nailed the bases on, used 2 part epoxy to glue the glass candle trays onto the tops and TADA!

Then I played with different candle rings. They don’t have a permanent home YET; a girl needs to have her options 😉

While I did NOT end up with this style is was still kind of pretty ;)

While I did NOT end up with this style is was still kind of pretty 😉

Can't have raffia because my cats will eat it

Can’t have raffia because my cats will eat it