Tag Archives: restoring

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……

Ketchup Isn’t Just for Fries

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The brass, vintage feet from a mid century chair, was in desperate need of polishing. Now I’m sure everybody is thinking, ummm she is going to write a whole blog post about how to use brasso?! And my response is simply no. Brasso is great, don’t get me wrong.  It will polish brass quickly and remove the grime, the patina….and the look of 70 year old brass.  So I used my own advise I give customers…polish them with Ketchup.

What I started with

What I started with

Sounds gross I know, but the acid in Ketchup works wonders on cleaning the tarnish off brass (and silver).  Having never used the ketchup method on anything but faceplates (and didnt want to stain my carpet) I went about it a little differently.  Poor Dan watched in both awe and horror.

Step 1: Using warm soapy water, gently clean the brass.  It might be that you like the look of the piece once the dirt layer is removed.

Step 2: Lay the dry brass on a rag (I would use a dark colored one since the ketchup will stain) and goop on the ketchup.

Step 3: Practice the P-word (patience) and let the brass and ketchup sit and “marinate”.  The longer it sits, the more the acid will break down the patina (my feet which probably had never been cleaned/polished/loved took over being soaked over night, but I’ve seen it work in as little as 10 minutes)

Step 4: After the ketchup has sat on the brass and helped break down the dirty, tarnished patina,  rinse it. Grab a clean lint free rag and start polishing.

Polishing took a while; even if i’d used Brasso, polishing would have taken awhile.  They were REALLY bad!! But the end result was great!

Check out those legs

Check out those legs

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

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!

Partially Complete, Totally Happy

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When it comes to projects, I like to only brag about the finished ones. This is because if I bragged about EVERY partially finished project, I would spend my years bragging and not finishing. There is nothing like the rush I get when that project is complete and I get to cross it off my list. But every now and then a project is so massive, that, well bragging rights are deserved at the mid point.

The point I realized it was the cabinet or my sanity

The point I realized it was the cabinet or my sanity

The Craftsman Cabinet  has been a massive undertaking. I have stripped and stripped and stripped some more! I removed literally a 1/2 inch of paint from some places! It was fun to see all the colors my 100 year old cabinet had been. I then needed new hinges because I may have broken the not so original ones.

This WAS what it looked like for several months

This WAS what it looked like for several months

This was an epic adventure all of its own because I couldn’t replace the hinges with matching ones because I could not find them! So Dan had the great idea of doing different hinges. The ones I fell in love with were high end reproductions and were perfect…but not for $125. So I went to my work, grabbed a handful of the same style hinges and stripped the paint off, only to discover I had half brass and have steel hinges. I swapped out the brass and repeated the process. Because the hinges were different than the original Dan had to make the hinge grooves larger. I reattached the hardware (and added a few extra knobs).

Then replaced the top with premium old growth lumber from work. I sanded the whole thing several times and its partially complete!! In my mind, its no longer the eye sore of the corner (because I can close the doors and it’s clean again), paint will come eventually (I have the colors picked out in my mind). But for once, I’m trying to be happy with partially complete.

A rare view of the cabinet without the cat on it

A rare view of the cabinet without the cat on it

Pardon the projects…

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I was doing soooooooo good at not taking on another project until I’d completed one. Ok, lets be honest, I was doing soooooo good at not taking on another project until one was close to being finished OR I could find a place to hide one from Dan. Dan wants to send me to PA (projects anonymous), he thinks I need help. But I can prove to him otherwise! And I recently did.

After a giant melt down earlier this week about the state of the apartment and the fact the projects are (once again) taking over, I was positive I would NOT have another project until ONE WAS FINISHED!! But it must be said the Universe hates when I say that! Because not more than two days later I’m sneaking a project into the apartment. I have always wanted a coffee table/foot rest.  But I always go back and forth on if I have room for one. I have have several different ones in the space but nothing worked.

A secret bench with turned legs FINALLY came out of storage.  I have been eyeing this bench for almost 2 years and as soon as it came down it was in my car! The color was perfect! The distressed wood I love, in colors I love, and it was small and the perfect size for my house. I bring it in, set it down in the space and before I have a chance to say anything, Dan’s feet were up on the table and he goes on with his life.

The bench moments after entering the apartment

The bench moments after entering the apartment

Perfect! It’s a keeper!! And it was a simple fix! It only needed a new plywood bottom, 3″ foam, batting, and fabric for the cover (I wanted a POP of color and bold patters, Dan did not, so we compromised). The cats and Dan are happy and I can rub it in about how I DO finish projects!! Well, sometimes…

The fabric compromise

The fabric compromise

Must be a keeper

Wait I didn’t make a cat bench…

My finished product (though it will probably be a cat bench more often)

My finished product (though it will probably be a cat bench more often)