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