Friday, May 31, 2013

Mid-Century Salvation: Refurbished Banker's Chairs


A couple of years ago I was at an estate sale at a mansion in Midtown and saw the chair on the right. I thought it would be too much trouble to get it down the street and into my friend's car, which was pretty packed already with treasures collected from the several stops we'd already made. Still, she knew that it was something I would later be sorry if I passed on and she insisted that we'd "find a way." I purchased it for $15.00 and a burly guy offered to carry it to the car for me. Let's face it, the real attractiveness about men is their ability to lift heavy things and kill bugs. But let's don't tell them. Things were rearranged and into the trunk it went. Last year my elderly neighbor passed away and his family placed the chair on the left in the garage amongst things to be given away. They had reached that point I"m familiar with. I'm done. Take it away. I'll PAY you to take it.  It's been on my carport ever since. But this, this is the spring of fresh starts, so in it came.


The chunky mid-century hardware that would now fall into the Steampunk category was a rusty dusty mess, but it was my favorite thing about both chairs. I like a challenge. As long as it's not too challenging.


 I used a soybean based product to clean up the hardware, scrubbing it with a toothbrush. There were plenty of places too small even for that to be much of a help so I relied on a handy tool I love for tiny cracks and crevices. I use canned compressed air that is made for computers to clean all kinds of things around the house besides electronics. Intricate carving on furniture or picture frames and tops of books are a couple of places I use it all the time. I've used it on silk flowers, topographical maps, and anything delicate in nature that I don't want to handle much when cleaning. Which, once I have the can in my hand, I find is pretty much everything.


Sanding, sanding, sanding. I'm making it sound hard so you'll think I'm some kind of hard core wood restoration purist. I think by now we both know I'm lazy.  In reality each chair took less than 15 minutes.


 I am a violent decorator. In my zeal to get the chair out of the house I crashed it into the threshold of the back door and knocked off a wheel...part of the leg came with it.



Luckily it came off with a little groove left in the leg and was easily repaired with some wood glue.

Disaster averted. Now for a finish...

What to do? What to do? I thought they would have looked fierce painted butter yellow, tangerine orange, or lime green, but in the end the lines and wood grain won out. I decided to punch them up with the darkest stain I could find. I used Minwax Ebony. I felt like staining them and returning them to their natural beauty was the way to go now.


refinishing a vintage bankers chair



 The chairs were very similar, but there were slight detail differences like the lines and hardware.



It's a little humid here today so I'll have to put off adding a coat of polyurethane until a dryer day. But I love how chic the dark finish looks without them being painted black.


Mission accomplished!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Salvaged Frame and Travel Art Project

travel art using maps


I rescued an antique frame from a neighbor's house who was throwing it out. You know how I love upcycling some trash to treasure.


It was nice, but sadly some of the molding had chipped off. Actually some parts of it were falling apart. I decided to use wood putty to fill in the best I could and paint it white since it was destined for my new Scandinavian inspired bedroom.



 I can never have enough maps and am a maniac about collecting them when I travel. You could easily use a canvas for this project. But of course in true 99% form, I used what I had. The only thing I purchased were the letter stickers.



 I started by placing the map on the back of the frame. I didn't Mod Podge it until I knew which part would show through the letters. I eventually had to cut another one to cover all the writing on this one. The next step is to take a yard stick and map out a grid of where you want the words to be places. Straight lines are a must for this project!

Then I added the words. I used the names of my favorite foreign cities but you could use street names from a favorite destination of yours, or places you hope to visit someday.


I taped off the frame and covered it with plastic bags to protect it. Can you find the spelling mistake I made?


Once I pressed all the letters down securely it was time to spray paint. I was outside doing this at 7:00 A.M. on a Saturday morning. I was in my pajamas and shaking my can of paint fiercely. Later my neighbor across the street who had her windows open said her overnight guests asked "Is she making cocktails?"

I mean you have to love that. I love gardening in my PJs too, but I try to keep it to a minimum. I'm a morning person, what can I say?



After the paint thoroughly dries carefully peel off the stickers. The large letters did not come off cleanly and I spent a good deal of time removing the sticker mess left behind. Kind of like removing a price tag from hell. Let me clarify that the map is  underneath the glass and the letters/paint are on top. Another way to do this would have been to have put the entire thing under the glass, but you would either need to reverse the letters or find some with the adhesive on the front. All in all I liked the way this went besides, I was doing a fun project not trying to reinvent the wheel.


Finally, in the end all the residual stickiness was removed and I was very happy with the results.



Did you ever see the spelling mistake (corrected here)? I love a puzzle, don't you?

Friday, May 24, 2013

The Quotable Table: Aging and Personalizing a Mass Produced Piece of Furniture

stamping favorite quotes on furniture

This spring has found me looking at things around the house in a new light. Sometimes we walk around our house (and sometimes we walk around in our life) and think "That doesn't look right" or "Something's wrong" and I should fix it. Lately here, I've stopped just noticing and started taking action. I have a table that looked adorable when I had a sofa with a red and white ticking slipcover. But as the living room developed, the table looked more and more off somehow. I decided to age and personalize it.



This piece was purchased several years ago at Target when it was on clearance for $20. It isn't a fine piece of furniture so I was pretty brave while experimenting on it.


It has a tough manufacturer's finish so I lightly sanded the entire thing. It has all these little details that were crying out to be aged. There are several ways to accomplish this. You can use stain, or an aging wax. Any number of crackled finishes might have looked great but I have a lot going on in this room and wanted the equivalent of tea stain for fabrics that are too white and new.



After sanding I rubbed it down with dark Old English furniture polish, using a brush to get it into all the crevices. Then I wiped it off. It brought the white down a notch without making it somber. This technique provides a subtle aging and is easily controlled. 


 I sanded the edges to roughen it up a bit and give it some character. And applied more Old English.


 Then came the fun part. Last year I was in Anthropologie with my daughter and fell in love with these vintage silverware pieces used as garden markers.


 I set out to make my own and found a 36 Piece 1/8" Steel Letter/Number Stamping Set set online at Harbor Freight Tools for less than ten dollars. I thought that if they worked this well on metal they would work on wood even better.

The first two letters were too close together and created a chip. After that I spread them out a bit and all went well.


I drew a straight line to make sure the lettering was relatively straight and wrote the quote in pencil to make sure I didn't skip a letter. When the stamping was finished I filled in the letters with a black Sharpie. Then scrubbed and sanded the surface again. I could have easily used a magic marker, brown crayon, or just more Old English for this step and saved a little work.


 The result whoever, made me very happy. It's a subtle detail that speaks to the mood of the room. I topped the table with an antique tray, vintage atlases and a wooden bowl from Belize that is filled with rocks and shells from places we've traveled. I placed a magnifying glass on top for scouring atlases for new places to visit.



Tuesday, May 21, 2013

How NOT to Upholster a Chair

In the previous post I gave the history of this chair. I love a challenge (and so does Decor-Cat) so here we go:


The fabric I used is (surprise) a painter's drop cloth like I used for my headboard. I couldn't bring myself to experiment with expensive fabric. Much better to play with something I only spent $10.98 on.  That is not the price per yard. That is the TOTAL cost. (I'll be pointing out mistakes as I go. I made quite a few.)


Mistake 1: I could have easily used ONE continuous piece of fabric from the bottom of the back, over the top across the seat and then down the bottom front. Instead I cut the top into front/back sections and then stitched them together at the top hoping to get a clean line. 



 You can see that it didn't work. I didn't want it to look like a slipcover so I created two tucks (if you remember darts from home-ec, you'll understand) and stitched them down, having pinned the fabric taut.





 Mistake 2: Cutting the fabric away on the sides of the back. OMG now I have to make what are essentially sleeves. All that I needed to do was make sure I had enough fabric to tuck and fold then stitch down if I hadn't cut away these pieces of fabric. Yay! Extra work! (Do you think the dog looks depressed?)



I pinned right sides together and began sewing them together in the front, when I reached the top it became too difficult and I ended up whip stitching it together from the outside. I was using clear nylon thread so it was nearly invisible.



Mistake 3: Not stopping long enough to drive to the upholstery shop and buying a curved upholster needle when I knew I needed one. Next time that will be my very first move. Doing it this way killed my fingers!
But I do think it looks pretty good.


In order to get the smooth tight look I wanted I placed the fusible quilt batting I had leftover from the headboard between the old fabric and new. 


And then yes, I ironed my chair. 




The side pieces were tucked underneath then tacked under the arm, stretched over the top of the arm and then tucked between the arm and seat bottom. When I removed the front arm pieces they were just covered cardboard. I tucked and tacked the fabric the way I wanted then covered those cardboard pieces (using spray adhesive) and replaced them to give the front the finished look I wanted. 


Why not just buy a new chair? Vintage solid wood construction--that's why. Please note that the solid oak FRAME was stained. The frame no one would ever see unless they took the chair down to the bones. Ladies and gentlemen, we call that craftsmanship. And it's a very good reason to overlook some ugly fabric and appreciate the construction and design of a piece of furniture.

 All that pulling, tucking, stitching, and tacking became worth it when I started to see the lovely lines of the chair appear.


 The cat is my only real supervisor.


 I turned the chair over to secure all the material underneath. Decor-cat was super excited about this.


I haven't covered the cushion yet but wrapped it so you could get the full effect. After taking a poll on my FB page I decided I would use a bold fabric for it...


Then I found this fabric for the cushion and thought "Wouldn't that look great on the whole chair..."


Now that I know what I'm doing I may actually recover the entire chair the right way in a year or so. The cushion in this chair is so broken down that I'm going to replace it with a new piece of foam (the cushion has springs inside) but this is the final result so far except for that.

I know how you love a before and after: 









And naturally, now I'm looking around for other things to upholster, perhaps even correctly next time.

Happy decorating!