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An Empty Chair

I’m about to bring down the mood and I would like to apologize for that in advance. However I was abruptly reminded of how ones life can change in the blink of an eye recently. My fiancé and I have known one another for 8 years, we’ve been together for a cumulative 4 and in that time we’ve essentially become a part of each other’s family.

Three weeks ago my fiancé lost his mother and father in one fell swoop. One phone call completely changed our lives. It’s still early days and I’m not sure how we pick up the pieces or where we go from here. My parents have been my rock, but for my fiancé being an only child and living far away from any extended family I’m amazed at every second he manages to make me laugh and giggle.

It’s reminded me just how much we need each other in our lives and shown me how unconditionally we love one another and our families.

I do have a project this week, I was planning on sharing it last week but couldn’t bring myself to write about it. My future mother in law was one of my biggest supporters, she always shared my posts and always had encouraging things to say. When my fiancé (you know what, I’m going to call him Mr. Smith for the sake of stream lining) and I moved in together there was a chair that his parents gave to him that we though might work well with the desk I refinished last year.


It was in pretty rough shape, the varnish was peeling, the stain was uneven and it was rather scratched and marred.


I stripped and sanded it, the whole time sending update pictures to Mr. Smith’s mom. She was rather surprised the chair hadn’t ended up in the garbage after all these years but you know me and solid wood furniture, where there is sandpaper there is a way.


After sanding I did a final run down with fine steel wool. You just can’t appreciate woodwork until you’ve used steel wool on it, it’s like the butter on the bread.


Then it was on to staining I used a combination of ebony and mahogany to get a warmer finish then plain ebony. It being on maple wood vs. my desk’s mahogany it’s still much cooler toned but I knew I wouldn’t get an exact match. It was more that I actually had a chair that fit in the narrow space under the desk unlike modern desk chairs.
 I was so excited to see what her reaction to the finished blog would be its one of the many things I’ll encounter throughout the rest of my life that will remind me she isn’t here anymore. Not to mention all of the myriad of other things that we won’t get to enjoy with them. They won’t be there to help us move into a new house, and guide us through all the perils of home ownership. They won’t be witness for our little courthouse wedding, or compare new cars and try to decide who would win in a drag race (without ever actually racing lol).

Every blog I post will remind me she isn’t there cheering me on. But as Mr. Smith has reminded me that’s no reason to stop, we go on, we do the things we love and the things she loved, we remain the people she loved and we remember.

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Make it Rain

Obsolete money.

Yeah, I have a strange plethora of foreign currency. A good bit of which is obsolete. At least the coinage is. A small portion of the paper currency may still be good, I’m not sure. At any rate I’m not using it for anything but décor. I had one of these done already, but then as I was cleaning out my bathroom for its recent remodel (which you can find here) I found a matching frame … kind of. I had forgotten I painted it to hide its gaudy gold. So then it was a matter of trying to paint the new found one to match several years after the fact.

A little brown, a little black, a little bit of pearl sheen. Eventually I got them to match up. Close enough at least.

Then I just arranged the money to fit into both frames instead of just piling it up on top of each other

What kind of artwork do you have that isn’t technically artwork?

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Tiny Bows, Meet Teensey Bubbles

It all started with this sink a little over two weeks ago. If you’ve been following along on The TinyBows facebook page you’ve likely seen little updates but this is the big transformation.

My Bathroom was A color called “Swimming Pool” and done in ridiculous Gerber daisies as any 14 year old might choose. I still like Gerber daisies. Just not in my decorating choices.

I liked bright colors so much I even painted the door bright green.

In addition to the leaky sink the (oh so lovely) popcorn ceiling started to fall down about ten years ago… As you might be able to tell I just proceeded to scrape the rest of it down

So when we took out the vanity it wasn’t tiled under the cabinet, we knew this going in, the unfortunate part of this is that the cabinent was not a standard size. So we either needed to take up the flooring (not an enjoyable task) or figure out a work around. You might also note that when I painted the walls the first time around I did so directly over the wall paper because this wallpaper is like cement bonded to the wall… Unfortunately that had to go.

So after about a twelve hour day in a steam room we finally got all the wall paper off without too much damage to the dry wall and only minor heat rash and steam burns.

The hideous old brass light fixture came down for a makeover of it’s own

And a paint color was discovered. We seem to choose paint colors based on names. I originally wanted to do it the same color as my office which is called “Sigh” or possibly my bedroom “Blanket” but in the end I was out voted for the aptly named “Teensey Bubbles” from Lowe’s new HGTV Sherwin Williams collection.

We also found our new vanity and sink at Lowes. Due to the original footprint being an odd size we had to build a box around it to make the footprint match. The sides of the box will be painted and the top will be tiled and integrated into the backsplash

The ceiling got the bead board and crown molding treatment (I never want to do a miter cut again) and the door is, thank goodness no longer green.

Hooray no more hideous brass fixtures

And here is the sink post painting of the kickboard and side.

So before and after, keeping in mind the backsplash isn’t done yet. I have to wait a full three weeks for everything to cure before the mastic will bond properly.

I’m so happy to have a functioning bathroom again.

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Cheater’s Chalk Paint

Back to those darn chairs, shall we?

I love the look of chalk paint particularly when used with dark wax. I just don’t love the price tag. A quart of good quality chalk paint can cost upwards of $30 add in the cost of the specialized wax and brushes and you’re looking at a $100 project. I figured I could either do it far cheaper or fail miserably at trying.

So first and foremost I cleaned up my chairs, chalk painting claims not to have any prep work. No sanding etc. but if you are working on old dining room chairs I suggest at least giving them a scrub with some Murphy’s Oil Soap just to get the grime from years of family dinners and years of furniture polish and wax off, or not even the best paint will stick.

After that I just started painting away with my favorite primer, which happens to be a really cheap ceiling paint. Ceiling paint is very thick, and very flat so it likes to stick to things and dries rather quickly, it also has good tooth to it. Tooth is the texture that helps other things stick. It’s like painting a canvas with gesso before starting a painting.

After the primer was dry I went in with the color. I did end up buying a quart of this color (it was a custom mix to match the fabric) just because I love it so I know I’ll use it on other projects, but I could have gotten away with just one $3 sample pot. Even at a quart it was only $15.

After getting the paint done I decided to tempt fate and go for the waxing. I decided to try to tint my own wax, I used Minwax finishing wax in natural (aka clear) which is around $10 for a can and a chocolate brown paint I had lying around. I simply took a scoop of the wax and a drizzle of the paint and very thoroughly mixed the two. As you can tell my measuring was very precise.

EEEEEEEWWWWW

I just used a cheap chip brush to mush the wax on, waited a minute or two, and buffed it off. The finishing wax is technically a matte varnish so it will dry hard and help protect the paint finish on the piece. That also means you have to work in small areas at a time so you don’t allow it to dry all the way before buffing it off. The now tinted wax will stick in recessed areas like corners and carved details and any cracks and scratches that the piece has accrued over the years. You could also distress the piece before starting if you wanted it to have a little more character. I discovered that if you happen to have a patch that dries a bit too much before you get a chance to buff it, it can be salvaged. Just put some wet wax overtop of it, wait a minute, and wipe again. It will soften the dried wax and take it back up.

Keep in mind you don’t have to tint your wax a chocolate brown you can tint it whatever color you like. A darker version of the color you’ve already painted the piece would look amazing I have a feeling. Go crazy and do lime green wax on a bright pink piece. Actually I would really like to see that. Or you could tint the wax with white paint and put it over a natural wood piece to give relief to carved areas.

From this to that to finally done!

Yes I realize in the long run it is a few more steps than chalk paint but it also only cost (even with brushes) around $35 in supplies versus the inordinate amount that doing it with chalk paint would have cost me. So the pros, at least for me, outweigh the cons.

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Desk Part 3: The Cherry On Top

Oh! Finally! The home stretch.

All that’s left is to put handles on. One of those (the one seen in the blog post here) required new holes. I left the drilling of said holes up to someone else. Mainly because I don’t trust myself to get them positioned correctly.

If you haven’t already, be sure to check out Part Zero, Part One, and Part Two

I decided to paint the outsides of the drawer sides. Mostly because I got stain all over them. It wasn’t pretty, and even though I have no intention of leaving the drawers hanging open all the time it will be nice to have them look decent. Instead of looking like I’ve slopped stain all down the sides and hastily tried to wipe it up just to have it spread around. Which is what actually went down. Paint fixes everything in my book.

After one coat of my go to Dark Kettle Black.

I also lined the drawers to cover up the ink stains and various other oddness. This is very much a two person job. Not just a two person job, but a two person job in which you must delegate tasks according to strengths and weaknesses. It turns out my boyfriend is great at spreading out the contact paper smoothly however horrible at holding the contact paper up. I’m the opposite. Actually my boyfriend is likely better at both of those things but that night he couldn’t hold his arms up six inches after having spent the day painting a ceiling. I remember that pain and am not eager to relive it.

The cat approves of this one

The aforementioned handle makes an appearance

To do this you might want a credit card or a small squeegee to smooth out any bubbles or wrinkles, as well as an exact-o knife to cut the excess as close to the edge as possible.

So now absolutely everything is done and ready to be moved in. Its time you see why I was so eager to get a new desk.

This is the setup I’ve been dealing with for the last six months. It’s rather unpleasant in the way of room to work not to mention aesthetics.

Yup he approves

This is so much better, although I will be playing around with the setup over the next couple of days and I doubt my CPU will stay up there. Either way a vast improvement.

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Desk Part 1: Safety First

I could have called this “Always wear gloves and goggles” or “Shellac is the bane of my existence” or “Sweat does not evaporate in 60% humidity” maybe “DO NOT! Sand in 90 degree heat”. I vote not doing anything in 90 degree heat anyway.

There is always a learning curve and these are the things I’ve learned in the first part of this project. If you missed Part Zero you can find it here

Where do I start? Oh yes, the bane of my existence. That lovely shellac. In case you don’t know what shellac is, here is the short version. Its excretions from a tiny bug dissolved in alcohol and painted onto furniture…. Yes I’m serious. Click here for the long version. Why? I have no earthly idea. It’s not particularly scratch resistant, it turns white when it gets wet, and god forbid you ever want to remove it. It’s an old (I don’t know how old) piece of furniture so I’m not surprised that it’s covered in shellac. Over the years shellac has fallen out of favor to be replaced by much more durable varnishes and polyurethanes. This piece however was caked in a very deep red/amber colored shellac and it has not been fun to remove it.

So about removing it. Sanding sort of works. For the most part though it just gums up your sand paper. And if you were paying attention yes, alcohol will dissolve it. However you have to work incredibly quickly and waste a lot of paper wiping it away, otherwise as the alcohol rapidly dries and you’ve essentially just reapplied the shellac. For the most part strippers aren’t particularly efficient on shellac. I managed to luck out. I have a stripper that I’ve used on a couple of other projects in the past that is absolutely marvelous. Its non-toxic and biodegradable. I have no idea what it’s made of but it even has a bizarrely pleasant smell.

Unlike latex paint its not going to strip it off in lovely sheets that just plop off nice and clean. Instead it turns the shellac into this strange gloop, it’s like blood and viscera… let’s just say always wear gloves unless you want to look like an axe murderer

So after attempting to sand the top and resorting to stripping the whole desk it turned out not as bad as I thought.

Look, I found a water ring hiding under all that shellac and stain.

I also found some pen scratches and what I can only figure are cigarette burns, but after lots of stripping and sanding I found some gorgeous wood underneath.

The poor broken foot received a prosthetic. This is where goggles come in. Always wear goggles when using a rotary tool. Tiny bits of resin in your eye are no fun and also will hinder your sight so that using your rotary tool to sculpt so everything is all nice and neat instead of doing it by hand becomes a moot point.

The before and after of the stripping process on the drawers.

The drawer that had the cracked veneer loosened but has already been re-glued. It’s thick veneer (about 3/16) which made it quite easy. My photographic evidence of the repair work failed me.

It’s looking rather vastly improved already. Now just to figure out what to do with it now that it’s naked.