Wednesday, June 1, 2011

My obsession with turquoise

I admit it, I fell victim to the turquoise craze. First I tried to satisfy my budding interest with accessories like turquoise throw pillows, candles, and other accents, but it soon became apparent that "interest" was more like "obsession" and the little things just weren't cutting it. I needed a turquoise piece of furniture and I needed it now.

Fortunately, I also needed something to replace the two-drawer chest of drawers sitting in the corner of our "study" (aka the room in the middle of our house where our desks and all our books live) - the shoddy laminate creature that the former tenants had left behind was serving a necessary storage function, but was detracting significantly from the overall aesthetics. Frankly the only reason it had lasted so long was because it wasn't visible from my usual hangout on the couch. So when the need to satisfy my turquoise craving reached a fever pitch, I was thrilled to have something so easy to part with (there is no room for any additional pieces of furniture in our apartment, which means that if we get something new, something old has to go - most of our furniture has family/sentimental value, so the list of expendable items is pretty short).

The first step is always my least favorite: being patient while collecting the necessary supplies. Typically I try to work on projects in overlapping cycles, where I have something in the fun "execution phase" while at the same time slowly amassing supplies for the next project. Without a car and with the need to fit things around my work schedule (aka not being free when any stores are open except on the weekends), it can take a little while just to get together a few simple items. With this project, I was on the look out for a suitable dresser/chest of drawers on craigslist for a few months before coming across something that satisfied the right aesthetic, financial, and geographic conditions. In layman's terms: I wanted something pretty, cheap, and nearby. So I was pretty ecstatic when I came across this beauty being sold just a few blocks away.

Ok, "beauty" may not be how most people would describe it. Yes, it's ugly and laminate. Yes, there are a few giant scratches across the front. But since I wanted to paint it anyway, this was kind of perfect because it meant I got something with a mid-century style (which I was very much hoping for) at a price rarely seen in the Boston area. Why mid-century? Well first of all, as I've mentioned before I have a very bad sense of design myself. So I kind of have to rely on what other people are telling me looks good, and right now pretty much everyone seems obsessed with mid-century. There are many things where "because everyone else is doing it" is a bad (and potentially dangerous) excuse, but buying furniture just doesn't seem like the riskiest of risks. And clearly I'm not the only one who finds this mentality acceptable - otherwise, how would IKEA stay in business? The other reason for mid-century is the actual
shape - we've got a lotttttttt of furniture in our apartment for such a small space (like basically every wall is full), so something that's raised off the floor on some skinny little legs lightens things up visually. At least that's what all the experts tell me.

Even though the dresser was just a few blocks away, it was too far to carry so I rented a car and convinced my chauffeur and free laborer (aka Sam) to "give me a hand" (aka carry a dresser down a few flights of stairs and then fit it into the back of a car with just a half inch to lucky on that one...).

The next step was to decide on the color. I spent a lot of time on Pinterest and other sites just looking at turquoise-painted furniture, trying to figure out what I wanted. One thing I love about Pinterest is being able to compare a lot of images side-by-side - I "pinned" a bunch of different options, then looked at them all together to figure out what I liked best (looking at them in isolation, I convinced myself I'd found "the one" about 15 times - but side by side, it's a lot easier to make a decision). Then off I went to the hardware store to pick out a paint that matched my chosen hue as closely as possible. I ended up with Ace's "Woodsy Scent." Why Ace? Because that's what they sell at my local hardware store. I had it mixed with Mythic non-toxic paint as the base, for a few reasons. 1) I had images of the cat gnawing on the legs of the dresser and being poisoned. And frankly, if the cat gnaws on my dresser, I want to take care of him myself, not let the dresser do the dirty work. (I hope Sam doesn't read this.) 2) I didn't want to haul the dresser outside, but it gets rather unpleasant when I paint furniture inside. Low odor paint definitely has an appeal (though it also has a higher price tag).

Anyway. So first I primed the whole thing using the same method as the jewelry armoire I did the previous fall (like with that armoire, this laminate dresser did not take kindly to my efforts to sand it). Then I applied a few coats of the paint, with an extra coat on the top for added durability. Lastly, I used my trusty Minwax wipe-on poly (though I've since found it to be less trusty for lighter shades of paint, as it seems to cause a little yellowing over

Then I decided that it really needed some awesome drawer pulls to add some visual interest. After all, that's a lot of turquoise. So once again I turned to trusty old Pinterest, pinning all sorts of pull options (many of them being sold on Etsy, including the eventual winner) and then asking Sam to pick his favorite.

What about a hodge podge of white knobs?

Or something delicate, like glass?

Oooh, or a more classic feel? Could be spray painted black...

Or vintage chrome? This is the closest I could find to the drawer pulls in Zoe's kitchen, which I'd been oggling for months.

Thank goodness, he had the same favorite as I did. He's the best.

More waiting while my pulls shipped. Then some agonizing hours spent measuring, drilling, hammering, and installing. There was some sort of nearly impenetrable backing on the drawer fronts, which meant that I couldn't get the drill all the way through and had to hammer a screw through to finish each hole (of which there were 16). Success at last, however, and then I just touched up a few spots where the hammering had damaged the paint. I'm in love.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

A few small projects

I decided we needed a mirror in our entry hallway to open things up a bit. I've found craigslist to be a great source for this kind of thing (I got a pretty big mirror for above the mantle for $20, sure to be described further in a later post), and sure enough I found something I thought would do the trick. Only issues: 1) The frame was painted with gold paint that started coming off in gross chunks all over my hands as I carried it home (I knew the color wasn't a keeper when I decided to buy it, though), and 2) some of the decorative trim around the edges was broken off. I gave it a few coats of white spray paint to solve the color issue, then glued a rose from my Grandma Mammen's memorial service that I'd saved and dried into the space missing some trim at the bottom. It already had a wire for mounting. Easy peasy, new hallway mirror! One of these days I may repaint it something a little more dramatic, but this was during my "when in doubt, paint it white" phase.

Sticking with the theme of mirrors, I decided to give a sunburst mirror a try after seeing a fantastic DIY version on one of my favorite blogs - Centsational Girl - made out of paint stirrers. Seriously, she's amazing ( Anyway, I basically just followed her instructions, though whenever there are supplies found only at a craft store I have the added extra step of "rent a car so I can drive to Michael's." I have a hardware store within walking distance and a sewing/fabric shop within bus or running distance (yeah, on occasion I've decided to kill two birds with one stone and literally "run errands"), but no craft stores nearby. Thank goodness for Zipcar.

Tada! Not as beautiful as Kate's, though this photo is also pretty terrible quality. I convinced a local hardware store to sell me a bunch of paint stirrers for a few dollars so I didn't have to be patient and collect them over time like Kate did. I also had to buy a hack saw to trim the ends off, but it's a tool I was glad to add to my collection.

It was hanging on the wall of my office for awhile, but has now migrated home as part of the ongoing bedroom makeover. The office wall looks sad and bare now, but I figure everything has to come home in four (eek!) months anyway since I'm done there in June, so if I have a use for it in the apartment now I may as well go for it. So excited to share pictures of the finished bedroom, just have to wrap up one last piece (sewing a duvet cover...).

Lastly, a departure from the bland color palette of projects past. I decided the hallway needed some color, as well as a place to sit and put on shoes (or, more accurately, pile mail, purses, hats, mittens, etc...). I found a wicker bench on craigslist (wish I had remembered to get a "before" picture), which I primed with two coats of spray-on primer (spray paint is much easier for this sort of project, where it would be hard to get an even coat by hand), then applied several coats of high gloss yellow spray paint. The photo doesn't do the yellow complete justice - that sucker is really really yellow. The top of the bench was wicker as well, and I decided to jazz it up a bit by putting down some batting then stapling a layer of fabric over. To hide the staples, I used some upholstery cord around the edges. Lastly, I made a matching button (not super visible in this photo, it's in the center of the bench) using a button-making kit.

Actually attaching the button was a challenge. As usual, I played a little game I like to call "this can't be how the pros do it..." - I drilled a hole through the underside of the bench, threaded a needle, glued the end of the thread to the underside of the bench, threaded the needle through the hole, batting, and fabric so it was on the top side of the bench, threaded it through the clasp on the underside of the button, then threaded it back through the fabric, batting, and hole, and then glued the other end of the thread to the underside of the bench so the whole thing stayed taut. I used hot glue so it dried very quickly (I needed to pull the thread tight until it dried in place, which would have been a pain with slower-drying glue). Yeah, that can't be how the pros do it...