chair update and a newly covered old sofa

Remember this chair?

And how I attempted to cover it myself (Well with the help of a few friends, only one of which was experienced)?

Well a few months (sorry, I’ve been busy) and some professional help with sewing the cushion and ottoman later, here’s the finished chair:

Isn’t it puuuurdy?!  I like the faint dandelion design in the fabric.  It reminds me of being a little girl and collecting dandelions in my parents’ backyard.  My sister and I used to take turns making wishes on them and letting the wind carry away their fuzz.  I love taking old stuff with lots of memories and making it new again.  I got that from my grandmother.  So, it just made sense to take on this project.  She loved this wingback chair and it was the first piece of furniture I had when I moved out on my own after college.  It has appropriately become my reading chair.  I love rainy days when I can lounge in my pj’s all day and let the arms envelop me as I escape into some fictional wonderland.  That’s when I feel her the most and remember when I used to spend afternoons at my grandparents’ watching HGTV and The Food Network, while she sat in her chair, tissues stuck in all the creases.  That lady could go through some Kleenex!

When she passed away last October, I also inherited her camelback sofa.  She has had it my entire life, and, according to my mom, my grandmother has had it recovered quite a few times over the years.

It was a little rough around the edges.  I ordered some fabric from Tonic Living and even scored a 15% discount thanks to my blog following obsession.  After about 8 months sitting in storage, I finally took it to an upholsterer to get covered.  I probably could have done it myself, after all the chair turned out pretty good, but I really wanted it to turn out perfectly.  I delivered it Friday and they delivered it back to me on Monday!

What do you think?!  I think it’s the perfect shade of maize.  Not too bright.  I’m also glad the pillows turned out to match exactly.  I took a risk at Pottery Barn last weekend (what? they were having a sale!).  The knotted blanket is from West Elm and has been folded over the arm of our old sofa and now it happily sits front and center.  For comparison, take a look:

A little cramped, huh?  You could barely open the front door, which meant it never got used.

Ahhhh, much better!  Because the furniture is more petite, we moved it closer to the fireplace to make it a little cozier.  And the best part is – there’s a walkway to the front door!  I should also showcase this dandy little piece (under the window by the front door):

My grandfather built this for their kitchen years ago.  It even has a neat chopping block top!  It was a dirty brown, but I painted it a few months back to use as a mobile beverage station.  Obviously, it has morphed into a portable board game station.  Let the games begin! 😉

Have you done any upholstering lately?


bedside tables – making the old new again

I have been on the hunt for 2 bedside tables for over a year.  For much of that year I was using an old telephone table on one side and an end table on the other.  They were different heights and depths and were only meant to be temporary.  As I’ve been doing more and more updates to the house and making new purchases, I’ve forced myself to let go of some of those pieces that I’ve either had for a while, no longer work for the space or were just hand-me-downs.  I sold the end table/coffee table combo that was my first furniture purchase, not because I didn’t love them but they just didn’t go with the oversized sofa and tiny living room I was working with.  It worked out in the end because, although they were bought through Craig’s List, I actually sold them to someone I went to high school with who was starting a family and buying a house.  They didn’t have much furniture and were so excited to find the tables on CL.  I purchased them for $80 over 3 years ago before I left the mountains.  They bought them for $200!  I know what you might be thinking…but the same set was selling for $250 at a local antique shop so I thought that was a good compromise.  Plus, I need to support my DIY obsession with a bigger bank account.  Every little bit helps, right?

After I sold the end table, I moved my old bookshelf in its place.  As you can see above, it still didn’t suit.  The heights were closer, but the green tint to the telephone table didn’t go with my coral, navy and teal motif.   I had looked everywhere from Joss and Main and One Kings Lane to antique shops and even IKEA.  No.such.luck.  Then one day, Elliott and I happened upon an antique shop I’ve never visited before, Katy Dids (he’s such a trooper – he gets dragged to antique shop after antique shop and never complains).  Most of the stuff was old junk, even though I could see potential with a few items that just needed a little TLC and a new paint job.  BUT then I saw these and immediately sent a picture to my mom and Kristin, my DIY friend who has become my constant second opinion these days.

There were a good many nicks and scratches, but they were exactly what I’ve been looking for.  And at $93.50, I just knew I had to have them.  I waited a couple of days so I could leave the scene and make sure that’s really what I wanted.  Then I went back with $80 cash and planned to haggle a bit.  They agreed to my price and told me that they had just gotten them a week ago.  They had been on hold the day before, probably just after I last saw them, but the lady never came back.  Boy was I in luck!  He also told me that they were from the 1930’s.  Seeing as I love old things with a story, that only added to my need to get them.  I loaded them in my car and brought them to their new home.

I had a 5 day weekend coming up for the 4th of July, so I put the tables by the back door to remind me to get them sanded and stained while I was off.  You know how I hate not being productive.  We already had the sander and new sandpaper and the minwax stain and sealer in one, so I had no excuses not to get ’em done.  Here are some befores and durings (sanding):

And some more durings (staining):

Note: wear gloves, protective mask on your face and goggles!  You don’t want that junk in your nose, eyes and lungs.  While sanding, I tried going side to side but found that sanding in a circular motion worked best.  I did have to go slowly along the edges to make sure I got every corner.  Also, I didn’t press down hard because I only wanted to get the top layer with the (shiny) finish.  Since there were a lot of nicks on the edges, I buffed them a little so they were smooth.  It actually turned out nicely and gave it that Pottery Barn antiqued look.  After sanding every side, leg and crevice, I got a damp towel and wiped the surface until it was clean and all of the dust was gone.  Then, I let them dry, which only took about 10 minutes since it was 100 degrees outside, or hot as Hades as we say southerners say.

Once they had dried, I left my gloves and mask on.  The stain will turn your hands for a week if you don’t and the odor is even more pungent in the heat.  I began staining with a cheap $1 brush from Lowe’s and did thin, even coats over the entire tables.  If any stain started to run, I would swiftly brush it out.  There were some corners that I’d had to sand a lot so I had to put thicker coats on them to cover the wood that was lighter because of the sanding.  I did two coats of stain and let them dry for about 2 hours between coats.  The directions recommend 6 hours, but it was so hot that they dried a lot faster than usual.  After leaving them to dry overnight, I was able to bring them inside and put them in their permanent home.

And the final picture:

In case you’re wondering, the bedding is from West Elm, the two burlap pillows are from my favorite booth at a local antique shop, the teal lamps and burlap shades are from Target and the navy and white chevron lotion bottle and mini tray are from One Kings Lane.

Have you done any boudoir decorating lately?

Taming my closet

One Sunday afternoon a few weeks ago, I began the disaster that was organizing my closet. I have way too many shoes and pretty much every item of clothing you could possibly need and then some, so closet space has always been an issue. I’ve looked at tons of design blogs and DIY closet systems, but when Martha Stewart’s Home Decorators’ collection was on sale I jumped at it. After all, I don’t really have the wood cutting tools and patience can sometimes be an issue with me (I’m working on that). It still had to be assembled and I did have to get two hanging rods and wood for shelving above the rods to fit between the rest of the shelving. That ended up saving me about $100 since I didn’t order the shelf and bar unit that would have been too long for my closet anyway. Once the boxes arrived, it was time to rip out the cheap wire closet system and spackle, sand and paint!

It probably wasn’t the cheapest option (around $400), but it definitely makes my closet look much more spacious and it actually looks like a custom built-in with crown molding. Now I have tons of drawer space. It also forced me to get rid of stuff I haven’t worn in years to make room for everything. It feels good to organize and give away! I also invested in some sturdy wood hangers a few years ago but found they take up way too much space and I’m constantly finding cardigans and camis wrinkled on the shelves from slipping right off them. I visited one of my bargain faves, TJ Maxx, and found some pretty teal velvet hangers. They’re really thin and the velvet prevents slippage. They also gave me 25% more space per bar, which equals plenty of room for ALL my clothes!

I definitely don’t want to junk it all up now that everything is so neat and organized. I even have a place for all those pretty fabric boxes from Ikea that I’ve had for about a year. Now, instead of leaving the curtains closed, I constantly want to just stand and stare inside my pretty closet! (note about the curtains – those are gone and will soon be replaced with shutter doors similar to these…but more on that later)

Once this was finished, I had no room left for shoes! (told ya I have a lot) I put an old redone wardrobe on layaway at an antique shop last fall and finally picked it up last week. Since I didn’t need the hanging space, I decided to enlist Elliott’s help in building shelving. We decided to space the shelves 9″ apart to allow plenty of room for boots and heels. This gave us room for 4 shelves. And off to Lowe’s we went! We bought two wood boards 1x10x8 cut down to 38″ for about $20 total. Then we got 8 L shaped brackets to secure at each end to support the shelves. Yes, I allowed drilling into my new wardrobe. There were already holes made for pegs and the new ones didn’t go through the wood. They’re also very sturdy so I don’t have to worry about any crashing during the night.

And viola! Isn’t it gorgeous?! I also had some ideas about jewelry storage via Pinterest (surprised?) so I used an old framed corkboard and some pearl tipped pins to hold all of my necklaces. We screwed that sucker into the dominant door and presto! My necklaces have a home with my shoes. 🙂  Of course, that’s not all of my jewelry, but I stocked up on a small mirrored jewelry box during a trip to Marshall’s (another bargain fave). This organization re-do also forced me to get rid of old jewelry I don’t like/never wear. Most of the stuff I’m getting rid of these days is going to consignment so I can make back some money to finance my smaller DIY projects. If you don’t consign, you should! You typically make 40% of whatever they sell an item for. It makes me feel better when I’m getting rid of stuff knowing that I’m getting at least some of my money back.

My bedroom also got a fancy new paint job and my West Elm bedding (on sale for 20% off!) is en route, so that post will be coming soon!

How to Upholster a Wingback Chair

Last night, I tackled the first phase of my biggest DIY project to date – upholstering my grandmother’s beloved wingback chair. I called various local places for quotes and all were roughly $200 – $300. While that doesn’t seem like a great deal of money, added to the cost of covering an ottoman ($50 – $100) and a camelback sofa ($275 – $400), on top of the $400 worth of specialty fabric I ordered from Tonic Living, it was more than I wanted to pay. I know some of you are thinking why don’t you just buy a new one? Or, can’t you continue using the mint condition sofa, chair and a half and oversized ottoman you purchased a mere 2 years ago? My response – no, I certainly cannot. Or, no, I really don’t want to. I love what I have but I bought it when I was in a roomier townhome. Now that I have my own quaint (albeit smaller) cottage, I don’t have as much space. Also, my taste has changed a bit. When I was first out on my own after college, my grandmother gave me a wingback chair that she’d had for years but rarely used. She had impeccable taste so I knew it was expensive and of good quality. The chair had navy and gold fabric with small bits of red. Pretty, but not my style. However, it was free and I learned a long time ago not to reject free things (unless it’s candy from a stranger or something you find in a sandbox). In my new house there just isn’t room for it along with my other bulky living room pieces, so it has sat in the corner of my guest bedroom for the past year as another place to store piles of clothes. I felt guilty every time my grandmother would come over because it wasn’t prominently displayed. She always asked me if it got used.

Wingback Chair - before

When my grandmother passed away in October, I inherited a camelback sofa (with 6 matching pillows) that my mom claims she’d had for twenty years. It’s been covered and recovered at least five times. I remember it being in my grandparents’ sunroom when I was growing up. All of us grandkids would jump on it and get into pillow fights and use it as a barrier during our war games. For the last year and a half it had been her cozy seat in the living room, where she enjoyed HGTV, The Food Network, QVC and visiting with family. During my visits we would each claim a cushion while we shared stories of new recipes we’d tried, my latest decorating projects and politics (we never could see eye to eye). So now I think you understand why it’s so important for me to keep the chair and sofa.

Kora - expert upholsterer

My friend, Kora, is apparently well versed in how to do a lot of fabulous things, one of those being that she knows how to upholster furniture. When I was venting to her about the cost of this project, she offered to help. Now, I must admit when she first told me this I assumed it was something similar to Phoebe’s ridiculous “I can be a bear cub” statement (if you don’t recall this Friends reference, I’m very disappointed and urge you to buy the box set. Or at least watch reruns on TBS). I was weary to pay so much to get someone else to do it and I know that if I want something done perfectly, I might as well do it myself (I have trust issues, I know). So last night, Kora, Amy, Elliott (by force), and I began phase one of the upholstering project. She said she’s not going to do it all herself and I actually love learning how to do new things on my own, so I am her eager apprentice for the next few weeks.  They arrived around 6:30 p.m. and I had dinner ready – spicy shrimp and feta pasta, wine and salad. One thing you should know, whenever someone helps me with a project, they get free food and free booze ;). While we ate we laughed at Sheldon’s absurdly genius anecdotes during an episode of Big Bang Theory and then got busy with our project.

Elliott, Kora & Amy hard at work

After the first few minutes of seeing Kora in action, I was quite impressed. She began using tools I’ve never even heard of like jaws of life prying staples from layers of fabric, foam and wood. She’d riddle off duties for the other 3 of us as we looked at each other with contorted, confused faces. While she removed staples, Amy and I carefully used a razorblade to tear the seams in the pieces of fabric. Then, according to her very specific directions, Elliott would use masking tape and a red sharpie to label each piece – seat cushion, inner arm left, inner arm right…you get the picture.

Me workin' it with the pliers

In the midst of all the ripping and prying, I decided I wanted to hear Kora’s tales of jobs past, so I asked about her other 26 odd jobs. When she wouldn’t offer up all the details, I probed until she did. She asked if I was conducting an interview. I jokingly replied, “You’re already doing the job I’m hiring you for – and you’re free!” We all laughed. Seriously though, the more I learn about this chick, the more I am fascinated by her many talents.

Naked Chair

By the end of the night, the chair was naked and there was a mason jar full of old staples and layers of properly labeled fabric. Chair Upholstering Project – Phase One ended around 10:30 p.m. I’ll be sure to post the other phases as they happen!