Archive for March, 2013


Refinishing and Stylizing a Vanity

Making an Existing Piece More Usable

Here is a simple way to take a piece of furniture in your home and make it more usable. We’ve also added some design ideas to help modernize something old you already own and make it look new.

vanity before
vanity stain

Step 1: The problem

My brother’s finance has an odd vanity she uses for makeup. It creates a nice looking storage area in her master bedroom but after years of use has become stained and disorganized. The makeup it stores has littered the table top and drawer with cover up and foundation marks and because the finish is not washable the white table is not as clean looking as it once was. She also sets her curling iron on the table in its cradle but because of the heat this has yellowed the white table top. Can we create a heat resistant, washable, vanity with storage from this existing old piece?

vanity burn disorganized

Step 2: The Plan

My brother and I waited until his fiancé left for work and moved the vanity to the outside deck. We did this both to surprise her and also because she might have said no, so we have a very definitive timeline for this project. We need to complete the vanity rehab in one day before his fiancé returns from work. We also need to make sure it looks good or we may be adding to the stress of an already stressed bride-to-be.

We have decided to head to Home Depot to find out if we can get fast drying, heat resistant, washable, white paint to bring the vanity back to new condition and also hopefully keep it looking new for years to come.

We are also going to try to find a fast drying paint to add some color to the piece. There is already some blue in the room so we have brought along a picture frame to match the color of the room to the paint we will use for the inside of the drawer. We will also be looking for some way of camouflaging the base of the drawer so when makeup is spilled there will be an easy way to clean up the mess and hide previous scratches.

Step 3: Supplies

paint contact paper

After a discussion with the paint associate we are a little disappointed. The vanity is a composite wood that won’t sand easily and our best bet to complete this task in one day is a special heat resistant, washable finish, spray paint. Using spray paint to create the details we want will be difficult but we decide to try anyway knowing that my brother will save money on a tux rental if we destroy the vanity and his finance cancels the wedding.

We find a white spray paint for the outside of the vanity and match the blue for the drawer. We buy blue painter’s tape to tape off sections to control the paint spray as we work. We also got a sanding brick to scuff up the surfaces we planned to paint. We find a thick drawer liner that looks like black and white calligraphy. This seems like a good idea. We can cut the liner to fit the drawer and still have most of the roll left to replace the liner if nail polish or a hard to clean substance is spilled in the storage area. It will also add some modern design to the inside of the drawer.

Step 4: Getting Started

The mirror portion of the vanity is in good condition so we remove it and set it aside. We remove the drawer and tape up the metal grooves on the sides of the drawer that allow it to easily side open and closed. We don’t want to get paint on the metal sliding pieces because this will make the drawer stick as it opens and closes.

We lightly score the drawer and table. Scoring is just light sanding of the surfaces we plan to paint. This will allow the paint to stick more easily to the vanity. After sanding clean off the surfaces with a damp paper towel and let dry. Tape up all areas you want to keep from painting and run your thumb along the tape to push out air bubbles. Make sure to use a drop cloth, we did not and there are white lines on the deck to remind us to use one next time. Now you are ready for spray paint.

sanding sanding side wiping top

Step 5: Spray Paint

It might be a good idea to wear gloves; my fingers were blue and white for two days after this project. We started by putting the first coat of white spray paint on the table. You want to choose a day that isn’t windy if you plan to do this outside. If you are painting inside, like a garage, make sure you have a lot of ventilation. Spray from right to left keeping the spray can at least a foot and a half from the surface. Always spray at an angle if you spray straight down at a surface the spray paint will pool or run. You want to spray quickly and smoothly from right to left one side to the other. For your second coat wait until the 1st has dried and spray from a different direction. We started back to front and for the second coat left side right side. This will help give you full coverage with the least amount of paint.

We then did the same with the taped drawer only we switched to blue paint. We left the bottom white because it wouldn’t be visible once it was back in place.

painting drawer

Step 6: Problems with Paint

Somehow we got blue spray paint on the stainless steel knobs connected to the drawer. Remember to remove these or cover very well with tape. Here is an easy fix if you spray a steel knob with spray paint and even fingernail polish removed won’t get it off. We used paint specifically to resist things like fingernail polish remover so we should have known, right?

Use your sanding brick to lightly scar the knobs. Work in a circular pattern so the knobs start to look like brushed nickel; this will also remove the paint. The scratches, if done correctly, look intentional and catch the light.

Step 7: Cutting the Liner

Depending on the thickness of your liner you will want to use either a razor or scissors. Our liner was thick so scissors were needed. Cut the liner slightly larger than your measurements for the base of the drawer, this will allow you to make slight adjustments with the liner sitting in the drawer. Use a pencil to indicate the final trimming cut. Set the liner inside. Our vanity had dividers but most liners are slightly sticky and will sit in place without much effort.

fitting paper finished drawer

Step 8: The Finish

If the paint is dry on all pieces you’ve done. We put the vanity back together minutes before my brother’s fiancé got home. Her vanity was now washable, more heat-resistant, and much more modern than before. Best of all we didn’t destroy the piece so she probably won’t leave my brother at the altar. It looked great, but we made a little bit of a mess in our hurry and dumped the contents of the vanity all over her room. See the finished pictures below. My brother video taped the reveal. Watch the short video here.

open drawer empty finish decorated

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Adding Modern Character to an Old Table

Here is an easy way to fill an empty space in your home with a modern looking accent with antique character. This is a simple project that will be easy to complete but not hard on your wallet.

Step 1: The problem

Walking through an antique shop I often see a piece of furniture I like but I could never add to the furniture I already own. Usually the problem is mixing older looking furnishings with the more modern elements of my home. I’ll really like the solid construction of a piece with hand carved wood and the attention to detail that give the item personality but worry about making my living room into my grandparent’s. Here is a way to blend an unusual antique into your existing motif without sending your home into a time warp.

Step 2: Finding the Right Piece

You want to add value to the piece you choose not subtract it. If you buy an antique at auction or in a high end shop you would be looking to preserve or restore the item. We are trying to modernize so you don’t want to buy King Henry the Throne. I like Past and Present Treasures right across the bridge from Downtown Fredericksburg (411 Chatham Square, Fredericksburg, VA 22405). The inventory changes pretty rapidly so if you don’t find what you’re looking for on your 1st run through check back in. I saw a small table with an interesting shape and some nice hand carved designs along the face. It was a dark color and was teetering on the edge of grandmotherly. I decided to buy it for $30 because I knew I could modernize it with the right color choice.

table

 

Step 3: Choosing the Perfect Color

Start by deciding where the piece will go. I wanted to have a medium size table to put a lamp on in my den to add light to a darker corner of the room. The room is terra-cotta so I needed to keep that in mind while choosing a color. I chose a soft red color because I knew this would really create a dramatic effect. When choosing a color to make something odd look new try to stick to colors that will pop. Black and white will work if you are on the timid side but a tropical blue, clay red, ruby green can completely transform the dark wood of an odder piece. I decided to buy 1 pint of clay red paint with primer mixed in for easy coverage, this should run you no more than $15 depending on the brand.

A few words on selecting red; red pigment is the most expensive pigment. If you ever buy paint at a craft store look at the prices of the red paint verses all other colors, it is almost always the most expensive. It takes more paint to cover a surface with red paint verses other colors so keep that in mind if choose a red color. If you are shopping online and look at the price of a red table verses that same table in blue or white the red table is usually more expensive also. The price of the pigment may play a factor here but I think a red piece of furniture in a show room or online tend to draw our attention and so may sell higher.

Step 4: Prep the Wood

Don’t bother cleaning the furniture 1st, lay down a drop cloths and lightly sand all wood surfaces you intend to paint. Remove the handles from the drawers. Decide if the inside will be painted also. Clean the piece after sanding and let dry.

Step 5: Painting

Follow the wood grain as you paint. Make sure you are keeping just a small amount of paint on your brush. If you see drips your brush is too saturated. Start with a very thin coat of paint. You want to stop painting before you lose the texture of the wood beneath; you are modernizing the piece but trying not to lose any of its personality. Always start painting on the back and work to the front. Once you start don’t stop until the entire coat is completed or you run the risk of paint lines.

Step 6: Knowing When to Stop and How to Finish

If you have added more than two coats of paint you have lost the wood grain. You may not see the wood’s texture until after each coat dries so take a break between coats. If you are painting the inside of a drawer keep the drawer open to dry.

If you plan to set a drink on piece or serve food on it I’d add a clear finish after the paint is completely dry. Wait 24 hours before adding a clear finish on top. Ask the associate at your local paint store for a finish that will be washable. Add finish by following the direction of the wood grain just as before.

Does your piece have knobs or handles? Does the odd style of the handles add to the pieces character or do they need to be updated? If there are no handles would adding handles help modernize the piece? This is the cheapest and easiest way to make something odd look new. Stainless steel or brushed nickel is always a good idea. New handles will run between $1 and $5 at your local hardware store. If you like the handles do what I did and polish them up.

If you have painted a drawer with paint or clear finish let dry for 24 hours before closing. Once everything is dry you’re done.

finished table

Steamer trunks are very popular right now. If you were to buy an antique at auction you could spend up to $800. People are using these to store blankets in bedrooms, as coffee tables, and even as dog beds. Here is a step by step guide to creating the same look yourself at home. In Fredericksburg we are lucky enough to be surrounded by shops that sell old steamer trunks at low prices that may need a little work. The advantage to doing the work yourself is that you can choose the colors you will use to match your existing décor. Here is what I have done with my own;

Step 1: The problem

I wanted to see if I could take an old steamer trunk and use it to store extra blankets in my den. My den opens to my kitchen and I’ve wanted to pull the grey green color from the kitchen into the den in a subtle way. You may have the same issue in your home. These are great to use as decretive storage and I’ve even seen steamer trunks set on their ends to create side tables also. The possibilities are endless once you find your trunk.

Step 2: Finding a steamer trunk

There are many shops in The Fredericksburg Area that sell antiques. If you decide to go in this direction expect to spend no less than $200 if you’re lucky. You can get one much cheaper if you know where to look.

You are looking for a trunk that needs some work, missing a handle or scratches in the wood. I wanted to keep this project as inexpensive as possible so I went to Two Times New right off of Rout 3 in the same shopping center as Big Lots. With multiple venders prices vary. Most furniture is in good shape but in need of TLC. This is not an antique shop but will have antiques mixed in for low prices. I found a black steamer trunk with damage to the wood for $25. The trunk had previously been stained but because of neglect much of the wood was chipped or scratched. Between the wood planks was brown leather that was puckered in places. I decided that distressing the damaged wood and cleaning the leather would allow me to pull the grey green color into my den while still allowing the trunk to keep some of its original character.

Steamer Trunk

Step 3: Picking the perfect paint

I headed to Home Depot with the trunk still in my back seat. When you get to the paint desk tell the associate what you’re doing. The finish that you will need will be determined by where the finished trunk will be displayed. Only use a flat finish if no one is going to touch your trunk on a regular basis. Flat finish was not an option for my project because I was placing my trunk in the same room as my wine bar. If you are using the trunk as a coffee table use an eggshell finish. This allows you to wash the painted area. There is also a new stain resistant paint that is great for protecting any painted surfaces just ask the associate at the desk what will be best for your trunk location and use.

I choose a grey green to match my kitchen and an eggshell finish with primer already added to the paint. This allows for easy coverage and costs very little. I only needed a pint because I only planned to distress the wood and leave the black leather in its original condition. Lighter color work better for distressing wood. Think about the color you want your trunk to look like and then pick a boring greyer version of that color. This sounds strange but it will usually work. You will end up with the effect you want even if at the store you don’t think the color is bright enough.

Don’t choose dark paint colors to distress furniture. If you want to paint a base coat in a dark color and distress on top of it with a lighter color you can but know you will lose some of the wood grain. You will also want to choose your colors very carefully, if the colors are too different you end up with a children’s art project.

Get a very small paint brush and a medium paint brush. Get a small sanding hand tool if you don’t already own one or a sanding brick (this looks like a sponge only it’s made of sandpaper). Blue painters tape is always a good idea unless you have a very steady hand; this is to tape off areas you don’t want to paint. If you don’t like the inside of your trunk pick up some wall paper glue.

Paint

Step 3: distressing your trunk

Sand the wood portion you plan to paint with sand paper in the same direction as the wood grain. This doesn’t need to be perfect you are just preparing the surfaces for paint. Wash you trunk inside and out with antibacterial soap and warm water. Dry your trunk completely before painting. Start painting on the back so you can get into the groove of the project before you start the most noticeable sides. You want to 1st decide how much wood grain you want to see. How nice does the wood look? Do you like the color? If you want to just see the texture but don’t like the wood’s color or condition don’t add any water to your paint. If you want to see mostly wood with just a little color add about one cup of water to every half pint. Adjust as needed to your personal goal.

I had some pretty banged up wood so I decided not to add any water.

Start by taping off one medium sized section of wood. I did one wood plank at a time. Paint with the wood grain. No need to cover the entire area just most of the section. Take a dry rag and lightly pull it over the painted section while it is drying. What you are hoping for is an uneven look. Look at the section does this look like you hoped? If you aren’t happy with the look try another coat. If this still looks wrong use a wet rag to remove most of the paint before it is fully dry. Dry and try again. You are deciding how you will do the entire trunk with this 1st section, make a plan and stick to it. If you do two coats on the 1st section continue this method throughout. I did one coat over all wood planks.

This is supposed to be fun don’t stress out if it doesn’t look perfect after the 1st 10 minutes of painting. Distressing will look a little like a bad crafts project until you near the end of the painting. The paint will also dry darker than it looks wet.

distressing

Step 4: Dealing with the details

inside

You’ve finished painting and you now notice that your trunk looks great from the outside but the inside looks scary. A lot of the time steamer trunks will have an odd water stained fabric that use to be white but know is 3 shades of brown from age. Rip it out! Try to keep the shapes of the fabric intact to use as patterns. Do you have odd wall paper in the house that you aren’t using? If not, do you have a thick wrapping paper around the house? You can use either of these to line the inside of your trunk. Using the old fabric as a patter and cut out the shapes you will need to line your trunk. Use the glue below and on top of the paper, this will allow it to become more solid and washable. Let dry open.

Sometimes after you rip out the fabric you will notice that your particular trunk has too many edges to easily line. You probably have paint left, try painting the inside solid. This will look very different from the distressed pattern on the outside but will still make the trunk feel clean and new.

The inside of the trunk can look anyway you’d like. Don’t be afraid of using brighter colors for the inside, this will create a modern surprise when the trunk is opened.

finished1finished2