I Battle a Chair and Win!

Have you seen all those Drop Cloth projects on Pinterest? I’ve seen about a million of them, and they always look amazing, so a few weeks ago I decided to give one a try. Look what I just completed! 

My first upholstery project was actually in college. I had an old blue, button tufted armchair from my childhood bedroom, a few yards of super-cheap upholstery fabric, and my first real tool – a manual staple gun. For that first project I didn’t really RE-upholster iit. I just covered the existing fabric with some foam and the new fabric. Each button is still perfectly in place beneath about 6 inches of additional foam. This time I decided to do it right using a chair we picked up at a garage sale last summer. After a couple weeks spent scouring blog posts by other people who had no real idea what they were doing when they started their reupholstery projects, I was ready to begin! Step 1 was to start essentially ripping the thing apart, while keeping the original fabric as much in tact as possible. 

Little did I know, Step 1 would also involve ripping my fingers to shreds. Holy Cow! Reupholstery is really crappy hard work! I yanked and tugged and pried and broke staples until my fingers couldn’t take it anymore, then took a break, so it took a couple weekends just to deconstruct the chair. By this point I was really questioning my choice to take on this project, and it was far too late to go back. Tony suggested we could leave the whole mess on the corner on trash day, a thought I entertained for only half a second. Although my financial investment in this project was minimal, I’d given that chair my blood and sweat, and I don’t sweat easily! I was determined not to let that chair beat me. I would win the battle!

The orange-red wood had some scratches, so I sanded it all down for painting and distressing. My plan was to use a neutral white, but when I went to my paint samples box, the blue just jumped into my hand! The left side had stain applied before taking this photo; the right had not yet.  

Then it was time to start putting the new fabric on – the drop cloth I picked up at Lowes . Here I was a bit flummoxed. I had all the origional fabric pieces so I could easily cut everything to size, except the back cushion. The back foam was actually sewn into the fabric in a pattern I learned is called a channel back. I was not interested in trying to fit three inch foam through my sewing machine, but I just couldn’t figure out how else to keep the shape of the channels. Since the drop cloth was already pretty plain, I really felt I needed to keep the channels in order for the chair to have some interest… and I didn’t want to buy new foam anyway.  So I thought about it, formed a plan, then decided it wouldn’t work. That process repeated and repeated again. My indecision resulted in a considerable amount of procrastination and TV watching, the results of which I will soon show you, but finally I just had to take action. 

Since the foam was sewn between a backing piece and the origional upholstery fabric, I ended up just cutting the maroon fabric off the channels. That meant the foam was still attached to the backing, giving me enough leverage to pull the foam between the seat and the wood frame of the chair. I guessed at the size of the fabric panel, since I’d cut it into 7 pieces, and began pushing it between the exposed strips of foam. I did my best to crease the fabric in the right spots where it met the seat, but I did have to call Tony in to help. Then a single staple in the fold at the top of the chair’s frame and a pleat that wrapped around the back of that frame kept the shape of the channels. My idea worked! Tony pulled the fabric as tight as he could so I could staple the fabric at the base of the seat. 

By the way, can I tell you how much I love my new pneumatic staple gun? Thank you Christmas present, for making this job easier possible! Even with the power of 100 PSI at the touch of my fingertips, it was seriously challenging to pull the fabric taught with one hand and use the other to hit both the safety and the trigger. Without that staple gun, the chair probably would have been picked up with the trash this morning! 

I mentioned that I wanted to do this reupholstery projet the right way, but I did take a shortcut with the trim. The chair was origionally outfitted with what I’ve learned is called double welting. I had zero interest in making this double welting, which apparently involves endless amounts of sewing. And did I mention you have to SEW it? Bleh. So instead, I used the hem from the drop cloth and hot glued it on. How great is that?! No sewing necessary.

This chair is definitely not perfect. There are lumps in places where I didn’t realize the excess fabric would show through and where I reused cardboard and metal stabilizing pieces instead of buying new ones.  But I love the soft color, and I love the cheap price, and I especially love it when Tony looks at something I’ve done and says, “You know, I had my doubts [about using a dropcloth], but that’s really cool!” When is he going to learn that all my ideas are good ones?!

And this project has made me super excited to get that bedroom wall finished so we can paint the whole room. Won’t the chair be beautiful with a soft gray wall behind it and a big mirror over the shutter table? I’ve got plans, people!

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Shutter Table

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When Tony put in the new door for our bedroom (There was no door there before – just an opening. Wierd, huh?) it affected the wall that my long dresser was on; the one highlighted in this post.

That meant my beautiful long dresser had to move to the guest bedroom, and I was left with two 5 foot sections of wall. Neither one was really long enough for another dresser, so it was time to get creative.

I’d purchased these heavy shutter doors at a neighboring town’s city-wide garage sale last summer with the intention of building a new table for behind the couch. Then Mom said she had one she wasn’t using and would gladly give me, so the shutters sat on the back porch collecting copious amounts of dust and debris… until a couple weeks ago, that is.


It took a good hour or two just to wipe these babies down with soap and water! Then I cut them to size and sanded the whole thing, doing my best to get each slat.


Painting was another chore – it’s really tough to get into all those grooves without dripping a bunch of paint onto the other side, but I did it! While those two coats were drying I stained the table legs. I used two different lengths of legs, but both in the same style.


When it was time to put the whole thing together I used the same technique that I used on the window table that’s on the front porch. I drilled a large hole all the way through the bottom shelf of the table and used a three inch long screwy-thing to connect the two table legs.


Then I took the whole table outside and roughed it up a little bit to distress the edges and sealed the whole thing with two coats of polyacrylic.


If that wall looks a little funny, that’s because it’s not finished! Tony had the wall up and the door functional before Christmas, but he has only just recently been able to complete the taping and mudding process. One of the these days I’ll get in there and wrap the whole bedroom in plastic so I can sand the wall down and paint it, but this is not that day! I’m also working on a little beauty to go right next to this new table. More to come soon!

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Dog Crate Update

Shortly after bringing our sweet puppy, Charlie, home in October I disguised his massive dog crate in this post here. It looked great, if I do say so myself. So many people came into the house and asked where we kept him!


Then I woke up in the middle of the night one night completely terrified that the heavy table top was going to crush him while we were sleeping or away at work. It was ridiculous, really, but I was so upset when I woke up that I had to get out of bed to make sure the little guy was still alive! I knew that one of my winter break projects would have to be constructing a sturdier base for the crate cover.

I found plans for a dog crate on Ana White’s website. If you’re not familiar with it, her site is a treasure trove of DIY woodworking projects! Tony looked over the plans and enlarged the dimensions so we could still use the plastic liner from the wire crate, and we’d just put my tabletop right over it.

The plans called mostly for 1x2s and 1x3s, so I spent one afternoon cutting the wood according to the dimensions Tony put together.


Then I sanded each piece.


The plans called for the top third to be somewhat open with spaced out slats, sort of like a crib. I knew it would be pretty tough to paint in between the slats, so I painted just those pieces beforehand – 2 coats on all four sides.


The next day Tony offered to help me drill the holes and construct the crate. We both got to use a Kreg-Jig for the first time to drill the pocket holes. That was pretty cool!


Thanks, Nate, for letting us borrow your tool! (And yes, I do know how that sounds! Anyway…) With all the holes drilled we could begin constructing the rails.


The rails were attached to the frame pieces and secured with plywood sheets cut to size.


By the end of that day things looked pretty good! This was our mock-up to make sure everything would fit together.


The next day I finished painting and hand distressing each piece.


Finally, we put it together! I snapped this quick photo of Charlie inside, intending to take more pictures the next day after our first day back at work.


That first day back was an inservice day, and Title teachers typically meet at a school just a few blocks away from home. A friend and I stopped in to see Charlie, since he wasn’t used to being back on the school schedule, and take him outside. She snapped a cell phone photo of the sight when we walked in.


I was in such shock that I didn’t think to snap a photo of the new kennel door hanging from one hinge, the wood with the latch having been completely chewed through, and my puppy laying against the new crate with all 4 legs in the air, a completely satiated, and maybe a little sick, look on his face! Missie was amazing, picking up the destroyed rolls of paper towels, the dryer sheets and trash bags, and throwing away the numerous cardboard boxes he’d shredded in our absense. I went around upstairs, picking up and disinfecting the messes made up there, then I set up his old crate as Missie gently informed me he’d probably get sick that afternoon. And finally we had to get back to work.

The next few days were a little scary as we worked to determine just how much Charlie ate as he was ripping things apart. Thankfully it wasn’t nearly as much as it could have been! Once we knew he was okay it was time to turn our attention back to the crate.

I was so disheartened that my project was an epic fail. I could hardly look at the thing, sitting with the door in ruins, as I walked through the library. Then Tony stepped in and promised to fix it – bless him! Charlie spent the rest of the week in the wire crate in the middle of the library, completely confused every time we told him to go to his kennel, since the wooden one was still in the normal kennel spot. The next weekend Tony took the wooden crate apart and enlarged it so the wire crate would fit inside the wooden one.

I’m happy to report, it’s been over a month and we haven’t had a problem since!


He kinda looks like he hates it in that photo, but I really don’t think he does!


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Catching Up

Merry Christmas! Happy New Year! … Happy Groundhog Day!?

So, I’ve taken a bit of a vacation from the blog. What have I been up to? We’ve been taking our cues from Charlie, who really likes to spend his days like this:


Oh, and we’ve done some of this too:


Really we’ve just been enjoying the relative cleanliness and peace of a home with no current construction projects! Yay!

We did loads of work leading up to the holidays in preparation for hosting Tony’s side of the family for Christmas. This was the first time we’d hosted out-of-town guests for several days at a time, and there was a lot to do – the library and front hall to finish, fixing up the front bedroom, oh, and making sure there was a door on our own bedroom! I’ll detail some of those pursuits below.

Library Continue reading

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Front Hall Reveal

This project took SO much longer than I expected it to, with delay after delay. I didn’t want to risk getting all that plaster or mortar dust on the fabric though, so the wait was totally worth it. Here’s an in-process photo of our front hallway makeover:

Let’s step back for a moment and review the progress that was made leading up to that photo. Remember where we started with the front hall many months ago? All that gold practically begging to be taken off the wall?

When we took down all the paper, we found that the plaster was in decent shape but wasn’t smooth enough to just be painted. Plaster repair would take forever (HA!), which is why I decided to go with fabric. I’d seen some awesome posts of other people putting fabric on their walls, and I’ve put fabric on my walls at school for years. Despite everyone I talked to’s strange looks, I decided to go for it!

When we finally set to work on installing the fabric, it went pretty quickly. We measured out the strips of material, and Mom ironed a seam at the top. I trimmed the excess threads from the sides so they wouldn’t show through where there was overlap.

IMG_2254 Continue reading

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Stairs with a Message

Part of the front hallway makeover (It truly is almost done, and has been for weeks. All that’s left to finish is the trim!) included work on the stairs. The work needed here was minimal. Well, if you want to be technical, a few of the stairs lean to the left and the newel post at the bottom needs resetting… So let me rephrase. As the stairs are structurally sound despite the two things listed above, the work I was planning to do to the stairs was minimal! There was some recaulking needed around some of the decorative trim pieces, and I wanted to hide a crack in the wall on your way up, but mostly the stair rises needed a bit of a facelift. I know. Stair risers? Really? Does anyone even notice those? Well, these stairs have seen some serious action in their however many years of service! And the risers are where you really see it. They had scuffs, scratches, and chips gouged out of them. And I swear, they have been staring me in the face for months, saying, “Bring it on!”


A fresh coat of paint made a big difference, but it couldn’t hide the big chunks that were missing. The picture above was actually taken after the paint was applied. I toyed around with the idea of refacing them with textured wallpaper. I’ve seen pictures on Pinterest that look awesome, but the test pieces I put up were destroyed within a few days. Our stairs are just too narrow, and dear Tony’s feet are just too big! So I went with another Pinterest idea that I hoped would draw the focus: words on the stairs.

Designing and applying the decals took just a few hours. In fact, I did nearly all the work on Thanksgiving morning before we went to Mom and Dad’s for the day! The hard part was figuring out what I wanted the stairs to say. After much searching, I stumbled on this quote attributed to Mark Twain:
“Life is short. Break the rules, forgive quickly, kiss slowly, love truly, laugh uncontrollably, and never regret anything that makes you smile.” I was a little leery at first. I mean, I’m not much of a rule breaker. Tony is though, and every time he goes upstairs he’s going to read this message! (He actually said something to the effect of, “Are you sure you want me to read this everyday?” : ) I considered altering them or looking for another idea all together. In the end though, I just kept coming back to that quote. And if they really are Mark’s words, who am I to alter them?


So, here they are! Because of the curve at the bottom, I can’t get back far enough to get them all in at once, so here’s the bottom half.


Did you see the little blip of fabric-covered wall on that second to last picture? It is AWESOME! I can’t wait to show it to you!

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Lyre Chair Makeover with Gel Stain

Since college I have wanted a lyre back chair. Every once in awhile, when trolling Craigslist, I do a quick search for lyre furniture of any type. There’s usually something on there. I’ve seen beautiful tables and entire sets of chairs, but everything’s been either far too pricey or way far away. But a couple weeks ago I hit gold! A woman about 15 minutes away was selling an old lyre back chair for just $20. It was a deal I couldn’t pass up. This was the chair when I brought it home. Can you guess what decade it’s from?


So I took it apart. Ok, that’s probably a bit dramatic. I removed the seat. (Less effect, more truth.) I’ve recovered many a chair before, and it’s a super simple process. Get fabric, cut fabric, staple fabric on seat, reinstall seat, done! The only exception here was I updated the seat cushion with new foam. I just set it on top of the 40 or so year old batting that was under the orange fabric. I did throw out the orange corduroy though!


The harder part was the body of the chair. I wanted to update the wood color too, as I’m just not a fan of orangey wood. I absolutely loved using the gel stain on my dresser makeover upstairs, so I thought I’d give that a try. I think it turned out pretty well.


It was a lot more work than the flat dresser top though! First off, it was harder to get an even coat around all the curves and edges. Second, that lyre has some narrow spots, so I just had to goop the stuff in there and hope it wouldn’t look too funky! This was after the first coat:


Just as before, I applied a total of three coats and rubbed the excess stain off after a few minutes, but with this project I had to be careful not to rub too hard on the edges or the orange wood would reappear. I also learned from the dresser project that paper towel doesn’t work as well for gel stain as it does for typical stain, so I went with an old cotton rag and it looked great once it was all dry. That gel stain is pretty cool stuff. It comes out like cheap hair gel, but it dries with a beautiful gloss finish. Even though it wasn’t super easy to use on this project, it meant I didn’t need to sand the whole thing down, which really would have required taking the chair apart!


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Master Mason

Here we are, well into November, and I still don’t have a completed front hall to show you. Progress is being made, that’s for sure, but we’ve had a bit of delay. I’m sure you’re totally shocked… NOT! : )

The delay this time around has to do with the chimney we exposed, half in the front hall and half in the library. Tony started tearing up the library way back in August. Here’s a before photo:


He ripped out the built-ins and took down the old plaster.


That gave us a look at some of the different shades and papers that have adorned the walls!


Then he replaced the plaster with sheet rock.


The library side of the chimney needed some work though. It had some damage at the bottom – you can see above that a few of the bricks had broken and needed to be replaced. There was also that terribly patched hole from a stove that was originally hooked into the chimney. Tony had contacted a brickwork company probably 10 weeks ago who came out to tell us that our chimney was in decent shape structurally, with the exception of those couple areas requiring repair, and it was lined, so there are no poisonous escaping through our now exposed brick from the furnace which currently uses that same chimney to vent. Yay! We were more than happy to pay that company for delivering such reassuring news! However, because they’re accustomed to really large jobs, like installing brand new chimneys, they wanted a lot of money to make those little repairs. Mom asked around at her marketing group, but the guy I scheduled to come out just never showed, and he never returned my call afterward either. So Tony found an independent mason who said he could do the work for about 100 bucks. So worth it, right?! A week later or so Tony talked to the guy, but he couldn’t find the right color bricks to match. “How hard can it be?” Tony and I said to one-another. Tony went down the street, as there is a brick company at the end of our block, but they didn’t have anything close. Then Tony went downtown to two companies that sell both new and used bricks. Still no luck! Tony probably spent 3 weeks looking for bricks, but he never did find anything close. In the meantime we painted everything in the room, including three coats on the ceiling!


But we still needed to repair the chimney!


Then I made a little mistake that had great results! A couple months ago when I removed the plaster from the hallway side of the chimney (after Tony did the library side) I had a little big scare. I was chipping away at plaster with my putty knife and hammer when I heard a thud. I couldn’t be sure, but it seemed like some of the bricks moved! Terrified, I stopped work on that section immediately and waited until Tony got home! Much debate ensued before we were able to determine that 1) yes, a column of bricks had definitely moved, and 2) they were not a concern. Those bricks seemed to have been placed next to the chimney just so that plaster could be applied over them.

Well, a couple weeks ago I nudged some of the bricks with my toe. I couldn’t help it! They’d been beckoning to me for weeks. It was a seriously gentle nudge. I just wanted to see if they’d move. They did. A whole section of bricks just plopped right over! I called Tony over and he said, “Well, I guess we found some bricks to use for the chimney!” and he pulled them out of the wall.


The problem was, Tony wasn’t able to get the brick guy to call him back, and all this brick trouble was delaying my progress in the hall and Tony’s progress in the library. We really wanted to pay someone to do this job, but it just wasn’t panning out. So, last Saturday, Tony took matters into his own hands!

First he took out the cement plug and some of the bricks around the hole.


It was a little scary in there! Then he started layering mortar and bricks.


The next day it looked like this.


It’s almost a week later now, and the bricks look almost the same – still very wet! Hopefully they’ll dry soon so we can clean them, paint the new mortar to try and match the old, and then we can finally install the cabinets! The front hall is coming along too. With the hall side of the chimney cleaned and sealed, I was finally able to start on the fabric install!

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Disguised Dog Crate

First of all, today was a gorgeous, foggy fall morning. Check out this view from the porch.


Okay, back to today’s update. We’ve had Charlie for about 3 weeks now, and we are just loving him!


However, I was not loving his Taj Mahal of a wire dog crate sitting in the middle of the library. Since there’s a good chance Charlie’s going to be a giant, we opted for the extra large package of goods from the shelter, which included a 48 inch by 30 inch crate… yeah, that’s nearly 12 square feet of space that baby takes up!

Since Charlie’s home base is in the library, that’s the man’s space afterall, which is clearly visible from the living room, I started scouring Pinterest and wracking my brain for a way to keep Charlie comfy while maintaining some aesthetic appeal. Then Tony cleaned out the attic upstairs a couple weekends ago, discovering what we assume was once the frame to an old water bed, and an idea was born!

I was extremely undisciplined with this project, and I took not a single before or during photo! However, it was pretty straight forward: measure crate, cut wood a little bigger than crate, screw wood together, and finish. I did have to sand down the original finish, then I stenciled on some old keys. I wanted just a little uniqueness to the top without going too overboard. Finally, two coats of Walnut Minwax stain, my go-to color, and three coats of polyacrylic finished it up.


Even with the plate stand, there’s a ton of space on the table!


The table top lifts right off so we can take Charlie’s crate somewhere if we need to. I would have liked to include the 4 inch strip all the way around the crate so it looked more like a table, but the door went too high, so it’s only on the front. It does a good job of hiding the curtain rod though!


Charlie seems to like his new crate cover a lot. He’s got a very private space, but he also has a little bit of the window!


Placement for the crate was tough due to its size and the placement of our air ducts, which we definitely didn’t want to cover! I think the chairs and coffee table in front help to tie the space together while connecting with the living room. He’s a view from the side where Charlie’s door is.


I’m happy with the way the library is shaping up!

If you just look at this half of the room, it looks pretty darn good.

Now if only we can get this half to that same point!


Soon, I hope!

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Door to Door

The front hall redecoration is well under way! A few weeks ago Mom and I took down the old, gold wallpaper, confirming Tony’s suspicion that those walls are still plaster.

Goodbye ugly gold!

Luckily, they’re in decent shape, but not decent enough that a coat of paint will do the trick. Don’t worry! I have a plan, but it will probably be a few weeks until I’ll be able to reveal it. I’m aiming for Halloween. In the meantime, much work has continued in the hall. After the paper came down, so did the plaster on the chimney! I’ve mentioned before that we have two chimneys in this house, but both were walled in long ago. Part of the hallway makeover (and the library, for that matter) involved removing that plaster and exposing the brick. I tackled this project one day while Tony was off golfing. I’ll show you a before view. I don’t know if you can see the pattern on the walls or not… That’s the imprint of the wallpaper’s texture in the glue! Yikes! I think we’re going to have to sand it down!

The first 20 minutes of plaster removal were really fun! This is how much I got down in that time.

Another hour or so got me to this point:

By the end of the afternoon I was exhausted, but look at that brick!

But that’s not really what I set out to show you today. I’ve also been working on our doors. The back door got a coat (okay, several coats) of deep, beautiful red!

The front door is now a gorgeous black that really highlights all the architectural detail.

But the biggest transformation was the font hall door. We don’t know what happened to the original hall door, if there was one, but the one we have now is a hollow core, plain flat number. I’ve been meaning to do something about it for awhile and finally got around to it after seeing this blog post. Here’s the before:

And here’s the now!

So much better! It’s the little details that really make a room, and now this door looks just as old and beautiful as the others in the house.

Anyway, the other news about doors is that we’ve opened our door to a new family member! Meet Charlie. He’s 7 months old and a whopping 50 pounds!

Just days after we brought him home from the shelter, Charlie came down with kennel cough. I woke up early on Sunday morning to him coughing and gagging, and he was really sick all day. He even had a fever… at least we think he did. I wasn’t sticking the thermometer up there to check. The poor guy just wanted some love and crawled right onto my lap when I sat down to comfort him. I promise, this dog does get up and walk around! In fact, he’s quite energetic now that he’s healthy again! But it’s much easier to snap photos when he’s lounging.

IMG_1698.JPG Needless to say, this little big guy has completely stolen our hearts!

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