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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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Then I sanded each piece.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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

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

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

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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:

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Oh, and we’ve done some of this too:

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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.

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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:
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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?
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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.

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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!”

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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?

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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.

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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?

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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!

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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.

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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:

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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:

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

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

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Then he replaced the plaster with sheet rock.

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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!

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But we still needed to repair the chimney!

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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.

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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.

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

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The next day it looked like this.

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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.

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

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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.

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

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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!

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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!

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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.

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

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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!

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Soon, I hope!

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Door to Door

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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.

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Goodbye ugly gold!

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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!

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

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Another hour or so got me to this point:

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

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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!

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

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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:

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And here’s the now!

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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!

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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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Table Transformation

My new school got new furniture this year! Usually the district collects and stores all the old furniture, but with several schools upgrading, the furniture depository was full. That meant it was all up for grabs, and this old reading table came home with me!

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Some foam, fabric, and a lot of staples later and that old reading table looks like this:

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There are a lot of posts and tutorials out there about how to turn a table into a tufted ottoman, and I found Little Green Notebook and M is for Mama be the most helpful.

For me, the first step was to measure out how far apart to space the buttons. This was surprisingly difficult! After the third time measuring or so, I finally got it and could drill the holes. Pre-drilling the holes was suggested by several others, and ended up being a super important step.

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I then attached the foam with spray glue and cut holes where the buttons would go using a steak knife.

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The foam was covered with a layer of thick batting and the fabric. I chose an indoor/outdoor fabric that was marked way down for the end of the season. I’m hoping it will be less likely to stain!

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Since I predrilled all the holes, I was hoping it would be easier to use screws and washers to make the tufts instead of pulling the thread through (which is how a professional would do it). Everything I’d seen on tufting said it was pretty challenging to do on your own, since you had to go back and forth from front to back as you sewed the buttons down, and that it was pretty painful too, pulling each button through with all your might. Since Mr. Electric Screwdriver and I are pretty good buddies these days, I decided to try that route. Easier? Probably. Easy? Not one bit. I finally got into a rhythm though as I realized that lifting the foam up off the table allowed me to see what I was doing as I stuck the screw and washer into the foam, found the predrilled hole, then used the screwdriver to screw it down.

The further along I got, the better each tuft looked. The folds really started to tighten up and form the diamond shape.

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Before I finished the tufting, Tony helped me attach the new legs. It would have been more economical to use the metal legs that the table came with, but then I’d have to cover the whole base. New wooden legs were going to be a much better option. I took out the flat screw that they come with and used three long screws in each leg so they’d be nice and sturdy. It was easy to attach the legs from the top, since the foam, batting, and fabric would hide the screws. Then Tony also helped me attach the fabric around the outside. I’ve done a couple upholstery projects before, and my staple gun was actually the first real tool I owned, but this table was so solid that I couldn’t push the staple in by myself! So I held the fabric down and Tony stapled for me. Unfortunatly, there’s no photographic evidence as both hands were required at all time, but he did help! (And he even struggled a bit – that’s how hard the wood that made that table is!) The end result after that first day was this:

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A couple days later I went back to trim up the extra fabric. A ribbon and a combination of hot glue and staples now hides the seams away.

IMG_2120.JPG Those white spots are old glue that some sticky fingers left behind. Eww!

On the top, I used hot glue to attach the covered buttons to the screws. I don’t know how well they’ll last, but they seem okay so far. And should they pop off, they’ll be easy to fix.

So here’s another look at the before and after!

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I’m very pleased with the project! The ottoman fills the space in front of our massive sectional much better than our little coffee table did, and the height ratio is much better. I love putting my feet up on it when we’re watching a show, or when I’m writing a blog post!

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I did learn a lot though, so I feel much more confident about doing another project of this nature. Here are a few things I’d do differently:
*Cut the holes in the foam a little bigger to accommodate the large buttons – there will still be plenty of plushness
* Use gigantic washers. I used the washers that went with the size screws I bought, on recommendation of the guy at Home Depot – bigger washers would pull the foam and fabric away to make more room for the buttons.
* Use straight seamed sides instead of angled – I like the look of the angled, but they’re not real consisten, and I think it’d look more professionally done if the fabric met at a straight line instead of the angle

At the same time, there were a lot of things I think went really well, so I’d do these again:
*Order foam from Home Depot – the foam camping cushion I ordered was 3 inches thick and was probably half the price I would have paid at a fabric store, even with a good coupon
*Use the screw method – this technique wasn’t terribly easy, but it did work very well and it made the project go pretty quickly!

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