Archive for July, 2010

A few weekends ago I headed out to pick up a rocking chair from a lovely woman named Jenn.  Jenn has had the rocking chair for some time and thought that it needed a make over to go with her currently evolving living room.  

Exhibit A

It is a sturdy chair with a Mission style back.  As you can see from the picture, there was a lot of wear in the arms, completely natural in a well-loved piece of furniture.  We knew from the beginning that it was going to need either a new coat of paint or stain, so once I got it home I started gently sanding it down.  


It is a slow process because you want to make sure you that you don’t damage the wood underneath.  Normally though, if you were just going to repaint the piece, you would want to just scruff it up a bit and not completely strip the wood, but since we (Jenn and I) were unsure about whether the final piece should be stained or painted, all of the original paint had to come off.   This was definitely a mask and goggles type of job.   I got a good giggle out of sending her “naked” shots of her chair as I was finishing up sanding it.  


Now to the fun part!  We need your help and reader expertise.  Jenn has picked several different fabrics to replace the current zig-zag pattern on the chair and they are all so great, it seems she is having a hard time narrowing the field.  Here they are, in no particular order: 

Balihi Terrain


Caprina Celebration

Dream Poppies

Feeling Groovy

Forte Spa

Galaxy Robins Egg

Leaves Bark

Merrimac Marble

Suess Marble

 Leave us your favorites in the comments!  We will post the full B4 and After shots when the rocking chair has had its complete makeover. 

If you want your home to have a special piece of “green” furniture, created with your needs in mind, contact me by email at RedefiningDecor[at]gmail.com for information.

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There are few situations where everyone truly wins, but here is one.

A few weeks ago my mom and I were in the garage when we found a few great pieces that could use a little love and attention.  Nothing makes my step-father happier than when you take something out of his garage or basement (for good!).  Nothing makes my mother happier than giving me something she’s held onto “for a reason”.  And, finally nothing makes me happier than a new piece of furniture to work on and enjoy.

Here’s what we gained, lost, and/or passed on….  A set of chairs that go with my (refinished) dining room table, given to her 34 years ago! I didn’t even know they existed. An outdoor rocking chair. And, my niece’s rocking chair, which I think was originally mine when I was little.

The next night I put the rocking chair on my patio and checked it out. Not in bad shape at all! I washed it down and looked again, not bad at all…

Before...not bad, right?

I started sanding it not really knowing where I was going to go with it in the end. I was thinking white. What’s more classic than a nice white rocker on your porch or patio? Hmm…maybe navy blue, that could be nice and nautical. While color schemes and different porches and patios are playing in my mind I stop and look at this half-sanded chair.

I look a little more, a few different angles, a few more strokes of sandpaper. I like it! Scratch that. I love it! I decide to stop here…it has a perfect weathered look to it. Like this chair has been around forever and seen and heard it all, but in a distinguished and classic outdoorsy green and wood.  Sometimes you don’t have to do too much to achieve a perfect look. Sometimes you just find what you want along the way without having the end result already planned in your mind and it’s a matter of exercising some restraint with the sandpaper.

I think I have to keep it. It looks perfect here. And now, it will be around to see and hear so much more!

Soon, I will get to the other chairs from this rescue mission…

– Shona

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Despite all the negative press during the past year about Craigslist, it is still an amazing resource for furniture.  Instead of spending an entire Saturday, driving around from tag sale to tag sale, you can pop online and check out what’s available. Before you hit the road, here are a few tips to make your Craigslist experience a good one.  

Craigslist Purchase May, 2010

Same Chair After Paint Makeover!

 1.  Be smart.  All it takes is one momentary lapse in judgment to get into a really bad situation.  When I fire off an email to a posting on Craigslist, I note the following things in the seller’s response:     

        – Is the return email from a man or a woman?  You can call me a sexist but I prefer dealing with women on Craigslist.  If I get a poorly spelled email back from someone who doesn’t come up in a quick google search then you can darn sure that I’m going to make my husband Justin or my dad go with me for the pick up.  If I get am email back and it says, “We will be home after 5 for you to come by” then I generally assume that it is a couple and not an evil biker gang looking to harvest my internal organs and then resell them on Craigslist and will make a judgment call as to whether or not I need backup.       

        – If I can’t bring my backup in the form of my husband or dad and I am in ANY way nervous, I politely ask the seller to bring the item outside for me to view it.  I don’t go inside of strangers houses.  You shouldn’t either.  I’ve never had a problem with this request and always try to ask as politely as possible.  If a seller gives you a hard time then maybe you should reconsider. 

Met the Seller OUTSIDE for this pick up!

               – Tell at least one person the address of where you are going and make sure that you arrange to speak with that person after the pickup when you are on your way home.  This one is really important.  I always tell someone when I’m heading out alone.  It takes so little time and this way someone will know pretty quickly if something goes wrong.   

            – Bring your cell phone, leave your wallet/purse!  I always bring my cell phone with me but I leave my wallet locked in my car.  I also don’t pull out the cash to pay the person until I’ve inspected the item.  

Craigslist around college graduation time = goldmine! $5 cabinet.

 2.  Be Prepared. 

            – Do you know the measurements of your vehicle?  Do you know the measurements of the item you are picking up?  There is nothing worse than getting to the pickup site and realizing that you don’t have enough room to get the item home.  Pre-measure and feel free to ask the seller to give you measurements of the item you are picking up.         

    – I always keep a few things in my station wagon for when I spot some goody on the side of the road or if I’m doing a Craigslist pickup after work.  These items are:  an old blanket to protect the back of the car, tape measure, some rope and a screw driver set.  The rope saved the day when I went to pick up two dressers on my lunch break.  If I didn’t have the rope, I would have had to leave them behind.  

Craigslist "Free" pickup June, 2010

Nothing better than FREE!

             – I’m a stubborn “tough guy” and I like to move big pieces of furniture by myself, regardless of whether it is safe.  Don’t be me.  Invest in a back brace or bring a buddy to help you. 

3.  Know What You Want and Be Willing To Walk Away.     

       – This is one that I am still learning.  There is no steadfast rule that states you must buy the item because you are standing in the front yard of some stranger’s house looking at it.  If it is worse shape than the picture or the description explains, if it just isn’t your taste in person or maybe the moons of Saturn just aren’t aligned correctly this week, then you have every right to say “Thanks, but no thanks” and be on your merry way.  Don’t worry about the Seller, they will find someone else but I can tell you based on how much stuff I have in my garage, sometimes it really is better to just say, “NO” or else risk being a part of the future cast of “Hoarders:  Hobbies Gone Wrong”.

Bad Craigslist Purchase. Booo!

  4.  Wheel and Deal but Be Respectful.        

    – There are great deals on Craigslist and there is generally room to further haggle on prices.  If you see “OBO (or best offer)” in a posting that means the Seller is willing to take less than advertised.  What OBO does not mean is that you should shamefully lowball the person.  If a price is a little too steep for me, I will email the Seller and tell them that and ask them politely if they would be willing to part with the item for less.  More often than not, they will drop the price.  

$5 Dollar End Table

 5.  Don’t Be A No-Show.  

             –         If you commit to a time and place, be there.  Now that is just good manners. 


– Kate 

If you want your home to have a special piece of “green” furniture, created with your needs in mind, contact me by email at RedefiningDecor[at]gmail.com for information.

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Door knobs, ugh…

I’ve always considered myself pretty handy. Until today that is, when I tried to replace my door knobs… now you can call me the un-handy ma’am. Sounds simple right? One tool, and lickety-split, I should have a new and improved door which would transform the look of these old wood doors.

Well, here’s how it went.

I bought these beautiful old glass door knobs from urban miners last weekend. Gorgeous. I have always loved this look and have wanted to do it. I have changed door knobs before!

I start inspecting and notice that half of the door knobs in my house are old and just the right size to accommodate these beautiful glass knobs! But, the rest of the doors have larger bases and just would not work. UGH, door knobs! But, I have to try, just to see! OMG, how pretty, right? Changes that door instantly! I LOVE them. I am immediately trying to think of ways to get them to work on all the doors.

So pretty!!!

Now, I have the knob almost totally on and notice the latch isn’t catching when I turn it…hmm. So, I keep trying…take it apart, put it back together. Then I shut the door…and I knew in that split second, it would not be opening again easily. I do what any single woman with one bathroom would do. I panic. The fear of having to go the bathroom sets in. I make a few crazed calls. After a few minutes of playing with screwdrivers and starting to sweat I get the knob off of my side (the outside). A few more pushes, and the one on the inside falls to the floor. Still, can’t get it to turn. A needle-nosed pliers eventually did the job…door knobs, ugh.  

Now, no matter how I seem to put this thing back together, it will not turn properly! And, instead of my beautiful  glass knobs, I have this…a sticky note and a bathroom door that will not close (or open if it gets closed).

Not so pretty...

It will get fixed tomorrow, when I have a little more patience. The moral of the story is this; do your research. Know how to fix something before you let this happen to you too!

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Joseph DeRisi is the owner of Urban Miners which is located in Hamden, Connecticut.  Urban Miners “provides cutting edge, environmentally smart services in the areas of building deconstruction and materials salvage to residential property owners and commercial enterprises regionally.”  


Joe is truly an embassador of the earth with a big beard, friendly smile and endless enthusiasm about all things architectural.  The Urban Miners warehouse is a tribute to the quality workmanship of the previous generations.  In many ways, to walk through the warehouse is to walk through our collective past and with Joe as a tour guide, what was once just a simple door in your eyes, suddenly has a rich history dating back decades before you drew breath.  

Shona and I had the opportunity to visit Urban Miners.  


We arrived at the warehouse at about 8:30 am on what was shaping up to be another hot summer Saturday.  Tucked away on a side street off Dixwell Avenue in Hamden, the warehouse is unimposing from the outside. 



When you start to look around, you do notice a theme: bottles.  They are everywhere and in every shape, size and color. It makes sense because Mr. DeRisi caught the collecting bug from his father and grandfather who were both ‘Bottle Diggers’ and coin collectors.  


There are also more doors than you can even imagine and Joe could tell you where just about each one came from.  His favorite is the industrial door on the left.  


When we found out that there was a whole room dedicated to mantles it was hard to contain our perma-grin.  Fireplace mantles make me think of holidays, chilly nights in front of a fire and family.   To be in the presence of so many in one place, it was easy to let your mind wander to the experiences had around each one, especially if you think back to the not so distant past where they were used as a sole source of heat and for cooking.   


Urban Miners also has lots of accessories like door knobs (Shona actually bought a few). You could easily spend hours and hours going through each of the aisles finding treasures.  


Urban Miners definitely gets the Redefining Décor seal of approval and we recommend you go check it out for yourself the next time you have a house project to tackle.  Say hi to Joe for us, too!  

Urban Miners  – 30 Manilla Avenue, Hamden, Connecticut 

Wednesday: Open by appointment only
Thursday: 8:30 to 8:30 

Friday, Saturday: 8:30 to 4:30
Sunday: 12:00 to 4:30
Monday, Tuesday: Closed 

Internet Shopping: 24 hours/ 7 days a week 

Phone: (203) 287-0852     www.urbanminers.com  

-Kate & Shona 

(All photographs courtesy of Shona!) 



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I think we all have go-to images that inspire different thoughts and emotions in us. For me, when I am looking for inspiration in pictures, I find that I am drawn to architecture and nature and sometimes a combination of both.  One of the best parts about working with Shona is that we both find our inspiration in different ways, as you’ll see below.

Acknowledging that the New England heat and humidity this week has made it virtually impossible for paint to dry, Shona and I are going back to our roots and taking you with us.  These are our fail safe inspiration pictures.  We hope everyone has a wonderful weekend!

Shona - The color scheme is what I love here...I can't get enough green, black and gray!

Kate - What I love about this image is the depth. I feel like a lawn gnome looking up. I love the purples and greens.

Shona - How pretty! I couldn't resist picking these up. Many times the inspiration is from the smaller, more intricate accessories. Soon, there will be a dresser done to go with them!

Kate - I love the texture of this building and its toughness. There is something about its sad state that inspires me because I know the building will likely outlast us all.

Shona - This was a vase I received from a shower table setting. There is something about the color, antique-look, and detail. Vases in general are a huge inspiration to me.

Kate - Swans. Heart shaped necks. Perfect. I just happened to catch these guys and they only stayed like this for a moment. Inspiration can come from those random moments.

Shona - Who could not be inspired by hydrangea? Really, I mean it....that deep blue, almost purple. The huge blooms. Everything about them inspires me.

Kate - Anything that needs a coat of paint inspires me. I look at this house and think of the endless possibilities.

Shona - I know this is very literal, but this is where things start for me...I love looking at magazines and catalogues. I have so many ripped out pages it could be considered ridiculous. And, thank god my mom doesn't ever throw any good ones away!

Kate - A grouping of fruit in a simple, classic bowl. You could swap out the fruit or use it in other ways, like inside a vase ala The Break Up.

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Have you ever walked into the home of a couple and been immediately struck by how clearly one person had design rights over another?  I always wonder how it ends up that one person takes over the design of their home from their live in partners.

I decided to ask my very own local expert on the topic, my husband Justin.

Is there a guy style and how would you describe it as it relates to you and your castle?
From the perspective of a single male, I would say the style is primarily dark, neutral colors and hard lines.  For example, thinking of my living room: there is no curve to my couch, just straight lines and 90 degree corners.  All of my furniture is like a bunch of Tetris pieces.  Additionally, in terms of art work and decor, guys like to have some history behind it.  Guys like to put up pictures and paintings from where we have been; what they have experienced.  It is our way of building our own personal touch on our space instead of buying purely decorative artwork.

From the perspective of a married man, you just learn to say “yes dear”.
How has your style changed since I (Kate) moved in?
My style hasn’t changed, my house has.  It is much more collaborative now and having a different perspective, results in a far better outcome.  A shared space offers both a completely different style in some areas and a compromised style in others.  I think the challenge is distributing my style, yours, and our compromised style throughout our home to make the flow work.  I guess I’m saying, putting your style, right next to mine may not work, without a small transition.
How was your own sense of style evolved over time?
It becomes a lot less about posters and more about art.  You care more about what is on your walls as an adult because it is more reflective of who you are, not who you wish to be.
Is there a room in our house that you feel best represents your style?
The living room area because it is dark colored furniture, neutral walls and lots of pictures from our travel experiences.  All of the accessories are yours though.  You have a better eye for that stuff.

What would your ideal guy room look like?
It would be a man cave with a bar, big flat screen tv, leather couches with cup holders and reclining abilities.  It would feature sports memorabilia and beer steins.  But at the same time, I understand how that could only be for an extra room and it would seem a bit immature for the whole house to be like that.
Would you rather spend a day decorating or golfing?
I’d rather golf.  The style of our home doesn’t really matter too much to me as long as it isn’t glaring.  I would rather worry about why it took me two shots to get out of the sand versus what kind of plant you’d put as an accent piece.
Does environmental friendly, low toxin furniture matter to you?
Yes, in the sense of having furniture that will be around if and when I have children in the house.  I have better sense to chew on paint, but a small child may not.  Come to think of it, I’m thinking even with pets, it’s probably better to be safe.
How often to do you shop for furniture / decorative pieces for your home?
Probably 1% of the time.  It’s probably more in the fall and winter that I think about this stuff, during the summer I’m always thinking of being outside, not too concerned about what my house looks like.

A BIG thank you to Justin for being such a good sport!

Later this week, a local watering hole with an amazing patio!


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