Archive for the ‘Disrespected Wood’ Category

My great-grandmother Florence was an amazing hostess.  We would go to her home and she would put out these beautifully organized lunches, everything set out just so.  In my memory, the table that we ate at was huge.  It had a glass top.  When Florence passed away, her dining room table became mine.  It went with me to my first adult apartment and spent several years at my parents house until it came to live with Justin and I at our home.


Tell me what you really think of the table, dear.

The finish was perfectly fine, but it felt like it just kind of blended into the rest of the floor around it.  The legs were pretty beat up, too.

I saw this pin on how to create a driftwood finish on wood.  They used a product from Driftwood DIY from here.  I bought the kit with the intention of trying it out on the dining room table and if it worked beautifully, as I knew it would, I had other projects in mind too.  I suffer greatly from “it will work out -itis” and have a concurrent diagnosis of “buy it now because you might need it someday syndrome” as well.  If I didn’t love to throw stuff out, we would certainly be living in a hoarding situation.

The first thing I had to do was drag the table out to the garage as it would need to be stripped.  The woman in the tutorial stripped her table inside her house.  I’m going to assume she does not have dogs or a toddler.

I used a citrus based stripper.  It was as non-toxic as such a thing could be, but did come with warnings about avoiding getting it on your skin because it would burn.  Don’t do what I did, but I applied the stuff while wearing flip-flops and was just fine.  You do want to wear gloves though.  Even I didn’t skip that step.


After letting the citrus stuff work its magic and spending what felt like several hours scrapping off something, I ended up with…tada!   A table that was exactly the same color as when I started except for some of the gunk on the legs came off.  Boo says I! Boo!  In retrospect, I’m not sure exactly what I thought was going to happen.  Perhaps that it would be restored to its virgin wood status?  Oh well.  Moving on, I wiped everything down with mineral spirits (to which Justin said “ohhh spooky”) and sanded off any leftover citrus gunk in preparation for applying the driftwood finish.

Again, had I put any real critical thinking skills into this project, I would have quickly surmised that since the stripping process did not yield the same light-colored wood as the woman in the tutorial, how would I end up with the same results.

I prepared the packet of driftwood stain as instructed and lightly brushed it on.  The website said that I should see a graying occur fairly quickly, as in twenty minutes or so with the color deepening over a twenty-four hour period.

So 20 minutes in, it looked like this:


I like how the garage looks like a sad kid holding cell.

The next fifteen times I opened the garage door to look at it, it still looked just like that.  The legs that I spent hours scrapping gunk out of were back to looking dark.  The top went from very orange to a brown orange.  This is where I decided it was a good time to go out for drinks.  Drinks make everything better.

I had officially taken what was a perfectly reasonable family heirloom and done this.  For about a half an hour on Sunday, I thought about how to create a worthwhile story of how the table, that I swore on the family bible to keep forever, managed to be the only thing stolen from our house in an odd robbery.

This is probably a good time to mention that I’ve been over the shabby chic chalkboard painted furniture with the edges sanded down thing for a while now.  It is just so overdone and those pieces really seem to dictate the style of a space in a very, very specific way.  I see a shabby chic piece of furniture and I expect to see your stack of Domino magazines and a bunch of clutter that you call decor, too.

Since I couldn’t in good conscience arrange to off the table and it is Thanksgiving week and we needed it anyway, I pulled out some gray paint from when I thought I might repaint our entire house, added some water and slopped it on.  It was my only choice.


Immediately after I applied the paint, I went back with a clean rag and wiped off the excess, making sure that the wood grain was visible underneath.  I went back over everything with sandpaper, pulling up some of the paint to give the top a more weathered look.  Honestly, I felt like a failure at this point.  You know how when you are doing a project and you have such great expectations of how it will turn out and at the end of hours and hours of work, it just is nowhere near where you wanted it to be?  I can’t be the only one who has ever felt that way.  I let the table dry and because I just wanted it all to be over, I had Justin help me carry it back into the house.

It will do for now.  I will in all likelihood add a layer of white paint just to give it a little more depth.  At night, the color almost looks blue and Justin swears that it looks purple to him.


So, I’m sorry ghost of Great Grandma Florence.  They can’t all be winners.

Happy Thanksgiving!



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I would imagine that any young couple embarking upon the purchase of their first home does so with a youthful idealism and the totally misguided idea that the sellers aren’t trying to pull a fast one.  Well, that would be silly.

One thing that we’ve learned time and time again is that people can be incredibly shady.  A perfect, real-time example of this would be our current kitchen remodel.  When we had our contractor come check out the flooring in advance of the kitchen demo, he noticed immediately that there was a loose joist.  Strange, but worth fixing.  When we were putting together our budget, we factored in the removal of the current subfloor, reinforcing the joists and replacing the subfloor.  I’m really happy we did.

When Justin pulled up the linoleum last night, we found extreme old water damage, which would explain the dip in the floor under the refrigerator.  When the contractor came today, he said that based on the fact that none of the pipes show evidence of leaking, what was the likely culprit was a leaking fridge.  Makes sense with the pattern of damage.  He also said scary stuff about a person falling through (with my luck lately, I’m glad I didn’t spend too much time in that corner painting).

The far corner was the fridge location.

Being a regular Sherlock Holmes, we pretty quickly realized that “hey, the fridge we replaced in 2009, wasn’t leaking and the current fridge is definitely not leaking”  and we are the second family to live here.  I think we can all connect the dots.

Am I saying that the other family maliciously caused damage and didn’t disclose it?  No.  Would I put that past them considering all the other stuff we’ve had to replace or fix?  No.  (When we replaced the furnace, hot water heater and central air unit this spring, the tech guys told us the old stuff hadn’t been serviced…ever).

The point of all this?  I wish that we had been more careful about the inspection.  I think that we both fell so deeply in love with this place that it clouded our judgment and the seller took advantage of that.  Don’t let the fear of losing the property keep you from advocating for yourself, especially if there are concerns.  We’ve since discovered that sellers actually friends with some of our extended family, so there is always a chance that we’ll run into them someday.  I can’t wait.

The other important take away, if you are planning on doing a big scale remodel, don’t cut corners.  At one point we considered leaving the floors as is.  I shudder thinking about the future nightmare we are avoiding by doing it right.

The water damaged area is the darker wood on the right.

Our great team of workers are clunking away now and there are rumors that the new floor could be done by tomorrow.  More pictures to come!


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Back during the days of endless Summer, I had a rocking chair that I was tasked with giving a makeover to.  You might remember from this post.  It was a fun job.  Due to some shipping challenges with the fabric, the project got shelved. 

Finally, as the days got cooler and the leaves started to change colors, the fabric arrived and it was time to shake a tail feather and get that rocking chair back to its rightful owner (and outta my garage). 

This is what the rocking  chair looked like the day I picked it up.  It had some wear on the arms from being an obviously well-loved piece of furniture and the owner wanted to update the fabric seat to match her newly designed living room space. 

I promptly took it home and started gently sanding off the old stain.  Our original plan was to re-stain the piece, but in the end, a rich, dark chocolate paint seemed to be a better fit.

After being painted!

After the paint was dry, the chair came into the house for the last step of its makeover.  The fabric that the client picked out was truly gorgeous. 

It was hard to say goodbye to my friend, the rocking chair.  I hope that it enjoys its new look as much as I do!


p.s.  The third floor is just about finished with its magical makeover.  Check back later this week for the fabulous Before & After shots.

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In one of my crazier Craigslist Hunter moments, I found a woman offering two free dressers located about a half hour away from where I work.  She had some very strict rules for pick up though.  You had to come that day, they would be outside at the end of her driveway and you had to move them yourself, with no help from her.  I emailed her immediately and sight unseen, headed out to her house on my hour-long lunch break to go get them.

I arrived at her house and quickly accessed the situation:

Great potential but how the heck was I going to get them into the station wagon and home by myself?   Did I mention that there was rain in the forecast for the afternoon/evening so leaving them outside in the elements was not an option?  Thankfully, I always keep some rope in my car for situations just like this.  I removed all of the drawers from both and put the frames into the car.  Then I put the drawers in wherever they would fit.  There was not enough space to close the station wagon’s back door, so with the rope I had, I tied it down and prayed that they would not fall out on the highway.   One frantic call to my husband Justin later, we decided the best thing for me to do would be to drive back to my work parking garage, remove one dresser frame so that I would be able to close and lock the station wagon and hide the dresser behind my car while I went back to work for the afternoon.  This way they would be protected from the rain storm that did eventually come through and I didn’t have to worry about draining the car battery by leaving the back door open.  For a pair of free dressers, they sure were causing me a fair amount of stress at this point.  Eventually they made it to my garage where the magic happens.

There were some fun details about these two guys that I was able to appreciate once I had gotten them home.  The little swirly design and all of the original wood handles were both exciting discoveries.

As with any piece of furniture I get, it goes through the Kate process:  wipe down and de-spider, sand them down, and evaluate for any necessary fixes (broken drawers, mold, etc.).  I knew pretty early on that I wanted to do these guys in green and also keep them “green” in the products I used to paint them.  I really love Valspar’s Low-Voc paint and decided to use that.

I knew that I also wanted them to have a very lux, high gloss finish to give them that fancy-pants look (and also complete wipe-ability should they end up nursery furniture in the land of messy moments).  To achieve that look, I opted for the semi-gloss Valspar paint and two very thin coats of water based polyurethane.

The final step was cute drawer liner paper.  This part was a disaster.  Seriously, it was!  Did you know how very few companies produce gorgeous liner paper that is available at regular retail stores?  Very few.  If you are out there and looking for a million dollar idea, you should go into designer draw liner.  I’d be customer #1.   I went to good, old Target and found this fun dot pattern (which kind of matches the top of this blog.  How is that for synergy!) In the future though, I’d really like to see more options commercially available.

A few tips from the dresser project:

  • Remove the drawer pulls and stick them into a cardboard box with their screws.  This will enable you to paint them and let them dry without smudging the paint.
  • Remove all of the drawers when you paint them.
  • Try and paint in long and even brush strokes.  On bigger pieces (dressers & bookcases), it really does make a huge difference if you take your time and try to keep everything even and smooth.
  • When it comes time to do the liner paper, go slow!  This is not a project to undertake if you are in a rush.  You want to avoid any air bubbles (something that I’ve got in a few of my drawers).


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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One question that I frequently am asked is where I get my furniture from and the answer is:

I am the Craigslist hunter.  Much in the way a regular hunter might sit up in his/her tree stand for hours, waiting for the perfect moment when some cute (and tasty) animals comes close, I spend my spare time hunting and tracking furniture online.  The best “catches” for me are inexpensive ($25 and under), solid wood and full of makeover potential.

What isn’t always evident though, especially from camera phone pictures online, is what shape the furniture is in.  I am inpatient by nature and have therefore had a few instances where failing to properly vet a piece in person has left me stuck with a dud.  My best example of this would be the infamous buffet.

I found the buffet listed early on a Friday morning and had convinced myself that it was a gem in the rough, a piece BEGGING for a new paint job, some new hardware and even gorgeous liner paper inside the cabinet.  To prevent getting beaten to the punch, I emailed the guy who posted it and made my first mistake.  A biggie.  I skipped over the part where I said that I wanted to inspect it first and said, “I’ll take it.  I can come tomorrow morning to pick it up.  I will also pay full price.”  WHOOPS


The buffet, now known as my work bench, sits in our garage covered by a painting tarp.  I use it to hold my materials and if I am working on a smaller piece, I’ll do the actual work on top of the buffet.

I can almost hear you asking, “What’s actually wrong with it, Kate?”  and the answer would be lots.  First, the buffet seems to have spent a considerable amount of time exposed to the elements, specifically water, possibly even a monsoon or hurricane (it is that damaged). It is warped, sagging and just plain sad-looking.   The second issue is that the general structural integrity of the piece is beyond what I can fix.  I am many things but a carpenter, I am not.  I doubt that I could do much beyond hanging a picture on a wall, so if there is real damage needing repair, I am at a loss.  The final issue is a sticky one, sticky in the sense of whatever the previous owner used as a finish.  The legs actually seem to have a tar like substance on them.  It is gross and does not easily wash off.


I still hold out hope that I can rescue the buffet but for now, it serves me well as a work  bench and a reminder to look before you leap (or buy).


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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I never considered myself to be a bona fide garbage picker before this table ended up in my car.

It had been sitting along the side of the road near our house for several days and I even dispatched my husband Justin to check it out.  The local weatherman was forecasting rain for the overnight, so I knew that I had to make a decision and that decision was to just bring the darn thing home with me.  I knew immediately that I wanted to paint it.

John and Sherry of Young House Love have provided a fantastic step by step guide on how to paint furniture that I follow pretty closely.  No use recreating the wheel if someone else has already perfected it.

I’m a creature of habit when I’m working on furniture and I have my own rituals too.

  • The first thing I do is wipe down entire item with soft cloth.  This step gives you a chance to really get to know the furniture.  You can evaluate any potential trouble areas (i.e. water damage, chips in the wood, etc.) and it gives you the assurance that you have removed any spiders or other creepy crawly hangers on.
  • Sanding.  I use a couple of different grades of sanding sponges.  The sponges last longer than sheets and I can get into edges and grooves easily with them.  They are pretty reasonably priced as well and last through multiple projects.

  • If you are painting, then it is time to prime!  I have been using a pretty stinky oil based primer underneath the latex paint on all of my pieces.  I’m definitely in the market for something a little more “Earth” friendly.  Always, always prime in a well ventilated area and allow each piece to fully dry (I usually prime one day and then start painting the next day).  I typically will prime several pieces of furniture at a time so that my exposure is limited.

I’m a big reader of design blogs and one of my absolute favorites is House of Turquoise .  It was very easy to draw inspiration from all of the beautiful images over at Erin’s blog.  I knew early on that I wanted to do a turquoise piece of furniture!

I headed over to Lowe’s to pick out a low VOC paint (great information on VOCs available here) and was very happy with the selection that Valspar had to offer.

  • The final step was to put on two coats of a nice water based polyurethane.  This would ensure that the table would be easy to clean in the future.

I ended up with enough left over paint to do another turquoise item in the future, so stay tuned!


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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I will fully admit to being a bit nervous.  My comfort zone is within the three walls and opened door of my garage, paintbrush in hand and piece of furniture, mid-transformation in front of me.  Every blogger has their first post and an idea of what their story is to tell.  I don’t have the firm grip on how to tell you the story yet.  We’ll get there, together.

In the meantime though, we can look at the nightstand that started it all.


This was a hand-me-down from a friend of my husband’s.  Clearly it had suffered from being the resting spot of many, many beverages and in the words of someone from Curb Your Enthusiasm; this nightstand was suffering from a severe case of disrespected wood.

I had a vision in my mind for how I someday wanted our master bedroom to look and with multiple pieces of furniture that were screaming for makeovers, I was able to convince (read: wear down through near constant nagging) my husband, Justin, to let me try painting just one piece to see how it came out.


The result was…well, to be honest, what you would expect from a first timer with lots to learn.  There were visible brush strokes from rushing and not allowing the paint to go on slowly, there were small drips where I had moved onto another area without paying attention and in the end, when I moved the nightstand up to its place in our bedroom, several days where it was apparent that it had not fully cured.  I lived in fear for those few days that anything placed on it would leave a mark and the drawers would seal themselves shut if I didn’t leave them slightly ajar.

The nightstand in its completed form provided me with lots of valuable, hands on learning opportunity and hopefully, my first few posts will do the same for blogging.

Thank you for coming and I look forward to sharing more of my work and that of some special contributors (more on this to come) in the future.

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.

– Kate

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