I saw this little table at Salvation Army a couple of months ago. It was already black (my fave. Yay!), and had some cute styling to it. It weighed only a couple of pounds and fit in my shopping basket nicely. I think it was less than $10.00. It was, however, chipped and scratched, but I immediately thought about using it outdoors, so what did it matter?
I finally got around to sanding it and repainting it. Since it was going outside, I used Rustoelum outdoor paint. Then I covered it in a couple of coats of polycrilic. Now the best way to apply polycrilic in order to not leave brush strokes or bubbles, is to put on a latex glove, hold onto a piece of sponge, and pull a cotton sock over it. It is way easier to paint detail and rounded things. I’ll definitely be doing this when it comes time to paint my staircase.
As it would be outside, I suspended the table and dipped each foot in polycrylic.
Here’s the finished table:
But I worried. It was going outside. So I grabbed some clear peel&stick protective plastic and applied that. Yikes! Well, I wasn’t careful and it ended up full of air bubbles. When I tried to smooth them out, the plastic scratched. It looked awful.
But I had some puffy plastic shelf liner I liked, so I glued that down. I don’t love it, but I’m afraid it I remove it, it’ll tear off the protective plastic, the paint and the veneer, and I’ll have to start again. Which I just might.
But in the meantime, here’s the little table by my front door. I can put my stuff down on it while I hunt for my keys. A future project is to paint the front door red and the side windows black. But for now, this is quite handy.
EDITED TO ADD: I wasn’t at all happy with the way it turned out. When a friend on Facebook mentioned it looked a little like tile, I got a brainstorm. What if I just glued some leftover tile to the top?
The glue under the black and white shelf liner was still wet, so I just washed it off both the shelf liner and the table top.
I had a few tiles left over from doing the mudroom in my previous home. They were one of the last things I decided to haul from Toronto, but now I’m glad I did.
Much better, eh?
You may recall the little storage footstool that had been one of my first practice projects. Snagged at a thrift store for $4, I was so pleased with how it turned out.
Then disaster struck–the hinged unhinged. And I didn’t know what to do. It sat lonely and discarded while I worked on other projects. So sad.
But then… someone posted the same little footstool for sale on Facebook Marketplace. With pictures, one of which showed the proper placement of the hardware. You were right, @JoanLeacott. They go inside.
And so, armed with my fancy new cordless screwdriver… Wzzzt! Wzzzt! times 4 and it was good as new. Better, even, as it never looked this good.
A happy ending. The footstool and I will live happily ever after.
Back in the winter, I found an attractive wooden end table on the ‘net. I happened to be going into Toronto the next day, passing right by, so I arranged to pick it up. Massive snow fell that night. Picture me clambering over unploughed snowdrifts, hauling this table with me like I was scaling Everest. It’s pretty heavy. But I got it!
“Why are you giving it away?” I asked.
“The kids scratched the top,” she answered, and indeed, there were minor scratches to the finish.
This table is of recent make, and solid wood–no veneer or laminate in sight. It was factory-stained that reddish brown mahogany look. Might have come from Bombay Company.
I chose to work on this piece for a Painting 101 course.
The class was a lot of fun and the women who ran it knowledgable. They were as surprised as I was when, from a certain angle, the scratches showed right through 2 coats of navy blue F.A.T. chalk paint. Huh.
So I brought it home, sanded the top back to the wood, and re-painted just the top using Fusion Mineral Paint’s coal black and then giving it 3 coats of Polyacrylic on the top, and 3 coats of chalk paint protector on the body.
I don’t have any use for it at my house, so it’s going to be my first professional sale.
OPINIONS, PLEASE (no commitment):
What would you pay for a sturdy little end table like this?
Back in July of 2018, while my then-husband and I were getting the Toronto house ready to sell, I found these chairs on Kajiji. I posted this at the time:
I loved these chairs. I know they look a little “office-y,” but if I recover them…
I did a little poking online, and these chairs, for which I paid $10 per chair, retail today for $261.95 on sale. So the 10 chairs that cost me $100, would have cost, new, $2,619.50 + tax!!! And mine have a comfortable padded seat and wheels!
I suspect what happened is a company left in the night without paying their landlords, so the landlords, having no idea of the chairs’ value, just gave them to their employees. The office manager told me some people took a couple home, but nobody wanted the last 10. I hope they had a nice lunch for my $100. Me? I was thrilled with my chairs.
A few days later, I found a high quality black and white striped curtain at a thrift store. I was selling for $8, but I had a $10-off coupon, so…
In preparation for recovering (how hard could that be?), I struggled with a screwdriver to remove 1 of the seats. The red fabric had been strapled right onto the heavy duty plastic. Neither of my crafting staple guns could penetrate the plastic.
Fast forward 9 months. I’m now a brave new upcycler, and, having given tons of thought to how I was going to afix these, I started again. I removed a seat, now with an electric screwdriver. Zttt. Zttt. Times 8 and the screws practically jumped into my hands. Huh.
I tried sewing the new fabric over the old, having dug out an upholstery needle from among my mother’s sewing stuff. But alas, it wasn’t to be.
But wait… there’s a Rent-All place nearby. I popped in with one of the seats and the nice chap did have a professional level staple gun. We tried it and bang the staple was firmly seated. It would be $20 to rent the pneumatic stapler and $30 to rent a compressor. For. One. Day. Hmmm.
I go home and look up “staplers” on Canadian Tire. You’ll recall that as I retired from Canadian Tire’s head office, I have the staff discount of about 20% for life.
Sure enough, they had electric staplers. Staplers that plug in. No compressor needed. For $49.00. (Spoiler: Today, I saw they were on sale for $39.00, so I got my $10+tax refunded.)
Sure enough, it worked a treat. I cut up 10 squares of fabric (7 from the polished cotton and 3 from the stretch T-shirt material). Between the electric screwdriver and the electric stapler, I finished all 10 chairs in a matter of hours. (Spread over 2 days, TBH.) Some of the stripes go across, and some back-to-front. I love it!
Finished product looks much less office-y. Don’t you agree?
Remember my first upcycling post a few weeks ago, “Girls Don’t Need Tools.” Yeah, well. No wonder women look incompetant and give up. We don’t even know these tools exist, let alone how to use them. So if you need anything recovered, I’m your girl. And I won’t do it for you, I’ll teach you how.
I tend to think of upcycling as saving things from becoming landfill, upgrading their worth, making them whole and beautiful again, but it’s also upgrading things not destined for landfill.
Hence this post in which I show you how to upgrade your builder-grade mirrors.
Here’s the before picture. As you can see, I’ve already added an over-the-john cabinet purchased on sale at Canadian Tire, and a clock I snagged on Facebook Marketplace for $5. The walls are the lovely mist grey that I’ve used throughout the house, and the light fixtures are from Lowes–on sale of course.
At some point, when I get braver, I’ll probaby paint the countertop (the vanity is already painted–so long golden oak), then replace the sink and the faucet. But it’s not a priority, so…
I googled “framing mirrors” and the internet did not disappoint. I decided I really liked this one instructional post, so I followed what they did to the letter. I couldn’t find locally the exact contractor adhesive they’d used, so I ordered it from Amazon. According to the manufacturer’s website, the great thing about it is that it’s “insta-grab” but you can move your piece around for an hour… Or at least that what it claimed.
I visited several stores, including the ReStore and Home Depot, but Lowes had the best trim for framing. I found a sales associate who had done her own mirrors, so we carefully chose 7 pieces that were as straight as possible… mostly. I’d need 4 for the upstairs mirror and 2 for the power room, with an extra just in case. The wood was pre-primed, which was handy–no sanding, prepping or priming required.
I procrastinated on starting because I hadn’t used my mitre saw for angled cuts before, but family-friend Hugh had shown me how to make straight cuts and I had an owner’s manual so… I began.
Turned out the dimensions of the mirrors were exactly that of the wood: the mirror was 4 feet by 3 feet and the board was 7 feet. Perfect… except it wasn’t.
Here’s a picture of the wood after I’d carefully measured, cut to size, and painted.
If there were newbie mistakes to be made, I made ’em. Turns out one of the boards wasn’t quite straight, that the insta-grab adhesive didn’t instantly grab, that the mitre saw shifted a bit when the release tab was re-set, and that the boards weren’t exactly 7 feet.
But I perservered. I’ll know all this for the next time, although I later decided I preferred my great-grandmother’s guilded mirror for the downstairs powder room and returned 5 pieces of unused wood. Lowes is great about returns. But my niece wants me to do her bathroom mirror too, so I’ll keep you posted.
Here’s a shot of the work-in-progress. The couple in the instructional article said they just used painter’s tape to hold the pieces in place while they dried. Well, painter’s tape is not my friend. It didn’t hold (and this is the expensive Frog Tape everyone raves about on Upcyclers Anonymous). So I ended up putting up first the bottom piece. The bottom of the mirror stuck out about a 1/2 inch from the wall so I used office fold-back clips to hold it in place. Once it had dried overnight, it would support the 2 side pieces, then they’d support the top piece. Hmmm. Turns out one of the side pieces wasn’t straight. If I pushed the top against the wall, the bottom popped out. If I pushed the bottom… I ended up piling 2 heavy file boxes on the counter and using a lip balm to widge between the wall and the top of the frame to hold it in place. Guess I bought clamps for nothing. o.0.
Here’s the finished product. It looks much better than before. You can barely notice that a little bit of the mirror peakiing out the top left corner. And hey, for once I used another colour than black.
Thanks for reading. Next up… solar lighting. Or possibly, my new patio doors. Stay tuned to find out.
Never before in my life have I ever waffled on something at a thrift store, then come back for it a week later only to find… it was still there. Huh. I should have figured that the other local upcyclers (with whom I’m hoping to connect at some point), had by-passed it because it was just too much work.
But I tossed it in my shopping cart, presented my discount-with-donation card and left the Salvation Army with my proud find. For $8.00.
I posted this picture to Facebook, where my 200 closest friends could admire it. The concensus was it hailed from the 1950s. Some previous upcycler had glued maps on it. I liked the maps, but they were ruined–torn, spilled nail polish… So I began to strip it off. Well… now I know why it was hadn’t been snatched up before I got there the second time.
I tried various chemicals, starting with the least harsh and working up to serious stuff that required goggles, a mask (they said respirator), and thick work gloves. (See my new profile picture.) In between, I tried ironing it with parchment paper between the iron and the glue, as someone on Upcyclers Anonymous suggested. Now that was an interesting learning about parchment paper and glue. So much more than just baking. More on that another day.
So I stripped and I scraped, a long, slow process taking weeks.
Under the maps, I found more paint. Under that layer, I found someone had handpainted bright orange aster blooms on it. Under that was the white paint you can see in the shots, which was probably lead based and now I’m going to die. But not before I finish this blog post. I stopped stripping when I reached the white paint and just painted over it.
The legs were wobbly and there was no way to get at any nails or screws, so I built up little supports where the legs met the lower drawer using very old wood filler that I’d gotten custody of in the divorce. It worked, but it’s less than lovely. Afterwards, I bought new wood filler that wasn’t 10 years past its expiry date.
The inside of the drawers still had the original flocking which I wanted to keep, so I washed it with dish soap, let it dry and discovered in doing so, I’d caused one of the drawers to bow outwards, meaning it would no longer fit in its slot. So I re-wet it, affixed a large clamp in the middle, tightened and let dry. Voila! A little bar soap (will rub the sides with an unscented candle next time), and the drawers slid seamlessly home.
Next I painted the drawer fronts white and the body black. Sadly, I had accidently damaged some of the veneer when scraping, making noticable dings and dents.
The great thing about paint, is that you can repaint! So the top became black and the drawer fronts gold. I used a cheap gold paint from the dollar store, so it looks a little orangey, but still.
Then I tried a stencil. I liked it, although it ran a bit.
I wanted to save the antique drawer pulls for another project, so dove into my for-donation bin and retrieved the knobs from my re-painted kitchen cabinets. (Goodbye, golden oak). Got my friend Hugh to show me how to use my new drill*. (*See my first upcycler post “Girls Don’t Need Tools.”) And it worked! First I used red nail polish over the golden oak “button,” didn’t like it so repainted them with black nail polish.
Everything got a coat of polycrillic to protect the paint.
And the finished product now sits in by my front door where the light is dim enough to mask the imperfections. And I love it!
Oh, no! My beautiful little footstool came apart. Whatever shall I do?
Always the silver lining type, I’ll use the fact that the screws came out as an opportunity to recover it in better quality striped material. Same great look, lots less dog hair.
Then I’ll use my brand new drill, which I finally learned how to use, to make a more secure fix for the hardware. Stay tuned to see how it all turns out… and the oft-times amusing steps along the way.
Not to leave on a disastrous note, here are 2 trays and a trivet I painted this weekend. And remember my advice about always taking lots of pictures? Oops. But still… (Tangerine added for scale.) Notice there’s no bleed on the stencil this time. I think I’m getting the hang of it.
Next up, the butler’s table.
I’d acquired it in a garage sale years ago, and decided to paint it black, too. Surprise! Actually, the challenge there was figuring out how to brace the scissor-like legs in such a way that I could paint them, especially, the part right at the join.
Weirdly, I found I had exactly the right amount and width of grosgrain ribbon and also? Exactly the right number of brass upholstery tacks–eight. No idea where either item came from, but there they were, among the things I’d moved from my old house.
Here’s what I mean: The match-nothing orange-y wood crossed legs on the left, became the dashing black legs at the back of the picture on the left. (Oh, look, there’s the bench again.)
I didn’t get pictures of the top while work-in progress. Suffice it to say it went from ugly orange wood to beautiful black, too.
Someone had cleverly figured out that to tack grosgrain ribbon on the top of the legs, then wind it around and tack it on the other side, would keep the table from collapsing. Except, the first one was easy, I had to manipulate the hell out of the scissor mechanism legs to first, remove the old tacks, then to hammer in the new ones. But the great thing about paint, is that you can easily cover any errant hammer whacks. And I did.
And the final product… sits at the top of my stairs, conveniently where I drop anything that needs to go down.
Today’s newbie lesson is—take pictures of everything!
Pictures are important—not just so I can show off my “before and after,” but because in this case, once I finished painting and reupholstering the little bench, I couldn’t recall how the two pieces fit together.
So I got creative…
But let’s go back to the beginning, shall we?
I bought the little bench at Salvation Army for Cdn$8.00, less donation discount. (You donate, they give you a coupon. It’s a slightly better deal than the senior’s discount. At the SA, every day is senior’s day. Gotta love ‘em.)
I brought it home and took it apart, failing to document how.
It was old—I did battle with scores of staples that the previous recycler had used to cover it with a very light cotton—not upholstery fabric at all. Once that was off, I tackled the original cover, which was nailed on with rusty upholstery tacks. They were old, tiny and dug deep in the aging wood. How was I ever going to get them off?
I belong to a number of Facebook upcycling groups. Just as I needed it, someone posted about a tool called a tack-lifter. I’m now the proud owner of one:
Once I had the original, gross fabric off, I discovered it had been stuffed with straw and a bit of horse hair which was tightly packed down from the hundreds of butts that had planted on the bench over the decades. Luckily, there was one nice day in December when I was able to take all the messy stuff outside to strip and sand. The ancient stuffing went a blowing in the wind and will no doubt be incorporated into various bird nests this spring.
Although there was a lot of space to grab the bench, I had to grab it by one rusty tack. A quick call to my doctor, and I am reassured I’m not due for a tetanus booster till next year. Whew!
The legs had been a bit rickety, but once I painted it, it seem stable enough. I dunno if paint in the joints is enough to keep it steady forever, but so far, so good.
I had sanded and prepped several projects, and painted them all at once, too. Here’s a shot of my work-in-progresses: the bench, my great-grandmother’s sewing box, and a folding butler’s table. Here’s the before paint and after:
Next up, I would reupholster the bench. It consisted at this point, of a nice piece of wood the size of the top of the bench. And nothing else. Since I’d found recovering the little footstool fairly simple, I thought I’d do the same with the bench. Only this time, I wasn’t just covering over the original fabric and padding.
I cut out the needed amount in the better striped fabric—polished cotton, formerly a high quality curtain obtained from Salvation Army for a couple of bucks and carefully picked apart into 2 pieces.
I’d recovered my dining room chairs a while back, so I knew I needed foam. (Let’s have a moment of silence for the gone but not forgotten Designer Fabric store formerly on Queen Street.) I drove up the Fabricland in Newmarket. It turned out to be very expensive and they didn’t have any in stock anyway. I cast about for other solutions—seemed silly to put $40 worth of foam on an $8 bench, and I needed a solution going forward or I’d narrow my profit margin on anything I sold. I considered buying another piece of furniture and cannibalizing the foam. Value Village had some stadium cushions, but they weren’t cheap either. Then I noticed I had brought a large cushion with me to the new house. Weird, becaue it was for an outdoor chaise lounge that I no longer owned. It was sweat-stained and grimy. By rights (and Marie Kondo) I should have purged it. But now I’m glad I didn’t. “It must have foam inside,” I said to my dog, because it was still very puffy after years of use. So I cut it open—and found it was filled with nothing but batting. And I’d already bought batting (for $2 at SA). But I figured if it could fill the outdoor cushion, it could fill my bench. It was just for me, and I could always re-do it, right?
So I stuffed and covered it, my trusty staple gun at the ready. Now I had two finished pieces: a painted body and a reupolstered bench seat, pictured below.
The whole process had been slow, but steady. Sadly now, it ground to a halt. I couldn’t recall how the seat attached to the bench. There was no way to nail it in. Should I glue it on? I know that’s not how it was.
But casting around my workshop, I remembered I had double-sided Velcro squares in my sewing kit. Since all the pressure would be downwards, it wouldn’t matter if it wasn’t the most secure way of connecting the two pieces. So that’s what I did.
And here’s the final bench, sitting proudly in my front hall for timely boot removal.
My First Success!
Allow me to say first off, that success is relative. I still need to learn a lot about paint and painting, but I’m delighted with my first “real” project: my little footstool.
I love thrifting—more than painting. It’s like really cheap shopping. When I needed to outfit my new kitchen from scratch last fall, between loyalty points, sales, discounts, gifts and thrifting, I probably did it for a couple of hundred bucks. The new stainless steel appliances came later, but even they were Black Friday deals.
But I digress. I arrived at the Newmarket Salvation Army one day in early January just as someone was donating a little stool. You know the one from the 80s that we all had. Came from Regal and fit the Toronto Star TV Magazineperfectly. It looked like this one, which is available today from Amazon for $77.29 Cdn dollars. The legs are slightly different, but it’s actually the identical faux tapestry.
The one I snagged had already been recovered once, but when I peeled back the fading cotton, there was the original faux tapestry, just as I remembered.
I took the whole thing apart, carefully saving the screws and hinges. I didn’t want to use the grey chalk paint I already had, so, after sanding and cleaning and priming (in white), I grabbed the can of Rustoleum outdoor paint. The instructions on the can said you could paint wood, so I did. Two or three coats. Note to readers: Rustoleum outdoor paint does not clean up with soap and water.
First I tried to paint the tapestry white using fabric spray paint purchased from Michaels. Two spray cans later, it looked as if I’d left it outside in a mild snow fall. Hmmf.
So I got out my trusty staple gun and recovered it in black and white striped fabric that I’d also grabbed at Salvation Army a while back. It’s not the same polished cotton curtain I’d be using later on the bench (spoiler alert), and indeed, I may take this little guy apart again and redo it with the better quality fabric—they’re both black and white stripes after all. But I thought the stretchy, T-shirt-y material would be easier to work with. Here’s s shot of the exciting new stripes draped with the thin cotton that had covered it when I bought it.
I struggled to get the screws back in, having covered the predrilled holes with fabric. But, after first doing it backwards, I finally got them in. They were tiny and the wood cheap and old—that’s what’s holding me back from re-doing it with the better fabric. I’m afraid the wood might not withstand yet another change.
But, I now own wood filler and a drill. So…
I love how it looks—glossy black (pay no attention to the drips and brush strokes), with the black and white fabric. I sprayed it repeatedly with Scotchguard, and later with anti-static spray, but the other thing that’s not great about the stretchy cotton is that dog hair sticks to it like Velcro.
Now… it sits by Command Central (that’s the chair where I can see both the TV and the bird feeder), proudly holding the now-too-big Toronto Star TV guide and the remote. (I wonder if remotes had even been invented when this wee footstool came off the assembly line.) And I couldn’t be more pleased.
Stay tuned for my next success—the front-door bench…