Category Archives: #NewLife
My kitchen is small, originally with golden oak cabinets in one corner. When I first moved in, I got the painter to paint the lowers dark grey and the uppers lighter grey, both darker than the walls (all of which I know now I could have done myself). But… my kitchen looked junky and I knew I needed more storage space:
I looked at adding cabinets, shelves or other small kitchen alternatives. I hunted from Ikea to the ReStore. After finding Upcycler’s Anonymous, a Facebook group of 60k+ people from all over the world and seeing the gorgeous work they do, I decided on a china cabinet. I then watched Facebook marketplace for just the right one. Before long, a faux Mission Style cabinet popped up for $175.00 just the next town over. If I knew then what I know now, I would have waited, because china cabinets are often given away free; I’ve seen some nice ones, too. I recruited my nephews, rented a truck and off we went amid ice and snow in March to pick this badboy up.
Then it sat in my garage in two pieces, side-by-side, until July, completely blocking everything. “Why did it sit so long?” you ask. Sure you did. Because this newbie needed to be good enough at upcycling to tackle an important (to me) piece. So I practiced on some side tables and benches (see previous posts), and eventually decided I was ready.
I bought two wheeled hand carts, so I needed no help to wheel the pieces out of the garage and onto the driveway. I tackled the base first. I removed the drawers, doors, shelves and hardware. I sanded, prepped, painted the inside white with primer, and the outside with black Fusion Mineral Paint. I had the neighbour help me move it indoors, where I re-installed the drawers and doors and shelves. The best part was that the cupboard doors in the base were comprised of square “bars” over a back that just pulled out, having been held in with tiny staples.
By painting the backing white and the “bars” black, I achieved a perfect black and white striped look that goes perfectly with my decor.
I then painted to upper piece, first removing the glass sides and the back. The back was mirrored, which, once it was filled with contents, would just look so busy, so I removed the mirrors. The wood underneath wasn’t great quality, but 2 coats of primer plus 3 coats of Fusion Champlain, and it was acceptable.
At this point, I bought a spray gun, and the painting sped up. It took 2 more trips to get it together–one to lug the frame into the house, where I re-attached the back while it sat in the front hall, and then again lifting it onto the base. At that point, I re-attached the glass sides and the door hardware and lastly, installed the glass shelves.
It fit along the wall opposite the cabinets as if made for it, and as both the sides and the front cabinet doors are glass, it doesn’t block the light from the passthrough.
I couldn’t be more pleased. Now I have, as my mother used to say, “A place for everything and everything in its place.”
And of course, because I had googled “Black China Cabinets,” Facebook keeps sticking this in my feed:
$7,690, Facebook? Srsly? Have you met me? And that’s American $s, before taxes and shipping. I don’t happen to have a spare $10,000 on me. I like mine better. I figure, by the time I was done, I’d spent:
$175 Cdn, for the cabinet, no taxes
$100 truck rental,
$30 wine for nephews
$50 in paint (probably less because I’d bought a box of misc. Fusion paint and accessories from a women moving into a condo for $50 and it included both almost full jars of Coal Black and of Champlain.)
So, let’s call it $350. Versus $10,000. Anyone wondering why we upcycle?
Now, on to the final piece of furniture I need to complete my home. Bet you can’t wait to see what I do with an antique dresser!
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…
Post #2 in my new Upcycling Life
The first thing I did when I bought my new home in Aurora, Ontario and began to rebuild my life, was buy smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors and a fire extinguisher. The second thing, was shelves. Tons and tons of shelves. Despite having gone all KonMarie on my belongings, half of which went to my ex, I still filled a moving truck. One of the big suckers.
I’m so lucky to have a “discount for life” at Canadian Tire (although in some cases, Home Depot was better priced). I bought heavy duty black plastic shelves, lots of chrome shelves on wheels, and was given some wooden Ikea shelves. And so, before I started to upcycle, I organized.
Give a gal a label maker and…
I had some stuff from my husband, a lot of dollar-store stuff, and some other stuff I’d bought from Canadian Tire and Home Depot.
And thus I began my upcycler life. I finished my first trial and error (mostly error) piece on January 13, a month ago today.
More about that in my next post…
It was 1968, I was in Grade 8 when an announcement came over Hodgson Junior High’s PA system: “There will be a special Industrial Arts after-school class for girls. Maximum 15 girls. Sign-up sheet on the door. First come, first served.”
Back then, girls were required to take Home Ec, while boys were shunted to Industrial Arts. No exceptions. Always the rebel, I was dying to learn how to fix stuff. My dad didn’t know how to change a light bulb and my mom used a hammer for everything. Needless to say my signature was the first on the list.
Imagine my shock when I wasn’t one of the 15 girls chosen. I headed for the VP’s office, demanding to know why not.
In a low voice, despite the door being closed, the VP informed me that there were… girls… who would need to know this kind of thing. They’d be… on their own. Probably raising families… on their own.” Our school sat squarely between a middle class neighbourhood and a rather dumpy “wrong side of the tracks” neighbourhood. (Which would later gentrify right out of my price range.)
“What about me?” I asked. “I need to know these things.”
“Oh, no.” He chuckled. “You’re from a good home. You’ll marry well.”
I’ll marry well. Huh. What do you even say to that?
And I did. I married a man who knew how to do it all–hang drywall, fix plumbing, rewire a lamp, and refinish furniture. But he wasn’t interested in teaching me any of it. He preferred to work alone and I knew better than to touch his tools. When we split up last year, he was scrupulously fair in dividing up the tools (but not the power tools), making sure I got my equal share… of things I didn’t know how to use.
So here I am. Five months later, totally enamoured of upcycling furniture–saving pieces from landfill and turning them into beauties. It’s all trial and error… more error than trial sometimes. I now own a drill and a power screwdriver. They were sold as a set–I don’t know which is which. No kidding. The instruction manuals? All assume that much basic knowledge. Me? I don’t know how to affix a drill bit. Or is it a screwdriver bit? But I’ll figure it out.
I’m perservering. I’m pleased with my results so far. Because with paint, if you screw up, you just do it over. Here’s a sampling of my work so far:
From this… to that. It’s all from gargage sales and thrift stores, even the lovely striped fabric was a $3.00 curtain from Salvation Army.
Stick with me for some entertaining adventures in upcycling. Because you know what? Girls do need tools!