Category Archives: #Upcycling #NewLife #Feminista

Ahoy, Matey!

The previous owner of my treehouse was kind enough to leave behind a single bed. It wasn’t great—an old mattress, box spring, and one of those metal frames on wheels. It was handy for the first few days I lived there before my furniture arrived.

But its time had come. I decided I wanted a mate’s bed–the ones with drawers underneath. I’d seen them on Wayfair for $250 to $350, and at the Mission Thrift Store for $70. But June is garage sale season, so what did I find the very first day of saling? A pine mate’s bed in perfect condition. It was set up on the seller’s lawn so I could see all the pieces were there, and the guys selling it even took it apart and loaded it into my car. Whoo hoo! Only $20.00!

It would have looked something like this, only the drawers had never had any handles.

I sanded off the shiny shellac-like finish and painted the entire thing black. I found that an edger was the best thing for all the flat surfaces. I didn’t paint the inside of the drawers because they were spotless.

I’m particularly proud of the fact that I added handles. I had purchased some of those nifty cup handles in brushed nickel at a Home Hardware that was closing. I used my trusty drill and screwdriver to add them. Only one is a little crooked. But remember my first post? The one where I didn’t know which was the drill and which was the power driver? I’ve come a long way, baby, haven’t I.

Here’s the end result.

The sheets are top quality, obtained from Salvation Army. The bedspread was low quality but great-looking from Giant Tiger purchased for $35.

The cow-dragon? was bought from a vendor who made them at MediaWest a dozen years ago.

And, oh, look! Here’s the hat girls which were one of the very first projects I undertook to make this house my home.

My ex is coming to stay next weekend to look after Stormy while I’m visiting friends. He’ll be the first to stay in my newly upcycled guest room.

Here’s Stormy, because why not?

“She never feeds me. Ever!”

Edited to add: My good boy crossed the rainbow bridge a year after I moved into my treehouse. He was probably fourteen. We’d been told he was ten when we adopted him, but he lived another seven years. Thank you for seeing me into my new life, Stormy. I miss you lots.

The Secret of the Old Clock

My new house is full of funny angles–weird for a new-ish build, but it’s a feature I find quite charming. When I saw this skinny old bookcase, I knew it would fit perfectly into a crevice in my living room.

Only $10!

After a successful, car-filling day of garage saling, I posted my finds on Facebook, where my niece in England commented: “I think it used to be a clock.” Doh! Of course it was. I’d never noticed a grandfather-type clock with shelves before, but having subsequently googled it, yes, indeedy. That explains why the top shelf is missing, and the space behind the glass is empty.

Now what to do with it. You can’t tell from the picture, but the wood was exceedingly dry–it had turned a light grey colour with a lot of black that was probably dirt.

I decided not to paint it. Or at least, not all of it. I find many dark curio/display cabnents end up hiding your collectibles instead of showcasing them, so I removed the back, sanded and prepped it, and painted it light grey. The grey matched the wall colour where I intended to place it so it would look like there was no back.

Then I sanded the rest of it, leaving a lot of the black in the creases and corners. I drove to Redefined Finds in Stouffville and purchased some Fusion Hemp Oil. You just slam this stuff on with a brush or a rag and voila! It looked awesome.

It did, indeed, fit perfectly into the little corner I had in mind.

Here it is, displaying my best tea-related possessions, plus a few other curios.

An encaustic by my artist friend Lynn Spencer fits in the clock-part like it was made for it.

You can see one of the office chairs I recovered, and the gong my father used to open each set before he performed at Lichee Gardens in Toronto. My mother, the original upcycler, re-purposed a bird cage stand to hang the gong from. The red leather magazine holder is a curbside find.

I love it! Don’t you?

A place to rest my stuff…

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?

IMG_2817I 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 Polyacrilic. Now the best way to apply Polyacrilic 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 Polyacrylic.

Here’s the finished table:

But I worried. It was going outside. So I grabbed some clear peel and 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. IMG_2921

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.IMG_2937

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?

IMG_2946The 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?

The Return of the Footstool

img_1494You 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.

Footstool fell apart 2But 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.



My first “professional” piece: My Upcycling Journey Continues

MAY 24

Posted by Gina Storm Grant

Early in 2019, I found an attractive wooden end table on the ‘net. I happened to be going into Toronto the next day, passing right by the seller’s home, 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 persevered.

“Why are you giving it away?” I asked.IMG_1751

“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. 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 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?


My Upcycling Journey Continues: The Right Tool for the Right Job

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:

purchase post

I loved these chairs. I know they look a little “office-y,” but if I recover them…

wheeled chairs stackedI 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!

Chairs for sale Global

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 stoAugust 2018 recover thoughtsre. It was priced at $8, but I had a $10-off coupon, so…

I unpicked the seams and had enough to do 7 of the 10 chairs (plus the footstool and  bench.) I then came across some black and white striped stretchy fabric–not as good, but nearly identical in look.

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 stapled 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 affix 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.)

IMG_2628Sure 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?

IMG_2696Remember my first upcycling post a few weeks ago, “Girls Don’t Need Tools.” Yeah, well. No wonder women often slook incompetent 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.

Footstool of the gods!

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…

%d bloggers like this: