Planting Sequoias

In which I blog about a life (hopefully) well lived.


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Transformed Thrift Store Artwork (in which painted velvet is actually a good thing)

So. You remember this ugly piece of thrift store artwork I picked up for $5 here, right? I know, I know, how could you forget this nightmarish painting? It’s downright scary. My apologies. Ken shrieked when I brought it home, poor guy.
old artwork in antique frame

But no worries. I used oil paints for the first time and it actually turned out pretty cool-looking. Except for the frame.

framed oil painting

So I polled you guys since I was sincerely bamboozled. Many chimed in with GREAT ideas, so click over to that post if you are ever in a dire situation like this. (HA). Pretty sure no one’s had this problem ever.

I ended up diving in headfirst by painting the velvet-y strip of the frame navy. I’ve done this before, on this frame, and it worked out well then. It does get stiffer, but after 50ish years, these velvet bits aren’t exactly something you want to rub your face on anyway.

Paint a thrift store frame's velvet section with craft paint.

It dried SUPER quickly (YAY) so I flipped the frame over and secured the oil painting in its grasp. Also–I painted on the backside of the painting if, justincase I ever wanted to, I don’t know? flip it over and use the original gross side? Completely unnecessary, now that I think about it.

old artwork preserved! just in case.

I’m in love with the painting and how easy it was. KEY: use lots of white. When I didn’t, things got murky FAST.

Oil painting for beginners! Super easy.

It now hangs in the 12 square feet that is our hallway, between our bedroom on the left and bathroom on the right.

Ugly thrifted artwork turned beautiful!

I left the outer creamy portion of the frame as is for now. I’m still mulling over whether or not I want to paint it. It’s currently acting as a nice bridge color between our creamy walls and the bright white in the painting.

Oh, and I made a nice (PINNABLE, hint) before and after image so you could see the contrast without scrolling up.

Transform old thrift store art!

So, for $5 and the cost of paint (maybe $6? I had a giftcard), we now have a sweet custom piece of artwork.

Moral of the story: don’t pass up ugly pieces of art in the thrift store, but don’t show it to your husband before you transform it. Things go much better that way.

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Gray Shabby Chic End Table (in which I make Ken an accomplice by driving the getaway car)

You might recall that a few weeks ago, I found a veritable treasure trove of dumpster goodies over the span of just a few days.

It was a delightful time in my life, but for Ken, these few days were very stressful and, in his mind, completely and utterly embarrassing.

I mean, I get it. It takes someone with a strong sense of self to march up to a dumpster and claim someone else’s cast-offs.

While Ken doesn’t have the gumption to do that just yet (he’s in training), he does love me an awful lot, so he can sometimes be convinced to drive “the getaway car.”

Now, this role is very important, don’t get me wrong! Our apartment complex seems quite massive when you think about lugging a few dozen pounds of awkwardly shaped furniture across several parking lots.

So on this particular day, Ken drove one very-excited me over to the dumpster and I hopped out and wrangled the finds into the car. Did I mention it was raining?

Even though there was no one in sight, Ken kept glancing around to see if anyone would notice our dastardly deed. The man still has yet to come to grips with the fact that if someone puts things in/by the dumpster, said things are no longer wanted.

Unfortunately for Ken, his loving wife has the gall to post all about these escapades on the internet. Poor man.

But I digress. Back on topic: These sidetables.

Free end tables

I immediately got to work on them while Ken hid embarrassed in the apartment, Or maybe he was studying for the Bar exam. One or the other.

I was particularly excited about the table on the left in the picture above. It was your average dark-wood laminate table with sleek contemporary lines.

The other end table, while it had a lot of potential (despite the missing drawer), got the boot. This is a sad story, so brace yourself.

One of us (either Ken or Anne, not naming names) accidentally left the keys in the door of our apartment one night. OVERNIGHT. Unfortunately, this is not the first time this has happened.

While we were thankfully not murdered in our bed, some well-meaning neighbor DID remove said keys and they were unaccounted for for about 8 hours.

During that 8 hours, Ken went into survival mode. He called the locksmith to see about changing the locks. He called the car dealership to see about getting a new key fob made since yes, our new car’s key was on that keyring. And, worst of all, he announced that we would have to start parking the car in the garage again.

This was, sadly, a logical move, one with which I could not argue. Though someone somewhere had our car’s keys, if we parked the car in the garage, it would in theory be more safe since we maintained possession of the garage door opener.

This meant that Anne’s furniture finds were being evicted. The headboard (which I sold for a cool $85 last week) stayed since it was slender, but I had to tote the curved-leg end table back to whence it came. From whence it came? What’s the phrase? Anyway, it went back to the dumpster, along with another end table not pictured above.

But the sturdy laminate end table to the left got special treatment and a special spot perched precariously atop our boxes of camping gear.

You see, I had just listed it on Craigslist, after giving it a glorious makeover. Behold:

sidetable1

Though laminate (yes, I learned my lesson here), it took the paint much better than the headboard did without primer. So sometimes painting shortcuts do work? Not sure what the lesson is in this story.

I distressed this piece as well and listed it on Craigslist as shabby chic (even though I greatly dislike that term for no good reason).

sidetable2

While I’m not the hugest fan of the cottage-y style look, I do on occasion like a good distressed piece, if for no other reason than the fact that it can take a beating and still look awesome/rustic.

sidetable3

It is currently awaiting a lovely new home though yeah, I’ll be sad to see this piece go as well. Perhaps someday I can start a home for abandoned pieces of furniture, but right now, our 670 square feet doesn’t cut it.

Oh, and the keys? The same neighbor that found them the last time we lost them found them again. We need to give that man a medal or something. Or permanently attach the keys to our body so they don’t get left in the lock. Or both.

Anyone else have a good dumpster-find story? or a good key-losing story? or need a shabby chic (bleagh) side table?


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How Not to Paint Laminate Furniture (in which I learn a valuable lesson about not taking shortcuts)

Two weeks ago, I found this leaning against our apartment dumpster.

Excited does not begin to describe how I was feeling about this magnificent freebie.

free headboard

Ken had a hard time seeing the vision, but I knew I could transform this weighty hunk of laminate into something awesome.

And I know, I know, it doesn’t look that bad–from a distance. Up close–well, it had issues.

Not the least of which were these mysterious screws poking out the top of the headboard.

free headboard--old canopy bed?

My guess is that at one point this bed used to be a canopy bed. A quick appointment with my pliers did the trick, however, and I filled the gaping holes with some wood filler. There were also a bunch of holes down by the bottom of the legs where various bed mechanisms had been attached that I filled in too.

I sanded down the wood-filler-filled places and gently sanded the rest of the piece, and then I got to painting.

Which was my huge mistake.

Oh, don’t get me wrong. It was looking pretty awesome.

Here’s the picture I texted to my mom (I have to turn SOMEWHERE for praise, since Ken has zero appreciation for painted furniture that originated from the dumpster of all places).

wpid-IMG_20130731_161709_834.jpg

Happily (and innocently), I finished painting, and the next night, I set out and distressed the things.

Only that process went a little too easily.

The paint chipped off wonderfully.

A lot of it.

And then I realized that if I even looked at the piece sideways, the paint would chip off.

Frantically I began to Google.

Apparently there’s a very important step between not painting and painting and that would be PRIMER.

Since laminate is so smooth, there’s nothing that paint can really adhere to. DUH.

I, in my infinite wisdom and constant state of impatience, thought that I would be the FIRST PERSON to finally succeed by taking this particular shortcut. FALSE. SO SO FALSE.

So, tearfully, I set up a play-date with my mouse sander and undid what I had already done. Which, in all actuality, did not take very long at all since the paint came off so easily.

And then I primed, and than I painted. This was a multi-day process spent in a dark, sweltering garage. I took no pictures because I was so mad at myself. And then I painted again. WOULD IT NEVER END???

Yes, it would.

After I’d painted it the second time (third if you count the time I sanded off; fourth if you count the primer–but who’s counting?), I got out my glaze and antiqued the thing.

I used Behr’s Faux Glaze and a test pot of brown Glidden paint I had on hand. The glaze helps the paint to remain “open” longer, aka, not dry as fast so you can manipulate it more. Note: do not use on husbands–they don’t respond well to manipulation. Either that or I’m doing it wrong. 🙂

Behr's Faux Glaze and Glidden Test Paint (brown): Perfect for creating an antique glaze

Mix these together at a ratio of 1 part paint to 4 parts glaze. I used a dark brown paint but you can in theory use any color.

Normally when you glaze thing you just smear the concoction all over the furniture and wipe it off, but I didn’t want to get my hands dirty, so I just “dry-brushed” the paint on, focusing on the edges/corners and smearing the stuff lightly all over. I did have a rag nearby so I could wipe off any part that got a little out of hand.

This is what I mean by using a “dry brush”–I just BARELY poke the edges of the bristles in the paint every couple of minutes.

"dry brush" darker paint on furniture edges to create an antique look

This method uses practically NO paint. I like to use the paint that sticks cover of the test pot and that’s about it.

It’s sort of a different way to “distress” furniture–it gives it a chippier look, as if the gray paint is wearing off to show the wood underneath, but it’s really just a big ruse. Shhh. It can be our secret.

antiqued headboard (click for tutorial!)

Also, I’m happy to report that the paint did not chip off at all once I finally did things the correct way and used primer.

I could have finished this with polyurethane or something similar, but after all I’d been through, I decided I really liked the matte finish over something shinier.

antiqued headboard (click for tutorial!)

Since we can’t keep this headboard, it’s currently posted on Craigslist (here, for interested locals)…sniff, sniff. Someday we’ll have a guest room and I will greatly lament parting with this piece, but for now, it can’t stay. Kenny keeps muttering something about wanting to “park the car in the garage” under his breath…


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On Using Oil Paints (in which I create a fancy interactive blog post to ask for help)

Last week got a little crazy around here: I channeled my inner art class nerd.

Normally I stick to Pinterest-level crafts (read: easy) but my recent love of oil paintings got me thinking.

Well that, and this $5 questionable thrift store find:

old artwork in antique frame

It was large and I loved the frame, but the (fake) picture inside was pretty gross looking.

So I broke out a Michael’s gift card I’ve been hoarding and purchased myself some oil paints. And a fancy brush, because I figured that would help, right?

Unfortunately, I purchased the wrong type of brush (blame my inner cheapskate). Apparently you’re supposed to get brushes with natural hair bristles for oil painting, not synthetic. Spoiler alert: The brush worked fine for this project. Probably because I am a mere beginner.

Oil painting supplies

I assembled my supplies, took the artwork out of the frame, and flipped it over. I’m not fancy enough for a real canvas…and this was very handy.

And then I got to work piling paint onto the cardboard. I sort of used this painting as a reference as I went along.

using oil paints

It was a bit rainy and cold outside, so this was the perfect activity.

Also, mixing paint is hard for me. I had to go back to the store and buy another whole tube of white because the painting was getting a bit murky and brownish by this point. White helped the situation immensely.

using oil paints

And then I waited. Apparently, oil paintings take FOR.EV.ER. to dry. My elementary school art class failed me a little on this project.

Getting impatient, I finally put the painting in the frame last night and ran into what could be classified as a problem. The painting has bright white tones in it, yet the frame (which dates to the ancient year of 1968) is decidedly NOT white.

framed oil painting

The “inner” creamy portion is velvet covered, but I have painted velvet on a frame before. The outside strip of cream would be quite easy to paint. The gold I love, so that is staying for sure.

Since I can’t decide, I made this fancy poll.

 

What are your thoughts? Anyone else embracing their inner fine artist lately?


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Painted Barn Wood Sign (in which I nearly start My Own Business but then I think it through)

If you have been reading my blog from the beginning (so…2 people, maybe), this post may sound a little familiar.

You see, I’ve done this craft before. Here. Almost exactly a year ago, but before Kenny and I were married, so basically ages ago.

It’s just that when my parents’ start tearing up buildings on the farm, AKA BARNS I get a bit excited.

I see all of this old, beautiful BARN WOOD and I start getting these Grand Delusions.

I begin to think that I will hoard this disassembled barn and make things out of the wood.

I start plotting ways to expand this into a business with my crafts (because this is probably going to go viral. Gotta be prepared.)

Then I think that I should probably quit my job to devote all of my time and energy into this yet-nonexistent but entirely probably very-successful venture.

And then I begin to think that my Business Empire can help to Save the World. I’ll employ people! I’ll donate! I’ll send these to third world countries because I am a Philanthropist (capital “P”).

(It escalates quickly, I know. I have to live with myself constantly).

But then I blink, and come down to reality. I like my 9-5. And while I enjoy doing crafts, my attention span is about as long as a toddlers. And once I do something, I don’t normally have a burning desire to do it again (recreate the wheel and all that).

But I can’t help but snag a board or two for fun, special occasions.

One such special occasion presented itself on Sunday, when one of my best friends had her first bridal shower and I needed a gift.

Sometimes homemade gifts can go horribly wrong, so I had budgeted for a Plan B. But it turned out just fine.

And.

Why am I still talking? You want to see pictures.

Here’s the board, which was formerly a barn.

barn wood board for sign

As you can see, I needed to do a little clean up. Nail removal had already occurred for transportation-safety purposes.

So I washed it and sanded it to within an inch of it’s life. It was then more deserving of a better photo backdrop than the garage floor and our duvet cover sufficed.

Sanded barn board for rustic sign

Next I traced out my plan with some chalk. We used this verse (and some surrounding ones) at our wedding and I think it’s super appropriate for a soon-to-be-married couple. 1 John 4:19 says “We love because He first loved us.” #bibleforthewin

rustic barn wood sign--chalk markings

Chalk allows for a multitude of errors, which is also nice.

Paint is a little less forgiving, but let’s keep it in perspective. This is supposed to be rustic.

painting a sign onto barn wood

Then, because the letters were a little too crisp and white, I attacked the board with some sandpaper and rustick-ed it up.

distressed paint on barn wood sign

It also made it super soft and silky feeling and so I didn’t seal it with anything. That could happen, but I liked the unfinished, matte look.

rustic barn wood sign 1 john 4:19

To the back of the board I affixed two tiny picture-hanging hooks, the kind with the little teeth. Those are hinge marks in the paint, so I think this board came from somewhere really mysterious and glamorous like a door or cabinet.

hinge marks on old barnwood

So, even though I didn’t end up saving the world (YET), I did manage to make a semi-acceptable bridal shower gift.

Cheers to Lorie and Phil on their upcoming nuptials!