Archive for category Furniture

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

Great book from my childhood. And the original BBC movie was the best back in the day. But for the title of this post, there actually is no witch. There is the Lion who thinks he owns my house, and keeps an eye on all my renovation projects:

And then the wardrobe:

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I don’t think the wardrobe was originally here. Firstly, the baseboard in the room runs behind the wardrobe. Secondly, inside the wardrobe there was part of an inside door latch screwed into the floor – but it was against the back wall. And lastly, the wardrobe is almost the exact size of the opening that was unfinished in the bathroom when I first bought the house:

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I actually think this wardrobe was inside the bathroom in this space. And that it wasn’t a doorway from this bedroom into the bathroom, but rather the wardrobe had doors on both sides. I did find spare doors in the rafters of my garage, but they don’t fit, so the mystery continues. Anyways, I plan to keep the wardrobe in the bedroom where I found it, but it needed a major overhaul.

So I removed the doors (I didn’t like the hinges anyways), and tore out the inside closet organizer too. The previous owner had glued melamine panels to each of the walls & ceiling inside, but I tore it out also – it wasn’t cut well, leaving unfinished corners throughout. Once removed, it revealed the plaster walls not in such great shape – and the adhesive tore the finish plaster off with it. So I beefed up the cabinet itself by screwing wood supports along each of the corners into the walls, and then nailing the frame of the cabinet to these cleats.

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Rather than repair the plaster inside (not worth the time in my opinion), I took 2 sheets of underlayment and ripped them into 6″ planks and nailed them inside the closet to make it look like a wood lined closet. I used nickels as spacers to keep the planks in line.

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The wardrobe was never varnished before it was painted, so sanding it down to bare wood would have been way too time consuming, and for a rather cheaply built cabinet, not worth the time. So I decided early on that I would just repaint it – but not blue. I did spend a bit of time sanding the cabinet and doors, since the previous coats of paint had drips, runs, and thick brush strokes. I painted the inside walls white, and the floor the dark color of the outside.

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Apparently the original cabinet hinges in my house are impossible to find – every online restoration resource, eBay, and even architectural salvage shops – nothing. So I bought the most similar ones I could find to hang the wardrobe doors.

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I’m even thinking of building some custom interior dividers to allow for 2 hanger bars, and maybe a few low shelves for shoes. But that’s not priority. To finish it off, I need to make a few pieces of cove crown molding for where it meets the ceiling, and also find some nice cabinet handles. But otherwise, I’m really happy with how it turned out.

P1040728 BThe wardrobe is Sherwin Williams Backdrop, and the walls are Morris Room Grey. Photographs don’t do justice to the color combo. To me, the colors are dark and light mushroom. Along with the rich mahogany stained woodwork, I feel like the room is an old-school study or library, very warm and masculine.

I even found a light fixture I liked and installed it this past weekend.

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Next will be staining & varnishing the baseboards, wiring up the outlets, and this room will be finished. The lion seems to approve.

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Getting a Handle on Things

Following this year’s Christmas celebrations with family and friends, it is rewarding to be in my own place! Yep, the weekend before Christmas I finally got moved into the house! It was a push to finish the cleaning & scrubbing every room needed, but several friends pitched in and many hands make light work. The move wasn’t all that terrible either, I actually drug it out an entire week. Each day after work I would fill up my car with boxes and slowly unload them into the house, allowing me to unpack slowly and not get overwhelmed. (It was also a chance to realize that I might be a little bit of a pack rat, so I did quite a bit of purging, putting to work my recycling & trash pick up services these last two weeks.) And after all those family Christmas parties, it was nice to relax. At home. Alone. And quiet.

Beyond unpacking, organizing, tossing out, & cleaning more, I haven’t gotten to a whole lot of work inside the house. But now with a working bathroom, it was time to finish the drawers for the bathroom vanity. I had already completely disassembled & rebuilt each drawer to fit around the sink and drain plumbing. Unfortunately though, the drawers didn’t open or close well because the drawer faces were so tight to the dresser frame.


So before I attached the handles, I found where they were rubbing the dresser openings and got acquainted with my block plane to hone down the top edges of the drawer fronts. A small pile of wood shavings later, and they open & close without scraping. I even had room to attach little plastic drawer glides inside the dresser to help them operate more smoothly. Once I stained and sealed the raw edges with polyurethane, all that was left was to attach the handles.

What handle do you affix to an antique dresser turned sink vanity? The ones that were on the dresser when I bought it were made of cheap metal and the gold finish was rubbing off. The rest of the finishes in the bathroom are brushed steel, so I found these unassuming handles and I think they are just the right size. Enough that I can easily open the drawers, but they don’t take away from how bold the dark wood vanity looks in a sea of white tile.

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The bottom drawer was entirely busted apart, I didn’t even attempt to fix it. I’m thinking eventually I’ll put a thin board underneath and have a couple baskets to hold towels, soaps, etc.

Next project? Stripping paint & staining the bathroom woodwork for around the window & doorway. The boards are already pulled off their frames, I just have to strip & sand years of old paint off. And once that is finished, I will let myself build a medicine cabinet.

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Mad Men Chair – Part 2

I finished this chair a few weeks ago, but I’ve forgotten to take photos of the finished product. But first, let me define mid-century modern. For me, mid-century modern (or mcm) is hard to describe, but I know it when I see it. The term can apply to homes, furniture, architecture, even graphic design and fashion, popular among designers and cities across the globe from the mid 1930’s to late 1960’s. Mcm furniture can be described as crisp, with sweeping lines and sharp, geometric shapes. Before the 1950s, furniture was more elaborate and involved complicated lines and adornments, mostly adopted from common European furniture styles that were still being used centuries later. Mid-century designers were modernists, and their furniture embodied their ideas of the world and society. They valued simplicity and streamlined their pieces accordingly. Their designs were high-quality, often using materials that were uncommon for fine furniture such as teak, stainless steel, chrome, and bright bold colors. Want to see more styles? A quick Google search and you’ll see the most popular designs of Charles and Ray Eames, Arne Jacobsen, Mies van der Rohe, and Eero Saarinen. I’ll bet you recognize them, and you never realized the enormous impact their furniture has had on home and office design.


But back to my Mad Men chair. This blog post from yesterday showed the before, during, and even my inspiration photo for the finished chair. The hardest part was the upholstery. I tried to stay as true to the original upholstery style as possible, including making the cording around the top edge of the seat cushion and small pieces on each arm. Aside from a little simple sewing, it was a learning experience in how simple folding and a ton of staples in the right place can make anyone a professional in upholstery. The result? A really sleek and finished look.


The color is Varathane Dark Walnut gel stain, the first time I’ve used a gel stain. It didn’t get as dark as I hoped for, so I built the color up by reapplying 3 additional coats. Still a bit more wood grain showing than I hoped for, but I couldn’t get it any darker without losing the chocolate color. Then 3 coats of polyurethane in semi-gloss. Typically mid-century modern wood furniture has a matte or satin finish, but I used what I had on hand. And I knew I wanted it to have a strong finish to resist wear, so the step up in level of shine will be ok for me. Can you see the stitching on the seat cushion and back? It’s subtle, but the lines are there. It might be barely noticeable, but it breaks up the large surface of the seat and back.


The fabric was in the clearance bin at Joanne’s, I bought all that was left. It’s a tweed of some sort, reminds me of ground black pepper. It’s actually a bit darker in person than these photos show.


Seven (7) nail head brads just like the original also. Except they were gold/brass originally, but that color didn’t look right with the gray fabric. I found them in silver at a big box home store and I really like how they came out. You can see the seam on the back of the cushion in the photo above, but that’s exactly how the old one was done also. So that’s what I tried to replicate.


Of the 4 casters, they don’t all match. They are 2 and 2 of the same. You can also see in this photo that each leg has a dark brown cap, originally plastic, which I believe is meant to protect the legs when you set your feet on them. Two (2) were cracked and looked terrible, so I removed them during the tear-apart. I knew I would never find anything to replace them with, so I made new ones out of walnut stained with leather dye. They match is uncanny. You can see above one remaining that has the corner slightly broken off, but I chalk that up as character.

So here is where I started (almost, I forgot a true “before” photo).


And below is my new desk chair. You can see the stitched lines on the seat and back really well in this photo. And its comfortable, oh my is it comfortable. It wobbles a little bit because of the metal structure (which I did nothing but clean really well), and it squeaks a little, but overall its a very sturdy piece.


So let me add up my expenses.

$10   Chair purchase
$16   Fabric
$  9   Stain
$  5   Upholstery trim

$40   Total, and probably 10 total hours.

Not bad when other similar Paoli chairs are listed for $250, $275, $365, and up on such sites as Ebay, Etsy, and Apartment Therapy. Not bad at all.

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