Posts Tagged Refinishing

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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More Done, More to Do

Although work and life has been busy over the last few weeks, (including a friend’s wonderful wedding weekend and a crazy Halloween party), I’m still getting work done on the humble bungalow. Slowly but surely.

Although I had finished the roof on the house the weekend before (rain and all), I still had the garage to tear-off and re-roof. Just a 1 car garage so I kept saying how I’d like to get it all done in one weekend. And we basically did.


Turns out there were 3 full layers of asphalt on the garage – but no shake shingles underneath. So although the extra layer of shingles took more time to tear-off, I saved time not needing to lay down new decking across the roof. It was tear-off and then immediately rolling out the felt paper. Although one afternoon did get rainy, we were able to spend all day Sunday getting it finished – literally working until dark and bringing out the work light for the last few rows.


But we got it all finished – I know its just a roof, but damn I’m proud of it! The difference of before and after makes the entire house look different!

Going back inside, I had left the bathroom without the finishing touches in order to get the roof replaced this fall. Although I had a working toilet, the kitchen sink was the only running faucet inside the house. I had begun the process of refinishing an old dresser to transform it into the bathroom vanity, but it sat unfinished for a few months.

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I bought it from a Craigslist seller earlier this summer and envisioned it as a sink base. 1 drawer was already entirely busted, and even with my experience repairing broken furniture it was too far gone. So I didn’t feel bad cutting into the dresser top and altering the remaining drawers to make room for the sink drain and supply lines. I also stained the cabinet a bit darker for a richer contrast between the wooden vanity and all white bathroom tile. 4 layers of marine varnish later, and the cabinet was ready for the sink bowl.


I attached the faucet to the sink before placing the bowl into the cabinet – much easier to do that step when the sink is on the floor and you don’t have to lay on your back on the floor. When it came time to glue the sink bowl in place, I knew I didn’t want to move the sink around and smear silicone all over the dresser top. So I first dry-fit the sink, measuring from left to right, making sure the sink was centered. Once in place, I used masking tape to outline the perimeter of the sink. This way I knew exactly how to center the sink and this also gave me an extremely clean line for the silicone that squeezed out. The result speaks for itself – and is exactly the look I had in my mind.


Such clean silicone lines! And that wood counter is shine-y! Looks like glass, but it should hold up to water from the bathroom sink just fine for years to come.


I have the top drawers installed in this photo.  They each had to be altered to make way for the curve of the sink bowl and additional space for the drain and supply pipes. In reality, the top drawers are only about half as wide as they were originally, but this way they still function and provide some storage. Enough room for all the typical top drawer bathroom items; toothpaste, toothbrush, razors, bar soap, and everything else that always finds its way here.

The middle drawer isn’t in the photo yet, I have one more coat of poly to brush onto that drawer front. For the bottom drawer opening, I’m thinking about a few slats across the bottom to hold a few baskets – stuff them with rolled up towels or something.

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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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