I'm coming out of blog retirement to document a little project I recently completed. I first mentioned this project in a post way back in June 2011, where I featured three projects I planned to tackle that summer. Ayeh. At least I've finally managed to cross the child's rocking chair off my list...FIVE YEARS LATER! Since I now have a cute one year-old granddaughter, who is just the right size for this little chair, I finally had a good reason to get this done. 

As a reminder, this little chair was in sad shape when I acquired it. Knicked up, filthy and ugly it was definitely in need of some TLC. It was upholstered in a ghastly red, white and blue quilted print featuring bandanas and gingham.  

Conveniently, I already had almost everything I needed to tackle this small project, using materials left over from other projects. The only things I had to buy were a spool of nylon thread and eight brass screws.

I started out by taking off the old upholstery, a time consuming task of removing old rusty tacks. Underneath the quilted fabric were pieces of orange vinyl upholstery that I'm guessing was the original. The wood frame wasn't in great shape either, with splits and cracks. This might have even been a homemade chair as it looked to be quite a hodgepodge of scrap lumber. While Grandpa got to work replacing a few broken pieces, I sanded the arms and rockers to ready them for painting. Luckily we had a nice winter day that was above freezing so that I could do that messy work in the garage. After giving it all a good sanding and wipe down, I applied a coat of dark tinted primer and then two coats of very dark brown gloss latex paint. 

My dining room "workshop".
I wanted the chair to be more padded and cushy, so I started with adding some 1-inch thick upholstery foam to the seat and back. I attached it with a spray adhesive made specifically for foam. 

As you can see the seat and back pieces are pretty much just boxes. The seat has a plywood top but the back was just an open frame of four pieces of wood, so I stapled on pieces of cardboard to cover the front and back. 

The next step was to bring out the pneumatic staple gun to attach batting! I bought a used upholstery stapler off eBay a few years ago and use a 1-gallon air compressor, which is sufficient for a small project like this. The stapler uses 3/8-inch upholstery staples, which can be difficult to find in the big box stores. I ordered mine from Amazon and they come in different lengths depending on your project needs. If you ever buy a pneumatic stapler make sure it's one with a safety tip that has to be depressed before the trigger will work. Mine doesn't have that and I have to be very careful not to accidentally bump the trigger and shoot off an errant stale! A long nose stapler would also be nice for getting into tighter spots. 



After donning my eye and ear protection (the compressor is very LOUD while it is charging up) I got to work covering the chair with upholstery batting. When working with batting you might also want to wear a face mask as the batting is very messy and leaves tiny fibers everywhere, as seen in the picture below. I purposely left the corners like you see to offer a bit more padding for those sharp edges. 

The chair back wasn't actually attached at this point. I needed to upholster the seat and back sections separately before attaching them. I had lots of decorator fabric in my stash to choose from for this project. I wanted something that would fit in almost anywhere and be somewhat neutral; not a juvenile fabric. I also wanted it to be somewhat modern and interesting. I chose this now discontinued Ikea print. It's a sturdy canvas-like cotton which was the perfect choice, not too bulky and easy to work with. I did have to pay a little extra attention so the pattern would align on both the seat and back sections. 


It  was a lot of trial and error in positioning, cutting, trimming and stapling. I made sure to iron my pieces before attaching them. I used a curved needle and nylon thread to sew closed the boxed corners using a blind stitch. Once everything was taut and to my liking I was able to attach the back piece to the seat. At this point the back side of the chair wasn't upholstered yet. I didn't get pictures of the next steps. A strip of chipboard is stapled to the underside of the fabric at the top, then the fabric is flipped over leaving a nice even edge with no exposed staples. Tack strip is used on the sides, tucking the fabric under and hammering it in place with a soft mallet. Then the bottom of the fabric is stapled underneath the chair.

Finally it was time to reattach the arms. I thought this would be easy enough, but not so fast. First of all the arms didn't fit the same as when the chair had no padding so there was some trimming involved. The previous holes no longer lined up to the chair so new ones had to be drilled. Therein was the real problem. As soon as the drill bit hit the batting it caught and pulled, winding the batting up like spaghetti on a fork, leaving a big lump of it under the upholstery! I then had to dig and pull the lumps out through the tiny hole using a combination of knitting needles, tweezers and needle nosed pliers being careful not to rip the hold or make it any bigger. Very frustrating.

The very last step was to attach a piece of cambric fabric underneath to hide all the staples and raw edges. It wouldn't be absolutely necessary but it does make it feel more finished. One other thing I noticed was that the heads of the brass screws I used to attach the arms had some sharp edges. Brass is somewhat soft so they got a bit roughed up in the process of screwing them in. A Dremel with a grinding wheel worked fine to take off the sharp bits. I also sprayed fabric protector on the upholstery to help make clean up easier in the event of any spills. I'm using a product called Vectra which claims to be child and pet safe. 

And finally, here is the finished chair, all ready for some serious rocking by my little gal. I'm happy with how it turned out. I gained some knowledge and enough confidence to tackle a bigger project some time down the road. 


A Big Day

A paint crew has arrived to start a very much needed project today. For the past couple of years our house's exterior has been looking very shabby indeed, with faded and peeling paint. Our once pretty blue house was looking kind of grayish pink. It had faded so much that the original pink color was starting to show through. Yes, pink! Not very appealing. We should have had the house painted last year but were a little slow getting anyone lined up and it was a short season due to a late start to spring and an early fall. 

So when our paint crew's foreman stopped by last night with this pile of ladders and equipment I had to control myself from doing a few cartwheels on the lawn. And that would have been a miracle because I have been cartwheel challenged my whole life. I never did master that technique as a child. Or pull-ups on the monkey bars. Or jumping off the high board. Well, anyway, I digress. 

When I saw this colorful array of ladders I was immediately reminded of the Italian flag and got hungry for pizza!  


Choosing a paint color is an agonizing ordeal that I hope I don't have to repeat again too soon. Our painter only uses Sherwin Williams paint, and as luck would have it there isn't a Sherwin Williams store within 25 miles. I tried using some online tools to upload a photo of our house and do some virtual painting. The process is fairly easy but I don't think it's very accurate. After narrowing down some choices we brought home eight colors to sample. At $7 a pop that isn't cheap, but it's a whole lot cheaper than finding out we made a big mistake after the fact. 

Our house has been the same grayish blue in all the years we've owned it. In fact, when we bought the house it was in the process of being painted to cover that awful aforementioned pink, and we liked the color the owner had chosen. Of course that was in 1982 at the height of the country decorating trend...dusty blue, dusty pink, etc. So although I still like it it had gotten to feel very outdated and it was time for a change. After painting our test swatches on the garage, which we are planning to paint ourselves later, we had whittled it down to three choices. What a sight, eh? Roses and a patchwork of blues. 

We thought we still had time to make a decision and then the contractor showed up on Friday to announce they would be here to start work today, Monday! Panic! The color we ultimately chose is called Grays Harbor (SW6236) and in real life it reads less navy and more gray than in these pictures, at least to my eyes. It changes with the light as is often the case and these photos were taken on a cloudy evening. It's the swatch on the far left. I really like the contrast of the darker color with the white trim. The other colors were still way too blue for me. We had a few others we tried that were more in the green/gray spectrum, but were obviously not right once we tried them, which is why it's so important to do that test swatch.

Our house is not nearly so grand, but I'm hoping it will look something like this lovely home when done. I absolutely love the contrast of light and dark and am so hoping that I will like it as much on our house. Our trim is plain white instead of creamy and we won't have a pretty painted front door, unfortunately. We only have a full window storm door that enters onto the porch. We could paint it, it's white right now, but it probably wouldn't have much of an impact. We do have a red Swedish mailbox for a some accent color and in summer I always have potted flowers next to the front steps.  

                              Traditional Exterior by Seattle Home Stagers Andrea Braund Home Staging & Design

One little sidenote. Wisconsin has very stringent rules about lead safety in regards to renovation. Since our house still has traces of the old pre-1978 paint the siding did test positive for lead. Therefore all the paint scrapings have to be collected for proper disposal. Pressure washing was not allowed. And our property, at least the three sides that are accessible from the street and next door neighbors, is surrounded with lead hazard tape to keep anyone from walking through while the crew is working. It looks a bit like a crime scene, but better safe than sorry.

A likely casualty, unfortunately, are my pretty Stella d'oro daylilies and spiderwort which started to bloom in the last few days, right next to the house. I'm sure they'll be crushed by tarps and ladders. So sad, but worth the sacrifice. They're hardy and will be back next year. At least I have this crummy phone photo.

I'll be back in a week or so to post before and after pictures. Until then I'll do what I can to tune out the nerve jarring sound of metal scrapers on siding and the country music twanging on the crew's radio in the background. 


Always the Bridesmaid

Pair of Mid-century Chairs

I always seem to be the next person to arrive just after something is sold. The latest heartbreaker. These chairs. Coulda, shoulda, woulda...


Easy Project: Lightbulb Vase

The lilies-of-the-valley are blooming once again. The lovely scent of these cute little flowers has been a favorite of mine ever since I was a little girl and used to pick them on the hillside by my grandparent's house. I wasn't about to pass up a chance to pick a few to have on my nightstand so I could nod off to dreamland and wake again to their lovely scent. While scrounging through the cupboard for something to put them in I stumbled upon this lightbulb vase I'd made some time ago. It was the perfect size for these diminutive flowers. 

If you'd like to know how to make your own vase, it's an easy little project that takes about 10 minutes, if that. You'll need

  • An incandescent lightbulb, burned out is fine if you have one. Soon enough these will be hard to come by as they are phased out, so keep a few around if you can. 
  • Needle nose pliers.
  • Screwdriver
  • Gloves to protect your hands from cuts, just in case.
You can find several instructional tutorials online. Check out the YouTube video at the bottom of the page.

To keep the bulb vase upright you'll need something to support it. I rummaged around my husband's shop and found a hose clamp which worked just fine. You could use a heavy duty metal washer or a roll of tape (pretty washi tape would look awesome) or any other cylindrical item with a hole in the middle. 

If your lightbulb is white instead of clear you'll have one more step not mentioned in the video. After removing the inner parts of the bulb you'll notice that it has a powder coating lining the bulb. This is made of a ground up mineral called kaolin. It's non-toxic and harmless. Just rinsing it out with water under the tap usually does the trick. If there is still some leftover residue you can add some grains of uncooked rice and give it a few good shakes to remove the last of the powder.

Here are a couple other cute ideas I found on Pinterest for hanging the vases.

I think I'll be making a few more of these. How about you?


Slippery Fingers

This is becoming all too common a theme. I see vintage sofa. I fall in love with vintage sofa. Someone else gets it first. This one was too perfect. A vintage sofa in like new condition + a matching chair. Both for $80. Time to drown my sorrows in a rhubarb margarita. Happy weekending, everyone. 


Vintage Medical Cabinets

My husband must cringe whenever I'm browsing Craigslist, Etsy or Ebay and tell him I have something he "just has to see".  It usually means I've discovered a piece of vintage furniture that I just have to add to my collection of waiting projects. This morning I was casually scrolling through Craigslist when I spotted a vintage metal medical cabinet. Ding, ding, ding! Only $50 and in fairly decent condition! Now that I've successfully tried dipping my toes into refinishing metal cabinets I think it's a realistic doable project. I've already been in touch with the seller and I'm hoping I can get my hands on it before someone else does. (Update: It's mine!) A cabinet like this is so versatile. Really, it could fit in anyplace. I'd love to use it as storage in our bathroom. I can see it working equally well in an office, dining room, craft room, living room, bedroom or laundry.

In the meantime I thought I'd go in search of some inspiration photos. The first picture is the actual cabinet I'm hoping to buy. Glass sliding doors, intact! Only tiny bits of rust. Shelves covered with yellow contact paper. Cream colored finish, or maybe just discolored white. Its dimensions are 64 x 30 x 15 which is a perfect size in my opinion; not too big, but big enough to provide ample storage.

It doesn't look too exciting does it? But check out this gorgeous teal cabinet that's very similar. The Craigslist cabinet claims it has glass shelves, but of course covered with contact paper. I'd probably have to get new glass. Lots easier than cleaning gooey adhesive off what is already there. 

Here's a real stunner that recently sold on Etsy. Love, love, love the coral color and I really dig the textured glass which would be great for hiding things in my cabinet (Yes, I already consider it mine) if used in the bathroom -- that is if I could somehow get sliding doors made of glass like this.

Here's another I spied on Pinterest. A light inside would be nice. I don't think it would be too hard to wire one up. I also like the black accents and extra wide drawer pulls. 

I've seen quite a few 1950's era cabinets with these big round knobs which are rather fun and funky. Some Bondo would easily fill in the current holes and I could re-drill for new hardware. Something to consider. 

There you have it. Just what I need. Another project that will take me forever to get around to doing. One of these days we are going to have to get serious about finding that dream property that has a heated workshop where my husband and I can pursue our interests year round -- woodworking for him and furniture refinishing for me. We're always on the lookout but the perfect place just hasn't materialized yet. "One of these days" should be my motto. 

My husband will no doubt remind me that I still have a set of gym lockers sitting in storage waiting to be transformed. Shhhh. Maybe he won't remember. I guess I have a wee bit of a thing for vintage metal furniture



Click the video for background music while reading this post.

This song pretty much describes how I feel when I start thinking about finding my perfect sofa. I know it's going to happen someday. I just know it. Until then I wait and dream about it. Drool over pretty sofa pictures. Imagine what it will be like. My only fear is that when we finally meet I'll turn into a jealous mate and won't allow anyone to get within ten feet, let alone sit on it.

Here's my latest prospect:

Kind of ugly, yeah? But wait, I have rose... errr, blue colored glasses. I can see Mr. Stripey turning into something like...

I know the picture is a little fuzzy. Or maybe it's just the tears of happiness in my eyes thinking of what could be. I'm sure a talented upholsterer could totally make this happen. My only concern is whether or not I'd be able to get up from the sofa without calling for help. Low slung sofa + bad knees = 911. I'm sure there is a code for that in law enforcement, right? Would that be a 10-53 - Woman Down? or a 586 - Illegal Parking? Hmm, something to take into consideration anyway. 

I'm going to run it by the Mr. and see what he thinks. Will keep you updated. 

Have a great holiday weekend. I'm off to see a man about a horse chocolate bunny.