32 Things Before I’m 32: Item #1, Reupholster Some Furniture (part two)

Welcome to the second part of my adventures in reupholstering furniture! Part one of this task featured the recovering on my trunk, using fabric I found while actually shopping for fabric for this project: covering the dining chairs. This project was not hard, per se, but it took longer than I had anticipated and left me quite exhausted.

We got our table and chairs from my mother, who bought them off someone on Craigslist, I think. They were about $100 for the table and 6 chairs; a steal, even if some of the chairs were beat up. Two of the chairs had practically no cushioning left, and another two were a little worn down, but two chairs looked like they had never been sat in. The fabric that was on the chairs wasn’t bad, but we felt we needed something with a little more pop.

The Before
The Before

You can see how that cushion on the left needs a little TLC. Unfortunately I didn’t get to give it as much as it needed because I didn’t have the right materials. But that’s ok, it still looks pretty good.

Purdy.
Purdy.

I got this fabric at Joann’s Fabric last weekend, when Becky Neal was visiting. I originally wanted the colors to be red and off white (so it wasn’t too loud), but this fabric spoke to me. It’s technically outdoor upholstery fabric, so it won’t fade or wear down easily, plus it’s easy to clean. It wasn’t cheap though, I bought 3 yards at $21/yard (and I have very little left over). When I told Jason the total last weekend, his eyes got really big.

Pickwick decided to help.
Pickwick decided to help.
See, very helpful.
See, very helpful.

I started with one of the best looking chairs, deciding to carefully remove the cover so I could use it as a pattern for the rest of the chairs. I began by unscrewing the seat from the rest of the chair. Unfortunately I wasn’t really paying attention to how the chair was built, and accidentally took a leg off instead. I spent the next 20 minutes trying to get those pesky screws back in place.

Can you see how easy this comes off? Apparently I did not.
Can you see how easy this comes off? Apparently I did not.

Once I got the seat removed (four screws, seriously Cervone, what’s your issue?) I painstakingly removed the million and one staples from the underside of the seat, preserving the white fabric and the cover to the best of my ability.

Staples!
Staples!
So many staples.
So many staples.
Seriously, who needs this many staples?
Seriously, who needs this many staples?

After removing the cover, I then yanked all the broken and loose staples out of the chair, to make sure they didn’t get in the way. This took me nearly an hour, but it was (probably) worth it.

Tada!
Tada!

The cover kept its shape pretty well – I laid it on the new fabric and drew a basic outline. Since the original fabric had a little stretch and the new fabric didn’t, I cute the new fabric slightly large and more square. I figured I could trim it down once I attached it.

This is gonna be good.
This is gonna be good.

Then I just stapled, stapled, and stapled some more. The first chair was the easiest, because once I finished it, I needed to make the rest look as similar as possible. Harder than you think.

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Not so bad, Cervone.

After it was done, I reattached it to the chair.

Classy.
Classy.
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The new and the original. Fantastic upgrade, if I do say so myself.

Then I did that for three more chairs (on one chair I just ripped the fabric to shreads, it was great). My hands were really hurting. There were a few mishaps: there was a thin layer on padding on all the chairs that I didn’t expect, and on the two pretty ok seats the padding had started to disintegrate. I was able to salvage it, mostly, but I wish I had been able to replace it.

The thin foam, falling apart.
The thin foam, falling apart.

I needed to replace the cushions for two of the chairs, so I completely removed the cushion from one of the chairs and traced the wooden seat on some foam to get the shape right. However, without that thin layer of padding the cushions won’t hold their shape correctly and there are hard edges where the wooden seat isn’t covered.

Fooooooooam.
Fooooooooam.
Can you see how crappy this seat is?
Can you see how crappy this seat is?

I ended up putting the rest of the project on hold (since we only use 4 chairs at a time) until I get the thin foam, and will finish it next weekend (probably).

Finished or not, the upgrade is really fantastic, and I’m glad I took the six hours to do it. While not the cheapest upgrade either, it was still less expensive than buying six new dining chairs. I sent a picture to Michelle, and now she wants me to recover her dining chairs. I probably will, for the price of dinner and maybe some wine, because I really had a lot of fun.

The (mostly) finished product.
The (mostly) finished product.

Until next time!

32 Things Before I’m 32: Item #1, (Finally) Reupholster Some Furniture (part one)

Initially I planned to hold off starting my “32 Things Before I’m 32” tasks until I turned 31, but I’m terribly impatient, and my BFF Becky pointed out that there was really no reason for me to wait.

So, for my first task I decided to finally reupholster my antique trunk, a gift from my mother. I’ve had the trunk since I was in high school, and my mother had last recovered it for me back in 2005, when I was getting my first off campus apartment. She covered it in brown vinyl that looked like leather, so I could use it as a coffee table. I left it that way even though I didn’t love it, mostly because I am lazy.

The trunk.
The trunk.

However, yesterday while shopping for fabric to cover the dining chairs (that will be part two of this task) I came across this fantastic Parisian themed home decor fabric (ON SALE!) and couldn’t not get some. I bought a yard, with no idea as to what I would do with it. But then, while getting ready to head back out to see The Bloggess (another entry for another day?) it occurred to both me and Becky that this fabric was PERFECT for recovering the trunk!

Don't you love it?
Don’t you love it?

I was excited to get it done, so after Becky headed back home this morning I made my way back to Joann Fabrics and bought trim and some foam (to create a cushion, which it didn’t have before) and settled down for a little fun.

You can see the damage that Pickwick has done.
You can see the damage that Pickwick has done.

First, I ironed the fabric and got it as crease-free as I possible could.

Bye-bye creases!
Bye-bye creases!

Then I took the old vinyl and trim off the trunk.

Not so pretty without a cover.
Not so pretty without a cover.
You can see here all the little nails that held on the trim. I forgot to buy nails to put on the new trim, so dug every single one of these out to reuse them.
You can see here all the little nails that held on the trim. I forgot to buy nails to put on the new trim, so dug every single one of these out to reuse them.

Once I got the old cover off, I measured and cut the foam to size (I apparently didn’t bother to photograph this) and figured out how I wanted the fabric to lay.

I like it!
I like it!

Once I got it exactly where I wanted it, I (carefully) stapled it in place.

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Most people fold the fabric under and staple underneath, but I didn’t want to damage the decorative wood on the underside, plus it wood look weird.

Once I got the fabric stapled down perfectly (or mostly), I cut off the excess and attached new trim with the same teeny tiny nails that held down the old trim.

This was harder than you'd expect - the nails were tiny and some went right through the trim.
This was harder than you’d expect – the nails were tiny and some went right through the trim.

But then, I was done! And the finished product was beautiful.

The trim is complete!
The trim is complete!
The finished product.
The finished product.
One more, for good measure.
One more, for good measure.

I think it turned out pretty great! The whole project took me about 2 1/2 hours total, not including a break to eat chocolate and having to hide while Jason got the ironing stuff out of the closet hiding my birthday present.

This kind of reupholstery is easier than you’d think, and a great project for anyone wanting to make a major decorative change in their decor without buying new furniture.

Next week I plan to recover (and re-cushion) 6 dining chairs: stay tuned for part two!

Doing Stuff: the Crafty Edition

We’ve been very busy over the past three months: while living with my mother in law I was commuting nearly four hours a day and then spending most weekends at the house, getting it ready for our move in; once we moved into the house on May 1, we started committing every waking moment to getting unpacked or buying furniture or just trying to figure out how many things we can grill because we don’t currently have a working stove. Let me tell you, you never realize how much you use a stove until you don’t have one.

We’ve done other things, like attend some friends’ wedding (it was gorgeous and wonderful); we hosted a bunch of friends, families, and colleagues for Memorial Day (/house-warming); and we started doing little projects like replacing lights or, in my case, refinishing ugly furniture.

It’s too expensive to purchase all new furniture, although we have spent a pretty penny doing it anyway. We were looking for a coffee table for the living room, as our previous one was giant, ugly, and had been destroyed (by me) right before we moved. We were struggling to find anything that might fit into the space without covering up the funky carpet but also without overwhelming the room. It’s a narrow space, only about six feet between the couch and fireplace, so we couldn’t do anything massive. After lots of discussions, we decided we wanted to get a plush ottoman that would be good for multiple reasons. Once we settled on our idea, we were then tasked with trying to find something in a good price range. Sadly, everything that we liked was just a little more expensive than we could justify paying right now. Enter: my mother.

In January, during the first weekend we had the house, my mother had picked a dirty, stained ottoman off the sidewalk in front of a house down the street from our own. It seemed to be in perfect condition, save a teeny tiny tear and black stains (that looked sort of like ink). She threw it into the back of her truck with the intention of re-upholstering it and sneaking it into our house. Of course, she never got around to doing so and when she heard that we were looking for an ottoman, she trekked it over to our house on a visit. It fit perfectly. Except for the stains, of course.

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I have very limited experience with upholstery, having only recovered the seats and backs of some easy to take apart and put back together chairs Jason brought to the old apartment. I considered just taking it to a professional, since we’re eventually taking our armchair to one, but I couldn’t bring myself to spend the money on this very free item. Mom casually mentioned painting it, and after some researching, I discovered a crazy number of tutorials on painting fabric furniture.

I finally settled on using a post titled “IKEA Hack” that seemed to fit my fancy.

It’s pretty simple, and you can follow her tutorial, if you want to do this, which will be a little more involved than mine. I started out by purchasing a quart of latex paint from Home Depot – what’s nice about buying latex interior paint is that you have a world of colors to choose from. Originally I planned to go for a green, but on a whim grabbed a pink sample that ended up being almost a perfect color match. I then purchased two 6 oz bottles of Martha Stewart’s Fabric Paint Medium and some Martha Stewart All Surface Paint in Gold, both from Michael’s. I used a regular brush (Purdy) for the majority of painting, and a small paintbrush for the trim.

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I mixed two parts latex paint with one part medium: or as close to my forgetting to figure out a way to measure as possible. I didn’t choose a large enough mixing dish, so it got a little messy. (that drink cup did NOTHING!)

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Once mixed, I sprayed the top of the ottoman down with warm water – not until it was soaked, but just damp. This is supposed to help the paint adhere better. I cannot honestly tell you that it helped on top, but it sure did on the sides.

I gave the entire thing two coats, which took about 90 minutes – the color match was so dead on in places that I couldn’t tell what I had gone over. Also, even though the cushion on my ottoman was attached, it did lift up to expose about 6 inches underside; I chose to not paint too much of that since it’ll never be seen.

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After I put two coats on the ottoman, I had planned to paint large faded gold polka dots all over the piece, but changed my mind. Instead, I just painted the piping trim around the top cushion. That took me forever (about an hour for the entire thing) and i only did one coat. I decided to leave it with a slightly worn and aged look.

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The paint on top wasn’t drying evenly, so after it fully dried I painted a third layer there. That was a mistake, because I couldnt’ get close to the trim for fear of messing it up. Luckily, that dried better than expected.

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It still isn’t perfect: the stains on the ottoman seemed to have created a barrier of some sort, so the texture is different. If you look really close you can see the difference.

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But really, it’s not too noticeable. Plus, I have a wooden tray on top and that looks pretty darn good. Overall, it was a good project and I am very much looking forward to my next one.

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My next project might involve the sander, which is pretty exciting. Until next time!

Adventures in Real Estate

*peaks out from behind door* Hi Readers… are you still there?

I’m so sorry that I’ve been MIA, my dear ones. Things have been very, well, insane. See, the thing is: we bought a house.

A house! you say? Yes, a house. A cute little yellow four-bedroom cape in Weymouth, close to a park and the beach. Most importantly: close to Wahlburgers (I’m kidding, they’re not that good.) Actually, what I am excited about is that we’re going to be much closer to my bestie Michelle. But I digress: we bought a house.

It happened very quickly. Back in early November, Jason and I decided to start looking at open houses. At the fourth and last house of our first outing, we met Jean, the greatest realtor ever (it turned out). We took an immediate liking to her, and a month later allowed her to guide us to our new home. Fun fact: it was our first official day out, and we almost didn’t view it – it had escaped Jean’s report and was right around the corner from our original first choice (which ended up being horrible.) The house needed a new kitchen, updated bathroom, and a second bathroom, but we were up for the challenge.

The house is adorable: the floors are oak and in good condition; there is a fireplace in the living room and a hand painted tree on a closet door. There is a huge deck out back! The upstairs bedrooms are huge, with tons of closet space; and Jason gets his own office. We were pleased.

We learned quickly that my mother (holla!) would not be able to do the renovations if we wanted to get a 203K loan, so we interviewed a handful (read: two) contractors, and finally settled on Matt. It was actually much more complicated than that, as we were traveling in England and everyone kept forgetting to tell us things like YOU HAVE TO PICK A CONTRACTOR BY THIS DATE, but, whatever. Plus, the seller was a pill – it turned out that it was her childhood home, so she was struggling to fix/change anything that needed it. Finally, it’s January 9th and we’ve signed the papers!

This is where things get messy.

When we hired the contractor, we were given a four-week timeline. That quickly changed to six, which is fine and honestly, more realistic. They promised to start the week of the 12th, which they did… just at the end of the week so nothing really happened. But the next week they were at it full force (I guess?) and then. We got hit with the most amount of snow that Boston has seen in nearly 20 years.

Needless to say, things were quite delayed.

We (I) argued with the contractors a lot. They gave us a hard time about putting things were we wanted them, giving me a deep tub, and other little things that most people probably don’t really think about but apparently mean a lot to us (me). There were a few things that I wish I had fought about more; for example, they removed a light out back to put in french doors, broke it, and then had no intention of replacing it. They also removed a bunch of chair rail in the dining area, threw it away, and then told us they had no plans to work on that part of the room (we’re combining the kitchen and dining room for a bigger space). Little things, but I’ve been irritated. (Editor’s note: I complain about my contractor, but he’s actually pretty great.)

As the 6-week timeline stretched out to eight, Jason and I were preparing to sublet our apartment by the end of February. Since our mortgage payments started in March, we couldn’t really afford to stay longer than that. We both began to worry that we’d have no place to live.

And then we didn’t.

Right before the 4th storm in as many weeks we came to the house to discover water dripping in through the front window and later, the front door. Snow had pushed up against the house so hard that it broke the siding and formed ice barriers. The snow on the roof melted and re-froze, creating massive ice dams along the edge of the front and back of the house. I checked the eaves regularly that weekend and saw no issues… until we showed up one more to a huge black stain on a wall (from an almost-fire) and then, leaking in the eaves.

We were panicked. We called the contractor and asked what he could do. He promised to get the snow removed from the roof as quickly as possible but due to the demand, it took almost five days. By then, we learned, the damage was done. A few days later we got a call that the ceilings were falling down and the walls were wet. We headed over that weekend to see the damage (and remove some wallpaper). Long, sad, story short: we have to replace all the front and back exterior walls, in addition to finishing the house (which, btw, is currently SO CLOSE to being done – they were just waiting for the inspection on the electricity and plumbing, then everything was going in). They’re also worried that we need a new roof, and we definitely need to replace out front door. We have a lot to do.

They weren’t able to give us an updated timeline.

At this point we’re owned the house for almost two months, and haven’t yet been able to live there. We officially moved out of our apartment on February 21st, and have been living with my mother in law in Rhode Island for about a week and a half. She is generous to let us stay here, and it’s not bad at all; except for my commute, which takes nearly two hours. I do miss having my stuff, my space, but Pickwick is content (and dry and fat and warm, as am I. Yes, all three.) so I can’t complain too much.

I don’t think I’ll ever buy a house again though. This is it. This is the end of house buying for me. It has been stressful and not fun (ok, it’s been a lot of fun too). I am ready to be in my house! I’ve been meaning to write about this for quite some time, but everything is still so unresolved that I felt it wasn’t fair to you guys to burden you with this unresolved story. But my friend Allie gave me the task of writing this out tonight, so I had to.

And now you know why I’ve been missing. My whole life has turned upside down. I’ve barely been able to read, I’m exhausted all the time, and I am drinking one-too-many glasses of wine at dinner. I am doing my best to take it all in good humor, but it gets exhausting, ya know?

I hope that I have an update you all sometime soon. Jason is meeting with the insurance folk this week and I pray that we’re in the house by the end of the month. Keep your fingers crossed for me?

Until next time darlings,

E