Sunday, July 16, 2017

New House, New Coffee Table

Hi Friends,
Lots of exciting stuff happening in the home decor life of yours truly!
First, I moved into a new house. It is actually quite an old house; it is the cottage in the backyard of my parents' 1900's house. And before it was a home, it was actually a barn for the main house. After the 1906 earthquake, when housing was desperately needed, it was converted to a dwelling. It has gone through many changes since then, but I'm pretty sure there is still some hay under the floorboards. There will be more info on the renovations we did, as well as before and afters of the rooms. Come back to the blog for those updates.
Secondly, I started taking an online course in Interior Design at the New York Institute of Art and Design. So far so good, but I'm really only at the beginning. Hopefully it will give me some good practical information about designing spaces, but also about the business side of things(the side I naturally shy away from). Some of the projects in the course will have me working with a client, so if you're interested in being my client "guinea pig" let me know.
And lastly, we've been getting into making our own furniture. I say "we" because James is primarily doing the constructing, but I still want some credit. Since we've been doing a lot of work ourselves on the new house, it was a great excuse to boost our toolbox. We purchased a mitre saw, a circular saw and a nail gun, all of which have been upping our handiness enormously.
My sister has been looking for a new coffee table for a long time, and she's always admired my coffee table, the same one we used growing up(you can read about it here). So we decided to build her one, based on the original. She wanted something at the same height(14 1/2"), but smaller in length. So we purchased 7 feet of a 2x8" poplar board. We cut that in half to make the tabletop, so the dimensions of the top are 3 1/2' long, by 16" wide.
We also purchased about 6' of 2x2 poplar, to use as the legs. Poplar is a versatile hardwood, affordable and a beautiful light color. Some of the wood can look almost green, so we really checked out the coloring of our pieces before buying. Now I'm not going to go into extreme detail about the building process, but I will explain the basics, so you can learn the process in case you want to try something similar.
First we got all our tools together: wood dowel pins, dowel centers, measuring tape, level, pencil, furniture glue, drill, hammer and sandpaper.
Our first task was to attach the two boards to make the tabletop. So we measured three equally spaced spots along one board for where the dowels would go. We drilled into the wood at those points, the depth of half a dowel. We used tape to mark that halfway point on the drill.
Then we put the dowel centers into the drilled hole and lined it up to the opposite board. We tapped the boards together with a hammer and the dowel centers left a tiny hole where the holes should be drilled in the opposite board, so that the dowels will line up. Ingenious!
Then we drilled the holes in the opposite board, put the dowels in, added glue and attached the two boards. Then we clamped the tabletop together and allowed it to dry for 24 hours.
The next step was to add the legs. First, we cut four 13" lengths from our 2x2's. Then we cut two 8" lengths for the crossbars.
We used the same method(drilling, marking the opposite hole with a dowel center, drilling again, and connecting the dowel) to attach the legs to the crossbar. Then we repeated to create the second leg structure.
It is important here to make sure the legs are level and at a 90 degree angle from the crossbar. We added glue and clamped them together and left them to dry overnight.
The next day we could attach the legs to the tabletop. Yay! We used the legs to trace their placement on the underside of the table, and then used the same method as described above to attach the table and legs with 3 dowels per side and glue. Then, once again, we clamped it together.
The final step was to sand the table and apply a matte polycrylic sealant. We sanded the corners to round them, as well as the edges of the table. My sister has a two year old daughter, so no pointy corners.
The softened edges give the wood a little aged quality and also make it much more comfortable to rest bare feet on.
We managed to line up some of the wood grain on the tabletop so it gives the illusion that it is one slab of wood. I also love the movement of the darker grained area.
So there you have it. And homemade coffee table that cost about $70 in materials. I styled out the table in my new place, so you get a little sneak peak into our first floor. Seeing it in my home also made me secretly want to keep it for myself. We delivered the table to my sister's place yesterday, and as Fletcher(my niece) reminded me, "It's my table!"

Monday, January 30, 2017

Art Deco Dresser Reno

Today I'm really excited to share this Art Deco dresser makeover. I found this beauty on the street while driving to work. I had passed it two days in a row, always surprised to find it still standing on the curb. On day three I finally decided to pull over and give the dresser a closer inspection. What's so wrong with this dresser? I thought, inspecting it closely. It didn't smell. Check! Its drawers all closed properly. Check!! And it had ALL of its vintage bakelite handles. Check and SOLD!!! I strategically angled it into my trunk (luckily it isn't very heavy) and drove off, excited about my new find.
Now that I look back at the before photo, I realize why it was ignored. The first impression wasn't pretty, mainly because the veneer was peeling off the drawer fronts. But if you could look past that, the Art Deco design elements were awesome.
My lovely friend and consultant, Laura, recently bought a lovely studio apartment in an old Art Deco building in downtown San Francisco. When I toured the building with her, one tenant gave us a peek at his apartment. He had restored the interior with Art Deco features and decor from the 1940's. Laura and I were inspired, and when I found this dresser, I thought it would be perfect for her new place.
I started the renovation by removing the old veneer from the drawer fronts. Most of the veneer could just be peeled off with with a metal painter's tool. I covered stickier parts of the drawer fronts with a moist towel and ironed on top. This helped to soften the remaining glue so I could remove the veneer easier. I used wood putty to fill in some of the gouges in the wood, then sanded down the drawers to a smooth finish. I also sanded the entire piece, coated it with danish oil, and covered it with a polycrylic finish.
The drawer design was the real fun part. I considered various designs, but settled on one that combined the colors in Laura's space with the bold geometric forms that are a staple of the Art Deco style. I first painted the drawers with a pink base color that I mixed from a selection of Annie Sloan Chalk paints. I created stencils of my design with card stock and traced the outline on the drawer fronts. I used yellow Frogtape to outline the design and painted the interior a light blue that I custom mixed. Mixing custom colors is easy with chalk paint, and I recommend it for creating unique colors that you cannot buy ready-made.
I used a Gold Sharpie paint pen and a ruler to draw the line details on the drawers.
This paint pen matches the Devine Gold Paint from Target, which I used to paint the larger gold details on the drawer. How convenient!
I finished the drawers with a coat of Polycrylic and re-attached the bakelite handles. By the way, how sweet are the original bakelite handles? Bakelite is an early plastic that has gained popularity with collectors, especially jewelry collectors. I love how this rusty orange color compliments the blue and pink paint.
I lined the drawers with a removable wallpaper from Target. It has a gold and white geometric design that suits the style of the drawer fronts.
When styling the dresser, I strategically threw my wedding heels on the floor since they have a similar color story to the dresser. I like the composition of these heels, and my painting of old heels above the dresser.
So there you have it. I'm eager to deliver the dresser to its new home this week. I think it will fit right in with the spirit of the Art Deco building. Let me know what you think of my design.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Holiday Reflections and Decorating

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times..." Charles Dickens wrote those words in 1859 and their relevancy feels pertinent to me today. The Holidays have always been my favorite time of year. Christmas trees glitter the windows of neighbor's houses, the smells of cinnamon and nutmeg permeate the kitchen, and connecting with family is the priority of the day. Yet, I have this underlying anxiety for the future of our country and the world. I suppose the cycle of humanity moves in this contradictory way: growing towards progression, countered by disrupting regression. And all I can control is my reaction. I choose to celebrate the best of times. Sorry to get so deep with my thoughts today, but isn't the point of the season to reflect?
I do have something to share, besides my meandering reflections. It's a holiday DIY! This is a project I found on Pinterest and I just had to try it out(sadly, it seems the website is no longer around so I can't give the creator of my inspiration credit). This is a DIY project to create your own Christmas tree wall hanging.
This project is especially handy for anyone who can't fit a Christmas tree in their home, doesn't want a live tree in their home, or wants multiple trees in their home(like me!). I hung mine in my bedroom.

Here's what you'll need:
-3(36" long) 1/4" wooden dowels
-hand saw
-12 wood balls, 1 1/4" wide
-12 small screw eyes(I had silver ones that I spray painted gold, but you could just buy them in gold and you'll save some time)
-12 Ornament hooks(once again, I spray painted mine gold, but if you can buy them in gold, go for it!)
-waxed string in a color of your choosing
-acrylic paints in a variety of colors
-wood glue

I didn't take a lot of progress shots, so my directions will mostly be written. Sorry to all you visual learners like me.
The first step is to measure and cut your dowels to the following lengths: 30", 24", 18", 12", 6" and 2"
Cut a long piece of waxed string, about 3 yards long. Fold it in half and tie a knot about two inches down. This will be the top of your "tree."
Loop the left side of your 2" dowel about 3-4 inches down from the top knot. Repeat with the right side. The loop will allow you to adjust the dowel so that you can straighten it. Repeat with the 6" dowel and so on until you get to the last and longest dowel at the bottom of your tree. This is probably the trickiest part. Hang your tree from a pin on the wall so you can adjust the dowels easily. I suggest using a level to make sure each rung is level. Once you are happy with the spacing of the dowels, tie a double knot on the bottom rung and cut the extra string. Apply a small dot of wood glue to the loops on each dowel so they not longer move.
Next, paint the wooden balls in a variety of colors. These paints from Target have a lot of fun hues, but I mostly mixed my own. Once you have a good couple coats of paint on the wooden balls, attach your screw eyes by simple screwing them in by hand. Attach the ornament hooks and they are ready to hang on your tree.
And there you have it. This wall tree is kind of large, so you can easily make a smaller version. I made a mini wall tree for my twin brother and sent it to him for the holidays. I hope you all have a splendid holiday and stay warm.
xo, Alden