Monday, September 12, 2011

Beadboard and Sheet Sets and Grommets, Oh My!

Last winter, I finally decided to tackle my downstairs bath. It wasn't the first time I had worked on this room. When I bought my 1935 cottage seven years ago, the first things I did after signing the papers and getting the keys was to begin stripping wallpaper in my tiny full bath. I then had white hexagon tile installed and the smallest pedestal sink I could find (the old vanity was hugely oversized as well as outdated). I also put in a new light fixture and replaced the wood grain toilet seat, wooden toothbrush holder and ugly mirror. Then I painted the room a sky blue and put up a new shower curtain. It looked a TON better, and I was happy enough with it ... for a while. 

As the years went on, the old plaster walls seemed to look even more uneven (I had tried to smooth them myself before painting, and let's just say this is not my area of expertise!). When the wall above the shower began flaking and cracking and the ceiling developed further cracks and stains, I knew it was time to do something. 

So I called in Eric the Handyman. He's installed doors and hung light fixtures and fixed plumbing for me in the past, and he's a great guy to have on speed dial. I didn't have much of a budget for a bathroom redo, but by focusing on the important stuff, I was able to get a new look or around $1500. Here's what I did:

- Eric did some plaster repair on the walls and installed new drywall on the ceiling. Since none of these very old walls are even or straight, it was easiest to use crown molding around the edges to cover where the drywall met the walls. 

- Eric also installed beadboard panels that went two-thirds of the way up the wall. The cost of this was offset by what I saved having him not repair the walls we were covering. It also really brightened up this small room and goes great with the period of the house. 

- Next came the fun part. I primed and painted the beadboard and trim, keeping them a crisp white. Then I painted the top third of the walls and the ceiling a warm gray color that was fittingly called "elephant ear." After all the priming and painting, I just didn't have it in me to tape off the crown molding at the ceiling to paint it white, so I just used the wall color there, too. Eric the Handyman was sad, but I like it. 

Now it was time for the accessories -- my favorite part. To save money, I decided to use the same mirror, light fixture and towel bar. That let me splurge on these amazing vintage porcelain hooks I found rescued from an old hotel at the turn of the century. They're actually my favorite part of the room. 

- For the shower curtain, I knew I wanted something different and I was fine to sew something, but I wasn't finding the fabric I wanted and didn't want to spend a fortune. This is when I turned to one of my favorite tricks: using sheets as fabric. At TJ Maxx Home Goods I found an Amy Butler twin sheet set for under $20. Score! The flat sheet was the perfect width and I just had to hem it to make it a little shorter. Then at the top, I added grommets. This seems scary, but it's so easy! You buy them at the fabric store in the "notions" section, and they come with a tool to install them. I cut a small "x" to insert the back of the grommet then slide the top over and use the tool and a hammer to secure. (If you're going to use a lot of grommets, invest in the plier-type tool they sell in that same section - it make it sooo easy!). 

CHEAT IT: If you're afraid to try grommets and don't want to hem, get some curtain rings with clips attached so you can just fold over the extra fabric to make your new shower curtain the perfect length and then clip it up! 

The finished bathroom is a little more grown up-looking than my other spaces, but I love the look. I loved the gray paint so much, that I used a slightly lighter version in the hallway that leads to the bathroom and in my kitchen, but that's another blog post for another day...

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Giving New Life to an Old Chair

I'll admit it wasn't much to look at, but for $5 I just couldn't pass it up (hang around long enough and you'll learn that I have a thing for wooden chairs, mirrors and old cupboards). I found this old black chair with a vinyl seat complete with stickers at our local Goodwill Outlet.

I knew I could do something with it, so I dragged it home and set about taking it apart. I used my electric screwdriver to remove the four screws that held the seat to the wooden chair frame. When I was done, here's what I was left with.

The seat was pretty nasty looking, so I added some new batting and recovered it in this fun pink and red fabric. The color scheme might not be for everyone, but I like it. Just wrap the fabric around the back like it's a present and use a staple gun to secure. The trick is to pull the fabric taut but not too tight. I staple the middle of each side to make sure it's even before finishing the rest.

While the cushion was removed, I used my palm sander to get the shiny finish off the black paint. It gave it a nice distressed look. I could have called it a day at this point (the pic below shows what it would look like if I left the frame black), but I really wanted to paint the chair frame and brighten it up.

Once our recent rain deluge finally stopped, I was able to get outside and spray paint the frame a bright, glossy red. My dad would be appalled to find out that my lawn looks like a furniture graveyard -- it's perpetually covered in paint outlines from various projects -- but its a small price to pay to get something so cute. Once it was dry, I reattached the seat to my refurbished chair and voila! By tomorrow it will be in my antique booth. Here's hoping it finds a home soon!

Monday, August 22, 2011

My First Padded Headboard

Okay, it's not technically my headboard -- it belongs to my friends Terri and Brian -- but I helped make it, and it was my first attempt at this kind of project, so I'm claiming it! Terri wanted to reproduce the headboard from Julianne Moore's character's bedroom in the film A Single Man. She did a great job of finding identical Ikat fabric and nailhead trim, and her sister came up with a template that almost perfectly replicates the shape.

Here's the headboard from the film:

And here's our finished headboard:

It took less than four hours from start to finish, which I think was pretty quick considering all the detail. For those who are interested, here was our process:

1. Trace the shape onto a piece of 1" MDF (medium density fiberboard).
2. Use a jigsaw to cut out the pattern.
3. Trace the same shape onto 2" foam.
4. Use an electric knife (the kind used to carve your Thanksgiving turkey) to cut through the foam.
5. Use Spray Mount or Tacky Glue to secure the foam to the board.
6. Since we were using nailhead trim at the edges, we needed to bevel the foam so it wasn't so thick there. The electric knife was great for this.
7. Lay out batting over the foam, allowing it to extend several inches past the edge of the headboard, and trim.
8. Lay out fabric on top of the batting, allowing the same extra several inches.
9. Use a staple gun to secure the middle top, bottom and sides first, pulling the fabric and batting taut and stapling into the back.
10. Once that's secure and you make sure it's all even and smooth, continue around the rest of the edges until all the fabric is secure. If you have curves or unusual angles, cut notches in the fabric so it will wrap more smoothly.
11. Add trim if you want (we stapled underneath where the nailhead trip would go to make sure the foam was sufficiently flattened then the trim covered the staples).
12. Mount it to the wall and you're done!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Open for Business!

After years of thinking about it and months of hoarding gathering items for it, I finally took the plunge this week and opened my own booth at a local antique mall. For those who are wondering, here's how it works: You usually pay a monthly rental fee for the space (smaller spaces are cheaper, obviously) and then they take a percentage of your total sales, too (6-10 percent seems to be a reasonable range). Some locations also ask you to sign a lease, committing to a space for a set amount of time. I've also heard that some malls let you work the front desk in exchange for rent, but that's not the norm at most of the bigger places anymore.

My first antique booth experience had a relatively inauspicious start. It mostly consisted of me sweating profusely as I lugged a carload of stuff to Tennessee Antique Mall near the Nashville Fairgrounds, where I immediately started organizing and pricing. My friend Dani Edmondson allowed herself to be roped into stopping by to help (check out her fun blog at She was a trooper, letting me boss her around and make her stand on stuff to reach the highest corners of my new booth. It was a good start, but I took another carload over on Friday to really fill out the space a bit better.

Here are the results:

This my little homemade sign. I decided to stick with the same name I use for my freelance writing/editing business and my jewelry making:

I repainted this coffee table that I found at the flea market and those recovered stools were in my living room for the past few years:

This little shelf, and the stuff on it, came from a variety of different places:

This shot includes some of my metal letters, a child's chalkboard and one of my first embroidery projects in ages, a retro camper:

Last but not least, here's the toy area:

The booth will be a constant work in progress, so I'll keep you updated here. Oh, and as if this weren't enough for me to take on, I'll be launching a small countertop booth at Gas Lamp Antiques near Nashville's 100 Oaks Mall the first of September. It will let me highlight small, special items and see how I do with their customer base. It also puts me first in line for a bigger space when one opens up there. Since it's a local favorite and consistently named "Best of Nashville."

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Spray Paint Is Our Friend!

I know, I know! Spray paint can be messy and drippy and the color choices aren't as great as regular paint, but nothing else allows you to transform a pile of thrift store junk like this:

Into something like this:

I took a cheese plate, a candelabra, a goblet, a brass candleholder, a tin tiered tray and two frames and gave them new life in a matter of minutes. The goblet and brass candleholder were glued (using the wonderful E-3600 - look for it at a craft store near you!) to cream plates that I bought for .50 cents each. Now they're cake stands. The candelabra is my favorite, though.

I think it was sterling plated and I picked it up for $4.98 at Music City Thrift here in Nashville. I plan to put it in my new antique booth and sell it for $15. We'll see if I get any takers. If not, I'm happy to keep it for myself.

Oh, and those wood candleholders behind it in the picture? I bought one at Pier One, thinking I'd go back for more once they went on sale. Then I realized there was a much cheaper way to get the "multiple candleholder" look I wanted. I found the other two at thrift stores for $2 each and painted them myself. I like that they're all slightly different styles and heights, but the paint unifies them.

Next time I'll highlight my new booth at the Tennessee Antique Mall, so stay tuned!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Best Place to Start Is At the Beginning...

I know, I know. I'm soooo behind the times. It seems like EVERYONE else is blogging -- sharing their hobbies, their parenting philosophies, their innermost thoughts. I'll be honest. For me, writing is my "day" job, which means doing it for free in my downtime didn't have much appeal. So why am I finally giving in to the pressure? Because in recent months I've been in major creative mode, redoing my office, refinishing furniture, scouring thrift stores and undertaking a variety of other projects. And while the pups are appreciative of my efforts, their ability to offer praise or even feedback is severely limited.

So yes, I'm here seeking approval -- or at least a little attention. I've been inspired lately by so many other blogs, and I've been eagerly soaking up all their amazing DIY ideas. It made me want to share a few of my own, like the birch bark lamp I made.

I also need the accountability to stay productive and creative. I'll admit that I'm just competitive enough to find motivation in the accomplishments of my blogger friends. I'm also getting ready to take on space at two local antique malls and this blog will be a great place to share my favorite finds and highlight the items I'm selling. So stay tuned. This is just the beginning...

Wendy Lee