sow’s ears and silk purses.

I sent Mr. Q to pick up a dresser from someone selling on Craigslist a few weeks ago, and while there he texted me to ask if I wanted a second dresser that the guy had for sale.  There was a bit of miscommunication and after some texting back and forth, he ended up buying the 2nd dresser without my having seen a photo of it.

On the plus side, he only paid an additional $15 or so for it because that was all the cash he had on hand.  On the minus side, it’s a fairly cheaply constructed piece of furniture.  It also needed a few repairs before I could paint it, and it’s fairly nondescript.  Definitely not my usual style.

But, what the heck, Mr. Q bought it, so I may as well do what I can with it, right?

First I called up my favorite handyman/neighbor, Ken.  He was busy counting his hockey pucks (no lie, he collects hockey pucks and has been working on rearranging them in his custom made display rack lately), but he was willing to take a break from the pucks and help me out with this dresser.  We worked together on shoring up the drawers that were falling apart, replacing missing drawer stops, grinding down stops that were rubbing on the drawer bottoms and adding some glides that were missing.

The rest was easy.  I sanded it lightly, vacuumed away the dust and wiped it down with a damp rag.  Then I painted it in two coats of Dixie Belle’s French Linen.

French Linen is one of those chameleon like colors that totally changes depending on the lighting and the colors around it.  It’s a muddy grey-brown with a tiny hint of a lavender undertone.  I didn’t see the lavender while painting the piece in the artificial lighting of my piano room after dark, but once I pulled the piece in front of my white wall on a bright, sunny day I could see it.

Once the paint dried, I added with prima’s Carte Postale transfer.

It was the perfect fit for the front of this dresser, and I also love how it looks over the French Linen.

As for the knobs … well, I thought about replacing them with glass knobs.  That certainly would have been pretty.  But I would have needed to order them (I usually order them by the dozen from D Lawless Hardware).  Plus, there are 10 knobs on this dresser and I wasn’t sure I wanted to invest any more money in it.

So instead I cleaned up the original wood knobs using Dixie Belle’s No Pain Gel Stain in Walnut because that didn’t cost anything.

After I took that photo above, I made a small mistake.  I started to wax the knobs before they were fully dry.  The wax ending up taking off some of the stain giving me a lighter color as you’ll see in a minute.  I rather liked the result, so I went with it.  But this is something to keep in mind.  This is an oil based product and takes longer to dry than the typical products I work with (6 to 8 hours according to the label).

The wooden knobs give this piece a totally different look than glass knobs would have, don’t you think?

I suspect this decision will have a polarizing effect on you guys.  Some of you will love it, some of you will hate it, but there probably won’t be many in between.

So, here’s the thing about this dresser.  Although it has been repaired to make it as functional as possible, and I have done what I can to improve the look of it, in the end you know what they say, you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.

No matter what I do to it, it won’t become a high quality, well constructed piece of furniture.  I can’t charge top dollar for this piece no matter how pretty it is.

But it definitely is pretty.

So is it worthwhile to spend 6 or 7 hours on repairs and finishing, add a $30 transfer, plus another $15 or so worth of paint and wax on a piece like this?

Well, it can be.  In this case it will work out because I only paid $15 for the dresser.  My handyman Ken works for wine and some occasional profit sharing, and I have nothing more important to do with my time (although Ken could have been counting hockey pucks instead).  In addition, both Dixie Belle Paint Co and with prima send me their product for free.  So yes, for me this piece was totally worthwhile.

But for you that might not be the case.  My advice is to always try to find higher quality pieces of furniture to work on.  They are out there, and you may pay a little more than $15 for them, but they will be more worthy of your time.  In the end you’ll have a beautiful piece of furniture that is also well constructed.

Then again, if you’re on a budget and just want something pretty for the kid’s room, or the laundry room, or the potting shed … this dresser might be perfect for you!

As always, thank you to Dixie Belle Paint Co and with prima for providing the supplies used in the attempt to turn this sow’s ear into a silk purse.

If you’re looking for Dixie Belle products you can find them here.

If you’re looking for with prima products you can find local retailers here, or online sources here.

wet distressing.

A few weeks ago I had a few extra minutes during my lunch hour so I stopped off at a local Goodwill store.  I didn’t find much, but I did pick up a couple of gold frames.

I thought both of these would make good candidates for using a wet distress technique.

I started by removing the glass and the floral prints from each frame.  Then I painted the larger one using two coats of Dixie Belle’s Midnight Sky and the smaller one using two coats of Fluff.

As soon as the paint was dry I used a dampened terry cloth rag (a nubby cloth will work best for this) and simply rubbed paint off the raised surfaces.

It’s that easy.

Here are a couple of tips on wet distressing.

First, it works best on surfaces like this that have a raised design that you want to highlight.

Second, it’s a great choice when you want to distress down to another layer (in this case, the original gold of the frames) without going down to the wood underneath.  You’ll have a bit more control over that with wet distressing as opposed to sandpaper.

Third, it works best on paint that has just dried.  The longer you give the paint to cure, the harder it will be to wet distress.

Finally, it works best with a chalk style paint like Dixie Belle because this kind of paint is ‘reactivated’ with water (again, before it has had too much time to cure).

Another great benefit of wet distressing is that it doesn’t create any dust, which makes it perfect for winter indoor work (especially if you work in your living room like I do).

You can reveal as little or as much of the base color as you like.  And if you remove too much paint, just put more paint back on over it and try again.

When you achieve the look you were going for, simply add a coat of clear wax for protection and call it good.

I kept the original floral print in the smaller frame.

But I changed out the print in the larger frame.  I didn’t care for the red floral that came with it, so I went with this Eiffel Tower print instead.

What do you think?  An improvement?

Have you tried wet distressing?  Or do you have any other techniques that you are partial to?  If so, I’d love to hear about them in the comments.

As always, thank you to Dixie Belle for providing the paint used on these frames.

You can find Dixie Belle products here.

the beast.

When I was searching out pieces for my Chippy Barn collaboration, I found this empire piece.

In the end I decided to paint this one dark, and instead used the taller empire dresser that I shared last Friday for that project.

I paid top dollar for this piece at $100.  I don’t usually spend that much, but this one really appealed to me.  Plus, it’s a good sized dresser.  Plus, it was in relatively good condition.  Plus, it’s a solid, well constructed sturdy piece of furniture.  So I splurged.

I suspected right away that those drawer pulls were not original to the piece, they just aren’t the right style.  And did any of you notice that just one of them is on upside down?  Go back to the ‘before’ shot and see if you can find it.  Or maybe 7 of them are upside down and only one of them is right side up, I’m really not sure.

Anyway, when I removed them I found that there were original holes behind them for a knob.  Yep, they definitely weren’t original.

So I filled the two newer holes that had been drilled for the pulls before painting.

Here are my tips for filling holes like these.  First, place some painters tape behind the hole.  This keeps the fill you use from squeezing out the backside of the hole.  Next, fill the hole as full as you can with Dixie Belle’s Mud.  Let that set up overnight.  Once dry, add a layer of spackle over the Mud.  The spackle is not sturdy enough for the entire job, but will give a smoother result for the final coat.  Once dry, sand smooth and paint.

I challenge you to find those filled holes now!

Once the holes were filled in, I sanded the dresser lightly and then cleaned it with TSP Substitute.  I was planning on going with Dixie Belle’s Bunker Hill Blue on this one, but when I pulled it out I realized I didn’t have quite enough paint for this large piece.  So I decided to stretch my paint by adding some In the Navy.

Here’s a comparison of the two colors for you.

The Bunker Hill Blue is more cobalt, while the In the Navy is a very dark navy almost bordering on black (here is one of my fave pieces I painted with In the Navy).  The combination of the two is a gorgeous, rich navy blue.  It ended up being the perfect color for this piece.

Oh, hey, did you notice anything else about how I changed up this piece?

I removed the trim pieces that were on either side of the drawers.

That was totally just a personally preference kind of thing.  I didn’t like how ‘colonial-ish’ they looked.  I feel like the dresser has a much more current feel without them.  I know some of you are going to wish I’d left them on, but I’m making all of the decisions here so they came off along with those classic colonial drawer pulls.

By the way, I replaced those pulls with some simple wooden knobs that I had in my stash.

Also, I finished this dresser with a coat of clear wax.  You can see a couple of streaky spots on the top edge of the dresser in that photo above.  Those are spots that I missed with the wax and didn’t notice it until looking at the photo.  Ooops.  That’s an easy fix though, just go over it with more wax.

I got the idea for staging this piece from Flea Market Finds magazine … or maybe it was Country Living … uh oh, I can’t remember.  Well, regardless, a recent issue showed a room with shelves that housed the set of classic books that I found in my attic last December.  I got these books from my parents and had entirely forgotten about them.

I must confess, I never saw myself doing anything with these books other than donating them to the Goodwill eventually.  But there they were in the magazine, and they looked pretty fabulous in a color-blocking sort of way.  So I pulled them out of the attic once again.

You might be wondering why I titled this post ‘the beast’ and really it’s just because this dresser is quite a bit larger than it looks in photos.  It is 46.25″ tall x 41″ wide x 22″ deep.

I think this dresser is a great example of how much you can change the look of a piece with just some paint and a hardware change.

As always, thank you to Dixie Belle Paint Co for providing the paint, as well as the Mud, used for this project.  Thank you to Fusion Mineral Paint for supplying the clear wax (once again I used their new Hills of Tuscany scented wax).

You can find Dixie Belle products here.

And here is a link to info on where to buy Fusion Mineral Paint products.

If you’re looking for a beast of a dresser in a rich navy blue, check out my ‘available for local‘ sale page.

cottage white and toile.

As most of you know, I am on the with prima design team.

A while back Prima asked if any of us would like to collaborate on a project using Amulent Paint from The Chippy Barn.  Since I love trying out new products and sharing them with you guys here on my blog, I jumped at the chance.

Amulent Paint is not a chalk paint or a milk paint, instead it is a ceramic paint.  I have to say, I don’t know much about the science behind ceramic paint so I googled it.  I found an article online about ceramic paint that lists its benefits (you can find the article here):

    • A smoother, more continuous paint film that resists cracking.
    • Superior stain resistance—stains don’t get absorbed, so they can be wiped off.
    • The ceramics produce a less tacky paint surface, which reduces dirt accumulation.
    • Round spheres roll past each other in the paint, greatly enhancing flow and leveling.
  • And microspheres help hide the underlying substrate and reduce the luster of the paint.

It all sounds good to me.

So, I started searching online for just the right piece to use for this collaboration and found this empire style dresser.

I knew I could deal with the mismatched knobs.  This piece also had quite a bit of loose veneer, but that was remedied with some gluing and clamping.  And FYI, this is another faux wood grain piece.  Those stripes are fake, so I didn’t feel one bit of guilt painting over them.

After gluing, clamping, sanding lightly and cleaning thoroughly (this dresser was also disgustingly dirty when I got it) with TSP substitute, I added a coat of Cottage White.

I always prep my pieces with a light scuff sanding followed by vacuuming inside and out.  When you’re working with used vintage furniture I think it’s just good common sense to give them a good clean before you move on to painting.  Generally I use TSP Substitute which is less harsh than TSP but does a good job of removing any greasy residues.

I was quite impressed by the coverage of this paint after just the first coat.  I stopped there and let the paint dry for a good 24 hours mainly because I wanted to be sure I wasn’t getting any bleed-thru from that orange-y looking stain before moving on to a second coat of paint.

I was in luck, no bleed-thru on this one.  So I added a 2nd coat of the Cottage White.  I was pleasantly surprised to find that I didn’t need a 3rd coat, especially since this is a white paint.

I also found that the Amulent Paint distressed beautifully.  I sanded the edges of the dresser using 220 grit paper to add a little ‘age’ to my finish.

Next I pulled out with prima’s Simplicity transfer which is a lovely black toile print.

I considered using it for all of the drawer fronts, but to fully cover them all from side to side would have required three sets of the transfer.  The drawers are around 26.5″ wide by 36″ tall,  the transfer is 22″ wide x 30″ tall, so just a hair short both ways.  So instead I decided to just do the top two drawers.

I’ve always been a huge fan of the graphic punch of black and white, and this transfer was perfect over the Cottage White paint.

For a final finish on this piece I used The Chippy Barn’s Specialty Clear Wax in the Lemongrass scent.  If you’ve followed me for a while, you know that I LOVE using products that smell good.  If you like lemongrass scent, you will love this wax!  If you’re not a fan of lemongrass, it also comes in four other scents; Lavender, Lilac, Peppermint and Spearmint.  Or you can get it unscented, and in white, brown or black.

This dresser was short 3 glass knobs when Mr. Q brought it home.  Not only that, but the knobs were filthy dirty and the metal screws were quite rusted (and not in a good way).  So I found three matching (or mostly matching) knobs in my stash, soaked the originals in soapy water to get them clean and then replaced just the screws with new ones.  Did you know that you can buy these screws in chrome or brass at D Lawless Hardware for just 20 cents each?  Good to know if you ever run into a piece like this.

In the end, all of the knobs look brand new.

As a final touch, I lined just the top two drawers with some scrapbook paper.  The drawer bottoms were a bit stained so I opted to cover that up.

I think this one turned out lovely.  It would be perfect for someone’s cottage style decor, and with six drawers total it would provide great storage.

Thank you to with prima for setting up this collaboration and for providing the Simplicity transfer.  And thank you to The Chippy Barn for providing the Amulent paint and the lemongrass scented wax.

If you’re looking for with prima products you can find local retailers here, or online sources here.

If you’d like to check out The Chippy Barn, you can find them here.

And if you are local and need a sweet, cottage style dresser visit my ‘available for local sale‘ page to find out if this one is still available.

some people never learn.

Some people never learn … and by ‘some people’ I mean me.

Every time I take on an upholstery job that involves anything more than just stapling new fabric over old fabric, I do these four things.  First, I procrastinate for a really long time before even getting started.  Second, I cuss the whole time I’m working on the project.  Third, after lots of time and effort I manage to create an incredibly amateurish end product.  And then finally, I obsess over all of the flaws.

Let’s face it, upholstery is just not for me.  As much as I would love to be good at it, I’m not.  Of course, I could work at it to improve my skills.  I also could buy the right tools, which makes every job easier.  But the bottom line is that I simply don’t enjoy the process.  Let’s hope I remember this the next time I’m tempted to take on a pair of chairs like these.

I found this pair of balloon back chairs at an estate sale for a great price, $10 each.  I debated buying them knowing how much I dislike upholstery work.  But I just couldn’t help myself.

Once I got them home I immediately started questioning the wisdom of my decision.

Just look at all of these upholstery tacks!

Those were all going to have to come out.  Plus, look at that cherry red stain, it was likely going to bleed through paint.

Seriously, what was I thinking?

I honestly debated just loading them back into the van and taking them to the Goodwill.

But instead I decided to use my tried and true strategy for getting something like this done.   Rather than trying to complete this chair makeover in one fell swoop, I broke it down into more easily accomplished tasks.  Step one was to remove those darn tacks.

That took me nearly an hour for each chair.  Ugh.

Next I put a coat of Dixie Belle’s BOSS on each chair.  I didn’t test them for bleed-thru, I just assumed that they would.  I like to let the BOSS cure for at least 24 hours before painting over it, so that was as far as I got the first day … no, who am I kidding … the first week … that I worked on the chairs.

The next time I pulled them out I added two coats of Dixie Belle paint in Sawmill Gravy.  I knew I was going to use drop cloth fabric on the seats, and the last time I worked with Sawmill Gravy I noticed it was the perfect match for the drop cloth that I use for painting.

The chairs sat around for another week or so after being painted, but when I had some more time I pulled them back out, sanded to distress them and then added a coat of clear wax.

A few days later I pulled out a new drop cloth I’d purchased.  I cut some sections large enough for the chair seats with a few inches left over for shrinkage.  Then I washed and dried the fabric.  Next I stenciled it using Dixie Belle paint in French Linen for the stripe and Midnight Sky for the rest.  Both of the stencils are from Maison de Stencils.

But when I held this fabric up to the chairs I realized two things.  First, this new drop cloth fabric was a different color than my older drop cloth and I didn’t like the way it looked with the Sawmill Gravy.  Second, the black paint felt too harsh compared to all of the other more muted colors going on.  I really wanted a more subtle monochromatic look.

So I went back to the drawing board.  I cut two chunks of fabric off my old drop cloth (luckily I had a couple of corners that didn’t have paint all over them).  I washed them up and then stenciled them without the grain sack stripe and using the French Linen for the rest of the design.

Next came the trickiest part, stapling the fabric in place and cutting around those 4 spots where the chair back is attached to the seat.  I managed to get it done, but very inexpertly.  I’m not even going to describe how I managed it because at this point you should not be taking advice from me on how to upholster.

After the fabric was all stapled in place, I trimmed off the excess using a razor blade.  I found that I couldn’t get close enough to the staples using a pair of scissors.

The last step was to glue some trim all the way around to hide the staples.  I used my hot glue gun for that step.

I had to laugh when I finished up and realized all of the different tools I’d needed for this part of the job.

What a mess.

But in the end I have a pair of semi-decent balloon back chairs.

I don’t plan on keeping the chairs, and I know I’ve done a terrible job of ‘selling’ them here.  But if any of you locals are in need of a pair of budget priced chairs that look pretty, be sure to check out my ‘available for local sale‘ page.

As always, thank you to Dixie Belle Paint Co and to Maison de Stencils for providing some of the products I used on today’s project.

If you’re looking for Dixie Belle products you can find them here.

If you’re looking for Maison de Stencils you can find them here.

the birds and the bees.

Once again, my handyman Ken did a fantastic job turning a bed into a bench.

Mr. Q retrieved it from Ken’s house and set it up in our piano room (which is where I paint in the winter) last Friday afternoon.  When I got home from the day job I took this quick ‘before’ photo so that I could get started painting it right away.

Originally I was going to go more neutral and paint it either white or a pale grey.  But then I decided I was bored with playing it safe and I pulled out Dixie Belle’s Savannah Mist.  This is a lovely grey blue color.

But before I applied the Savannah Mist, I decided to paint out the new wood bench seat using Miss Mustard Seed’s Milk Paint in Curio, which is a dark brown.  This way when I distress the edges you won’t see brand new wood underneath.  Milk paint (much like a traditional stain) soaks into bare wood rather than sitting on top, and it dries really quickly so I didn’t have to wait long to start painting over it with the Savannah Mist.

I was able to paint the seat in Curio, then add two coats of Savannah Mist to the bench in the space of a few hours on Friday evening.

I decided to try the bare leg look again on this piece since there were four pretty turned legs to work with.  They were fairly dinged up though, so this was a good opportunity for me to try Dixie Belle’s No Pain Gel Stain in Walnut.  The difference between a gel stain and a traditional stain is that gel stain sits on top of the surface, while traditional stains soak into the wood (like milk paint does).  Because of that, you can use a gel stain without having to completely strip off the old finish.

I sanded the legs just lightly with some 220 grit paper first.  As you can see in the ‘before’ photo, for the most part I did not sand down to bare wood.  I also did not have an even color before moving on.  I then cleaned off the dirt and dust using a damp rag.  Next I applied two coats of gel stain with an old t-shirt.  Looks pretty darn good for not having to strip first, don’t you think?

It’s not perfect, but certainly totally sufficient for these legs.  If you’re a perfectionist, you might prefer stripping to bare wood, using a traditional stain, and then adding a poly finish.  But if, like me, you think some imperfections simply add to the charm of an older piece then the No Pain Gel Stain is for you!

You might be wondering at this point why I didn’t just use the gel stain on the seat before painting it, rather than the Curio milk paint.  That’s because the gel stain is an oil based product.  It takes much longer to dry than milk paint.  I would have had to wait a couple of days to paint over it.

So to recap; gel stain and chalk/latex/acrylic paint sit on the top of a surface, traditional wood stain and milk paint soak into the surface (providing they don’t meet resistance from a pre-existing finish).

In addition to leaving the legs unpainted, I also left that little trim piece at the top of the bench unpainted.

It has the sweetest little original floral decal on it.  I don’t usually try to save those because, to be honest, usually it just looks a bit wonky to paint around one or otherwise try to retain it.  But in this case I thought leaving that part unpainted along with the legs created a nice triangle for your eye to follow.

As a final touch, I added with prima’s The Birds & the Bees transfer to the bench.

I just love what this transfer says, This is the place that I love the best, a little brown house like a ground-bird’s nest hid among grasses, vines & trees.  Summer retreat of the birds and bees.

How sweet is that?  And how perfect for a bench in the foyer of someone’s home.

I used a variety of brands on this piece.

So thank you to Miss Mustard Seed’s Milk Paint (Curio milk paint), with prima (The Birds & The Bees transfer) Fusion Mineral Paint (clear furniture wax), and Dixie Belle Paint Co (No Pain Gel Stain and Savannah Mist paint) for providing all of the products used to finish this bench.

Let me know how you like the end result!

And if any of you locals are in need of a unique bench, check out my ‘available for local sale‘ page for more details.

bed benches.

A week or two ago I purchased another bed frame that I sent directly over to my handyman Ken’s house to have turned into a bench.

I neglected to get a ‘before’ photo of the bed because we literally picked it up and drove it straight to Ken’s garage and unloaded it there.  But, it’s very similar in design to the first bed bench that Ken and I collaborated on in the summer of 2018 …

It has a similar shape to the headboard and also has a curved foot board.

This bench was one of my favorite pieces.  It was painted in Fusion’s Putty and has one of the early Prima Marketing transfers on it.

Do any of you remember the story of me seeing it later in the buyer’s home?  I was purchasing a bedroom set from someone via Craigslist and when I got there to pick up the bedroom set, there sat this bench by her front door.  I did a double take, it was one of those ‘something is out of place here’ moments.  It took me a second to realize that I was looking at a piece I had sold the previous year.  Small world sometimes, right?

Our second bed bench collaboration was completed in October 2018.  This bench was made from an Eastlake style spoon carved bed frame that started out looking like this …

I painted it in Dixie Belle’s Caviar which worked really nicely with the more masculine feel of this piece.

Our third bed bench collaboration took place in January of last year with yet another entirely different style of bed.

Ken had to do a little more finagling with this one to get a bench out of it.  It had an opening in the headboard that need to be filled in with a plank of wood.

This one was painted in Fusion’s Bedford.

I added one of Prima Marketing’s earlier transfers to this one too.  By the way, both of these transfers are no longer available.

That was one of my favorites though and I used it on many pieces.  I still have a couple of these particular transfers stashed away for a rainy day.

I can’t believe it has been over a year since my last bed bench collaboration with Ken.  Time really does fly!  It was certainly time for another one.  As always, Ken whipped the bench up in no time.  I’m just putting the finishing touches on it and I’ll share it later this week.

In the meantime, I’m curious, which of these three was your favorite?