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Making It H’Ombre

June 06, 2012   //  Posted in: Decor, DIY, Sunroom   //  By: Emily   //  9 responses
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Refinishing the buffet infused a nice energy into the previously empty sunroom, and pushed me to complete another jobber while I was on a roll. The project? Oversized art to occupy the wall above the buffet. My first attempt at creating some new sunroom art (outlined here), was a major flop. That trial of white tracing paper on white plywood with white paint accents didn’t work, and the polyurethane that I used like modpodge even dried with a yellowish tinge. I didn’t like that. You wouldn’t have either, see?

Sunroom art in its #megafail stage.

Back track: I’ve been lugging around a piece of art from my old roommate Katie for years (seriously, almost 6 years). It’s a piece I really like even though it was designed as a desktop for Katie’s friend Jess (see her named written in amongst the stars?). And because I’ve liked it, I’ve bothered to find ways to store it safely for the last almost-six years, wishing that I had the perfect place to display the colorful piece in this house.

An original piece by artist Katie Duane.

After we cleared out and reorganized the garage, I decided I wanted to move it inside and make better use of it, and so the idea to use the backside of the plywood as an art surface was born. I trimmed it to a shorter length (took 12″ off the less-ornate end that didn’t even so much effect the name “JESS”) and then primed it to have a clean finish in the backyard.

Primed plywood panel.

After my efforts to create a more textured, decoupaged look with tracing paper failed, I moved forward with brainstorming a new design. I knew I still wanted something clean and simple, something that wouldn’t compete with the sunburst floor or the chair cushions that I’m still planning on making in the next few weeks, and something that wouldn’t considerably darken the room; the walls are entirely white paint and windows right now, and I love the brightness that comes with that when the rest of the main house features more saturated tones and dark, cozier colors (my paint palette can be seen here).

As much as the polyurethane yellowed the plywood surface and the tracing paper rippled, I didn’t consider the plywood unusable. Instead, I started fresh with a clean coat of white paint (interior satin, straight out of my leftover paint stash in the basement, a.k.a. free).

Sunroom #megafail art, getting a once-over with white paint.

As you see in the above picture, I only painted the top 2/3 with white paint, leaving the lower 1/3 blank to be painted different colors.

The plan? Create an oversized ombre painting. In pink. Home + Ombre = H’Ombre, mi hombres.

Because there wasn’t much paint left in the quart of white, I began adding quarter-teaspoons of pink paint from a leftover Benjamin Moore sample into it gradually to slowly tint it.

Adding pink paint gradually to tint the white.

Faintly tinted for the first application, a stripe that spanned the plywood in a rounded stripe around the middle of the board, you can only faintly see a difference between the white and the light pink.

Beginning the ombre with a faint pink application.

With a little more pink added to the quart of paint, I added another streak of pink just slightly below (and overlapping) the first stripe of light pink. Note: I didn’t let the paint dry before moving on to the next color, and this helped make slightly blurred transitions and kept things from looking harsh.

Continuing the ombre with a faint pink application.

The process continued as I tinted and painted about 3 additional shades before adding a dramatically pink stripe right along the bottom.

Finishing the ombre layers on the sunroom art.

Up close, I actually ended up liking how the rippled tracing paper added texture behind the gradation in colors; almost has a wave-like effect that adds to the piece. It’s a #megafail made happy!

#megafail made happy as the ripples of the tissue paper show through the paint gradation.

I hung it on the wall in the sunroom above the new buffet table quite easily by myself, considering the heavy weight of the plywood.

After considering the placement of the studs in the wall, and measuring for height, I determined the placement for two d-rings on the back of the plywood, one on each end of the panel to distribute the weight.

Installing d-rings to the plywood so the new ombre art can be hung.

To securely hook the d-rings on the wall, I opted to install a two heavy-duty anchor screws directly into the studs. I left them unscrewed out about 1/4″ so that the d-ring could loop right over them.

Using anchor screws to serve as a place to hang the art.

I mentioned installing it myself; I covered the new buffet with thick towels, hoisted the plywood on top of it, and then hooked one side at a time. Once the left side was hooked and felt secure, it was easy to move to the right side and do the same by doing that motion where one hand reaches behind to hold the hook and you try and remain as flat as possible, even sucking in your gut, while you watch through the remaining gap between the plywood and the wall and try and watch the hooking action happen. Don’t say you haven’t done it, it’s frustrating as can be with nothing but relief and grand achievement when you finally get it to hook satisfactorily.

The piece, as a whole, feels very anchored on the wall. It doesn’t shift when I jump around or bang on the wall. Doesn’t loosen when I pull downward on it, or when I try to pull it straight off the wall; it’s hooked well, and its weight will work in its favor, keeping it safely in place.

How’s it look?

New pink ombre art in the sunroom.

Additional little fact: I made a little/impacting change in the organization of the sunroom by moving both the table and the pendant light over to the right (closer to the front of the house by about 2-feet) in a way so that they align with the door opening; this gives us more space in the back of the sunroom to play and move around the room.

Moved the light and the table in the sunroom to align with the door.

And another fact, because I’m full of factoids today: I took these photos from outside, looking through the open windows to give a perspective I wouldn’t normally be able to in the very narrow sunroom. Pretty, right?

Moved the light and the table in the sunroom to align with the door.

The pendant was easy enough to shift; all it required was moving the hook that the wire wraps around. You can see in this picture how it had been centered in the room beneath the wooden ceiling patch (fixed here) and shifted to the left about 2-feet. By moving it that closer to where the outlet was, I was able to lower the pendant 2-feet also, bringing it down to a nicer over-the-table height.

Moving the pendant light over almost 2'.

It was previously anchored higher on the ceiling because we were needing to walk beneath the pendant, but now with the table in place, I realized that I could bring it down a little bit and I’m really glad to have made the adjustment.

The biggest impact happens from the living room, where the pendant and table are now so nicely centered in the glass paned doorway.

Looking into the sunroom from the living room.

Stepping back further, the line of sight is so nice when you’re walking into the house, even if it is a bit over-lit in this photograph.

Looking into the sunroom from the living room.

What do you think? Nothing quite like impacting art and a little furniture wiggle to make a room really stand out.

A DIY Experiment: Making A Folded Clutch

June 05, 2012   //  Posted in: DIY   //  By: Emily   //  4 responses
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There are reasons I’ll continue to purchase my totes and handbags, even though this quick DIY clutch didn’t turn out so badly. I think my sewing machine hates me, or it hates the threads I choose, or it hates my fabrics, but it’s evident that I should stick to home improvement-related projects and leave the seamstress experts to the fancy purse-makin’ stuff. But if I can make something like this, you probably can too. And that’s why I’m sharing it.

Cute little floppy clutch. Make your own!

I’m not really one to make a lot of clothing items, but I did make an awful lot of Beanie Baby sleeping bags one year, so the sewing machine isn’t as a foreign tool as, say, the rototiller. It occurred to me one day while I was digging through my scrap fabrics that I could make a cute little carry all with what I had, and maybe, if I could be so lucky, for (basically) free! And so I tried.

I started by cutting a piece of blue flowery linen fabric sized approximately 14″x26″ from the bolt that I bought (for $1) from a recent yard sale. To add a little interest to the base of the bag, I decided to add little feet to the corners, a supplementing detail that involved trimming a full circle of faux-leather fabric that was leftover from my latest ottoman project (using a small plate as a template) and then cutting it into half-circles for each corner of the bag.

One 14x24 piece of fabric, and two half-circles of faux-leather.

When folded and sewn, the clutch would theoretically look like this:

One 14x24 piece of fabric, and two half-circles of faux-leather.

I sewed the faux-leather to the main piece of fabric first. They’re the clutch equivalent of elbow patches.

Pinning the bag "elbow patches" into place.

As you can kind of tell here, as I sewed it on slowly I tried to roll the unfinished edge under to make it appear a little more polished (even though the pleather fabric does not tend to fray). Had I not done that, the faux-leather underside may have shown a bit, so I think my efforts, albeit imperfect, were worthwhile.

Sewing the bag "elbow patches" into place.

The blue fabric was, on the other hand, starting to fray at the edges. Also, having white areas that I didn’t want to stain from the inside if my lip gloss started to melt, I decided to line the inside of the bag using a heavier white outdoor canvas that has a bit of stiffness to it. After the pleather patches were sewn in place, I lined what would be the inside of the bag with the white canvas and folded it cleanly so that I could sew up either side of the bag.

Using a heavier fabric to line the inside of the linen bag.

With both sides sewn up, I flipped the bag right side out. The patches aren’t perfectly symmetrical themselves, but they do align perfectly the way each wraps around to the back of the clutch. Handbag manufacturers, don’t worry, you’re not going out of business.

Flipped right side out. Phew, the patches align.

The zipper install went more easily than I expected. I chose a chunkier metal 14″ zipper from JoAnn’s for the job, in a muted beige color. It only cost me about $1.55, which was after I used one of my 50% off coupons. Anyone else ever feel wasteful using these coupons on what are possibly the least expensive items in the store?

Installed a metal zipper to the clutch.

The ends of the zipper were purposefully a little long, so I added little faux-leather tabs by sewing them to the overhanging ends. They started off pretty nice, but I trimmed them in to be closer to the seam, and now they’re imperfect. I’m OK with that. And I have trimmed that obnoxious stray string that’s popping northward since I took that photo.

Added imperfect little tabs to each end of the zipper.

The bag, although a little wrinkly from being sewn up and manhandled during its assembly, was pretty cute.

Finished DIY clutch.

And because it’s still pretty big (12″x12″), it can be folded over and carried too, just like all of those styles I covet on Pinterest.

Finished DIY fold-over clutch.

With a quick iron to get out the creases in the linen, it’s done! And offers enough room to store my wallet, phone, lipgloss, and anything else that I find myself needing on a casual day out.

Right, it does hold stuff.

Happy little clutch.

Cute little floppy clutch. Make your own!

Bazinga, Check Out Our New Buffet

June 04, 2012   //  Posted in: Being Thrifty, DIY, Sunroom   //  By: Emily   //  41 responses
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You know, I really wasn’t sure of the fate of this $15 mid-century modern buffet by Bassett Furniture. It was an outrageous yard sale find, that I knew, and that’s why I swept it up, but after taking some measurements I realized that it wouldn’t fit in our dining room without knocking down walls. Or our living room, where it could have had potential as a sideboard. Or in the office, where it might make for nice storage. Our house is actually… small.

Brand old-new Bassett buffet! Win for me.

Permanent placement aside, like I showed you last Wednesday, it was in pretty rough shape, particularly the buffet top which had both heavy scratches (I’m talkin’ deep) and bad water stains.

Damaged surface? No biggie, still a worthwhile piece. I think.

Those damages didn’t really factor into my decision to buy the piece, and that’s partially because when I said “SOLD” the whole buffet was still covered with other for-sale items like light fixtures and vinyl records, but also partially because I didn’t mind a nick here or there; so what, it looks weathered and loved, so does half of the stuff in our house right now. But after getting it home, and cleaning it down thoroughly with a triple-threat of bleach spray (to take care of some mold inside the cabinet door), Goo Gone (for a sticker that had been long adhered to the top), and Murphy Oil Soap (to see how much I might be able to buff and polish it up myself), I figured I had nothing to lose if I were to sand down the flat surfaces and re-poly it.

So, sand it down, I did. I started with a fine grade sandpaper and Pete’s multi-cutter with the sanding attachment (the same do-gooder that I employed when I was sanding down the kitchen cabinet sample). The fine paper was OK for breaking the finish and curing the shallow scratches, but it wasn’t nearly enough oomph for the larger scratches and barely made any improvement to the serious water stain on the buffet top.

Starting the mid-century furniture re-finish with a fine sandpaper. Not strong enough.

Deciding to use the super heavy-duty high-grit sandpaper, the job went on much better. I took it easy, applied even weight to the multi-tool, and was intent on moving only with the grain to keep the finish looking neat; I’ve found that when you start to go perpendicular to the grain, the sandpaper leaves perma-scratches that are perceivable to the eye and to the touch.

My, my, those hands look manly. They’re mine, I swear, but check out those bulging veins and forearm muscles? Girl needs a DIY mani.

Massive sand-down of the buffet. Going with the grain!

In hindsight, mochas at 9AM in 90-degree heat are gross. Barf. But I was making good progress, right?

Massive sand-down of the buffet.

It was apparent pretty early in the sanding process that if I sanded the top, I really needed to sand the sides, door, and drawer fronts too for consistency. An hour and a half in, I stepped back for a moment to try and get my hands to a non-convulsive state, and the sight was pretty impressive. It was one of those “there’s no turning back, and we also better go pick out some new stain” moments.

A massively sanded buffet.

With the flat drawer fronts also then sanded, we made a concerted effort to buy stain that was as close to the original finish as possible, mainly because the beveled areas between each drawer and along the sides of the the buffet were a little trickier to access with a power sander, but they also weren’t in bad condition or dented, so I hoped to leave them as-is and just re-stain and refinish the flat panels.

I bought three things at the store:

  • Tack cloths ($3, as recommended to get the sanded wood particles and any dust off the surface pre-staining and finishing)
  • Pre-stain wood conditioner ($8, a product that I’ve never used, but have been advised to in the past; it’s like a primer for softer hardwoods, coating the grains first and allowing the stain to absorb over it more consistently)
  • Oil-based stain in English Chestnut ($4, decidedly the closest we could match the existing wood finish based on a poorly-lit iPhone snapshop, ooh, smell the foreshadowing)

Preparing to refinish the mid-century buffet.

For the record, in doing this project I also used on-hand materials:

  • Sandpaper (both rough and fine, power-tool-based and hand-based)
  • Gloss Polyurethane (a Rust-Oleum Ultimate product)
  • A paint brush (for the pre-stain)
  • Rags (terrycloth and absorbent for consistent stain application)

Before I got down to conditioning the wood, I wanted to do one last round of sanding with fine sandpaper. To make the stray grains stand more upright on the wood, I dampened a rag and wiped down all surfaces.

Wetting down the sideboard to expose new grains.

After a few minutes in the heat of the afternoon, the surface had dried and exposed new fine grains that I was able to smooth down further with a fine-grade sandpaper and the multi-tool attachment. Going back over it left it in a pristinely smooth condition, so note to self: always do that, especially with the upcoming kitchen cabinets.

As I mentioned, it was my first rendezvous with pre-stain wood conditioner, a product that was shockingly red and watery when I opened the can for the first time.

Preparing the wood conditioner.

The instructions suggested using a rag or brush to apply; I chose a paint brush for ease of application after testing with a rag. Following some simple tips, I ran it on smoothly, thoroughly, and quickly, but not in a way where there was excessive pooling, just aiming to coat the entire to-be-stained surface. If you’re wondering, that entire pint of conditioner is going to go a really long way, maybe lasting the rest of my DIY-loving life, and this is how it looks when it’s applied soaking wet:

Wood Conditioning the buffet.

Also per directions, I gave all surfaces a wipe down with a clean rag about 10-15 minutes after application. It still appeared slightly wet in this picture, but was drying quickly.

Sanded, and wood conditioned. Ready for stain!

I don’t know why I’m so nervous when it comes to staining, but I was in this instance too. With the wood conditioned, I will say that the stain went on much easier than any other stain I’ve ever applied in my life (how’s that for a big fat w-o-w?), and using a rag on the entire job made it feel very controllable and consistent compared to experiences with foam brushes or paint brushes. The motions were more that of cleaning the kitchen countertop with rag than painting a surface.

There was a funny picture of me wincing and crossing my fingers for good luck as I got started, but you could see a little too far down my shirt and this isn’t that kind of blog, so I’ll show you this one instead:

Applying stain in long, even, rag-soaked strokes.

And this picture too, as I got a little further along. Let’s count how many wardrobe changes I made over the course of this day; two already shown, and I know with certainty that there was another outfit in between from when I scooted to The Home Depot. What can I say, I do a lot of laundry. But isn’t this first coat of stain going on pretty nicely?

Applying stain in long, even, rag-soaked strokes.

It’s probably the first time that I’ve really put an effort into keeping the coat of stain light. With all of the shiplap wall paneling I’ve done, I had been intent on keeping the wood really dark, and therefore was more heavy-handed and less-inclined to massage the stain into the grain or wipe off excess. This was different. And it was obvious.

Stained surface of the buffet. So pretty!

I know this post is becoming ungodly long, so I’ll skip ahead to the third (or fourth) wardrobe change of the post (although it was actually on Day 3 of the project, after I had let the stain dry a bit in the garage for two days and then moved all of the pieces into the sunroom).

I’ve used Rust-Oleum water-based Ultimate Polyurethane for several projects, most recently, when refinishing the new sunroom table, and really like it for a few reasons:

  • It’s a pinch to apply, and has serious self-leveling power
  • It’s super quick dry (<2 hours, usually, depending on humidity)
  • It has a durable finish (in my experiences)

When I’m applying it, I start by rolling it on with a 6″ foam roller (and notice how pasty white my springtime legs are, and also how there are random dog toys all over from a puppy I recently dogsat). After it’s rolled on, I then go over it with a paint brush really, really lightly just to even it out any bubbles and make it look a little more painted on:

Rolling on the polyurethane.

See how it looks a little purple? That’s mostly an effect of the poly reflecting the color of the stain, and it helps to make sure you have good coverage, but it certainly dries clearly.

Brushing down the polyurethane.

Now, as you might have noticed by now, the English Chestnut stain is a lot different from what the original finish looked like. Not that it isn’t pretty now, I just really wanted it to match. Oops.

The refinished stained top does not match the original. Whoopsy.

Because of this variance, I needed to refinish the legs and go into the beveled areas after the original staining and strip the finish so that I could re-stain them in the same color. I used a combination of common sand paper to get in the tight spaces by hand (using both rough and fine stock), but used a sanding bit on Pete’s Dremel to bite through most of the accessible finish. It worked pretty well.

Using a Dremel bit with sanding attachment for the inset bevels on the dresser.

Re-staining these crevices was easy too; using the same dampened rag technique, application was smooth, there was just one issue: it seems as though the wood used on these beveled areas is different from what was used on the outer facing drawers and large surfaces. Whomp, whomp. Can you see the difference between the lower piece of trim and the beveled edge after a few coats of stain trying to even them out?

Trying to match the stains.

Making it match as best as I could manage, I forged ahead to try and not let it get to me. After all, these pieces of trim are mostly covered in the shadows of the door and drawer. And really, the rest of the buffet looked bitchin’.

Our refinished Bassett mid-century buffet! Complete!

Remember what it looked like when I started? When the dog was making crazy eyes at me for bringing home more furniture?

Our mid-century Bassett Buffet, before.

The sunroom ended up being our favorite place for it. Against the sunburst floor and wooden walls, it feels like it really fits in and can be enjoyed in the space that we work in on warm days.

And from the left.

Our refinished Bassett mid-century buffet! Complete!

And from the right. Oohs, ahhs.

Our refinished Bassett mid-century buffet! Complete!

The drawers are still empty, but I finally have permission to buy a few nice table accessories knowing that I have a place to put them.

The drawers of our refinished Bassett mid-century buffet! Complete!

And again, now that we have a table and chairs in the sunroom, it’s really nice to have a place to put summertime dining accessories and a surface on which we can put out a buffet of food someday.

The refinished Bassett mid-century buffet! Complete!

Side note: The mounds of glass on the table? We found it on the beach over the weekend. 19 colors, our best haul ever.

Lake Ontario Beach Glass, June 2012.

I’ll be back later this week with another planned sunroom update. Time to add some decor!