Saturday, February 7, 2015

Time to buy new furniture? Maybe not

I may or may not troll the alleyways of my neighborhood searching for occasional tables, dressers, chairs that folks have chunked to the curb thinking they were ready for the dump....actually I do....frequently.

I also may or may not have a basement full of said furniture (and abandoned solid wood doors)....actually I do....a lot of them.

I'll admit it, I can't stand the thought of a perfectly solid piece of REAL wood furniture, doors or windows filled with wavy glass sitting in a landfill.  It drives me nuts!  The down side to my little obsession - I mean hobby - is actually cleaning it all up and refinishing it.

The beauty of reviving cast off furniture is varied and sundry.  You get a solidly built piece of furniture for free.  And you get to customize it to suit your style/taste.  A person can easily spend upwards of $1,000 on a solidly built NEW dresser for the bedroom.  But grabbing one off the curb, cleaning it up, tightening any loose bits and painting it costs a bit of work (getting if off the curb) and about $50 in supplies (between the paint and any hardware such as new knobs).

From the mid 1960's to the mid 1990's furniture makers loved to embellish drawer fronts like the one below.  I'm not a fan of embellish drawer fronts.  I think they look cheap and dated.  However, once painted....they actually add texture and interest to a piece as you'll see later in this blog.....stay with me....the results are pretty amazing.

A lot of people would run screaming into the streets if they thought they had to paint furniture.....I used to be one of them.  Painting walls is a breeze, but painting furniture can be a nightmare.  So many nooks and crannies to sand, prime and paint.  If the paint doesn't adhere like it should, you get nicks, scuffs and even areas where the paint falls off completely.  Ugh.  Personally, I hate sanding little areas and I hate priming.

That's why I was pretty stoked to learn of chalk paint.  Anyone who has ever read any of my blogs knows I loathe chalkboard paint on anything anytime anywhere.  I'm not talking about chalkboard paint.  I'm talking about chalk paint.  There's a huge difference.

The effect that chalk paint has is subtle and smooth as chalk once finished.  It has a matte finish that is reminiscent of fine antique french furniture.  If you like a more glossy look, you can go over the painted piece with a wax made specifically for chalk paint which will not only give you a slight gloss but will also protect your finish for years to come.

The greatest thing about chalk paint is the absolute absence of priming or sanding....wonderful.  I recommend that you clean the piece super well and sand off any gunk that has gotten stuck to the surface or any deep gashes in the wood but little nicks, scratches or other small imperfections don't need to be bothered with at all because this paint is self leveling meaning it will sink into those scratches and nicks and make it all nice and smooth.  No wood putty or filler needed.

Want to see what the entire dresser looked like?

Don't go crazy on buying your paint brush for this job.  A $4 synthetic paintbrush from the big box store will work great.

First remove all the hardware, give it a good cleaning,  go over the areas that need to be sanded and fill in any deep gashes.  Once you've done that, go to town with the paint.

While the manufacturer will tell you that one coat is all you'll honestly need at least 2.  Sanding between coats is really not necessary.....except on the top.  I can't stand seeing any brush strokes or feel little bumps when I rub the top so I lightly sanded between my first and second coat - just on the top.  Once it was smooth to the feel, I applied my second coat.  I didn't worry about the sides or drawer fronts as once the piece is in place, you won't be rubbing all over the sides/front.

The last step is to apply the finishing wax.  This gives the piece a smooth velvety feel, darkens the paint just a hair, adds depth to the finish and protects the piece from wear and tear.  You can use a poly finish if you so choose.  However, be advised that poly will yellow over time and won't actually protect the finish as well as the wax.

Now for the reveal.......wait for it......

So there you have it!  You have just saved yourself a bunch of cash!!  
Enjoy your space.

Storage for every space!

Small houses or apartments are difficult to rent unless they are in a very high demand area. People tour them and the whole time, they're thinking "Where will I hang my pictures?" or "Where will all those knick knacks I love so much live?" Usually with a small rental, the bathroom has either a pedestal sink or maybe a cabinet style sink.  Neither of them offer much in way of places to sit the usual bathroom accessories like razors, hair spray, toothpaste, etc.

You could buy one of those metal or wood shelving units that fit over the toilet....but that takes up floor space and if you have a smaller toilet, it's uncomfortable because your back and/or head bumps into it every time you sit on the toilet.

Of course, a renter could buy shelving units to house all those pictures and dust collecting objects that they just couldn't do without.  But that takes up more floor space, makes the rooms feel far smaller than they really are and (most importantly) who wants to go through the expense of renting a house, the moving expenses and then on top of that have to buy storage solutions? 

My solution?  Add shelving between the wall studs!  This was a very messy project but a very attractive solution!  It takes up zero floor space and adds life to an otherwise blank wall. It will also make your rental stand out from all the others potential renters might view. They might not remember if the yard was fenced but they'll remember the built-ins.  They add valuable storage and display areas while giving the home character.  It's a win/win.
Here are some examples.  Below the photo's I will give you step by step instructions.

Below are more photo's for inspiration

  • Kitchen:   Great for a kitchen pantry or shelving for spices. Makes a nice niche to display decorative plates.

    • ...and yes, you can add doors simply by installing the hinges and hanging the doors.

        • Bedroom: Great in the kid's room to house pictures books or small toys.  Also great for the teenager's room to house all those CD's that they love so much.

          • By the way, while you're building the shelves between the studs, why not build some simple boxes to go beneath it for even more built-in storage??

            • Bathroom: Best way to get the razor's, hair spray and other assorted products off the counter that I know!

            • Den/Living Room/Hallway/Stairs: There is no better way to get those family photo's  or treasured knickknacks in plain sight without taking up valuable floor space.

            Now that you've seen the completed projects, let's get on to how to do this in your space.
            Bear in mind that you can only have the width and depth that your house will allow.  The first thing you have to do is find a wall that you want to rip into. 

            1. Find the studs in that wall and mark each stud with a thumbtack (or you can use a sharpie and clean up afterwards).  Then taking your hammer knock out the sheetrock between the studs.  NOTE: try to be careful during this process for two reasons. First, you don't want to knock into any electrical or plumbing that might be hidden in the wall and secondly, you don't want to damage the sheetrock that covers your studs.  I chose walls that didn't have any electrical outlets on them to minimize the risk of finding electrical wires.
            2. Once you have knocked away enough sheetrock to expose the area between the studs, take a sheetrock knife (I actually used a large serrated knife typically used to cut ham) and trim up the edges.
            3. At this point there are two ways to continue.  You can either build a box that fits tightly into the opening or you can use the existing studs and back wall as your box.  If you choose to go this route, all you will have left to do is install the shelves, paint and trim it out!  
            4. If you go with the first option, there will be some measuring and cutting to do.  The end result will not vary greatly from option number two.  However, with option 1, if you are off in your measurements, you will have to recut, renail and try again.  I don't know about you but I'm not good enough with this type of precision, so I chose to go with option number two and build off what was already there.
            5. One issue you might have with the second scenario -  you have to make sure that the studs butt up against the back wall for this to work.  If it very nearly butts up, you can still use this procedure but you will need to apply paintable caulking to fill in the gaps otherwise your cool air in the summer and warm air in the winter will escape quite easily.  Gaps will also allow critters such as spiders easy access to the interior of your home.  To me the most important reason is because if you don't close up the gaps - it just looks ugly!  Once you have applied caulk and painted, no one will ever be able to tell - promise!
            6. Once you have opened your space and trimmed up the sheetrock, wipe the area clean and paint.  I like to use the same wall color for the back board and studs and then paint only the trim white.  It gives it a lot of depth.  However, if you paint the entire area white will make it pop!
            7. While the paint is drying, begin to cut your shelves.  I used regular MDF (medium density fiberboard) for my shelves. NOTE: MDF should never be cut indoors!  Also, when knocking in the wall always turn off the HVAC until you have gotten rid of all the dust or it can and will clog up your filter.  I like to use MDF because it's cheap and since I'm not going to be putting anything heavy on the shelves, it will hold up really well.  If you are going to have 3 shelves you will still need to cut 5 pieces.  3 for the shelves, 1 for the top of the area and one for the bottom to close up the gap.  I then used plain, cheap quarter round (or toe kick) to make my shelf supports.
            8. When you go to the lumber store to get your lumber, don't be afraid to take your measurements with you and get them to do all your cuts for you.  Each store varies but most will give you a couple of free cuts when you buy the lumber and will charge you a nominal fee for any additional cuts that you want.  I had my MDF cut for the shelves but cut my own quarter round and trim.
            9. While you are there, pick up your trim.  I used a plain corner trim for the sides of the opening and also for the front of the shelves.  As the name suggests, corner trim is typically used on corners.    I then picked up trim that matched the existing trim in the hallway to put at the top and bottom of my unit.  Tip.  Before you go to the lumber store, take a photo of the existing trim and take that with you when you shop for the trim for your shelving project.  You may think you remember what your baseboard trim looks like, but once you are confronted with 50+ just every so slightly different can get a bit confused.   Another tip.  You can purchase trim that is already primed.  This cuts down on the painting part of this project and normally it only costs a few pennies more than the plain wood.
            10. Once you have everything cut and ready, use brad nails to attach the quarter round inside your unit to act as a support for your shelves.  Make sure the flat part is facing up so you can sit your shelves on top and that each side is exactly the same distance otherwise your shelf will tilt.  Also, make sure the piece you have cut is wide enough to give amble support to your shelves but short enough that it doesn't interfere when you are trying to put your front trim on.
            11. The first shelves to install should be the top and bottom that will serve as the interior top and bottom of your unit.  Attach supports just below the sheetrock on the bottom and then set the shelf on top.  For the top part put the supports as close to the opening as possible allowing just enough room to put your shelf in.  Then continue to the rest of the shelves.
            12. Don't worry about nailing the shelves onto the supports.  If you have cut your shelves to fit snugly into the opening, they will sit there without wobbling.  Also, should you decide to place something tall in your unit later, you can always take a shelf out if it's not nailed into the support.
            13. Once you are satisfied with the placement of your supports and the shelves, it's time to do the trim.  The corner trim is awesome on this project because it covers the edges of the sheetrock where you have trimmed it and it gives it a wonderful finished look. After the corner trim is applied to the sides of your opening, attach the top and bottom trim.
            14. Now that the unit has been completely assembled, it's time to grab the caulking gun.  Look for any spaces between the shelves and the back wall or studs, gaps between the trim and the wall, etc.  Give each space a good bead of caulk and then smooth it flat.  Allow 24 hours for the caulk to completely dry.  Then paint and enjoy the fruits of your labor!
            This is one of the easiest and most rewarding projects that I have ever done.  It really gives an air of custom built-ins to any room and makes any wall look finished.   While this is a messy chore, it's not at all difficult and costs next to nothing.  Little bit of wood and a little bit of paint.