Lucky unlucky

In the Polish language there is a term which literally means “lucky unlucky”.  It basically means that when you are in the middle of an unlucky situation you find some luck.  For example, a few years ago I was driving and had stopped at a red light- only to have my car die when I attempted to drive forward after the light had turned green.  However, across from the exact spot where my car died was a repair shop with towing service.  Lucky unlucky.

I have also experienced a “lucky unlucky” with a table refinishing.

I bought a round pedestal table of which I thought was solid wood.  The pedestal portion definitely is- however it is not one solid piece but rather smaller pieces that have been stacked on a metal rod and glued together- this is no big deal, quite standard for todays construction and only if you got down on your hands and knees and did an inspection could you tell.

After sanding the finish off the table top did I figure out it was veneer.  I have to say whoever constructed this table did a good job.  Even with the many scratches and gauges in the top, the underside and the edges- i couldn’t see the particle board underneath.

So….I began taking the lacquered finish off the top.  My original idea was that I was going to do a lime finish on the wood to bring out the grain- so thinking that the table top was solid I was quite heavy handed with the orbital sander…..only to reveal in a spot a piece of the particle board sandwiched between the layers of veneer.

Crap! Crap! Crap!  There goes the liming technique- and the existing grain was pretty nice since the wood (veneer) is Ash.

So- I went with it.  After I finished removing the lacquer  I watered down Annie Sloan’s Amsterdam Green(I love this colour) and did two coats on the top.  It took longer to dry because it really seeped into the veneer.  After this dried I did one coat of a very watered down Country Grey and left it to dry overnight.

It is hard to describe what it looked like this morning- kind of a like it was left in the rain.  It was also quite rough to the touch- the water had really raised the grain.

So…I sanded.  I sanded with 80 grit to start to lift some of the paint and smooth out the rough spots and to distress the edges- then I finished with 240 grit to make it really smooth.  It came out a greyish bluish kind of colour.  Sort of like slate.

So then I waxed.  I did a very fine coat of wax and brushed and brushed it until it was even- so much so that I didn’t need to buff it- and it really brought out the variations in the paint finish- deepened the colours.   I plan to do another fine coat of wax but my arm is a little bit wobbly at the moment.

I also painted the pedestal Grey Linen and gave it a good distressing followed by the clear wax.

This is the result:

The wardrobe in the background was also painted with Amsterdam Green- I have used this picture because I wanted to show the difference in the colour after the technique I used.

A close up of the finish:

I am really happy with the result of this table.  It kind of looks like slate or a well aged table even slightly metallic- it doesn’t at all look like a faux finish.

However….I have a feeling I just set myself up for another “lucky unlucky” situation–if somebody ever asks me to re create this finish–I may just have a hard time getting it to look like this!!


Tempted to try this at home?

If you are a lover of design and decorating you have probably been on loads of websites and blogs and wished you could muster up the courage to try and revamp an old piece of furniture.  Believe me, it isn’t hard – it is lots of fun, pretty inexpensive and the results can be spectacular!

Where to start?  If you have never painted or sanded or waxed or even touched a hammer–you can still do this!  For a first project I would suggest a chair.  Something like this:

Maybe you are ambitious enough to try six from the “get go”, but if you have an extra chair somewhere or you happen to see a single one in a second hand shop or yard sale that would look good at a desk- give it a try.

Look for something that has some interesting carvings and turned legs and spindles and a removable padded seat- these features really highlight paint and distressing very well and often the finished product looks nothing like its original state.

So once you have made your decision- time to get to work!  Take off the seat and set it aside for later.

Time to prep or paint.  If you are using Annie Sloan’s Chalk Paint (I highly recommend this paint- it is a dream paint because no prep is needed for the furniture)…just start painting.

If you are using regular latex paint you will either need to sand first with a medium grain sandpaper(so the paint will stick) or prime it with a high adhesion primer.   After using Annie Sloan’s paint it is very hard to go back to regular latex and these extra steps.

Give it two coats of paint and make sure the first coat is completely dry before you apply the second coat otherwise your brush will take off the paint and it gets all bumpy and gloopy.

While your chair is drying- time to deal with the seat.

You will need some tools:

Fabric scissors, some sort of plyers, a staple gun and most importantly a tack/staple lifter–often found around the house and the tack lifter is pretty inexpensive at most diy stores.

Remove the existing fabric with the tack/staple remover and plyers.  Try to keep the old fabric in one piece, if possible, so you can use it as the template to cut the new fabric.  If your not able to use the old fabric as a template- simply trace on paper the shape of the seat, add to it the depth of the sides then a few more centimetres/inches so that you can staple the fabric to the bottom of the seat.

If the existing foam is in good shape than simply re use it, if not you will need to buy the foam and cut it so that it is slightly larger than the edge of the seat base- not much longer just enough to round out the edges of the wood but not enough to fold under- it will cause lumps and bumps and will not fit properly into the chair.

After you have cut your fabric from the template the next step is to start stapling your new fabric. I fold under the edge to make it neater and I start in the centre of one side and work my way outwards leaving about two centimetres/one inch from the corner.  Next I do the opposite side of the first one, again living space at the corners and turning it to the right side every so often to make sure it is centred and even with no puckers- the fabric should also be pulled taut.  After I have completed all four sides I do the corners.  These need to be gathered,  folded or pleated with the staples and the excess cut off- this is a personal preference- I like to pleat mine- they come out neater.

If you have a pattern on the fabric that needs to be centred it is wise to lay your fabric and staple it in the centre of the bottom of each side so that it doesn’t shift while you are fixing it to the base.  It is a good idea to check every so often that nothing shifts –it would be so frustrating to have to repeat this process because the pattern is slightly off.

So after the paint has dried (again I highly recommend Annie Sloan’s chalk paint- the drying time is really quick and no priming or sanding is necessary) it is time to distress.

Simply sand lightly over the edges of the legs, spindles any carvings or turnings revealing the wood underneath.  I like to use an 80 grit sandpaper- this is my preference, but some people will use a 60 or even a 120 grit.  The higher the grit the finer the paper.  I find 80 is in the middle- it is course enough to distress the paint without making major scratches in the finish.

How much you distress is up to you.  I like to highlight carvings and spindles with distressing as well as all edges and legs- particularly if they are nicely turned.

After the distressing process is finished, brush off the dust or remove with a tack cloth.  Now it is time to seal the deal.  If you are using Annie Sloan’s paint- it is recommended to seal the paint with wax.  Simply apply with a wax brush and buff when dry.  You can add some extra dimension to your carvings and decorative details by adding some dark wax in places.

If you are using regular latex paint you can seal this with a clear coat of polyurethane or regular paste wax.

Finally place your newly upholstered seat into the chair!  You are done.

Easy peasy and often with a dramatic change.

Just to compare the before and after…..

The fun thing about this type of chair is that you can change up your fabric on the seat with little time and money and with great impact.

My first commissioned piece.

This was a thrill, to say the least.  I posted on Allegro two pieces of furniture and Annie Sloan’s paint.  In Poland internet shopping is huge.  Allegro is mostly new items and it is a way of accessing the entire country with one click.

One of the pieces I put up was a sideboard that had sheet music on it.  I have seen this in a few places- there are too many sources to list- it is a bit of a trend in the blogesphere at the moment.  Miss Mustard Seed and The Decorating Diaries come to mind but I have even seen it at Pottery Barn.

Anyway, a lady in Warsaw contacted me- she had fallen in love with the sideboard, however it was too large for her space.  I told her I was waiting for a few pieces to be delivered and she picked one she liked so I painted it and finished it with the sheet music.

Here is the one she picked.

It is pretty cute.  The legs are really super and the stretcher in the centre is a nice detail.  There is also dove tail joinery in the drawers which is an added bonus.

I painted the body with Amsterdam Green and the top with Country Grey- both from Annie Sloan, and finished with the paste wax.

Not bad, eh?  I am over the moon about this piece- I have to say it is one of my favourites.

I put very slim pieces of the sheet music on the front where the panel is raised and in the corners where it is not raised.  I also finished the inside of the drawers with the sheet music.

I left the handles the same – there was nothing wrong with them and they totally suit the piece.

So now it is waiting in the store to be picked up.  The buyer said the style was a “revelation”  and is very interested in other things I may have.

I believe it is very important to credit my inspirations.  I have seen many versions of sheet music furniture and wanted to try a few pieces with it.  I don’t believe I am copying but being inspired by the original piece and giving it my own touch–I have given credit to Miss Mustard Seed and The Decorating Diaries- there are probably many more that I have seen but these two versions are what I clearly remember.

Brush…..the new kid in town.

Brush is my new store- it has only been open for two weeks but took close to four months of preparation.  The idea is nothing new.  It is a refurbished furniture store.  I buy used pieces that are in good shape but otherwise out of date and I bring them up to date with Annie Sloan’s Chalk Paint.

Annie Sloan's Chalk Paint

The display of Annie Sloan’s Chalk Paint and wax.  I cut up the palette that the paint arrived to Poland on–it was painted and waxed and has become the colour samples for the paint.

This store concept is new for Poland.  There are second hand furniture stores here- but few and far between.  There are importers of “Hollanderski Meble”  which is the crap people from Holland don’t want anymore.  There are antique shops which charge an arm and a leg for their pieces or their is Allegro (my favourite)- the Polish version of Ebay- I buy loads of stuff from here.

So, after being inspired by the many blogs out there- I decided that I wanted to open my own store, stock Annie Sloan’s Chalk Paint and offer new furniture and kitchens that have been custom made by a carpenter that I have worked with for over five years.

First Commissioned piece.

And…..there is photography, paintings, ceramics, glass art and sewn items like pillows and stuffed dolls—they are so cute!!

The building where Brush is located is in a prewar store front that was in the former Jewish district of Konstancin.  Needless to say- the place is in a bit of a state….I don’t mind- it is all part of the charm!!

I have a two rooms- a store front and a studio.  It is perfect.  And Luna, my Cocker Spaniel, is the best assistant ever.  I have sold three large pieces of furniture and a few smaller items- I couldn’t be more thrilled.

So….without further delay- here are some photos of Brush!!  I am thinking about redoing the front elevation- probably not till next year- but I have it on the brain.

country style chair

The inside is a mish mash.  Some things from these photos have sold- that is the reason there is a bit of disarray- they are waiting for their new owners.

So….if you are ever in Warsaw, Konstancin exactly- please drop in!