Sunday, January 19, 2014

My New Lady Table

So I was trolling on Craiglist the other day and found this fantastic dresser.  I love the curved front that reminds me of bombe chests that I've been eyeing. I love the lines and that it's real solid wood, but wasn't a huge fan of the color, which is kind of yellow.  So we got it for a steal and brought it home for a little weekend project. [Ignore the basement in the background. It's disgusting and in a stage of temporary/kind of permanent destruction. Will address that soon.]

new dresser arrives in my basement

love the curvy top

My arsenal for this project- 3 sanding blocks of various coarsenesses, paint thinner for cleanup, prestain wood finish, two stains of different shades, polyurethane, six new handles, five foam brushes (not pictured: a few rags, music, several cats).

Step 1. Remove the old hardware and sand

drawer pulls come off easily

after a couple passes with a coarse sanding block

Step 2. Prestain
I wiped it down to remove the sanding dust. Then, I prepped with some wood conditioner which I believe isn't necessary for oak, but I figured I might as well. It's supposed to even out the blotchiness, so why not. It was quick to put on. I left it for like a half hour before moving on to the next step. Hard to tell if it worked or not.

cleaned up and prestained

Step 3. Stain
In my last staining project, I liked the darkness of the color, but wasn't a huge fan of the greyness. The little swatch of color on the cans is hard to read, and a little deceptive. This time, I got two stains for a trial run on some leftover wood. I picked the dark walnut, the same color as my last project, which seemed a littler warmer than Jacobean. Then I carefully added a thin coat to the dresser, and wiped off the excess. In comparison to the last project, I really like the color. Clearly the same color of stain looks different depending on what kind of wood you put it on.

Jacobean on the left, dark walnut on the right for the win.

After a light coat of stain

Step 4. Seal
I gave it the night to dry, and then gave it another light sanding with the extra-fine sanding block. I wiped it down with a clean rag, and then added a light coat of poly. It soaked in fast, so by the time I finished one coat, I could come back and add a second and a third. 

Step 5. Add new hardware
After a couple hours of drying time, I added the new drawer pulls. They weren't my absolute favorite, but the size was a little unique, so this was the best option that would fit.

Step 6. Move upstairs and load up.
I let it hang out in the basement for a week so that it had plenty of time to dry and stop stinking. Particularly since it's going to our bedroom, I wanted all fumes to be gone. Plus it gave me some time to order a mirror and lamp to go with it. Then we carefully carried it upstairs-- definitely a two-person job. Once up there, I loaded it up with all my getting ready stuff, taking the opportunity to cull out anything I don't need anymore. Since it's full of all my lady stuff, ie hair, makeup, jewelry, etc, I decided to go glam with the mirror and lamp.

Lady Table looking purty. 

I love it. It feels so feminine and makes me feel pretty just looking at it. Plus, it frees up space in the green room where my clothes still live. The extra light helps brighten this dark room and give it a little more life. Success!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Nightstands and Acc(id)ent(al) Tables

In the ongoing saga of our master bedroom, the next priority was getting new nightstands so that our lovely Ikea ones can move back to the green room where they belong.

Bedroom with Borrowed Ikea Nightstands [cringe].

I shopped around a bit, and was disappointed to discover that nightstands are on the list of things that are really expensive. [I'm not sure why I'm still shocked to discover that furniture is expensive, every single time.]. Anyhoo- I found promise in the area of unfinished furniture- which is by definition, made of real wood that just needs to be put together and finished. We did some searching, and landed upon these guys from Amazon. At around $100 each, they seemed like a great option, with clean lines, storage and solid construction.

Once they arrived, I quickly got to work on the first table. It took an hour or so to stain, then I let it dry overnight. This time I used a small foam brush to apply the stain, and a rag to wipe the excess off. When I was building the bookcase, I applied the stain with a rag. Both methods look the same in the end, but this one seemed to waste a lot less stain, which saves me money and was less of a mess to clean up.

Unloading all the pieces in the basement

All the outside-facing pieces with a coat of stain

It took a couple hours to put it together the next morning. I, for one, enjoy putting together furniture like this, where all you need is a screwdriver and a little patience to decode the instruction pictures. Like a puzzle, only useful. Then I added a second coat of stain to get the spots I missed in the first coat and even it out.

Everything put together with one more coat of stain

Then, after a day or so of drying, I added a coat of polyurethane to protect it and switched out the knobs for something nicer.
Once it was all together we noticed a few things:
a) The color is great.
b) The construction is solid, and it feels sturdy.
c) It's really big. In fact, it's too big. Now that I've stained it though, it's clearly not returnable [The harsh downside of unfinished furniture].

So- important lesson learned today: Before you buy furniture- you MUST measure the space where it will go and see if it will work. Tape it out on the floor- hold something at the expected height- do whatever it takes to illustrate exactly how big the thing will be before you buy.  
So the old nightstands wait a little longer and the new wanna-be nightstand goes down in the fireplace room. It actually fits nicely in the nook of the stairs, and fills the much-needed purpose of a key-holding, mail-sorting, charging station. We were thinking of putting a liquor cabinet here, but may have to reconsider.

New Mail-Sorting Station in the Fireplace Room

Fireplace room gets furniture, and we get a mail-sorting station. Two big wins, despite our mistake. We got lucky on this one, but the lesson is learned.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Rebuilding a Chimney

Like everyone else on the East Coast, we woke up to a frosty winter day today. We got a couple of inches of snow, and it's really freaking cold outside. This is a day to stay home, make some coffee and sit by the fire. Instead, of course, we both diligently bundled up and headed into work. [bitterly.] 

It seems like a good time to update you on our fireplace. Ok- so our fireplace room has been a source of frustration (because it's so painfully ugly), and a waste of space (there is no purpose). In order to enjoy a roaring fire on cold days like this one, we've been wanting to fix up the room a bit.

our awkward fireplace

First up, we weren't even sure that the fireplace worked. It seems like an unusual size, and didn't have the telltale signs of being used by our predecessor. We called a local chimney guy to come take a look, and give it a cleaning if necessary. We were both hoping he would give us the all-clear, but instead he discovered that the chimney was completely falling apart.

Note all the mortar that has fallen out and the bricks that are just sitting loosely on top of each other.  

View down the flue- these things are supposed to be connected but have gotten separated from each other-- ie- it's not supposed to look like that.

The mortar was falling off in chunks, and the bricks were wiggling loose. Because the sections of the flue have separated, heat and gas coming up from the furnace could escape into the house - creating potentially a huge safety issue. Because there wasn't a cap, water could get in creating water damage, and squirrels and birds could crawl in too. So not only could we not light a fire, we needed to rebuild the chimney asap. [bummer].

We reached out to three companies for quotes. While we had their attention, we also asked what they thought of the unusual size and shape of the fireplace. It's really tall and wide, but very shallow. Each of them thought it would have drafting problems and had various suggestions to fix it- from adding a big hood to lifting the firebox floor by a foot. [ca ching, ca ching- thank you older house with expensive hidden problems that we didn't know about before.]

I did some googling, and have come to the conclusion that we actually have a "Rumford" fireplace, specifically built to be taller and shallower than standard fireplaces to reflect more heat into the room. They were really popular in the late 1700s, so I guess it's not surprising that our current chimney men weren't familiar with the model. Assuming that this fireplace is purposeful, and we don't need to do anything to it, we moved forward with the chimney restoration project.

I have no pics of this because we hired it out completely. [Sidenote- every DIYer should know their limits. My line is drawn just before hauling bricks up a  two-story ladder.] It took two days. They took the chimney all the way apart, added the two liners, and then rebuilt.

Then, we did some clicking on amazon and bought important components to get this sucker going. They sell extra shallow wood-log holder things that would fit our unusually shallow fireplace. We got a screen too, just in case, and the pokey things.

Joyfully, everything arrived today. So we ran out for some firewood, crossed our fingers, and lit 'er up.

Voila! She works!

cats are into it. 

Ok- so everything seems ok! We have a functional fireplace. It appears to draft just fine. So now we can move on to the project we wanted to do in the first place, de-uglifying.