How to paint wood furniture–with or without an existing varnish

I buy a piece of furniture for its shape. I ignore color, finish and hardware completely and focus on the lines. That’s because I paint almost everything that comes into my possession—chairs, tables, dressers and cabinets.

That being said, I also don’t think it’s necessary to purchase new furnishings if you have a piece that already works. Maybe the color or current purpose doesn’t suit your needs, but a few coats of paint and a little room rework can make you love that old hand-me-down again.

The salon I redid needed a long, narrow table with a few drawers for storage and areas to display merchandise and keep compacts and tools available for guests to sample. My client already owned this dark console.

Sanded console
(This has already been sanded. I forgot a true before shot.)

It was the wrong color for the light, airy feel we were creating in the salon, but the shape and size were perfect. With three coats of Martha Stewart Gingerroot paint in a semi-gloss finish and new mercury-glass hardware, this dark furnishing became a feminine foundation for makeup and merchandise.

Painted console

Here’s how:

1. Sand all surfaces with 150-grit sandpaper. Use 80-grit if you are sanding a furnishing with an existing varnish. Be careful not to gouge the surface.
2. Wipe down the surface with a tack cloth to remove any residue
3. Prime (I like Zinsser) using a mini foam roller. Use a foam brush to get into any hard-to-reach areas. Let dry according to can instructions. Once your primer is fully dry, sand away any drips with a 220-grit sanding block, and wipe your piece down with a soft cloth.

Primed console

4. Use a mini foam roller to apply three thin coats of semi-gloss latex paint. Allow six to eight hours in between coats. It is important that you sand in between coats if you have any drips or residue on the piece. Use the same sanding block I mentioned above.
5. Finally, use a new sponge brush to apply a thin coat of Varathane water-based protectant in gloss. It will seal your piece. Allow 72 hours for it to dry before using.

Close up of the console

Turn your fashion favorites into a room design

You may remember when I wrote here about turning a favorite outfit into a room. I asked for submissions, and people responded. I decided to help a friend take several favorite pieces in her closet and turn them into a reading nook. Here’s where it all began.

Cathy's Closet

She described her style as bohemian chic, choosing texture and layers over pattern and color (unless it’s red). She also likes sleek, modern lines and artistic pattern–as long as it doesn’t overpower. So what’s a schizophrenic girl to do?

Cathy's Corner

Start with a modern chair in a lagoon denim color, and layer on a lace pillow with a hippie vibe and a classic black-and-white striped throw. Add texture and bold pattern underfoot with a knit pouf and this ikat rug. Finish the room with a bit of metallic shine with a brass pharmacy lamp.

Remove paint without chemicals

One of my clients asked me to make a table for her craft room.

Finished table

She was really into sourcing repurposed wood and supplies for it, and her aesthetic leaned towards rustic industrial elegance.

I found a massive slab of raw fir wood at Builders Trading Company in Encinitas and two house columns, which I cut into four legs, at Architectural Salvage of San Diego. My client worried about the possibility of lead-based paint on anything salvaged since she had a curious two-year-old in the house. And the columns still wore remnants of aged, peeling paint—layers and layers of it.

Paint on column

I decided to shun all chemicals and scrape as much of the paint away using a paint scraper, then I employed a favorite power tool, a dual temperature heat gun with a flat-edge attachment, which made quick work of taking multiple layers of paint off at once.

Paint gun in use

2011-12-15 03.26.16

Steal these summertime party ideas

I’m a sucker for boutique bakeshops. For weeks, Cuppins, a concept bakery/giftshop in Lausanne summoned me from the cobblestone streets below. Though I had never been inside, I could see wooden swings holding collections of pastel bottles and sweet furnishings with feminine lines in the windows. It looked like an Alice in Wonderland fantasy land. I gave in to my craving–and my curiosity–this week and took a peek inside.

Cupcake cases at Cuppins

A display case of candy-colored confections greeted me at the door. Tiered cakestands and dessert domes practically screamed, “Eat Me.” Tables with paint-dipped bases and legs decorated the cafe space and flowers placed in vintage bottles sat on wooden swings in the windows. Colorful bakeware, tea sets and other gift-giving trinkets took up every other available surface.

Dip-dyed furnishings

The sweets, the colors, the presentation began turning the wheels in my head. I imagined the perfect setting for a baby or bridal shower, a girls-only brunch, a mother-and-daughter afternoon tea or a party for the kids.

Vases in window

Here, all the decorative trimmings for a delicate Wonderland fete, whatever the cause for celebration.

Cuppins party

* You don’t have to commit to paint-dipped furniture for an afternoon fete (though I think it’s fabulous!) Instead, wrap chair legs and table bases with stripes of colorful masking tape.
* You could comb Etsy for a wooden swing, or you could take instruction from the creative geniuses on one of my favorite blogs A Beautiful Mess, and make your own. Hang them from trees in the yard and use them in place of trays for showing off–and displaying your own sweet treats.
* To merchandise loose compacts in a salon I redid, I made tiered stands using inexpensive platters (check thrift stores or the clearance aisles of stores like TJMaxx, Marshall’s or Home Goods) and large, flat-topped candleholders. (For larger plates, you should definitely use candlesticks suited for pillar candles as taper holders can shatter under the weight of a filled plate.) Apply epoxy that’s intended for glass and ceramics according to the package instructions and let dry 24 hours before using. I’d display a collection of pretty bottles and blooms on these cakestands for something unexpected.

Cakestand Step 1Cakestand DIY

Green, gray and white nursery design

One of my closest friends is having a baby girl in October. Girl after my own heart, Naomi, the mom-to-be, made her first purchase for the nursery from Craigslist.

Naomi's chair

A feminine green and white glider and matching ottoman. She said she was thinking she’d like to do a gray, green and white color scheme. That’s all I needed to hear. This is what I came up for Baby Girl Tramontano and her bargain-hunting, stylish mama.

Naomi's nursery

* I would paint the white walls a perfect neutral. My pick is Sherwin Williams’ Mindful Gray.
* Naomi and Jeff were married in Cape Cod last year. I wanted to bring in touches of nautical decor without the nursery feeling theme-y, which I don’t like. I found this distressed seagull wall hanging and knew it would be perfect.
* The armoire helps hide all of baby’s things.
* On one wall, I imagine a collage of vintage, rustic black-and-white photos that include this birdhouse picture, among others.
* Naomi laughs, but I want to gift her some of the twine ball chandeliers I had at my wedding.

Twine ball chandeliers

* I want to remove the lights, string some of the larger balls together with fishing line and hang them in place of a traditional mobile in the room.
* Over the blackout roller shades, I want to hang gauzy curtains in a fun print.
* The glider gets moved in front of the window and this pillow gets added.
* This little bookshelf doubles as a side table next to the chair.
* I like the traditional lines of this crib paired with this more modern gray dot and green bedding.
* This plush green-and-white rug anchors the space.
* A washed wood floor lamp warms the room.
* This dresser, the priciest item in the room, becomes a changing table with a pad on top and is a piece of furniture she can keep forever.
* The wooden shadow box lets Naomi display sentimental keepsakes for her daughter.

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