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Campaign Dresser Nightstands – The good, the bad, and the ugly

Campaign Dresser Nightstands – The good, the bad, and the ugly

I got these campaign dressers ages ago. Actually, my awesome fiance ran around like a crazy person to pick these up, driving to hell and gone, playing an intense game of Tetris to get them to fit into his car. Thanks, babe! I love them.

They were in rough shape to begin with. Here is one, I think it was $35.IMG_0288

Here is the other, that I think was $25.

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Amazingly, these were both listed on craigslist on the same day or one day apart (i can’t remember), by different sellers. They don’t match exactly, but they were the same height and depth, so I figured that was close enough.

Both were a combo of wood and particle board, so I didn’t feel bad painting them.

I wanted to have a super shiny high lacquer finish like this one from Little Green Notebook.  I didn’t follow the instructions she gives properly and had to repaint these three times. They still aren’t perfect, but I finally gave up.

First, I thought I could use a water based paint that claimed to be super high gloss. This paint left INSANE brush marks. Then I went and bought oil paint as recommended, but the brush marks of the previous paint showed through the oil paint. Also, I think I should have waited longer for the crappy water based paint to dry before doing the oil paint. Then I had to apply another coat of the oil based paint to try and get a smoother finish, but by this time, I had spent hours painting and sanding and fixing parts of the drawers, and still wasn’t happy with the finish.

That’s when some unknown person in my building became my worst enemy.

When I was applying the last coat I wanted to apply (EVER), the neighbor in our building watered her plants on her balcony above our patio (without looking) and got water all over my wet oil based paint and ruined the finish.  I may have cried. I was so upset and so tired of working on these dressers. This is when I gave up.

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You can see that the finish is not glass-like. It’s got tons of brush strokes, and then weird marks and wrinkles where the water sat on the wet paint. I said “enough,” let them dry for another few days outside, and eventually brought them inside My job was starting a few days later (this was last August when I had first moved to DC), and I did not have the time necessary to continue stripping and painting these guys.

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And you know what? They look OK once in the room. I may at some point strip them down and repaint them, but for now, this works for me.  Most people don’t even notice the wonky finish. Or at least they are nice enough to lie to me about it. (Thanks, Victor!)

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I took off the handles when I was painting it, but I couldn’t get the corner pieces off without bending them, so I just painted around them. If I do repaint these, I will trying to get the proper tools to get the corners off so I can strip this baby down and start all over again. I used Bar Keepers Friends to polish the brass – it works really well and is super cheap.

I love how the brass and navy look together, and I love the combination of the brass on the campaign dress with the silver on the headboard. And this whole project cost me less than $100 for two custom night stands, so that’s pretty awesome also.

That is all.

Love,
Rachel

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Out of my comfort zone: Tomato Red

Out of my comfort zone: Tomato Red

In my decorating, I’ve been sticking to blue, white and yellow. I know my boyfriend likes them, I know they look good together, and they are safe.  I would throw in more pink as often as possible, but that makes the man a little uncomfortable.

Here she is with nothing in her. Next to my insect poster.

Here she is with nothing in her. Next to my insect poster.

So when I started painting this cabinet for the kitchen a light teal color, I thought it would be fine because it was blue-ish and we generally agree on blue. I had rolled on one coat, and was starting on the second coat when he came out. He saw what I was doing and goes, “We’re painting it that color? I thought we were done with that color.”

And with that, we were on the way to the hardware to pick out a new color that we could both agree on. The deal was that I would buy the paint, and if I didn’t like it, he would buy replacement paint and the paint for the next thing that I wanted paint. I could live with that.

I wanted to go with a fuschia. I figured the kitchen was my space and so I would do what I wanted and get away with bright pink. But that apparently was not in the cards. After a lukewarm discussion in the paint aisle (I won’t say it was heated, but it was definitely not room temperature), I selected a bright red – bordering on pink and orange.  As the paint was being mixed, I was getting more and more apprehensive.

Doesn't she look nice with my aqua bowls?

Doesn’t she look nice with my aqua bowls?

I left the hardware store in a sour mood – really questioning this decision. There is nothing red in the apartment. It is not going to go with anything. I pouted the whole way home. But, boyfriend reminded me of the deal, and I sucked it up and tried to get excited.

Then, I thought about the great bedroom makeover from Kristin on the Hunted Interior – the one with the Kate Spade pallet of red, pink, aqua, teal and black.  I loved that room and it had both tomato red and lots of cooler blue tones.  I also thought about the bright red secretary and red drawers from Jenny at Little Green Notebook.  I swallowed my fear and started painting.

FIVE coats of paint later (ladies and gentlemen, buy the best quality paint you can when going dark. I didn’t even buy the cheapest and it still took FIVE coats to get the coverage I wanted), and I was in L-O-V-E. The color was soooo good. And sooooo bright. And so unlike things I’ve done before. Breaking my mold felt so good. I was finally liberated from my self built prison of white, blue and yellow. Finally, I was free to mix colors with reckless abandon (OK, maybe with just *more* abandon than I previously had done).

It’s funny, because in college and even when I was younger, I used to decorate with whatever pleased me. Things were usually super saturated bright colors and jewel tones, and everything generally went well together, even if it wasn’t exactly stylish. Somewhere along the line, I stopped just buying and selecting things I liked, but started selecting the things that I thought I should use. The result: I was fairly unsatisfied with my apartment – it felt pretty, but not very me.

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This kitchen cabinet is the start of something new. While I will still have to compromise to get the boyfriend to go along with whatever I am feeling, I have learned that following my gut instinct has the best results. While I was busy trying to please others, I wasn’t pleasing my boyfriend’s design tastes nor my own. Go figure.

We love the red. It’s fun and different and the start of a new era.

What do you think? What have you done decorating-wise that made you uncomfortable but turned out great?

Love,

Rachel

Lipstick-on-a-pig dresser

Lipstick-on-a-pig dresser

There comes a time in life when you move in with your boyfriend. And you HATE his furniture. It’s black laminate crap from Walmart. A whole set of black laminate crap.

You spend days and weeks dreaming of the perfect mid-century modern dressers, or reclaimed wood pieces. And then you realize that you already spent all of your signing bonus on moving, movers, a new couch and a trip to the Dominican Republic. So, this is not really a sob story (because all those things were pretty awesome), but it is a story about me spending money in some places and then not having money for new dressers. (And yes, I looked at local thrift stores and craigslist. Duh. DC thrift stores and craigslist both kinda suck when compared with NYC and Princeton thrift stores.)

Ugly crappy black laminate furniture that does not jive with my decor tastes.

Ugly crappy black laminate furniture that does not jive with my decor tastes. This is what it looked like about 3 days after moving in. Excuse the mess. Or don’t. Whatever.

So you come back to reality and you kindly let your boyfriend move his ugly furniture into the apartment, and then when he turns his back YOU BUST OUT THE SPRAY PAINT AND MAKE THAT SH*T SO MUCH BETTER! (“Sorry, sweetie… Uh… I went to the store and when I came back it was just painted and had new hardware. I have no idea what happened!”)

And, like last post, there is no fancy staging or anything because the rest of the apartment is still coming together slowly. And I don’t want any readers out there to feel bad about themselves when they see all the awesomeness in my apartment, and stuff… er…uh… Yeah. That sounds good.

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So I sanded it lightly, used some Kilz primer (the good stuff), and then gave it three coats of white satin spray paint. Then I switched out the hardware from those ugly steel pull thingies to these brass Martha Stewart cup pulls. At $1.98 a piece, they are affordable AND stylish. Oh, and they are gold colored, which obviously my boyfriend LOVES, just like he loves all my paper mache taxidermy (oh yeah, get excited because that’s coming soon).

Ahhh... That's better...

Ahhh… That’s better…

The only problem with painting it white is that now the poor quality materials shows (like the fact that the spaces between teh drawers are not all even).

Regardless, I am very happy with the transformation. And I put the dresser on casters, so now I can roll it around easily and stuff.

The dresser won’t last that long, since it’s poorly made crap, but this pig looks SO much better with just a little white and gold lipstick. Until I can get some new stuff or have a major thrift store score, this will work just fine.

Love,

Rachel

I’m Back. I missed you.

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I’m Back. I missed you.

Hello Blogland,

I am back from the dead. I guess being dead in blog land is actually being alive, as in living real life, interacting with flesh and blood people instead of internet people. Weird though. And like any resurrected zombie, I am HUNGRY! Not for brains and flesh or anything like that, because, let’s be honest, ewwwwwwww. But hungry to resume blogging and to resume creating.

It has been a crazy six weeks since my last post (ewwwwwww). Shameful. But wanna know something cool? Even without creating new content, I have had a pretty steady stream of visitors! Neat, huh! I guess I must be slightly relevant or something. Or people just really want to see one of these things.

A lot has happened in the last six weeks. For one thing, I finished my first year at Princeton! This means I only have one more year of grad school to go. Four is a lot of years of grad school. In fact, if you don’t count the thumb, you almost cannot count to four on the fingers on one hand. I mean, I know how to count to four on one hand, since I am in grad school and everything, but it’s cutting it kinda close.

Second thing, Pinterest! I mean, I know that sounds old and trite, but I was way behind the bloggers in getting into Pinterest. What a great way to spend 3 hours 10 minutes on a study break. I think the reason why I like Pinterest so much is because it’s like watching a BUNCH of HGTV episodes really quickly, where you can skip straight to the reveal. And, while there is a lot of cool stuff on Pinterest, there is also a lot that I don’t like on it, like HGTV, so it’s really helping me hone my style.

Third thing, I am moving out of my apartment next week.

Fourth thing, I am MOVING TO VIENNA. AUSTRIA. In case you didn’t realize, Austria is a whole other country. I am moving there for the summer, but whatever, it’s still moving there. And I am pretty sure I will move there when I graduate anyway. I cannot WAIT to take Suits and Aprons there! Vienna is a great antiquing place. Plus, I am going to try to find an Austria cooking class and then will share my creations with you! Seriously guys, Europe.

Fifth thing: No. I am not having a baby anytime soon. But I had a friend who had a baby back in January. A sweet little girl. I said I would make the baby a high chair. It is now May. I am finally presenting high chair to mother and baby this weekend. I’m a little slow. But it’s cool, because I think babies don’t sit in high chairs until they are around 5 or 6 months anyway. And this high chair might even be for a slightly older kid. Not sure. Not a mom.  But either way.

I got this high chair at a giant rummage sale. I painted it with this awesome yellow homemade chalk paint. I sanded and distressed it. Then I applied a coat of antiquing glaze. Then I stopped and thought long and hard. A high chair is something a baby sits in. The baby might chew on it. (Why? Because babies put pretty much everything in their mouths, and since this chair is so awesome and looks like a gumdrop, it’s definitely getting mauled). The baby will be eating food stuff off of it. And what kind of friend would I be if I used some unsafe substance to seal it?

Also, babies are messy and will spill and maybe draw on things with markers as they turn into toddlers. So I wanted a strong finish.

I just didn’t think furniture wax was up to the challenge, and it might be soft enough to come off when the child chews on it. So instead of waxing, I applied many heavy coats of Krylon’s Crystal glaze. It’s durable so I figured it wouldn’t get chewed off easily, and it would be less likely than wax to transmit any chemicals or what-have-you.

Sixth, all this talk about toxic painting products reminds me of things that have been ticking me off on Pinterest: STOP PAINTING THINGS YOU EAT OFF OF. Most paints are not food safe. That chalk board cheese plate that has been pinned like a million times? Probably causes cancer. I’m not saying that if food comes into contact with a painted surface for a minute that you will get sick, but if it’s going to sit there for a bit, really think about whether you want to put those chemicals in your food. I haven’t ranted about this on Pinterest because that would be an annoying thing to do. But that’s my 2 cents.

OK, I will come up with other things to share. But now I’m going back to bed, and then I’m hanging out with some flesh and blood peeps while I get my summertime on.

I said it before and I’ll say it again: Blogland, I missed you. It feels good to be wrapped once more in your sweet, megapixel embrace. We’ve had many good memories, and we will make many more in the future. And I, for one, am freaking excited!

Love,

Rachel

Homemade Chalk Paint and Araucana Teal Mirror

Homemade Chalk Paint and Araucana Teal Mirror

After seeing chalk paint all over the interwebs, I thought maybe it was time I gave it a try. Also, the cold weather of winter means that it’s too cold to spray paint, which is usually my preferred method of furniture painting. Spray painting in an apartment is NOT recommended.

But there are no Annie Sloan chalk paint distributors near where I live, and even if there were, I am not sure I could afford the paint. After all, I am a grad student. I still haven’t purchased one of the main text books for a class, and it’s finals week. Probably not worth it at this point…

So I decided to make my own. Chalk paint, that is. Not my own text book.

I mixed about 1 part plaster of paris with either 2 or 3 parts paint (depending on how chalky I wanted it). I got the idea from No Minimalist Here, which has a few different chalk paint recipes and tips. I decided on the plaster of paris recipe because they carry that at Home Depot, which is where I was going for the paint anyway. I also added a few drops of water, because the plaster of paris makes the paint thicker.

The After

A fortunate discovery for me (though maybe not for Martha Stewart) is that Home Depot is discontinuing the Martha Stewart paint line. This means that all Martha paint was on MAJOR sale. I bought 7 of the 8 oz sample colors already pre-mixed. Each one was ONLY $0.50!!! I also bought a gallon of white Martha paint for only $13. A steal. And I bought a quart of Araucana Teal for only $5. I don’t know what I am going to do with it yet, but I figure I might want it. Plus, the price was right. So if you haven’t already swooped in on the Martha paint line remains, I suggest you do. Other vultures DIYers are getting ahead of you.

The Before

I found the mirror on Craigslist. It was $25, which is usually a little more than I like to pay for furniture that I am going to transform, but big mirrors are expensive, and this was in excellent shape. Plus, it had truly gorgeous details. Oh! And I almost forgot the best part: it’s a skinny mirror. I hate when I buy a mirror, get it home and realize that it adds 10lbs. Skinny mirrors are always worth a lil’ extra money. Ladies, you know what I am talking about.

I knew this lovely stand would paint and distress and glaze beautifully!

So I mixed up some Martha Stewart Araucana Teal, in the 3:1 paint:plaster of paris ratio and set to work, after I had done a light sanding of course. While watching MadMen on Netflix, I put two coats of this lovely teal on this lovelier mirror. The coverage of the homemade chalk paint is better than that of normal paint, but still needed two coats (I probably use less of the chalk than the commercial kind. I was timid at first).  Two coats of paint, considering how dark the wood was when I started, really isn’t that bad. This paint also dries really quickly, which I love! Patience is not one of my virtues.

From the side...

The mirror is actually not quite as vibrant in the pictures, but during the photo editing process (I’m a newby), in order to increase the exposure, I had to play with the color a little.It’s pretty close though and I’m learning.

Once dried, I sanded down the paint to make it smooth. In case you haven’t worked with chalk paint: you have to sand it, or it feels a little rough. Then I also distressed the details to make it look antiqued. I love how the wood grain from the mirror still shows though the paint in places. I believe this is because the original mirror didn’t have shellac or anything on it, or that I just got really lucky.

Distressing the details makes age believable. Look at the wood grain that shows through the paint!

After sanding, I applied a coat of Valspar antiquing glaze to make all the details, curves, wood grain, nooks and crannies pop! The chalk paint really wanted to soak up the antiquing glaze, so I had to use a lot of water to keep wiping away the excess. It wasn’t difficult, I had just never seen paint be so greedy with my antiquing glaze before.

It's all in the details.

I knew that I would need to seal the piece in some way, and I figured I would try furniture wax for the first time, since everyone who mentions chalk paint also mentions waxing it at the end. I just bought a normal tub of Minwax Furniture Wax Paste and followed the direction on the can. I worked it into all the little nooks and crannies, let it dry for about 15 minutes (or 1/3 of an episode of MadMen), and then buffed it to a soft sheen.

Lovely legs.

I am LOVING the finish that the wax creates. It’s super smooth to the touch, and not too shiny. It makes all the details stand out even more. Plus, the wax was really easy to apply and clean up was a breeze. However, if this was a table or a desk, I would want more protection for surfaces, but I figure no one will ever set a hot drink on my mirror, right?

Aside from the fact that I love the mirror, I love that I spent only about $1 on paint (including the little bit of plaster of paris that I used). Also, learning new painting techniques is a good way to justify watching a whole season of MadMen in just a few days. Not that I did that or anything… Uh… Yeah.

I hope you all like it. And if you do, maybe leave a comment or two. Comments make me supremely happy!

Love and Teal,

Rachel

PS. I’m partying here:

No Minimalist Here

Somewhat Simple

Beyond the Picket Fence

Primitive and Proper

Savvy Southern Style

Domestically Speaking

Sassy Sites!

DIY By Design

Miss Mustard Seed

The Shabby Nest