Crate Shelves and Custom Curtains, aka Success with Fabric Painting

A friend asked me to help with the nursery for her baby boy, due in just a few weeks! I’ll do a complete post on the nursery soon, but there are a couple of projects I thought I’d go ahead and share now.

crate shelvesFirst up, crate shelves! The nursery has a corner of “dead space” right by the door. It’s a small room and we wanted to make as much use of the available space as possible. I found these crates at IKEA (no, IKEA does not give me money to mention them in every other post, although I’d be pretty psyched if they did). Crates like these seem to be everywhere now, and are handy for all sorts of projects, but the IKEA ones seem a little sturdier to me than the ones I’ve seen at craft stores. Plus the large ones are only $10 a pop. I took five of them to their house and we played with the configuration until we found one that suited the space, and let them keep the use of the outlet in that corner. To mount them, I used these drywall anchor screws, plus washers, to give the relatively small screw heads a little more stability. The bottom crate (the one most likely to be pulled on at some point) got 4 screws; the others crate shelves 2got 2 each. And because they’re all mounted independently, if the little angel does manage to pull on one crate, the whole thing won’t come tumbling down, like a traditional bookcase. One thing to keep in mind – the IKEA crates have two slats on the bottom as “feet” for the crate, which would’ve meant a gap between crate and wall that would’ve diminished the sturdiness of the anchors. Solution? Flip the bottom over, so the slats are on the inside of the crate and countersink the screws when you put the crate together. (My friend’s genius husband came up with this.)

Next, the return of fabric painting. No, it wasn’t a long hiatus, since it was just in my last post, but this time, in an exciting twist, it actually worked! Huzzah! The color scheme of the nursery is gray, navy and white. The walls are gray and the furniture white, so I thought I’d bring some navy in by painting the curtains. I started with these Merete curtains (really, IKEA, fork over some of that sweet Swedish cash already). This project looked a bit more promising than the chair, because the fabric is a cotton twill – no real nap to it. I ironed (zzzzz) and laid out the curtain panels on my living room floor, with some heavy duty drop cloths underneath. Apparently, I buy the fancy drop cloths, according to my brother-in-law, but I hate sitting on plastic while I paint. Everything got taped down to keep Georgia from playing hide-and-seek underneath while I was working (jk, the tape totally didn’t stop her) and I started taping out the design. I wanted something geometric with clean lines. I considered stripes, but once I thought up the triangles, I really wanted to do that. To keep it from being all navy (and too dark for the room), I decided on a scattered design of triangles at the top, building to full rows of triangles at the bottom.

With a piece of cardboard as my template for the height and angles, I started taping with the 3M blue tape I always use for paint projects. Once, in a fit of extra cheapness, I bought the generic Home Depot HDX painter’s tape, and discovered it’s not much good for anything other than frustration and messy paint lines, and I’d always shied away from the more expensive Frog Tape. 3M blue tape was safely middle of the road (I expect that phrase will be on my tombstone). Unfortunately, after taping out a portion of the design, I realized that my trusty blue was not sticking to the fabric in a number of places, and I couldn’t make it. So I sprung for the Frog Tape, full of skepticism about its purported superiority, but oh man, it was worth it. Crisp lines galore! I taped out my design, used bits of my removed blue tape to mark the triangles I didn’t want to paint, and went to town with my roller and paint/textile medium mix. I used a 4″ roller, which was pretty easy to keep in the lines, although there are definitely a few blue triangles that I intended to be white, but after some overly exuberant rolling, had to become blue. I ended up using 8oz of Soho Mineral Blue acrylic and 4oz of textile medium.

Here they are hemmed and hung in the nursery!

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A Chair Makeover and Abject Failure with Fabric Paint

At some point, if I want to make a viable business out of my interior decorating work, I really should hone in on a few styles or techniques so that my portfolio has some sort of coherence, but right now, I’m having too much fun playing and trying out different ideas. My latest experiment: painting fabric. When my younger niece, Blythe, wanted her room redone, one piece of furniture really wouldn’t fit with her style, which my sister and I have dubbed “dramatic boho”. (It’s a thing now.) That piece was an armchair, given to her by family friends. It’s a surprisingly comfortable chair and the ornateness definitely went with the “dramatic” part of her style, but the color scheme needed an update to go with her new black, white and purple decor.

I asked my sister if I could try painting the fabric. (One of my favorite things about my sister is how she’ll let me experiment on her stuff, as long as she doesn’t have to actually do it herself.) I’d seen a bunch of tutorials on the Pinterest about how successful and easy and cheap this could be, so I figured I’d give it a shot. I knew from the start that there was a high risk of failure, because the fabric on the chair had a high nap, and that can be trickier with fabric paint. But, I reasoned, if it fails, I’ll just pull the fabric off and reupholster, so the only real risk was about $10 worth of acrylic fabric paint and textile medium. And, hoo boy, fail it did.

I spritzed the fabric with water, painted, sanded, painted some more, sanded some more, lather, rinse, repeat. Try as I might, I couldn’t get the seemingly innocuous beige fabric white. What’s more, the more layers I added, the more the fabric felt like an emery board, no matter how much I sanded, or how weird it was to need to sand fabric. Since this was intended to be Blythe’s reading chair, and not a total body exfoliator, this texture was less than ideal. When it got to the point of needing to buy more paint, I decided to invest in new fabric instead.

OK, maybe it wasn't entirely necessary to dismantle it COMPLETELY, but it was satisfying.

OK, maybe it wasn’t entirely necessary to dismantle it COMPLETELY, but it was satisfying.

I’d already painted the chair frame purple (I did it with acrylic paint because I was already buying acrylic for the fabric painting endeavor and I was too lazy to go to Home Depot in addition to the craft store), so with pliers, a flat-head screwdriver and brute force, I pulled off the welting, then the front and back oval panels, then the seat, then the fabric from the ovals and seat. I found a black and white damask print at Joann – I only needed about 2 yards total. Using the fabric I’d removed as a rough pattern, I cut out my new pieces and stapled them to their respective frames. The seat was a little tricky, because the foam sloped towards the back, but by tacking the fabric down in small sections, I got it to follow the gradation. The recovered seat got screwed back on. The ovals had been held in place by some straight copper needles that were very pointy – I’m sure there’s an actual name for them in the world of professional upholstery – but wouldn’t go back on. At this point, I was pretty tired, so I punted. I pushed the pointy, stabby copper spines flat or pulled them out (whichever was easier) then glued the ovals back in place with some E6000. The fumes were a welcome addition to my evening. Once everything had dried, the chair was finished!

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I haven’t given up entirely on painting fabric, but I would say that anything with a nap – velvet, boucle, chenille, corduroy, etc. – might not turn out the way you want it, so beware that you may end up having to reupholster in the end. And once you start painting, there’s really no turning back. Wow, that got really ominous at the end there.

Chinese Chippendale Headboard and the Challenges of Geometry

Oh man, I’m really excited to write this post. This is yet another project for my niece Audrey’s room redecoration. This is an idea I’ve had percolating for a while, and although it didn’t go quite as smoothly as I expected, because math, I’m happy with how it turned out.

Source: thisiscarpentry.com

I’ve always really liked this style – sometimes it’s called Chinese Chippendale, or lattice-work, or woven – and I’ve been looking for a project I could try it out on. Audrey needed a new headboard for her new bedroom, so it seemed like the perfect opportunity. After seeing this post on a Chinese Chippendale railing, I’d found the pattern I wanted to use as my template. The railing post is incredibly detailed and the craft that goes into his work is way beyond my current skill set, so I modified the idea to something I could feasibly do.

IMG_1069The first step was scaling the design to a size that would be appropriate for a twin headboard. (A twin bed is 39″ wide, but I prefer a slightly wider headboard so it looks the correct size when a comforter is on the bed.) In this design, the negative space is as important as the positive. The empty square in the middle of the design is a dimension that’s repeated over and over – using it as a constant is what makes the wood pieces look like they’re continuous even when separated. Starting from the central square, since only right angles are used, you can work out the math of the whole design. I knew I’d want to use 1″x2″ boards, so I worked out the math of the design with a 4″ central square – too wide for a twin bed – then a 3″ square – too small. 3 1/2″ seemed to be just right. It was a little on the small side, so I decided to frame out the whole pattern with 1″x3″s instead of 1″x2″s. This gave me a design that was 42″ wide x 26″ high.

IMG_1049Once I had my dimensions decided on, I could start cutting. The rational thing would have been to bribe my brother-in-law to let me borrow his miter saw, but that would’ve meant waiting a few extra days, and I’m incredibly impatient when I’m in the throes of a new project. So I busted out my miter box and hand saw and cut the pieces manually. 1″x2″s actually cut pretty quickly, but I think I’ll ask Santa for a power compound miter saw anyway. My brother-in-law will be so jealous.

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Nope.

With everything cut, I laid all my wood pieces out in the design and… they didn’t fit. Two of  the large diagonal pieces were too short. I tried every which way to make the pattern work, but eventually I came to terms with the fact that I had mathed wrong. I went back to my plan and realized I hadn’t added in the extra length from the width of the boards themselves in that part of the pattern. Oh well. I got another board from Home Depot and cut the correct sized pieces. This time, everything fit together just like I’d intended.

IMG_1064I joined the boards together using wood glue and picture frame fasteners (like these) – the headboard would be mounted on a wall, so the back didn’t have to be pretty. To give the frame some strength, I added corner brackets at each corner. To hang it, I added heavy duty D-ring picture hangers to the top two corners. These would hang on screws and drywall anchors mounted in the wall behind Audrey’s bed.

With everything joined together and dry, I painted the whole shebang gray (in accordance with her new bedding and her string art sign and jewelry box). I’d originally planned to do a color-wash with the gray (diluting the latex paint with equal parts water creates a cool faux-stain) to let the wood grain shine through, but with gray, the color-wash just made the wood look weathered. Audrey’s new room is all pretty clean and modern. Weathered just isn’t the look for her. So I added another coat of paint for a fully gray headboard. Et voila!

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Hung by my sister, who is very proud that she used the power tools like a big girl.


A Tufted Bench, or: My Cat Is a Jerk Sometimes

This is my bedroom. It’s peaceful and serene, in robin’s egg blue, camel and cream. My bed doesn’t have a headboard (yet…foreshadowing) or a footboard, so I decided to make a bench for the end of my bed.

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Georgia does go very nicely with my color scheme, though.

This is my cat, Georgia. I love her dearly, but she is a jerk sometimes.

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I considered buying a bench and upholstering it, but I was taken with the idea of making a piece of furniture from scratch. It was probably from watching all that Parks and Recreation while I houndstoothed. Ron Swanson is a persuasive gentleman. Also, I would like all your bacon and eggs, please and thank you. Anyway, a bench seemed within my limited woodworking abilities. I used this tutorial from ana-white.com and modified the dimensions to make the bench 4′ long. If you have any desire to build things, I can’t recommend Ana White’s site highly enough. She makes me think I can build anything, which may prove to be a problem.

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I like how stabby this picture is.

After building and staining the bench in Polyshades Honey, it was time to upholster. The reasonable plan would have been to cover it in foam and fabric, sit on the bench and call it a day. But no. I had to have tufting. I mapped out my pattern on the foam – I wanted many tufts, like a fool – and cut divots into the foam with a serrated kitchen knife. I also sliced all the way down to the bottom of the foam once per divot. This let me mark the pattern on the top of the bench. I put the foam on the bench and stuck a Sharpie through each divot to mark the spot on the MDF, then drilled holes at each mark. Once every spot was done, I spray glued the foam to the bench, added batting to the top of the foam, and my fabric on top of the batting. I didn’t secure the edge of the fabric or sew it, since I wasn’t sure how much slack the tufting would take.

In addition to my foolhardy tufting plan, I wanted upholstered buttons. Learn from me, my friends. You can buy this little kit from the crafting store and think “Oooh, I can make buttons to match whatever I want!” and this will seem exciting and like an exceptionally good idea, but let me tell you: you can make buttons to match whatever you want, but by the time you’re making the 33rd of these, you may wish you’d never started the whole thing. But you’ve already made 32 of these devils, and the foam is already divoted, so you might as well keep going. Then you realize your cat has been stealing your meticulously upholstered buttons and playing with them in the other room. That’s when you enter the swearing phase of the project.

IMG_0698Happily(ish), I only had to remake 1 or 2 buttons that had been deupholstered by Georgia’s enthusiasm for all things small and rolly. Like most cats, she seems to think that anything I’m working on is being done for her amusement, and she loved the tufting game even more than the button-making game. I found tufting to be easiest with the bench up on a couple of older end tables that let me work on both the top and bottom. I threaded a disturbingly large needle with upholstery-weight thread, went up through the bottom of the bench (through the holes drilled and divots cut), through the fabric and a button, back down, then, pulling the thread as tight as possible, staple-gunned both ends of the thread to the underside of the bench. Of course, that’s a simplified process that doesn’t take into account (1) retrieving unguarded buttons from cat, (2) retrieving buttons purloined while threading was happening, or (3) rethreading after cat had attacked the dangling ends underneath the bench before they could be stapled. For a detailed tufting tutorial (Really? Have I not scared you off this yet?), Little Green Notebook has a great one.

With the tufting finally done, I folded the edges of the fabric under, making sure each side was even with the others, and secured the fabric to the bench sides with upholstery tacks.

Tips:

  • Get a good staple gun – one that will shoot the staples all the way into the MDF. If you have a pneumatic one, even better, and I want to be your friend and borrow it.
  • If you do want to cover your own buttons, use two scraps of 2x4s or something similarly hard and easy to handle – one to set the form on and one to press the button down with. Your thumbs and nails will thank you.
  • Tufting is infinitely easier with two people – one to hold the button in place and one to do the stapling.
  • If you have a cat, lock her or yourself in a separate room while you work.

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    Hey, you. Yeah, I see you. Back away from the tufts slowly.
     

The Houndstooth Table

This is my absolute favorite project to date, probably because I had to figure all this stuff out as I went along and because, against all odds, it turned out the way I wanted. All I knew when I started was that I wanted a houndstooth table for my entryway. I have no rational explanation for this. I got it into my head and couldn’t get it out until I’d made it a reality. I may have a problem.

First off, I was lucky enough to find a table that was exactly the shape I wanted – simple in construction, with vaguely Queen Anne legs, just the right depth and height for an entryway table – that my mom’s friend was selling to clear out her garage. It was in great condition and only $40. IMG_0601

The only real hindrance with the table was the little nubs of wood on the top that lined up with each of the legs – those would interfere with my grand design. I took my little jabsaw (currently my favorite seemingly-violent tool name), laid it flat against the table top and sawed each one of these things off. It didn’t have to be pretty; it just had to be flat. Then I filled all the little pock-marks manufacturers add to make furniture look rustic with wood filler. After that dried, I sanded the whole thing then spray painted it with Krylon Smoke Gray.

Now, to the houndstoothing! I had to find a material I could cut fairly precisely and that would be thin enough so it wouldn’t sit way above the top of the table. I decided on basswood, which most craft stores sell in long narrow sheets and comes in different thicknesses. I went with one package of these 1/16″ thick boards (pricey, but if you sign up for Joann’s coupons, there’s almost always a “40% off one item” one going). I cut half of the boards into 4″x4″ squares, and the other half into the same size squares, which I cut again diagonally into 4 strips. That probably doesn’t make sense, so here, I drew you a diagram!houndstooth

I used a ruler and pencil to mark my cut lines, then used a utility knife to cut. Half of the squares and half of the strips (one corner and one trapezoid from each square) were painted with the same Krylon Smoke Gray as the table. The other half I painted with the light gray paint I have on my living room walls.

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Now for assembly! At first, I had this whole elaborate plan to number the pieces I cut and painted so that I would be able to rematch the cuts exactly. The paint warped the basswood slightly, and keeping track of the numbers was a pain in the butt, so I gave up on that plan pretty quickly. The pieces don’t match precisely, but the mismatches are minimal. So, starting at the back side of the table, I put down a dark gray square, lining one edge up with the edge of the table top and the bottom left corner with the left edge. Then a dark triangle, light trapezoid, dark trapezoid, light triangle, then a dark square, repeated until I reached the right edge of the table without overlapping the edge. For the next row, I started with a light square under the first triangle/trapezoid group and reversed the pattern again until I reached the right hand side.

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Sound tedious? It is! Each piece was glued down with E6000, so it was fumey too. But I turned on Parks and Recreation and binge-watched nearly the entire series while I worked on this table, so that was fun. And I could pretend to be a less mustachioed Ron Swanson while I cut my basswood. I’ve discovered that having something entertaining but not engrossing on in the background is imperative for these types of projects. Do not try to watch The Wire while doing something else. It just won’t work.

After all the “whole” pieces were glued down, I went back and filled in the curved edges. I placed whatever colors and pieces made sense for the pattern at the edge, sketched the curve of the table top then cut the piece, checked it and glued it down. Not the epitome of precision, but it worked. After everything was glued down and the glue had a day to cure, I put a couple of coats of Polycrylic on the top.

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Ta da! It’s not a table top that would stand up to heavy use, like in a dining room, but for an entryway or accent table, it’s perfect and fun and completely my own.

 

Craft Table IKEA Hack

Mini-post time! This one’s just a few different pieces from IKEA Frankensteined together to make a large work top with storage for my craft room (I still swoon a bit at the words “my craft room”). IMG_0547

Supplies

After assembling the Expedit, I attached the cabinet legs to one of the solid, long sides – two at each end and two in the middle, to distribute the weight of the heavy shelf. (For a good standing height, you’ll want the final surface to be at about the height of your elbows. The Capita legs worked perfectly for me – I’m 5’6″.) I flipped the Expedit over so that the shelf stood on its new feet and centered the desk top on the other side. I attached the shelf brackets to the cross pieces of the shelf and the underside of the desktop. Done! Now I have a nice, high work space for cutting fabric, stapling fabric to canvases, and whatever else I can cook up.

Roll-Top Bar

This is one of my older projects that I don’t have a lot of step-by-step pictures of, but here we go. This is actually the first piece of furniture I rehabbed after I moved into my house. I bought this roll-top desk from Craigslist for $50 – it took some patience to find one cheap enough in the style I wanted, but this one finally came along!

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The pictures that I do have of this project are terrible iPhone pictures. Brace yourself for blurriness.

IMG_0591[1]I wanted to turn it into a bar for my stemware and whatnot (so much whatnot) and add a wine rack. The first thing I did was remove the pigeon hole shelf from the top part of the desk. Not to be melodramatic, but this seemingly innocuous task nearly destroyed my soul. That shelf did NOT want to part company with that desk. I tried every kind of cutting tool I had or could steal from my mom’s house. The problem was getting a saw into the space without damaging the roll-top. The thing that finally worked? Putting a 1″ wood boring bit in my drill and drilling into the shelf straight on. This broke it up and I could rip the rest out. Oh how I laughed at my fallen foe. Ok, I’ll stop being weird now.

IMG_0596[1]Next up, adding the shelves for wine in the open space below. I did this with 11″ wide pine boards cut to fit the width of the space, and strips of trim placed along the boards to keep the bottles from rolling. I screwed the boards in place from inside the drawer openings on either side.

The last structural modification was to ditch the drawer on the lower right-hand side. The slide was rotten, and while I could have replaced it, I decided to turn that space into a cabinet for the liquor. I removed the slide and put a piece of MDF board cut to size in the bottom, secured with L-brackets underneath. Then I cut the drawer front from the rest of the drawer, added hinges and made it a door for the space.

IMG_0593[1]After all this furniture butchery, I painted the whole shebang chocolate brown. I waxed it
instead of using Polycrylic. If I ever get bored enough to strip and refinish this guy, I’ll definitely go with the Poly for a more durable finish. I found some bargain cup pulls at Lowe’s and painted them gold and swapped out the old hardware. The pulls for the middle drawer and roll-top are crystal knobs I found at the Habitat Re-Store for $1 each!

I decided after all that that it needed some more color (I love color), so I took 1/8″ thick particle board and made panel inserts for the bottom and back of the roll-top area, and each of the spots for wine bottles. I sprayed each panel with adhesive and wrapped them in teal velvet fabric. In addition to adding color, the velvet keeps the glassware from rattling.

IMG_0597[1]I’ve definitely learned a lot about painting, refinishing and woodworking since I completed this project, but it’s still one of my favorites!