Showing posts with label Furniture. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Furniture. Show all posts

Friday, January 10, 2014

Movin' on up: Adjusting our spaces to kids' changing needs


While all kids have different interests and enjoy different activities, one thing is true for every kid: as they grow up, the way they use their spaces is ever-changing. I've found that I can make my life easier (read: cleaner and less crazy) if I adjust their spaces to suit how they spend their time.

When we first moved into our house, a space behind our sofa in the family room was dedicated to the kids and their toys. It worked well because I could see and hear them playing while I was in the kitchen, which is where I spent most of my time back then. The kids' space wasn't immediately visible to visitors and it was an area that, if left messy, wouldn't disturb the adults in the house.

As the kids grew older, though, and they didn't need my eyes on them all the time, it was a relief to move their area upstairs to the loft. Our loft area, a 9'x12' space at the top of the stairs on the way to the kids' bedrooms, has been an invaluable area for our kids over the past six years. I have a partially obstructed view of it from my kitchen and I can hear activity in this area from any corner of my house.

Before: Little Kid Space

After: Big Kid Space

Until this Christmas, the loft was home to my kids' play kitchen. We built it when Brynn was three years old and even as a ten year old this summer, she and Callie were still playing in it. They used it as a restaurant, as a pretend classroom, and sometimes even as a kitchen. Even though the play kitchen was still usable for the girls, we sensed that they were starting to cross into an age where they would appreciate a more mature play space. They weren't as loud and boisterous anymore when they played in the kitchen. In fact, they were whispering – almost like they didn't want us to know that they were still using their little kitchen. But what really convinced me was their tendency to raid my craft closet and their inability to put anything away when they were finished.


One day I kind of exploded. No, I totally exploded. It was one of those mom moments you never forget even though you wish you could totally block it out. Callie had been in my craft closet, made a mess, and left it a total disaster. Glue stuck to the table, glitter and paper scraps all over the place. Cardboard scraps strewn on the table and floor. String and ribbon and stickers and sequins everywhere. I had wanted to do a specific task quickly but couldn't even get into the closet.


I took all of her craft supplies out of the closet and tossed them in her room and told her she could never come back. My closet was off limits to her.


Within seconds I realized how unfair it was. Crafting is what Callie does. Creating purses and houses and bracelets out of cardboard and tape and rubber bands and fabric is who she is. When she can't create, she starts to burst at the seams. It is who she is. A tinkerer. An artist. A creator.


So I took a deep breath and said, "Here's the deal. We cannot coexist in this space but you cannot exist without crafts. You need to choose: play kitchen or crafts." It took her a millisecond to respond, "Crafts!" Brynn agreed.

As much as it hurt to admit that they were growing up, I knew it had to happen. I took photos of their play kitchen and posted them on a local moms' Facebook page. The kitchen and its contents were gone within a day. We boxed up the little kid toys that we wanted to hang onto for visiting toddlers. We gave away everything else.

Starting with a clean slate, I built a simple divider to make the loft feel more separate from the hallway and to give me a wall to set a dresser against, so that we'd have plenty of storage. The divider is screwed into the floor, the adjacent wall, and the dresser it sits in front of. The dresser is a hand-me-down that I cleaned up and painted – it's perfect for holding fabric and craft supplies. I moved around some bookcases that were already in the space and I built a table out of bits and pieces in my garage (and a sheet of plywood I had to buy). I made curtains from fabric that I'd found in a pile of remnants a year or so ago. I had set the fabric aside for the next step in the evolution of this space and was glad to find it still sitting in my sewing closet. We stopped into Ikea for a few pieces to help us organize, and for a couple of stools to set at the table.

The divider is a 2x2 frame and 3/8" plywood leftover from other projects.

I scrubbed the brass pulls with Bar Keeper's Friend to make them shine!

Construction paper to roll over the table.


Buckets from the dollar aisle at Target and an Ikea BYGEL rail.

We also bought a new computer to put in this space. It wasn't something we'd planned to do right that very second, but our kids are using computers for more and more homework assignments, and the computer they'd been using was eight years old and running pretty slowly. (For the record, my four year old MacBook works fine...I just don't like to share it with my children.) We already had a computer cabinet in the loft – it was formerly a TV cabinet, that we converted to a computer cabinet – and it's been great for them to have an updated machine that I can see and hear from almost anywhere in the house. And I kind of love the giant 27" screen, even though it's hard for me to admit.

This TV cabinet was in my house as a kid. It's solid pine and really heavy! I painted it a few years ago and built the
platform for the computer. The keyboard sits on the pull-out tray that used to hold the TV. Our printer, printer paper,
ink, and camera accessories all fit into the bottom cabinet. And up top is our TV antenna for the whole house. Can
you see the beer cans on it? Classy.


If you don't count the new computer (ahem) changing this space cost us under $100. We already had almost all of the supplies and sold the old kitchen for $50. This has been, by far, the most impact-per-dollar change we've made in our house.

While it was sad to say goodbye to the little kitchen, watching the girls create in this space and knowing that it is a space we can use together has been a nice change for all four of us.

Here are some elements of this space that I think make it effective:
  • I can see and hear it from the kitchen. When the kids are using the computer, I can monitor it. 
  • I pass the loft while going to and from the girls' rooms at night, so I can stop in to clean up any supplies or scraps they leave behind. I'll never be surprised by a mess there because I have to pass it often.
  • The space may turn into a multi-use space for doing homework as well as crafting, but for now it's a place where they can leave an unfinished project to return to later, and in the meantime it doesn't bother anyone. It doesn't have to be moved out of the way for dinner or for guests.
  • The space is well-lit with lots of natural light and lamps as well as bright and cheery colors. It's an inspiring place to work.
  • Because the new computer is up there, the kids can turn a movie on Netflix or watch a how-to video on YouTube while they work.
  • The carpet is old, so I don't really care if they spill on it or screw it up in some other way, as I'm sure they will.
  • The table is finished with nearly bullet-proof PolyWhey floor finish, so it's easy to clean.
  • For super messy projects, I added a roll of construction paper to a dowel fastened under the table. Now we can roll paper over the table to make cleanup quick and easy.
  • There is plenty of storage. Storage in the hand-me-down dresser, storage in cans hanging from the walls, and storage in the two bookcases we've had in our house ever since we got married.
  • A whole wall is dedicated to inspiration and display. Right now a third of that wall is taken up by a Ugandan alphabet which was given to us by a friend who takes care of street kids in Uganda. I added some artwork with positive messages from The Handmade Home and we hung up the kids' favorite artwork to spur them on to more creativity.
Do you think you could carve out space in your house for a dedicated craft area? Or would a dedicated Lego space go over better in your house? How do you adjust your home to meet your kids' changing needs?

Monday, August 26, 2013

From old-school chairs to new-school chairs: a Heywood-Wakefield makeover

Please don't faint.

I totally defaced six Heywood-Wakefield chairs.

But I promise, they weren't worth much.


Yes, I know that there is some old school furniture, like these Toledo Uhl Art stools, that is worth a fortune. I narrowly missed out on 9 of those stools for $20/each on Craigslist. I still feel sick to my stomach even though it happened 10 months ago. Sigh.

Moving on. The chairs I refinished don't belong in the same category as those stools. They're easy to find, sometimes even for free if you're lucky enough to live near an old school that is getting new furniture or closing down.

I bought six of them on Ebay for a couple hundred bucks plus shipping. They sat in my garage gathering sawdust for several months before I had time to work on them, but all the while I had a vision for what they could be.

These are not my exact chairs, but similar ones I found on Ebay once I realized
I couldn't find the Ebay pics for my chairs!

Once I finally had a chance to take them out of their packaging, the first thing I did was remove all the screws to separate the wooden seats and backs from the metal frames. I saved the old screws in a container to re-use later. I used this stripper to get rid of the old yellow finish on the chair seats and backs. (Avid readers will remember that I once sung the praises of Mostenbocker's stripper, but I've had problems using it this summer in our super-dry climate, so I've switched brands. This new stuff is working great!)


Can I just inject a sentimental note here? These seats and chair backs were made from the nicest wood I've ever worked with. I have no idea what species it is, but it's obvious that the wood that was used to build these chairs back in the 1940s or 1950s is not the same stuff I buy at Home Depot today and certainly a lot nicer than what's in our kids' classrooms now. After I got through the layer of yellow grime I knew I was working with something unlike any lumber I've ever touched before. There's some kind of spiritual connection you make when working with something old and beautiful, especially something that's been handled by thousands of school kids. I love the vibe I got from these chairs.

Once the old finish was gone, I gave each seat and back a good sanding before applying a grey-wash. For my grey-wash, I used one part Restoration Hardware's Graphite to about eight parts water. I shook it up well in an old plastic peanut butter jar and then painted it onto the backs and seats of the chairs, wiping it off immediately with an old rag.

I just wanted the grey-wash to offset the yellow tones in the wood a bit, to give the wood a more neutral color once finished. The seats are still warm, just not yellow like before.

Once the grey-wash was dry, I brushed on 3 coats of my favorite sealer, PolyWhey in satin. As always, I sanded between coats with 400 grit paper for a super smooth finish.*

For the frames, first I sanded them down with 220 grit paper to get rid of the rust and peeling paint. When it came to the new finish, I waffled back and forth between two different options. I knew I wanted them to be red but I wasn't sure how to get there. On one side was powder coating. I'd visited a powder coating and metal fabricating shop last winter and seen powder coating in action. It's a great process and relatively green, as well. There are no harmful VOCs and very little waste. In the process, the metal is sandblasted to remove the old finish. Then, the metal is sprayed with a static-charged pigmented powder before being baked in a super hot oven where the powder coating melts (sorry...I don't know the technical term) and adheres to the metal. Once the powder coat is cooled and dry, it's a really durable and glossy finish. Your bike frame is powder coated as is lots of colored metal outdoor furniture. The only problem was the cost. I knew that for each chair I'd have to pony up somewhere between $40-$75. For one or two chairs I could handle the cost. But for six chairs? I just wasn't ready for that kind of investment.

My second option was spray paint. Let me just say this: I loathe spray paint. It smells. It makes me feel sick. It produces a ton of overspray that I hate dealing with. Here is the upside, though. It's cheap.

The cheap got me. I knew that if the sprayed-on finish deteriorated quickly, I could always go back and get the frames powder coated. You know, when I've got several hundred bucks to spare which will happen...probably never.

I ended up using Rustoleum auto body primer for the first coat and then Rustoleum auto enamel in Gloss Cherry for the second coat. It took four cans of primer and four cans of paint to get the job done. Every single second of it sucked.


After working with my sprayer for a while, I'm totally spoiled. I already hated using canned spray paint, but now I really don't ever want to use canned spray paint again. It's hard to control, it gets paint residue on everything, the smell lingers forever...ugh. I just really, really don't like the stuff.

But it got the job done.






In the foreground of the picture where the frames are all red you can see my strategy for painting screws and other hardware. It's a piece of styrofoam that was used to package something we bought a while back. I kept it around and have been using it when I need to paint hardware. It works great -- just stick the hardware in so it stands up straight. No more screws or knobs rolling around while I paint them.


So what do you think? Did I deface a precious antique or give new life to some ailing chairs?

*FYI: I don't get any kick-backs from Vermont Natural Coatings for promoting their product...I just really like it that much.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Shepard Kitchen Island


How's that for a fun and functional kitchen island? The color makes me want to sing a Jimmy Buffet tune. In person it actually reads more teal/green and less blue than it does in these photos.

At bar height (42"), this one is great for tall families or anyone who loves to belly-up to a bar. And, it's big. The counter top is 3'x5'. Without the overhanging counter, the piece is about 2'x5'. And it weighs approximately one ton. Seriously. I built this for a friend who lives down the street. The walk from my house to hers seems short...until one tries to walk there whilst carrying a gigantic kitchen island. It didn't even have the counter top on it when we carried it. No drawers, either. Still. Bruises. On my hip. And moving guys with a moving truck snickering at us as we walked past. Carrying a kitchen island.


The top on this piece is stainless steel, which I had fabricated by a local metal guy for $400. We thought about getting a pre-fab stainless steel top from Ikea, since those are only about $120, but it just wasn't big enough to do the job.


The piece is really just a basic box built of plywood and face-framed and trimmed out in pine (edited to add: Ana White made plans for it – find them here). The total materials cost (2 sheets of 3/4" plywood, one sheet of 1/4" plywood, 1x2s, 1x3s, 1x4s, 1"x1/2" trim, 3 sets of drawer glides, 2 sets of hinges, knobs/pulls, 2 support brackets, one quart of CeCe Caldwell paint in Destin Gulf Green, and a quart of Vermont Natural Coatings PolyWhey) came in at just under $400. Together with the stainless steel counter, this isn't a cheap build. It could be made cheaper, though, by using framing lumber for the top like Daniel does here for his kitchen counter, or like Sandra does for her laundry room counter.


The design is based on the Gregory Console from Ethan Allen, but it's taller and deeper and a few inches wider, too.

The toughest part of the build was the X in the middle for the wine storage (but the plans could easily be modified to take shelves or even drawers in the middle instead of the X – it's easily a big enough space to handle pots and pans). After putting it off for as long as I could (procrastination doesn't, in fact, make it any easier) I had to make some adjustments to get the angles right. Once it was together (with plenty of glue) and the face frame was attached, it seemed sturdy enough to hold all the wine that will fit. I waited to install the X until the whole piece was painted and sealed – painting it in place sounded like a nightmare.

The front, before the doors were trimmed.

The back before painting. I love the trim detail on this piece.

For the finish, first I sprayed on a brown primer coat. I like to use Sherwin-Williams multi-purpose primer tinted to dark brown. After that I sprayed on a coat or two of CeCe Caldwell's paint in Destin Gulf Green. To spray CeCe's paint, it needs to be watered down by about half in order to spray smoothly, and then your sprayer needs to be adjusted to spray a super fine mist. Once the paint was dry, I gave it a light sanding with 400 grit paper and rubbed the edges with a damp sponge to remove some of the paint and let the brown primer show through. The whole piece got a light wipe-down with the damp sponge, which brings out some of the different tones in the paint. CeCe's paint is multi-dimensional in color once you've wiped it down with a damp sponge or rag. This is one of my favorite characteristics about CeCe's paint, but if you don't want the different tones in the paint to show through, then just spray it, give it a light sanding, and spray on a sealer.

After priming with brown primer.

Yeah, if you don't have a sprayer and you don't want to see different tones in your piece, then you shouldn't use CeCe's paint. Or you should get a sprayer and then tell me how glad you are that I gave you this valuable advice. Here's the one I use. It rocks.

After priming, painting, and sealing. The color in this photo reads the truest.

Once the piece was primed, painted, sanded, and sponged, I sealed it with my favorite sealer, Vermont Natural Coatings PolyWhey in satin.

And then I picked it up (with a friend) and walked it about 200 yards down the street. Too bad I don't have any photos of that.




Monday, July 1, 2013

{backyard redo} Outdoor Bar from Reclaimed Wood

As part of our continuing work in our new backyard, I'm excited to show you the bar I built out of reclaimed wood from a neighbor's fence.



I built it using a design similar to this bathroom vanity. And, actually, I built a bathroom vanity for a client at the same time -- the designs were the same, just different dimensions, making it pretty efficient to build them together.


Here are the dimensions and the cut list for this piece:

36" tall x 68" wide x 17" deep

4 4x4 @ 34.5 (legs)
1 2x4 @ 30 7/8" (back middle leg)
3 2x4 @ 59" (front bottom stretcher and front/back aprons)
2 2x4 @ 27 5/8" (back bottom stretchers)
4 2x4 @ 10" (side aprons and stretchers)
5" fence wood -- 4 @ 24 1/8 (side insets)

The cut list doesn't include the top or shelves. For those, I used whatever I had on hand that I could throw together to do the job. I can foresee replacing the top at some point -- maybe with a tile mosaic or even a remnant from a stone yard.

If you've built a few pieces of furniture using pocket holes, you'll have no trouble dissecting the design of this piece. I started by cutting everything and then drilled my pocket holes at the ends of all of the 2x4s except the back middle leg -- it just got pocket holes at the top.

So...the back middle leg. It's totally unnecessary from an engineering perspective. The only reason I put it in there was because I was out of 2x4s long enough to make a back stretcher. Instead, the back leg joins the bottom of the back apron with pocket holes, and the two back stretchers join the sides of the back middle leg using pocket holes.

Are you with me?

Those fun little curtains are (probably overpriced) used coffee sacks I picked up at an architectural salvage yard in Charlotte, North Carolina last spring. I wanted something to lend a little protection to anything inside the bar, but I didn't feel like making doors and I wanted whatever I ended up with to be as rustic as the rest of the piece.

The curtains are hanging using screw eyes, a turnbuckle, ferrules, and wire rope like this tutorial at Modern in Minnesota. It's an easy process -- I actually hung curtains from our pergola recently the same way. I'll post about that soon. As soon as I can get a decent photo.

To hold back the curtains, I used a couple of robe hooks from Lowe's. They only cost about $1.50 each and did the job perfectly.





Once I was done building, I definitely needed a few of these...


Which were super easy to open with this...


We picked up our bottle opener at New Belgium in Fort Collins last summer. We've been waiting for a place to put it and, now that it's up, our kids have become beer-opening experts. Now we're working on perfecting their pours.

Ahhhh...summer. I wish it would never end!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

DIY Adirondack Chairs



If you follow Ana White, you've probably seen her Adirondack collection making an appearance. The collection came at just the right time for me. A good friend's birthday was coming up and she'd recently mentioned how she'd love to have an Adirondack chair on her back deck. She'd learned from her dad that a good Adirondack chair must have flat arm rests. Otherwise your beer slides down the arm into your lap. Being a lover of both beer and furniture, that comment left an impression on me.

When Ana's Adirondack chair plans came up, I looked at the plans and realized they were calling my name.

Or, actually, my friend's name.

As my friend drove by my house one afternoon she stopped to chat and I (not so slyly) asked, "If someone gave you Adirondack chairs for your birthday, what color do you think you'd want?"

So, yeah, I totally gave away the surprise but I think it was worth it. This is not a color I would have come up with on my own, but I love it and it looks perfect on her back deck.

The plans were really straight forward. You do have to pay attention to the angles as you make your cuts, but they're not difficult. They just require attention. As I put the chairs together (I made two at one time), I found everything to be simple except for the stringer. For some reason, I spent ten minutes trying to put it on backwards, wondering how the plans could be so far off, before I realized the problem wasn't the plans. It was me. It usually is.



Also, the plans don't specify anything about countersinking your screws (or maybe they do but I missed it). I started out not countersinking but some sank on their own and others didn't. I ended up removing all the ones that didn't sink on their own and countersinking, filling, and sanding them.

My method was obviously not the most efficient. Do yourself a favor and countersink the first time around.

What is countersinking? It means you use a special countersink bit to predrill, allowing the head of the screw to end up below the surface of the wood. Or, if you don't have a special countersink bit (mine broke) then you predrill with a bit slightly bigger than the head of your screws, just deep enough for the screw to go beneath the surface of the wood. I used Kreg screws because they're tough, they last, and they are self-tapping which eliminates the need for pre-drilling (except to sink the head of the screw).

Besides the backwards stringer and the countersinking, the plan was not difficult. Having a 1/2" thick piece of scrap wood on hand to use as a spacer between the slats for the back and seat helps. And a second set of hands doesn't hurt either.

For the finish, I used an exterior latex paint that had a primer built in. Unfortunately, the knots are starting to seep through the paint -- I should have sealed them with clear shellac first. I'll go back and seal them and re-paint the chairs soon, I think. I chose to go with an exterior latex paint/primer in one because I was in a hurry (had to get the finish done in about 24 hours) and didn't have time to mess with multiple coats. If I had more time, I would have used a low-voc, earth-friendly paint with the Vermont Natural Coatings exterior sealer over the top.

I used my sprayer to put the finish on and it got in between the slats better than expected. I had to do a bit of work with the brush, but overall it was a really simple way to finish the chairs.

Here's the final roundup of info for these chairs:
  • Lumber used: #2 pine and whitewood 2x4s & 2x2s
  • Cost of materials: $95 total. Lumber - $36 per chair, paint $18 per quart (used about half), plus about $5 for screws
  • Finish: Valspar latex exterior pant + primer in one matched to Sherwin Williams Dill
  • Time to build and finish: 6-8 hours
  • Level of expertise required: beginner-early intermediate

Saturday, June 15, 2013

High Chair -- from scraps!


When we gave away our old Peg Perego high chair it was with anticipation of building a replacement. We don't need one for ourselves (although Callie would probably still sit in it if she could -- she'd like to stay a baby forever). Since we've got visitors with a one year old coming into town this week, I finally had my chance to build this chair! I promise, it's a DIY-friendly project. You can build one, too.


My goal for the high chair was to build it without buying any materials but still come out with a sturdy chair that would last a long time. Long enough for my grandbabies to use someday. Other than the red paint, which I had to buy, all of the materials came from my house.


The Ana White plan for this high chair calls for 1x2s for the entire frame, but I used 1x3s for the legs and supports, 1x2s for the upper side rails, and an old dowel for the front. I also changed the way the seat was built in order to bulk it up a little.


The 1x3s had been sitting in my garage for quite a while. They'd even been stained, painted, and distressed for another project that never happened. The dowel for the front came from an old roman shade -- actually one of the shades I used for the back of this media center. The seat is made of a 1x3 for the face, a 1x6, a 1x3, and then a 1x2 for the back. They're joined using pocket holes. 

 
For the center strap, I used one of Scott's old belts. This is one side-effect of switching to a plant-based diet...lots of too-big belts. I was hoping to use this one belt for the center and also to strap over a kid's lap when they're seated in the chair, but it wasn't quite long enough.


The belt is screwed into the underside of the chair using two small cabinet screws. At the top it wraps around the dowel and then I joined the two parts of the belt using a small bolt with a washer and nut. Scott punched a hole in the belt for me using his leather punch (he's pretty experienced with it, since all his belts are too big).


For the finish I used premixed cherry red glossy Valspar paint -- I was looking for something that would be easy to clean, but also only took one step to finish because I didn't have a lot of time. If I were finishing an every day high chair, I'd probably clear coat the chair with PolyWhey to make it more durable. But for occasional use, I think this will be fine.

I applied the paint using my favorite tool, my Fuji Mini-Mite 3 HVLP sprayer. The sprayer is so fast and even and easy to clean that I've almost totally abandoned my brushes!


Once the finish was done and the leather strap was in place, I added two 1 1/2" Kreg screws to each side going into the back rest, just to give interest and a little edginess. I wonder if a high chair can even be edgy? I also added sliding feet like these to keep the chair from scratching up the floor.

Although this cute high chair will probably spend more time in the attic than it will with a baby's bottom in it, I'm hoping that we'll get some use from it and maybe even be able to pass it around the neighborhood for our friends' visitors, too. Or, maybe since it's so cute I'll just leave it sitting at my table and enjoy looking at it without the responsibility of feeding a baby!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Dawsen Media Console




Build your own Dawsen Media console! Ana White has free plans for this piece posted here.

The Dawsen Console, based on this one from Pottery Barn, was a bit more challenging to build than I expected. I'm accustomed to building pieces with standard face frames (made from 1x2s) which was one part of why it was a little more difficult. The face frame on this baby is made from mitered 1x4s with some 1x3s thrown in to maintain the beefy look.

But also? I think my miter saw is out of square. Not a lot, but enough to mess with the angles when cutting something as wide as a 1x4. I'm pretty sure that every miter saw comes with instructions for how to square it up. I bet there are some great online tutorials, too. I should look into that...and so should you, if you're thinking about building this piece.


My first move in building this piece (after getting the plywood ripped and cut to size at Home Depot) was to build the two outside boxes. For me, this just seemed like the easiest place to start and I thought it probably gave me the best chance of getting everything square.

The (not-to-scale) cut diagram I took to Home Depot.

When you're building a piece that has 5 drawers, it's gotta be square or you'll never get the drawers installed.

Also, you'll notice the two fixed shelves in those outside boxes? Those have to be there so that you can use center mount drawer slides for the two outside drawers. Because of the 1x4 face frame, it's impossible (or at least really, really difficult) to use the side-mount slides that we Ana-White builders normally use.

So, get your fixed shelves in and mount the center mount slides before enclosing your boxes.

Right after this photo I installed the center-mount drawer slides.

Once I had my two outside boxes built, I joined them to the bottom of the console using pocket holes. I also added supports at the top, back, and bottom of the center section of the console to keep it totally square. All of those extra supports (nine in all) did their job nicely and kept everything where it needed to be while I got the top and face frames on.

Something that was new for me in this plan (besides using 1x4s for the face frame) was using slab 3/4" plywood for the doors and drawer faces and adding pine lattice trim to the edges for added detail. Ana and I went back and fourth about whether or not this would work, how thick it should be, how wide it should be, etc., but in the end I'm happy with how it turned out. I did end up ripping it on my table saw to 15/16" wide instead of the original 1 1/8, because I wanted less overhang. I think it gave just the right amount of detail on the doors and drawer faces.

Pine Lattice from Home Depot -- 1 1/8" x 1/4"

Just a side note...I ran out of lattice at one point and asked Scott to pick some up for me while he was at Home Depot. I told him the exact aisle and location where he could find it...but (predictably) it wasn't there. He asked for help and the guys working there thought he was nuts. I thought he was nuts and the worker guys were just wrong. I may have cursed a little. The next day I went to Home Depot to get it myself. I walked right to where it should have been. No lattice. And then I remembered...they quit carrying it at our Home Depot a few years ago. I went to Lowe's and found it. It was exactly where I told Scott to go. Except it was in the wrong store. Sigh. Seriously...this feels like the story of my life sometimes. I think I'm losing my mind.

This is why I use non-toxic finishes whenever possible. I have very few brain cells remaining and need to protect each and every one of them.


After filling all of my nail holes with my favorite Australian wood filler, Timbermate, (seriously...water based, no nasty smell, extremely durable and super easy to rehydrate if it gets dried out) and giving everything a good sanding, I moved onto finishing.

For the first step in finishing, I used amber shellac painted on with a disposable foam brush. I went back and fourth about whether I should use regular stain or shellac or tinted PolyWhey for this step, but landed on shellac. Here's why:
  • It's cheap. At $14-ish/quart, you really can't beat the price.
  • It dries quickly (because it is alcohol-based). 
  • Shellac's odor is not bad. The odor is stronger than a water-based stain but nowhere near the strength of conventional water-based poly or oil-based poly. Once it's dry, there is no odor and it is non-toxic. I'm really sensitive to smells in finishes (for instance, Minwax Polycrylic gives me a headache that lasts for days) so the odor and the effect of the odor are really important to me.
  • The color was exactly what I wanted for the undercoat.
  • Because Shellac seals the wood (unlike an alcohol- or water-based stain) I knew that the next finishing step, chalk paint, would be easy to wipe off when and where I wanted to. In other words, I knew the chalk paint wouldn't soak into the wood and leave behind a film when I tried to wipe it off during distressing.
  • Shellac leaves a finish that paint adheres easily. That's one reason shellac-based primers work so well.
Once I painted the amber shellac onto all surfaces (inside, outside, front, back, top, shelves, and all doors and drawer faces), I gave it all a light sanding with 400 grit paper.

When I say light sanding, I mean I only went over each surface with exactly one swipe of sandpaper.

I know there are people on Pinterest who say you can paint furniture without sanding and it will come out great. They're wrong. It cannot be done. If you want a super smooth finish, you must sand between coats. Period. And if you don't believe me, you are welcome to come feel my furniture.

Ooh, that sounded a little...um...R-rated.

But seriously. I dare you.

So, after the light sanding, I was left with this:


Okay, that was after a light sanding and a lot of taping. Why all the tape? Because I was using my awesome new sprayer to put on the next coat!

Yep, I used my Fuji Mini-Mite. I love that little machine. I promise to post about it sometime this summer.


I used the Fuji to spray on one coat (that's all it took) of CeCeCaldwell's Vermont Slate. I've found that CeCe's paint needs to be watered down to at least a 1:1 ratio of water to paint in order to spray well. Otherwise it's just too thick for the sprayer.

CeCe Caldwell's Vermont Slate paint...almost dry.

Cabinet doors and drawer faces dry.

My favorite thing about CeCe's paint is that it can be distressed easily with a damp rag or sponge. Now, this isn't to say I don't sand it. I do, with 400 grit, just to get it extra smooth. But I rarely go through the paint coat with sandpaper. I'm deathly afraid of going through the paint, through the stain or (in this case) shellac, and ending up with bare wood. Because that's just a pain to deal with. So I love that I can use a damp sponge to rub the corners and edges of a piece painted with CeCe's paint to get the distressed look that I want.

But, that damp sponge technique also brings out other tones in CeCe's paint. It makes it a little streaky and antique-looking. If that's not the look you're going for, then go easy on the sponge or skip it all together.

Also? I thought the Vermont Slate paint would come out super-dark gray. Like, almost black.

As it turns out, it comes out more like navy blue when it's sealed. Maybe if I'd skipped the sponge it would have turned out differently?

Oops. Sometimes we learn the hard way. This was one of those times! Consider yourself warned. And remember that finishing is an art, not a science. If you're super Type-A and know exactly what you want, finishing with chalk paint may not be your gig.



The last step in finishing this piece was sealing it. As usual, I used my favorite sealer, Vermont Natural Coatings PolyWhey in satin. I'm still trying to get used to spraying it -- I get occasional bubbles (tiny bubbles) that I have to sand out and re-spray, but I think that's just part of the learning curve of working with a sprayer. And it's a small price to pay for the convenience.

I probably sound like a broken record, but I could not be more pleased with PolyWhey. It has no odor. It doesn't make me sick. It dries fast. It's easy to apply. It feels lovely when you touch it (not like plastic like water-based poly sometimes feels). It is a truly "green" product. I pay about $24/quart for it and it is worth every penny.

Once the finish was totally done, I added the rest of my drawer slides and my hinges. You can see from the photo above that I added a small piece of trim to the inside of each cabinet so that my cabinet door would stop.

I used these non-mortise concealed spring hinges. They take a few minutes to figure out the first time you use them, but with a little thinking (sometimes with my head tilted and one eye closed) I always manage to get them installed right.



For the two adjustable shelves, I used my shelving jig to get the shelf pin holes just right, but still ended up with one row a little off. Ugh. Does that happen to anyone else or just me? How frustrating is it to have one wonky shelf? If I were to buy a shelf hole jig today, I'd skip the one I bought and buy the Kreg one instead.






Here's the final roundup of info for this piece:

  • Cost of materials: about $450
  • Finish: amber shellac, Vermont Slate CeCe Caldwell's, Satin PolyWhey
  • Time required to build and finish: 20-30 hours, more or less depending on the finish you choose
  • Level of expertise required: Intermediate