The Goal: Learn how to refinish/repair pieces of furniture
The Why: To explore my creativity, learn new skills, and restore old/unwanted items to reduce need for new materials
It’s been another busy week and with the California trip rapidly approaching (8 days to go!), I’m right in the midst of my “plan and stress” phase that typically crops up a couple weeks prior to a major event or activity. Thankfully, my anxiety hasn’t been too bad yet and it helps to talk about the trip with others and get excited about it instead of ruminating.
Another tool I’ve been using to ease off on circling the anxiety drain is spending more of my free time doing creative projects. I wouldn’t consider myself to be “artistically talented” (I can barely make a passable stick figure drawing), but I have always enjoyed working on singular pieces to give them a refresh. For example, when I was in middle school, I worked with my mother to redwood stain our picnic table and also refinished two porches at our house over a summer (definitely in exchange for some new clothes). When I came back from my first year at college, I actually decided to completely overhaul my childhood bedroom and go from very girl (think peach, light green, lots of lace, porcelain dolls) to modern and mature (dark brown, deep red, clean lines, and absolutely no dolls). A few months ago, we repainted our living room and bathroom and I started to think about what else I could makeover around the house.
I realized I had a half dozen flower pots that I hadn’t been using because they didn’t fit with the colors and styles I like now (and also the cat will eat any plant I put on the shelf…). Call me basic, but I love the “farmhouse-chic” style that’s gotten popular in the last few years and thought maybe I could give these pots a Joanna Gaines-esque make over.
After a little (wait, this is me…A LOT OF) research, I ordered a sample set of chalk paints on Amazon from DecoArt because they offered a wide variety of colors, are non-toxic and low VOC, and had good reviews for paints at this price point (chalk paint can be suuuuper expensive). Once they arrived, they sat on the shelf for a good day or two before I got around to actually DOING anything with them – which you can imagine if you follow this blog that this is the hard part. I was worried that if I didn’t get to a project right away that the paint set, brushes, and flower pots would join the never-used candle making and twice-used soap making supplies in the basement. So I finally talked myself into at least STARTING on one piece and seeing how it went – reminding myself CONSTANTLY that it didn’t matter if it was “perfect” and that it should be fun.
One of the first flower pots I painted was the purple lattice one to the left – I really liked the texture and figured it would look cool with a more neutral color and some distressing. I chose to do a base color of medium grey topped with an off-white/beige coat so any distressing I did would show through with grey and not purple. I went a little too far with some of my sandpapering and ended up with a couple purple spots, but I can live with them. Last week I sealed everything with a clear matte top coat for protection (I’ve been skipping the super pricey waxes and using this Rust-Oleum sealer ) and I’m pretty happy with the result! Now I just need to find a nice looking artificial plant to keep the cat at bay and really finish the look… I played around with more of these flower pots and Mason jars (because, you know, #millennial) and tried out some different techniques I found through YouTube and just trial and error. One of my favorite color switches was this simple pot which went from lime green to light grey to match our new bathroom colors.
It’s still in need of a little sandpapering (I did white underneath as the show-through color), but I really like the overall look and matte finish:
I think what was really beneficial for me in these projects was that it gave me an activity that was a little intimidating but not scary and could focus my attention on something creative and tangible, not just overthinking and getting worked up over things that have not or will not happen. Although I still get a little anxious or frustrated when I “mess up” the paint job or the distressing doesn’t look like I pictured it, I try to remind myself that everything can be changed if I want it to be – just grab some paint and start over!
Last week I decided I was ready for bigger projects and started tackling a make over for a couple of side tables that were given to me by my parents (which had been given to them for free by a friend). They were in good condition and made of real wood, but the color didn’t really match the rest of our furniture and I thought a lighter color would look a little nicer. I also figured that because they were freebies, it was a fairly low-risk way to try out working on furniture before I move on to larger and more complex pieces (like our dining room table and chairs…more to come on those down the road!)
Again, it took me awhile to actually get around to this project, but I found it was a really nice way to spend my free time where I could be “productive” in a low stress context. Nobody was waiting on me to finish it, it could look however I wanted it to, and I could throw on another coat of paint in a short amount of time before work. I decided to go with a beachy/farmhouse vibe and painted the main part of the table linen white and the top piece the same grey I had used on the first flower pot (DecoArt “Relic”). Now, I can completely understand that some people absolutely will not paint over wood and I think there are some pieces that would look really terrible if they were painted. However, seeing as this table wasn’t an antique (it was from Pier 1 Imports) and didn’t have a unique style I wanted to preserve, I felt pretty good about the choice to paint it (Rocky seemed to approve of the white at least).
I did two coats of the white paint before moving onto the top, which ended up needing three coats to get to the smooth finish I imagined. I also had to do a little sanding on the top where a couple spot of the wood had chipped, but otherwise I could just wipe it down (two pets = neverending hair) and start painting. Once the colors where to my liking, I added some distressing on the edges and anywhere that looked like it would naturally age with some sandpaper and then started the process of sealing it with the same Rust-Oleum matte finish top coat as for the flower pots. I’m going to end up with three coats of sealer on the top, as I plan to use it as a side table in our living room and, being water-based, chalk paint is not known for its durability with water. Long story short, here’s the mostly finished product – apparently Cleo is a fan!
As I’ve discussed in other posts, having more resources to help reduce and manage my anxiety is a really big overarching goal for me this year and puttering around on these projects is just one tool I’ve added to my toolbox. I would love to continue expanding my techniques and work with different paints, textures, and styles. Thank to YouTube, I have been learning how to repair wood furniture, which will come in handy when I tackle the dining room set and start looking for other free and cheap pieces. Part of me also wants to get into woodworking at some point, but right now am limited to our condo as a work and storage space, so that may have to wait until I can have access to a garage. In the meantime, I’m going to start working on this piece that will hopefully become our new TV stand – another freebie that needs a little more TLC than the side table.
I probably won’t be getting to it until after my trip, so please stay tuned if you’re interested in seeing how it turns out!
Overall, I am happy with myself for giving this stuff a try and am excited to see what else I can learn over time. It’s hard for me to not immediately jump into “maybe I’ll do this professionally!” territory because I’ve found as an adult it’s hard for me to just have hobbies. So although this is a lighter topic and goal for the year, it still relates back to the bigger picture of what I value and who I hope to be going into that next decade. Plus, who can resist a good makeover?
Until next time!