Project 4: Rock and Swivel

As promised, we’ve finally turned my $10 chair find into a comfy, rocking, swiveling chair to rival all chairs (okay, so maybe it would lose in the Chair Olympics to some newer models, but in the low-cost events, it would totally clean up).  If you recall, this is what Big Bird looked like when I brought her home . . .

And although she looks essentially the same now, trust me–there’s a lot more going on under that skirt . . .

Before I give you a somewhat not-so-detailed explanation of how we converted Big Bird into a rocking swivel chair (I was, after all, on baby duty during much of the process), I first have to give credit where credit is due . . . so here’s the tutorial from Honey & Fitz that inspired me and informed our decisions along the way:

Step 1: Buy a rocking, swiveling base.  I got mine at for ~$85.

Step 2: Flip your chair over and remove the netting from the bottom of your chair by removing the staples attached to the wooden base.

Step 3: Remove the chairs legs.  Now, a lot of chairs just have legs that unscrew from the base–oh, to be so lucky, right?  Of course it wasn’t going to be that easy.  Nope, these legs were solid wood and extended all the way into the chair base.

So we had to saw them off.  And by we, I mean Mr. Bunches and our very own Bachelor-in-Residence, MO (they moved the whole operation out to the front patio at this point–the garage door was broken at the time, so they went full white-trash style and did the work where all could see). . .

Two down, two to go . . .

Step 5: Attach a wooden base for the rocker/swivel base.  Mr. Bunches and MO picked out some wood at Home Depot to use–the original plan was to have one solid piece of 3/4″ plywood cut to size, but after they found out that the cutters at both Lowe’s and Home Depot were broken, they switched to plan B: two pieces of 3/4″ thick lumber that they could cut to size themselves.

Step 6: Mark and pre-drill holes to attach wood slats to base.  We did two-three holes on each board.

Step 7: Attach slats to base with wood screws.

Step 8: Position rocking base–the base should not be positioned in the center of the chair, but more towards the back of the chair.  Once positioned, mark holes to drill in order to attach the base with bolts and nuts.  The base identifies which part is the front, so make sure you position it correctly.  I don’t have pictures really of this step, but trust me–it happened.

Step 9: Attach rocking base with nuts and bolts.  Tighten.

Step 10: Turn chair over and enjoy.  And by enjoy, apparently that means asking your wife who just birthed your baby to get you and your friend a couple of beers so you can complete the white trash picture on the front lawn.  Classic, eh?

So there you have it–how to convert an upholstered chair into a swivel rocker!  Now that we’ve had it a couple weeks, I have to say that we love it.  It hasn’t migrated to the nursery yet since I tend to nurse Mini Bunches in front of the boob tube (haha–get it–boob tube?), but I’m sure someday it will end up there.  Of course, Mr. Bunches and MO thought it should stay on the front lawn.  Clearly, they were vetoed.

Once it was back inside, of course we had to see how Mini Bunches liked it.  Her first impression?  Loved it.

Of course, 2 seconds later was a different story.  Not sure if it was MO or the chair she was reacting to . . . :)

Thanks to our Bachelor-in-Residence for all his help!!  We’ve been rocking almost non-stop these days (mainly to avoid that sad face above).

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Sleeping Beauties

There has been a lot going on at the Bunches’ household lately . . . it’s pretty amazing how that whole “nesting” instinct kicks in, right?  And while we’re definitely doing a lot to prepare for the baby’s arrival, we’re also trying to do as much as possible for ourselves in these last few months.  And that means sleep, and lots of it!  With all the horror stories out there about how we’ll never sleep again once this kiddo arrives, we’re trying to give ourselves a leg up in that department.   Unfortunately, our bedroom wasn’t quite outfitted for our new endeavor . . .

See what I mean?  That’s our old queen mattress on the floor (we had a box spring and frame for it, but we knew we were going to be replacing it down the road, so in utter laziness thinking aheadedness, we decided not to move those into the room).  The room has functioned pretty well for the past ~5 months, especially since we added temporary room-darkening shades, but with a growing family en route, we knew it was time to finally get that king mattress we’d been dreaming of.

But first, we needed a new bed frame.  Ideally something low profile with simple lines, and preferably in white.  I fell in love with this option from West Elm, but the reviews of West Elm beds were HORRENDOUS, so I had to cross it off my list.  Sigh.

And after weeks of scouring the Internet, I basically came up empty-handed.  But from our mattress shopping, I knew that there were some decent (and affordable) local options.  Like the one we finally purchased from City Mattress for ~$350:

Just realized as I’m writing this and looking at City Mattress’ website that this actually came in white!!  Oh sad day–the sales people said it only came in walnut or oak.  Oh well–live and learn, right?

We opted for the darker color since it went nicely with our Ikea Malm dressers.  With free delivery and set-up, we were pleased with the final result:

Of course, it kind of made our queen mattress look even more ridiculous (I bet you didn’t even think that was possible, did you?).  Up next–buying the mattress.

We did a ton of shopping around and finally found one that we liked at City Mattress–the Simmons World Class Parksdale Pillow Top Mattress Set.

Of course, their “sale” price was $1,799.  And when we asked for the best price they could give us, they knocked off another 15%, which left us at ~$1,530.  With a purchase that large, I knew we needed to sleep on it (I had to put in some lame pun, didn’t I?).  And I also knew we needed to do some Internet research to see if we could find a better deal.

Of course, that’s when the problems began . . . ever try to comparison shop mattresses?  The problem is you can never find the same one at another store.  Now, the stores want you to think that they have an “exclusive” on each mattress, but in reality they just have an “exclusive” name for each mattress they carry.  And the manufacturers won’t tell you which mattress is the same as another, differently named mattress.  Nope–they protect their vendors.  Which means that, as a consumer, you just need to dig a little deeper.  The solution?  Compare the specs of the mattresses–if you find one that’s the same, then it’s likely the same mattress, just with a different name.  So that’s what we did.  And we found the exact same mattress (at least per the specifications) at US-Mattress for only $1,349 delivered (it’s the Simmons Beautyrest World Class Sheldon Plush Firm Pillow Top).  Score one for the lowly consumer, right?!  We saved ~$200.  Hooray for us.

We just had to wait a few weeks for delivery, and then we went from this . . .

. . . to this:

Oh, and before the delivery guys could put the new mattress on the new box spring, I quickly covered it in a standard king fitted sheet, which was a much cheaper option that buying one of those fitted box spring covers, and I think it looks just as good.

It’s nice to finally have an appropriately-sized mattress in that room, don’t you think?  Of course, that’s enough naked shots of the bed.  Here it is fully-clothed:

Are you surprised that I went with a mostly all-white sheet set?  If you’ve been paying attention to this blog, you shouldn’t be ;).  Of course, I did add a splash of color with some new pillow shams.

The flowered shams are actually Amy Butler’s Organic Bedding in Valencia Orange which I scored for $2.99 each at Burlington Coat Factory (who knew they carried stuff like that, huh?), and the pink velvet pillow is an old pillow from Home Goods.

I’ve also decided to use some new side tables from World Market as our bedside tables.

I originally bought them for the living room, but Mr. Bunches vetoed them in there.  They’re not ideal for the bedroom (since they have no storage), but they’ll do for now.  And yes, I’ve only assembled one so far, so I still need to put together the other one and move out the round table on the other side of the bed.

So there you have it–Mr. Bunches and I have finally grown up . . . we’re no longer sleeping on the floor!  Baby steps, right?

Anyone else ever try to comparison shop mattresses?  Why do they have to make the whole thing so difficult?  Not to mention claiming that every mattress is on sale all the time–I mean, who do they think they’re kidding?

Blue Velvet

You know, I’ve never seen the movie Blue Velvet, but with Twin Peaks’ star Kyle Maclachlan in it, methinks I should?  Anyone out there have an opinion?

Okay, so this post isn’t about random movies that I’m thinking about seeing.  Nope, it’s yet another thrifting post!  I know–can you hardly stand the excitement?  Since I had some good success the last time I went thrifting (see more here), I figured it was worth another shot.  And since I had to go to Rochester to buy new flooring tiles for our half bath (more on that soon), I thought I’d scope out some thrift stores en route.

First stop: Batavia, NY.  One word: JACKPOT.  At least for a mid-century modern buff like me.  Just check these pieces out:

You’ll have to forgive the poor picture quality–these were taken on my crackberry.  Can you believe those two?  A matching hutch and sideboard for only $150!

I really loved that sideboard/dresser.  It was in perfect condition, and with a little refinishing, it could make a gorgeous piece.  Of course, the hutch was nice too, but I’m not really a hutch type of girl.

I was kind of bummed out that they were being sold together.  But since I was also on my own for this outing (thrifting isn’t really the Mr.’s thing), there was no way that I would be able to get either piece into the car.  I mean, I think I’m strong and all, but I’m not so sure about being that  strong.

Oh, and for those of you who aren’t that into mid-century modern, you probably don’t know that the stuff’s pretty popular these days.  Similar pieces can go for big money.  Like this hutch for $895 (you can buy it here):

Of course, Batavia not only had some great wood pieces, but it also had this beauty:

Yep, that’s right–it’s the namesake of this post and I sort of love it.  Now, before you get all skeeved out about buying an upholstered piece from a thrift store, I’d just like to point out that these pieces can be cleaned or even completely reupholstered.  Emily Henderson does it all the time–just look at her couch that she got at an LA thrift store (she didn’t even have it reupholstered):

Now, the Blue Velvet I found isn’t quite as charming, but I’m still digging it.  And it was in great condition–a little dusty, but no holes or stains in the velvet, and just look at that tufting!  Sigh.

I’m not completely in love with the skirted bottom, but I can forgive some sins.  OH, and wanna know the price?  $80!  Yes, only $80.  Now if I can only convince Mr. B that we need to get it.  I mean, for $80 how can you really go that wrong, right?  I think it would look kind of rad at the end of our bed, sort of like this (image from here):

But it would also work well in our work-in-progress family room/play room (more on that here; oh, and we went with stripes–updated pictures coming soon).  Anyways, fingers crossed I can convince Mr. B that this couch is a good idea (oh, and fingers crossed that it’s still sitting at the thrift store in Batavia, right?).  I’ll keep you posted.

Traveling on, I came across yet another great long dresser.  With some new knobs and a little refinishing, I think this piece could also be stunning:

And then there were also these cute framed original pieces of art.  I wasn’t so much digging the art, but the frames were pretty rad . . . especially in that punchy yellow.  I’m a little bit regretting that I didn’t purchase these two (I think at this point I was getting very hungry and so I didn’t stay as focused as I needed to):

So can you believe that all that cool stuff has been hiding out in Batavia?  I stopped in a couple places closer to Rochester, but found nothing.  Wah.  Although, I did stop into one place in Buffalo and came across this stunner:

Now, obviously this piece would need to be reupholstered (unless of course your style is all Grandma-and-Grandpa-from-the-1960s-and-we-update-nothing; in which case–props to you).  But just check out the lines of it–nice deep seat, pleating along the back, sloping arms, and dainty little pointy legs.  I have to tell you–I think the shape of it is amazing.  And at $40, with probably another $150 + the cost of fabric for reupholstering, I think it’s a pretty good deal.  But there was only one of them.  And I’m kind of on the lookout for a pair of rad chairs to go in the family room.  Now, if this were a glider, it would be a different story–how cool would that be for the nursery?  Maybe reupholstered in a white linen?  Sigh.

So there you have it.  Another thrifting adventure.  Anyone else find anything cool on a thrift hunt?  Any thoughts on Blue Velvet?


Yes, that’s right.  Mr. Bunches and I are Ikealess, i.e. without a nearby Ikea.  And that means we can’t make things like an unbelievably amazing fauxdenza out of Ikea cabinets (you can check out the full tutorial here on The Brick House):

And we also can’t come up with any creative Ikea Hacks for inclusion at, like for example this totally ingenius (although needs-some-improved-spacing-of-the-sliderssliding door hack:

Tangent: I’m seriously in love with the whole barn-door-on-the-inside concept.  My sister in Cali probably has the coolest one I’ve ever seen, and next time I’m there I’ll definitely have to snap a pic to share, but for now I’ll just show you this one via Pinterest . . .

Tangent over.  Back to seemingly pointless post.

Okay, so back to my Ikealess pity party.  No Ikea.  At least within a 4 hour drive inside the United States (I think there are some closer ones in Canada, but for some reason buying stuff in Canada currently intimidates me; or maybe it’s just the Customs agents on the border that intimidate me . . . not sure why I get so scared going across the border, particularly when I have literally nothing to hide, but it sure does get to me every time.  Every.  Single.  Time.). 

Of course, some may argue that not having an Ikea nearby is a good thing.  Because, as anyone who’s purchased one of those flat-boxes-that-makes-you-scratch-your-head-wondering-how-that-one-flat-box-is-going-to-somehow-turn-into-a-five-drawer-dresser knows, it can be nothing but pure torture.  Torture I say!  100 pieces and only a 3-inch allen wrench for assembly?!  Surely you jest Ikea.  Surely?

So maybe the Mr. and I are blessed.  My friend Tom would probably say we are . . . he had his own deeply personal Ikea fail recently, which he chronicled in a short video.  It made me laugh; it made me cry; but most of all, it reminded me of that deep-down hatred for Ikea that is somehow forgotten everytime I flip through their catalog and walk into their store (both of which also have the odd effect of making me wish I lived in 250 square feet so that I, too, could be this organized:)

Maybe then I too would have time to play the cello.  And three violins.  Maybe.

Anyone else have a love/hate relationship with Ikea?  Are the Mr. and I blessed to be far away from the nearest store?  Or will our new home (and our wallets) suffer the consequences of buying regular, assembled-by-someone-else furniture?

Jack Attack

Union Jack that is.  Just found this while I was blog-trolling, and I’m totally going to make copy it!  Isn’t it stunning?!?!

It was made by the Southern Eclectic aka Sheridan French.  I’m totally in love.  Now I just need to find a suitable dresser . . . Mr.–you up for some yard sailing this weekend?!

Project 2: Leather Drawer Pulls

As promised, here are the details on how I made the leather pleather drawer pulls on my recently refinished veneer dresser.

Of course, I have to give credit to my original inspiration for the idea, so here’s that beauty one more time:

And yes, a real leather belt would be ideal, and maybe down the road I’ll change the handles if I find a good deal on one, but for now, I’m happy with my $2.50 pleather belt from Goodwill:

White Belt

Step 1: Determine Handle Size.  Cut Belt.  Mark Holes.  To determine the best size for the belt, start by using the end of the belt that already has holes in it–obviously that part is unusable for handles, so it makes sense to determine the best size from those pieces.  And here, just play around.  Start a little longer at first, working your way shorter until you have something that looks good.  At first, I used the original dresser handles as a guide, but that resulted in this:

Ick, right?  See how it’s just too long and goofy looking?  It just looked sloppy to me, so I cut off another inch to get to a length that looked more reasonable.  Then, just cut all the pieces the same length and mark your holes from your trial piece.

Oh, and I rounded the edges just a bit on the cuts–you know, to make it look more professional and not so pleathery.  But that’s up to you.

Step 2: Seal the Pleather Edges (Skip this Step if Using Real Leather) Since my belt was pleather and also had stitching, I wanted to make sure it didn’t fray over time.  So I used a little bit of super glue along the cut edges of each piece to keep everything in place.  Make sure to just use a little bit and give it ample drying time before touching it (the last thing you want to do is super glue your fingers to a pleather belt–try explaining that one in the ER!).  You could also use any fabric or regular household glue since all you want to do is create a seal along the cut edges; I used super glue because we had it and I knew it dried quickly (hard to believe, I know, but sometimes I can be quite impatient).

Step 3: Poke Your Holes.  Somehow that just sounds wrong, doesn’t it?  Oh well.  You need to poke your pre-marked holes (from Step 1) with something sharp.  Alternatively, if you own a leather punch, by all means–USE IT.  I, however, did not have a leather punch.   But, I did have a leatherman–close enough, right?  So just use some part of the leatherman (a small screwdriver would also work just fine), and a little elbow grease to accomplish this:

Then, just wiggle it around to make the hole wide enough for your hardware.  Repeat to make holes in all your handles.

Step 4: Attach Hardware.  Since the hardware was going to show on the front of the handles, I didn’t want to just use screws and bolts (although that could be a good look if you want something more industrial-like), so I used Aluminum Posts.  You can find them in the hardware aisle at your local Home Depot or Lowe’s and they come in a variety of sizes:

Initially, I brought home 3/4″, 1″, and 1 1/4″ length posts to see which one fit the best given the depth of the drawer front and handle.  In the end, the 1″ one was right, so I returned the other 2 and bought the remaining 11 ones needed.  They cost $1.14 each.

Also, since the posts were wider than the original hardware screws in the drawer, I did have to drill holes in the drawer front using a 1/4″ drill bit.  That allowed the posts to slide right in, easy-peasy style.  Next step–just put the posts through the handles and attach to the dresser (I had the handles done before the dresser was dry from the polyurethane, so in order to avoid losing the inside screw bits, I attached them to the posts:)

Step 5: Attach to Dresser.  Enjoy!  Just slide the posts through the holes, attach the screws, and enjoy!

All in all, pretty simple, right?  I definitely think I’ll keep an eye out for a real white or off-white leather belt for a quick swap-out in the future, but for now, I’m digging this just fine.

Total cost breakdown for this project (this cost was incorporated into the total dresser overhaul cost too):

  • Electric Drill: (already owned)
  • Super Glue: (already owned)
  • White pleather belt: $2.50
  • Aluminum post screws for handles: $13.68

Total cost for funky cool new dresser handles: $16.18.  So there you have it–new dresser handles on the cheap.  What do you think?  Do you agree that I should keep my eye out for a real-deal leather version?  Or are you feeling it for these handles?

Online Shopping Deals

With the move into our new house looming just around the corner, the Mr. and I have been readying ourselves with some Internet comparison shopping.  See, we already know that there’s going to be a lot to buy . . . yard tools, paint, a new kitchen, toilets, furniture, and all the random stuff that you don’t know you need until you move in.  And since we tend to over-research every buying decision possible, we thought we’d pass on some useful links that have helped us save money so far (and hopefully a lot more in the future) and might help you as well.  Of course, this is definitely not complete, so if you know of any more, please post a comment with your suggestions.

Our newest favorite is eBates, where you get cash back for purchases you make online.  The percentage of cash back varies by store, but we recently used it for some purchases at NewEgg and we got a check in the mail for $15!  Not bad, huh?  All you do is log in to eBates as a starting point, then search for the store that you want to shop at, click through to that store and shop away.  Oh, and you can still use coupon codes at your destination store–how’s that for a double whammy?!

Speaking of coupon codes, our favorite site for those is  Just enter the store in the search box and find all the coupon codes currently available (and whether or not they work).  We always check this site before every single online purchase and usually  get lucky and find at least one code that helps with our purchase.  Generally, we just write down the coupon code (to input later at checkout) instead of clicking through to it; that way, we can click through to the site from eBates and make use of both the cash back rebate as well as the coupon code.  How you like that?!

If you’re shopping for tech gadgets (such as computers, cameras, etc.), we recommend checking out  Consumer Reports recommends the site as an initial stop when shopping for high ticket items, and we recently found it to be a great resource when we bought our new laptop.  It basically lists “hot” deals every day from a bunch of different shopping sites, so it’s a good starting point in what can be a pretty overwhelming Internet shopping world, particularly for big ticket items.

Okay, so hopefully somebody finds this useful . . . and just think of what you can spend all that saved money on?  Maybe a house-warming gift for the Bunches?!  Aww–that’s so nice of you to think of us ;).

Project 1: Refinishing a *Thinly* Veneered Dresser

As promised, I’m here to spill all the details of how my first home-related project went . . . the highs, the lows, and all the in-betweens.  As you know (if you’ve been paying attention), I started with this:

A dresser covered in thin veneer, but nevertheless with a great timeless mid-century style.  So I gathered my supplies (there’s a list of all the supplies at the end of the post in case you’re interested in the details) . . .

And then I took these steps to get to my final product . . .

Step 1: Do Your Research  When starting any new project, I always Google the hell out of it; meaning I try to research it to within an inch of its life so that, god forbid, I don’t make a single mistake, but instead do everything perfectly.  And that is why I rarely start new projects–my research usually makes me too scared of somehow screwing up and ruining my life (no seriously–sometimes I get that dramatic about it).  BUT, now that I have the Mr. by my side with his carefree, devil-may-care attitude, I’ve learned to loosen up and just go for it.  What’s the worst that can happen, right?  If I ruin a $50 Craigslist dresser, my life will not end.  Or at least the Mr. promises me it won’t.

So for this project, I just did some basic research instead of getting bogged down in all the possible variations for refinishing a dresser (there are lots, btw, so this is just the route I chose, and I’m making no affirmative statement that it is the best way–it’s really just one way).  For this project, I searched “how to refinish a veneer dresser” and I ended up at YHL’s site to see their nursery dresser overhaul, but also at Minwax’s site for a video tutorial on refinishing.  The video gave some very useful advice for testing what kind of finish your furniture piece has–shellac or polyurethane, and then gave you steps (albeit only using Minwax products) for how to proceed; in short, I’d recommend watching it before embarking on any refinishing adventure.

Step 2: Determine Furniture Finish and Plan of Attack  The video advised using nail polish remover and a cotton ball to test what type of finish was currently on the furniture (of course, that’s only if you plan to remove the finish; if, instead, you want to restore some luster to the existing finish, just rub on Tung Oil–I definitely plan to try that route in the future on a piece that doesn’t need a whole new look, but just a good shine).  Once you know the finish, if you then wanted to use a chemical stripping agent, you’d know which one to buy.  If the cotton ball ends up looking dirty and pulling up some of the finish, then that means the piece was covered in shellac or lacquer and you would need a product like Formby’s Refinisher to dissolve the old finish; however, if the cotton ball stays clean, that means the piece is covered in polyurethane, and so you need a paint and poly remover like this one.  Your local hardware store experts can guide you to the products and materials you need, but at least this test allows you to go to the store armed with some information.

I used some cotton swabs (we didn’t have any cotton balls) and some of the Mr.’s nail polish remover ;) to test the top and sides of the dresser.  Since the cotton swabs got dirty (see that black stuff?  that didn’t come out of the Mr.’s ears), I knew then that the dresser was covered in shellac or lacquer.

Nail Polish Remover Cotton Ball Test

But, I wasn’t sold on the idea of using a solvent to strip the dresser.  See, I already owned an electric sander and the sandpaper, and I was trying to stay on the cheap end of things (and also the lazy end of not wanting to drive out to our local Lowe’s for more supplies).  So I figured I might as well go the sanding route and just see what happened–if I ruined the thin veneer, then I would just paint the dresser and consider it a good lesson learned for the future.  So there it was–my plan of attack: sand off the dresser’s finish to get down to the bare wood veneer, stain it, poly it, and enjoy!  (Even though my inspiration pieces were painted white, I decided initially that I wanted to keep the whole piece natural wood if possible; as you’ll see, everything didn’t quite go as planned . . . )

Step 3: Clean the Dresser Before I started, I gave the dresser a quick wipedown with just a damp rag, removed the drawers, and removed all the drawer pulls.  This way, I was set to start sanding.

Step 4: Sand.  Keep sanding.  Sand some more.  Soak your arm in ice water.  Here’s where we bring in the power tool: the electric sander (insert your own Tim the Toolman grunt here).  Oh, and of course–safety first!  Make sure you wear eye protection and a face mask so that you don’t get lungs full of sawdust.  Plus, this is a messy job, so do it outside or in a garage; definitely don’t tackle this inside or else you’ll have sawdust EVERYWHERE.

Start with the 100-grit sandpaper (quick sandpaper lesson: most of you probably know this, but the numbers on sandpaper tell you how rough it is–the lower the number, the rougher the grit, and the faster it will sand down whatever it is you’re sanding).  Keep in mind that you don’t want to be too aggressive with the sanding since the veneer is very thin, and you don’t want to sand right through it.  And always sand in the direction of the wood grain–in the case of the drawers, this meant I sanded everything lengthwise.

Since I started off nervous about sanding through to plywood, I applied almost no pressure, but then I realized I wasn’t getting anywhere (let me tell ‘ya–after an hour, that was an awesome realization).  It was only when I got to the 6th drawer that I finally got somewhere . . . I had been so gentle on the other drawers that I hadn’t really changed their appearance at all.  With the 6th drawer, though, I decided to go a little harder and then I saw this:

See the difference?  Now I knew what the bare wood looked like (the areas on the left above), and that it meant I needed to get rid of all the shiny stuff, not just rough up the shiny stuff (the stain won’t be able to penetrate unless it’s bare wood).  This may seem obvious to all of you, but at the time I was just playing it safe, so forgive me for being slow.  Anyways, now I knew the goal–get rid of the dark, shiny stuff; this meant I had to redo all the drawers.  Awesome.  But finally, after my arm was practically numb, all six drawers were looking shellac-free . . .

Of course, that doesn’t mean that everything was perfect.  There were definitely some areas (particularly along the edges) where the veneer had pretty much disappeared:

But with all my chillaxing lessons from the Mr., I wasn’t worried.  I figured it just gave the dresser some character.

Next up, sanding the dresser and all the nooks and crannies.  I used the electric sander for the sides of the dresser, but I had to hand sand the curves on the front of the piece along with the rounded legs.  Here’s a shot of the side halfway through sanding–note again the difference between the lighter left side and the darker, still-shellac-covered right side:

Even though the top of the dresser seemed quite different than the rest of the piece, I still decided to try and sand it.  First with 100-grit sandpaper, but after seeing no progress, I switched to a stronger, 60-grit paper.  But, something still didn’t seem right.  For one, the dust was all white.  I’m not 100% sure, but I think the top may have just been some type of laminate.  Here’s what it looked like after my sanding attempts:

Not quite what I was hoping for . . . :(.  But oh well, right?  It’s just a dresser–no use crying over it!  So I just changed my plan–I decided I’d paint the top white, in which case the sanding wasn’t a complete waste of time since it was a necessary step so that the primer would stick to it, but more on that in a bit.

Once I sanded everything down with the 100-grit sandpaper, I then switched to the 220-grit in order to get a really smooth finish.  Using the 220 went much faster since I had already sanded off everything I was trying to remove; the 220 was just to get it as smooth as possible.

Step 5: Apply Pre-Stain Wood Conditioner (Optional)  Once all the sanding was done (it probably took me about 5-6 hours with quite a few breaks thrown in so I could regain feeling in my hands), I wiped down the pieces with a barely damp rag (if you wipe down sanded wood with a soaking wet rag, chances are you’ll raise the wood grain and have to sand the whole thing over again–so consider yourself warned).  I then decided to apply Minwax’s Water-Based Pre-Stain Wood Conditioner to all the surfaces I planned to stain.

Why?  One of two reasons:

  1. Either I’m a total sucker–see, the directions on the back of the Minwax can of stain suggested using the company’s Pre-Stain Wood Conditioner to ensure that the stain went on smoothly instead of splotchy (is that a word?).  And so sometimes I like to follow directions to the letter, which therein led me to buy the Wood Conditioner on a whim when I was at Lowe’s; OR . . . 
  2. The Wood Conditioner ensures that the stain gets soaked into the wood evenly, thereby avoiding any darker or lighter spots (again–this is what the can told me would happen).
So, did it help?  Well, it’s hard to tell because I didn’t try staining any pieces without it.  However, in the end, I thought the stain went on pretty evenly, but whether that was a result of the wood conditioner or not, I guess we’ll never know.  Maybe next time I tackle a similar project I’ll skip this part and let you know what happens.  Either way, I loved how the wood conditioner made the wood look–just check out the difference between the unconditioned drawers (on the left) and the conditioned ones (on the right):
And check out the side of the dresser in all its conditioned goodness . . .
Nice, huh?  So how do you do it?  Well–use a foam brush to apply a heavy coat of the wood conditioner in the direction of the grain (it’s milky white in color).  Then, let it sit for a few minutes (the directions advise anywhere from 1-5 minutes; I left it on for 3 minutes) so that it can soak in.  It will look like this during the soaking-in process:

Once the time is up, use one of your painter’s rags to wipe off the excess.  Be sure to wipe in the direction of the grain.  Then, let the Wood Conditioner set for at least 30 minutes before moving on to the next step.  Make sure you apply it to every part that you plan on staining; for me, this was everything except the very top of the dresser.

Step 6: Apply Stain  Once the Wood Conditioner has set, it’s time to get your stain on.  Now, there are lots of stain options out there: oil-based, water-based, and gel stains to name a few.  I decided to just use what I had on hand, which was a Minwax water-based stain in American Walnut.  I wanted a deep, chocolatey brown and this fit the bill.  Plus, since I already owned it, it was free.

But, Minwax has lots of color options and there are tons of other stain companies as well, so don’t feel limited.  The Mr. even suggested that we go with something more vibrant, like Sangria, but I shot that idea down.

Sorry Bunches–maybe next time?

Once you’ve picked out your stain, you need to ready your staining area.  Make sure your piece is on top of something that you don’t care about (I used some old moving boxes) and that you’re wearing old clothes.  Since water-based stain is pretty runny, it can end up anywhere.  Again, consider yourself warned.  Make sure you have your painter’s rags (or cut-up old t-shirt) handy, and rubber gloves aren’t a bad idea here either (and definitely a must if you’re using oil-based stain).  Then, just apply the stain with a foam brush in the direction of the grain and keep an eye on your watch.  Here’s a shot of the stain soaking into the drawer:

I let the stain soak in for 3 minutes before wiping it off with a rag that was lightly dampened with the stain.  I used light pressure to wipe off the stain so that I didn’t remove too much, and I wiped in the direction of the grain.  Here’s the after shots:

Do the same thing for all the drawers and for the dresser.  Try to allow the stain to soak in for the same amount of time everywhere (this means you have to apply it to just a few areas at a time–two drawers, or one whole side, etc.) and apply even pressure when you wipe off the stain in order to discourage any blotchiness or uneven spots (hopefully the Wood Conditioner helps here).  Let the stain cure up for at least 2 hours before deciding whether or not to do a second coat.  Here’s what the dresser looked like after one coat of stain:

You can tell from the last picture that it was a little blotchy in spots.  I think that was probably due to the fact that I got a little lazy with my sanding–particularly on the legs and curvy parts of the dresser.  And it really wasn’t as dark as I wanted it, so I decided to do a second coat.  I followed the same procedure as before–apply, let sit for 3 minutes, and wipe away with even pressure.  After two coats, I was left with this:

Much better, don’t you think?

Step 7: Prime and Paint Top of Dresser  Since the top of the dresser was covered in some type of laminate, I ended up having to paint it.  Once I had sanded it down, I then primed it with Kilz Oil-Based Primer with a foam brush (I hate cleaning brushes after using oil-based paints, so I always use foam ones so that I can just throw them away).

Make sure you apply a thin, even coat.  It doesn’t need to totally block out the dark laminate underneath, but instead you just want to make sure it covers the entire surface so that your paint has something to grab ahold of.  Once it’s dry (I let it dry overnight), do a quick sand of it with 220-grit sandpaper to make sure there are no brush marks.

Then, apply light, even coats of the latex paint of your choice (I used Lowe’s Olympus low-VOC paint in Semi-Gloss in the off-the-shelf white).  And I used a foam roller to apply it so that there were no visible brush strokes (thanks for the hint Carrie!).  You have to apply thin coats though, and do enough to get the coverage you want (I went a little overboard and did 7 separate coats–yes, I’m crazy).  You only need to wait about 30 minutes between coats of paint, though, so it’s not that bad; just wrap your roller in plastic wrap and stick it in the fridge so the paint on it doesn’t dry out (it’ll actually last days like that; the same trick works for paintbrushes as well).

Step 8: Wait Two Days.  ‘Nough said.

Step 9: Apply 2 Coats of Polyurethane.  After you’ve let the dresser cure up for at least two full days, it’s time to add some shine to your piece.  I wanted it nice and glossy, so I chose to use Minwax’s Water-Based Polycrylic Protective Finish in Clear Gloss.  Make sure to apply the polyurethane in a well-ventilated area (open garages are perfect for this).  Apply a thin coat with a foam brush or roller, making sure to not go back over what you just covered or else you’ll leave rough patches.  So just resist the urge!  If you do end up with any rough patches though, just let it dry, and then sand the area with 220-grit paper, wipe off the dust, and do another coat of poly.

Allow your first coat to dry for at least 5 hours before applying another coat.  Check out how nice and shiny the drawers looked while drying . . .

Step 10: Wait 3 Days. Add Drawer Handles.  Enjoy!! Once you’ve finished with the two coats of polyurethane, allow the pieces to dry and cure for at least 3 days–that will make sure the surface is good, hard, and strong.  Then, add your hardware, put the drawers back in, and sit back to marvel at what you’re hard work has accomplished . . .

So what do you think?!  Do you like it?  I’ll show you how I made the drawer handles in another post, but for now, here’s the total cost breakdown for my first project:

  • Electric Sander: (already owned–bought it at Walmart years ago, but it’s similar to this one for $45)
  • Sandpaper, 100-grit and 220-grit: (already owned)
  • Painter’s Rags: (already owned; alternatively, just cut up an old t-shirt since that’s all Painter’s Rags are anyways)
  • Minwax Water-Based Pre-Stain Wood Conditioner: $11.87
  • Minwax Water-Based Wood Stain in American Walnut: (already owned)
  • Kilz Interior Oil-Base Primer: (already owned)
  • Olympic Low-Voc Semi-Gloss Interior Latex Paint in White: $10.47
  • 6″ Foam Roller: $4.97
  • 6 Pack 2″ Foam Paintbrushes: $3.58
  • Painter’s Mask: (already owned)
  • Eye Protection: (already owned)
  • Minwax Water-Based Polycrylic Protective Finish in Clear Gloss: (already owned)
  • White pleather belt: $2.50
  • Aluminum post screws for handles: $13.68
Total cost, including the $50 for the dresser, was $97.07.  And from start to finish, it took about a week (that includes all the drying time), but real work time was probably ~14 hours.  Not bad, right?
One last look back–I started here . . .
. . . and ended here:
So there you go–a 10-step program for refinishing a dresser . . . and in only 3,063 words!  Phew.
Update: The finished dresser is now the changing table in Mini B’s nursery.  Check it out here.

Craigslist Dresser Discovery

Now that we’ve bought a house and have a closing scheduled, I’ve been scouring Craigslist for good furniture finds to not only furnish our new home, but also to give me an outlet for trying out some of the projects that I’ve got rolling around in my head.  So a week ago, I found these two dressers on Buffalo’s Craigslist and I knew they’d be perfect:

Craigslist Dresser 2

The mid-century style was just what I was looking for, and the sizes were right–66″ long for the first, 54″ long for the second.  Clean lines, good storage–what more could you ask for?

The seller was asking $65 each, and advertised them as solid wood, so I went to take a look.  Both were in good condition (the drawers all worked, the legs were sturdy) but they definitely needed to be refinished.  So I offered $100 for the pair, and the seller accepted.  Score, right?!  Well, I thought so too until it came time to get them from Buffalo to Brockport, and that’s when my bubble burst a little.  We could only fit the smaller one in our car, so unfortunately, that was the only one we got.  :(  It would’ve cost too much to rent a truck to try and get the longer one, so it was a no go.  But, for only $50, I was still pretty psyched to at least get one.

Here’s a shot once we got it home:

Good bones, right?  It had dovetailed drawers . . .

. . . but, it turned out to be totally veneered (someone with more experience with furniture I’m sure would have been able to figure this out sooner than I did, but oh well–lesson learned):

How can you tell that a piece is veneered?  Well, if you look at the picture of the top of the dresser, you can see that the edge is clearly a piece of veneer (basically really thin wood) glued down (another hint–it’s chipped; even another hint–real wood doesn’t have seams).  An easier way to tell?  Check out the bottom or sometimes the back of a piece . . .

From the bottom of the piece, you can see that there are pieces of veneer glued to a piece of plywood.  And the veneer is pretty thin to boot.  Bummer, huh?

But, I still had high hopes for my ability to refinish it, and I’ll do a post about my refinishing adventure later this week to let you know how it worked out (it’s currently still a work in progress, but overall I think it’ll be good ;) ).  For now, here are some shots of my inspiration for this project:

YHL’s nursery dresser . . .

. . . and this beauty from Design*Sponge (which is also available on Etsy for $950) by Matt . . .

Any ideas now where the white belt from yesterday might end up . . . ?

So there it is–think I can do it?  You better!  Or else you might get hit with my new brass knuckles (aka the dresser’s old handles) . . .

Images of dressers from here and here.

Goodwill Hunting

Another great thing about moving to small town America (aka Brockport) from Boston is that there are still great finds to be had in the local Goodwill (unlike Boston where it’s so picked over).  Now, many of you may choose to never set foot in a Goodwill store–whether it’s the odd smell that is uniform to all such stores (a certain mix of old people stink, dust, and a too-weak cleaning product of some kind), or it’s that the idea of buying someone else’s discarded stuff is just gross–but sometimes, and more often in smaller towns, there are some great things just waiting to be discovered (albeit usually underneath a bunch of really tacky tchotkes).  Oh, and you can also leave there with a double feel-good whammy: you probably scored a bargain AND you helped people in need.  So no, this is not a post about a great Bean Town movie–sorry.

Instead, it’s about our Goodwill hunting trip.  This weekend we not only checked out our local Goodwill in Brockport, but we also stopped at the area Volunteers of America store.  Both were quite the pleasant surprise.  Why the hunt this past weekend?  Well, I needed a white leather belt, but I didn’t want to spend a lot of money, so I thought those would be good places to try.  Why did I need a white belt?  Because I had an old-lady 80s party to go to?  Unfortunately, no.  I needed a white belt so I could make handles for a dresser I’m refinishing.  Duh.  More on that later this week, though.  So did I find a white leather belt?  You betcha I did (with some help from the Mr.):

White Belt

Oh, and bonus: anything in Goodwill with a blue tag was 50% off!  So that stylish belt only cost me $2.50.  I know you’re jealous.   And maybe confused since the belt isn’t actually white?  No worries–you just have to flip it over.  Genious, aren’t I?  Of course, we didn’t leave with just the belt–how could we?  This was a pretty new Goodwill–very spacious and with only a hint of that special scent.  So we poked around, and then I found this:

Totally rad, right?  It needs a lamp shade, and I’m a bit undecided on whether to leave it as is or paint it, but either way, I’m digging it.  And since it has a mid-century modern vibe happening, it should fit right into our 1962 house.  Plus–the price was right–only $8.99, so I just couldn’t pass it up.  The Mr. even thought that the tag was blue, but apparently it was teal–so no dice on an extra 50% off.

What do you think?  Should I paint it?  Or just polish it up and leave it as is?  Any suggestions for what type of shade?  I was thinking a simple white drum shade–maybe one that’s a bit long and slender vs. fat and wide (that’s what she said).  Thoughts?  Here’s an attempt at what it would look like painted white:

So what do you think?

Next, we headed to Volunteers of America to see what else we could discover (I think at this point even the Mr. had caught the thrifting bug).  Well, our luck continued.  I found this glass dome and teak cutting board set for only $2.99:

It reminded me of this one from Crate & Barrel (for $29.95):

Not bad that I paid only 10% of what the Crate & Barrel one cost, right?  Mine originally came with a metal plate with Goodwood inscribed on it, but I took that piece off and threw it away since it’s not really my style . . .

. . . but then I did some Google searches to see if I could find out how much similar items were worth.  Turns out a lot more than the $2.99 I spent.  Check out this one on Etsy for $35:

And I found similar ones on eBay for up to $90!  So, of course, I then dug the Goodwood metal plate out of the trash, washed it off, and put it back in the dome.  Who knows if I’ll keep it, or maybe start my own vintage store on Etsy to sell this and all the other great Western New York finds . . . there was even another one of these at VOA that I passed on (the Mr. doesn’t like me to accumulate too much “garbage” as he likes to call it), so maybe I’ll go back and snag that one to sell online?  What do you think–have I found my new calling?

Anyways, after our luck at the VOA and Goodwill, I thought we should take a look at a local antiques super store, The Carriage Place.  I’ve driven by signs for it every day on my commute, and so what better time to take a look than over a long weekend, right?  It was actually pretty cool–it’s a large warehouse that has divided space for different vendors to rent and stock as they see fit . . . kind of like Leaping Lotus out in Solana Beach, CA except with a focus on antiques instead of art and home decor (btw–next time you’re in Southern California, definitely spend some time browsing around Solana Beach–you won’t be disappointed).  The Mr. and I enjoyed poking around and checking out some interesting items . . .

. . . old hardcover books to line your shelves and make visitors think you like to read . . .

. . . vintage tins, baking supplies, and cooking tools that would look charming in a country kitchen . . .

. . . wood boxes that would be perfect for a casual centerpiece if filled with flowers or maybe grass (Carrie–they were only $5 each, so let me know if you want me to go back and get them for you) . . .

. . . JOANNE–check out the old Cod Liver Oil bottle!!!  How great is that?! (Joanne is the one that’s behind the Mr. and I taking our daily dose of CLO, so of course I thought of her immediately when I saw this.)

Cod Liver Oil bottle

CLO Dosage Instructions

. . . the Mr. enjoyed some of the vintage comics . . .

. . . while I got a kick out of these old-school postcards that folded out accordion-style . . .

Postcard Portfolio

Postcard pics

Aren’t those great?  They had ones for just about everywhere–I loved the vintage fonts and pictures.  We decided to buy one from Lake Placid since that was one of our first vacation spots together, and one of the Mr.’s favoritest places in the whole wide world.  Awww . . . aren’t we just too cute?

My other favorite piece was this rocking chair, but at $150, and in desperate need of some reupholstering, I just couldn’t justify it . . .

Rocking chair

So that completes our first Goodwill hunting trip, but based on our successes, you can bet there will be more!


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