A Pinterest Project; a study in determination

I am a bit of a Pinterest junky.  I love going on there to look up all the cool crafty projects, cute sayings and home improvement projects.  I must have hundreds of saved pins.  I love looking at everyone’s perfect looking pins of holiday decor, pot roasts and smiling happy families while day dreaming about my rambunctious, chaotic house somehow becoming transformed to a page from Better Homes & Gardens.

I convinced myself that these projects are all completed by average every day human beings with full time jobs and limited budgets and decided to take one on.  I saw an amazing table and a great tutorial on two different blogs.  The first used a custom stencil to personalize an old table and the second had listed every single product the woman purchased to transform her old table.  I thought “What a breeze, there’s even a shopping list. I can do this in a weekend!” and transform my 45 year old crappy looking kitchen table and equally ugly chairs.

I went online to www.stencilsonline.com and created my own personalized stencil for a mere $45, made a shopping list from blog #2 and spent another $50 at Home Depot.  I then proceed to purchase 5 yards of faux leather to recover my seat cushions for another $125 (I had a coupon!).  Ready to go!    So here it is step by step, with photos…..just like a real pinterest blogger.

Here’s the old table.  It is not what anyone would refer to as “fine furniture”.  My mother in law bought it in 1967 and it has huge sentimental value because it was the first piece of furniture they purchased after they came to this country from Cuba.  It’s been well loved (i.e. beat up from here to next month) as you can see by the close up of the green Easter egg dye stain.

I also had a lovely collection of mismatched chairs that go with the table.  Some of the chairs are solid wood (those with white cushions) and some are a weird hybrid of plastic seat back and front legs with wood back legs and frames.

Everything had to be stripped.  According to the two blogs sanding was the way to go but I knew enough about refinishing to know that you never sand veneer or you might take the entire top layer off and ruin the table.  So I planned on stripping the table and sanding the chairs just enough to “rough them up” so the paint would stick.  I wanted to paint the chairs and just the legs of the table off white, but stain the table top a walnut brown and add my lovely new stencil to the top.

So….back to the 2nd blog’s handy list of all the products.  I’m convinced this lady is in either England or Australia or has a lucrative contract with Valspar.  I couldn’t find ANYTHING she listed.  She said she removed old stain and varnish with something called “deglosser”.  The paint guy at home depot looked at me like I had 3 heads when I asked him about it and then handed me this stuff.

Well it worked like a charm.  So great that I thought, “what the heck, I’m putting it on the 4 wooden chairs!”.  BIG MISTAKE.  It was way too hard to scrape those skinny pieces of the chair, especially that middle part of the seat back.  It took me TWO DAYS just to get that crud off of four chairs!  Then I pulled out a palm sander and tried to blast off all of the stripping goop. Here’s my advice.  DON’T DO IT.  My chairs ended up looking like dalmatians in the end.  The cheap half plastic chairs ended up looking A LOT nicer.

Ok, now, two days later everything was stripped.  I needed to start staining and painting.  I bought four cans of ivory spray paint for the table legs and eight chairs.  According to blog #2 she used half a can per chair.  NOPE!  Four cans barely covered the table a two chairs.  Those wooden chairs I stripped instead of sanded soaked up paint like a sponge! When all was said and done I used about TWELVE cans of spray paint.  I went back to Home Depot and bought the entire supply of this paint,  Then I went to another Home Depot in the next town and cleaned them out of their supply of Rust-Oleum Ivory Gloss.  So if you live in my neck of the woods and are itching to paint something ivory gloss….pick another color because it’s all gone.

Another note……don’t do this on a windy day.  It takes forever.  Maybe that’s another reason why it took 12 cans.  Here’s the chairs getting painted.  Noticed how I used my tablecloths as drop cloths because I am so confident I will never need them to cover up an ugly table again:

I realized I didn’t have a drop cloth (i.e table cloth) big enough for this table to extend well past the edges when I flipped it over to protect the top while I paint the legs.  Back to Home Depot for the 4th time….

Finally – now time to finish the top!!!  EXCITING!!!  Can’t wait to use that stencil!!!!

That thing that looks like an iron in this photo is actually a cordless sander.  I know, I know….don’t sand veneer, but I used a super fine finishing sandpaper so I would not be grinding the whole thing down.  It was all cool…..turned out nice and smooth.

Now….according to blog #1 with the stencil, you are suppose to FIRST put the stencil on the bare wood with a dark stain and THEN go over the top with your stain color for the entire table.

WRONG…. or at least wrong somewhere other than Australia or England.  I bought the only dark stain Home Depot carried and when I went to apply it here:

It ran all under the stencil and looked like someone threw up black stain on the middle of the table.  I panicked, screamed and then soaked a rag in mineral spirits and started scrubbing my ever-loving heart out.  Why did blogger #1 lie to me???  Well, she didn’t.  I did not read it correctly.  She said to use something called “glaze” because it’s thicker than regular stain.  She even emphasized the part about NOT using regular stain.

So for my 5th trip back to Home Depot I asked for “glaze” at which the paint lady (it must have been the guy’s day off) had her turn to look at my lovely 3rd head.  There is no such thing as “glaze” at Home Depots outside of Australia.  She recommended staining the table and then putting on my shiny clear coat then applying the stencil.

Ugh – well….ok.

Here’s the stain coat.  Looks nice right??  You can’t even see what was a big black blob in the middle after my stencil trouble.

So, next was a layer of polyurethane. I sprayed it on all the chairs without any catastrophe but decided that I shouldn’t spray the table, but brush it on from a can.  I had the table in the garage, read the directions on the can and started to apply the first coat.  It said to let it dry for 8 hours then apply the next coat.  Well, I can’t exactly leave the garage open all day while I’m sleeping or at work.  There wasn’t near enough ventilation in the garage so THREE DAYS later, that first poly coat was FINALLY dry.  I took those three days to recover the seat cushions.  I really wanted to move on so I completely blew off adding any other additional coats.

See that piece of blue painters tape on the back of the cushion?  I thought I would be really, really smart when I took the cushions off.  I taped the screws on the back of each one.  Well, after moving everything around for 5 days while I had my issues with stripping the chairs and waiting for the table to dry most of them fell off a got lost.  I had to take a 6th trip to Home Depot to get new screws!

Here’s the finished chairs.



I was really happy with the faux leather, but I bought 5 yards which was way too much.  Now have a ton left over and I cannot return it.  I’ll just keep it around for that inevitable day when one of the boys pokes a pen through the cushion.  I’ll be happy to not have to change it out or have an odd chair cushion.

After the debacle with the first attempt at stenciling I was pretty nervous about going over my nicely stained and then polyurethaned table.  There would be no rubbing mineral spirits on the table now.  I centered and taped on the stencil and put a very small amount of paint in a paper bowl.  Moment of truth here:


I left the stencil on overnight and let the paint completely dry.  DON’T DO THAT EITHER.  Go ahead and carefully remove the stencil before it’s completely dry.  Because the paint is latex, the polyurethane was still a little tacky and the stencil is plastic there was some issue with sticking in a few places.  I had to do some touch ups with a very small brush.

Then  TAAAAA DDAAAAAAAHHHH.  Lovely stenciled table!!!

By the way, the bottom line of the stencil is “Maker of Fine Cuban Food” in Spanish.  I wanted to keep the special meaning of the table being the first big purchase.

And here is the entire thing – table and 8 chairs:

It’s not perfect, but hey….good enough for Pinterest and it looks a heck of a lot better than it did before!

So the moral of the story is: Weekend projects take approximately 10 days, $200 budgets should be amped up to $300 and never ever read blogs from Australia.




Wrapped Up in Due Time

Guys have an internal clock that works on a different gravitational pull than women.  When I request something from any member of my brood, I have had to learn the fine art of mastering these interspecies recognitions of how long things take and what the word “now” means.  Simply saying a phrase like “Hey this garbage can is so full, I can’t fit anything else in it.  Could you take it out right now?” is usually interpreted as “The garbage is full but I’m not gagging from the smell of it, I’ll wait an hour or so.


My husband went out of town for the weekend for work and I wanted to surprise him by painting the bathroom.  I could use some help.  Most projects that involve teenage boys need to have the added interest of getting dirty or getting fed.  Since painting is messy I was hopeful that they might be in favor of it. However, I knew that the idea of “weekend project” was subject to interpretation.

Sons #2 and #5 were immediately up for the challenge so I went to the hardware store, purchased a bucket of paint and some clean rollers and headed back to the house.  It was a Thursday around 2pm.  Pulling out the roll of blue tape I announce that as soon as I had the trim, tile and other items covered it would be time to start painting.  Son #2 has a friend over and realizes that “weekend” has started but he will have to wait for the friend to go home, which is followed by asking if the same friend could spend the night and further encroaches on the weekend.

Now I am down to one assistant in the painting project.  This assistant is the shortest one in the house so I let him know that I will have to squeeze into the tiny bathroom with the ladder and get the areas that are too high for him to reach before he can start because son #5, myself and the ladder cannot fit in a 4×4 ft space.  He is not only game, but is chomping at the bit.  He is constantly peppering me with inquiries as to when he is finally going to be able to paint.  I tell him about 10 minutes.  Approximately 2 minutes later, again I am asked when I will be moving out of the bathroom and handing over the paint brush.  I tell him about 8 minutes.  Three minutes later he asks why I’m taking so long.  I tell him to go to the basement and get a screwdriver.  I don’t need the screwdriver, but it removes him from the bathroom for about five minutes.

By the time he returns with the screwdriver I send him back to the basement for a tarp, which allows me to remove the ladder and place it in the hallway.  We spread out the tarp over the toilet and the tub and he gets to work painting.  His painting technique is slightly different than mine.  It requires holding the roller brush stiff-armed while jumping up and down.  Odd, but miraculously it not only works but burns calories at the same time.  After about 20 minutes of painting blue splotches on the top of the ceiling where the jumping got a little more vertical than expected,  #5 announces he is done and leaves the bathroom.

I finish the first coat of the bathroom and call #2 to come get the ladder and bring it back to the garage.  “I can’t right now, I’ll get it in a bit.” I hear.  “No.” I say, “I really need this out of the way now.” He protests, “But I can’t.”

Really?  What could he possibly be doing that will not allow him the ability to move a ladder.  I go downstairs to the office where he and his friend decided to use an entire roll of scotch tape to tape #2’s hands together and see if he could figure out how to get out of the scotch tape entrapment, Houdini style.

Of course he can’t move the ladder.   And now I need more tape.

About an hour later, unable to sleep over, the friend goes home, the tarp is cleaned up and the weekend project is completed.  Freed from scotch tape bondage, son #2 brings the ladder back down and offers to do any touch-ups on the paint job the next day.  I take him up on the offer.  I hope he realizes that tomorrow has a 24 hour time limit.