Second Time Around: new life to tired cabinets

I’m not fanatical about the environment. I don’t come unhinged at the site of a plastic straw or a single use bag, but at the same time, I try to do my part to limit unnecessary waste. That might sound rich coming from someone who is a serial renovator, but it’s true nonetheless.

Factory Finish – nearly indestructable. No. 1

So I am guessing you are wondering what qualifies when it comes to assessing whether it stays or goes? Having good bones is essential to passing that test. I am always going to struggle with getting rid of something that is perfectly good, just because I don’t happen to like aesthetically speaking. When the bones are bad to begin with, you don’t have much of a fighting chance with me. I am unsympathetic as I load you into the landfill.

No. 2 began their life in mahogany. Re-imagined in Benjamin Moore’s Dior Gray.

I got to thinking about kitchens this past weekend. Long weekends that hint of summer beg for a BBQ in the back yard. One can’t help but be in the kitchen, opening and closing cabinets in the quest for a pretty platter or the perfect stemware in which to pour ones pale pink rose. All that opening and closing of cabinet doors brought me back to the hundreds of cabinets I have owned and sold in the kitchens that I been on my journey’s path. The first was so old it could have been in a museum. The cabinets were metal, had been painted many times over, and clipped in place to close. Ba Bye. They were replaced by a traditional white painted cabinet. Factory finished – which means they weren’t likely to chip or peel or look unsightly unless you ran a child’s bike into them. That kitchen was too small to have a child or a bike, in addition to me, so that wasn’t going to happen.

No. 2 Painted off-site in a spray room. Note – no brush strokes.

My next kitchen presented a test. It had been newly renovated. The cabinets were solid wood construction, stained to look like mahogany. They were a simple Shaker style that I quite liked, but the color – no – simply no. This was the first time I embarked on changing my existing cabinet color by painting them. They really were in excellent condition and cabinets are super expensive, so replacing them was out of the question. Now I had my builder take all the door fronts off, remove all the hardware, carefully cover and tape all the surfaces and surrounding area, and then spray the base and hanging cabinets in place. This was done after giving all the base wood a light sanding. The door fronts were taken to an auto shop and sprayed in the paint room (dust free and nail hard). It’s really difficult to sand and clean surfaces, in situ, but if you are going to attempt this on your own, you must ensure all the surface are wiped with a damp cloth to remove any particulate matter. Trust me on this one, it does in fact matter.

Painted in Benjamin Moore’s Thundercloud Gray.

No. 3’s kitchen was perfection, but No. 4 – that kitchen got the same treatment as No.2, perhaps I was influenced by the fact that they were the same unoriginal faux mahogany stain – yuck. I painted these, though this time the door fronts did not leave the site, and the quality wasn’t as good as the first time around. Not my previous warning. The color however was on trend and fabulous.

No. 4. Benjamin Moore. Palladian Blue.

This latest renovation I think even an environmentalist would have forgiven me for throwing out. They were plastic coated MDF. That violates every possible rule of good taste and sustainability, made worse for the fact that their proximity to the stove resulted in the edges melting and curling up at the edges. Just thinking about it again makes gives me the shivers.

No rose while you’re painting!

If you are going to attempt to paint the cabinets on your own – I admire your DIYourselfery, but please remember the following steps:

  • strip and stand doors and base if they have been previously stained, varnished and/or painted before,
  • apply a wood knot and resin blocking primer
  • between coats allow surface to fully dry
  • apply a primer coat and/or two coats of your chosen color allowing a minimum of four hours drying time between coats. Note that different climates and weather conditions will impact drying time.

I am all about giving second life to beautifully made things, and while I promise I am not casting any aspersions on your ability to make your cabinets beautiful in the most important way – which is of course – to your own eye, it is not an easy task. Take your time, do lots of research beforehand, and maybe even conduct a test run on something a tad less precious first. Good luck!

Kit of Parts: When DIYing is all wrong

I have to say that were money no object, I’d do a lot of things differently than I currently do today – who wouldn’t. Surely you can’t stand in judgement of me, for that. We all make choices about how we want to spend our money, and what is worth the economy, and what is not.

Today I am going to report on a number of things that I think….ARE NOT. For those following along, I painstakingly selected a number of pieces that were to comprise the makings of a teenage boys room – a real room, a room fit for an almost adult. While it does fit the bill, arriving at the finished product was a right of passage, all on its own.

The Aristotle Bed that was nearly my undoing.

The items, bedside tables, dresser, and bed, arrived in alarmingly small boxes. I discovered exactly why when I opened them. If you can imagine what a Swiss watch factory might look like – 10 Old Salty Lane’s living room floor, hallway, and bedroom, looked just like we were revved up to assemble the next best version of a TAG Heuer.

The Aristotle Platform Bed.

I like assembling a puzzle as much as the rest of them, but when it comes to furniture – I like it to arrive…whole, and if not whole, I want a single Allen wrench, and a two part instruction process. What I was left with – was frankly DISRESPECTFUL.

Here is my consumer report. Do not get this:

The Crayton Double Drawer Dresser. It came with over 500 pieces, and took more than 6 hours to assemble.

Every single one of those drawers was in over 50 pieces….

The Aristotle Bed – also from Wayfair, didn’t come in quite so many parts, but the parts that it did come with – didn’t have the holes router’ed in the right location. I had to jury rig that thing, while I was swearing like a sailor – so unbecoming. When all was said and done, I asked myself why in the sam tarnation I hadn’t bought from West Elm to begin with….and that’s all I have to say about that.

NYC Studio Design Challenge Part II

I threw together quickly the options for a 402 sf, NYC studio on Monday, but I would like to add a few more thoughts to it.  I do like a rug to make a space cozy, and I know they can be expensive.  I am not opposed to buying large Sicil carpets and throwing a small Oriental, Oushak, or matte sized natural fiber rug underneath.  It allows your style to shine through and highlights a special jewel of a piece atop a disparate material.  Wool, cotton, silk, or some combo of the same will do nicely.

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Bringing personality to a space.

I also don’t like to worry about stepping on my iPhone is my everything, even though I wish sometimes it was not.  I use it for my alarm clock as many do, and I need it nearby – so a bedside table is the natural thing to get for the solving of this issue.  Having said that – there is no room for side tables in 402 SF.  A shelf overhead will have to suffice.  I would do one of two things.  I would use a wonderful and inexpensive acrylic box that can be mounted to the wall, and decorative and useful items alike can sit on display.

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Acrylic Shelves keep the space clean and simple.

That’s the easy solution.  If you are feeling a little more ambitious, get a handy man to create a surround for the bed.  Tuck the headboard between two planks – at least a foot in width.  Create a shelving system above, affix some pretty fabric to hide the shelves et voila – you have yourself some invaluable storage.

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This is a brilliant design that creates closets on either side of the bed, while hiding shelving above, and building in shelves that serve as a bedside table.  Love. Love .

Metallic strips to hang knives from the wall in the kitchen are tremendously useful.  I am not a fan of displaying pots, pans, plates and the like – particularly in city apartments, when try as you might, dust and dirt seeps in from the streets.  Clutter is the other reason.  I’d rather it be hidden away, but that’s a personal choice.

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Schmidt Brothers . Acacia Magnetic Bar.

A final must have if the apartment were for me – a pretty bookshelf or etagere.

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PB Teen Etagere – why should teens have all the fun? $475.

Happy designing.

Setting the Table

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Turkish Oushak . RH Home . Woodstock . VT.

I have looked at so many chairs they are all starting to look alike.  I fell in love with two tables – a very reasonably priced Ballard Design Trestle table, and a mid-range Dovetail Campbell table, which I was surprised wasn’t more expensive.  Why you ask?  The answer is simple – I was born with silver spoon taste.  It’s legs are turned, and have a beautiful curve, it’s finish rustic.  The combination is refined without being prissy, coastal without being kitsch.

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Ballard Design . Tatum Trestle Table . $1099.

That’s the trick.  Being suggestive without being overt.  That’s why I have spent so much time looking, looking again, second guessing, and finally making my selections.  Trust me when I tell you – mistakes will still be made.  It’s the nature of the process.  Some will be easy fixes, some will cost a disgusting amount of money to fix.  Ouch.  Those, however, are the ones I will never make again.

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Dovetail . Campbell Dining Table . $1362.50

After all that searching, I landed on chairs from the most unlikely of places.  Will I consider them a mistake.  Time will tell.  I chose a version of the Windsor Chair in a dirty blue.  High backed – arm chairs that will sit at the head of the table.  Side chairs are going to be a simple Parsons curved back chair from IKEA.  Yup.   In the end, frame plus slip cover is just $129. a piece.  The will be used most frequently.  Everyone likes to sit in the “kitchen” – since the dining room is open to that tiny, but incredibly sweet, u-shaped kitchen, I know that is where people will hang out.

Red Ticking

Tick Tock . Perfect accent to play off the gray.

I am going with a Cirque Pendant by Louis Poulsen.  The colors are muted – not the bright primaries you would normally think of for a seaside seeing, but the strips scream nautical and French.  What more could I want?

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Cirque . Louis Poulsen . $314.15

I imagine a red and white ticking stripe napkin, with a gray matte, metallic charger, and a rough hune string, tied loosely around the cloth.  Maybe a sprig of thyme or rosemary tucked into it for effect.  At the center of the table I would have one of Jill Rosenwald’s vases or platters.  Her pottery is perfect.  I might even go for one of her leafier patterns.  Dare to go wild.

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Jill Rosenwald Pottery . South End 

Piece by piece.  Bit by bit.  It is beginning to come together.

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Jill Rosenwald Pottery . South End .

Happy weekend.

DO IT YOURSELF

Is something I say to others – as in “Do it yourself – I’m up to my eyeballs in my own projects.”  When it comes to doing it myself – well…I can haul things, drag things, move things, lift heavy things – but you are unlikely to come to me,  asking me to whip up a few  curtain panels or a couple of pillows for you, and while I’ve painted a time or two in a pinch, no one is complimenting me on a job artfully executed.

Desk 1

Found at Bungalow. Chatham. MA for $195.

I’m more of a project manager than a DIY’er, and yet The Manse has forced me to resort to just that.  Attempting to furnish a home from top to bottom is EXPENSIVE.  But that is exactly what I am attempting to do.  The Manse had become The Land of Misfit Toys – in a manner of speaking.  In her rundown state, the bric-a-brac that had collected within her walls was fitting, but now that she’s the proud lady on the block, she’s demanding a whole new wardrobe.  People are coming for tea and she wants to be ready to receive them.

I’m doing my best on behalf of the old lady, but some things are indeed going to receive a light sanding and a coat or two of paint – in a coordinating color of course.  I feel like I’ve been on the hunt all over the northeast for tables of all sorts, side, bed, coffee, dining – for dressers, and bar carts and shelves  – for things that started out as one thing and will end up being something else entirely.

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The Caning feels very Cape Cod.

All this hunting and sleuthing has resulted in my very first DIY project.  Aided by a couple of 50 degree days, I singlehandedly dragged a desk out onto the deck, found one of my Father’s 4 – yes you heard me correctly – 4 sanders, I know not what makes one better than the other, but I am certain their is a reason to have that many.  Maybe they are like shoes?  If that IS the case, than I certainly cannot argue with having four – in fact I might ask – why not more?

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Ta Da!  What do you think?

At any rate.  I sanded and cleaned and painted, and repainted and low and behold, I did it.  I think it looks pretty good, and I hope you do too, because I have a set of $10. bedside tables that need to be done – a real find!  I have an old ice box that I am going to use as a linen closet, and a coffee table that would have been perfectly perfect, if it has only been gray.  It will be when I am done with it.  If you are worry, I would say that it may not be misplaced.  Fingers crossed.

Merry and Bright

I can’t believe it’s Christmas Eve.  It sneaks up on you when you are rushing round trying to get ready.  I thought I was in good shape, but then I went and left some essential details until the end.  The details are what matter to designers because it’s the je ne sais quais that turns the nice into the surprisingly cool….beautiful…or pulled together.  Everyone deserves a little “quais”  Non?

 

For me it was disguising the obvious gifts.  Some people want money – greenery I like to call it.  Also, unoriginal – but try as I might, they won’t be dissuaded.  Money is what they want, and so, who am I to judge.  Money they will receive, but not in any obvious way – surprise and delight it must be.  I thought about a cool box in which to house the treasure, I thought about a container with hidden compartments in which my loved ones would have to hunt for their prize.  I settled on none of that.

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we must use the tools we have…left over from holiday shipping.

My fascination with tiny houses led me to my cardboard creations.  First a log cabin, fire burning within, decorated for the holiday season, with the promise of special things, just beyond the door.  There is something very special in that cabin, indeed!

Christmas 2

Voila – something very special lies just beneath the roof.

 

The second is decidedly more Hundred Acre Wood.  A cylindrical tower of birch with its musical roof is a welcome respite from the cold, and the cash that it houses will certainly go a long way to warming the recipients heart – at least I hope it will.

Christmas 3

scouring the woods for window box riches

I was inspired by the ice laden trees that resulted from the freezing rainstorm that made for a miserable Christmas Eve . Eve.  The sun came out today and all glistened and sparkled as if it was Mother Nature’s intention all along.

Christmas 1

A stash of cash within the 100 Acre Wood Cabin.

 

Warmest Wishes to you and your family for a wonderful holiday.

Naming Your Style: Henderson writes the rules

em4The last few years I’ve been asked by many friends and acquaintances to name my style. Is it curiosity?  Is it a desire to determine their own style, figure out if they want me to help them with an upcoming project?  To be honest I hadn’t given it much thought.  When I first started this project of mine, I would have simply said my style was “French”. Later I might have clarified that it was Parisian French – not countryside.  After I completed No. 2 I had to admit that I had been bitten by the Mid-Century Modern bug, and began thinking of my style as Modern Glamour for it’s harmonious coupling of modern and mid-century furnishings, fresh takes on traditional prints with age old techniques and plenty of gold, silver, and chrome, from leaf to brackets, baubles and knobs, fancy frames and chandeliers, decorating with metals does indeed bring a little glamour to a space.

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Moder Glam

I can’t exactly remember how I came to know who Emily Henderson is in the first place.  Perhaps Instagram where I am introduced to so many amazing people and products it’s revolutionized my curatorial expeditions.  There in my feed, my world and my eyes – open wide.  It calms me when I am anxious and excites me when I am in need of inspiration.  So I may have found Em here or I might have spied her in a Target commercial, it matters not.  I think her style falls somewhere no the spectrum of Boho Vintage. Not mine at all, and yet I am attracted to all that she does, and after reading her book Styled:  Secrets for Arranging Rooms, from Tabletops to Bookshelves, I think I know why.

Creating Visual Interest.

Emily began her career as a prop stylist for residential photo shoots.  Looking to add the details, mini vignettes and touches that would create visual interest, and tell a story to the readers.  So while she doesn’t consider herself a decorator per se, she certainly brings a space to life.

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Rule of 3’s.

 

The book is very well written, funny, and real – making you feel as if you’d be fast friends with her if she didn’t live all the way across the country.  I love that she challenges you to NAME your style, first by taking a quiz and then by finding adjectives or words that appropriately evoke an image of that style.  I took the quiz just in case I had been getting my own style wrong all this time, but I nailed it.  I love getting A’s.  at 95 points I am considered:  Modern Glam.  While Mid-Century Modern isn’t considered complimentary on her style wheel – Zen is, I think the clean lines work well with the detailed style for which I associate most powerfully.  I think I’ll call it:  Marie Antoinette Goes to Hollywood.