24 March 2017

The Corner Desk (Before)

Hey, look!  I actually remembered to take a bunch of before pictures!

This corner desk/table was given to me by a friend a couple of years ago.  One of her neighbors put it out with the bulk trash, and she snapped it right up, knowing I'd probably want it.  And she was right:  this is exactly the kind of thing that would cause me to slam on the brakes in the middle of the street to pick up. 

Or it would have been, if it had been nicely finished.  Truth be told I wasn't all that excited about it when I first saw it (but hey, free furniture, amirite?)...until I flipped it over and realized that this thing is solid freaking walnut.  Possibly.  It might be redwood.  I won't know for sure until I get farther along in the stripping process.

30" tall
36 x 36" top surface

1980s, maybe 1970s

Style:  ...?  Generic something.

That drawer knob...no.  It's already in the trash.


Bad, fading, cracking paint job; water/sun damage, and some kind of generalized mank that doesn't come off even when I scrub it clean.

Yes, this is clean. 

I know, right?  Gross.

There are four finishes on this thing: 

1. Streaky, gloppy wood stain, incorrectly applied and incomplete
2. White paint or primer
3. Beige/ivory paint - streaky, patchy, gloppy, and drippy
4. Taupe paint - streaky, patchy, gloppy, drippy

And all of it is chipped and peeling.  Thankfully, it's also stripping really nicely so far.

MUWAHAHAHAHA.  Isn't that disgusting?  I love it. 

Please wear your PPEs and have a bottle of vinegar handy when working with paint stripper, people.  You've seen Fight Club, right?  The lye burn scene?  Yeah. That. Scrape and brush away from yourself, not toward, and keep your legs covered.

 Tools and materials:

• Crown Tuff-Strip spray
• thick neoprene gloves
• eye protection
• long pants and closed shoes, or long apron/tarp toga
• vinegar
• plastic scraper
• stiff plastic "wire brush"
• actual wire brush
• rags
• lots of sandpaper

1. Underside of the table top. I thought that the top was splitting, but you can see here that it's just made of planks which are starting to separate.

2. The stain job is visible here a bit.  Nice color, poor execution. Bad stain jobs make me mad. 

3. The original drawer was replaced with a homemade pine one which barely fits into the frame and doesn't slide well.  Can I stain it to match, or will I end up buying a new front?

Weird hardware.  I know now that this square nut and square screw-drive business is fairly common (especially in Europe); but when I first saw this table, I'd never seen such a thing before, and I thought it might mean that this table is really old.  Nope. 

Oops!  Fumbled the phone and accidentally took this. Enjoy the dad sandals.

23 March 2017

Back In Action. Lots and Lots of Action.

I haven't been on the blog much the past month.  There were some personal things I had to take care of that occupied 100% of my time for a few weeks; and at the moment I'm neck-deep in a few different projects.  So far, I don't have much to show you, but I figured I'd at least tell you what's going on:

1. Refinishing A Corner Desk 

Once upon a time, someone ruined a perfectly good piece of furniture.  I'm not normally one of the "Never ever paint wood!" people.  I prefer stained to painted, it's true, but I know that either can be done well and produce an attractive piece.  This desk is neither of those things. 

It's a five-legged corner desk with a drawer, made of solid walnut, which was once stained (badly) and then painted (badly!!)  twice.  The paint job is full of drips and mucky thick spots; the top of the desk is cracked all over, which could be age, or lack of proper surface prep in the paint process, or both.  Also, the original drawer was, at one time, replaced at one time with a badly-constructed one made of cheap pine. It doesn't fit the desk well, and is so thick-walled and over-engineered you'd think someone was using it to store very small explosives.

Regardless, overall, it's a potentially gorgeous piece. The walnut wood itself is in great shape, and so far, it's stripping nicely, so I'm hopeful that I can restore this thing to its former glory.  I have no idea how old the desk is - I think at least 80s, maybe 70s (?)  The hardware is oddly shaped, and blackened and rusted with age; but it's sound, and so far I've been able to clean most of it up pretty well.  I haven't seen a maker's mark yet that might give me a clue as to where and when it came from;  I'm hoping I'll find it buried under paint. I hope it wasn't on that missing drawer.

2.  Repurposing the Bicycle Storage Area Dining Room

The desk is part of an ongoing repurposing of the dining room.  Let's be real here:  I don't use a dining room, or own  any dining room furniture.  I eat in front of the TV.  So  I've got this big, empty room which is flooded with natural light, and adjacent to both the kitchen and the living room.  It's well-lit, and there's a ceiling fan. 

Oh, hey, look!  There's that corner desk in the picture, behind my mountain bike.  

Anyway, 90% of the things that were stuffed into this room temporarily have been removed to other locations, and this room is about to become a(nother) shared creative space - a room where I can set up my big easel and start painting again, and where Sylvan can sit and work on her novels on days she doesn't feel like going out to a coffee shop to write.  I'm also about to start remodeling and refinishing a table for her to use as a writing desk. 

3.  Creating An Outdoor Entertaining Space From Scratch

I used to have a really pretty, comfortable back porch space, many years ago.  I'm not entirely sure what happened to it over the years, but, new house: new awesome patio.  Right now I'm only window-shopping (my last surviving patio chair is on it's last legs), hunting around for patio furniture and decorative stuff. 

The Zilker Garden Festival is this weekend.  I haven't been in a few years, but it's an AWESOME little weekend event, and I plan to come home with many, many plants for the patio - decorative flowery things, vegetables for a container garden, maybe a small potted tree? 

Y'all, I bought my very first leafblower this week.  Do you live in central Texas, or somewhere else chock full of Live Oak Trees?  Then you feel me when I say: fuck those messy, crusty, little oak flowers!  And all that nasty, sticky, yellow pollen!!  UGH.  The mountains of stiff leaves aren't helping anybody, either.  They're not even terribly good for compost, because they're so thick and hard that they take forever to break down.  Those leaves and crunchy little flower strings are about to become my bitch.   

I'll have updates over the next couple of weeks on how all this is going.  I'm hoping the corner desk will come first.  I'm having a lot of fun working on it, and I'm excited to see how it turns out! 

*      *      *

Meanwhile, wanna see a gross spider pic?  I thought you would: 

This is Frances.  Frances is a Funnel Web spider (Agelenidae) who lives on my front porch. She's about an inch long, and occupies a corner right next to the front door, by the doorbell.  Needless, perhaps, to say: people don't ring my doorbell anymore. 

Frances is harmless to people (she's not related to the Australian Funnel Web spiders you may have heard about).  She enjoys collecting dead bugs and hiding behind the trim on the siding, and usually cleans out her web long before it reaches this embarrassing state.  Bad Frances. 

Frances has an upstairs neighbor named Rapunzel who has a web about three feet up the wall.  I don't know what kind of spider she is.  She's much pointier in the leg and rounder in the body, and a bit larger.  I think she's some sort of false widow, but I haven't gotten a really good look at her just yet. 

Anyway, back soon!

22 February 2017

They All Rolled Over and One Fell Out

Seven years is a pretty good run for a bed.  Especially a wooden bed that you built yourself, when you'd never built more than a simple shelf before.  Sadly, my long-beloved bed finally gave up the ghost a few weeks ago, and I've been sleeping at an angle ever since, due to the way in which it sort of half-collapsed. 

I'd been looking for the perfect metal bed as a replacement, and I really wanted the SVELVIK from Ikea.  However, (as with 90% of the things I lust after at Ikea), I waited too long and the SVELVIK had been discontinued by the time I showed up ready to buy one. 

Target, and the internet to the rescue!   It isn't exactly the SVELVIK, but it'll do nicely - and does.  This went together easily and relatively quickly.  It's nice and solid, and I like the finish on it.  Best of all, it's inexpensive - and it was even 30% off last week when I ordered it. 

I've been playing with the bay box window in the bedroom, too:  more plants, fewer laundry baskets on the windowsill. 

Ikea's RASKOG cart being a bicycle  workshop cart (with GLIS organizer box in the top).  It's not terribly organized yet;  I just have small things on top, medium-large things in the middle, and BIG things in the bottom (mostly the tarp I put down when I clean the bikes indoors).

Sorry about the weird photo filter. My phone did that and I couldn't be arsed to take a new pic at 6:30am.  :D

13 February 2017

The To-Do Barrel

Since finishing the shelfy nook in the living room, I haven't done much around the house.  Truth be told, I have SO much to do that I'm not even sure what to do next.  My to-do list feels less like a list than it does a giant barrel full of tasks that I have to jump into in order to pick one.  And there are sharks in it. And piranhas. And bears. There are definitely bears in there, you guys.

However, the weather's been absolutely amazing, and Spring seems to be springing several weeks early this year.  So over the weekend I turned my back on my barrel of tasks and turned the unused garden beds in the front yard into actual gardens.  Wanna see? Click here

But what's next inside the house?  I basically just need to pick a room:

The Back Room
The 2-car garage this house was built with was turned into an enclosed room and a 1-car garage many, many years ago. The resulting room was home to children, roommates, couch-surfing friends, and, eventually, a semi-feral cat with no respect for the litter box, and just mounds and mounds of trash, full of mice and bugs and mold. BLEH. This room is currently the worst part about this house - but hey, fixer-upper, right?

This room needs cleaning, flooring replacement, repairs to the closet doors, repairs to the room door and trim, replacement of an electrical outlet and all the face plates on outlets and switches, repairs to the walls, prime & paint on all the walls, the ceiling, and the trim molding.  Fun! 

This room is high on the priority list because next week is Bulk Trash Pickup - I can get the last bits of junk out of here, and get the carpet out of the house.  Since it's going to be emptied anyway, I might as well get to renovating it. 

The Master Bathroom
This room is also high on the list, because we use it so often. There's a big walk-in shower with a bench and several sprays, which makes it the preferred human-washing space (and I also use it to wash the dogs).

It needs repairs to the grout and tile in the shower enclosure, repairs to the walls, prime and paint on all the walls, trim molding, doors, and ceiling, and the pendant lights over the vanity need to be seated correctly (they're loose at the ceiling).  Also, there are two walk-in closets in the bathroom, and neither one has a door.

The Craft Room
A.ka. master bedroom, turned into a joint craft space like we did in the old house.  Everything in here works pretty well, except the wall color, which is crime-scene red. It needs primer and paint, and the baseboards need to be finished the way I did in the living room (caulking in the nail holes, joints, and seam against the wall, and then painted), as well as paint on the trim molding and windowsills, new blinds, and curtains for the sliding glass doors that open out onto the back patio.

The Kitchen
I pretty much have carte-blanche to fix things and decorate/paint however I want in this house, but the kitchen cabinets are one of the few things my land-friend specifically asked me to do.  The cabinets themselves need to be stripped and painted, one cabinet door needs to be repaired, and they all need handles and/or knobs. 

Popcorn needs to be scraped off of the soffit above the upper cabinets, the walls and ceiling need to be painted, and all the baseboard molding needs to be finished out.  There's a ceiling fan in the breakfast nook that doesn't work - that'll need to be repaired or replaced, as well.  The light fixture in the room is a fluorescent fixture with a wooden frame and plastic "stained glass" decorative cover (1984, y'all. I actually kind of love it)  - the cover needs to be cleaned thoroughly, and 3 of the 4 fluorescent tubes are out and need to be replaced. The pendant light over the sink is loose at the ceiling, and needs to be seated properly.

And All the Rest
Specific rooms aside, pretty much all the rest of the baseboard trim in the house needs to be finished out, all the doors and door trim molding painted, kids' stickers removed from some doors and walls (my mother would have killed me for that!), and all the ceilings either dusted or just repainted.  Most of the electrical outlets in the house have paint on them, except for the few I've scraped clean while painting other rooms. 

*    *    *

Because of the timing with Bulk Day, I'll probably tackle the back room first - it makes sense to get started while it's empty, and get it done and out of the way.  I really don't want to. I like pretending that room doesn't exist.  On the upside, I do have a three-day weekend coming up, so I should have plenty of time to at least make a big dent in that room, if not finish it entirely. I'll let you all know how it goes. 

03 February 2017


Some of you will be horrified by this confession, but, when we moved in, we didn't organize the books. We just threw them onto any old shelf willy-nilly, just wherever they would fit.  CHAOS.  The house was still under construction, schedules were weird, the Shelfy Nook was still a hole in the wall.  You know how it is when you move into a place - no matter how well-laid your organizational plans, priorities shift on the fly. Plus, if you're doing any DIY in the process, there's always a good deal of Scope Creep to handle. 

Last weekend, once the Shelfy Nook was complete, the house underwent a weird transformation: suddenly the floors were covered in books, as if there had been some horrible library explosion.  It was terribly confusing for the one cat and one dog who absolutely abhor any environmental disruption, and a playground for everybody else.  My roommate is the resident bibliophile (I prefer e-readers, myself; though I do adore really old books), and she quickly took charge of the sorting and categorizing, handing armloads to me to shelve when she was done.

We are now officially surrounded by books - organized books. Whew! That only took three months.  See:

The aforementioned Shelfy Nook, on the west side of the living room.

A bookcase by the windows in the living room, on the east side. 

To the south, behind the primary seating area, is just about my favorite piece of furniture - also filled with books.  Here is where we put the nifty old stuff, and small collections/series.

On the north side of the room is the shelving unit that houses all the DVDs...and there are books there, too.  We're surrounded! (Which is okay by me). 

Two narrow shelves in the "dining room" (don't eat bikes, kids).  You'll see these again, soon - this room is one of the next items on my to-do list.

Yet another cabinet full of books, this one in the breakfast nook, full of cookbooks (Roommate Sylvan is also a fabulous vegan cook and pastry chef, and has even written a couple of cookbooks of her own). 

This is another room on my to-do list, by the way.  So much to do!

Not shown: yet another shelf full of books in Sylvan's room, a couple of boxes of music books and costuming books in the craft room, and the few selections I keep in my room because I like looking at them (a boxed complete works of Jane Austen, and a set of tiny Yale Library Shakespeare study books bound in fabric, which I adore).

Everybody have a great weekend! 

31 January 2017

Shelfy Nook

FINISHED!  Finally.  This was like four days' work, and it took me a month. Whew! Procrastination is hard


Back to the beginning:

I started working on this nook in December  (see this post):
I  removed rotted and sagging shelves and plastic shelf clips which were painted and caulked into the wall, repaired the resulting wall damage, primed the walls and gave it a first coat of paint. 

When I painted the living room over the holiday break, I also installed these supports (1x1/4" pre-primed trim molding) and painted them in with the wall color when this wall got a second coat of paint.

Like a billion years later, I finally got the wood for the shelves out of the back of my car where it had been since December, cut it to size, and attached more (untreated) trim molding to the fronts.

Wood conditioner ftw.  I've never used it before, but WOW it made a difference. The stain went on so smoothly, only took a single coat, and sanding was minimal.

The stain is Minwax's Deep Walnut.  I'm a Jacobean girl from way back; this time I was looking for something with a little less of a green undertone, but not so warm that it bordered on reddish. This was perfect.

P.S.: stainable wood filler my ass. SO much work covering the nail holes on the fronts and getting them to blend in. Sigh.

I am loving the way these turned out.  I should have used a wider trim facing on the fronts of the shelves, so that they would completely cover the struts on the walls, but, live and learn, right?

The last thing was to deal with this nasty 30yo+ a/c return air cover.  It turned out to be a lot less work than I'd anticipated.  I removed it, banged it back into shape with a hammer (from the back), cleaned the gook off of it with my bike cleaning spray (AWESOME) then hit the whole thing with a couple of coats of plain, white, hi-gloss spray paint.

Hilariously enough, there was no filter behind this cover, and nowhere to fit one - the edges of the wall behind the cover are all crumbled and corroded, and when I tried to wedge a filter in place, it just fell flat.  I ended up zip-tying the filter to the cover to keep it where it belongs. Thankfully, it doesn't show:


I LOVE the way this all came out. :)

20 January 2017

More Blue Things

I'd been sort of half-assedly keeping an eye out for an affordable, blue rug for my room for years, but never found one that really caught my eye (that wasn't also ridiculously expensive). 

I finally found the right one last weekend at Target, when I wasn't even looking for rugs (isn't that the way it always happens?)  Hooray!  It's this one, if you're curious.

At 5x7', it doesn't cover much of the floor under the bed, but that's fine by me - it covers exactly the areas that I walk on, which is all I needed. 

A worn-looking pattern on a brand-new, fluffy, soft rug is a bit silly, I think, but I love it anyway.  And I adore the colors. 

I don't know how much Daisy understands about cameras and photography, but she sure gets RIGHT in front of me every time I whip it out.  Today, she would like you to know that she has an itch.  Dork dog.

03 January 2017

A New History of Fireplaces

For someone who almost never burns a fire, I sure talk about my fireplace a lot.  The one in the old house went through about 7 transformations over the 12 years that I lived there;  the new house's fireplace recently got it's first (and probably only, tbh) makeover.

New Year's resolution: guitars in every photo (not really)

I actually did the work early in November, while my roommate was out of town visiting her family. I primed and painted the wooden footer pieces to blend in with the brick (not that they're fooling anyone, but I like the way the focus is now on the posts, instead of the odd shapes on the hearth). 

I cleaned and re-painted the brick; and cleaned up the wooden mantel.  I debated whether to actually refinish it - it's not my favorite color, but it matches some of the other wood pieces in the room; and the few white paint splatters on the wood (leftover from its original white paint job) came out with a Magic Eraser.

Did you know the active ingredient in those things in paint stripper? Wear gloves when you use them, please.  Magic can burn your skin.

This is what it looked like before, complete with original floor and wall color.

The posts and the woodwork behind them were painted sort of an admiral-blue.  It was a nice color, but I wanted something a bit more serious. 


02 January 2017

Blue Paint Makes Everything Better

Last weekend, while everyone else was doing the holiday thing, I painted the living room. And the dining room. And two hallways. And the entryway.

Technically, I did more than just paint.  In what ended up being almost exactly 24 hours of work, spread over three days, I...:
  • filled nail holes and caulked in the new baseboards, which were installed by the tile guys but not finished (why? no clue)
  • primed the baseboards 
  • primed the walls, from floor to ceiling, including the 12' vault in the living room
  • cut and installed cleats in the shelfy nook in the living room
  • painted the walls in the aforementioned spaces
  • built shelves for the shelfy nook
I think I must've moved nearly every piece of furniture I own.  Some of that stuff is HEAVY.  Also, I'm not finished yet.  While I built shelves for the nook, I still have to sand and stain them.  So I'll have a shelfy nook update for you soon.  In the meantime, here are a couple of random shots of the other areas I painted:

This is one end of the living room, and the little tiny "hallway" that leads to the master bedroom suite (aka Gigantic Craft Room of Doom).

As lovely as this morning sunlight is, it's fleeting, and barely penetrates the space beyond this corner.  There's a serious issue with light in this house.  Time to learn to embrace lamps.

The "back" of the living room, behind the couch.  That's a lot of wall to paint, especially from the top of a ladder.

You can see the difference here between the light coming in from the kitchen windows, and the near-black shadows in the center of the picture. The neat thing about that is that all of the walls, at times, look like they're all painted in different colors, depending on the time of day.

The wall color, by the way, is Sherwin Williams' Tradewinds, which is a soft, pale blue with a touch of green in it.  I heart it.

EDIT:  wait, no it isn't - Tradewinds was what we used in Sylvan's room, and on the test wall in the living room.  I ended up swapping it out for something with a wee bit more green in it - Behr's Urban Raincoat.  

(Also on my never-ending to-do list: that empty aquarium. It's a bit of a running joke - it's been empty for years.  But it made a great terrarium for fake spiders at my last Halloween party).  

This is the dining room, aka "Room of Lost Furniture" aka "Laura's Guitar Crap Storage & Bike Workshop" (sadly, this particular bike, which is my favorite, is down with a serious case of Bearings Crud. Don't worry, though, it isn't terminal).

I'll be honest with you, I have no idea what this room is going to end up looking like.  For now, there's just stuff in it that has no place else to go.

This room has crown molding for some bizarre reason, even though exactly zero other spaces in this building have any.  I painted them the same color as the walls, to help minimize the fact of their existence - they just looked weird in there all by themselves.

 There's a lot more to show you, but there's also a lot more work to be done before I can do that.   I need to finish those shelves, for one thing; and there are still a lot of bare walls in this house, since I was waiting to hang things until after the big painting was done.

Then there's the dining room.  Hm.  My roommate wants to put a writing desk in there, which is going to be cool.  Also, there's futon just to the right of what you see in the picture that I've been trying to sell on Craigslist, but it turns out that Craigslisters are a bunch of flaky, flaky people (seven offers, all ghosted at the last minute? The hell?) I'm sure this surprises no one. As soon as it's out of the way, though, this room is going to get some serious attention.

But first: I have shelves to stain. After that I think I'll turn my attention to The Purple Glitter Situation.  But more on that later.


28 December 2016