Guest Appreciation: A Seat for Every Seat

64 Arts, Projects

With one foot still in carpentry we’re going to take a half-step towards the next art for this next project before fully immersing ourselves in

37 House Furnishings and Decorations

When we entertain it’s important that all of our guests have a spot—be it to stand or sit really depends on what type of gathering you’re having. As most of our get-togethers involve a meal or playing games (not of the sporty type), having seats for everyone becomes kind of important to the size of our gathering.

I’ve rented chairs for big parties, and happily do so since the cost is low and it saves us having to store them. We have a couple of folding chairs in the garage that we can bring out for the occasional extra keister or two, but they don’t sit as high as the rest of the dining room chairs, so it’s not the best solution for large family dinners.

Ergo, it’s time to make over my $3 chair.

My $3 side-of-the-road antique store chair.

My $3 side-of-the-road antique store chair.

I bought this chair from a little antique shop that’s no longer in business and, yes, paid a whopping $3 for it. The original plan was to clean it up (it still had a seat then) and use it as a spare chair in my sparsely furnished apartment. That didn’t happen, so it’s spent it’s life in multiple garages and storage rooms until the seat’s rotted out and it’s collected more cobwebs than I really want to think about.

So when I started stripping the antique school desk to refinish it, I figured I’d kill two birds with one stone, and save myself some grief.

Well, that’s not exactly how things worked.

After the first round of stripping and scouring, the chair didn't look that much different!

After the first round of stripping and scouring, the chair didn’t look that much different!

The first round of stripping and sanding barely made a dent in the paint and varnish combo on the chair, so then next weekend I tried again with a heavier stripping pad and even a scraper. I still only got partway through the finish and, by that point, I was so very over this process.

And I reminded myself it was only a $3 chair.

New plan! Screw the refinishing, let’s just paint the sucker. I started out with 2 coats of matte-finish spray paint in a dark brown as an undercoat.

After 2 rounds of stripping and scraping and sanding and 2 coats of paint, it sorta looks like where we started. Not for long!

After 2 rounds of stripping and scraping and sanding and 2 coats of paint, it sorta looks like where we started. Not for long!

That’s where things are right now, since the weather isn’t exactly cooperating—it’s been either too cold or too wet to get any more painting done, plus I need Todd to cut a new seat for the chair and fashion new braces for the legs.

(The brace being the cross-piece between the front and back legs. One was missing when I bought the chair, and we were unable to find any turned braced the right size or length to match, so we’re going to sub in a round dowel rod with the ends cut to fit the existing holes, and go from there.)

The pieces for the rest of the makeover: 3/4" plywood and 2 " foam for the seat, and a 1-inch dowel for the braces.

The pieces for the rest of the makeover: 3/4″ plywood and 2 ” foam for the seat, and a 1-inch dowel for the braces.

Once the new seat and braces are cut, the entire chair will get a coat of a light blue paint and then I’ll distress the edges so that the brown underlayer shows through a bit (like this project from Crane Farms, but not quite as distressed). I thought about using a crackle medium, but didn’t want something quite so shabby chique as all that. Instead I’ll go for simple distressing for a nice aged look.

Then I’ll seal it to prevent more paint than I want from coming loose.

I’ve also picked up some thick foam to cushion the seat with. I’ll cut it to the needed size and shape, bevel the top edges so it’ll look prettier, and then cover the seat with some plush, dark-brown microsuede (I’ve got an entire bolt of the stuff from another project that went nowhere).

Theoretically this chair will match the triptych I painted for the living room (of our last house) that now hangs above our television. The chair probably won’t live in our current living room, but at least it’ll look nice when we bring it out for guests (though I keep starting at a particular corner wondering if I could make it fit with the desk.

This is a rough mock-up of how I see the chair ending up. We'll see how close reality is to idea.

This is a rough mock-up of how I see the chair ending up. We’ll see how close reality is to idea.

Obviously I’m not done with this project, but I want to stay on track with the blog schedule I laid down for myself, so next week we’ll be talking about another facet of home decorating. Once the chair project is done I’ll post that update on the nearest Thursday.

Cool? Cool.

#35 Woodworking | A Little Spruce (or Pine, or Oak…)

64 Arts, Projects

aka Refinishing an Antique School Desk

Since I was about 9 years old or so I had this antique school desk in my bedroom that usually served as my bedside table. When I started moving into homes where more than just one room was mine to do as I pleased, the little antique desk became an occasional table, usually stuffed with programs, take out menus, instructions for assembling furniture, and any other spare part sort of things that would more-or-less fit.

It was, essentially, a junk drawer.

And, over the years, it’d started to look a little worse for wear. For the last 2 years it’s been hanging out in our garage because there was no place in the house for it to be.

Top of the antique child's school desk, scarred and stained

Poor little antique school desk.

Originally I thought the desk had been something Mom had picked up along the way, but it turns out that the piece of furniture goes back at least to my paternal grandmother, and possibly to my great-grandmother (Mom said it was kept in Mamie’s room, which became mine when we moved in with grandma when I was 3). Apparently it was there when my aunt (my dad’s baby sister) was little and she used it growing up, but didn’t know where it actually came from, either. It was the place coloring books and crayons were kept for the grandkids until it eventually moved with us to Florida.

Knowing how far back the desk goes makes me feel more than a little ashamed at how it’s been treated over the years. There were stickers applied, candle wax melted on, wet glasses set on it, teeth marks in the top (an unfortunate incident that involved my brother jumping on the bed) and the cubby stuffed so full that the bottom long since gave way and had to be reinforced more than once. (Aunt M did mention that she also had a habit of over-stuffing the desk, so I don’t feel quite so bad about that one.)

I’m happy to report, however, that this tale has a happy ending. I’ve spent the last 2 weekends giving this old desk a makeover and not in the spray-paint it glossy white sort of way that seems to be so popular these days. No, no, I stripped what was left of the finish from it, had Todd cut a new, solid bottom for it out of matching oak (once we cleaned it up Todd was able to identify what sort of wood the desk was made out of from one of his book), sanded it 4 times, stained it (and parts of myself) a deep, rich brown (Kona, to be exact), and am now in the process of giving it a full 3 coats of polyurethane varnish so that it will be nice and pretty for a long time to come.

Antique Wooden School Desk Stained but not Varnished

It’s not quite finished, yet–I still have 3 coats of varnish to add, but it’s close! (The hinges are just there for show.)

You see, it has a very important role to play this fall, as we’ll be including it with our wedding decorations (right now the plan is for it to hold the programs). Until then, though, it will sit in our living room as I’ve recently made room for it by moving one of the armchairs into my office. Coincidentally, that corner is also the one that holds the silver platter from my Easter remembrances from that same grandmother’s house, so it’s fitting they’ll be reunited again.

Having accomplished this task to the best of my abilities, am I ready to hang out my restoration shingle? Not hardly.

I’m not going to lie, this was hard, sweaty work and not something I’d like to spend every weekend doing. I will say, though, that the getting started parts where Todd and I were working together to remove the 50+ nails holding on what was left of the original and repaired bottom of the desk was quite fun. So it’s not out of the question that we might tackle something like this in the future.

I took plenty of pictures during the long, messy, process; have a look-see:

What’s left is 3 coats of polyurethane and adding the hinges back on with new screws. We were able to salvage the original hinges, though they still need a bit of cleaning. I don’t want to clean them up too much, though, since then they might look too new. I’m not going to do any distressing–something tells me that will happen over time as we’re not exactly gentle with our stuff–but I think if it’s lasted at least 50 years and many kids that we know of, this facelift should hold it for quite some time to come.