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My Almost-Completely-Free Table!

This past weekend was Father’s Day weekend, so my stepdaughter Maddy and I decided to make my husband a nice breakfast: pancakes, sausage, fruit, juice. The works! Problem was no milk. Because we live so close to a Sentry (about 2 blocks), but because I was too lazy to walk, I rode my bike there. On the way down our alley, I spotted a small side table by a neighbor’s dumpster. I forgot to take a before picture, so imagine a metal table with rusty scroll-shaped legs and with a top of rotting wood and kitchen floor linoleum. Sounds nice, no? No. Exactly. Sounds horrible. But…because I like to try to imagine the potential in a piece of furniture, I snagged it.

This was probably one of my quickest projects ever!

A couple coats of gold indoor/outdoor spray paint, and the rusty little table was transformed into a beautiful swan!

What to do about the top, though? I removed the rotting wood and linoleum. My husband, who is awesome!, just happened to have 1/2″ thick balsa wood in the exact size I needed! Base of table top done. But, what could I do for the top? Our home’s previous owners retiled the guest bathroom and left a ton of extra terra cotta tiles in the attic. Score!



I found four similarly-sized tiles, painted them white, and voila! They fit almost perfectly!



There was a tiny crack between each tile, and I had originally thought to squeeze some caulk in there. But, it seemed like too much work to find the caulk and caulk gun. (Remember I was feeling lazy that morning!) I know: twine to the rescue!



I braided the twine so that it had the right thickness to fill the cracks and used a glue gun to secure the braids.




My almost-completely-free table looks pretty good!




From Janky to Swanky!

I used to love Ikea furniture! The bookcases, tables, funky ergonomic chairs, the whole lot. And these pieces definitely served their purposes well: they are usually inexpensive, easy to move, and easy to personalize. Because of this, almost all of my desks had been from Ikea: plain white top with silver (or black or pink) legs. Nothing fussy. Completely functional.

But as we’ve been settling in to our home, we’ve been slowly replacing our Ikea furniture with pieces that have a bit more visual interest:  antiques or otherwise older pieces that I’ve reclaimed and refurbished.

So, it’s not surprising that I kept looking at my white Ikea desk with growing discontent. It just simply did not fit the aesthetic of the office anymore. But I didn’t know what I’d do about it until Pete came home from UWM one day asking if I wanted an old art table. Would I??!!

Clearly, the table had been much loved and much (ab)used. There was paint all over the legs and the top was pretty gouged.



The top got a good sanding to get rid of the old paint and to smooth out some of gouges and nicks. It was looking great!

The legs, however, proved to be a bit more difficult. In all honesty, I did not relish the idea of spending hours sanding them.


And I suddenly had an image of a Colonial-era desk I once saw in Boston. It looked something like this.

While I am usually in favor of retaining the natural wood look of old furniture, I decided that I would work on preserving the top and adding a couple coats of black paint to the legs; it was a good compromise, I think!



Last, the top: An application of stain (“Early American” by MinWax) and a layer of poly was all it needed!

And I am IN. LOVE. with my new desk! What do you think?





The story also ends on a happy note for the Ikea table: it has found a new home in the basement as a(nother!) project table for Pete! Huzzah!




I call this one the “easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy.” ‘Cause it’s easy.

Spring in Wisconsin (usually) means mild weather and thoughts of being outdoors as much as possible. After the kinds of winters we get, it’s no wonder our minds turn to lawns, gardens, patios, etc!

So, to get our little Milwaukee bungalow spring-ready, we got the patio sets out of the garage. The set we use for the front patio had seen better days. The wicker saucer chairs, purchased at Pier 1 ages ago, were weathered and faded. Not very spring-like, for sure! And since we often have breakfast or dinner out there, I wanted the chairs to be inviting and comfortable.



Two coats of spray-paint (Rustoleum Gloss in Fern) and clear coat later, and we’re looking pretty good!




I added two pillows (weather-proof, of course) for some more color and pizzazz! Now the patio is ready for our morning coffee! Well…MY morning coffee! Won’t you join me?



The wonders of a canvas dropcloth!

As some of you may know, I am a huge fan of Nicole Curtis, aka The Rehab Addict. My fandom runs so deep that I talked my husband into visiting Bauer Brothers (the salvage yard she often visits on her show) when we were in Minneapolis recently. I knew it was a long shot, but what if? What if she were there gathering supplies for a new project, and I met her, and we became best friends, and she invited me to join her on her show, which she renamed The Rehab Addicts, and I became a famous DIY-er? Sadly, none of that happened…but you gotta have dreams, right?

Back to the point of this post: in one of the episodes of her show The Rehab Addict, she was putting the finishing touches on a recent remodel, including staging the home for an upcoming open house. Who knew that she staged each of the homes herself with salvaged furniture? One of her money-saving ideas was to cover an old sofa with a canvas dropcloth. Genius! I don’t know about you, but I can’t believe how expensive sofa and chair covers are!

Long story short, I tried this for a chair I had picked up at ReStore for FREE! The chair was in great condition, structurally, but the upholstery had seen better days. Dropcloth to the rescue! Well, not so much. I am not as skilled as my hero Nicole Curtis, and my chair cover ended up lumpy, too short on one side, and all around unattractive. I had to tuck, fold, and otherwise coerce the fabric into place. And use upholstery tacks. And sew the too short bits onto the chair.

Tinkerbelle, though, doesn’t seem to mind…just don’t look too closely.


Since I bought the biggest size dropcloth I could find (a steal at 29.99!), I had a bunch of fabric leftover, and I decided to use it to create some table linens. We have a really beautiful farm-style dining table that is in desperate need of linens. And, like the furniture covers, table linens can also be expensive. Dropcloth to the rescue! And this time with better results…

I made 4 placemats. The edges were finished with white double bias hem tape. It is so easy to use, and I like the beige/white contrast. Then, using  gold fabric pen, I added some personalized pizzazz in the form of our initials. The placemats were finished off with three thin coats of ScotchGuard to keep them looking crisp. Our family is a messy bunch…

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I had enough leftover to do a runner, using the same process:

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And…a pillow cover for the living room. I kept the edges rough and did two seams; the first to hold the pillow tight inside and the other to be a focal point. The first was done on my Singer, and is barely visible (on purpose). The second was done by hand with neutral-colored hemp thread.

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I just adore the sweet little bow!

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Homemade coffee syrup? Yes, please!

Friends, I have a confession to make. I am a coffee addict. Shocking, I know. And my addiction is not just for the java but java avec flavoring. Namely, fancy flavored syrups. If any of you are similarly afflicted, you will know that those syrups are not inexpensive, but, in fact, expensive–usually $5-7 a bottle,and I go through a bottle every two weeks.

But I recently stumbled on a recipe from the little green homemaker for homemade syrups that is so easy I am kicking myself for not trying it sooner! I’ve made vanilla and hazelnut flavored syrups for a fraction of what Torani syrups cost me.

And I got to pick out sweet bottles in which to store my syrups:



Now, mornings feel so fancy!



Fruit crates for the win!

A couple of weekends ago, Pete (the hubs) was out of town.

Here’s what happens when I am left to my own vices, I mean devices: I go to sleep around 10 or 11, planning to get a full 8-10 hours of rest. Instead, I wake up ready to go at 5:30am. I get up, make coffee, and head to the basement or garage to continue working on projects I have started. Around 9, I get antsy and head out to do some rummage sale-ing. Milwaukee in summer is awash with good rummage/yard/garage sales.

That weekend was no different. By 8 am Saturday morning, I had made breakfast, done a load of laundry, and finished a couple of small projects (both for work and “play”).  Rummage sale time! Within blocks of my house, I spotted a yard with just a couple of things, mostly clothes, but my eyes zoomed in on fruit crates. Two beautiful fruit crates. These are so handy (and plentiful) that I tend to buy them when I can.

Here is one my husband had that I use for desk stuff:

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“Happy Apple” indeed!


Be cautious, though, about buying them in antique or second hand stores. They tend to be marked up A LOT at places like those.

The two I spotted in the yard were $2 and $3. What a deal! And I was especially jazzed because they each had a divider, making them really useful for shelving/storage. But they were a bit, how shall I say, yucky…and wobbly. There was some gooey black tar-like stuff inside one of them, and the other smelled bad. So, they both got thoroughly cleaned out with warm water and a little dish soap and left to dry in the sun. Then, I reinforced them with a few nails to each side. One of the crates had been haphazardly painted gray, and the other was unpainted wood–this one also had part of its label intact. Mostly because I did not want to invest all day in sanding and staining it, the gray one got a couple coats of white paint and was turned into bathroom storage. Ta-Da!

bathroom fruit crate

The wooden one was left pretty much as is and made into storage for weights and workout towels:


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So, $5, a few hours of work later, and I have two very functional and interesting storage pieces.

Crafting with Ornithophilia

Because I can’t just stop crafting, I spent some time on these cute little guys:


One of the easiest projects ever, and great for kids!

Here’s what you’ll need:

Tiles–whatever sizes you’d like. I buy mine at ReStore for 10 cents apiece.

Decorative paper, fabric, or whatever you’d like to use to decorate the tiles (needs to be flat, though, to be functional). I picked up three sheets of thick gift wrap at my local art supply store. They cost about $5 each, and I’ve used them for numerous projects. Like this one.  So, even though they were a bit pricey, I’ve definitely gotten my value out of them.

Felt or other soft, thick material to put on the back of your tiles to keep them from scratching surfaces.

ModPodge to 1) attach the material to the tile and 2) seal the material.

Glue or hot glue gun (I prefer hot glue) to attach the felt.

Step 1: clean tiles if necessary and dry

(optional next step): some folks suggest sanding the tiles to make them better take the adhesive. I have found that my tiles take ModPodge well without sanding or roughing up.

Step 2: choose your material and cut to desired size

Step 3: using ModPodge (or other glue meant for paper crafts), affix material to tile. Push down and smooth to release air bubbles. Allow to dry completely (about 30 minutes).

Step 4: using a foam brush, coat the entire top of the tile in a thin later of ModPodge. Allow to dry completely, and repeat at least four times. This will ensure a nice seal.

Step 5: using your glue or hot glue gun, attach the felt to the bottom

Step 6: Enjoy!

Here are close-ups of two of the ones I did:

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I also used a larger tile to make a trivet/spoon rest for the kitchen:

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Yep, that’s an owl salt and paper shaker set there. And yes, I realize that I may have a bird problem, technically called ornithophilia. The first step is admission, right?

What a cool find!

If you’ve read my other posts, you will be well aware of our desire to scale down our den furniture and and do so while bringing in vintage pieces appropriate for the age of our 1930s Milwaukee bungalow.

We originally had a loveseat-ottoman set, and the ottoman (while comfy) was ginormous! Any which way I moved those pieces of furniture, it was an eyesore…

So, what do I do? To the antique store! While browsing around Antiques of Second in Walker’s Point–an amazing three-story antiques market!–I got the idea to make a coffee table/ottoman from hard-sided vintage luggage. Like this. Cool, right?! I know! One small snag, though. I couldn’t find a suitcase that was 1) hard-sided, 2) deep enough for storage, 3) in good enough shape to take the weight of feet and other coffee table things, and 4) affordable. I only found one that fit most of the criteria, but it was over $100. Too much, in my opinion.

During my commute to work, I pass through Mukwonago, Wisconsin. And the other day I stopped at The Country Porch run by a retired family doctor turned antiques-purveyor, Dr. Ken. The place is so great! While not huge (if you want huge, try Antiques on Second), Ken has a lot of quality pieces–including trunks from the 18th and 19th centuries. He also has a number of pieces he has refinished or repurposed himself. I picked up a great nightstand he had redone for $35! What a deal!!

Even though he was about to close, he let me wander the store. On learning I was looking for “something to make into a coffee table,” he took me upstairs to the storage area, where I spotted an Army trunk (foot locker) in appropriately-worn condition. I was. in. love! C’mon, look at this thing!

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Another shot…

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But this is my favorite part:

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I recognize the maker–Schwayder Bros changed their name to Samsonite in the 1960s–and LOVE that it is an original piece from 1943. What stories this foot locker could tell, eh?

It was perfect…and when Ken quoted me $60, I snatched it up. Was it a little more than I wanted to spend, ideally? Yes. But, I just knew it was perfect for our needs. There is a removable shelf where we can put things like remotes, magazines, coasters, etc, and the depth of the trunk would allow for storage of bedding for the loveseat (which is also a pull-out twin bed).

Once I got it home, I gave it a good cleaning with Murphy’s. That’s it. Others may have chosen to sand it down, remove the weird paint splotches, etc. Not me. As my imaginary boyfriend Aidan Shaw would say, “Flaws are the best part.” And it looked perfect in front of the couch…except for one small detail…at only 13″ high, it looked more like a stepstool than a coffee table. It needed feet.

So, one trip to ReStore later, $2.00 got me two long table legs that I would cut down using my chop saw. I cut two sets of matching feet 5″ long. I wanted them to look like they go together without being identical.

The bottom of the locker is wooden, but a bit worn, and I was afraid that screwing the feet directly to it would weaken and possibly damage the bottom. So I cut four 3.5″ squares of plywood to put inside the locker to reinforce the feet. I attached the feet with screws (two screws per feet to keep them stable and from spinning). Then, because the feet were a bit banged up from wear, I gave them a good rubbing with Old English Scratch Cover for dark wood. This stuff is a miracle elixir. I use it on so much, and it never fails to amaze!

I am really happy with the results! What do you think?

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And here it is in action!

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And I’m particularly proud of this:


Almost level! Huzzah! ;)


Cute shelves…from drawers!

We had been wanting to scale down our den furniture–out with the large heavy media cabinet and in with a smaller tv table and media storage. I easily turned an organ bench into the tv table, but I didn’t know what to do with all the dvds that we wanted to keep–even though we RARELY watch them. But, that’s a post for another day…and another site.

Then, it hit me: drawers!

I found four old scrap drawers.

1. I sanded and stained (or painted) them.

2. I lined the bottoms (what would be the backs) with art print from Artist and Display using spray adhesive.

3. I chose three that worked well together for the shelves and used two long brackets in the back to hold them together.

TaDa! And, yes, that is a box set of Seinfeld VHS tapes!

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I used the fourth drawer to create a display shelf for the living room. Like so:

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Cute, non?

I’m back!

Boy, is summer ever busy! But, I’m finally back to some projects…I have two in the works, currently:

First up: reupholstering this awesome vintage caned chair–that I snagged for a mere $8.50!–for the living room. The back pad is in great condition, so I’ll focus my efforts on the seat pad.



Second, building a bookshelf for the den. I’m not going to share any pictures just yet because 1)  I’m not totally convinced it’s gonna pan out. And, 2) Assuming it does, I’m super excited for the reveal! You know how you have great ideas and then the end result looks NOTHING like it did in your head? I’m imagining this will happen to me as I finish this dang bookshelf.

Stay tuned….