Thursday, May 21, 2015

ReLoving an Antique Desk

Normally, I don't give much glance to the furniture for sale at our Goodwill.  Most of it is '70s plaid, or those pound-it-together pieces that are falling apart.  And, there's not usually much in the way of furniture anyway, in our small store.

Until... The Desk showed up.  She was a grand old lady, with dovetailed joints on her drawers and all of her original handle pulls intact!  A mahogany-veneered curvy girl from the 1920's, I'm guessing.  But, it was her price tag (or tags...there was about 10 of them!) that drew me in completely, just $29.99.  Yep, you're goin' home with me, baby!

Now, her {ahem} top, was not so great. The veneer was about 60 percent lifted off {probably from moisture}, and had some deep gouges in it.  I toyed with the idea of re-gluing it, but those gouges were just too deep to try and sand out.  Also, her drawers were all very difficult to open...I had a few doubts, but ventured on.

The Lady sat inside our garage for a few days, and when I went out to start on her makeover, lo-and-behold, her drawers slid out like they were new! Humidity had caused the wood to swell, but now they were back to normal.  I discovered that each drawer was numbered and corresponded to a numbered drawer opening. Quality work back-in-the-day!  The back of the desk is stenciled "VAN NO 1920 MAH"...and I was sure that MAH meant mahogany.

After taking a few days to ask questions and research the best and easiest way to remove the veneer from the top (I wanted to leave the rest of the desk as she was), the overall opinion from experienced folks was to use a wet towel and a hot iron.  Wetting down an old towel (not drippy) and placing it over the top was the first step. I also put her out in the hot sun for a couple of hours, to let the 90 degree heat help soften that glue! Then, I peeled off as much of the already lifted veneer as possible, by hand.  Next came the hot ironing of the wet towel, which steamed the veneer and glue until it at last all came off.  I didn't do much damage with the putty knife I used, so not much repair was needed, but I did try to scrape off as much glue as possible.

After she was completely dry, I sanded until her writing surface was as smooth as silk.  Now, this next part is what became a nightmare:  Being told to use a pre-stain conditioner, I followed the instructions on the can, to the letter. Then, I carefully applied 2 coats of stain, again following the directions on the can and on the manufacturer's website. Result: TOTAL FAIL.

The stain didn't absorb evenly, and was a splotchy mess.  I was so disappointed!  And of course, it meant more sanding!!  I thought my right arm was going to run away from home from the workout I gave it, sanding and sanding.  At last, all the stain (eh, 99% of it, anyway) was gone, and I once again had a canvas to work on.

I wasn't taking any chances this time; I mixed up a batch of my trusty DIY chalk paint recipe in a rich, deep chocolate brown.  Two coats of that, and a light sanding with 220 grit sandpaper later, I then applied 2 coats of Minwax Water Based Polycrylic. It goes on milky, but dries crystal clear.

The heavens have opened and angels are singing!  I LOVE the way the desk turned out!  As a reward for letting me sand the heck out of her, I gave the rest of the desk a good "drink" of furniture oil.  Her mahogany curves really shine now!

This project took me longer than I thought it would, because of trips to Home Depot for this and that, and hours of researching: "Can I use chalk paint over fresh stain without sanding?" {um, no.}  However, I am very pleased with the results!

The only thing left to do is clean up the drawer pulls with some Barkeeper's Friend. But, that's tomorrow. For now, I'm sitting at my beautiful, perfectly imperfect antique desk and am crushing on the soft sheen the top takes on in the glow of the computer screen.

Overall I didn't spend a lot on ReLoving this desk, because there is almost a full can of stain, and Polycrylic, left over for other projects and I already had the ingredients for the chalk paint on hand.  My right arm has forgiven me, too.

Please leave me a comment below, and follow me on Instagram and Facebook.  Ta for now!


Friday, May 8, 2015

Little French Girl

This is the story of how a little French girl came to live with us forever.

{Back story: DRMO stands for Defense Reutilization and Marketing Office.  It's a cash-and-carry sale that is open to the public, when the military bases sell off no longer needed items. Many furniture items are from the base hotels, or furnished officer housing, base schools, etc.}

It was Kaiserslautern, Germany 1995 and I was wandering through the DRMO sale.  You never know what you are looking for, because you never know what they will have on any given day.  A friend I was with saw some little tables, and snatched up a really cute drop leaf coffee table. Yep, I had some table envy right about then.  However, tucked into a corner, nearly overshadowed by some larger furniture, was this little girl....and she whispered French to me.  I cradled her in my arms, and told her she could come home to live with us, where we would love her forever.


She was blonde, with little streaks of pale gray-blue highlights.  She was a quiet girl, satisfied to sit in a corner of a bedroom or the living room, not drawing much attention to herself. She always carried out her chores without fuss, holding sweating glasses of iced tea on hot summer days and steaming mugs of coffee or cocoa during the snowy German winters.

In the following years, and after seven moves with the family, she found herself in Texas, placed in a much more prominent spot in the master bedroom.  By now, her looks had faded with time, and she begged me for a makeover to look fresh and young again.  She now enjoys her new shabby-CHIC look and bears the family monogram with pride.
Here's what it took to give the little French girl her new look:
* Homemade chalk paint {see recipe below}
* Printed monogram & wreath from The Graphics Fairy (printed in reverse!)
* Mod Podge in matte
* Sponge brushes
* Small artist's brush
* Sandpaper in 150 grit
* Wiping cloths (clean & dry)
* Rust-oleum American Accents Clear Matte finishing spray
As you can tell from the photos above, it was necessary to paint indoors because it was very windy and the bugs outdoors were everywhere!

Our girl had a shiny, plastic-looking finish on top (possibly a laminate?), but the chalk paint performs wonderfully on just about any surface, without sanding or priming!  She received 3 coats all over, with anywhere from 2 hours to 2 days drying time in between. {I worked on this between other projects...I always seem to have lots going on at one time!}

Using a small artist's brush, I applied a gray-blue chalk paint to the trim around her scalloped edge and down the curves of her legs.

The Graphics Fairy (Karen) always has such pretty French graphics, so it was easy to find one that fit with this project.  {Remember to print your graphic in reverse!}  Then, I used the "Mod Podge method" to transfer the image to the tabletop.

1. Print graphic in reverse.
2. Trim around graphic to remove excess paper.
3. Paint Mod Podge onto your graphic, and lay it wet side down onto your project.
4. Let dry overnight!  This is important! Don't try to rush this step, for successful results.
5. The next day: Dampen the paper with a wet sponge, and start rubbing the paper gently away. Your image/graphic should stay on the table, but the paper will roll off in bits with rubbing.  Don't rub too vigorously in one spot, as this could cause the graphic to come off completely.
{Truth time: I watched SEVERAL YouTube videos on this technique before attempting it. I probably should have started with a smaller graphic on a smaller project, but hey! that's how I roll!}
6. Once all the paper is removed, and it's DRY, use sandpaper to lightly distress and "age" the entire project.
7.  Take the project outdoors and spray on the clear finish. I gave Frenchie 3 light coats.  Allow to dry away from wind or drafts.

You should have heard that little French girl gushing! "Ooh, la la! Je suis si jolie!"  I sat her next to Blue Boy, my French speaking guy that also lives in the master bedroom.  They have a real conversation going on in there!  {Not too "shabby" for my initial investment of five dollars!}

What do you think about our Little French Girl and her makeover?  I know it seems like I've been chalk-painting everything lately, but most of these projects have been a long time in the works, just waiting until we were settled and for the weather to cooperate.

Oh, and I promised you that I'd be sharing about the pallet table I've been working on, and it's nearly done now!  It's a "first build" for me, and I'm learning, making mistakes, and fixing my mistakes as I go along. It's exciting that it's completely assembled now, and will be getting a finish put on soon. The neighbors that walked by while I was working on it gave me several compliments, so now I've just got to decide on a finish.  It WON'T be chalk paint! I'm leaning towards a worn, white-wash paint OR rustic-looking stain.
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