The art of upcycling

I’ve been busy keeping my Etsy shop stocked over the last month and have been having so much fun finding new treasures to rescue, upcycle and sell. And with all of these projects I have forgotten 99% of the time to take before and after photos. The following item is the 1%.

I thought I’d write a post that explains what I look for in an item, and how I transform it from a piece of junk on its way to the dumpster, to become something that others want to actually have and display in their home. It’s really neat to give an item a complete make-over and a second chance. There is so much potential in many of these forgotten pieces. It takes vision, creativity and time, but the end product is worth it.

The item I’ve chosen to use as an example is this old sewing/craft box:

craftbox insideboxI found it for $1.49. I liked that it was made of solid wood. I also liked the general shape of it. What I didn’t like was the nasty mustard yellow felt lining that had seen better days, The chips on each corner of the bottom drawer, the scuffs/dings/scratches, and the awful pin cushion fabric. But all the things I didn’t like about it could be changed. The doors on top still functioned just fine, the pulls were intact, the lines were cute, and the solid wood was a huge plus. I knew when painted it would feel higher quality.

I wanted to get rid of the yellow felt and replace it with something else. I also wanted to cover the old fabric with something cuter, and I wanted to paint the entire box a different color to give it new life. All of these things were totally doable and didn’t take much time.

It was easy to rip off the top pin cushions. They were just hot glued on so they peeled off. I just covered those and used a stapler underneath to secure the new fabric.

While I had the pin cushions off, I painted the entire box and Aqua color (acrylic paint), distressed it and waxed it with a protective coat with Annie Sloan’s clear wax.

After that I attempted to get rid of the felt. The yellow felt peeled right off. I measured those areas and cut scrap paper to size, then glued them back in.

The scrapbook paper made a huge difference!

The scrapbook paper made a huge difference!

Upcycled Sewing Box

Ahh… much better!

Since I already made this look shabby, it was no big deal that there were chips in the drawer.

I just distressed these areas to make it look more intentional. It still functions the way it needs to.

I just distressed these areas to make it look more intentional. It still functions the way it needs to.

Projects like these are rewarding because the material cost is very low. In this case I used 1/2 small bottle of aqua acrylic paint, 2 scraps of fabric and some scrapbook paper. Since I already had the vision, it only took about 2 hours to complete the project and it was fun to do!

Here are some other projects I’ve done recently that don’t have before pictures but hopefully they can still be inspiring:

Owl bookends made out of 2 secondhand mini wall shelves.

Owl bookends made out of 2 secondhand mini wall shelves.

Earring organizer made out of a vintage weather barometer, some chicken wire, and scrapbook paper.

Earring organizer made out of a vintage weather barometer, some chicken wire, and scrapbook paper.

Cake stand made from a secondhand candle holder, plate and glass dome.

Cake stand made from a secondhand candle holder, plate and glass dome.

As always, if you want to support our upcoming adoption efforts or get ideas for more DIY projects, please visit my Etsy shop to see more items I’ve created from secondhand pieces.


My first experience with Annie Sloan’s Chalkpaint (and Furniture Refinisher)

I’d heard a lot about Chalk Paint and seen tons of things on Pinterest related to painting old furniture with this “miracle” paint, so I decided it was time for me to take the plunge and try it out. To be honest, I was nervous. I guess the special brushes and the pricey-ness of the paint itself along with the whole wax thing made me feel a little intimidated.

What really encouraged me in this direction is when I found a Chippendale-style dining set at my local thrift store for only $75. The finish was not good though. The top was majorly scratched and dinged and the chairs were covered with a dingy old fabric. But, the table was a nice size, with a leaf included, and there were 5 chairs.

Thrift store Chippendale-style dining set. $75.

Thrift store Chippendale-style dining set. $75.

I wanted the top to be durable, so I googled a bunch of different ideas. The one I liked best, suggested using an antique furniture refinisher to rub off the old stain on top with steel wool. I ended up using Fromby’s Furniture Refinisher:

Awesome stuff, but plan on using multiple cans of it if you're stripping a large surface!

Awesome stuff, but plan on using multiple cans of it if you’re stripping a large surface!

I found this YouTube tutorial that I mainly followed:

Here are a few things that I learned from this process.

1) DO NOT BUY LATEX GLOVES. Don’t even buy just regular rubber gloves. You need to buy the gloves that say they are made for working with strong chemicals. And even when I used those, eventually they would eat through after enough use. You may have to buy several pairs of gloves (2-3)

2) You will most likely end up going through a lot of refinisher if you’re stripping a large area. I ended up having to buy 3 jugs of refinisher.

3) I think I used an entire package of the steel wool when all was said and done.

4) You also need a metal bucket to put the refinisher in. I found using 2 metal buckets was best, because each time you dip your steel wool back in to get more refinisher on it, you end up dirtying the rest of the refinisher. It was best to have refinisher in 2 buckets. One for rinsing and squeezing out as much old stain as I could, and the other for getting some cleaner refinisher to go back to the table with. If the second bucket started getting too gross I would add it to the first bucket and add some clean refinisher to the 2nd again.

Once I finished this process, this beautiful underlying wood was revealed:

The stain had darkened so much and was so dinged and scratched that I didn't even know the wood had a pattern in it until I stripped it!

The stain had darkened so much and was so dinged and scratched that I didn’t even know the wood had a pattern in it until I stripped it!

I used Minwax Polyshades to stain the top of the table. I chose Bombay Mahogany in the gloss for the shade.

There is a dark cherry quality to this stain. I love the way it classed up the top of the table.

There is a dark cherry quality to this stain. I love the way it classed up the top of the table.

The YouTube tutorial above does a good job explaining the kind of brush you need. Usually you’ll only need one coat of this since the protective agent is mixed into the stain. We only used one coat and were happy with it. If you want it darker you can add another coat after 6 hours. Make sure to lightly sand between coats.

After taking care of the stain, I tackled the chairs, and base of the table with my Annie Sloan Chalk Paint. I chose the white color since all of our molding is true white. The nice thing about it is you don’t have to do any prep work whatsoever. I lightly dusted all of the chairs and the table legs, but no sanding is necessary. This makes the process a lot quicker and easier.

chaircloseupdetailBecause I chose the only paint that doesn’t have any pigmentation to it, it required 2 coats of paint to get the chairs how I wanted them. But since I wanted them to look distressed, I was satisfied with the results. If I had wanted them to be more opaque and smooth, I would’ve probably done a 3rd coat. Here are a few things I learned in the process:

1) The paint dries super quickly. That means that once you finish your first coat, you can usually start immediately on a second coat.

2) You don’t have to purchase the special brushes. You’ll want a good quality brush, but it doesn’t have to be an Annie Sloan one. I used a nice Purdy brush and it worked beautifully.

3) The chalk paint washes easily out of the brushes. Even after having a blonde moment and forgetting to wash my brush one evening, I was able to easily wash it out almost completely in the morning.

4) You can pretty much finish a painting project within 30-40 minutes since the paint dries fast and as soon as you sand/distress (if you desire), you can start the waxing process immeditately.

5) You can use an old t-shirt to rub the wax into the piece.

6) The paint goes a long way. With pieces that I’ve painted that have more pigmentation, I’ve only had to use 1 coat.

7) There are TONS of tutorials on using Annie Sloan wax on YouTube, so take advantage of this! I watched several before starting this project and I recommend you do too.

To recover the chairs, I used some fabric and plastic covering for the seats along with a staple gun, just like I did with my pub set. My goal with this table was to have a very elegant looking table to was also practical for having children.

I utilized the fabric in a way that I could get 2 seats covered from one yard. If it hadn't been so darn economical, I would've probably turned the pattern 90 degrees CCW. But frugal-ness won... again.

I utilized the fabric in a way that I could get 2 seats covered from one yard. If it hadn’t been so darn economical, I would’ve probably turned the pattern 90 degrees CCW. But frugal-ness won… again.

I also opted for the distressed look because it is sure to be dinged up and damaged by my 3 year old and our soon-to-be adopted daughter.

So I have to admit, I haven’t quite finished this set yet, because I have to work within my monthly budget and I can’t buy more fabric until the 10th, but it’s a good start:

You'll notice that I've included that antique chair I repainted and recovered for now, until I sell it (or don't).

You’ll notice that I’ve included that antique chair I repainted and recovered for now, until I sell it (or don’t).

And since this project I’ve done several more, but all with the intention of selling them to make money for our adoption. It will be hard to part with these pieces, because they were so fun to make!

Adorable curio cabinet with antique key. Painted Duck Egg Blue.

Charming curio cabinet with original antique key. Painted Duck Egg Blue. I love the patina on all the brass hardware!

Adorable antique Dixie night stand/end table. Painted Duck Egg Blue.

Adorable antique Dixie night stand/end table. Painted Duck Egg Blue.

Chalkboard created from a thrift store mirror. Painted with Annie Sloan's White chalk paint.

Chalkboard created from a thrift store mirror. Painted with Annie Sloan’s White chalk paint.

DIY New Home or Wall Decor Door – Shabby Chic Style

I have a fun new project that is pretty easy and fairly inexpensive. I love to rummage through the IKEA “as is” section just to see what treasures I may find. Sometimes I find great linens with cute patterns to use as fabric. Other times it’s a slightly damaged picture frame that can either be repaired or painted. In this case, I came across their cabinet doors. They are all random shapes and sizes and usually are only a few bucks. I found a cute long skinny one I wanted to use to make this project:

DIY Shabby Chic Door Wall Decor

Perfect for a housewarming gift, wedding gift, or just a cute wall piece to add to your existing home.

The cabinet door I chose was 1.99. I don’t have pictures for step by step directions but the directions are pretty self explanatory so I will list them in order and if you have any questions let me know!

1. The first thing I did was clean it. Obviously it’s a good idea to clean the object before painting it.

2. I used a dark brown flat paint to sort of “prime” the piece. The main reason I did this though was to create a dark layer under the white paint to show through when I distressed it.

3. After that dried I used vaseline in the areas I wanted to distress.

4. I sprayed a white satin spray paint over the entire piece and let that dry.

5. Then I rubbed off the vaseline areas with a paper towel once the white paint had completely dried, to reveal the distressed areas.

6. There will already be a hole drilled in the cabinet for some hardware, so all you have to do is find a knob you love to add to it. I love the knobs at Hobby Lobby, and they are ALWAYS on sale, so I found one that looked like a mini antique door knob. I think it ended up being about $3? They also have adorable crystal knobs too. I would just take a look and try not to be overwhelmed!

7. Finally, to get the text on, I opened a document in Illustrator that was the same size as the top and bottom panels of the door. My panels were 2″ x 6″. I’m sure you could use a word processing program as well. Or you could draw a rectangle in any program the size of the top and bottom panel just to give you a reference, then select the type size and style to fit within the panels. The dimensions just help you choose the right size of text so that it fits perfectly on your door.

8. Print this text out and hold the paper up to a window and flip the paper over so you can see the text through the paper. Then you want to take a pencil and lead the entire back of the text. This is a similar method to when I did the chalkboard clock, only you’re using lead instead of chalk.

9. Flip the paper back over to the correct side and center the paper and text onto the panels and secure the paper in place with some tape so it doesn’t slip. Then you want to carefully trace all the letters onto the top and bottom panels. You can use a pen or pencil for this.

10. Once you remove the sheet of paper you’ll see the traced lettering onto the door.

11. You want to use a thin paint pen (color of your choice) to go over and fill in the letters.

12. You can add some sort of hanging hardware on the back if you want it to hang on the wall, or it looks good on a shelf just resting as well. I will say though, that if you decide to hang it on the wall, you’ll need to cut off some of the screw in the back to help it lay flush with the wall.

DIY Shabby Chic Door Wall Hanging

Makes a cute addition to a mantel!

And there you go! I hope the directions made sense. I have been busy working on my Etsy shop to raise funds for our adoption so some of the projects I post may not always have pictures to accompany every project but I will try to do better!

And if you are a) too busy to make any of the future posted projects or b) want to support our adoption fund, visit my Etsy shop at: and you will be able to purchase most of the items I blog about here from now on. I would be eternally grateful! All profits will go toward us getting our little girl home!

More refinished pieces

So, it’s been awhile since I last posted, but I have a good reason! My husband and I just began a new and exciting journey. A few weeks ago we met with an adoption agency in Colorado, and we are hoping to adopt a little girl off the waiting list in China within the next year.  We have always had a heart for adoption, but recently we’ve felt like this is the time to start the process and we are excited!

Immediately my brain starting reeling trying to think of ways I could raise some extra money for adoption costs. I figured the best thing to do would be to stick with my talents/skills and try to make some money that way. So last weekend when Salvation Army had their 50%-off-everything-in-the-store sale, I was in search of some pieces I could purchase and refinish to try to sell on Craigslist for a profit.

The first item I found was this adorable vintage chair:

Vintage Chair

Small vanity chair for $25 at Salvation Army

The picture doesn’t show it all, but it wasn’t in great shape. The wood was pretty scratched and cushion fabric was stained and dingy. I wanted to make a cute shabby chic chair out of it. I already had white paint (from zillions of other painting projects) and I had left over fabric I’d used to make a roman shade for our dining room with. All I needed to buy was some black braiding.

Here is how it turned out:


DIY Refinished Shabby Chic Chair

The left-over fabric I had was perfect for the look I was going for.

Refinished Shabby Chic Chair

I distressed the edges with some sandpaper.

The second piece I found was a yellowish, scratched, wood end table with brass hardware. I am upset that I don’t have a before picture, but it was a pretty hideous sight. You know it’s ugly if it’s still left after a 3 day 50% off sale! I got this end table for $10 and thought it would be perfect in red with aged bronze hardware.

DIY Refinished End Table

I loved the bone structure of the piece. The red makes it really “pop”.

DIY Refinished Red End TableI’m sure there will be a lot more to blog about in the next few months as I continue to try to refinish pieces to sell. I will eventually start an etsy shop to sell items that are easily “shipable”. Didn’t want to hassle with it for furniture though. My vision for my etsy shop is to make unique pieces from thrift store items, combined with a few sewing projects. We will see how it goes!


Dollar Store Challenge: Sunburst Mirror

Last week, we spent time visiting my parents in the Seattle area. Other than the entire household contracting a nasty respiratory virus (courtesy of my daughter), we had a great time spending time with family.

My brother and his fiancee live in the area and I was really excited to see them and catch up. While we were there we decided to do a couples’ challenge using Dollar Store items. The challenge is to create something using $5 worth of Dollar Store items to re-purpose into something else that can be sold on Craigslist for the most money. We are allowed to use paint, glue/adhesive, nails, staples and other bonding products, but that is about it.

Our deadline isn’t until May 15th, so the competition isn’t over yet, but in the process of brainstorming projects, I came up with this idea, which I may or may not use in the actual competition.

A Sunburst Mirror:

DIY Dollar Store Sunburst Mirror

DIY Dollar Store Sunburst Mirror. $5.

This project can be done for as little as $3. However, I spent the full $5 on mine. I will show you both versions.

I started out with these three basic items:

DIY Dollar Store Sunburst Mirror

Candle mirror, candle plate and mini plastic spoons.


I started by hot gluing the spoons in a circle. It helps to do the 12, 3, 6, and 9 o’clock positions first and then evenly space in between these 4 points. Hot glue them like CRAZY so they will stay in place.

You can then spray paint the entire thing, front and back:

DIY Sunburst Mirror

After painting both sides and letting it dry, you can hot glue the mirror if you choose the $3 version of this mirror. If you want the $5 version DO NOT glue the mirror yet.

I decided after the fact that I wanted to embellish it a little:

DIY Dollar Store Sunburst Mirror

You can glue dollar store toothpicks in between the spoons to add a little more detail.

Obviously, I had to go back and repaint once I added these. If you know ahead of time you want to add them you can wait to paint the entire thing until after the toothpicks are added.

After everything dried, I hot glued the mirror on (tons of glue again!), and then added these jewels to each spoon end:

Dollar Store gems

Dollar Store gems from the craft/school supply aisle.

And that’s how I got this:

DIY Dollar Store Sunburst Mirror

DIY Dollar Store Sunburst Mirror. $5.

Use glass bonding glue to apply hanging hardware in the back. Follow all the directions to assure it dries and bonds properly.

So that is about it! I will let you know if I end up using this, or if I choose something else. And of course I will announce the winner when all is said and done (provided we win;)).

Thrift store sheets for fabric

I promised to eventually post a little about some sewing projects that I have completed. I received my sewing machine in late January. Since then I have done some self teaching but I have also had my mother and a couple of dear friends of mine guide me through pattern reading and the basics of sewing. I think it’s safe to say that I’m obsessed.

My husband often has to work late, but can bring his work home. So while he’s on his laptop, I’m next to him at a card table with my sewing machine hooked up working on various projects.

I recently started to try to sew some clothes for myself. That has always been a dream of mine. I’ve heard before that it is often more expensive to make your clothes than to buy them because fabric can be so pricey. Well, my friends, NOT if the fabric you’re using comes from the thrift store in bed sheet form. Not convinced?

Here is my latest project.

Wal-Mart Pattern

97 cent pattern from Wal-Mart.

Thrift Store Sheet

Wrinkly $1 bed sheet from the thrift store. Equivalent to at least 3 yards of fabric.

Finished dress

Finished dress.

Just call me Fraulein Maria.

I also found a cute white and gray pinstripe sheet that I will make into some other article of clothing.

More to come.

Anthropolgie-like repainted thrift store candelabra

Wow, that was a mouthful, wasn’t it?

I swooned over this candelabra when I saw it on Anthropologie’s website:

Anthropologie Candelabra

Anthropologie Antiquity Candelabra.

The swooning was quickly followed by a mild heart attack when I read the price. $345. I know that their prices run high, but I just didn’t see this one coming.

Over the last few months I’ve made it my mission to find a candelabra at a thrift store because any decent candelabra seems to run between $50-$100 (from my extensive research on… ha!).

In all honesty, I thought it would be easier to score one of these. But in reality, it took awhile to come across one. And you better believe that the moment I did, I snagged it.

Again, in my haste I forgot to take a picture of the before. It was a dark wood and wrought iron candelabra. It wasn’t awful, but it didn’t fit in with my decor style. And you know me, I paint everything. It’s kind of becoming an issue.

Here is a picture of it primed before I painted it white:

Anthropologie-like DIY Candelabra

Don’t be fooled by the bluish tint in this photo. It’s a true grey matte primer.

I chose grey because the distressed areas on the Anthro Candelabra are grey, and I didn’t want both wood and wrought iron showing through.

Anthropologie-like DIY Candelabra

Here’s my knock off after using Vaseline and white satin spray paint.

I realize this isn’t super similar to the Anthropologie Candelabra. I still like the Anthro one better and my chipped paint doesn’t have the same look either, but I still really like the way it looks on my mantel. I think for $12, I am more than satisfied.

Anthropologie-like DIY Candelabra

Now I just need some candles!