Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Renovated Schoolhouse Desk Chair

Well, well well... It's only been about 8-9 months since I had my daughter drag the schoolhouse chair into the house from the alley behind my old apartment. I was initially going to strip it and paint it white just like the pretty ones sold at Pottery Barn. But as you know, I'm headed into my inspired design of Edison Travels, I've decided to keep the wood in a natural state and give it an aged look such as seen in reclaimed wood.

I was so excited to begin! You have no idea. I waited so long to get this started. The weather is perfect and the rooftop offers the perfect location for an ambitious project such as this. Great sun, good breeze and amazing views! Can't ask for a better workroom!

Now let me just pre-empt this post by informing you this is my first refinishing job. I am pretty proud of the results but I know there are some "experts" out there that may pick apart my methods. Hey, you do you and I'll do me and we can all live happy, happy. I give you this to think about before you commence to giving me loads of criticism...ahem, advice.

I swear I ran off to Lowe's and Home Depot more times in the last two weeks than I've ever gone in my lifetime. And guess what? I actually love it there! That's right, ladies, it's not just a guy's store. However, it is the kind of store you can drag your husband to and he'll actually be happy as a clam to be there!

Before I take you on a journey through pictures, let me share with you the lovely before photo.

If you are interested in the back story of how I came across this chair for FREE, be sure to visit my previous post HERE.

Applying paint stripper was the easy part. Wearing gloves and a mask, I liberally brushed Citristrip all over the surface of the chair, being sure to reach into every nook and cranny so I could get a good clean finish.

Citristrip states to leave it on at least an hour and up to 24 hours but it was ready for scraping within 20-30 minutes. I couldn't resist. It is back breaking work to scrape the chair. Not because the paint is resistant. On the contrary, the paint was coming off like butter. But the bending over and under and sideways was killing my back. This is where I really wished I had a workable to set the chair on so I could have stood upright. OUCH!

{Bubble bubble toil and trouble. The Citristrip is doin' it's thang!}

{After the first application. The stickers need more elbow grease and the paint is at least 4 coats thick and is clinging onto the wood like a baby to it's mama.}

{After the third application. The paint is gone but lo and behold, big surprise *sarcasm...there is yucky varnish under there! EW!}

{WHEW! With the varnish almost gone and the wood fairly dry, it's time to sand, sand, sand. Just look at the nasty varnish! YUK!}

As you can see from the photos above, it took 3 coats of Citristrip to finally reveal the beautiful wood underneath. My back was crying out but the chair was singing, "I can breathe!!" I even imagined it telling me thank you and we bonded and became one. At this point I vowed to the chair that I would never cover it with paint and that I would endure backaches just to show it how much I loved and admired her.

Seriously, she was covered in rocker stickers on top of deep red paint on top of gold paint on top of black paint on top of varnish! BLECH! Suddenly I noticed her arms and decided they were quite sexy. (Yes, during this meditative process she took on a personality and became a girl.)

Maybe I was breathing in too many chemicals! Either way, I discovered that the chair had a number on her backside and that little discovery was extremely exciting to me. Like, I actually became giddy! Or maybe that was from breathing in the chemicals too! At this point who knows. All I cared about was getting it done.

All in all the stripping alone took a total of 6 hours. Yep, there went my Saturday. I stopped and gave my back a break for the night and came back to sand her down a couple of days later.

STOP: this was going on while I was stripping the varnish:

Too bad I was too busy to notice the solar eclipse but hey...I was in deep concentration over here! Or maybe I simply forgot because I was breathing chemicals for the second day in a row.

{Oooo she's nakey! But what a difference. I used four different grits of sandpaper. The higher the grit number the finer the sand, yielding a smoother finish. I started with a course grit 80 and ended with a baby soft grit 400. I sanded this by hand but I learned a tough lesson. After experiencing multiple hand cramps, I decided a sander will be entering my life sooner than soon. But she was finally stripped bare! Ooo la la, hello naked lady! I left her in all her bare nakedness to dance in the light of the moon while I ate beef stew, had a glass of Pinot Noir and immersed myself in episodes of Scandal.}
I returned on Monday evening to wash her down with a nice bath of Citristrip Paint Stripper Wash. Once she was washed down, I sanded her lightly to remove any remaining varnish and paint. Using a tack cloth I wiped her clean of any dust and then dry brushed her using a new paint brush. Look how fresh and new she looks! But the problem is I wanted her to look aged, not fresh and new. Hmmm...

Here comes the fun part! Once again I left her overnight but I wasn't chilling this time. I returned to my apartment where I tore a pad of 0000 steel wool into little pieces and placed in a pasta sauce jar that I had saved for such an occasion as this. I then covered the steel wool with white vinegar and closed it up with the lid. What is this, you ask? It's how I will give my beauty a wash that gives the wood an aged look. You see, the steel wool has a chemical reaction to the vinegar and when I brush it onto my beauty, the steel wool/vinegar mixture will oxidize her, making her look like aged and will give her a gorgeous color.

The next day, she received her stinky but wonderfully effective vinegar wash and sat to dry for a few more hours. Check out the left side area where I applied the wash! It's already working wonders.

Once she dried, I sealed her up with a paste wax following the manufacturer's instructions.

She spent one final night up on the roof before I painted her hardware black, added casters and stenciled the word "SIT". I am not sure about the SIT but I needed something to cover the wood filler the previous owner used. I might change it. Still not sure. But just look at her! Isn't she a beauty?

{Baby's got back!}
{and she's got legs..and she knows how to use them!}

As you can see, one man's trash can truly be another man's treasure! Thanks to the person who was tired of her and left her discarded in the alley. She was rescued and revived!

So what do you think? I'd love to hear from you!


xoxo, tami


Friday, May 18, 2012

Inspired Design: Living Room/Workspace

Indecisive? Yes, that would be me! I've literally changed my mind about my living room design a gazillion times. I love so many things that the hardest part of creating a curated design is focus and editing. (I will tackle the subject of focus and creative process in another post).

After much soul searching, I've finally come up with the design I am going with FINALLY! And I promise not to change my mind again. Pinky swear!!

I looked around at the pieces in my home that I loved the most and also asked myself why I am usually drawn towards historical buildings over modern and contemporary when I look for a dwelling place. Although I don't really know the root of my love for antiques and period pieces, I do know that I've been enamored by it for quite some time.

When I was a teen, living in Florida, my parents took us on a day trip to visit Thomas Edison's winter home in Ft. Myers. (This was one of many trips my parents took us on where I had a great time but I pretended to hate being there just to torture my, I did some dumb things when I was a teen! LOL) At any rate, I enjoyed myself immensely. Edison's home and the grounds are gorgeous. but most fascinating to me was his lab. His creative genius came alive in that room. I could feel his energy and spirit there. He mixed potions and tested filament light bulbs and basically allowed himself to develop into the great inventor that he was known to be.

Seriously, how great are his beakers and test tubes and apothecary jars? I love it!!

I thought about the movies I gravitate towards. My favorites are The Color Purple, Sherlock Holmes and The Time Machine...more for the movie set design than for the actual storyline, although I have enjoyed the story. But the masculinity of it...the antiques, rich tapestries, ornate wood carvings, textures and layers of visual interest get me most excited.

I think it's important to stay away from trends in home design. Your home is an extension of you. It should feel like a warm blanket. It should excite you and entice you.

I need an environment that speaks to my true inner self and that inspires me towards creativity without limitations. And this is what I've come up with:

Edison Travels is about invention (reinventing self; creating new ideas and concepts) and travel (exploring new territory; opening my world to new experiences).

Clocks to represent moments in time; maps to represent expanding my territory; apothecary jars to represent creating potions of healing and restoration; telescopes to represent looking past the right now and out into the future; suitcases to represent the travel I plan to have; books to represent feeding the mind; succulents in terrariums to represent protecting and sustaining life during a dry spell; leather for durability; iron pipes to represent strength and endurance; reclaimed wood to represent bringing new life to old situations.

I want neutral tones and a masculine/industrial feel. I am from the Midwest and most of my family members have worked in or are still working in factories, on assembly lines and operating heavy machinery to build with their hands the items we use in our homes. This design concept is very ME in more ways than I can list and I'm very excited about this. (Geesh, it only took me 9 months to pull a design out that represents my true self!)

Here is my list of DIY projects to bring this inspiration to a reality:
1. Strip paint from table desk and schoolhouse chair. (Yes, this is the same desk I painted white a few months to be stripped and undergo a process to age the wood
2. Build a bookshelf for the back of the sofa
3. Build a vintage industrial light fixture pendant
4. Build a industrial task light for the desk using a filament bulb and iron pipe
5. Sew curtains for the windows using drop cloths
6. Create curtain rods
7. Create a floor runner for my workspace area
8. Build an office console to house my printer, supplies, binders, etc.
9. Sew up a few throw pillows for my sofa

Boy oh boy, do I have my work cut out for me. But I'm determined and there's no going back. I've already purchased the chemicals and tools needed to strip my desk and chair.

I'll be documenting my process so stay tuned! (oh and did I mention I still intend to sew up a shower curtain and window curtain for my bathroom soon...EEK!)

Monday, May 14, 2012

Renovating Ideas: Ikat Print

I have been a fan of Ikat print long before it became the current trend it is today. Well, I also love chevron but there is something about the tribal look of Ikat that warms up a space, giving it visual interest, texture and depth. Plus it makes me smile.

I have been toiling over a look for my living room. I started with this idea of doing Aubergine and Chocolate, however I have since moved from that apartment into a really cool building that has loads of windows and light and have since thrown the original idea to the wind. I still like it but I've decided to go another route.

Enter Ikat... I'm pretty much set on going the Ikat route. The issue now is curated a collection of accessories, lamps and rugs and editing the room do that it is beautiful in a thoughtful way without looking gaudy. Below are some gorgeous looks I've come across that I'm using ad inspiration.

What do you think about Ikat? Trendy or timeless?

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Field Trip: Downtown Los Angeles Fabric District

As a event stylist, I find myself in DTLA quite often for a variety of things, most of which is to purchase flowers at the infamous flower market and secondly, to purchase fabrics in the amazing fabric district.

To venture downtown requires that you carve out a significant part of your day for browsing. If you think you're going to head down there and zip in and out, you are sorely mistaken. Mainly because it sucks you in! There are so many options. And if you are a creative mind, such as I am, it's simply impossible not to look around and be inspired over and over again.

- Wear comfortable shoes. You are going to do a lot of walking.
- Bring cash for parking. There is very little opportunity for street parking and lots can be anywhere from $10-20 bucks depending on how convenient the lot is to the district. Honestly, I just take the subway. It's easier for me because the streets are crowded and the parking is a pain. Take the Red Line, Blue Line or Expo Line to 7th/Metro and then hop on either the MTA's 51, 52, or 60 bus or the Dash E Line and head east down 7th Street. Get off at Los Angeles Street and walk 2 blocks south on Maple. Simple as that. Plus the exercise is good for you. Heck, you're already going to be doing a lot of walking. (Can you tell I've done this a few times?)
- Go in with a plan. It's easy to become distracted and overwhelmed.
- Don't expect to see everything. There are over 100 fabric stores in the district.
- Have cash for negotiating. Cash talks...and don't be afraid to haggle. This is the place where the price is never really the price. Example: Over the weekend a guy quoted $16 a yard for fabric that could be used for a bedroom set. After saying no, he went down to $10!
- Exercise patience. The streets are crowded, the stores can be crowded or hard to navigate because fabric bolts are spilling into the walkways. It's like this all of the time. If you have issues with crowds or are in a mood, just stay home. Trust me.

There are an incredible number of options for shopping in the fabric district. I tend to visit the same spots over and over because they work for me and offer the best options. However, when I am searching for upholstery or home fabrics, I tend to breeze in and out of several places. Nevertheless, here are my top spots:

FIDM Scholarship Store
919 S. Grand
I absolutely adore this spot. It sells new clothing and accessories donated by top fashion companies and all proceeds go to FIDM scholarships. This is the best place to stock up on $1 a yard fabric, $1 accessories and inexpensive grab bags of buttons and trim. It was named “Best Boutique/Store in L.A.” by the readers of Downtown News.

Angel Textiles
846 S. Maple Avenue
I like discovering little hole-in-the-wall places, such as this one. The prices here are phenomenal. They even have leather pieces if you are making handbags, jewelry etc. Cash and large quantities will help you negotiate.

Michael Levine
920 S. Maple Avenue
I never visit the fabric district without stopping by Michael Levine because of the huge selection of woven fabrics and notions. It consists of three stores: the main store, the home decor store, and the Loft. They have a huge selection of designer wovens and fun Japanese imports.

The Loft is a great place to find one-off finds and everything is priced by the pound. Currently their rates are at $2.50 a pound. Seriously, how can you go wrong? Sometimes I find great things, sometimes I don't. But I ALWAYS stop in because you just never know!

And, if you are buying in bulk you can ask to check out the warehouse for larger quantities.

Over the weekend I purchase a couple of yards of a pretty cotton fabric from Michael Levine to sew up a table runner for a Rooftop Dinner Party I'm hosting next month. It took me 40 minutes to decide! LOL

Target Trim
629 E. 9th Street
Trim heaven. 'Nuff said. If you need proof, just check out the photos below and you will see for yourself. Mind you, this is merely a sampling! Yes, it's that freaking awesome!

L.A. Fred's Fabric Inc.
411 E. 9th Street
So after popping in and out of my favorite haunts, I also stopped into L.A. Fred's for the first time. I was looking for fabric for drapes and ended up finding the perfect fabric for a shower curtain. When I say perfect, I mean perfect. I wanted something that looked like Mexican Tiles in the exact colors of my bathroom tiles, which I nearly gave up on. I mean what are the odds of finding the exact pattern in the exact colors that I had in my mind? But here it was. It is absolutely magnificent.

I met with the owner, Fred, who quoted me a price of $35 per yard! And then he immediately stated he will give me a good price. This was a new fabric in his store and he had a gigantic bolt of it. Well, being that I wasn't visiting the fabric district with the intention of buying the perfect shower curtain fabric, let alone finding it, I had to walk away. But I've been dreaming of it ever since.

Fred gave me his business card after asking me what country I'm from... {no one EVER guesses my nationality...EVER}, and I promised to return. Do you think Fred was attracted to me? Maybe I can get a good deal if I smile a lot. I'll have to keep you posted!

There are plenty of restaurants in DTLA but most convenient when you are on the go are the street vendors. You will find Hispanic vendors cutting up fresh fruit on the spot (especially nice on a warm day). And if you're up to a local favorite, you can find bacon wrapped hot dog stands all over the place. The smell will draw you in. I don't eat hot dogs but when I walk by these carts, it sure is tempting because they smell so amazing! Perhaps one day I'll buy one. After all, as an Angeleno it's my civic duty.

Follow my tips and have a great time! If you happen to stop by any of these places, let me know your thoughts.

So where do you shop for fabric locally?