Corner Chair

Meet the chair in the corner of my office:

I kind of love the lines of the back, but that gray vinyl was not doing this chair any favors. So yesterday I decided to recover the poor thing. Wait, that’s a lie. I actually decided to recover this chair when I bought it over six years ago for $75 at a flea market with three of it’s friends and the wooden table that now poses as additional counterspace in the kitchen (and I would like to keep this sentence going as long as possible). Since then, I’ve sold two of the chairs, and the fourth is in a basement somewhere. I think. BUT. This little guy was hanging out in my office and in need of a makeover.

I didn’t want errands or money to be involved in this spur-of-the-moment, after work project. Luckily, I have a bin of fabric in the craft closet because doesn’t everybody? 

How about this one?

No. How about this one?

No. Wait, maybe. It’s reversible!

Perfect.

So I set about removing the staples in the gray vinyl. All 52 of them. And surprise! There’s another horrid seat cover under that one.

I then removed 55 more staples to discover, YEP, another awful seat cover under that one.

I suddenly realize I’m dealing with the Russian matryoshka doll of chairs here. I start to get really worried about what is under this layer. And then really excited. What if it’s a treasure map! Will Nicholas Cage help me!? Will he even take my call?!?

After 49 more staples, it turned out to be just a nice, clean cushion. I must have sold the one with the map. Those lucky unsuspecting Craigslisters!

The cushion was stapled nicely around the edge and didn’t smell bad or anything. Yes, I checked. Since I didn’t really go into this project with any upholstery foam lying around, I thought it best to use it as is. My original half-formed plan was to triple up on batting; this was way better. I then just cut some batting and fabric, lay the naked seat upside down on top, and started stapling everything to the bottom of the seat. After a few staples to secure the batting and fabric, I cut away the extra. Then I stapled and stapled and stapled. Staple guns are super fun, by the way. I totally get the staple overkill. I did it myself.

Voila!

Most Important Home Improvement Tool: My Phone

Facetime is awesome. Here’s proof. I bought two of these ceiling lights for the downstairs, one in the basement hallway and one above the stair landing.

I decided to be a badass and install these myself. Except for constant wishing for extra hands to sprout from my body, the first one was installed with no issues. I may have used my head to balance the light while one hand held screws and one held a screwdriver but it worked out with minimal profanity.

Things got ugly on the stair landing.

WHERE WAS THE METAL BOX THINGY THAT I SCREW THE NEW FIXTURE INTO? WHERE WAS THE GROUNDING WIRE? AM I GOING TO DIE?

Thankfully, Dad has an iPhone. Dad to the rescue. He calmed me down and talked me through it. I ended up screwing the new fixture into the beam, after he promised me I wouldn’t electrocute myself and set the house on fire and it all worked out.

Basement Before & Not Quite After

Behold the basement back in November, emptied of furniture. (But not the heavy TV because it was too big and heavy for me to get it out. I’m pretty strong. This thing was ridiculous. I listed it on Freecycle and Craigslist and no one wanted it. I can’t blame them. I eventually had to pay Arlington County $20 to recycle it. I can recycle paint for free but must pay for heavy annoying TVs. Ok. Fair enough, GOVERNMENT.)

I knew I was pulling up the carpet because it was destroyed by the Bad Cat. I had already ripped it out in the hallway leading to this room. So I used the carpet as a drop cloth for weeks, painting the shelves in the wall unit and  the seven closet doors.  I have no saw horses or a place to store saw horses, so I used cardboard boxes. It was SO NICE not worrying about drips. I also spray painted two thrift store lamps in Rustoleum’s Key Lime, after cleaning them and giving them a rough sand. I sanded outside but painted inside because logic.

**Probably don’t spray paint in your house. Especially in a room with only one very small window.

But again, it was nice getting spray paint all over the carpet like a gangster. PROTIP: Tape plastic bags around the cord.  Stuff the bit where the lightbulb goes with paper towels and tape over that. Tape around the off/on switch. And spray everything else, lots of light coats.

I did fashion cardboard box walls to protect my freshly painted actual walls. I’m not a savage.

This was the ugly builder-grade drop ceiling.

And now this is the ceiling after installing cool new tiles that fit right under the original ones.

It cost less than $300 to do the whole room, and Ceilume was great, both product and customer-service wise. I originally called for a sample because I wanted to feel the weight difference between the cheapest ones and the more expensive ones. I expected something the size of a paint chip, but they sent me actual 2′ x 4′ tiles as a free sample — one of each. (You can see them in the ‘ugly’ version above.) I was able to install them and decide which I preferred. (I went with the cheaper version because I knew I was leaving the original foamy tiles up, but there is definitely a difference in quality.) They do have a 25 panel minimum for orders, but I only needed one of the translucent tiles where the light should shine through. I called and they sent that one along as a free sample, even though I offered to pay for it. Installation only took me a few hours, mainly because I had to cut so many of them. They look great, and completely updated the room. I cannot say enough good about this company. (They have no idea that I am typing this on the internet. I just really recommend them.)

Also, the bookcases got some paint, the window got some fabric, and here we are in April.

Still a huge mess, but coming together.

Darlene’s Basement

I spend a lot of quality time in the unfinished basement with the washing machine and the cats. There is plenty of room down there, it’s just chopped up in a drywall-gray, Tetris-like layout.

I thought I might get more joy out of folding tee shirts if I could do next to a sunny yellow wall, so I decided to do a quick little update. I even took a couple pictures before I started.

To the right of the dryer, you’ll see the dusty plastic shelves that were there when we moved in, holding myriad random unnecessary objects. To the left of the washer, you see the lone chair that tries very hard to hold my folded laundry. And then in the bottom picture you can see the lovely patchy walls.

I estimated it would take an afternoon to pretty up this area, and I started by cleaning off those shelves. But alas, cleaning begets cleaning, and I carried it all the way around the (unpictured) basement, clearing and organizing the work bench, storage area, shelves, sink, and kitty domain. Why paint one wall when you can paint five?  (Yes, five walls. It’s not the Pentagon, it’s just oddly shaped.)

I bought a three bin laundry sorter with a flip top surface for folding clothes ($40 at Target but already worth it. I had been sorting the clothes into basket or sometimes piles on the floor. About three feet from the litter boxes. The situation was dire.) The shelves/bar/hanging bin are from Ikea. Huge improvement.

Inspired, I primed and painted the rest of the ugly drywall, tamed the mess, and hung a $10 Ikea light in the scary dark corner.  I also a hung an elementary school-esque clock and a few colorful gig posters that I already had framed. You know, to class the litter boxes up a bit. I may have gotten carried away, but I no longer mind folding the laundry.

Unrelated:  Because I noticed it A LOT while typing this post, what’s up with the whole ‘one space after a period’ thing we have going on now? I learned to type on a good old-fashioned red-blooded American typewriter, where we used TWO SPACES after a period like our fathers and their fathers before. Using two spaces on this blog creates awkward spacing issues. Are we SO BUSY that the extra space just takes up too much of the time we could be spending reading about cats and cheeseburgers (or some more recent internet meme…I can’t keep up)? Back in my day, kids today, blah blah.  I think I’m Old.

Adventures in Craigslisting

After weeks of back and forth emailing, and other potential buyers flaking, and rainstorms, and lions and tigers and bears, I was able to set a date and time to get a supercool vintage recliner for just sixty American dollars.
The time was 8am on a Sunday morning and the place was Not My Bed so my heroic husband volunteered to pick the chair up for me.  Apparently, the chair’s former owner was just lovely, and helped him manuver it down skinny slippery steps lined with flower pots.  She had an adorable toddler that was crying the whole time.  Husband asked about the little darling, wondering if mommy should stop helping him move the chair to go see why the munchkin was so sad.  And she said, ‘oh, this is just her favorite chair.’  Aw.  Poor kid.
Now it just might be my favorite chair.  I don’t know where she’s going to live yet.

Then yesterday evening I went to pick up the perfect side table for this chair.  Only twenty dollars; I love Craigslist.  The nice lady gave me super specific directions to her house, telling me what shops I would pass and what neighborhood signs I would see.  She led me directly to her front door.  Almost.  She forgot to mention her front door was actually just a door to six apartments.  And she didn’t tell me the apartment number.  I didn’t have her phone number, and I wasn’t about to drive home to email her, so I guessed.  Found her on the third try.  Her neighbors were quite nice.

Perfect Pillows

My tale of Procuring the Perfect Pillows actually began waaaaaaay back in the spring when Chloe and Morgan came to stay.  Tired of my plain boring pillows, I picked up a few different ones at Home Goods and brought them home for a test drive.  They were pretty in the store.

I hated them at home.  And so did Possum, my feline assistant.  They were too dark and too uncomfortable and too ruffley and too BIRD so back to the store they went.

The old pillows were boring but very soft and cuddly and WASHABLE so there they stayed for several months.

Perhaps now is a good time to mention that we just returned from a European vacation.  (I know, way to bury the lead, right?)

We visited Scotland, Land of Kilts and Castles.

We visited Stockholm, Land of Ikea and Sensible Social Policy.

And we visited Finland, Land of Moomin and Marimekko.

I like to bring home usable souvenirs from our travels, things that remind me of where we visited but do more than collect dust on a shelf.  I hate dust, and I hate dusting even more.  So anything I put on a shelf is bound to collect dust.  My solution is not to dust more but instead to put less things on shelves.  But I digress.

Our flight back to the States left from Helsinki Airport.  In that airport was a Marimekko store.  And in my wallet were some euros that were going to be useless to me at home.  I went in to have a look, maybe pick up a tea towel or something, and I found the most beautiful pillow covers on earth.  They looked like they might even fit the soft cushy pillows I already owned.  (Spoiler alert:  they DO fit!!)  There were many different gorgeous bright Finnish fabrics, and I spent a long time deciding which I liked best.  So long, in fact, that we totally avoided the long queue (that’s European for line) getting onto the plane.  So long, in fact, the we almost missed the flight.  It might have been worth it.

Upon arriving home, the first thing I did was, well, sleep for about ten hours.  But the SECOND thing I did was try on my new pillow covers.  Guess what?  They fit PERFECTLY.  (You knew that already, didn’t you?)

Chloe and Morgan love them too.

Just Like the Guggenheim

I’ve hung my very own Gallery Wall.
Last month during a trip to Ikea, I picked up a big pile of different sized white frames. They have been lying on the guest bed judging me ever since. They did not like living on the bed. They wanted to live on the WALL, their natural habitat. So this weekend I gathered all the necessary items to make their dreams come true.
Necessary Items for Hanging Your Very Own Gallery Wall
Frames

Pictures for inside the frames
Eighties music
Picture hanging wire and nails
Wine
Electric drill
Pencil
Patience
One calico cat

I poured a medium sized glass of chilled pinot grigio, set some 80s mix CDs on shuffle, and got right to work. I laid out the frames on the floor in front of the wall where they would eventually live, changing them around and around and around (right round baby, right round) until I was satisfied with their placement.  I just sort of started with a few big ones in the middle to visually anchor the whole thing and scooted a bunch of little ones up close until I liked the way it looked.  At one point I even remembered to take a picture.
It didn’t end up this way, of course.  The cat didn’t like it.
After about twenty more reconfigurations, I settled on an arrangement, refilled my wine glass, and added the pictures.
The piece de resistance and major pop of color was a print I fell in love with during a past trip to Arizona.  My sneaky husband saw that I loved it and picked up a card from the gallery in Sedona.  He totally surprised me the very next Christmas and it has been waiting for a frame ever since.
The Abstract Fingerpainting was done by a three-year-old genius by the name of Sophia Raindrop.  She named it ‘Fireworks.’  It’s going to be worth millions someday.  It didn’t quite fit in the included mat but I will fix that another day.
Most of the others are photos I took on various vacations printed in black and white and masquerading as Real Art.  I do love that though the black and white fancies them up a bit, they are all personal memories from past travels.
I didn’t have any pictures small enough to fit in the tiny square frames, so I cut out a few pictures from a Lonely Planet calendar for two of them, and framed three peacock feathers in the others.  I will change out the calendar pictures eventually but I quite like the look of the feathers.
Then I got to hanging (Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh….hanging tough).
It only took seventeen million hours to hang all of the frames.  Ikea includes picture wire and these nifty little clip things with their frames, so it should have been easy.
Two of them were in fact super easy.  They were centered on wall studs, purely by luck, and I just drilled in a wood screw and hung them.
MOST of the others were MOSTly easy.  I was hanging them on drywall, so all I had to do was predrill a hold, twist in one of my favorite drywall screws, drill in an actual screw leaving a tiny bit poked out of the wall for the wire, and center the picture.
The remaining problem children were more difficult, as I discovered bricks made of an impenetrable  substance inside the walls just two millimeters behind the drywall. Or maybe I just had the wrong drill bit, but whatever, it wasn’t going to work.  I then had to remember high school Geometry and use two screws, usually one wood screw and one drywall screw, and balance the frames over two screws so they were (mostly) even.  Luckily, I saved the hard ones for last.  Geometry is way more fun after three glasses of wine.
Ta da!
Notice the empty spot above the Fireworks masterpiece.  Don’t be alarmed.  That spot is reserved for Mr. Pinchy Pants.  (Or maybe he is a Rock Lobster.)  I just can’t figure out how to hang him yet.
A gallery wall all for me, just like heaven the Met.