Spruce News

Old Items Spruced Up

Architectural Influence

At this point it should come as no surprise that I am still working on the layout of my office.  Slowly, yet surely adding pieces that are useful and look nice.  I hear it said over, and over again, in small spaces you must carefully consider the size and functionality of each piece.  A large number of small pieces can make a tiny space feel cluttered, just as too many accessories can overwhelm the space. I realize many people are in love with the Anthropologie style, but for me there can be too much of a good thing.  My work space needs some organization and order.

Anthropologie Catalogue

Despite the urge to balance the size of furniture and accessories on a tiny scale, resist the need to run out to IKEA and buy tiny furniture.  I really do like IKEA for their accessories and decor, but the furniture is definitely not comfortable for people my height. My office has been a challenge because I want the room to still feel spacious, but need to incorporate functional spaces: desk/computer area, drafting area, sitting area, and storage space.


So far in this 11 x 13 space I have the desk and lounge chair, but I have still been looking for a drafting table to fill up the space.  In my lofty visions, I envisioned something beautiful, and architectural that I could actually use on a daily basis.  With my ‘unlimited’ dreamy budget I say the RH 1920’s French Drafting Table.

RH - French Drafting Table

Simple, yet beautiful piece that appears to be adjustable and in real, working order.  Tilts to five angles, held with a cast-brass pin that integrates metal with the aged wood.  The trestle base is stained a darker, tobacco color, and to me this makes the piece look salvaged from multiple sources, surviving the tests of time.  But alas, my real budget cannot accommodate the $995 tag.

RH - Drafting Table (Back)


I swear, after the Buster chairs, I knew never in my life would I own anything else from RH.  Enter CraigsList.  What was meant to be a surprise has been slightly revealed.  On a gardening trip to Lowe’s this weekend, I was informed we would be making a stop to pick up something just posted…eyes were rolled.  We already have too much furniture, our living room is busting at the seams! Then this was loaded into the back of the truck…


CL Drafting Table



Even if it’s loaded into the office as-is, it’s more than perfect. But maybe a little cleaning, a little staining, and this gem will be even better!



Much More to Dress Up

It was not my intention to gather such a collection of dressers, but I think my slight addiction to CL has given me more than I probably need.  Two dressers and an armoire for the master bedroom may be a bit over the top though it pales in comparison to my master built-in plans and yet, I have only managed to get one of them painted.  And of course, now that I am actually getting around to posting pictures, I can’t find the before photos.  So we’ll just have to settle on the after, and maybe another small master update. As you know I am completely in love with the SW paint I used on my bench, and planned to use it on the rest of the furniture to unify the mismatched collection of pieces.  This was a $40 dresser from CL where else and it involved two coats of paint, and some Minwax stain to highlight small details.   I used the tried and true wax-on, wax-off with the stain and here are the results.


Painted Dresser

Master Dresser

In its former life it was a standard shade of honey oak, and boasted plenty of glossy shine in its finish.  I fell in love with its curvy shape, carved legs and glorious Frenchy style.  The drawer pulls were a famously glorious shiny brass, which were quickly transformed with an oil-rubbed bronze spray paint.



Lovely Curves

Fancy Feet


In an attempt to make up for my lack of before pictures, here a quick transformation switcheroo of the light fixtures above the sitting area of our mater bedroom.


Before - Light Fixture

Please ignore the completely unsafe manner in which this fixture is hanging from the ceiling, as it wasn’t this way for long.  We repainted the ceiling and never reattached it, because we knew it would be headed for the curb.  Always remember to shut off the power before attempting electrical work kids!



After – Chandelier

This 6-light chandelier came from my second favorite place Costco for about $70, and is oil-rubbed bronze finish with mosaic, frosted glass lamp covers.  It’s pretty large, and was such a good deal that six were purchased for the house.  Yes six.  The rest are residing in storage, but I managed to sneak this one out so it could be put to good use.



“Spruce News” – Feast on this Buffet

While trolling around craigslist, a while back, I came across of steal of a deal that I couldn’t pass up.  An 80’s classic maple-oak buffet, but with a unique scrolling, filigree detail running along the edge of the top.  At $20, I wasn’t too concerned with ruining it, and decided this would be a great chance to practice my “gel staining” technique.  Basically, this was my practice piece.  For around $15 I got a small can of Minwax gel stain at Lowe’s, however they did not have all the available colors.  I wanted one of the darker stains, and the darkest they had was “Brazilian Rosewood”.  Anything was better than honey maple in my opinion.


Buffet Before

I didn’t prep the buffet at all.

Let that sink in.  No sanding, no cleaning, no buffing and polishing.  To clarify, I will tell you that the piece is a mix of materials.  Real wood base, doors and top with particle-board sides and a thin plywood back.  This was not what you would consider quality hardwood construction.

I will admit, that I didn’t read the directions…and that seemed a bit out of character for me…and I learned my lesson.  I assumed it would be like any standard wood stain, wipe it on with a brush, let it sit, then wipe it off to reveal the color.  Repeat until you get the desired darkness you want.  I brushed it on, waited about five minutes, and then tried to wipe it off.  It did not wipe off this piece, and now I had small cotton fuzzies from my rag all down the side.

Take 2

I painted the buffet with stain.  Yep, that’s as easy as it gets with a really nice finish.

The last piece of the puzzle took me another couple of weeks to solve, and it was party because I couldn’t find exactly what I wanted.  The back panel of the buffet was a piece of heavy-duty cardboard, with a faux wood finish over it (don’t you just hate fake wood) which I see myself painting over.  So I began a search for a black and white fabric, paper or gift wrap that I could decoupage over it.  I knew that I wanted what some might call a “busy” print with lots of scrolls, , maybe floral and curves and somewhat vintage.  Perhaps a paisley, or fleur-de-lis pattern, or even a floral, in black and white.

Black and White Prints

I was finally able to locate just what I was looking for at Micheal’s Craft Store in the gift wrap section. I pulled out the staples and took off the back, and using a 1 to 3 parts mixture of glue and water, I covered the fake back.  And here you have the finished product, in my office.  I think it goes nicely with the blue and the black and white ties into my color scheme and desk.


After - Buffet

Backing Detail

Table Topsy Turvy Bench

After finding this great table-to-bench project on Vintage Junky I have been searching high and low for a ‘project’ table. I knew that I didn’t want to spend too much money, because sometimes your first attempt isn’t always perfect.  My first requirement was that it have curved or cabriole legs.  Our recently acquired TV armoire has such a feature, and I felt that color and leg detail could be the unifying factors in our furniture scheme.  Many hours of scrolling CL I finally found a little piece and negotiated down to $20, so it fit the bill.

Craigslist Posting - Coffee Table

The piece doesn’t have a perfectly square top, but I liked that the edges might be curved around the upholstery…but only time will tell if it actually works.  The fabric is a large-scale floral that coordinates with the paisley bedding currently in the master bedroom. All the furniture will be painted Riverway (SW) and distressed, or antiqued with Minwax Dark Walnut #2716.  (I just bought the tiny, baby can from Lowe’s for about $5, and it goes a loooong way)

Before & After - Full Table

I will admit the price on the paint really scared me, because I have never paid so much for a gallon ($37).  All the bloggers say SW isthe best, and it has provided really great coverage with just two coats.  I did breathe a sigh of relief, when I saw that after painting this table and a dresser, I had barely depleted the paint from the can by more than an inch.  A little of the good stuff goes a long way. I didn’t bother to paint the top of the table, because it will be covered by the upholstery, but I have to say that the original wood color actually looks good with the blue.

Before & After - Detail of Leg

This was my first attempt at painting furniture, and especially the process of adding stain, wiping off and giving it more character.  I did learn that you shouldn’t attempt to paint on, then wipe off, stain when it is 100 degrees out…makes it very difficult to wipe off the excess stain.  Next, I need to wait for a sale on foam, before the transformation can be complete.  No use paying full price when they make coupons! Depending on how the upholstery looks, I may also venture into tufting the top with fabric covered buttons.  Oh, how I love tufting…..but we can discuss that later.

Playing Dresser-Up

One of my favorite finds this year has been a dresser, bought on Craigslist for $20. I could tell from the posted photo that is was in a bit of bad shape, but I loved the shape and the style so much that I figured I could work it out.  Well, here she is:


Dresser - CL Posting

Dresser - Before

Drawer - Front Detail

I love the curved, serpentine front and the beautiful wood spanning the drawers.  It does have claw feet, although one needs to be repaired, thankfully the previous owner still had all the pieces.  Not all of the hardware was still attached, so I may be searching for new pulls as well. But I just new I loved it as soon as I saw it. SOLD!  

Side Panel Damage

Now that I have it home, it is going to be a daunting project. The side panels are really destroyed at the bottom, so I fear I may have to replace them.  Getting new panels will make it difficult to match the original color of the wood. My initial game plan was to replace the side pieces, and paint the exterior ‘shell’ of the piece.  I really want to keep the wood grain and color on the front of the drawers, because it is too beautiful to cover up. I realize that many of the current, popular decorating styles would tell me to paint it a cream or white, and distress the edges…but I just can’t bear to do it.  So back to the drawing board. I was able to bring back some of the former glory last weekend, when I tried a recipe to refresh the wood.  It was made from supplies I already had in my pantry, so I wanted to see how much of a different it would really make.  The results were pretty incredible, and I am really excited to see the wood look so beautiful again.  In a recycled, glass jar I mixed 3/4 cup of olive oil, and 1/4 cup of white vinegar.  Shake it up to mix, and wipe on with a cotton cloth. Below you can see the before and after of the drawers, and the flash on the camera really shows how dusty and dirty the dresser was before! 


Drawers - Before & After


Refreshed - Top Drawer Only

Now I really do have a great decision to make, because I am definitely keeping the drawer faces wood, but should I replace and paint the exterior frame?   

Dresser - After


If any of you are woodworking experts out there, and feel like throwing me some free advice…I’ll take it!

I’ve got a huntch on a hutch

Today my mind has been bombarded by design ideas and inspirations.  As you can tell, from my lack of recent postings, my recent thoughts have been otherwise occupied. But I’m back in the game now!  So, in the edition of Spruce News, I am giving you a preview of the project from even before it takes off.  A raw and unaltered reclaimed project.  Feast your eyes on…a china hutch:

China Hutch - Before

Bought this piece for about $80 on Craigslist, but it is missing the front glass section.  It came pre-lit with glass shelves and a mirrored back.  The middle door on bottom is the only one that opens, and inside there is a felt-lined silverware drawer and one shelf from end to end. 

Likes: Simple and straight vertical lines, dentil detail across top of upper doors, crowned molding with centerpiece.

Dislikes: Color!

I believe the direction will be toward gray in color, and perhaps with a distressed finish.  I have found some inspirational images, but I am still not sure how distressed to take it or how dark of a finish to try.  Let me know what you think.


Shades of Gray - Inspiration

First Edition of “Spruce News”

I’m sure that most people can relate to the “wishing” syndrome of seeing something that you absolutely want-must-have-need-dying-for …but can’t have. In my case, often times my dreams exceed my budget. But that doesn’t stop me from trying to achieve my design visions. The trick is to find something that mimics the basic design structure, and spruce it up! My first project came from a simple desk, with clean lines and classic structure from Pottery Barn.

Pottery Barn Office Inspiration

The Bedford Office System allows you to customize your desk and office with individual components, that work together in the configuration you choose.  Since each piece is separate, this makes it easier to replicate because you can put together a collection of difference pieces, and unify them.  I chose color as my unifying element.

Desk End Unit – Before

I wanted a basic desk with two end pieces and a solid surface top.  Searching one of my favorite on-line garage sale sites (craigslist) I found a pair of light wood file cabinets (and only $25 for the pair!). The base of the file cabinets was built up with particle board, and also used for the span of the desktop.  A strip of 1/2 inch pine added all around the desk top created a clean finish edge that hid the particle board. Next came many, many coats of white semi-gloss paint.  Between each coat, was a good sanding.

At first, I kept thinking I was  wasting all my time painting only to sand it off…but if a polished look is what you are after, take the time to knock down any and ALL brush or roller strokes.

Desk – Before

As a final touch you will never guess what gave the most brilliant glossy, smooth finish on the desk top.  Car Polish and a Buffer! That’s right… smearing blue car polish all over the beautiful white desk was a bit scary, but it buffed to a perfect smooth-as-silk finish.  Most of the work on this project was labor, but for additional wood supplies probably only $30 was spent.  As the finishing touch, the gold drawer pulls, locks, and label covers were spray painted matte black with some left over paint and the desk was complete.  I can now sit at my beautiful new desk, that cost only a fraction of the price, and search for new inspiration and great deals.

Desk - After