Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Transforming a Dinosaur: Repainting an Old Dresser

When we moved into our new space, we inherited a bunch of the former tenant's furniture. From what I can gather from the heavy smoke, telltale signs, and her style choices, she was a middle-aged writer who'd written some travel books, chain-smoked something gross, had a penchant for African knick knacks, and had feathered blonde hair.

Most of her stuff went to Goodwill, but being in need of a large desk, a dresser, and a mirror, we were able to keep some of her stuff and save ourselves the cost of having to buy new furniture. Problem was, her style was completely different than mine, so I decided to grease up my elbows and get in touch with my DIY side. First project: the dinosaur of an ancient dresser she left in the bedroom. Originally I'd wanted to donate it, but after the beau mentioned he needed a place for all those socks, I decided to embark on transforming this into something we could actually use. It's solid wood and in decent condition, but needs some major updating.

Here's the original:

A jaunty adventure to Home Depot--which is always fun, as a woman*--brought me back home with some 80 grit sandpaper, Glidden primer, wood filler, Zinsser oil-based cover stain primer, Floetrol paint conditioner (the values of which I learned from Centsational Girl), Minwax Polycrylic Protectant, a nice quality angled paint brush, and a sponge roller. I thought this would be a fun little 1 day DIY project. Little did I know I was about to embark on a super annoying 5 day journey that would rival the path to Mordor.

*Being a woman at Home Depot makes you into a target for advice from ALL menfolk.

Day 1: I finagle my man to help me carry this behemoth of a dresser out into the garden so I can begin sanding. After lots of huffing about having to move all aforementioned socks into his suitcase, he gallantly helps me haul this dinosaur into the garden so I can have lots of ventilation and work space.

Dinosaurs eat man. Woman inherits the earth. 

Somebody's always watching.
I soon find that I can't remove the hardware because the screws have completely become stripped over time. I end up having to go to nearby Anawalt (which is a lovely hardware store within walking distance...I'll never go back to Home Depot again) to get some tiny screwdrivers and some nose hair pliers.

The taming of the screw
After some help from A. and lots of frustration, I'm able to remove all the metal hardware and get to sanding and priming. Scuff scuff scuff! I then fill the holes with some wood filler.

By then, the sun is setting, so I beg the beau to help me haul this dinosaur of a dresser into the garage. Lucky we do too, because it rains for the first time ever in LA that night. The garage makes for much darker and squishier work space, but at least it's dry. Painting late at night with the garage door open makes me feel super crafty and home-makery.

Day 2: First layer of paint. I decide I've had enough of all the robin's egg blue that's in my life and decide to go with a darker shade of blue/grey. I land on a half-gallon of Glidden's Blue-Grey Slate. My first coat goes on nice and smooth, thanks to Floetrol. But that's when I notice my first mistake. Though I shelled out for a nice paintbrush for my paint, I stupidly decided to save a few bucks for my primer brush. The coarse brush created all sorts of brush stroke lines, which I'd tried to sand, but apparently not too well. They are now showing up underneath the first coat of paint. Argh.

A few hours later, I come back to do the second coat, hoping that it will cover up the primer strokes. No such luck. Ah well. No smooth base for me. I then spend hours taping up the edges of the dresser because I've decided that it would look so cool with some white trim in Glidden Pure White, hoping that when I remove the tape it will magically look awesome.

Day 3: The paint is dry, so I lift up the tape. Doh! The edges are completely a mess!

oh hellll naww

I'd do it again, but by this time we are expecting all sorts of guests, so I have to move forward. The perfectionist in me is grumbling like Marge Simpson. Before I put on the protectant, it's fun time: time to put in the new hardware! First, I need a drill. I think about buying one, but instead borrow one from our friends, Apple-specialist Tom and the ever-awesome Sara, who is also helping to plan our upcoming nuptials. The drill's great but we lack a key to change the chuck. Doh. So at 11 pm, dearest A. drives me over to Home Depot to buy a drill key. When we get back, we find the outlet in the garage doesn't work. So gallant A. helps me haul all the drawers back into the house so I can properly drill holes for the new hardware.


After 3 trials where the drill bit is too small for the hardware screws...Doh! The screws for the new hardware I bought aren't long enough to fit in the damn holes. SERIOUSLY?! By then, it's midnight. So gallant beau hauls all the drawers BACK outside to the garage since real estate appraisers are coming by in the morning.

Day 4: By now, my friends at Anawalt love me, so with their help I buy some new 1.5" screws that will be long enough to fit across the width of the drawers. After an 8 am jaunt to the hardware store, I bring all the drawers back inside and set to drilling the hell out of them. Yay! The hardware fits! A. helps me haul them back out into the garage, and I use the spray-on Minwax Polycrylic for a nice protectant. After all this work, I sure as hell don't want any chipping.

Day 5: After letting the dinosaur dry for a good 24 hours, I haul it all back into the bedroom with the help of my beau. He's getting pretty antsy about having a place for his socks, so this is the fastest I've seen him move over the last few days. I put in the hardware, the drawers get placed in and...ARGH! I missed some major spots! Sections of the dresser that I thought would be hidden behind the drawers are totally in plain view. I end up removing the drawers again and repainting another coat of the Glidden Blue-Grey Slate onto the face of the dresser. After that dries, the perfectionist in me takes over. I can't stand the crooked white trim. So I make another trip to Anawalt to buy some tiny crafting brushes and set to perfecting those crooked white lines and repainting some of the grey-blue.

watch out for pepe le pieu! someone's gonna get painted into a skunk
Finally, after all the trim dries, I place the drawers into the dinosaur. Not bad!

french tulips courtesy valentine's day

Success! Here's the before again:

note dirty pile of rags on top

And here's the after:

note dirty rags replaced by french tulips and chanel

Much more my style! All that work was worth it. And now, we have a nice place to put our socks.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Aaand...the results!

Here we are! Drumroll....

I went with Glidden Olivewood for the living room. The other greys just seemed too purpleish or tannish. This came out way more taupey than I'd wanted it to be, but in the end I was just as happy with it. It's warmer and a little less modern than I would've gone with.

I was concerned about the contrast between the living room against the dining nook's blue. Turns out I had nothing to worry about!

I fell in love with this dark color (I think it was Glidden Dark Olive) but was a little scared of doing the entire office with it, since it doesn't get as much sun, even though we have a glass door leading to the garden. So I decided on one accent wall, and doing the rest in the same Olivewood as the living room.

And my favorite, the dining nook, in Glidden's Tropical Lagoon. The Robins Egg blue was just a tad too aqua, and this came out the perfect aqua blue, sort of like a Moroccan jewel.

Compare that with the original pics from 2 posts ago. We sunk in an extra few hundred bucks to ask the landlord to repaint over the nasty yellowish off-white color they'd chosen, but it was well worth it (even though they only let us do 2 rooms). I made nice with the paint guy and got him to repaint all the trim a pure bright white for nicer contrast, and asked for a white with a slight grey tint in the bedroom. Bringing people donuts does wonders.

A New Coat of Paint

A new coat of paint can work wonders for even the dingiest of apartments. It didn't help that the last tenant here not only left a crapload of her stuff in our new pad, she also was a HEAVY smoker. Meaning, the walls were covered in a yellowish, stinky film of stains, and the heavy odor of stale smoke greeted you as you walked through the doors.

My fiance has a perpetually stuffy nose, so this didn't bother him much, but I couldn't bear the sight of those gross, old-looking walls and smoke clinging to the insides of this place, so I asked our new landlord for a fresh new coat of paint. Unfortunately, she was going to paint it the same off-white-kinda-yellow paint, which did NOT work for me, nosir, so I begged to get some colors in there.

I was limited to Glidden paints because of the amount of money they wanted to spend (or rather, not spend) on my new color dalliance, but I did the best I could given Glidden's limited selections.

First off, my latest obsession is finding the right shade of grey to paint a living room. LA is rife with these faux fireplaces, which some people find tacky, but I--coming from New York City, where everything's cramped and people live with bathtubs in their kitchen--find them kind of cute, even if non-functional. In particular, white fireplaces against a grey wall--swoon! But there are so many shades of grey out there--some with tan undertones, others with blueish/purpleish undertones. And the paint chip you choose in the store can look tooootally different when it's splashed across your wall and in the sunlight of your living room.

Here's my old place. I used Behr Silver Screen.



It's a little bit blown out here by the sunlight, but you can see the difference.

You can see it better here, if you can pry your eyes away from Mila Kunis's hot bod on the cover of GQ. It turned out way bluer than I expected it to in the sunlight, but was nice and grey in artificial light. For my new place, I decided to go with a tanner undertone, something closer to Behr's Dolphin Fin.

Next post: See how the Glidden worked out!

Home, Sweet Home

This began as a DIY home design blog, at least in the mind. I'm the kind of girl who spends waaaaaay too much time looking at design blogs, browsing furniture websites, tearing out pages from the Anthropologie and Room & Board catalogues and dreaming about the day I can make tons of money, if only to finally buy a Bauhaus lamp or that gorgeous Eames rocker or Draper dresser I've had my eye on. Saving for retirement or investing in my future kids' education? Pssshhaaww.
But before my procrastinating arse finally got to starting up THAT blog, things happened in a whirlwind this past month. For one, this cat lady got engaged. Here's an example of how my life has changed.

1 Year Ago:
Me, on a Friday night, to my cats: "Yessss! Looks like Billy Madison is on TBS again!" [stuffing face with Trader Joe's jalapeno cheese curls]


Me, on a Friday night, to my cats and fiance: "Yessss! Looks like Billy Madison is on TBS again!" [ordering food from Palms Thai, where they have the Thai Elvis impersonator.]

"Shampoooo is bettah!"
Yeah, ok, so while the everyday stuff hasn't changed that much, living with somebody is a whole new ballgame that's given rise to a slew of new questions. Like, who makes the bed? How often should we run the dishwasher? Do Ghostbusters books belong on the coffee table alongside art books? And dear god why are there socks everywhere?

While my dude and I will go back and forth on nitty gritty responsibilities (him: take out the kitty litter, run the dishwasher; me: do all the cooking, mop the floors)*, he's given me full reign to design our living space. Woot! A Noguchi table here! A granite kitchen island there--oh wait, we're still poor. But hey, at least now we have 5 rooms--2 bedrooms, a living room, dining nook, kitchen, bathroom, and small garden. Plus plenty of potential. And that's what I'm going to document here--how I'm turning this blank canvas into a home--a nest, if you will--for the both of us.

Before I begin, a bit about the two of us:
We live in Hancock Park in Los Angeles, where I work as an actress, writer, and a freelance editor. He works as a comedy writer for a new Comedy Central show. This means, the two of us work at home. A lot. Which means, things need to be functional, comfortable, spacious, and conducive to creative thinking. Anybody who lives with a work-at-home partner knows that it's easy to get on top of each other or to while away the entire day on Facebook if there aren't designated spaces for specific usages. So my goal is to help us carve our new cozy little duplex into a home/work space that's both beautiful and serves as a writing office as well as a rehearsal space.
Here's the place when we first saw it. We picked it out among a slew of results from Westside Rentals. The pictures were grainy and few, and most of them showed the place as super cramped and not that attractive. But I had a feeling that maybe this was a hidden gem whose pictures didn't do it justice, so we went to check it out.
The bedroom overlooking the garden.

Living room with a faux fireplace

Dining nook with her leftover furniture
Can't stand this kitchen, but hey--washer and dryer! Score!
My favorite room, the office. Note pencil portrait of previous tenant. Very creepy.

Not horrible, right? But also, not cute. Yet. I see a lot of potential. Two rooms, and a PRIVATE GARDEN. (read: summer wine parties!) And I'm gonna detail on this blog my journey (wins and failures) on the way to beautifying this space into a warm, comfortable, gorgeous home for me and my beau.

*Said beau notes that the dishwasher is a portable one, so "running it" actually denotes quite a lot of labor, like connecting the hose to the sink, etc., ok, dammit? Also, I'm the first to admit that I'd offer to clean the entire house, scrub the tub, mop the floors, and clean the toilet before wanting to take out the kitty litter. All that talk about toxoplasmosis freaks me out. Nobody wants cat worms, dude.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

We have arrived.

Welcome. Beware of rabid design-obsessed, recently engaged bridezilla.