5 Days, $500, 248 sf NYC Apt…Go!: Day 3

Day 3 turned out to be a pretty routine day for me.  One minute, I’m trying to decide between clotted cream or lemon curd to spread on my scone (I ended up doing both) during high tea at The Crosby in Soho.  And the next?  I’m dumpster diving.  In my heels. Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating a bit since there was no actual dumpster involved.  Here’s the story: My sister and I were walking along 3rd Avenue when I spotted a pile of discarded furniture outside of Vintage Thrift, so we crossed the street to have a look. Nothing was really worth lugging home, except for this chair.  Absolutely love the lines of this piece.  It just needed a few coats of paint and someone to get rid of that awful pleather cushion cover.  So, we picked it up and dragged it home.

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Once we got back, I noticed that there was a slight separation between two of the joints in the chair.  To fix this, I dabbed a little wood glue to either end, pressed down and held it in place with a makeshift clamp.  It was, by no means a fancy contraption.  I just used a very heavy textbook and the laws of gravity to hold the joints together.  Once that was done, I sanded down the entire chair and wiped it down with a damp cloth.  Next, came primer…or if you’re too lazy to go buy primer like myself, I just did a base layer of any old white paint lying around.  Same thing, if your finish paint is light in color.  I think.  Don’t quote me on that one.

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After the chair was dry from the first layer of paint, I figured I should remove the wooden seat bottom before giving it any more paint.  You’ll probably want to do this earlier but it really doesn’t matter too much if you’re planning on reupholstering the whole lot like I did. This is the chair after a coat of Behr paint in “Antique White” and a coat of that “Crystal Clear” polyurethane.

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While waiting for that to dry, I turned my attention to the seat bottom itself.  There was no way I was going to put that brown pleather, that I half painted, back on the chair.

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My solution was to strip the pleather cover off of the seat cushion and then place it over the seat bottom.  Once I placed the two on top of each other, I used a pair of scissors to trim the cushion down to the size of the seat bottom.  Use glue to stick the two together so that it doesn’t move around later.  Then I used the striped fabric we had purchased from Tru-Mart to cover the whole thing.

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I forgot to pack my staple gun when traveling, so here’s my improvised reupholstery techniques.  First, use a quality fabric.  They make upholstery fabric for a reason.  It will cost substantially more but is worth it since the dense material will take the constant wear and tear of daily use.  But if you’re not planning on using it much, then I guess whatever fabric will do. Once you have your fabric, find the correct side, or the side that you want everyone to see. Place that side facing the ground (or another clean, hard surface).  Then place the seat bottom plus cushion on top of that.  Trim the fabric to the shape of the seat bottom but in a larger scale.  You want enough excess fabric to attach to the back of the cushion.  After the fabric is trimmed to size, you want to go ahead and attach the fabric to the seat cushion with nails.  Get the thin one inch nails that don’t have much of a head. The ones that are in small clear hanging packs at The Home Depot.  Use these in lieu of a staple gun.  To do so, you want to hold the fabric tight, then hammer the nail halfway down its entire length.  Once halfway buried, take your hammer and start hammering the nail on its side until the whole thing is flush with the seat bottom surface.  The end result should be a right angle that securely holds the fabric down to the seat bottom.  Use as many nails as you need to to get the fabric to rest taut.  I think I ended up using at least twenty for this project.  I prefer staple guns but this really does work just as well.

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And this is the Dumpster Diving Chair “After”.  The bright turquoise fabric choice gives the chair an updated “fun” look, although I’m not sure how a chair has fun.

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Beside that chair is a black dresser my sister bought years ago for $15, off of Craigslist. The overly gold hardware kind of gives it a Chinese lacquered tea room look that I wasn’t too big of a fan of.  But here is the dresser “Before”.

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And here are some scrap pieces of off-white paper that I rounded up.

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To change the entire look of the dresser, I cut the paper into rectangular pieces measured to the size of the inside of each gold hardware plate.  Then I glued it down.  The end result was more Restoration Hardware vintage dresser versus something out of a Chinatown attic.

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Pillows are pricey.  I have no idea why, since they’re so cheap to make.  So it should come as no surprise that I was spending the night sewing a pillowcase in my pajamas.  Below is the upholstery material I flew in with.  It was leftover from another chair reupholstery project.

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I took the fabric and measured it to the exact size of the pillow which was 18×18 inches. Then I cut the fabric out in three pieces, leaving a generous centimeter of extra fabric around the perimeter.

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This is a really clean way to sew a pillowcase, with no zipper.  I’ll show you in a later post how to do it exactly, since it’s a bit detailed.  But it’s basically three pieces with the two smaller ones overlapping in the back.

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Using a backstitch, I hand sewed the fabric and inserted a pillow my sister already had in her possession to form this.  Here is the pillow “After”.

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Next, I turned my attention to her green dresser.  I liked the color but was not a big fan of the knobs themselves.  What I wanted to buy were these rope knotted dresser knobs at Anthropologie for $12 each.  With twelve dresser knobs, it seemed a bit frivolous to spend $144 on a dresser’s hardware, so I decided to make my own nautical themed knobs. Here’s what I started off with.

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I then took wrapping twine and tied a tight knot into one of the ends, like this.

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Then you take an upholstery tack and jab it directly into the middle of the knot.  Trim off the excess rope.  Home Depot sells these tacks in the nails section.

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Take that knot and tack contraption and nail it directly into the center of each dresser knob.  This will only work with wooden knobs.

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Using E-6000 glue, I dabbed on a generous amount of the stuff to adhere the twine to the wood.  I wrapped it continuously around the tack until I reached the knob’s outer edge. Then I held it in place with a pin.  Take this out when it is completely dry.  I recommend E-6000 since it’s my favorite but you can use any heavy duty glue (like Gorilla Glue) as long as it’s easy to peel off of your hands at the end.  This project can get a bit messy so please don’t use Super Glue.  I haven’t used that stuff ever since it glued together my eyelids…last month.  But here’s the end result.  It cost about $8 to make when Anthropologie knobs would’ve been $144.

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Here’s a close up of some of the things I made on top of the dresser.  The “S” letter thing was made with random stuff I found for cheap at an architectural salvage store in Seattle.  I think some are actually those window clasps you see in old buildings.  The artwork itself was actually canvas she already had.  I covered it with chalkboard paint, let dry and then drew on it with a paint pen.  It’s Mo, the best dog in the world.  According to Mo.

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Doo-doing The Bathroom, Hallways & Patio

The bathroom.  People spend a lot of time in here alone.  You, your guests…the maintenance man who’s there to unclog your drain, and tell you that you need to cut your hair short so that he doesn’t have to unclog so often.  I mentally fired him but it hasn’t happened in real life yet.  I’ll let you know when it transpires.  But with the sort of friends and family I have, I know they’ll be snooping through my bathroom cabinets unsupervised, so I’ve developed a guideline on How To Impress Your Guest While They’re Peeing.  You might want to bookmark this.  You won’t learn this sort of stuff from Martha Stewart.

How To Impress Your Guest While They’re Peeing

  1. Your toilet paper choice is a direct reflection of your income and social standing.  Choose wisely.
    1. Seventh Generation: This is the recycled toilet paper of choice for hipsters/hippies who pray at the alter of Whole Foods.  My fiancé used to use this brand until I pointed out that their toilet paper division is based on the phrase, “There’s softer bathroom tissue out there, but ours does more”.  If you buy this brand, you’re going to have to keep the wrapper on the rolls so that your guests know that you are an Earthlover with disposable income.  Without the wrapper, I’m afraid your guests will assume that you stole toilet paper from the airport because in all honesty, there is no difference between the two.
    2. Quilted Northern Ultra Plush:  This toilet paper says the buyer is a person with a substantial savings account and marinated gourmet olives in the fridge. Nothing impresses a guest more than the quilted look.  You have arrived my friend, congratulations.
    3. Singly-ply tissue:  Quickest way to not have any return houseguests.  No one wants to have poor friends with debt issues.
2.  Choose your magazines and newspapers wisely.  I subscribe to The New York Times just so that my guests can think I’m educated, worldly and can’t finish the Saturday crossword puzzle.
3.  Hide your makeup unless you want your $43 Laura Mercier foundation to be half empty, and your Maybelline $2 lipgloss undisturbed but the subject of a text sent from your guest to a mutual friend that goes “I can’t believe she uses grocery store makeup…ew”.
4.  You may want to do a little pruning of your medicine cabinet. You lose friends with herpes medication, you gain friends with some manic pills.  Those people are fun.  Half of the time.
5.  Finally, keep your bathroom clean.  Seriously.  Clean it.  You’ll keep more friends that way.  Trust me.  Here’s the “Before” picture.
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Bathroom “After”. I added the medicine cabinet to provide extra storage. The towel rack on the left is actually a piece of driftwood I took from Discovery Park. Apothecary jars are used as storage for bar soaps and supplies. I also have an antique shaving kit and English dairy bottle on the counter if you look closely enough.

Cost:

Medicine cabinet: $89 (Home Depot, my second favorite store after Goodwill)
Apothecary jars: $8 for 2 (Austin Goodwill)
English dairy jar: $8 (Butler’s Antiques in Fort Worth, TX)
Shaving kit: $Free.99 (Fiance’s mom’s storage unit)
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Bathroom “After”. I made a toilet paper holder by buying a plain wooden box from a craft store, painting it grey and attaching fabric and frame to the front. The photos up top are ones I’ve collected over the years from garage sales and thrift stores. The magazine rack was bought at a Goodwill in Austin.

Cost:

Wooden craft box: $5 (Michael’s, buy and stock up when they’re 50% off)
Magazine rack: $6 (Austin Goodwill)
Photos: 99 cents apiece (Austin Goodwill)
Frames: $4 apiece (Austin garage sales)
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Bathroom “After”. One of my favorite pieces, this side table was a wedding gift to my fiance’s great great grandmother. It requires weekly applications of lemon oil since it’s fairly fragile due to years of neglect but it works well as a towel and hamper storage for the bathroom.

Cost:  Free

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Bedroom Hallway “After”. The chair was purchased from Goodwill at $12.99 and reupholstered with a yellow/grey starburst pattern. I found these old frames at flea markets, repainted them and added scrap bits of wallpaper to the border and then hung them up. The front one is off iron hooks from the ceiling and has sheer fabric attached to the back. The walking stick to the right was handmade in Cambodia. The basket underneath is full of yarn…so this is really my knitting area complete with the old person’s walking stick.

Cost:

Chair: $12.99 (Austin Goodwill)
3 Frames: $17 (Flea market in Fort Worth, TX)
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Hallway “After”. Not much going on here since I like to keep the entryway clutter-free but to the left is a shoe cupboard I’ve outfitted with interesting knobs. To the right is a handcarved chair I found for $8 that dates back to the 1940′s.

Cost:

Ikea shoe cupboard: $150
Dresser knobs: 6 at $8 apiece (Anthropologie)
Chair: $8 (Austin garage sale)
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Patio “Before”. This is the smallest patio I’ve ever seen but also one of the fewest ones seen in Seattle. Most places here don’t have a patio. People go sit in the woods, with their tops off, singing campfire songs when they want to sit outside.  Oh, that’s my dog, Mo. She goes topless all of the time.
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Patio “After”. I’ve planted fuchsia (correct spelling, I swear), sweet potatoes, strawberries, peppers, basil, lemongrass, rosemary, foxgloves, maidenhair, lavender, hydrangeas, delphiniums, sage…the tricky part was mounting the planters to a solid metal wall. My fiance figured out how using those metal bars and some brain power. The sign between the planters was taken from Colorado State Park during our first camping trip.

Cost:

All plants: $75 (Home Depot, Ravenna Gardens)
Planters: $80 (Home Depot and Seattle Goodwill)
Soil: $12
Outdoor seating: $300 (Pier 1 Imports)
Outdoor pillows: $21 (30% off at Pier 1 Imports)
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This is a vintage sewing table that no longer works.
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I unscrewed the machine from the table and hacked off the bottoms…
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…to make an outdoor table/cooler (since the top opens up). The milk rack on top is an antique one I bought from Goodwill for $1.99. I used it to display some mossy plants. You can’t really see but behind the chair is a planter that I made from upending a coffee table that I made when I was 17, lining the inside with coffee burlap bags and filling with soil and plants. You can see a better picture of it in the photo right before this one. It’s in the far left corner.

Cost:

Sewing table: Free (Given)
Milk rack: $1.99 (Austin Goodwill)
Mossy plants: $8 (Home Depot)
Dog: Not Free
Total Cost: $859.96 for all three areas.
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