You know you have a thrifting addiction when you find yourself at a NYC street corner, mentally shopping out of homeless person’s shopping cart/home-on-the-go. In my defense, that woman had a lampshade that, I swear, was a Tiffany original. I envy. Anyhow, back to the apartment. After some Pushcart Coffee, my sister and I headed on over to what she refers to as “Thrift Row”. Goodwill, Salvation Army, Housing Works, Vintage Thrift, they were all there. I was not like a kid in a candy store. I was more like a contestant on Supermarket Sweep, trying to stuff a Bonus blow up Hamburger Helper hand into my shopping cart within 60 seconds. My advice on successful thrifting? Put away your expensive handbags and engagement rings. No sane person is willing to haggle down the price of a $50 chair with a woman wearing a $50,000 engagement ring. I get my best haggling deals using a Trader Joe’s reusable shopping bag as my purse. But that’s how we got this antique table for $40. Table was originally $75. We showed up with Trader Joe’s handbags. Ten minutes later, we’re carrying a (very heavy) table back to the apartment, with the intention of turning it into a coffee table. Below is a picture of the coffee table “Before”.
To turn this table into a proper coffee table, I needed to make it not so tall. I guess “shorter” would be the word. To remedy this problem, I sought out the help of the superintendent of the building. I needed a saw. He had tons. After asking me roughly ten questions all centered around the key theme of, “You’re not planning on using my saws to hack any bodies, right?” I finally got my hands on a saw. Then, I went back to the apartment to saw off the legs to my desired height preference. Legs of the table, that is.
While I was sawing away (it was real wood, so it was super dense and hard), my sister sat on a chair and told me, “I’d help but you have a wedding to look good for, so this is a great way to work out those arms. You can thank me later”.
For this coffee table, I envisioned an antique white finish over layers of vintage blue. To achieve this look, I gathered together all of my supplies which consisted of sandpaper, paint, paintbrushes and rollers. You want to get the densely packed foam roller for this project. Much smoother finish. Oh, make sure you measure the table legs of any table if you’re going to saw it short. You don’t want to be known as that house with the deck of cards under the leg of the dining room table, cause Mommy/Daddy couldn’t be bothered to measure correctly.
First, I gently sanded the table. Then I wiped it down with a damp cloth and let it dry. This didn’t take long. It’s not long enough for a full martini break. Just a sip-and-bite-of-olive long break. For this table, I bought a Behr sample of paint in “River Walk”. With a paintbrush, I slowly applied very thin layers of blue paint to the entire table, making sure to leave bits of the gorgeous wood carvings to show through for an antique brushed look. You don’t want to load up on paint. Work in a crosshatch pattern with your brush. Oh, I forgot. I took off the hardware before painting. You should probably do the same.
After I waited for the blue layer to dry (it doesn’t take long since it’s so thin), I used the same painting technique to apply two layers of Behr paint in “Antique White”. The end effect should have bits of wood and vintage blue popping out between layers of antique white. To seal it all in, I added a layer of clear polyurethane once the paint was dry. Get the canister marked “Crystal Clear” or else you end up with the nasty yellow tinged “Clear” kind.
To finish off the table, I re-added the carved brass hardware and lined the inside of the drawer with leftover scrapbook paper.
Coffee table “After”.
Same table, different view.
Once I was done with the coffee table, I turned to the issue of providing privacy for the space. I didn’t want to do long curtains since the bookcases sat directly below it and would’ve been covered by any long fabric. Short curtains were out of the question as well since I think they look tacky. Roman shades were also an option, but I chose to do a faux etched glass look for this room’s windows instead. This window effect provides an opaque lacy look that allows plenty of light in but leaves the curious eyes of neighbors (across the courtyard) out. The best part is that the window treatment can be undone upon move out with a wet sponge and some patience. To create a faux etched glass look, I needed starch as well as sheer fabric. Luckily, I packed panels of such fabric in my luggage. This one was purchased from an Austin Goodwill years ago for $1.99.
After giving the windows a thorough wipe down, I measured the glass area I wanted to cover. Then I cut the fabric accordingly.
For this fabric, since it’s light, I was able to put it up with heavy starch spray. Just spray the window, then spray the side of the fabric that’ll touch the window and press down. Spray as much as you need to. You may want to lay down a towel over any area directly under this. It gets a bit drippy.
Smooth out the air bubbles with your hands. If you have a straight edge or squeegee, this will be a good time to make use of those.
Since the spray can version of starch only works for the lighter fabrics, I had to find a different solution for the heavier lace material I wanted to use for the side windows. So, I made my own starch. To make this, you’ll need to dissolve 1/4 cup of starch in 1/2 a cup of cold water. Stir it around a bit until the starch dissolves. Then I boiled 4 cups of water in a pot and slowly added the starch mixture once it was hot enough. Keep stirring until the starch is broken down and the mixture is slightly opaque. Once this happens, turn off the heat and let cool. Using a brush, apply the cooled off starch mixture to the window. Soak the heavy fabric in the starch mixture and apply the heavy fabric in the same manner as the lighter one.
We bought the lovely lace on the side windows after searching for “un-trashy” lace for two days. After checking out several fabric stores, we ended up at a corner store called Tru-Mart. The service was horrible, the 10×20 ft store resembled a fabric hoarder’s paradise with nowhere to walk (or run away) but hey, the price was right. We ended up getting two yards of this lace, two yards of burlap and three yards of striped linen for $23. When you’re dealing with wet fabric, it tends to stretch a bit so you may end up having to cut away some of the excess fabric off the sides of the window. Wait until it’s dry though. But this is the window area “After” during daylight hours.
And this is the window area “After” after sunset.