White Crackly Candle Holders

A couple of years ago I went to a garage sale and ended up buying several things. These two formerly black and blue candle holders were not among them because I didn’t actually buy them. They were pretty much shoved at me by the seller who insisted that I just take them. She seemed anxious to be rid of them…not that I blamed her.  I didn’t want to hurt her feelings by refusing so I put them in the car and brought them home. I’ve never really been fond of them.  In fact, I didn’t know whether they were actually candle holders or pedestals or plant stands or something else entirely. I would have used them out in the garden as plant stands but they’re made of a weird material that I suspected wouldn’t hold up to water.  I was just about to throw them in the garbage recently when I thought, well…perhaps I can paint them a lighter shade and put them somewhere in the house.

They were hideous black, blue and green things with what seemed to be an attempt at a fleur de lis design on the front. They also had cracks in several places so I filled those in with wall putty.

There were big visible cracks near the top and at the base.

Then I dug into my bag of resin appliques which is full of odds and ends and left over broken pieces. I managed to find a couple of cherubs and some roses.

And lucky me, I also found a nearly full tube of Instant Nails to adhere the appliques with.

So, on they went. After they dried overnight, the candle holders got a coat of Americana Chalk Paint in white. It didn’t cover very well unfortunately and I needed four coats in all to get full coverage.

But the white looked so boring to me. I’m not really fond of white. So I painted over the middle portion in aqua. That didn’t work as well as I’d hoped because now the contrast was too distinct.  I was about to paint it white again when I spied an almost empty bottle of Jo-Sonja Decor Crackle among the paint jars. There was just enough for the middle section and a narrow strip at the bottom of both candle holders.  It had a nice effect because it toned down the color contrast quite a bit.

This type of crackle is sandwiched in between two colors. It goes on top of the base color and then you have to apply a contrasting color on top of that.

The top color (in this case I applied another coat of white) cracks and subtly reveals the darker color beneath it.

I set the candle holders on top of the piano temporarily, but then I decided that they filled in that empty spot nicely, so there they will stay. 


 

 

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Dinette Makover

Does anyone even use the word dinette anymore? I haven’t heard it used in ages. Heck, I can’t even find it on google. But back in the day, dinette sets were really popular for small apartments as well as for eat-in kitchens. That’s what I had in mind when I put together a little table and four non matching chairs for my oldest daughter’s tiny dining room this past December. She rents a small house a few blocks away from us which is just the perfect size for her and a roommate.  However, her roommate of many years moved out at the end of last year and because the dining set was hers, she took it with her.  At around the same time, my daughter in law was getting rid of a little rustic sewing table that her mother no longer needed and I figured it would make a perfect temporary dining table for my daughter. At least until she got around to buying something nicer.

Even though it was a small table, it was unusually tall so I had to cut three inches off the legs to make it the right height.
Next I had to find some inexpensive chairs that were not too large or too beat up. That was going to be challenging here in Costa Rica where used items in good condition are often just as expensive as new ones and old beat up items are just a tad less costly. The stars and planets must have been aligned in my favor because after just a quick check online I found someone (down the street from me!) who had about 200 school chairs for sale in nearly new condition at $10 dollars each.  I purchased four of them and was delighted to see that they were strong and sturdy with metal frames and nice wooden seats and back rests.


Now that I had the chairs, I turned my attention back to the table. Some of the dark brown paint had started to chip and peel off in certain areas so I took it out to the backyard and sanded it to smooth down and even out the nicks.
I was feeling quite pleased with myself and everything was going according to plan, until it rained. Athough I had carefully covered the table with plastic after I was done sanding, it rained so hard that afternoon that the wind lifted up the plastic and pushed rainwater beneath it, soaking the entire table. The next day I woke up to a seriously warped and blistered tabletop that I knew I wouldn’t be able to fix. Thankfully my next door neighbor Elmer is a carpenter so I asked him for help. He was kind enough to nail/glue on a thin sheet of new plywood over the old tabletop and round off the edges for me.
As I debated what color to paint it, my daughter in law again came to the rescue and offered me several unopened jars of Americana Chalk Paint that she no longer needed as she and my son were getting ready to move back to Colorado and were getting rid of all their stuff. I was doubtful about the color at first. It looked sort of grayish in the jar. But hey, never look a gift horse in the mouth, right? I ended up loving the color once it was on the table. It’s actually a soft bluish green.
The table had an apron on all four sides that I decided to paint white, for contrast. I also had a bag full of left over resin appliques that I had made last year which I thought might look nice on the apron. They were mostly odds and ends and I was unable to find four matching pieces so I used two smaller pieces for the two ends of the table and two larger pieces for the sides.

I was tempted to leave the chairs as they were because they really were in nice shape and didn’t need anything done to them, but unfortunately they clashed with the color of the table so I ended up just painting the backrest in the same bluegreen chalk paint and leaving the seat unpainted.  As a final touch I decoupaged a floral motif on the backrests and on opposite corners of the table with a bit of modpodge. Everything then got a protective topcoat of matte varnish. I also bought a piece of thick glass for the tabletop to protect it in case of spills.

I loaded it up in the car and took it over to her house a couple of days before Christmas while she was at work to surprise her.  I was so excited about setting it up at her place that I completely forgot to take pictures of it in situ. So the only photos I have were snapped at my house.  Thankfully she liked it…you never know with kids. Yay.

 

Baubles á la Découpage

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A few months ago I was watching some Youtube video tutorials that explained how to decoupage your own Christmas ornaments. I came across several that were actually quite stunning and very unusual because you don’t ordinarily see baubles like that in stores. Naturally I had to try my hand at making my own. It turned out to be so easy and fun that I made close to 70 or 75 of them.  I started early in about September or so and it’s a good thing I did because that allowed me to convert all of last year’s red and gold balls into soft pastel toned ornaments topped by pink satin ribbons for hanging.

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Last year’s shiny red and striped balls

My first idea was to go out and buy new boxes of pink and white balls. So I hit the stores (which fortunately in my area begin to display and sell their Christmas stuff at the end of September) but I was dissapointed to discover that nobody even had any white or pink Christmas ball ornaments for sale. Those don’t seem to be popular Christmas colors at all. Even on Ebay the selection is limited. While trying to figure out what to do it ocurred to me that I could probably spray paint the balls with pink and white spray paint. And then I thought, well heck, why even buy new ones when I have boxes full of last year’s ornaments that I can recycle? So that’s exactly what I did. Here’s what I started out with.

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I  had a few cans of half empty spray paint in the tool locker so each red and gold ball got a base coat of random shades of white, cream, ivory or pink.  After temporarily removing the gold or silver hanging part off each ball, I put them on a wooden skewer and sprayed them. Some of them required a couple of coats to completely cover up the original color. Then I put them out in the sun to dry.

This particular ball has a glitter design on it which you can see a bit of in this photo. It doesn't matter because after all the coats of mod podge and varnish it will be completely hidden.

This particular ball has a glitter design on it which you can see a bit of in this photo. It doesn’t matter because after all the coats of mod podge and varnish it will be completely hidden.

The next step after the spray paint has dried is to give them a coat of regular acrylic craft paint in whatever color you want the bauble to be. I used mostly white, pink and aqua. The craft paint gives the balls a smooth matte finish to work on and it is especially necessary if you plan on using a crackle medium to give them an antique crackle finish. I used three different types of crackle finish with different results. By far, my favorite was Jo Sonja’s Decor Crackle because it provided the most dramatic crackle. I also used Jo Sonja’s Crackle Medium which is a bit different than their Decor Crackle but I didn’t like that one at all because it made them look leathery. Mod Podge’s Crackle Finish was pretty good too, it results in a very fine eggshell type crackle. All of these are all applied in different manners, some go on before the basecoat and some go on top of the basecoat, so if you’re going to use crackle, you have to read the instructions carefully before applying it. Next you have to choose what kind of appliqué you want. I used napkins.

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I found that Mod Podge was the easiest way of sticking the napkins on to the spheres, but you could probably just use Elmer’s glue or any white glue with pretty much the same result. After the applique dried completely I went over it with another coat of Mod Podge just to smooth everything down and make sure that nothing was unglued.  At this point you can sprinkle on a little bit of ultra-fine glitter while they are still tacky, to give them a bit of shimmer. Or you can let them dry and then apply a coat of a product called Sparkle (also from Mod Podge) which gives a really beautiful subtle shimmer once it’s dry which is spread evenly over the entire surface.

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After that is dry, you can add accents with glitter glue or fabric paint. I added white pearly dots here and there and also thin streaks of gold and silver glitter randomly.

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The final step is to apply two coats of regular transparent varnish. This gives them alot of shine and also protects the appliqué. I tried using water based varnish on the first couple of them but I didn’t like how that turned out because it gave them a sort of dull finish and I wanted them to be really shiny. So in the end I just used regular oil based varnish.

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When they are completely dry you just re-attach the little metal or plastic hanging part and they are set to go. I  wanted mine to look a bit more romantic so I removed the little gold hanger thread that they come with and replaced it with a thin pink ribbon. On the front of the baubles I hot glued on a pink satin bow.

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I also bought a package of 3 inch styrofoam hearts to decoupage in the same way.

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Here they are drying on sticks during various stages of the process.

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This is the crackle finish from Mod Podge’s Crackle product. It’s a very fine eggshell look.

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This week I will be Joining.

Tuesdays at our Home  @  Our Home Away From Home

LouLou Girls Linky Party  @ Lou Lou Girls

Creative Muster Party  @ Fluster Buster

Wow Us Wednesdays  @ Savvy Southern Style

Tuesdays With A Twist  @ God’s Growing Garden

Party in Your PJ’s @ The Cookie Puzzle

The Homemaking Party @ Classical Homemaking

Share Your Style Thursday Link-Up Party 

Home and Garden Thursday  @ A Delightsome Life

Sweet and Simple Fridays @ Rooted in Thyme

Feathered Nest Friday @ French Country Cottage

Friday Feature’s Link Party @ Oh My Heartsie Girl

Anything Goes Pink Saturday @ How Sweet The Sound

Best Of The Weekend Party 

Saturday Sparks Link Party @ Pieced Pastimes

Instant Granite

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Last year when we remodeled the bathroom shared by our two daughters which also doubles as a guest bath, I decided that I was tired of the large pastel green pedestal sink. It had looked fine in the 90s when we installed it (to match the pastel green toilet, ugh.) but today colored fixtures  look so dated and I figured that a little modernizing might not be a bad idea. So we bought a smaller plain white water efficient toilet and a matching white sink with a vanity  that had drawers and cabinet space underneath so that my daughters would have a place to store their make-up, blow dryer and flat irons

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I had searched high and low for a solid wood vanity small enough to fit into the space where the pedestal sink had been but I was unable to find anything in real wood. There were plenty of vanities made of laminate covered particle board that were just the right size but I was hesitant to buy anything made of laminate because it’s not very durable, particularly in humid conditions like a bathroom. I’ve had several items made of melamine covered particle board and eventually have had to throw them out. I was sure this laminate vanity wouldn’t last too long but I had to settle for what was available to fit the tiny space so I went ahead and bought it.

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Just as I predicted, not even two months later my housekeeper accidentally knocked down a small wall shelf in the bathroom with the end of the broomstick as she was cleaning. Naturally the shelf hit the edge of the vanity and cracked the laminate in three different spots. I tried to paint the cracked spots so as to protect the now exposed interior particle board but the paint didn’t last long and the cracks became larger and more unsightly as the months went by.

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I was bummed out thinking that I’d have to replace the entire vanity after less than a year but after a quick online search for possible solutions, I came across a product called Instant Granite. Instant Granite??? Of course I snickered and rolled my eyes at the mere thought of such a thing but after weighing all the options I figured this stuff would probably be the quickest and cheapest fix at around $39 dollars for a 6 ft roll plus $8 dollars shipping. I went ahead and ordered a roll on Amazon which arrived within two days. Talk about quick shipping!

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It’s a very thick self adhesive vinyl that you just measure, peel and stick. It comes with a little squeegy to get all the air bubbles out.  Before attempting to install it, I watched every Youtube video and tutorial that I could find. Apparently people have had great success with this stuff and they report that it’s held up quite well even on kitchen countertops. And supposedly it’s so real looking that it’s difficult to distinguish from the real thing.

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Although it can be cut around sinks and faucets, hubby was patient enough to remove the sink for me because I didn’t want to risk leaving any space for water or moisture to seep in between the laminate top and the instant granite.

To get sharp tight fitting edges, you can heat the instant granite a little bit with the blow dryer.

To get sharp tight fitting edges, you can heat the instant granite a little bit with the blow dryer.

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I was actually quite pleased with the result even though it’s not as simple as most of the Youtube videos make it out to be. I had problems getting the corners to look smooth and seamless but maybe that was just me.  It took me about an hour to install it (I spent most of that time trying to get those pesky corners just right) As far as the claims that it looks like real granite, well I can tell you that my son and my daughter in law came over in the evening and used the guest bath and neither one of them noticed a thing. They just assumed it was granite. When I told them that it was vinyl, they were so shocked that they went back and ran their hands over it and examined it carefully because they didn’t believe me.

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Now I will have to wait and see if it will hold up well to the everyday bathroom use, but so far so good.

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Joining: Feathered Nest Friday at French Country Cottage

Mirror makeover

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When I stopped teaching dance a couple of years ago, I converted the little dance studio behind our house into a guest bedroom. It came in pretty handy because we often have visitors who stay with us when they come down to Costa Rica on vacation. However, I didn’t really know what to do with all the mirrors that still hung on the studio walls. Although they had been a necessity in the dance studio, they now looked odd and out of place in a bedroom. They weren’t even pretty. They were just plain ordinary aluminum framed mirrors quite large in size, the kind you might find in a gym. Last year, after we renovated our kitchen and dining room I ended up with a large empty wall that I couldn’t think of anything to put on. Then I remembered the aluminum mirrors that were still hanging in the guest bedroom and decided to bring one of them into the house and hang it on that bare wall. It was a good fit and it filled most of the space, but it looked just as unattractive there as it had looked in the guest room.

Close up of the frame

Close up of the frame

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The frame was very narrow so there weren’t alot of options as far as updating it. I wondered if perhaps it would be possible to glue some appliques on it and then paint the whole thing a different color to hide the aluminum. I had a few left over appliques from a previous furniture project as well as an assortment of silicone molds and a huge bottle of resin in the tool shed. So after a couple of months of thinking about it I figured it was worth a try and surely it wouldn’t look any worse.

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These scroll like curliecues were just the right width

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It took me several days to make enough appliques to cover the entire mirror. I made roses and curlicues and cherubs until I was bleary-eyed. Then I began to glue them on with No more Nails, crossing my fingers that they wouldn’t fall off the slippery narrow frame. I think I used about four tubes of No more nails and thankfully they held fast. That stuff is good! I had given the frame a couple of coats of white paint before putting on the appliques because I knew that it would be very difficult, if not impossible to get into all the nooks and crannies with the paintbrush after the appliques were glued on.

I gave the mirror a couple of coats of white paint first because I knew it would be nearly impossible to get into all the nooks and crannies with a paintbrush after the appliques were glued on.

 

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I added a small rose to the center of this curlicue applique

I added a small rose to the center of these scroll appliques

Two sweet little cherubs quietly watch over the dining room from the top of the mirror.

Two sweet little cherubs quietly watch over the dining room from the top of the mirror. I placed one on either end.

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After the appliques were set in place I allowed them to dry completely for a couple of days before applying a final coat of white paint.  In the empty space between the top of the mirror and the molding  I hung a few blue and white plates that I had stored away which matched the blue and white plate collection on the other wall.

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It’s a very tiny dining room, it actually used to be my daughter’s bedroom right off the kitchen. That was a sort of weird Costa Rican floorplan. Or lack of floorplan, I should say. The previous owners of the house had added on rooms wherever they had fancied a new room without giving any thought to the logic of the layout. So there was this fourth bedroom that could only be accessed through the kitchen. How weird is that. When my oldest daughter moved out last year, my youngest daughter moved into her bedroom and I turned her “kitchen bedroom” into a little secondary dining room, which made so much more sense.

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I think the mirror helps make the dining room look a little larger than it really is.

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Joining

Feathered Nest Friday at French Country Cottage

AND

Fan Tale

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In the 1980’s when we lived in Ecuador I bought two ceiling fans for a house that we were building at the time. They were considered fashionable in those days and I was happy to have fixtures that were not only stylish but also functional. The temperature often got quite high in the tropical port city of Guayaquil and they provided much needed relief from the stifling heat . Fast forward 28 years. I’m sad to admit that now my little fans are considered tacky, dated and downright ugly. One of them stopped working long ago and only the lights portion was still functioning, but the other fan still works perfectly. That’s pretty amazing after 28 years. I actually like ceiling fans and I was reluctant to throw away the one that still worked. We don’t live in such a hot country anymore but it can sometimes get into the 80 to 85 degree range so I still use the fan quite often.  I have it installed in the kitchen. The only problem is that it just looked outdated and boring.

Here is a before shot

Here is a before shot. The woven center part of the blades was particularly passé

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I decided to at least try and give it a facelift. What I had initially planned on doing was to simply paint the blades a bright color. I unscrewed  the 8 little screws that held them in place and took them down. After cleaning them up (isn’t it amazing how grimy kitchen fixtures can get?)  I remembered the bottle of Mod Podge that was lurking in my crafts box and I figured I could decoupage something on the blades rather than just painting them. I ended up using some left over fabric from the dining room chairs.

After spraying on a primer, I spray painted the edges yellow because they would be visible

After spraying on a primer, I spray painted the edges yellow because I didn’t want to extend the decoupage fabric up over the edges of the blades.

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I cut the pieces of fabric in the shape of the blades, using one of the blade as a template.

I cut the pieces of fabric in the shape of the blades, using one of the blades as a template

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In order to get a smooth finish I turned the blades over and glued the fabric to the  non-wicker side. Now the woven wicker part faces the ceiling and is not visible. I used Mod Podge as glue to decoupage the fabric onto the blades, adding a couple of generous coats of it on top of the fabric too. After the blades were dry, I sprayed on two coats of clear varnish.

The blades ended up looking like they were actually hand painted and they even fooled hubby who complimented me on my artistic skills. If he only knew that I can’t paint anything more advanced than a stick figure, hehe.  After checking out a couple of blogs and a few websites I realized that it was also possible to spray paint the metal face plates on ceiling fans. Alot of people had done it and it looked really cool. I wanted to camouflage the outdated brass tone on the body of the fan and paint was the perfect solution. There were only four screws holding it in place and it was  simple enough to remove them and slide the face plate off. Easy peasy…right? Wrong. I didn’t realize at the time that all those online instructions for removing the face plate were meant for fans without lights. It wasn’t until I excitedly began taking out the screws that I realized that the middle hole of the plate would never slide down past the four tulip lights. I hate it when I do dumb things like that. I ended up having to convince hubby to help me take the whole fan down off the ceiling and temporarily unwiring and separating the center portion in order to get the plate off.  What a hassle. Thankfully he is very handy with these things.

See that center opening? How in the world did I ever think that it was going to slide down past the four tulip lights that jut out to the sides?

See that center opening? How in the world did I ever think that it was going to slide down past the four tulip lights that jut out to the sides?

I had to separate the lights portion from the rest of the fan in orde to get the face plate to come off. That meant separating two of the wires.

I had to separate the lights portion from the rest of the fan in order to get the face plate to come off. That meant separating two of the wires.

Here's the faceplate and the hardware from the blades after their first coat of yellow paint.

Here’s the faceplate and the hardware from the blades after their first coat of yellow paint.

These are the blades drying in the sun after the final coat of glossy spray varnish

These are the blades drying in the sun after the final coat of glossy spray varnish

The glass parts got a much needed scrubbing

The glass parts got a much needed scrubbing

Here it is all finished and hung back in it's place above the kitchen island

Here it is all finished and hung back in it’s place above the kitchen island

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I also harvested some of the parts from the non working fan including the four blades and their hardware which I spray painted pink. I decoupaged these in a different style and I can just change the blades whenever I want a whole different look. It’s just a matter of removing the screws and it doesn’t take more than 5 or 10 minutes. Admittedly  pink doesn’t really go with anything in my kitchen but who cares? Who says fans have to match!

Four extra fan blades for a different look

Four extra fan blades for a different look. These got a top coat of clear matte varnish. I didn’t want them as shiny as the other ones.

I couldn't resist sprinkling on a little bit of glitter for some fun sparkle

I couldn’t resist sprinkling on a little bit of glitter for some fun sparkle

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Joining these link parties:

Feathered Nest Friday at French Country Cottage 

Show and Tell Friday at My Romantic Home

Two Tables in Teal

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These little wooden tables have gone under the brush before.  Their first facelift was two or three years ago when they went from boring brown to a soft buttery yellow. They’re just cheapy little wood tables that I purchased to use as temporary night stands in my bedroom up at the mountain house.  They were quite rustic when I bought them and I had the impression that they were probably made out of old beat up recycled wood. People do that alot here in Costa Rica, which of course is a good thing. I’m all for recycling. But rustic just isn’t my favorite look so I painted them faux chalk paint yellow. You can read about that fiasco here.  The legs were long and spindly not to mention wiggly. I guess whoever made these wasn’t much concerned about proportions because the long legs made them look sort of like shelves on stilts. I added the little plywood shelf at the bottom of each table which gave them quite a bit more stability and reduced the stilty look somewhat. I also added some wooden appliques to the front. Here they are in all their hideous rustic glory:

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After the yellow paint and the appliques, they ended up looking like this:

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Fast forward to last month when I finally got around to painting an old bedroom set that used to be in my daughter’s room. That set has now replaced all the unmatched pieces that were in my bedroom at the mountain house including these two little tables. For some strange reason, I had become oddly fond of them after all this time and I didn’t want to throw them out or give them away so decided to find a new location for them. One table was placed on the stair landing and the other went in the downstairs hallway. But yellow just wasn’t cutting it anymore…they seemed a bit too pale for their new location. They didn’t really blend well with the Moroccan pattern of the stair risers.

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Now, I usually don’t like furniture in loud colors but on an impulse I went out and purchased a can of teal paint. And then crossed my fingers that I wouldn’t be sorry afterwards.

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Three coats of teal paint later, they looked like this:

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The only drawback to the teal paint was that the appliques seemed to become nearly invisible so I highlighted the deeper lines with gold paint to make them stand out a bit.

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So here they are with their new facelifts in their new locations:

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And here is the other identical one in the downstairs hallway

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After a thorough inspection of the tables and their new color, Semsema has given them both her seal of approval.

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Joining Feathered Nest Friday at French Country Cottage

Antique Parlor Cabinet Re-do

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Back in January of this year I posted some pictures of an antique cabinet that we bought from our friend Richie. You can read about that here.  After managing to get it up the stairs, it sat in a small space against the dining room wall for months until our home renovation was finished. I admit that I’d been feeling a little lazy and had put the cabinet re-do project on the back burner for longer than anticipated. There were so many other things to finish up first before I could take on a project that involved not only painting but hours of sanding and breathing in dust as well.  I finally got fed up enough with the boring brownness of it and decided to go ahead and get started. I selected an antique white paint for the body of the cabinet and a soft gray shade for the doors. Good thing I had made alot of furniture appliques beforehand and it was just a matter of selecting the ones that I wanted to use. This is what the cabinet looked like before:

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After sanding the shiny finish off for what seemed like eons, I glued on the appliques with No More Nails and held them in place with masking tape just in case.

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Then I started painting. I must confess that I didn’t paint the cabinet in any particular order and I didn’t empty it of the crystal before starting on the outside.  It took me about two weeks to finish it because I didn’t work on it for long periods at a time and I  just randomly painted whatever part I felt like painting on any given day. I figured I wouldn’t get as bored or antsy with the project that way.

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It wasn’t without it’s problems however. Even though I sanded it quite thoroughly, brown stains kept coming up through every single coat of white paint that I applied. I have no idea why that happened, it’s never happened before on any other piece of furniture that I’ve painted. I have a feeling that whoever stained and varnished this cabinet all those many decades ago must have used some kind of really strong home mixed concoction that kept coming up to the surface as each coat of white paint dried. Who knows what they used. I was starting to feel like Lady MacBeth. Had it not been for fear of breaking my toe, I would have kicked the cabinet right out the door and down the stairs at that point. Finally I just painted over the stains with a really dark gray color and then applied more white over the gray. That pretty much solved it.

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Semsema helped me out by inspecting the project regularly. She had to approve everything beforehand.

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The inside middle section of the cabinet and the two drawers had been covered in a hideous beige textured shelf paper that had fused to the shelves in some spots. I removed it all and scrubbed the  inside of the cabinet with Pine Sol. Then I painted it white and put new shelf paper in.

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And finally after a couple of weeks and about 6 or 7 (or maybe 8)  coats of paint….it was done.

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The gray doors seem to make the white appliques stand out. The back part of the glass enclosures are also painted gray.

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I finally found a place for my Halloween tableware which had previously been stored in cardboard boxes.

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I shared a couple of pictures of the finished cabinet on my Facebook page and was surprised when a friend of mine who lives in France asked me if it was french. Just the fact that a french woman could mistake the cabinet for a french antique was compliment enough for me. I just smiled and said, Oui, cést francaise maintenant!

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Joining Feathered Nest Friday at French Country Cottage

Show and Tell Friday at My Romantic Home

Shabbilicious Friday at Shabby Art Boutique

Furniture Feature Friday at Miss Mustard Seed

Three Mini Chairs And A Patio

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I’ve had these little mini chairs in my garden since forever and over the years they’ve seen sun and rain as well as several different colors of paint. My neighbor Elmer, who is a carpenter made them for me to hang on the wall as plant holders but they’ve been used for many things, mostly as junk holders where I would place garden stuff that had to be kept out of the reach of children and of pets. When my youngest daughter was little, she used to make me take them down off the wall so she could play house with them.  A few weeks ago I decided that it was time to repaint them once again because they were looking very faded and weather worn and I also wanted to refresh my patio garden with new plants and a new coat of paint on the walls.

I can't remember the last time I painted them but obviously it had been years.

Before: I can’t remember the last time I painted them but obviously it had been years.

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I have to admit that I’ve neglected the little courtyard garden at our city house.  It’s such a small space after all and there isn’t really alot of room for plants unless they’re potted.  I usually spend more time in the much larger garden up at our mountain house but this rainy season I’ve decided to  pay a bit more attention to my little patio and thus spent a good part of the week weeding, fertilizing and planting new seeds. I mostly went with climbing plants because the space is small and the walls were bare. I planted Morning Glory seeds, Sweet Peas and Moon Flower seeds as well as three Clematis vines and even a few pumpkin seeds which will hopefully yield pumpkins by Halloween, unlike last year when I planted “fungus resistant” pumpkin seeds up at the mountain house only to have them ALL succumb to a woolly white fungus just as they were beginning to set fruit! Maybe they’ll do better in the city, it’s not as humid. Keeping my fingers crossed this time.

Suha and Giza think the pumpkin seedlings smell lovely.

Suha and Giza think the pumpkin seedlings smell lovely.

The three little chairs got a complete makeover which meant new paint and a bit of decoupage. I sealed them with a thick coat of polyurethane varnish so that they’d be sun and rain resistant….at least for a couple of years.

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Much better!

Much better!

I’ve had to put a wire mesh around and above my seedlings as well as more stones in some of the larger flower pots because my naughty kitty girls love to scratch the bare soil and use it as a litter box. I’ve seen them completely bypass their fresh clean litter boxes and head straight for the planters.  The mesh will keep them out until the plants grow in and there won’t be so much visible soil, then I can remove it.

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These solid violet colored morning glories grew from seeds dropped by striped morning glories.

These solid violet colored morning glories grew from seeds dropped by striped morning glories. These keep reseeding themselves and I find myself having to yank out new seedlings every so often, otherwise they’ll just take over the garden.

Some of the seeds did produce striped flowers that looked like the parents.

Some of the seeds did produce striped flowers that looked like the parents.

These are Grandpa Ott morning glories. I've never tried this variety before.  The color is so intense.

These are Grandpa Ott morning glories. I’ve never tried this variety before. The color is quite intense.

This is a lavender flowered Clematis that I got on Ebay. It's an unamed variety that the seller grew from seed.

This is a lavender flowered Clematis that I got on Ebay. It’s an unamed variety that produces huge blooms. Apparently the seller grew these from seed.

My orchids are beggining to bloom. I have several varieties. Most of them are heavily scented and they make the entire courtyard smell like vanilla.

My orchids are beginning to bloom. I have several varieties and they’re actually really easy to grow. Most of them are heavily scented and they make the entire courtyard smell like vanilla.

This is another heavily scented flower. The perfume is absolutely intoxicating.  It's Frangipani also known as Plumeria.  I always thought Plumeria was Hawaiian, but it's actually native to Central America.

This is another intensely fragrant flower. The perfume is absolutely intoxicating. It’s Frangipani also known as Plumeria. I always thought Plumeria was Hawaiian, but it’s actually native to Central America. It’s a tall tree like shrub and it’s one of the few larger plants that I have in my little garden.

Bougainvillea. I have this one growing in a large pot.

Bougainvillea. I have this one growing in a  pot right outside the patio door.

Here's a red Bromelia.  This one's native to Costa Rica. I've got several of these as they reproduce quite easily.

A red Bromelia. This one’s native to Costa Rica. I have several of these growing in pots. They reproduce quite easily.

Here's a potted Hydrangea. They grow everywhere here in Costa Rica, even on roadsides.  I've never seen them in any other color around here though. They're always varying shades of blue and even the ones that open white, eventually turn blue. I've never seen a pink hydrangea in Costa Rica. I wonder if it's the soil.

Here’s a potted Hydrangea. They grow abundantly in my area, even on roadsides.  They always seem to bloom in varying shades of  blue however, and even the ones that open white will eventually turn blue. I’ve never seen a pink hydrangea in Costa Rica. I wonder if it’s the soil.

Leyla is looking longingly at the flower bed. There's mesh all around it but it's mostly hidden between the greenery.

Leyla is looking longingly at the flower bed. There’s mesh all around it but it’s mostly hidden among the greenery.

Semsema likes to lay in the flower pots. I guess the damp soil and cool rocks are refreshing on a hot tropical afternoon.

Semsema loves to lay in the flower pots. I guess the damp soil and cool rocks are refreshing on a hot tropical afternoon.

This is a little shady spot where I keep the staghorn ferns and some of the orchids. Notice the mesh over the planter. That's so the kitties won't scratch the soil around until the seeds germinate.

This is a little shady spot where I keep the staghorn ferns and some of the orchids. Notice the mesh over the planter. That’s so the kitties won’t scratch the soil around until the seeds germinate.

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Most of the seeds that I planted a couple of weeks ago have sprouted and are growing nicely thanks to the abundant rain but there is still so much to do in the garden.  I’m thinking of buying some miniature roses ….or maybe even some hanging roses, more water lilies for the pond and perhaps some quick growing ivy to trail up the stark walls.

Joining Feathered Nest Friday at French Country Cottage

Joining Show and Tell Friday at My Romantic Home

Joining Saturday Show Off at The Rose Garden in Malevik

Make Your Own Furniture Appliques Part 2

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In part two of this tutorial I’m going to talk about casting onlays in your molds. If you missed part one which explains how to make your own molds, you can find it here.  There are several different materials that you can use to cast your appliques but the two I like best are plaster and resin. Both are good choices and I don’t think that one is better than the other, it’s really just a matter of personal preference.

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Plaster is fairly simple to use. You just mix the powdered plaster with water to the desired consistency and fill your molds, then wait for them to dry.  That’s about it. There are no toxic fumes to worry about and you don’t have to wear gloves or goggles. You can wear a mask to protect yourself from accidentally inhaling the powder if you like, although I don’t. I like to make plaster the same consistency as pancake batter because that makes it easier to pour it into the molds and it spreads by itself getting into every little nook and cranny. If your mold has alot of details you can help it along by spreading the plaster with a toothpick or popsicle stick.

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I find that plaster takes a long time to dry where I live. It can take a day or more depending on the size of the mold, particularly in humid climates like mine.  You must allow it to set completely before you can unmold it because if you try to take it out too soon it can crack and crumble and your piece will be ruined. Test the applique first with your finger while it’s still in the mold. When it feels dry and cool to the touch you can gently begin to pull and unstick the mold from the edges of the applique to remove it. In dryer climates plaster can be ready to unmold in about an hour or so but it will still need a couple more days until it’s completely dry and ready to use. Once it’s fully cured, plaster is surprisingly strong. I’ve dropped plaster appliques on the floor and though of course some do break, others don’t break at all so it isn’t as fragile and brittle as people think.  I also like that it’s naturally white so you don’t have to tint it before casting. You can just  paint it whatever color you like after it’s been glued on to your furniture. Plaster appliques are particularly nice for adding details to your walls and ceilings as well.

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Resin on the left, plaster on the right

Resin on the left, plaster on the right

Resin is another great casting material. There are basically three different kinds of resin that I know of. Epoxy resin, polyurethane resin and polyester resin. Epoxy resin is the type most favored by crafters and there are several popular brands sold at crafts and hobby shops. Unlike plaster, resin is quite toxic and it releases toxic fumes particularly while it’s going through the curing process so you do have to take certain safety precautions.  But don’t let this scare you off from working with resin. If you are careful,  it really isn’t that difficult and it will yield appliques that are strong, resistant, water proof, lightweight and best of all inexpensive. Keep in mind however, that although resin is generally stronger than plaster it is not shatter proof. It can break if you drop it. Before you begin, make sure you have these three things. 1. A facemask  2. Nitrile gloves 3. Safety goggles.  I use a thick cotton like mask. I also always work outside. This greatly reduces the possibility of inhaling any fumes because the breeze blows them away. I know that not everyone has 85 degree weather year round or is able to work outdoors, so if you do have to work with resin indoors then make sure all your windows are open and that you have at least one electric tabletop fan that you can angle so that it will blow the fumes out the window. Never work with resin in a closed unventilated space and by all means leave the room while it’s curing. The gloves you will need are nitrile gloves not latex gloves. Disposable nitrile gloves are about as cheap as latex and I get mine at the local pharmacy. Safety glasses are also recommended because you have to mix and stir the resin and you don’t want it accidentally splashing in your eyes.

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Resin is a two part mixture, the resin itself and a catalyst. The amount of catalyst will vary according to the type of resin you use. Epoxy resins usually use equal parts of catalyst and resin whereas other types of resin need just a few drops of catalyst. In my area epoxy is almost nonexistent so I use polyester resin which I can find at just about every hardware store and at at car accessories shops.  It comes with a small bottle of catalyst because you only need a few drops. The brand that I use calls for 12  drops of catalyst per ounce of resin. That’s really not a whole lot and the bottle of catalyst really lasts.  I keep a dropper specifically for this purpose and I use disposable cups to mix it. I recycle plastic cups (we own a convenience store so people leave alot of disposable plastic cups in the waste basket. I salvage them and use them for mixing resin. They can be used several times before they are tossed,  just make sure the resin is completely dry before you throw them out. The best way to figure out how much resin you are going to need is to fill your molds with water then empty the water into a plastic cup. Mark the cup at the water level with a permanent marker. This will tell you how much resin you will need for that mold. I like to pre-measure and mark several plastic cups with different amounts so that I can know  beforehand how many drops of catalyst to add to each one.

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Then I lay out several molds and just begin filling them in order of importance. I fill as many as I can with the amount of resin that I have mixed. Sometimes I mix a larger amount of resin and other times I mix less, depending on how many molds I want to use and on their sizes.

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Although they do sell white resin, most resins are naturally clear so your onlays will be clear as well but if you want to tint it before casting your appliques you can do it a couple of different ways.

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There are dyes that you can use which are especially made for resins although they can be be expensive. Epoxy resin can also be tinted with regular acrylic craft paint in your color of choice. However, acrylic craft paint will not work with polyester resin.  You can tint polyester resin with oil paint, the kind that artists use. I like to tint my appliques white.

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Just a drop or two mixed into the resin BEFORE adding the catalyst will yield appliques in any color you want. Make sure you mix the oil paint completely until no streaks remain, then add the catalyst.

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Resin is usually quick to set but again it depends on the climate. It usually takes anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes although it can take a bit longer if the weather is cooler or humid.

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As the resin is curing it will become very warm, this is normal.  If at all possible, let your appliques cure outdoors, make sure they are away from children and pets. Once the appliques are dry you can unmold them by pulling the silicone gently away from the edges. They are ready to use almost immediately and can be painted any color you wish. Once the resin is dry, it is no longer toxic.

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Silicone molds should be cleaned after each casting to keep them in tip top shape.

Here is a really good little video that talks about the basics of using Polyester resin.

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Feathered Nest Friday at French Country Cottage