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.


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:


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.



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.


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.



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


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.


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



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



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



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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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.


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.


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.


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.


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.






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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Antique Cabinet


First of all, I’d like to wish everyone a happy 2015. I’m spending New Year’s day alone with my two kitties up at the mountain house and enjoying the peace and quiet away from the firecrackers and revelers down in the city. My family loves the ruckus and fireworks so they stayed at our city house and partied. I guess I must be a party pooper at heart but I  figure I filled my quota of partying on Christmas. So here I am, relishing the silence while planning and plotting DIY projects to keep me busy during the next couple of months and trying to organize them in order of importance. Among the things I’m going to work on (as soon as I figure out what I want to do with it) is this gorgeous antique cabinet that we bought last week from our good friend Richie. A couple of years ago, Richie inherited his mother’s house along with everything in it. He promptly organized a garage sale and sold most of the stuff off. At that time, I bought several furniture items from him and I also spied two beautiful antique cabinets full of gorgeous vintage crystal. One of them was this particular cabinet, but to my dissapointment he wasn’t sure if he wanted to sell them or not.


Shortly afterwards he closed up the house and went back to the States. Fast forward two years. Richie came back a couple of weeks ago to spend Christmas in Costa Rica and he sold the house. That meant that he had to decide quickly if he should sell the remaining pieces of furniture that had been locked up for two years and he invited us to go take a look to see if we were interested in anything. Was he kidding?? I’d been coveting those cabinets since 2012. I was there the next morning at 9am. Sharp. The two cabinets were still there, standing in the same spot where I’d last seen them and I wanted them both. Unfortunately (for me) he decided at the last minute that he was going to keep one of them as it was over a hundred years old and it had belonged to his father and to his father’s grandmother before him.  But he WAS willing to part with the other cabinet which had beautiful beveled glass inserts as well as a beveled mirror and a set of skeleton keys that opened all the doors. It also happened to be jam packed with his mother’s crystal. I felt a fleeting pang of guilt for buying another woman’s cherished treasures, but I silently promised to take good care of them for her. Then came the mandatory haggling. He asked for $500 dollars for the cabinet including all the crystal inside of it, plus two antique ceiling lamps and a 7 foot artificial Christmas tree (which he evidently was anxious to unload on the first unsuspecting victim) Hubby counter-offered $200 dollars. I cringed with embarassment. Richie came back at $400. Hubby raised his offer to $300. They settled on $350. Whew!


The following day we packed up the crystal which ended up filling five large cardboard boxes and lugged the cabinet home. It’s so heavy that we needed five men to bring it up the narrow stairs. I’ve temporarily put it in the dining room until I decide what I’m going to do with it. I had originally planned on adding several ornate furniture appliques to it and painting it white. I might still do that. But I’m debating whether to cover up that lovely antique wood with flat white paint or not. Would that be sacrilegious? I’m usually not fond of shabby-chic, let alone distressed furniture, but maybe if I can call it “cottage style” and hold the distressing it will look nice in white. It already has a couple of pretty carvings. Or maybe I should just have the wood re-stained? I don’t know.


The finish looks pretty beat up in a few spots. I don’t know how difficult it would be to re-stain it. Maybe I’d have to strip the entire thing first, which sounds daunting.  I think it might also need new drawer pulls, these look sort of dented and kind of thin and flimsy on such a heavy cabinet. On the other hand, I’d really prefer to keep all the original hardware. Decisions.



Here’s a view of the heavy beveled glass inserts.



We also bought this vintage 1930s Art Deco vanity for $40 dollars.



It’s solid, very heavy wood and all the hinges and pulls are in perfect shape. I’m pretty sure I’m going to paint this one a pale gray. Or maybe a soft yellow. Maybe I’ll paint it white and then decoupage some roses over it……decisions. Gah.


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Patio Set Re-do

shadedCIMG7810.jpgA couple of years ago we won a patio set in a sweepstakes sponsored by the local beer company.  At first I was thrilled because our old patio set had just about bit the dust and we were ready for a new one. My joy was short lived however when the thin nylon fabric quickly began to deteriorate and rot in the sun. It didn’t even last a year. I was particularly mortified when my daughter in law sat down in one of the chairs and fell right through to the floor after the fabric just gave way beneath her.  It was only the nylon that had rotted but the aluminum frames were intact and still looked fairly new so I figured it wouldn’t be too difficult to just replace the fabric with something sturdier. Continue reading

My M’rockin’ Wall

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Our week-end mountain house has really high ceilings. They’re so high that I’m not able to have any ceiling  fixtures in some parts of the house otherwise I’d have to call the fire department whenever I needed to change a lightbulb. I’d have to ask them to let me borrow those really long expanding ladders they have on their trucks. This makes decorating the high walls particularly difficult because not only can I not reach up there to hang anything but it’s a pain in the neck when it comes to dusting and cleaning too. There was one particularly bare and bleak looking wall that I knew I’d have to find a solution for because it was just beyond boring. I was willing to do a little ladder climbing and arm stretching to get the job done.  I love Bohemian/Moroccan/Middle Eastern style decor and when I came across two little Moroccan wall lanterns on Ebay for just a few dollars, I knew I had to have them. And then it took off from there. Continue reading

Egyptian Fretwork Mirror


Fretwork in Egypt is about as old as the pharaohs. Several beautiful pieces of furniture decorated with delicate fretwork were among the treasures found in Tutankhamon’s tomb. Moorish fretwork was brought to Spain by the Arabs and greatly influenced spanish architecture. Traditionally, fretwork shutters have been used on windows in Middle Eastern countries to shield the inside of the homes from the curious eyes of outsiders. Today it is often used  as a decoration on furniture, jewelry boxes, room dividers and mirrors. Different countries have different styles of fretwork but by far the most beautiful (in my opinion) is the one made in Egypt. It is called Mashrabiya in Arabic. Continue reading

Another Piano Stool Makeover


Not long ago I bought two little antique piano stools from an Armenian diplomat who had listed them on Craigslist. He was leaving the country and was selling practically everything in his apartment. I didn’t really care for the antique velvet upholstery they came with….one was green and the other was red. But the fabric was in very good condition on both of the stools considering their age and I didn’t have the heart to remove it, so I decided to just go ahead and place the new fabric on top of the old ones. Continue reading

Loving Louis Style


Not long ago I wrote about a garage sale that our good friend Richie had. Among the things I bought was a cute little Louis XV night table that I have absolutely no space for in any of the bedrooms. I knew that when I set eyes on it. But it was just too cute not to bring home with me. I don’t know what it is about tables that makes me go weak in the knees.  Night tables, coffee tables, piecrust tables, occasional tables….one can never have too many of them. Continue reading