Some Tuesdays we flip the shop around. Some days we focus on transforming a piece or two. The unseasonably warm weather made it possible for us to work outside, so took full advantage and painted chairs, and started on this pedestal table. Here are some takeaways from this project:
1. The General Finishes gel stains (especially "Java") are frequently applied directly over other finishes; it's one of their selling points. But they also work well applied to bare wood. This table's finish had failed, so we sanded the original stain and sealer away, then wiped it down with mineral spirits before we started staining. On bare wood, the gel stains give a really gorgeous and rich semi-transparent stain. (A second layer will darken it more, if that's your thing, or if the stain doesn't appear to be evenly absorbed.)
2. When staining a large surface like this round table, start from the middle and work toward yourself. If you start at the edge and work your way in, you'll may smudge the still-wet stain as you stretch across to reach the middle.
3. Have lint-free cloths handy to wipe the stain around and get an even first coat. We'll use 0000 steel wool to lightly buff, then add a second coat of stain tomorrow.
4. Wait at least 72 hours after your final coat to apply a seal coat to the surface, especially if you're using a water-based sealer. In this case, we'll be applying several thin layers of GF's High Performance Sealer in Satin to give a bit of a sheen.
If you want to put a flat/matte finish on a dark stain color like Java, first topcoat with a satin finish, then add layers of flat/matte finish to complete. This will avoid any haze or streaks from forming.
So how did you spend your Tuesday?
Permit me a small rant today. The cold weather is making my knees hurt, and Mother Nature is being coy with spring: she's warm, she's frigid, she's sunny, she's dreary. It always makes me just a little cranky.
I recently found an ISO ("In Search Of") post, asking to help find a china cabinet. The poster had a picture of the style she wanted - it was the kind we all love, with fun bits of curves and detailing, painted in a pretty shade of green.
She then went on to add that she "knew" we (pickers at large) ALL scooped up pieces like this for dirt cheap every day at "thrift stores and shops" and she wanted someone to tell her where she could get one to paint herself. She was demanding a short cut. She assumed there was a secret stash of antique furniture, and we were being stingy and keeping it to ourselves.
I didn't respond, and I have no idea if anyone else did either. But if I had replied to her, I think I would have tried to explain that no one just casually, greedily scoops up pieces like that every day. If you find a piece that's cheap, it may need a lot more than a little TLC. Or you may have to travel an inconvenient distance to get it. Or sit through an auction (or two or three) before you find one that's the right style and the right price.
Maybe before rehabbing and refurbishing became popular, good pieces of vintage furniture were common and dirt-cheap. But not anymore. Picking means spending time digging through a lot of junk to get to treasure, often in cold, drizzly weather, or sweltering heat. It means splinters and spiders and scratches and bruises. It means sifting through auction and estate sale listings, Craigslist ads and other exchanges, then driving to wherever the item is located to pick it up and hope it's in good condition, and dealing with it if it needs repaired. For some pickers, it means buying huge lots of pieces, loading up a trailer and then culling out the pieces that are beyond salvaging. That's not our model - we don't have a trailer or the storage capacity to deal with that volume of goods. So we're a little more dainty about what we pick, which means we often spend more time (and very often more money) to get the pieces that fit our shop's style.
Once we've found a diamond in the rough, the fun begins: washing off bird and mouse droppings, scraping away melted wax rings (why are there always wax rings????) wiping away spider egg sacs, sanding or stripping away layers of paint or stain, and then renovating a piece to make it beautiful and functional for someone to take home and love again.
Simply put, there are no shortcuts in this business. You can pay for someone else to do all of that, but it's not cheap, nor should it be.
And since I knew I couldn't say all of that without sounding like a curmudgeon, I scrolled on by her post. I hope she finds the piece she's seeking. But I also hope she looks back some day and realizes that her request was naive, and her assumptions were wrong. We love what we do, but there's skill and persistence and a lot of hard work involved.
We're almost at the one year anniversary mark of opening our shop. We've not only transformed this #littlelogcabin with renovated rooms, freshly painted walls and stained floors and stairs, we've scaled a steep learning curve on the administrative side: business licenses, tax filings, local ordinances, lease agreements, hardware, software, credit card processors, vendor and consignor relations, marketing...it goes on and on. Experience is a demanding teacher and she gives us daily lessons.
At the same time, we've continued to broaden and fine-tune our furniture refinishing skills, using different paints and stains and sealers. We're continuing to learn new techniques and skills to make sure our pieces are enduring and beautiful for another generation.
As I was writing this post, I reflected on a seminar I attended about 20 years ago, led by Mr. Covey. His principles have stuck with me - they are timeless and applicable to nearly every facet of life. Maybe because it's spring and I love to garden, but this axiom seemed appropriate to this post/rant.
As we look ahead to another year, Sherri and I are humbled and blessed by the friendships we've made with customers who have come through our doors and kept us going through our year of "firsts." We've made rookie mistakes - and learned from them. Thank you for the grace and kindness you've extended to us, and we hope we'll continue to improve in all we do and cultivate trust and friendships with all of you. And we hope you all find the treasures you seek...and enjoy the journey that leads you to them.
I'm crediting this project to Starbucks, Pinterest, and a nearby blogger.
A few nights ago, insomnia (induced by hyper-caffeinated black iced tea from Starbucks) led me to look for some Pinterest inspiration for our stone fireplace and mantel. With visions of whitewash dancing in my head, I drifted off to sleep for a few hours and awoke resolved to update our fireplace then and there. I threw on painting clothes, grabbed a cup of coffee, and Major the Shopdog and I headed over to tackle this overdue project. First things first, I snapped the "before" picture (above.) Like most of us who have reached a certain maturity, this fireplace didn't look her best in the harsh light of early morning. But it's great light to paint by.
We know from the property tax records that our #littlelogcabin was built in 1982 as a model log home, and the massive stone fireplace was typical for homes of the 1970s and early '80s. As with most trends, the cycle has swung back around, and once again, stone and rough-hewn mantels are in vogue. But today's modern use of rock and wood is a little more sophisticated than the 20th century version.
To add insult to injury, someone painted the tops and sides of the rough-hewn cedar mantel with black paint. Not the bottom. Instead of making it look tailored it just looked charred. It wasn't a good look for this massive piece of wood, hanging on this massive stone wall.
As luck would have it, when I couldn't sleep, Pinterest led me to a blogger with some fabulous photos of a fireplace that looks a lot like ours. (At least her "before" pictures looked like ours.) She was ahead of her time; her photos from 2013 are still fresh and beautiful. Check them out below.
I scrolled through her blogpost and came across a photo of her fireplace decorated with a huge watercolor map of Tennessee. Then I knew I was among friends who could understand exactly what I was up against. As the clock hands crept into the early morning hours, I read her story, and confirmed that not only are we in the same state, but we're practically neighbors. (Hey, neighbor!!!)
So it's with deep gratitude to Erin that I share our before-and-after photos of the fireplace in our hearth room, inspired by her photos and tips. If you want to try this on your own brick or stone fireplace, check out her instructions. And be prepared for some splatters and drips, because when you water down paint to whitewash stone, it will be messy. Just saying.
(And if you're like me, be prepared for that crisis moment when you wonder what on earth you've started. It tends to occur precisely when I've gone far enough that I can't undo it, but not far enough to imagine how it will look when it's done. Power through. At that point, there's no turning back. But with paint, you can always cover it up.)
For the mantel, I started out with a light gray paint, but it was too light and the mantel blended in with the stone. So I mixed together some black/brown and medium gray chalk paint, and the result was something softer than black, but dark enough to contrast with the stone. And yes, I did paint the underside of the mantel too.
We're eager to use this fresh, lighter, updated backdrop to stage pieces in our hearth room, especially as winter gives way to warmer months. (But we will be using that cute little electric fireplace you can see in the last picture to make things cozy in this space until then.)
So what project are you procrastinating over? Give us a shout if we can help you conquer your fears or show you some tips or products that will help you get started. And check out our class schedule - we've got milk paint and chalk paint classes coming up soon.
WHO WRITES THIS STUFF?
I'm Terry Lea, owner of Re-Invintage Home, a vintage home goods shop just south of Nashville in Murfreesboro, TN. A lifelong passion for vintage picking led me to open a shop with my picking pal, Sherri in 2017. Come see us!