#41 The Nuria Cabinet

This was my second collaborative transformation, and the longest of any. I trash-picked this piece in May 2019, Nuria came on board the following year, and we started work in September 2020. It was finished on October 1, 2022! My coworker, Nuria, is a friend whose style has been honed by years of working for one of the most refined hotel chains in the world. Our combined skills were put to the test on this piece that needed a lot of TLC. The result is charming: a one-of-a-kind piece, loaded with designer touches.

Materials used: Rust-Oleum 2X spray primer, Rust-Oleum 2X hight gloss white spray paint, Rust-Oleum Universal Aged Metallic Vintage Gold spray paint, decorative paper, gold finish furniture legs, glass, hardboard, bright brass decorative corners.

What first attracted me to this small cupboard was the leaded lattice glass. Sadly, a pane was missing and the leading was damaged so we ended up discarding it. We knew we also needed to replace the back panel and remove the peeling top coat. We got to work dismantling and sanding.

My two favorite parts of every transformation are the bookends—the initial design process, and the final coming-together of the vision. We started the design process with a trip to a scrap-booking store, where we found a beautiful turquoise paper printed with metallic birds. Replacement glass, some hardboard, gold finish furniture legs, and two different spray paints completed our supplies list.

Painting started on the interior with 2 cans of Rust-Oleum metallic paint in Vintage Gold. The original hardware was cleaned with Bar Keepers Friend.

Next, we needed to level out the uneven base. Simply sanding it meant going through the veneer to chipboard so instead we glued a shim to the corner then trimmed and sanded it.

With the gold-painted interior carefully masked, it was time to start painting the outside and the door with Rust-Oleum 2X white gloss paint.

As has happened on two previous projects, certain areas of the paintwork “wrinkled”. I still don’t understand why this sometimes happens but I can say it is a pain when it does. The only solution was to go back and sand the problem areas, apply primer, and then paint again.

Many weeks later…when all the paint flaws had been ironed out, all that remained was to put the pieces together. We installed a new pane of glass in the door, attached the new, papered hardboard back panel, re-installed the original hardware, added bright brass decorative corners to the top, and attached the new feet.

#40 Windsor chair

If a chair could look like a hug then I think it would be this chair. As usual I hesitated when I first saw it because I already had a garage full of projects. I just couldn’t resist its charm.

Materials used: Rust-Oleum 2X spray paint (black, flat), Varathane oil-based polyurethane (satin).

In my research I learned a lot about Windsor chairs, but I never found out the provenance of this particular one. I only know it is a low-back Windsor chair with a shield seat and front legs that are turned and tapered. At the same time as learning that Windsor chairs were often painted dark green, brown, or black (to disguise mixed use of woods) I saw a chair in House & Garden that became my inspiration piece (bottom right). After cleaning, I sanded the chair a little to smooth out a few lumps and bumps. I didn’t want to paint over the markings so I covered them with a piece of contact paper.

One can of Rust-Oleum 2X Ultra Cover in flat black formed the base coat.

When the base coat was dry I used 220 then 400 grit sandpaper to give it the distressed look I wanted.

I finished the piece with three coats of Varathane oil-based polyurethane in a satin finish, lightly sanding the whole chair before the third and final coat. I could also have finished it with some clear wax but… spindles! Spraying spindles is a lot easier than brushing them.

#39 MCM bentwood armchair a.k.a. “The Ballerina”

Materials used: Minwax Antique Furniture Refinisher, shellac, polyurethane, Krylon spray paint, foam, batting, upholstery fabric, weed barrier.

On May 28, 2020 I got a surprise call. My friend’s father, Jim, knew about my mission and was calling to see if I would make this chair one of my transformations. It had been his son-in-law’s work chair and Jim had saved it from being thrown away years before. How lucky am I to have friends and followers who bring me gifts like these?! I’m ashamed to say it then spent two years in my garage—a victim of other projects and life’s distractions, but never forgotten. It’s had to wait a long time for its moment in the spotlight, but I hope you will agree it was worth the wait.

Jim Wright knew good workmanship when he saw it, so I was not surprised to find a Liberty Chair Company tag under the seat. Several messages, emails, and phone calls later I found out it had been made in Liberty, NC in the late 60s/early 70s. At that time it was model 700 and was named “Contemporary Chair”. Members of an online woodworking community think the wood is cherry, and in 1969 its wholesale price was $10.45.

Although the bones of this chair were sound, it was dirty and had been stained and upholstered badly. It was not a difficult decision to strip it down to the bare wood and refinish.

I removed the existing finish using Minwax Antique Furniture Refinisher, then sanded the frame with 150, 220, and finally 400 grit sandpaper. The final prep step was to remove all dust with an air compressor and wipe with a slightly damp cloth.

Refinishing began with a full aerosol can of shellac to seal the wood, accentuate the grain, and give it a lovely honey color.

Now it was time to elevate this chair from the ordinary. After some minor repairs I slippered the feet in Krylon “Ballet Slipper” gloss spray paint. Hence the chair’s nickname “The Ballerina”, because now it looks like it’s on points.

To finish the framework I applied 3 coats of clear, Varathane, oil-based polyurethane in a satin finish. As always I lightly sanded everything before the final coats.

Finally I re-upholstered the seat with a boucle-style fabric. It was a little stretchy in one direction so, to prevent over-stretch, I first attached it to some cotton lining fabric. Fully re-assembled this chair deserves to be in the spotlight.

#38 Diner chairs

Materials used: Vinyl sparkle red upholstery fabric, hardboard, cardboard.

When these diner chairs were offered up on our neighborhood Facebook page, I didn’t hesitate. It looked like an upholstery project I could handle, and it’s not every day you get to work on something so quintessentially American. A friend who also expressed an interest immediately became the bespoke recipient and picked out the new vinyl.

At first glance the finished chairs don’t look that different from the original ones, other than the color of the vinyl. On closer inspection, though, you can see that the old vinyl was scuffed, damaged, and grubby. Also the cardboard under the seats was stained and torn.

I started by removing the upholstered seats and backs from the frame, and taking off all the old vinyl. Thankfully all of the structure beneath the vinyl was in good shape and could be re-used.

I then took apart the frame, cleaned the chrome with Bar Keeper’s Friend, and re-assembled it.

Using the old card as a template I cut new seat bases out of hardboard. I then began re-upholstering the seats and backs with the gorgeous red sparkle vinyl.

Along the way I learned the technique of using a hairdryer to warm the vinyl so it can be stretched more neatly over the corners. I thought the seats turned out really well, but I was not satisfied with the back pads; where the two pieces joined together it was too lumpy and bumpy.

After putting them aside for several months I came back to the drawing board with a new approach. My friends at Daniel’s Southern Decorators gave me some of the upholstery card that I hadn’t been able to find anywhere else. Now I was able to replace the old, crumbling card. Using the dressmaking technique of notching, I cut the vinyl to reduce as much bulk as possible. I then “wrapped” the card with the vinyl, attaching it with hot glue and leaving the top, long edge loose. I attached the loose vinyl to the other back panel by stapling through some cardboard tape to protect the fabric. Finally I could flip the wrapped card into place and secure it with the original upholstery pins.

This new technique yielded much better results.

#37 Tufted cow print ottoman/stool

Materials used: Upholstery fabric, fabric-covered buttons, weed barrier, stuffing, 8″ furniture legs.

Back in February 2019 I picked up a second-rate occasional table made of a plywood top on what looked like a bar stool. I separated the top from the bottom and, in April 2019, transformed the bar stool bottom into a Bistro Table. More than two years later the second part of this 2-part transformation is finally complete! Initially I envisaged transforming this plywood circle into a large, framed mirror but I love it as an ottoman/stool instead.

I began by re-purposing another freebie found on our local Buy Nothing Facebook page: A very large Urban Outfitters floor pillow which yielded four trash bags of upholstery stuffing and enough heavy duty fabric to make a liner.

To get the legs and tufting buttons in the right places, I made a newspaper template.

Once I had cut and sewn the liner and outer cover I inverted them both and stuffed them with the upholstery filling.

I compacted the stuffing by sitting on the plywood while pulling the fabric taut and stapling it. When everything was secured in place I set about doing the tufting armed with some very large upholstery needles and band-aids. The fabric-covered buttons are secured on the back side by tying the thread through a regular button.

The finishing touches were felt pads on the legs and a fitted piece of weed barrier to cover the upholstering and the leg hardware. Who knew that stretchable weed barrier would be as good an alternative to cambric, if not better?

#36 French country-style chairs

Materials used: Primer, chalk paint, clear wax, hardboard, upholstery fabric.

What attracted me to these chairs was the inlaid panels in the backrests. I knew if I could remove them it was an opportunity to have a little fun with some fabric I wanted to use.

First I had to make sure I could remove the “wooden tile”, inlaid panels. There were four all together: one in the front and back of each chair’s backrest. Sure enough they came out easily, as you can see in this 9-second video.

I then gave the frames a good clean, and sanded out a few dings.

After a couple of coats of primer, I applied three coats of chalk paint. I call this color Vintage Paris Grey; it’s a blend of leftover paints with those names. The paintwork was finished with two coats of Behr clear wax.

When the frames were done, it was time to tackle the upholstery. I started with the backrest panels. My handy husband cut four pieces of hardboard to fit the spaces. With spray glue I attached a thin piece of batting to each, then wrapped them in the upholstery fabric.

I re-attached the newly upholstered panels to the frames using Loctite mirror, marble and granite adhesive.

Under the old fabric the original seat pads were in such great shape I could re-use the foam and batting. I was even able to recycle the black cambric. With the old fabric as my pattern, I cut the new material, making sure to match the patterns on the two seats. I then covered the seat pads with the new fabric, and re-attached the black cambric. Then it was just a matter of attaching the new seat pads to the frames.

#35 Pedestal table

Materials used: Wood filler, spray paint, transfer, ceiling paint, wood stain, polyurethane.

This pedestal table was one of several abandoned furniture pieces in a fixer-upper homestead my friend bought. Rather than discard it, she offered it to me to transform. Now that it’s finished, I find myself in need of a table about this size and shape, but with a different look. I’m hoping something similar comes my way soon so I can try out another design.

Before I could do anything with this table I needed to be able to fix a wobbly foot that was preventing it from standing stably. It turns out that removing the feet from the pedestal was a lot easier than I thought. You can see a how-to video here.

Once the feet were removed from the pedestal I cleaned and sanded all the woodwork and repaired the damaged foot with wood filler.

I then reassembled the base using plenty of wood glue to make sure the feet are now really secure.

I had planned to leave the tabletop bare, but when I sanded it I found that the veneer was too thin. Plan B was to paint the entire table with several coats of Rust-Oleum 2X Ultra Cover in Canyon Black satin finish.

I used the same stencil I used on the Sophia desk to apply a perfectly sized pattern to the tabletop. I used ceiling paint because its flat finish would take up color from a stain.

A quick application of some Varathane wood stain in Kona took the edge off the brightness of the white ceiling paint. And a few coats of Varathane oil-based polyurethane in a satin finish give the tabletop the protection it needs.