#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.

#34 Antique Victorian Empire-Style sofa

Transformation expenses: $24.82 plus upholstering costs

This beautiful turn-of the twentieth century sofa was a family heirloom that got crowded out and was languishing in a basement. Thankfully its owners contacted me before sending it to the thrift store. And thankfully I found a family that saw its potential and was willing to pay for professional upholstering. I think the result is a spectacular, happy ending.

This sofa’s upholstery was outdated, torn, and still had hay and horsehair stuffing. It seriously needed an update! Apart from some previous repairs and some damage to the veneer, the frame (with its original casters) was in reasonable shape and really just needed cleaning and restoring. The first step was to take it to the upholsterer and get the old upholstery removed.

Once the frame was stripped bare I vacuumed and cleaned away the dust, dirt, and cobwebs. Then I pulled out my trusty refinishing tools: Howard’s Restor-A-Finish (mahogany), Howard’s Feed ‘n’ Wax, fine steel wool, clean rags, a toothbrush, and a wood finish repair kit.

Restor-A-Finish blended out the smallest scratches and (with the careful use of some fine steel wool) removed the scuff and paint marks. I went back to the bigger cracks and scratches with a black Blend Stick and a dark furniture marker.

When the scratches, cracks, and dings had all been treated I finished with a coat of Feed ‘n’ Wax to restore a beautiful glow.

Meanwhile the new owner went fabric shopping. Amongst these and other options her eye kept going back to the one top left, which we decided to call “Modern Rose”. The pattern compliments the rose carvings on the frame perfectly, and the grey/yellow color scheme is a personal favorite of hers. We chose black velvet for the outside back and sides and included matching pillows trimmed with black velvet cording.

The final leg of the journey was back to the upholsterer to put it all together.

The end result is a beautiful blend of the rich wood tones and the new fabric, which is the perfect balance of neutral/vibrant and modern/traditional.

#33 Ethan Allen console cabinet

Transformation expenses: $205

Before I even got it home fate had a plan for this Ethan Allen cabinet. On the day I decided to rescue it, I called a friend and neighbor to help me load it onto my truck. Straight away she knew it would work as the bar cabinet she and her husband wanted for their library/office renovation. Designing it to be a showstopper in an eclectic room with both rustic and modern elements was a challenge. I’m happy with how it turned out.

I started by taking the piece apart, stripping the top, removing the old hardware, filling the holes with doweling and wood filler, and cleaning and sanding everything.

I primed the carcass with two cans of Rust-Oleum 2X Ultracover primer. I then added some glamour to the inside panels of the doors & cabinet using Rust-Oleum Aged Metallic paint in Vintage Gold. You’d think this stuff was real gold the way it has been disappearing off the shelves!

Next I added the Wow! factor with four coats of Behr high gloss enamel in a custom color that we’ll call Hermes Orange. I actually took a friend’s Hermes scarf box to The Home Depot for them to color match.

The lovely maple top of this cabinet is the design element that pulls everything together. I custom stained it to complement the rustic fireplace mantel it would be near. The stain was a 50:50 mix of Varathane premium wood stains in Cognac and Dark Walnut. I then added a bespoke stenciled design that mirrors the one on the new door pulls.

New door pulls from Bellwith Keeler and new brass hinges updated the hardware

The back panel had to be replaced because it had warped, so I got my husband to cut out all the identification from the old back panel and then I attached it to the underside of the cabinet. I also attached mirror glass to the inside of the back panel, then reassembled the piece. A glass interior shelf was the finishing touch.

#32 Antique church chairs

Transformation expenses: About $20

I nearly ignored these chairs thinking they were children’s furniture. Thank God I was sufficiently intrigued by the bible backs to pick them up! I quickly discovered they are antique church chairs, probably made in England in the late 19th century. The frames were dirty but in good condition, and responded beautifully to some simple restoration. A replacement plug and some newly woven rush seats completed their transformation to gorgeous accent chairs with a rich history.

It is likely these chairs were made in England by a company called West & Collier. They look just like chair # 112b from the company’s catalogue of the time. West & Collier was founded in 1869 in a village named Frieth in Buckinghamshire, England. The wood is probably elm and the two extra spindles between the back legs would have been for stowing a gentleman’s top hat during service.

The chair frames were dirty but in good condition, while the rush seats were both damaged beyond repair. I began my restoration by removing the old rush and cleaning the frames with a very dilute solution of Simple Green all purpose cleaner.

After cleaning (bottom right), I applied Howard Restor-A-Finish in walnut (top right), and then Howard Feed-N-Wax (bottom left)

With the frames nicely restored I was ready to weave some new fiber rush seats. This was my second time using a technique I learned from an incredible instruction video by Ed Hammond of Peerless Rattan. I chose to not finish the woven rush with shellac because these seats will be indoors.

The final step of this restoration was to replace the missing button top wood plug. I got the part I needed from Widget Co. With a little sanding, I was able to make it fit like a glove and have the more rounded-off look of the originals. Once in place I used a mix of Varathane stains (dark walnut and kona) to give it the right color and antiqued look.

#31 The Sophia desk

Transformation expense: About $35

This was my first transformation done with an apprentice and it was a baptism of fire for 9-year old Sophia! By the end we had applied eight coats of paint and wax to this piece! The hurdles we had to overcome were good teaching moments, and the end result was well worth all the effort. My design inspiration was a refinished piece by The Resplendent Crow.

This desk is solid wood, and has some decent joinery, but had also seen its fair share of wear and tear.

Rolling up her sleeves, Sophia got to work cleaning the desk inside and out. We then sanded and used wood filler to repair the biggest imperfections, including a crack in the top.

Sophia chose a beautiful, pale blue color (Permafrost) for the Behr Chalk Paint. We applied the first coat and immediately ran into two serious problems: 1) When the desk was moved, the crack in the top re-opened and 2) Stain from the sanded surface was bleeding through the paint causing yellowing.

Fixing the recurring crack was made harder because the top could not be removed (a couple of wood wedges were gluing it firmly in place). To install a metal bracket across the joint I had to drill pilot holes down through the desktop because I couldn’t get a drill in from the underside. Once the stabilized crack and pilot holes were filled and sanded, we could move on to problem #2.

A couple of coats of Kilz oil-based primer sealed the surface and prevented any further bleeding of the stain.

Now we could go back and apply three coats of the beautiful pale blue chalk paint.

When the painting was finished we decided to take this desk to the next level by adding some stenciling to the top.

Two coats of clear wax give protection and a beautiful sheen to the finish.

Tea break!

Finally we were ready for the finishing touches: We removed all the painter’s tape, polished the whole surface to a lovely sheen, and re-installed the hardware, which had been cleaned and painted in Rust-Oleum white semi-gloss spray paint.

#30 Picture frame jewelry board

Transformation expenses: $35.74

A while ago we hired a dumpster during a landscape project. When neighbors threw in a perfectly good picture frame I grabbed it knowing it would be good for something. Months later some friends and I were browsing quaint shops after a lovely afternoon tea. One friend saw a jewelry board that she particularly liked and I offered to create something similar with this frame.

Keeping costs to a minimum was the biggest challenge on this project. For my design I needed:

  • 5/8″ dowel rod & plywood
  • Leather cord & 1 yd fabric
  • Decorative tacks & cup hooks
  • Wooden decorative appliques

Fortunately I already had these things left over from previous projects:

  • Spray paint
  • Clear, dark & metallic wax
  • Thin batting
  • Beads & craft paper

The frame was rather uninteresting so I embellished it with wooden appliques and a layering of paints and waxes. The frame, appliques and doweling were first painted with Rust-Oleum 2X Ultra Cover in Antique White. I also painted the brass cup hooks with Rust-Oleum Hammered spray paint in dark bronze.

I then applied clear wax, followed by dark wax, followed by Amaco Rub ‘n Buff metallic wax in Spanish Copper.

Meanwhile I wrapped the plywood with thin batting followed by a neutral fabric.

I secured the prepared plywood into the frame using panel pins. I then cut four equal strips of leather cord for hanging earrings. I punched holes in each end of them all and pairs of holes at intervals along two of the strips (for earrings with posts). These were then nailed to the board using decorative tacks and a bead as a spacer. For bracelet storage I attached a length of the painted doweling using the two painted cup hooks. Finally, more decorative tacks function as hangers for necklaces. The back of the frame is finished with craft paper and a pair of D-hooks for hanging.

#29 Antique Queen Anne-style dressing table

Transformation expenses – $55.46

This circa 1910 dressing table was put to the curb just yards from my house! Its beautiful, long legs drew my attention immediately. Despite being disguised in paisley fabric I knew it could look amazing just because of its fine lines.

I secretly liked the fabric-covered look but it had been very badly done and was falling off in places. A lot of it just peeled away and the rest came off after a little dampening.

I was delighted to find the top and drawer fronts in pretty good condition, but other parts of the piece were seriously damaged, including a leg that had obviously been broken and shoddily repaired.

After much research and deliberation I realized it would not be worth attempting a full restoration so I decided on a combined restore & refinish approach. I started by restoring the drawer fronts, which have a beautiful tiger maple veneer. Fortunately the fabric adhesive came off with a dilute soap solution and did not require any solvent. Once they were cleaned, I used Howard Restor-A-Finish in walnut followed by Howard Feed-n-Wax oil-based wood conditioner.

The Chippendale-style drawer pulls were so tarnished they were nearly black (top right). I considered leaving them that way but realized they would complement the restored drawer fronts more if they were refreshed. I set about polishing them, only to find they are brass plated, not solid brass. The Bar Keeper’s Friend I was using removed some of the brass plating (top left) but all other gentler approaches I tried were ineffective. I decided to go ahead and polish them all then touch them up with Rust-Oleum’s Metallic in gilded brass (bottom).

When it came to the table top, allowing myself to refinish rather than restore had a couple of advantages: For one thing it would have been impossible to remove the adhesive without damaging the old finish and for another I could now use a more modern, durable ,and practical polyurethane. I got back to the bare wood using stripper and sandpaper. I then applied Rust-Oleum wood stain in American Walnut, followed by 3 coats of Varathane polyurethane in semi-gloss. The color perfectly complements the drawer fronts.

Finally it was time to tackle the frame and legs. The biggest challenge of this piece was the adhesive used to attach the old fabric covering. It behaved differently on every different surface. Some mineral spirits thinned it out in places but would not remove it completely. In the end there was nothing for it but to sand it off. Using 150, then 220, then 400 grit sandpaper I eventually removed all traces of adhesive. I used professional wood filler to repair some dings, cracks, and damaged veneer.

Once all the cavities were masked off ,I applied primer followed by two coats of Rust-Oleum Canyon Black in satin finish. The piece was then ready to reassemble.