Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Before and After: Chairs

When we got engaged, I started following wedding blogs. Shortly before we got married, I discovered interior decorating blogs. They're far more useful. The first one that got me hooked was Design*Sponge. Luckily for...someone (me? the blogger?) I stumbled across this blog for the first time on a Thursday, which just happens to be their Before and After day. Anyone can send in pictures, and the ones that catch the attention of author Grace Bonney get published on Thursdays. I loved many of the projects that I saw that day, and was instantly addicted to the idea that I could take something old and broken (and hopefully inexpensive!) and make it beautiful.

I began a search for furniture for our future home, and was disappointed to see that they don't give away nice (but ugly) furniture for free most of the time. I was showing my dad some of my favorite examples of trash-to-treasure and telling him of my hopes and dreams for my future home when he pointed out that there are three outbuildings on his farm, all of which are bound to have some discarded furniture or other.

He was right! The big red barn housed old church pews (that are probably longer than my entire apartment), the workshop had a row boat (is that furniture?) and the garage had half a bed frame, a toy kitchen, and five beaten-up chairs. I wanted the chairs. So, we pulled them down from the rafters, took off the nasty seat cushions and hosed them off. (I wish I had a picture of them pre-hosing, even still in the rafters! But, alas. I did not think ahead).

Here's a chair post-hosing and pre-painting. It doesn't look awful. I hated the back and wanted to do something different with it, but unfortunately the back is one solid piece of plastic, as are each of the front two legs. Don't ask me; I have no idea what would posses someone to make a half-wood half-plastic chair. The first thing I did for these chairs was pick fabric. I decided it would be easier to fall in love with a fabric and match it with paint than to pick a paint and try to match it to a fabric.

I fell in love. 

I love bright colors, and Dave at least puts up with it (though he says that he loves them too), but I was afraid of going too bright with anything in my home. I wanted to look like an adult, not a teenager playing house.

For the record, I changed my mind approximately 2.4 seconds later.

But because I decided I didn't want to scare off grown-ups, I thought I'd go with a more subdued color tied in with the fabric.

Bad idea.

For the record, it was actually a very pretty color when not paired with this fabric. The picture at the store didn't look at all like grandma's linoleum...

I was unhappy. I didn't want to admit right away that I was unhappy because I knew that sometimes paint takes a while to grow on you. This didn't grow on me. So, we tried again.

It worked better this time. The orange was bold, but it's perfect on these chairs. It matches the fabric better than it appears in this photo, and it gives exactly the right amount of whimsy. And the high-gloss paint really makes them pop.

Things I learned:

Go with your gut. You know what you like, and will probably make the right choice to accomplish that. It was only when I second-guessed myself that we ended up with green chairs out of the 1940s. 

Always use high-gloss paint for furniture painting projects. I'm sure there are exceptions to this rule, but for now I'm going to say that it's worth the extra two bucks.

Don't be afraid to make something "look like you." Just because someone else wouldn't necessarily choose to put it in their house doesn't mean it's not worth having. Your home should fit your personality, and give any visitors a taste of who you are. You can't do this by living in the Pottery Barn showroom. As much as I'd like to do that sometimes.

Always enlist an ever-patient husband to help with jobs like priming. It also helps if he's a bit of a perfectionist and realizes he's better at painting and priming than you are, and takes over the project. 

I suppose that last point would only apply to a patient perfectionistic husband who also lets his adoring wife pick the paint colors. (Note: the patient part really comes in handy when you pick a gross color and make him have to paint over the chairs again.)

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