This week, I decided to take on a little decoupage project. I turned two basic Shinto stools from Canadian Tire into what you see above. The process was surprisingly easy. Here's what I did, and how you can do it too:

1. Sand. You've gotta do this before you paint any factory-finished furniture or the paint won't adhere well. I used to skip this step on occasion and I was always sorry I did. Just rough it up a little. Clean off the dust well, and you're set. Don't forget the clean off the dust step. You want the final product to be really smooth and dust will ruin that.


2. Prime. Like step one, this is annoying, but necessary. I used a heavy duty alkyd primer for kitchens and bathrooms because it was what I had on hand and because I knew it would be tough. Oil primer is hard to work with, but be patient and it'll work. Let dry at least a few hours if not overnight before painting.

3. Paint. I had some pale green paint left over from a failed wall experiment, so I used that. Interestingly, while it was overly green on the walls, on the stools, it looks close to white. Think carefully about your colour before you begin, because painting OVER a decoupage project is not so easy. Let dry at least 24 hours before beginning to decoupage. The paint surface needs to be dry so that the glue will adhere properly.

4. Cut. I chose Canadian birds for my project, taken from an old nature book I scored at Goodwill for $2.99. They're the work of Artist-Naturalist Johh Crosby. Cutting them out perfectly was no easy feat. My advice is, no matter what imagery you choose, take your time with the cutting. I used a combination of scissors and an exacto knife. It's worth investing in a cutting board, but if you can't, just use cardboard or something as a buffer.

5. Place. Before you glue anything down, take the time to carefully determine the placement of your images. Move them around on the dry, painted surface until you're sure they look right. Don't skip this step! It's like the sanding. I know you probably just want to get on with things, but doing these things helps ensure a positive outcome.

6.Glue. I used Mod Podge, both as my adhesive and as my sealant. Be careful to use enough glue on the back of your cut outs to make them stick firmly, but try to keep the coating thin. Beware of bubbles and bumps. Press down to ensure none pop up and that the excess glue is squeezed out from between the surface and the paper. Unlike wallpaper, intricate cuts like these are hard to smooth down.

7. Seal. Again, I recommend Mod Podge, which is available at craft stores and art supply shops all over North America. They key is many thin coats. Use a foam brush to apply it, sparingly, let a coat dry, then do it again. My birds were thick, so I did a good 20 coats of sealant before I was happy. Considering this, make sure you have plenty of time for this stage. Save it for a lazy Sunday or something. I waited approximately 45 minutes between each coat (washing my brush with soap and water quickly during each break). In between every five coats, I gave the surface a quick, light sand with a very fine buffer block.

8. Finish. When the surface is perfectly smooth and you can't feel the paper edges anymore, you're done. Try adding a top coat of varnish for durability. Use the same foam brush and apply a thin, but solid layer. I used Delta Ceramcoat Matte Interior Varnish, also available in craft and art supply stores. It'll dry in less than half an hour.

Voila. It's a good project. Not too labour intensive, though because of the drying times, you'll need at least a weekend.

Later in the week, I'll try to post a picture of the stools in context. Oh, and in case there are any interested birders out there, here are the fluttery fellows I used for my project:
  • A male Cardinal
  • Three American Goldfinches (shown)
  • A White Throated Swift in flight
  • A male Indigo Bunting
  • Three Morning Warblers
  • A Yellow Billed Cuckoo in flight

Found this set of coasters at my local Goodwill.

Cost for the set? $1.49.

Not bad, eh?

They're some sort of plastic or resin, with a gold tree motif on the front.

No markings otherwise.

Yay me?

As already mentioned, I've got a bit of a problem with chairs. Like brown suede jackets and heels I'll never wear, no matter how many chairs I've already got, when I see a new one, I can't help wanting it. At present, I think I have about 10 extra chairs kicking around. Some in my actual apartment, and some, that I whisked from the garbage because they were too good to see dumped, currently languishing in my basement. I have no space for them, but I can't let them go. You never know when you're going to need an occasional chair!

Insane, I know. Nonetheless, sometimes I forgive myself. After all, waste is bad, right? And you wouldn't believe the things people throw away. I recently garbage picked (or rather, rescued) a perfect fan-back (brace-back) Windsor chair from certain death. It's in my living room. I'm in love with it. But more on that later.

My point is this: occasional chairs are great because you don't need a pair. You just need one. They don't take up a lot of space, but they're great for making a statement.

I found the chair shown here at Value Village last week. It cost less than $20. The fabric was grungy, admittedly, but redoing a piece like this is easy peasy. You don't even need to know how to sew. All you do is pop out the back piece and pop out the seat. Wrap each with new fabric and secure with staples or even hot glue. What I like to do is shop for fabric remnants in the same place where I found the chair. Old bedding sometimes works and comes in amazing patterns. But even if you want to buy perfect new fabric, you need so little, the whole project remains affordable.

With a chair like this, I'd do something graphic and fresh with the fabric. I have an old green shower curtain that I've been wanting to cut up that would work, patterned exactly like this pillow, except the light bits are white rather than green. The thing to do to make a chair like this work is to pick a fabric that contrasts with the chair itself. Something funky and modern would make this chair seem fresh.

Anyway. It's just an idea. Maybe I should have bought it? Maybe I should go back right now?  Having 11 extra chairs isn't obscene, is it? (Somebody stop me.)

Squeak? I don't know what it means either. Nevermind.

So. SO!

Remember how I found those paint by numbers numbers at Value Village the other day? I also found some teak I liked.

In my experience, teak bowls (or bowls made from other woods) are nearly always available at second-hand shops like Value Village. There was a time when wooden salad bowls graced the cupboards of housewives all over North America. They were big in mid-century modern homes. Unfortunately, they've fallen out of fashion. I personally think it has something to do with dishwashers. Dishwashers are hell on wooden dishes. If you really want your wood-ware to last, you've got to wash it by hand. You've also got to be careful about soap (which dries it out) and you have to oil it every once in awhile if you want to keep it looking beautiful.

All in all, it's a lot of work for lazy-bones-ladies like myself.

A lot of the teak I find when I'm out and about on the hunt comes from Thailand. All in all, it's just a really great material. Durable, weather resistant (very useful for outdoor furniture) and beautiful.

As seems to be the case with so many of the housewares that interest me, people will gouge you on teak if you let them. Vintage wood salad bowls often sell for $40 or more (easy). Makes no sense when you can hunt down one of your own from VV for $5.99.

Teak. Just in time for spring salads. I think I'm going to get some.
Check out what I found at the Keele & Wilson Value Village the other day:
Two rad Paint by Numbers pictures, complete with solid frames, only $12.99 each. I covet them, but I really can't see where they'd work in my house so I left them behind.

Paint by Number pictures represent an interesting moment in American history. They went big in the 1950s. Once campy, they've now become collection-worthy. At the same time, they're still ironic enough to be found languishing is small town thrift shops, garages and attics all over North America. In Toronto, Queen West antique shops sell them for $60 - $250, depending on the size of the piece, but I recommend hunting around for cheaper finds of your own.

There's something surprisingly beautiful and appealing about a carefully completed Paint by Number. They often have a Group of Seven feel about them, only cheerier. If I ever come across some that would fit with my decor (and wall space) I may just have to start a collection of my own.

Value Village #2094
1030 Wilson Ave,
Toronto, ON M3K 1G6
Phone: (416) 633-2623
Hours: Mon - Sat 9-9, Sun 10-6
My apartment is no palace, but I do have a guest room. Or rather, I have an office. Or rather, I have a wee room that used to be a bachelor's grubby bedroom that now has to act as an office, guest room and storage room, all at the same time.

Basically, it's a room full of boxes and junk at the moment. No good. I won't post a picture yet. Too hideous.

Here's what I'm struggling with, besides the question of how to fit in all the shelving, sleeping space, and work space we need, plus my man's massive barcalounger that he insists on keeping (yuck, but I love him): what's better for a guest room, two twin beds or a bigger double or queen?

Apparently I'm not the only one struggling with this question. I found this blog: Aspirations of a Southern Housewife, and it seems the owner of that site had the same question.  Checking out her site has me leaning toward twins. After all, twins are more versatile, aren't they? Good for singles or couples? Here are a few of the inspiration photos Ms. Southern Housewife posted. From Apartment Therapy, Chicago:
From Cottage Living (now defunct):
From Domino (also defunct ... sigh):
Anyway, like I said, I'm leaning toward the twins. Maybe with the desk between them instead of a nightstand? I just don't know how I'm going to make it all fit, what with the barcalounger and all. Sigh. 
This is a cheapo post because it's not about an idea of project of my own. Rather, it's about an inspirational crafty project I've been seeing all over the web lately and am determined to try: the DIY cake stand. It's a project that combines everything I love: being cheap, making something, and thrift shopping. All you do, really, is get some vintage bases (like, candlesticks), and some vintage plates. Glue 'em together and you're good to go. You could also spray paint them. They won't be dishwasher safe, but they WILL be adorable. Here's just one example I loved, from Tangarang:
Found three of these little beauties for $2.99 each.

Made in India, according to both common sense and a relatively well-preserved stamp, still visible on the back of the largest one, I thought they'd work well on either an otherwise empty wall, or above my desk where a load of other things are already hanging. I haven't decided yet.

Gold-toned things have made a comeback in recent years. It's a welcome change after years upon years of endless silver, platinum, nickel and the like. For one thing, my colouring makes gold jewelery much more flattering on me than silver. For another, I prefer gold's warmth. Not everywhere, but I don't see why it was thought to be so awful for so long. Probably because of all that hideous gold and brass you used to see in the 80s. Bathrooms decked out in shining gold accents with miles of black marble all around. My ex's family had just such a bathroom. Complete with a black sink and toilet. In addition to being freezing cold, there was something endlessly disgusting about that black toilet ... anyway.

A touch of black and gold is something I can get behind. And I love these birds. I'll have to post additional pictures once they find a more definite home. I don't intend to polish them up. I like their dullness. That said, were I to polish them, I'd try Brasso.

Awhile back I promised a post about milk glass. I'm addicted to it. I grew up with odds bits of it scattered around my parents' house, but I never paid much attention. At the time, it was widely thought to be cheap and junky.
It's not NOT cheap and junky. At least, not inherently. But so what? It's pretty. And practical. And affordable.

That old wellspring, Wikipedia tells me that milk glass actually dates back to 16th Century Venice. Mildly surprising information, but then again, most glass has a long history. I have a wee collection of it going at the moment, as shown above. As always, I'm not serious about it in the way that other collectors are. (Check out, for example, the National Milk Glass Collectors' Society.) I use my pieces for household plants. The ones shown are on my kitchen window sill. It's nothing special, but it makes looking out at the world while I wash the dishes a bit more pleasant. And I like putting my milk glass to use, rather than just keeping it on display or letting it sit around.
The left-most urn on the window sill, which doesn't contain a plant at the moment, is the same one featured here. It's one of my favourites. The elegant shape makes it perfect for flowers or greenery, and has a Greek key pattern detail on the base that gives it a little something extra. I bought it recently at Value Village for $5.99. They had two, but the second one was chipped and since my collection is so casual, I like the idea of having only one of each particular piece. The thing is, after I bought it, I noticed two similar ones for sale at Eddie Ross' etsy shop. The one that is exactly the same as mine is priced at $45 USD (plus $14 for US shipping, of course.) At first I was excited. Then, annoyed that I wasn't smart enough to sell stuff for such a profit, then, contemplative.

I love Eddie Ross. I do. And when you buy something from his shop, what you're really getting is the man's expertise. On Ross' shop page, he says, "every piece in the collection I selected and refurbished myself. Every piece carries with it detailed descriptions full of ideas." That's what you're paying for. His particular style. His particular eye. And when you think of it that way, the price is fair.

That said, if like me, you just like what you like and don't put all that much effort into perfect entertaining or decorating, I think spending this much is a mistake. Just trawl around your local junk shops with your eyes peeled and you'll come across all sorts of pretty milk glass. Buy what you like and don't pay more than $10 a piece. It's a more satisfying way to collect.