Okay, so I may be more proud of this makeover than of any makeover I've ever done. EVER. And not just because it was seriously labour intensive and my hand is still curled into a horrible claw from holding a paintbrush for too long.

Remember the curbside chair problem I posted about?

Well, I finally got around to doing something with one of my finds.

Here's the before:
It's a kinda-icky, nothing special dining chair. The back was slightly damaged, so the first step was to repair it with some wood filler and counter-sunk screws. I won't go into that part.

The next step... er... steps, were as follows.
Step 1: Remove the seat. Easy peasy. Four screws and it was off.
Step 2: Protect the remaining fabric. Saran and tape worked for me.
Step 3: Prime. Necessary since there was a glossy coating on the old chair and I did NOT want to go through the trouble of stripping it, I cheated. Just use a very high adhesive primer. Then stand tall behind your lazy shortcut.
Step 4: Spray paint the chair. I used black lacquer.
Step 5: Clean the upholstery thoroughly and reattach the cushion.
Step 6: Hand paint the upholstery pattern. That's right. HAND PAINT THE PATTERN.

I'm 'effing mental. I know.

But don't stop reading.

If I had known, when I started this project at around two in the afternoon, that I would still be working on it at 10 p.m., I would have thought twice. On a project like this, you go through periods of wanting to scrap the whole thing. At some point along the way, you think, "This looks hideous. This is never going to work. I might as well just stop now. I suck. I SUCK SO MUCH!!!"

You need to power through these moments. You need to see the piece finished to really evaluate its worth. Resist the urge to kick the wall, the dog and/or your spouse. Take a deep breath and just carry on. The results will be worth it. Maybe.

Not bad, eh?

It's interesting. When making this chair, things didn't go as planned, but the mistakes were valuable. While painting the back, I dropped my palate on the seat, smearing black paint EVERYWHERE. I almost cried. I had to remove the seat and wash it (vigorously) before the smear dried. I thought I was sunk. Luckily the paint eventually came out and, once the seat dried a little, I was able to continue. And it turned out, damp upholstery takes paint better than upholstery that is dry. I was better able to make the lines straight when the cushion was wet. Who knew?
Another mistake? I accidentally painted a diamond that was supposed to have stayed white, black.  It felt like there was no coming back from that one.

I had initially wanted a uniform pattern of diamonds as shown in step six. Instead, I had to compensate for my mistake by creating an X pattern. It was more work, and I was grumpy about it for a good two hours, but actually... it looks BETTER than what I had planned in the first place.

How do you like that? Serendipity.

So. Things work out in the end. With a little persistence, things work out. At least, this time.

Neat, right?
I like to play down my addictions.

Cheese? That wheel of brie wasn't full when I got it.

Chocolate? These marshmallow peeps aren't new. They've been in my desk for AGES.

Drinks? So, I'm alone on a Friday night. What better time for a glass of wine?

I'm a master of denial. Alas, it appears that one of my addictions may finally have gone too far. I realized this yesterday when I tried to get into my basement storage room to do some laundry and had to force open the door and then maneuver through a minefield of old chairs to get to the machine.

I have a problem, people. I have an addiction. I have an addicted to garbage-picked chairs.
As of today, there are 9 unused chairs in my basement. Shown are a selection. One wood one is the pair to my desk chair. Can't get rid of it. Technically, it belongs to my mother-in-law. One is a Windsor chair, which I love, but just have no room for. One is a random dining chair that I have a wonderful makeover planned for, if I ever get around to it. Two are knock-off Delta chairs that I'm emotionally attached to. And one is a down-filled arm chair that is actually very comfy, but needs a good cleaning. I'm leaving some out. Trust me, I could go on.

The bottom line?  It's becoming a real problem. So my questions to you are as follows:

1. Can you think of any use for old chairs that isn't obvious? By which I mean, other than sitting, what are chairs good for?

2. Is it okay to give a formerly curbside chair as a present? Say, if I fixed one up, had it cleaned, and gave it a paint makeover, would it be okay as a gift? Or is that just cheap and tacky?

Let me know. I expect you'll be enablers, the lot of you. :)
Once upon a time, there was a little lamp...
And the little lamp remains, but it's now much cuter.

See, I've had this wee lamp for a few years now. It was a $2.99 Goodwill find from my early days as a pseudo-divorcee. I was on a major budget then, as I am now.

I was into the woody, 70s thing for awhile, but my kitchen features a lot of black and white now and the little lamp lives in the kitchen, so I decided to give it an update with a bit of super simple, super cheap acrylic paint. Here goes!
Because the lamp is wood, and the finish was already pretty thin, I didn't bother with primer and I didn't bother roughing up the surface with sandpaper before painting.

Meh. Perfection is overrated.

I painted the base and body with a teeny bit of acrylic black and (using a teeny weeny brush) painted the cut outs white after the black dried.

Oh, and while doing this, a full episode of Tori and Dean played in the background, and I got to pretend I wasn't really watching it, so... no one can judge me and it was fun in more ways than one.

Anyway, if you had to buy the paint new, it would cost you less than $10 (at most). I used Utrecht Artists' Acrylic Paint (2oz tubes), which are still basically full. It's what I had. And I like the semi-matte finish.
I topped the lamp with a black shade from my basement, which I know is too small. I will have to keep my eyes peeled for a better one. For now, it'll do. But wait... this vignette could be cuter.
Ahhh. That's better.

The little lamp tells me it's very happy to be living so close to the wine. I say...
tell me about it.
Something is wrong with me.

It's not even Halloween and I already have Christmas on the brain. I've been contemplating holiday crafts, stressing out about this year's gift budget (miniscule) and humming Here We Come A-Wassailing in the shower. Every day. For the past two weeks.

Something is very definitely wrong with me.
I blame magazines. And Twitter. My November copy of House and Home arrived in the mail recently and while I wasn't hot on the cover, it proved full of holiday inspiration.
Last year, I did a very folksy sort of thing at home (as the pics demonstrate). Note our quirky, handmade stockings, my kid-coloured tree and the Windsor chair (a curbside find). This year, I'd like to do something a little different. But what? Also, thanks to my very limited budget, I will probably have to make more gifts than I buy. Or give some vintage. Not sure if people will appreciate that as much as I would.

It's all very stressful. Maybe I should go back to thinking about Halloween.
Hey readers. So I've been away from awhile. That's 'cause I went to New York.

I would have said goodbye, but I didn't want anyone to hear that my apartment was unoccupied, lest they come and burgle me.

I do not wish to be burgled.

Anyway. I'm back now and ready to rave about all things Manhattan! Are you excited? (You know you are. Don't even pretend you're not.)

Okay. So.

I knew New York would be chock full of all that is chic. I've always known that. But after five days in the city, I really was overwhelmed by it all. Mostly, by the diversity of chicness. And I think that's saying a lot. I live in Toronto, okay? I know it's not Manhattan, but it's probably the most diverse city in the world.

Anyhoo, in honour of this blog's title, here are the three "chicest" things I experienced while in Manhattan proper.

1. The Jonathan Adler store in Greenwhich.
The space was tiny, and I couldn't really afford anything in it, but I didn't see one thing in the Jonathan Adler store that wasn't totally freakin' chic. From the llamas wool rugs (hand-loomed in Peru by weavers associated with Aid to Artisans) to the bits of pottery that made Adler famous, I wanted it all. I especially like his whale stuff like the pitcher shown below, but didn't notice any of it in stock. Sad. Still... it was darn chic.
* Store image from The Shophound, whale from JA website.
2. Bergdorf Goodman
* CC licensed BG store photo by mi michelle from Flickr.).
My Bergdorf experience was chic, not because of the merch, but because of who we saw there. See, Nathan and I popped into BG on a whim. I felt like terrifying him with a bit of opulence. (He's a socialist who only really buys fair trade clothing, so I knew a pair of $1500 Louboutin's would blow his mind.)

We stumbled off the escalator, looking dishevelled (he was carrying a backpack, but hey, at least it wasn't a fanny pack). We ended up smack in the middle of a Manolo's New Shoes book signing event. It was obvious we didn't belong. We were not wearing black. My bright orange Goodwill jacket was like a neon sign blinking "I am middle class!" Nathan's beard and plaid shirt competed with a loud "I am Canadian!" Nonetheless, we hovered. Why not? The next thing we knew, a lovely young waiter was taking pity on us and giving us glasses of champagne (bless you, sir, whoever you are).

THEN, I noted a flash of crocodile green to my left. Who was it?  None other than Vogue's André Leon Talley, perched on a throne-like chair, looking like a huge Queen. (In the royal sense, not the homosexual sense.) And just beyond him was Blahnik himself, decked out in a shiny purple suit and hot pink loafers (which I think he's worn to multiple signing events. You can check out some AP photos here . God I wish I hadn't been too chicken to snap a few of my own. The only pic I took is this one:
Free champagne with the fashion elite? You just don't get more chic than that. Nonetheless, we felt a bit awkward and out of place. We downed our ill-gotten drinks and skedaddled in short order. It was awesome. (Click here to read more about the celebrities and actors spotted on the trip.)
3. Housing Works Thrift Shop (Grammercy)
I expected the thrifting in New York to be a lot better than it was. I thought there'd be Goodwills. Salvation Army's, junk shops. There were a few, but they were small and expensive. And grody. I was bummed. That is, until I found the Housing Works Thrift Shop. Ah-mazing. If I lived in Manhattan, I'd shop here all the time! We hit up the Grammercy location, because that's the one that was near our hotel, but there are shops all over the city, AND you can even browse online.

Best of all, the whole thing is a charitable endeavour to help with what they call the "twin crises" of HIV/AIDS and homelessness. From the store's website: "Since 1990, we have provided the highest quality services for homeless men, women, and children living with HIV and AIDS in New York City and beyond."

You had me at homelessness, Housing Works.  In fact, you had me at HIV. I'm officially in love with you.

* Housing Works images from the org website .
The store wasn't exactly cheap, but prices were reasonable and the selection was good.  They had lots of great stuff from clothes to marble top coffee tables to old pianos. (I saw an old upright for a mere $125.) The Robert Rodriquez Jacket (shown here) is $65, and mall-brand stuff is significantly less than that. 

I helped a very cool-looking lady with a massive synthetic afro button up a vintage dress from the 70s and fingered some dining chairs before remembering that I was visiting New York, not furnishing my new loft. It was a sad realization.
Anyway, there you have it. In my decidedly inexpert opinion, the three chicest things I saw in New York, where even the bedbugs wear Manolos. 
I love when a project idea occurs to me out of the blue.

And I love it even more when said project idea takes all of five minutes to complete.

So. If you've been paying attention, you know that I recently made a big fat chalkboard out of a door. (Not a bad project ifIdosaysomyself.) That's all well and good, but big fat things like chalkboards come with accoutrements. Chalk, erasers, that sort of thing. And that sort of thing can be ugly.
(Actually, this one isn't so ugly, but you catch my drift.)

I had an inherited eraser  from my parents' basement. (Classic school house style - much worse than the one shown above.) I banged it clean on the brick wall of my building and gave it a home next to my chalkboard. Sure, it was useful, but certainly not beautiful.

Then, in a burst of inspiration, I decided to doll it up with a sheet of pretty paper and a little Mod Podge!

Simplest decoupage project EVER.
Here's how you do it: Flip the eraser over on a pretty bit of paper and trace the size of the rectangular top. Cut out the the rectangle. Glue it to the back of the eraser with Mod Podge or another gluey medium. Push out the bubbles with the back of a knife, a plastic thing or your fingers. Wait a few minutes for it to dry. Do a coat of Mod Podge on top to seal it. And you're done.

Here's a closer look at the red and gold paper I used:
Five minutes, people. Seriously.

Now I keep looking around my apartment for other simple things to spruce up.

Nothing is safe. Nathan should protect his forehead. You never know what I might decoupage next!
* Tables photo by Mattox
* Autumn leaves photo by Nossirom
* Meditation photo by Tosaporn Boonyarangkul
 all from Stock Xchng
Check out all the free stuff I got my grubby paws on this weekend!
* 12 brass chargers (they're in the back - kinda hard to see)
* 6 teak salad bowls
* 1 brass corkscrew
* 1 pink 80s porcelain cansister
* 1 silver plated gravy boat type thing
* 1 happy buddah

Did I mention that all this stuff was free? I know it's nothing special, but so what? It was free! And you know me. I love me some free stuff. In fact, Jen Selk is just my alias. My real name is Cheapy McCheaperson.

So how did I score all this stuff for free, you ask? Well, just luck, mostly. An acquaintence was moving out of her house to undertake a major reno and since the house and it's contents haven't been updated since the 80s, she decided it was also a good time to purge. And rather than selling stuff or giving it to Goodwill, she held a free-for-all. (I'm basically in love with her now.)

Alas, I arrived a little late to the party thanks to Saturday's unfortunate blood donation issue, so I missed a lot of the best stuff, but I like my little finds. Hope you do too. As they find homes in my place, or as I hack them and make them over, I'll post more.
Like most design-crazed bloggers, I love vintage packaging. But I'd rather my vintage packaging be legitimately vintage (as opposed to faux vintage or vintage inspired). I'm a bit of a stickler that way. But these days, when there's so much fake vintage floating about, it's hard to get my fix.

One fail-safe? Steel wool. That's right, I said steel wool. You know, that weird stuff your granny used to use to scrub the pots and pans before the days of teflon?

My favourite brand is Bull Dog. It's versatile. You can use it to distress funture and strip paint, to block holes that might otherwise let in mice, and yes, to clean your pots and pans. And I love the way the package looks.  If it wouldn't annoy Nathan (but it would), I'd buy a whole bunch of it and line it up on my countertop.

I just like the idea of using something in my kitchen that hasn't changed at all in the past fifty years.

Lame? Maybe. But oh-so-vintage fab at the same time.

Happy Friday! Love, Grandma Jen.