What a HOOT! And inspiration for a new project!

Sometimes I buy things at an auction and question myself. Seriously? A plastic owl? What the heck?

This is one of those silly "owl decoys." The plastic owls people put near their garden or in public areas to keep the small birds away. I certainly don't want to keep birds away...if anything I want to attract birds. Don't know why...with four cats, it may not be in their best interest to come to my back deck for a meal but in the winter I love sitting in my den and watching the birds gather around the feeders...cardinals, gold and house finches and titmouses, to name a few!

So what to do with this silly (and kinda creepy) little owl...

I painted him!!! Sprayed him with a little Kilz and then a hit him with a few coats of my favorite off-white, Valspar Rivera Dune. A ten minute makeover!

I taped off his eyes because I kind of like them. 

I doubt he makes his permanent home on my mantel...kind of freaks me out that he is staring at me when I sit at the bar during dinner! But I thought he would make a nice addition to my fall decor...maybe perch him in my window display along with the pumpkins and scarecrows. 

Who knows what I will do with him...but it is an example of how a little spray paint can cure the worst case of ugly!!!

If only attitudes where that easy to fix...how wonderful the world would be!


Cristina at Remodelando la Casa inspires me! That is one great thing about the blogesphere...you can always find something to do with ANYTHING!

Several months ago I shared these antique drawer front makeovers. They turned out darling and sold quickly. I tossed the drawer bottoms since they had been snacked on by the critters, but I kept the drawers sides and the sides of the dresser. I have NO idea why other than the fact that I just can't bring myself to toss certain woods...mahogany being one of them! I had NO idea what to do with them...until Cristina shared her precious little signs.

NOW I know what to do with them! Not sure when I will get to them since I am currently working on several massive furniture/paint projects (that is a queen size bed behind the dresser sides!) But I do know I want to get them done for the fall season. If I just can't get around to it in time, I guess they will get froo-frooed for Christmas. Regardless, it is nice to know WHAT I want to do with them eventually!

Cristina also shared a precious tripod table she made out of an old camera tripod. When I saw it I could have kicked myself because I had tossed a broken tripod not two weeks before! My son is a semi-professional photog and it would have been perfect for his room! Darn it! This is the one downside to NOT being a hoarder...sometimes you really can turn trash to treasure! You just have to hang on to the trash long enough to find the inspiration!

They say "Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery." I guess this is why we share what we do! Thanks for sharing Cristina!  

Staying organized!

The first trick to STAYING organized is GETTING organized in the first place.

The trick to GETTING organized... 1) tackling one space at a time (the big picture is just too overwhelming) and 2) PURGING. Yep...get rid of the stuff you seriously don't need. Whether you toss it or donate it, get it OUT of the house. (My number one rule for having a garage sale...if I take it out to sell, it NEVER comes back in!)

When tackling a "mess," empty the drawer, pantry or closet COMPLETELY and then only put back what you know you use all the time or will honestly need sometime in the near future!!! (BTW, this is a great time to slap on a fresh coat of paint...seriously, how often do you paint the insides of your closets or pantry!)

Then "organize" everything in a way that makes sense to YOU!

I can not tell you how many times I have gone out and bought something because I didn't realize I already had it. Or I knew I had it but had NO idea where it was! 

So I decided a long time ago that my only hope was getting organized and staying that way.

In other words, closets and drawers have to stay free of clutter and fairly organized. 

Regardless of my good intentions, sometimes life just gets away from me and the next thing I know I have a mess in my drawers and closets again! 

My trick to taking care of that is dumping or emptying the entire drawer or closet, purging the stuff that I really don't need or never use, clean everything, and then "reorganize" it. I know the space will eventually get all messy again...but every so often I just have to start with a clean slate.

This is my "storage closet." 

Here is the post on the awesome door shelves and why I organize this closet the way I do (specifically why I don't use all those pretty "froo-froo" baskets and boxes!) If you aren't handy with the tools and can't build one of these door organizers, just do a little search on Pinterest for "closet storage" and you will find all kinds of "premade" ideas that might work.

The absolute WORST thing you can do is run out and buy a bunch of storage stuff and then try to organize your closet or drawer to fit into what you bought. Empty, purge and THEN go buy what you NEED to organize your space. Otherwise you will end up with a bunch boxes and shelving you have no use for!!!

Last year I gave my master bedroom closet a makeover(See the pretty little "froo-froo" boxes on the shelf...yeah, I have NO idea what is in them...none!)

Today I purged, cleaned and organized my makeup drawer...took all of maybe 10 minutes. It may not seem like a HUGE difference because I do this every few months but it will make a world of difference every morning when I need to find my concealer or eyelash curler!

By the way, I like the IDEA of sticking all my makeup brushes in pretty little containers...but I am kind of weird about having stuff all over my counters and vanity. And I like all these "storage ideas" but I I like all my makeup out of sight and in a drawer! This is what works for ME! Do what works for YOU!

Let's be honest...organizing your closets and drawers isn't your typical "sexy" DIY project. But it is important to keep all your storage areas...drawers, closets, pantries, shelving, etc...organized. 

You can make it "sexy." You can buy pretty boxes or buy all the stuff to do those nifty little "Pinterest projects" that help you get organized. But be honest with yourself...do you REALLY have the time! Remember, the more you bring into the house, the more you have to "organize" and the harder you make it, the less likely you will be to tackle the project and get it done.

Keep it simple. Forget all the "froo-froo" projects and just get it organized! If you have the time and desire to "make it pretty," go right ahead...but get it purged and organized FIRST! 

I can not stress how important it is to "purge" your storage space...get rid of the stuff you just don't need or use any more! Or stuff that has expired or dried up!

Do you really need that 2 year old mascara or eyeliner...and honestly, is it really SAFE to keep it? Do you really need Christmas decorations that haven't seen the light of day since 1996? What about that "extra" set of sheets that fit the full size bed you no longer own ...maybe they would be useful in the garage as a drop cloth! Shoes that pinch or hurt your feet (seriously ladies, DO NOT wear shoes that hurt your feet...I don't care how much you paid for them!) And the worst...our "pre baby" clothes that we just KNOW we will fit into someday...seriously, by the time you get there, acid washed jeans probably won't be in style!

Some stuff you have to keep and store...like family heirlooms, every jersey or uniform your kid every wore, and every report card, attendance certificate,  or "project" your kid ever brought home. The best way to store them is in plastic or cardboard boxes, clearly labeled. I label everything with masking tape and sharpies so that when I do finally come to terms with tossing the contents, I can remove the tape and reuse the box! 

It is a CONSTANT process...but if you tackle one little space every so often it really isn't that hard to deal with the next time things get a little "cluttered." 

I do allow myself ONE junk drawer in the kitchen. It is the place you go to for pens, scissors, razorblades, chip clips, etc. But even that gets "purged" every so often!!!

Purge, clean and organize ONE space in your home that has been a boil on your backside. 

Now how does that make you feel? Trust me, if you toss it or donate it, you probably will NEVER miss it. But you will LOVE all the extra space you found!

A new bookshelf and my last first day....

Sometimes things last for YEARS around here...sometimes its just a matter of weeks until I switch things up.

Last week I bought a little oak mission bookshelf at an auction. First, mission is NOT my style. Second, oak is not my favorite wood. But I really liked this little shelf and when I switched out this "frosted berry" bookshelf...

I thought "Hum, that's kind of cool."

I like that it is narrower and taller. Doesn't "crowd" the corner as much as the other. 

My first thought was to paint it with my "frosted berry" paint...but so far the consensus is NOT to paint it. Hum....here I have worked so hard to lighten and brighten all my furniture and I bring in this dark piece.

I have always described my "style" first and foremost as "eclectic." This definitely brings a little more "eclectic" flair into this space! Duncan Phyfe table, mid-century chair, mission oak shelf and modern mirror and curtains. 

Not sure if that is eclectic or spastic. 

At the very least I want to refinish it...strip all the old heavy finish and give it a facelift. Maybe once I get that done it won't seem so "dreary." 

I'll put it in line along with my mid century dining chairs and the 4 or 5 other pieces I want to strip and refinish! Brian reminds me often...."You just make work for yourself." 


My Last First....

This is for all the mommies who feel like you are trapped in toddler or teenage Hades....

Monday was my "last first day." My oldest is 33... I have been parenting, struggling, crying, worrying, stressing...for THIRTY THREE YEARS!

This was my 28th "first day of school."

Bad news, it really never ends. Even when they "grow up" and legally become adults you still worry, stress, cry...and yes, struggle.   

Good news, the battles you are fighting today with your toddlers and teenagers and all the inbetweens WILL pay off in the future. As long as you "pick your battles" carefully and more than anything, really enjoy and embrace this time with your kiddos while they are young...because it will fly by faster than you can imagine.

Back to my original thought (I do ramble), Monday was my last day of a first day of public school. My youngest, Katie, started her senior year this year. So this is my last first day.

I can not tell you how quickly this has flown by! And I am SUPER fortunate to have four wonderful, healthy, intelligent children who USUALLY gave me little grief. 

Believe it or not, there was a time when photos were not digital. So these are just pictures of pictures....

I have already turned over all of Sarah's pictures to her...so I don't have a "first day" picture of her.

Mitchell's first day of school! What an awesome little man!

Matt was my "September baby" and could have started a year earlier...but when he was old enough to start school, he honestly didn't care what color something was or how to write any letter that was not in his name. So I waited a year...by then he was raring to go!

Katie...my baby...

Oh my gosh this just seems like yesterday. And now she is an intelligent, exceptionally talented young lady. She was a June baby and could have waited a year too but she knew ALL her colors and numbers and letters by the time she was 5 and was more than ready to start the adventures of education. She will not even be 18 when she graduates but you would never know it. The kid is a genius!

I am proud of all my babies. Sarah is a busy mom, wife and part time paralegal but still manages to attend college and make perfect grades! My oldest son, Mitchell, is on his second education...a college graduate who is now working on his EMT certification. Matt is working full time, studying for his commercial pilot's license, AND working on his masters. And of course Katie...she scores off the charts and I have no doubt she will be a stellar college student as well.

I am so grateful all my children value the importance of getting an education and continue to strive to be the best they can be!  

My daughter Sarah is passing that on to her children and I know that they have a tremendous amount of respect and pride for their mom as she works her way through college after all these years. As do I.

Here is to all the stressed out, worried, struggling moms! Your children love you and admire you! Never forget that they look to you for guidance and direction...so with love and respect guide them to be the best that they can be. 

We are all busy. We all have challenges and struggles. But our children should grow up in a home where they feel loved, respected, nurtured and safe. 

Unfortunately, no matter how hard we try, we will fail time and time again. NO parent is perfect and it truly is a miracle our children survive all our mistakes. 

Two pieces of parenting advice I give....one, when you KNOW better you DO better. Two, never be the first to let go of a hug! 

If you will follow these two simple parenting tips, you will enjoy your "last first" and know that they have a wonderful life ahead of them!


Ugly lamp contest...

It's here...the annual "ugly lamp contest" on one of my favorite blogs....BetterAfter.net

I just have to share this contest because the level of "ugliness" is truly beyond words.

You can't imagine...you just have to see it for yourself.

But word of warning....

Years ago my mother forbid me from seeing the movie "The Exorcist." I watched it anyway. Needless to say, I had to sing hymns to myself every night for months because the imagine of a possessed Linda Blair kept popping into my head.

Now that image is replaced with the image of a Satanic booger lamp.

Seriously, go check it out and vote. 

Bookmark Lindsey's site...she doesn't always feature demonic lamps...usually she has awesome "before and after" pictures that are great inspiration when DIYing anything and everything!

Seriously, I know I can make a silk purse out of a sow's ear...but even I couldn't do anything with these lamps...geez!

Twas the night before Christmas...and MORE chairs!!!

Okay, so it's still four months until Christmas but you can never shop too early!

If I bragged on every "great deal" I scored at an auction, this whole blog would be about nothing but auction deals. But this find is amazing...and beautiful...and reminds me that the holidays, and cooler weather, are just around the corner!

This week I bought this beautiful nativity set....

At most auctions they pile the glassware and "knick-knacks" in boxes on a trailer. Sometimes it is hard to tell what is wrapped up in a box so you have to do a lot of digging to find goodies. I have found Wedgwood, milk glass and carnival glass deep in boxes of junk. This week I found a beautiful ironstone casserole dish, spotless, in a box of inexpensive stoneware. You just never know.

So when I started digging through a box and found little ceramic nativity pieces wrapped in 30 year old newspapers, I knew it could potentially be a great find. Naturally I didn't want to draw attention to it by unwrapping all the pieces, so I wasn't quite sure what all was in the box or even what condition they were in.

Anywho...at some point they did a "choice box" bid on all the boxes left on the trailer. Two dollars...for two bucks I would take my chances on what was in the box. 

All 18 pieces are in mint condition...not one little chip. No mark so I know little about the set, but I think it is beautiful and could be special addition to someone's Christmas decor! I can't wait to display it when I decorate my booths for the holidays!!! Until them the pieces will get rewrapped in bubble wrap and stored away properly. 


A few weeks ago I picked up some nifty old "mid centurish" chairs at an auction. I'm sure "back in the day" they were really something special, but not so much now. But each was unique and had the potential to be beautiful again!

A little paint, a little upholstery, and they are ready for another lifetime of WOW!!!

BTW, the orange vinyl chair and brown vinyl chair in the back...I didn't do a thing but clean them up a bit...sold in two days as is! As did another mid-century chair...sometimes people like to do their own thing!

It's hard to see this little guy in the "before" picture, but it is a beautiful walnut. With all the students returning for the fall semester, I thought a little "Razorback love" was in order!

I was amazed at the condition of all the caning on these two chairs...perfect...not one broken weave! I sprayed these two chairs and the red chair with Kilz, sanded smooth and then sprayed them with spray paint. 

I don't have one piece of fabric big enough for this seat...so for now it only has the batting on it. Hopefully I can find something this week I like!


A beautiful oak chair...but again, sometimes you have to paint wood to "enhance" it...or at least make it desirable again! This too was sprayed with primer and spray paint!

This chair had a dark blue vinyl seat. I had every intention of adding some foam and batting and covering it with something new and jazzy. Nope...I painted the vinyl...seriously, I sprayed it with Kilz and then a teal spray paint. It looks kind of cool if you ask me! 

This chair was painted with an off-white plaster paint, distressed and sealed with spray poly.

The chairs are all oak and walnut...great pieces that could easily be refinished.  But this is a prime example of "enhancing" a piece. In today's decor world, painted pieces are desirable...so painting them really does enhance them! Whether you chalk paint or spray paint...making over a chair is a simple project! 

Master bedroom laminate flooring reveal....

Well, the floor is done...now all I need to do is add a little "froo-froo," find some inspiration for wall decor and reupholstery the club chairs.

.....all in due time. 

This flooring has been a long time coming. With 4 cats and two dogs, carpet is NOT something I want in my house and this was the last holdout. I love how easy it is to clean this floor! Just sweep, then "mop" with a dust mop sprayed with a special laminate flooring cleaner. I personally avoid "Swiffers." I read once that the cleaner was toxic to animals...and truthfully, when I quit using it my older kitty perked right up after being a little sickly for a loooong time....coincidence? Maybe...but I'm not taking any chances!

There is a MAJOR downside to dark laminate (Imperial Teak)....it shows every little fuzz and fluff. Not a good thing when you have 2 white, long haired kitties and a light colored dog. Dark laminate and wood flooring may be all the rage, but think carefully before you install it...you WILL see the dust and crumbs!

But I am NOT going to gripe about having to sweep this floor! I would rather sweep it every day than shampoo carpet 2-3-4 times a year...and know it is STILL not clean! If you have ever pulled carpet, you know exactly what I mean. I don't care how clean you are, you could plant tomatoes under your carpet!!!

Anywho, I started this little journey here by painting the furniture...and added a little here with the addition of an "accent" color. But no matter how much painting I did or froo-froo I added, I just couldn't get past the flooring. So I ordered the laminate I wanted and ripped up the old carpet and glue down hardwood! (here)

Brian took two days vacation to help...God bless that wonderful man! Usually the DIY tasks are left up to me, but when I need a helping hand he is right there with me!

I could give a step by step tutorial on how to install laminate...but again, there are HUNDREDS of tutorials online. Your best bet is to follow the directions on the product you buy so you don't risk voiding any warranty! 

Is this a DIY project? For me yes. For your "average" DIYer...depends on your ability. Watch a few online tutorials and gauge for yourself. There is a little "skill" involved. And let me tell ya...two days of this and you will feel it!

My only regret is that I did not use the highest grade padding. I used the "mid-grade." The "cush" is fine, but I don't think it is as quiet as the flooring I installed upstairs with the high grade padding. Live and learn!

I have a little step down from the office to the bedroom...I made it using an oak tread and it was originally stained to match the light oak flooring. Rather than go to all the expense of buying a new tread, rebuilding the step and staining it to match the new laminate, I decided to try a little gel stain treatment. I ordered the General Finishes "Brown Mahogany" and PRESTO!!!

Dang near a perfect match...so close that I decided to try it on all the threshold pieces. If you have ever installed wood flooring or laminate, you know the threshold, transition and trim pieces can be a huge expense! Fortunately the gel stain worked like a charm and I was able to reuse everything I had!

I like my baseboard trim and I am not a big fan of base shoe molding so I removed all the existing trim before we installed the flooring (see how to do that here), pulled the nails and cleaned off all the caulk and "fuzz." I marked all the boards on the back so I knew were they all went! After the floors were done, I reinstalled the trim right on top of the new floor. I put wax paper under the trim so I wouldn't have to tape off the flooring when I repainted everything (a little trick my dad taught me!) When you are done painting, before the paint dries, just pull the wax paper from under the trim...simple!


Rather than buy a large rug, I decided to go with two "scatter" rugs on both sides of the bed. For now I am just reusing my old rug by the back door...someday I will probably change it for something different...someday. Just so you know how long I hang on to stuff...I have had this rug for over TWENTY years...seriously.

I keep the mantel decor clean and simple. The monkey? I have no idea when or where I got her, but she has been with me for many years! As a mom of young children, I could relate...

I went searching for material to make a new cushion cover for the mid century chair. I only found a few fabrics that had the right colors but none really tripped my trigger...sooooo...someday...maybe. The black vinyl is "true" to the piece and it doesn't bother me too terribly much!

I put new curtains up on the front window. I only put curtains there so I can block out the sun when it gets really hot...otherwise, I never close them! (I am at the end of a cul-de-sac...if you can see in my bedroom window you are probably standing in my yard...that's a whole nuther problem!) I love the color and the design but unfortunately they are a tad too short....soooo....what to do? Right now, ignore it. Maybe someday I will add some length...maybe...someday.

Day two we installed the flooring in the office...totally awesome and I love how the two rooms flow together!

Again, I still have a lot to do...but getting the floor done is a major accomplishment! Kind of creates a great pallet for any future changes.

As I have said often, I don't want "stuff" just to have "stuff." So I am usually pretty picky about what I decorate with. Even simple little "knick-knacks" and wall decor have to have meaning or purpose or I have to seriously love it. It has only taken me 14 years to get this far, so patience is obviously a virtue I have when it comes to decorating. 

Well, that and selective "blindness." 

Moooom! I want a PUPPY!!!!

How many times have you heard this from your kids?

Puppies are indeed precious! But they aren't "little" for long!

This is Cleo at 6 weeks...Mother's Day! 


This is Cleo a month later at 10 weeks....

And this is Cleo today...4 1/2 months old....

Amazing how quickly they grow. Last week she weighed 48 pounds...but as big as she is, she is STILL a puppy and still has "puppy" moments!


A desk, a shelf...and some major sore muscles!!

This past week we finally installed my bedroom and office laminate flooring! Brian took two days vacation and by the end of the second day, neither one of us could get up off the couch without some major grunting! Man-oh-man, what a chore. Saturday we drove to Conway for my grandson's (Camden) 13th birthday party at a paintball course. Um...no...we did not join in the fun...we could barely walk!

After a few little tweeks here and there, I will reveal the new flooring later this week. I still have a few things I want to get done! 

So in the meantime, I thought I would share two MUCH easier little projects I completed a few weeks ago.

I bought this little metal desk at an auction a few months ago....

It was one of the few times Brian questioned a purchase. Really? What in the world did I intend to do with THAT!?

A little metal primer, a little teal paint, a little chalkboard paint...and BINGO! A precious little desk fit for a little guy or gal! Obviously someone else thought it was precious because it didn't last long! 

I also bought two cherry cabinets at another auction. Very well constructed! One had been stained but the other had not....

Neither had shelves but that was an easy fix. I primed and painted 1 x 12 MDF material and cut it to fit.

I cleared out some metal shelving and a TV cabinet in Mitchell's room a few weeks ago so I needed a shelf unit in there to hold all his "stuff." I painted the interior of one of the cherry cabinets my favorite "off white" and spray painted the exterior red to match his room....

I plaster painted the stained shelf and then distressed it a bit so the stain would peak through!

I have it in my booth with a hefty price tag....for a reason. I really don't care if I sell it right now!

I bought this awesome "mock" fireplace at an auction several months ago and I was using it as a display shelf and "statement piece" in my booth...

It was perfect for displaying artwork, mirrors and glassware! I was really looking forward to hanging stockings on it at Christmas! I didn't price it and when asked, I told the girls at the store that I would entertain offers...but it better be a hefty offer because I really had no desire to sell it.

Last week I got TWO hefty offers...SOLD! Lesson...don't get attached to one piece. Everything has a price...unless it is a family heirloom! 

Anywho, I had to find something to put in my booth for the time being to display nick-nacks...so the plaster painted shelf will do just fine until I can build another "statement" piece! Truth is, I will probably never find another piece like this fireplace so I may just have to build one! 

Seems the furniture is really flying out of my booths so I am scrambling to finish up some projects I have piled in the garage. I think we counted TWENTY SIX chairs the other day...again with the chairs! A few little tables, some light fixtures and a beautiful antique wardrobe! All waiting for my time and attention!

So much to do! 


I remember being a single mother of 3 school age children and having to scrimp and scrape to afford school supplies!

Matt and I went shopping yesterday and he scolded me for even looking at the "off brand" crayons. Says he has traumatic memories of "cheap" crayons. I think (at least I HOPE) he was pulling my leg, but he reminded me of how tough it is to be a little guy and have to be "different" or do without.

This is my last year to have a child in public schools. Katie is a senior. No more crayons or tiny scissors or wood rulers or #2 pencils. After this year it will just be tuition, books, dorm expenses, meal plans....yikes! Oh well....

ANYWHO, it is time to GIVE BACK!!! Yesterday I gathered up some valuable Target coupons and bought 27 boxes of CRAYOLA BRAND CRAYONS! (No cheap stuff!) I will be giving these to a friend who is a teacher.

Did you know that many teachers spend money out of their own pockets to buy supplies for their classroom or their students? There are so many kids in our public schools whose parents really struggle to afford the basic supplies they need! 

EVERY little bit helps. Pick up pencils, tissues, crayons, glue, rulers, scissors, etc. and donate them to your local elementary school or maybe your favorite teacher!

Have your younger child pick out supplies for their favorite teacher and deliver them to the classroom. Kids get the biggest kick out of "giving!"

Give back...even if you are still scrimping and scraping to buy supplies for your kids, buy an extra box of tissues or a glue stick.


Refinishing a dining table...a tutorial!

Christina, at Operation Home did the ABSOLUTE right thing by attempting to strip and restore a set of beautiful mid century tables. Unfortunately, she made the same mistake many make...the absolute wrong finish. Poly. Sadly, she regrets it...been there, done that!

That is the great thing about DIY projects...live and learn! The fact that she tackled this project with an "I CAN DO THIS" attitude is what DIYing is all about and as we work from project to project, we learn what works and what doesn't! There are soooo many tutorials online about this type of project and at times it can be overwhelming. Who wouldn't be confused?!

This is the process that works for me and I hope it works for you! 

I am first and foremost a die hard "wood fan." I believe in treating it with with love and respect...especially old pieces that are constructed of wood we just don't see much any more in new, affordable furniture...walnut, cherry, mahogany, teak, rosewood. 

A great deal of MCM furniture was constructed of teak, walnut or rosewood and those pieces are my "first love." I infuse as many of these pieces as I can get my hands on into my decor. I have refinished MANY MCM pieces over the years and feel like I have developed a pretty good "process." Just do a "search" for "mid century" on my site...you will find many of the projects I have worked on over the years...my Lane Acclaim tables, television cabinet, barrel chairs, office chair, coffee table...and sooooo much more!

So I am going to share a few of my "die hard" rules for refinishing ANY old wood furniture. Doesn't matter in the end if you are going to paint or stain...if you are going to strip it first, this is the process that works for me! You may think you do not have to strip if you are going to paint...not always the case. I have stripped many pieces before I painted them for a number of reasons! Usually because it has a heavy finish on it or layers of "unstable" paint....regardless it is NOT as daunting as it sounds! And if you ask me, regardless of whether you are going to paint or stain, you will get a superior result if you first strip the piece down to bare wood!

Friday I stripped the dining room table I shared here. It was literally caked with old varnish so it is the perfect piece to share! You can really see the difference in the "before and after" pictures at the end!

It is truly an AMAZING piece but has me a bit stumped. I know how to strip it...I just don't know what type of finish I want on it right now. Or if it will even work with the plan I have in my head for this room. I still have these mid century chairs I want to refinish and I'm just not sure how it will fit in with them! Oh well.....

The table base has heavy, crackled varnish. At some point someone had stripped the top and the inserts, but not the base. So it was caked on pretty thick. It would seem like a daunting task to most, but honestly, it is the same process whether the piece has a little or a lot of old finish...well, not exactly, but we will get to that! 

Remember, not all my "rules" apply to all furniture...and sometimes you have to use your judgment.

1) Refinish vs. Paint: The first thing you have to decide when "rehabbing" a piece of furniture is how can the piece be "enhanced?" Sometimes you really can enhance a piece by painting it, especially if the piece has a lot of water damage or broken or "bubbled" veneer that needs repair or missing trim pieces that have to be replaced. Or it is just an "outdated" piece with little value so it needs a POW of color!!! Those pieces may be better off painted. If a piece is solid and sound and stripping and refinishing it will ENHANCE or preserve the piece, it is not a hard process. 

2) THERE ARE NO SHORT CUTS WHEN STRIPPING FINISHES...whether it is painted or stained! None...and if you don't do it right, your new finish will look like crud and you will have wasted your time. Settle in and do it right!

Word of warning...you are working with chemicals! WEAR GLOVES, EYE PROTECTION, LONG PANTS AND CLOSED TOED SHOES. Trust me...splash this stuff on yourself and it will leave a mark!

Also, do not do this in any grass you are fond of...and put something disposable (paper, plastic, whatever) under the piece to catch all the drips and gunk!

If the existing finish (whether varnish, shellack, poly or paint) is really "heavy" I first coat it with a bit of Citristrip. I use a cheap "chip" brush to apply it. After letting that sit a bit, I scrape it with a flat, plastic scraper. ALWAYS scrape with the grain. You are probably wondering how you "scrape" all the turned legs and carvings...patience, I'll get there ;)

Sometimes the finish melts right off, other times it is pretty stubborn...just coat it again with the stripper, let it sit a bit, and then scrape it again! It may take 2-3 applications to get all the "heavy" finish off.

If the piece doesn't have a real heavy existing finish, you may not even want to use the Citristrip...use your judgment!

After removing the really heavy old finish or the majority of the paint, mix 1/2 acetone and 1/2 lacquer thinner and use it to scrub the entire piece with steel wool. This is also the best way to get the heavy finish and gel stripper off turned legs and etchings. I use 0000 steel wool and that lets me really scrub the piece without worrying too much about damaging the wood! This will melt the varnish right off the turns and carvings and remove the stripper you couldn't scrape off as well! Work from the top down, and don't be afraid to use this mixture liberally!

THIS is the real process for removing ALL the old finish! 

Here is a little secret to properly stripping furniture. Toothbrushes. Seriously, use a toothbrush to get into all the corners and crannies...just dip it in the acetone/thinner mixture and scrub away! They are tough enough to scrub out the crud but won't hurt the wood! Have you ever seen a piece of furniture that has been refinished and all the corners and joints are dark...that's because they didn't get all the old finish off...use a toothbrush and you won't have that problem!

This process may take some time...and you may go through several steel wool pads. I usually mix a new batch of acetone/thinner (in a stainless bowl) and use a new steel wool pad on each side...2-3 times...whatever it takes to get it scrubbed clean of all the old finish and stripper! I probably went around this table 4-5 times just scrubbing with the mixture! (This is where one of those low shop stools on wheels is a back saver!)

I can not stress this enough...if you don't take this process seriously and REALLY get rid of all the old finish, you are wasting your time...because you WILL be disappointed. And while this stripping process may seem labor intensive, it is much easier than sanding an old finish off and you are much less likely to damage the piece...which brings me to rule #...whatever, I lost track!

SAND AS LITTLE AS POSSIBLE. You should almost always use chemical strippers to remove ALL the old finish and only sand a tad (with the grain...if needed...220 grit) AFTER you have stripped all the old finish. Many old pieces (unlike this table) may have veneer...veneer can be thin and if you sand too vigorously you can do a lot of damage! Also, you will NEVER get all the old finish out of decorative carvings or turned legs (like this table) with sandpaper...not happening! 

Also, palm sanders tend to leave little "swirly" marks...and as faint as they may seem, they are going to be glaring after a stain and finish is applied...save yourself the trouble...hand sand with 220 grit paper and steel wool on the ornate areas. SAND WITH THE GRAIN!! Cross grain marks WILL show up in your final finish!

Keep in mind too that once you strip all the old finish, you are REALLY going to see the "character" (grain) of the wood. A lot of old finishes were applied with a "multi-layer" process or were sprayed on and the stain may have been mixed in with the finish...they did this to give the piece a more "uniform" look and hide the "variations" in the wood grain.

If you like a uniform look, paint it because you are going to reveal the "character" of the wood when you strip it down to bare wood!

Also, there is a chance you could dissolve adhesives (glue) that was used on joints...that's not a huge issue...it is best to go ahead and strip and stain the piece BEFORE you do any major repairs...stain will not penetrate glue...so if you get any glue on the wood, it won't stain! (If you are going to paint a piece repair it BEFORE paint...if you are going to stain, repair it AFTER stain)

Okay, I have now spent 4 hours scrubbing off all the old finish (that is how long it took me to do this table!) 

Now, wash the entire piece with clean rags and mineral spirits. I have a tenant who works for a commercial laundry service and she brings me old towels I use as shop rags! If you are going to refinish furniture, buy towels and rags at garage sales and thrift stores and cut them up into washcloth size pieces.


While washing it down with the mineral spirits you may find a few spots that need a little more "scrubbing" to remove the old finish...not a problem...just scrub it, then wash it down with the mineral spirits!

After I removed all the old finish and gave it a light sanding, I stained the top with a brown stain. This table has two inserts and I made sure I stripped those and stained them to match the table.

STAIN: Do not use stain that has a "finish" or "sealer" in it. If you don't like the color, you are pretty much stuck. Use a stain that has to have a finish applied...that way if you aren't real keen on the color you can immediately wipe it off with mineral spirits or even layer another stain color on top of it. In other words, you can make adjustments to the color after it is applied.

Different woods will stain differently. Your best bet is to stain a small "test" patch on the piece and have mineral spirits and a clean rag handy to wipe it off if you don't like the color. 

After the stain dries, I personally prefer a tung oil finish. Super easy to wipe on...pretty much "idiot proof." I apply 3-4 coats, sand with 0000 steel wool and wipe with tack cloth between coats! The awesome thing about a tung oil finish is it is super easy to "fix" scratches and wear...just lightly "sand" it with 0000 steel wool and apply another coat of the finish! Here I discuss the (lack of) difference between oils.

I usually "re-oil" the tops of my tables once a year...or as needed.

For many reasons, Christina's issues being one, I NEVER apply poly to stained finishes! I have an old walnut dresser I refinished with poly and I regret it! Someday it will get refinished properly!

My original plan for this table was to stain the top and paint the base...but it is just so beautiful I hate to paint it. For now, I have moved it back into the dining room and I am just going to "mull it over" for a bit...

What to do, what to do...truth is I may not do anything until I get my mid century chairs done.

In the meantime, thanks Christina for inspiring me to "get it done." I hope this information helps you and others...YOU CAN DO IT!