Saturday, August 28, 2010

Bargains made over

Remember my framed bamboo leaf print, the one that I picked up for $10? When I began furnishing the lounge, I decided it was (finally) time to hang some artwork. But of course, the frame was completely the wrong colour.

I give you exhibit A: One white framed print...

Yes, the frame is quite nice, but not for my house. So I decided to give it a makeover and stain the frame a more suitable colour for our decor. It turned out really well. Voila!

I thought I'd share a few things that I've learned over the years about staining timber. I'm by no means an expert at this, but hey - somebody may as well benefit from my mistakes.

These are my three golden rules:

1. Curb your impatience. Even a small item like a picture frame is not a one-day job. It's probably not even a one-weekend job. Depending on the size and the current state of the piece you're revamping, the work involved may not be very time-consuming, but time between coats stretches the project out, often for three or four days.

2. Overcome your lazy tendencies. Don't skimp on the preparation or you'll end up with something you may not be all that happy with. Cleaning, sanding and cleaning some more is important if you want a really good finish.

3. Cheap isn't always a bargain. Buy good quality products. Cheap brushes that shed hairs, or shortcut finishes that combine stain and varnish in one can aren't worth it in the end.

In case you're interested, I used a chestnut timber stain (three coats) and then rubbed on and wiped off some black tint to darken the colour some more. Then a coat of polyurethane finished it off. All up, it took three days to do, but the actual time spent working on it totalled less than two hours.

My next jobs will be stripping and staining one of my eBay chairs, and making-over our pine tallboy to match the bedside tables.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Look at 'em grow!

September 2009:

August 2010:

Another view:

Check out the Leucophyta Brownii - and this is after numerous trims!

September 2009:

August 2010:

In case you're wondering, the weeping mulberry looks like a stick on purpose. I pruned it severely this winter, to encourage new canes to grow in the right direction. It has new shoots now, and I'm curious to see how it turns out.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Spring is nigh. And you know what that means...

It's been a very wet, very cold winter here, but there's definitely a hint of Spring in the air. Especially today, when we woke up to brilliant sunshine and blue skies. Of course, now that I've said that, some huge grey clouds are rolling in from the west. *sigh*

Anyway, the imminent onset of warm weather means that things are about to start going nuts in the garden, so I'm compiling a list of jobs to be done. Thankfully, it's a small garden so the list isn't too daunting.

1. Drag out the bucket and watering can and give the entire garden a cocktail of molasses, Seasol and maybe some Powerfeed, diluted in water.

2. Give the leucophyta brownii out the front a bit of a haircut. These things need a good clipping a couple of times a year, both to keep them from invading the path, and also to stop them going all leggy and straggly. I love the silver foliage - such a nice contrast to the greens and reds in the rest of the front yard.

3. Take a tour of the back yard with secateurs in hand. The canna lilies are looking pretty awful - they really hate the cold - but a drastic trim will have them looking neater and also see them putting on new growth in no time. There are a few other plants that are a little bit ratty too, so no doubt I'll be chopping away madly.

4. Look for anything that just isn't performing. I'll probably note it, watch it till the end of November or so and then if it doesn't lift its game, it's GONE. No sentiment here - I'm not coddling anything.

5. Do a nursery run and decide what else to plant (there are a few gaps to fill). This is the really fun part.

6. Declare war on weeds. There aren't very many at all, especially considering I've done no weeding at all for a couple of months, but I spotted a few the other day that have to go.

7. Chuck some snail pellets around. Those mongrels are everywhere and I'm not big on sharing my plants with slimy critters.

8. Buy another terracotta planter and paint it to match the two we already have filled with herbs. I want a chilli bush like we had at the old place - that thing produced super-hot birds eye chillies for us for about five years. I just cut it back hard every Spring and it rewarded me with new growth and bucket loads of fruit. I also want a couple of tomato plants, and I think they'll do OK in there. Maybe even some gourmet lettuce...

9. Build a pergola. OK, I'm not actually doing this one - that will be Bike Boy's department. I need a design for outside my studio that will block most of the summer heat but let in the winter sunshine, so we plan to add timber slats. I already have a passionfruit vine in a pot that's destined to be trained over it. Yum! As a bonus, I should be able to get a hook installed in the beams to hang a boxing bag from.

I'm sure I'll think of more. :)

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Pantry perfection

My love of oganisation is legendary, so I was particularly impressed with this pantry makeover by House of Smith's:

Go take a look, it's seriously awesome. Makes my effort a few months back look a bit ordinary....

I think ours may need a do-over. LOL.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

In the mood

I have a newish version of Photoshop that I've barely used, so I thought I'd get some practice in by making a mood board for the lounge. I'm still figuring out the editing tools and I need to hunt out a few more images, but you get the idea:

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Speak to me

For ages after we moved in, I wasn't quite sure what the lounge was going to be. Since we didn't have piles of cash to rush out and furnish it anyway, it remained empty except for our sofa bed ....and various piles of random crap that didn't really belong anywhere else.

Over the past twenty or so months, we did all the necessary stuff - floor coverings, driveway, landscaping, blinds and so on, plus we acquired furniture for other rooms. And still I had no clue about what to do in here. I had vague ideas about it being a comfortable and quiet place to sit, without being too formal, as well as a room we could entertain guests in. I collected images that I liked and waited for inspiration. I suppose I was really waiting for the room to tell me what it needed, which might sound a bit odd, but I think that's how these things often work best.

Finally, these photos sparked an idea in me:

It's probably going to take a while, but here's what I have in mind:

1. A wall of bookshelves. This one's mostly ticked off, thanks to good old IKEA - apart from a couple of missing height extensions (*ahem* Somebody mis-counted. Oops) and some glass doors along the top row of shelves.

We ruthlessly culled our book collection when we renovated our old house, and again before our two house moves. Now we need to go book shopping to fill those empty spaces.

2. A cream couch on the opposite wall. We want to keep the sofa bed - it's handy, plus it's a good-quality one and I like the style. The colour's all wrong though (navy), so I'm thinking maybe a loose cover? Reupholstery would be great, but it's usually more expensive than buying a new couch. Hmm.

This is almost identical in style to our trusty sofa bed:

3. A couple of armchairs - or armless chairs, actually. Something like this in style:

4. Accents in green and turquoise. Cushions, maybe soft curtains to dress up the windows a bit, and some pretty bits and pieces amongst the books. Perhaps a rug too.

5. A table lamp next to the couch and a reading lamp of some kind in the opposite corner.

6. Coffee table or ottoman. Haven't decided yet.

7. A small cabinet or table next to the bookshelves (at the end opposite the windows). I'm keeping an eye out for the perfect thing. Hopefully eBay or a trash and treasure stall/garage sale will oblige.

I have a couple of framed prints already hung that I'm happy with, but I'll be staining the frames, as they're the wrong colour. Our Van Gogh needs new glass as well; the existing glass is cracked in several places. It's only been waiting for nine years. Hey, you can't rush these things...

Other than that, an urn or tall vase with some greenery and a couple of tropical-looking decor items should finish things off.

That sounds like a lot, but it's a decent sized room and is open to our "gallery" (I love how grand that sounds. It's a hallway. LOL), which looks onto the al fresco room through glass bifold doors.

Progress at last... more pics to come, but don't hold your breath waiting. This might take a while.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Another addiction? Just what I need.

Speaking of being a tight-arse (what? I'm sure that was the previous topic of conversation...), I seem to have developed a slight obsession interest in making-over old furniture. I really love the look of a few vintage pieces placed amongst modern stuff.

I have dozens of ideas filling my mind, usually when I should be working or sleeping or doing something else practical and necessary. For now though, I'm restraining myself to three projects that I definitely want to tackle.

The first is restoring an old pair of timber kitchen chairs that I picked up on eBay for the ridiculous price of $10.50. I'm planning on stripping the poo-brown paint off the poor old things, doing a bit of repair to the broken seat on one and then staining and sealing them. I have a few ideas about where I want to put them, but I suspect they may get moved around the house a few times before I make a final decision.

Ugly ducklings, aren't they?

Project 2 is a desk for The Middle Child. He has a small pine student desk, but with a computer on it, there's no room left for books or papers for studying. He's in his final semester of VCE, and planning on going to uni next year, so something larger is required.

This is my inspiration, a fabulous makeover of a dowdy old steel and laminate office desk, from The Virginia House:

I spotted this old thing on ebay and snapped it up for $15:

If you squint and use your imagination, it looks just like the fabulous piece above. Or will when I'm finished with it.

Project no 3 is a secret. I'm bidding on something on eBay, and the auction still has a couple of days to run. It's a vintage piece that a real estate agent would describe as a "renovater's delight". Yes, it's that bad. I'll show and tell if/when I win it.

All I need now is the time to spend making my treasures all beautiful again.