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Rehabbing Furniture with Laurie Notaro (a Semi-Drunk How To)

Laurie Notaro is an author, crafter, and expert at finding a good cocktail. She grew up in Phoenix, but is currently based in Eugene, Oregon. Each week, she'll be joining us to share a crafting adventure, draw a flowchart, or remember a few of her favorite things about Phoenix.

Rehabbing Furniture with Laurie Notaro (a Semi-Drunk How To)
photos by Laurie Notaro

To be honest, I'm not all that crazy about Scrabble. The last time we cracked open the box, my husband and I had an argument of historic proportions over the word "aga," (which means tribal lord in Pakistani), that rivaled the ferocity of the time he asked me why I needed to use so much toilet paper. Yes, drinking was involved, but it was only a bottle of Cava, so things really couldn't get too out of hand without giggling becoming involved at some point.

It was about three weeks ago that my husband openly admitted his desire to play his word game of choice al fresco. Despite my apprehension about having root origin word fights that our neighbors could hear, I went on the hunt. I found a forlorn, 1940's circa coffee table tucked in a corner of St. Vinnie's with some nicks and bruises, but nothing too terrible.

The sticker on it proclaimed it as "loving and beautiful," which I wish was a typo. Regardless of how the staff of St. Vinnies discovered that the coffeetable was "loving," I bought it for $30 and took it home. Nothing like a good sanding and some bleach to make a table forget its past.

Step One: Sand.

Afraid that Loving looked a little too estate sale-y in that it smacked of just being removed from the house of a dead person, I decided it needed some dressing up. I don't think the dead person died near it or on it, because I checked for forensic scents before I bought it.

It wasn't that significant of a piece that I felt bad about re-habbing it, and took a 60 grit sandpaper sponge to the top and sides to give it a better texture for paint to adhere to. There's a little wood inlay on it that shows me it's not a cheap piece and not veneer; I'm guessing the wood is maple, maybe mahogany. Which I think is awesome.

Rehabbing Furniture with Laurie Notaro (a Semi-Drunk How To)
Laurie Notaro

Step Two. PAINT!!!!

Because of the detail on the piece, I decided it was perfect for a mutli-color treatment. Martha Stewart's Thunder Cloud metallic is the color for the main color, then Cast Bronze metallic paint and Black Coffee metallic glaze ($5.95 each, Home Depot), for the tiers on the sides and the routing on the legs. For a smooth surface, I used a high density foam mini-roller, but brushing the paint on will work just fine, depending if you want a smoother or more textured surface.

 

Stencil pieced and taped together after enlarging on printer
Stencil pieced and taped together after enlarging on printer
Laurie Notaro

Step Three: Stencil.

You can make a stencil out of anything, I swear. This stencil is from a font called Soft Ornaments that I downloaded for free. Once you find an ornament or a scroll that you like, bump up the point size on the image until it fits the area you need--the point size on my image was 650, which still wasn't big enough for the space of the table I wanted to cover. I printed it out at 650 pt, then enlarged portions of the image at 200 percent until I had all of it enlarged, then pieced it together like a puzzle with some tape.

Next, I needed to transfer the image onto a sturdier backing, and using a poly paper sheet sleeve (any office supply store) did the trick. Slicing the edges off, I had enough area to trace half of the stencil onto it with a Sharpie marker, then cut all of the darkened areas out with a good pair of smaller scissors.

Stencil on tabletop, trace image with pencil. Paint image using tracing as a guide.
Stencil on tabletop, trace image with pencil. Paint image using tracing as a guide.
Laurie Notaro

Step Four: Tracing.

Stenciling this image directly to the tabletop seemed risky to me, especially since the image was so large. I needed to complete the first part of the image, then flip the stencil over for the mirror image on the remaining half. I decided to trace the shape onto the tabletop first to make sure I was centered and looking even. However, I had consumed two glasses of wine and it was dark before I became uber determined to do this. I convinced myself that my eyeball judgment was better than any tape measure and that I really needed to use a permanent marker to outline the design to ensure that I could see it.

Subsequently, I would recommend that you:

A) be sober when working on crafts; 2) Work on projects under some semblance of daylight, you are not a craft vampire; 3) If you have to drink and craft at the same time, don't be so lit that you Sharpie all over a table up that you just spent ten hours painting. Have a pencil handy. And an eraser. So when you wake up the next morning and see what you did, it won't look so much like the ghost of Amy Winehouse pretty much ruined your table the night before and you won't feel so compelled to find the nearest church basement to see if a meeting for Crafters at Risk is being held. (Bad coffee, by the way. No flavored creamer.) I filled in this design freehand, but if you feel better about using the stencil as your guide, charge ahead.

 

Step Five: Finish.

Once the stencil design was down and dried, I decided I wanted to age it a bit since the design itself had a 30's vintage feel to it. I aged the paint in three steps: Sanding it with 180 grit sandpaper, which is pretty fine and will give you texture without rubbing all of the image off; then adding some "distressed" color; then waxing. My favorite way to add distressing to anything painted is by using Walnut Ink Crystals, but a bottle of those is hard to come by.

A brown ink pad will work great in its place. If you found the crystals, sprinkle a minute amount over the tabletop; using an inkpad, smear the pad itself over the top in the areas you want to darken. Now spray water over it (both crystals and/or ink pad smears) and let it sit for a minute while it mixes and dilutes. Then blot, with a clean cloth, dirty sock or a shirt of your husband's that you hate until you have the effect you desired.

Next, I waxed the table when all of the ink was dry with lavender bees wax polish. Any furniture wood wax is fine, to be honest. Smear the wax on lightly, wait ten to 15 minutes until it's dried, then buff with a clean (or wine-stained) cloth. Wax gives it a great, smooth surface and a soft, mellow finish. Reapply every time you remember to, which means I wax my furniture once every decade or so. But I'm shitty that way. You'll be better.

I hope your table turns out as loving as mine.

Rehabbing Furniture with Laurie Notaro (a Semi-Drunk How To)
photos by Laurie Notaro

Stay tuned for new adventures with Laurie Notaro, and catch up on a few classics in any of her books including The Idiot Girls' Action-Adventure Club: True Tales from a Magnificent and Clumsy Life,It Looked Different on the Model, I Love Everybody (and Other Atrocious Lies), There's a Slight Chance I Might Be Going to Hell, and An Idiot Girl's Christmas at Changing Hands, on Amazon, or through her website.

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