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Rehabbing Furniture with Laurie Notaro (Episode Two)

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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. Today, she shares her recent adventures in rehabbing furniture.

I had been looking for this dresser for close to four years.

I was getting my roots done when I spotted it in a magazine, decided it was something I could never live with out, and, when I thought no one was looking (I'm always wrong), tore the page out of the magazine and shoved it in my purse. It was a four-drawer wooden dresser painted in buttermilk, black and white. It was gorgeous and I was determined to find it.

As soon as I got home, I tacked the magazine page to my bulletin board, where I promptly built layers on top of it of notes, business cards, and insurance renewal notices. But it was always there, in the forefront of my mind every time I walked into a thrift or antique store. I searched and searched -- and then I found it.

See also: - Rehabbing Furniture with Laurie Notaro (a Semi-Drunk How To) - Laurie Notaro Writes a Handy Manual for Her Husband ... In Case She Dies Before He Does - Laurie Notaro's Existential Showdown on Yelp

It was in pretty bad shape at Goodwill for $39.99; the veneer was peeling off, and some chunks of it were missing. But the bones were there; big ball feet, four drawers and enough trim on the sides to make some nice detail.

I bought it. And this is how I turned a trashy, discarded dresser into a duplicate of the one I had been pining for.

1. Make sure that when you bring it home, you hide it downstairs behind the dog's pool so your husband doesn't see it.

2. Sand it. Using 120 grit sandpaper, remove whatever finish is currently on the dresser, especially if it's smooth and unpainted. You'll need a rougher surface for the paint to adhere to.

3. Fix problem areas: for this dresser, I used wood glue and a cinder block to bring the veneer back to the wood, and filled the very large gaps with wood putty. If using wood putty, make sure you let it dry overnight and sand all rough edges down before you begin painting.

4. Begin painting. I used a roller for the first coat, and when you start to paint, remember that thrill, because it's going to start to suck when you realize you have three coats to go. I used Behr paint for this project, and for a dresser this size, I only needed a quart.

5. Accidents happen, especially when you're wearing your favorite pajamas and believe you possess the unusual talent of painting without dropping the whole can down your front and actually into the dresser, where it pools like lava. You do not have that talent, you do not have that gift, and now, one entire pajama leg will be forever stiff with the skin of Behr paint.

6. I gave this dresser three coats of base paint, sanding lightly with a finer grit, (220) in between coats for a smoother finish. I rolled, brushed, then rolled again. The surface came out smooth and without a lot of brush marks.

7. I taped off for my first block of color, (Bone White, Metallic base, Martha Stewart), using two-inch painting tape because I am terrible as measuring, drunk or sober. I figured this was easier and if it went wrong, I could always blame Scotch (not the booze. That came later). Duplicate on drawers.

8. I rolled all three coats, drying completely and lightly sanding in between each coat (see what I mean about painting starting to get sucky? This is the precise point that suck seeps in).

9. Go look at the magazine page again. Remember that despite the sacrifices of your favorite pajamas and the fact that it is not hard to bend the painted leg, this dresser will soon be yours. It is worth it. It's going to be awesome!!!

10. Tape off the next color block using one inch tape, leaving about an quarter of an inch gap to for the outline of the original color block. Duplicate on drawers.

11. Realize you are an asshole because you never took the knobs off the drawers. You should probably do that now.

12. Use a straight edge and an X-acto knife to get corners square and clean.

13. Using small paintbrush and another color (I used a black acrylic hobby paint that I thinned with water), paint your outline in between the two masking tape guides.

14. Fill in your second color block! I used Black Coffee metallic glaze (Martha Stewart) without realizing that it was going to take a day in between coats to dry and that one coat looked like I merely spit on the dresser. (It is at this point that you realize you are not going to make your New Times deadline and that you'd better come up with something else to write about. That's the con. The pro is that these glazes are just gorgeous, and are versatile if you have enough time to wait 24 hours for it to dry.)

15. Abandon dresser and realize you are not on the invitation list on Facebook to a friend's birthday party.

See also: Laurie Notaro on Recipe Theft, Cheap Toilet Paper, and Not Being Invited to a Close Friend's Party on Facebook

16. When paint is dry and is solid enough for your approval, remove tape carefully.

17. It's time to sand again, with a light grit, about 220. I wanted a distressed sort of finish for this dresser, so I'm sanding off a fair portion of the paint.

18. I decided at the last step that I wanted to age the finish even more than sanding, so I'm adding walnut ink to brown the surface up some and show a little texture. To do this, you'll need a bottle of walnut ink (available at art supply stores. I use this instead of wood stain because it is easy to remove with water if I think I've gone too far.) You can darken the color of your base coat substantially with subsequent applications. I just dip a corner of a rag into the ink and start spreading it. A little goes a long way.

19. Spend three hours looking for antique drawer knobs on eBay before you decide to stick with the original wooden ones.

20. Apply your final finish. You can go several different directions here-- polyurethane in a gloss or satin, or a nice coat of paste wax. I've been using a lavender beeswax finish (Clapham's, which is all natural beeswax, no chemicals) that I like a lot, and I've used Briwax (is a solvent based blend of beeswax and carnauba wax) with great results, too. The finish is warm, satiny and feels soft. It's a luster as opposed to a shine.

21. Return knobs to dresser.

22. Drag upstairs and when your husband asks about the new dresser, pretend that it's been there the whole time.

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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