Save The World, One Piece of Furniture at a Time

While researching some dining chairs made by Cochrane Furniture, preparing to vastly under-price them on Craigslist to get them out of my cramped apartment, I came upon a great blog, authored by Jackie Hirschhaut, Vice President of the American Home Furnishings Alliance. This interesting post about “going green” when it comes to home furnishings caught my attention. Perhaps it was because of these whacky but cool hippy chairs:

hippy chairs












I just sold a lamp, and threw in the word “Upcycled” in the headline of the post. It got several hits, incurred the loss of interest or sheer laziness of several inquirees, and finally got dropped off in Bridgeport by me to the new owner. The artist was a neighbor I never met living in an art co-op near my house. He/She threw this lamp out! I’m nearly certain that this lamp was made from plastic bottles sandblasted into plastic sheets then beautifully crafted, much like the work of Sarah Turner. Here’s the “Upcycled White Daisy Lamp” that I found and sold:

white lamp3

If anyone is up for searching, I’d love to be directed to more earth-friendly furniture info/DIY projects, etc. As for me right now, the dining chairs await their fateful posting on Craigslist…



Some Kind Of Wonderful: The Saga

I was commissioned to do this piece by someone from Craigslist. She had contacted me originally about a TV stand I was a-sellin’ that ended up not living to see the light of day, due to a Gorilla Glue mishap. Suffice it to say, the would-have-been-tv-stand-buyer and I remained in email contact, and as it turns out, she needed a desk. She sent me a picture of one that she liked, here it is:

desk inspiration

Just days later, while I was doing some errands, in a not-so-good neighborhood in Chicago known as K-town (for Kill town) I found it. The desk that would become hers.

When I found this desk, its striking resemblance to the one my buyer, Sonya, had sent me stopped me in my tracks. I had to acquire it no matter what. It was in an alley, in someone’s backyard with a bunch of junk, so I don’t know if I was technically trespassing or if it was the garbage area, but some of it was gated. The desk was behind the gate (i guess that would mean I trespassed), and I got out of the car in this ghetto hood in my fancy dress with tights on, and thought about climbing the fence. Then I noticed that the neighbors had pitbulls – and not the friendly ones. In essence, I had to work fast, and I was at risk. Gunfire could transpire at anytime. I grabbed that desk, grabbed three of the four drawers, and figured i’d come up with a solution for the missing drawer. It was just too far and the gate was locked. I tried driving around front to trespass from that angle, but the gate was locked there too.

I got the desk home, and had to figure out what to do with it.
SKOW desk before
Happily, I realized I needed to use.. the saw. I sawed the crap right out of that place on the right where a little drawer would have been, pulled/unscrewed any remainder pieces, and immediately created more leg room. Nobody would ever know that a drawer had once been there.

Then I simply had to clean all that crap on top of it. I wanted to retain the neutral ivory-tone of the desk, and Sonya had told me she loves metallics, so I thought I’d keep the gold trim too. She also told me she wanted something with pastels, particularly coral, as that would match the room she was putting it in.

So I got out some Benjamin Moore paints that I already had in the house, that industriously, I had found in an alley as well, and sent her the color palette for approval, which I received. I then decided each drawer would be painted a different color, and the top drawer would be coral to pronounce its presence. I also repainted the entire base with a very neutral beige-gray paint from Behr (which I also found – crazy huh?). I’d like to take this opportunity to say that paint brand/quality does indeed make a difference. These paints looked beautiful, and went on smoothly. By comparison, some of the Rust-oleum paint I use, which is cheap, doesn’t look-a so good. Although I suppose it sometimes depends on its purpose.

After painting the base and the drawers, I then repainted the trim with a metallic gold (WHICH I ALSO FOUND), let everything dry, and put a protective top coat on (which I bought). Note: I had been making a mistake in the past, putting top coat for stain over paint. So I asked at Home Depot what to use over paint, and they gave me actually a Rust-oleum Paint Cover. Shit takes some time to dry, but is definitely worth it both for the protection it provides and the polished look achieved.

The final touch would be the knobs. This required an emergency trip to Anthropologie, as Sonya was on her way, because I discovered that the knobs I planned to use had broken. This desk would be all about the shabby chic differing knobs on each drawer. The top and bottom drawers have Anthropologie knobs, and the middle drawer has one of the antique original knobs that came with the desk when I found it. Looks very cool, methinks!

Sonya was so happy with her beautiful desk, she decided to take a glamour shot on it.

sonya on desk

Sonya was also kind enough to send me a picture of the desk in its new home.


So, I am now available for commissions. woot!


To Paint, Perchance to Repaint

By the third time it happened… well i still wasn’t quite used to it! I have painted something beautifully, and in some cases painstakingly, and the buyer plans to repaint it a different color. What is this phenomenon? Perhaps I am sensitive because I was once a housepainter for the highly recommended Complete Home Care, and thus I have some professional experience. What the f do these girls know? Yes, they were all girls. Why would they buy an item that is the wrong color? Are they gonna die when they see the actual original surfaces, lol, or are they gonna just go over my smooth paint job? I know I told at least one customer about Klean Strip paint remover and even showed her my scraper and gave her some instructions for how to remove the paint.

Here is the first of three: “I painted it, now they plan to repaint it” incidents:

1. Now this one is scary. I had managed to conceal that underneath lie a piece of crap. My customer was a mother with her son, who wasn’t all that much younger than me, buying stuff for his new apartment. The mom said she just needed it to be a different color to match the room it would be in.


green cart



El Latino Milagro

that is the name for this piece.

i had to work at this like a dog while my bf was out of town, because i brought it into the kitchen, and instead of buying a tarp I just used a big rug that i found out back that someone had thrown away. oh did that thing get covered in paint chips. and oh would paul have had a heart attack if he knew what i was doing in the kitchen. but it was easy to just throw the whole rug out when done, a great free way to contain and discard of mess!

The primer that this person used was exceptionally thick and bitchy to remove. I felt a very satisfied feeling though when I unearthed the natural grain of beautiful wood, that this piece would be worth the work.

my advice from this project: do not use an electric or even hand-sander, but rather forge on through all paint removal with the process of chemical stripping. otherwise you lose the grain of the wood and risk blotchiness while staining.

p.s. the girl who bought this said she liked the “weathered” look. WTF does that mean? It also sold within days, with three people pit against each other!




Mini Bookcase Turned Magnifique

When I found this bookcase, I thought it was in decent shape, although the top was kinda messed up. I asked my boyfriend what he thought I should do (even though i’m the handy-woman of the relationship, sometimes he knows some things related to tools and construction).  He was, as he often is when he first sees my “junk,” negative about the prospect of the piece, claiming the top was warped and I’d have to get a new piece of wood. The warping probably occurred because I believe I found this somewhere after a rainstorm. alas and alack…

Luckily, my boyfriend’s words do not cause me to give up; in fact I almost always get a compliment from him on the restored furniture I produce, once it’s actually fixed up.

Since the top shelf was indeed comprised of warped wood, I knew I’d need to use a dark stain or paint, and I actually used a combination of the two. I never thought this piece would turn out so dark! It was a very effective way of concealing the warping, even though there was some pretty light wood grain that got lost in the process. oh well.

I also had to take out via the backside of a hammer all of the nails holding the backboard together, and re-nail them. someone threw this out because they couldn’t do this task? Oy!

In the end, I was in a shocking bidding war on Craigslist as soon as I posted it. One woman, who lived in Evanston, said she would try to make it down that week and I told her I’d let her know if it sold. When I wrote to her to let her know that it had in fact sold, she said “darn, those mini bookcases are so hard to find.”

Maybe people use them to store their Kindles and iPads, thus the preference for smaller shelves.




The Butler’s Table

This piece was with me a long time before I sold it. One reason such may have been the case is because I found it too humorous to resist titling it “Butler’s Table” on craigslist, the humor of which was likely lost on most people who did not study Victorian literature.

Another reason the table was with me so long was because the paint was stubborn as hell, and to make it look nice, it took a lot of effort to get in every crevice and nook of the thing. And I liked it and it looked rather swell in the kitchen. :/

When Nate Berkus’s videographer was here, he appraised it as being worth $50 in its current condition (after the paint was removed) and about $200 were I to go through all the proper motions to finish the restoration. Ultimately, I did take it from finished, to FINISHED, but did not pursue selling it anywhere besides the craigslist. I still knew it wasn’t perfecto, after all. And, it starting getting inquiries as soon as I changed the title to “Side Table.” yawn. but effective.

It was purchased by a nice woman, who brought her boisterous son of about 7 years old along with her. You know how some kids are shy? This one was not! He said “wowwww, you have so much stuff!” to which I replied “Do you watch TV?” but kind of looked to his mother for approval in asking that question; and then I took it even further by asking a 7-year-old if he watches the show Hoarders. I often have a lot of projects going on, which seems to irritate my allegedly minimalist boyfriend, who calls me a hoarder. Well, I sure felt vindicated when the little boy said “oh man, there’s no way you’re like THAT.” phew.




french antique


Her Turquoise Majesty

When you see this piece, you’ll see why I named it regally. She’s known as HTM for short.

This is the second piece I made during my “turquoise period.” I basically took inspiration from the piece I had just done (in my previous post), allowing the rustic, ridged antique elements to remain exposed along with the shelves, with the rest of the piece painted turquoise. This involved a trip to Menards to get more of the turquoise paint I was/am addicted to (the color, not the fumes!).

HTM was in bad shape when I first met her. But with an electric sander, some primer, and the esteemed turquoise paint (I make sure to tape the edges so I don’t get turquoise in the wrong spots), she came out beautifully. I added an Anthropologie knob that helped bring out the colors in both the paint and the wood. Although I’ve since discovered that Cost Plus World Market has great knobs, for less $$!

She’s in a good home now in Hyde Park, upon being purchased by a lovely couple who attend the University of Chicago.



SOLD FOR $45 (cuz really, who’s gonna pay more on craigslist for a night stand, no matter how “majestic” she may be…)

Just Like Picasso Had His Blue Period,

so did i have my turquoise one. ‘Twas a trilogy really that began with my neighbor bringing over a piece and us discussing our love for the turquoise orangey-brown combination. Her piece was a unique gem too! it was a little messed up but i forgot to take the before photo of it until i got this far in.

In addition to the top being scratched up, the hinge was falling off, but all it needed was a screwdriver to rehinge the hinge!  to get the door working. i added an Anthropology knob but kept the original one inside in case she preferred a more subtle look, although many people that came into my house, where that piece was visible and waiting for her to pick up, complimented the knob in particular. i didn’t make that. 😦 but i did have the eye for it. 🙂


turquoise side table



I’ll do anything to sell a desk


A man in the alley offered to help me with this desk, as it wouldn’t fit in my car. When he took out a knife to cut the rope, I realized he could well stab me to death, and questioned my determination to get this desk home.


Now that we’ve got it home…


Presentation is everything.

SOLD FOR $75. To someone who rented a Zipcar van.

The Two-Year Table

When my boyfriend and I first moved into our apartment, we had no coffee table, and I found one outside our artsy Ukranian Village neighborhood. However, we went on Craigslist furniture and quickly upgraded to someone’s Crate & Barrel coffee table, as ours was legitimately not in the greatest condition.

Paul thought it was hopeless. He thought that because one of the legs was falling off and that because it was chipped, we should ditch it. But I saw the beauty in it, the potential for what it could be. And my friend Melanie Lewis, who happens to be incredibly rad and seasoned in theatrical set design, came over and iterated to me that I do indeed have the power to fix and construct things. Sometimes all it takes is a screwdriver. This may also be the moment when I realized that I, not my boyfriend, am the “handyman” of the relationship.

So this table was my first experience with paint remover, and I used this one.  Oh, the blessed toxicity that I love to inhale and burn my body with! Ok, I try to wear gloves and keep windows open… but to every joke there is some truth!

I actually remember that I didn’t even know that paint remover existed, and I was just trying to scrape the old black paint off this table.  boy that was slow and painstaking. Thank you Home Depot.

I worked on stripping this table to perfection during the summer, and it had some crevices in the legs that took some time. By the time I was done, the season had changed and it was cold, and my work room is not insulated! So I let it sit for a while, until recently, when I decided the time had come to move on this table. I went to Blick Art Materials, bought myself some Blick Artists’s Acrylics, and started painting the table a light blue/violet. I knew that this shade would speak only to a few people, but those whom it worked for would love it. To accentuate the piece, or to just add a final touch, I added an Anthropologie knob to give it some character.

I sold it to the third person who responded to my post for it on Craigslist. The first person was rude.  I was actually going to go out of my way and deliver it to him, and he never got back to me to confirm his time and address. Maybe he thought I was a psycho killer who hides behind painted tables. The second person was waiting to measure her space once her new furniture arrived, and then it happened. One afternoon, a girl wrote to me that she LOVED the table. And I LOVED her right back, because she is exactly who I made it for. I told her that someone else might be interested in it next week (the dimension-waiting woman), and suffice it to say, she was over within hours to take it home with her so nobody else got it.

I hope it’s happy in its new home. 🙂