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I picked up this pair of lamps last weekend at my favorite vintage furniture store.

I love the burlap shades and milk glass details.

My plan is to spraypaint the wood and strip the brass plating with oven cleaner.   Yep, oven cleaner.  The blogisphere tells me that’ll work.

Will they stay in the dining room?  Who knows.  For now, they flank the bar nicely.

In 2nd floor news, Anuj painted the trim on the windows with house favorite White Dove.

We’ll finish the insides when it’s warmer and we can open the windows.

The next question for this room is what fabric to use for shades.  I was having troubling deciding what color direction to go in to offset the I-wish-they-were-grayer walls.  The truth is, I don’t hate the blue as much as I did two weeks ago.  So I taped up a few black and white swatches.

On the other window, I taped up a few brown/cream swatches.  (note: these pics were taken when the trim was primed, not yet painted)

The browns were nice, but confirmed for us that black/white is the way to go.

Excited about getting some projects underway.




I’m finally getting around to posting my first project of the summer.  I think it’s actually my first start-to-finish DIY furniture project – I don’t count our guest room bed since that was already white when we bought it.  This…is the sideboard project.  I started the project back in April, but had to pause when I went away to my residency in May, so it wasn’t completed until June.

Without further ado, here is The Sideboard.

Calling out to us from the back corner of the used furniture store.


Testing out its position in our dining room.  That’s Edgecomb Gray on the walls. And if you’re wondering what that red thing under the back right leg is, it’s a plastic-encased notebook from the Berkshire International Film Festival.  I’m putting the schwag to use.


I reeeaaaally hope people don’t tell me it looked better unpainted.


Anuj’s contribution to the project came in sanding down the flat surfaces of the sideboard with his new toy from Home Depot: an electric sander!  (I had to do the legs by hand…)

After sanding, we wiped the piece down with a damp towel.  It wasn’t until after we’d painted it that my Dad informed me using a a damp towel to absorb saw dust is a bad idea.  Apparently the water raises the grain of the wood, making it less smooth (and less attractive).  Better to use a tack cloth.  Thanks Dad.


I primed it with…what else?  BIN.  I use BIN like I use olive oil – it goes on everything.  I love it, except when it gets on your deck and won’t come out.  Even with furious scrubbing and soap and…nope.  We now have a BIN-stained deck.

As for its coverage on shelves and furniture, I like to think of BIN as SPF 90.  Ain’t nothing getting through.  It’s great for really unattractive, knotty pieces of wood.  Probably wasn’t necessary on our sideboard, but it’s what I had.  Any recommendations for a more SPF 25 – type wood primer?

After ruining the deck priming the piece, we brought it back inside to paint, stopping in the dining room again to see how it would look as a lighter color.  See, we hadn’t fully committed to a color for the sideboard.  We were waiting for some kind of divine inspiration but nothing was coming.  All we had was some leftover Gray Owl from the city (we’re repainting our apartment and looking for the perfect gray – help?).  You can’t get a sample of Gray Owl so we had to buy the quart.  I was convinced it would work on our apartment walls, but it was too blue, so we brought the quart upstate in the hopes we’re find a use for it.



Here was the opportunity.

Funny how Gray Owl is too blue in the city, and too white here.  Ugh.  I was convinced we’d turned our chic dream sideboard into a shabby chic nightmare.

Gray Owl:


Now, I’m not dissing shabby chic.  I had my shabby chic phase in college.  Back then, if you gave me an overstuffed sofa, floral curtains, baskets hung from the walls, and chunky, white painted furniture, I was your girl.  Gray Owl was supposed to be gray.  But it is white.

Back to the paint store (return visits to the paint and hardware store seem to be a recurring theme for us…), grumbling.  Before deciding on Gray Owl, Anuj and I had discussed painting the piece a dark color, like black (remember the yummy piece from Aero?).  But our dining room isn’t huge and we were afraid a black sideboard might eat up the whole room.  Anuj wanted to go with red, but I wasn’t sure, as the piece didn’t exactly say ‘chinoiserie’.  So there we stood in the paint store, frustrated, and running out of ideas.  ‘What about eggplant?’ I asked?  ‘Eggplant?’  ‘Yeah, dark purple.  Like really dark.  Almost black, but not.’  ‘Won’t that make the sideboard look bigger?’  ‘Maybe.  But I don’t care anymore.’  ‘Okay, fine.  We’ll go with eggplant.’  And so with that, Anuj chose a paint chip, we brought it to the counter, paid, and walked out of the store carrying a quart of our new color for the sideboard.


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We have a wall in our dining room that’s waiting for a sideboard.  For a while, we were thinking we’d go for an Asian piece.  Forgive my cultural insensitivity, I meant to say chinoiserie piece. You know the ones all over ABC Carpet & Home that are insanely priced and gloriously seductive?  Anuj is partial to the red lacquered ones.

High end ($5,000+)

Just browsing, thank you:


Mid-range ($1,000-2000)

I’ve loved this japonais piece by Room & Board for like, eva:

Zen table Room & Board

Crate & Barrel:


Low end (<$500)

Not surprisingly, the retail options grow sparse when your budget is <$500.  If you can manage to walk into your local Pier 1 without being hit by a migraine from their tropical-holiday-fruit cocktail-scented candles, you might see this:

Pier One media cabinetEh.

Times being what they are, our budget is more like <$250.  So a new sideboard, even a knockoff from Pier 1, was shelved (apologies pun-haters), until such time as a better option presented itself.

That time was Saturday, when I visited a local used furniture store and fell in love with a piece priced to move at $125.  Forget the chinoiserie fantasy, why not spruce it up with some paint and new hardware and call it day?

Barb from Knack Studios turned this:

George - Knack Studiosinto this:

George After - Knack Studios

Who says I can’t turn this:


Into this:

martha-stewart-chinoiserie-sideboardAnuj likes the idea – but not the hi-gloss.  I’ll work on him.  In the meantime, here’s the black sideboard in action at Aero (stickie that chandelier):


This one’s hiding in back, but love the red chairs and top-aligned art (



We were out with friends in NYC last night when I spotted a lonely Marais chair in the back room of the bar we were at.  I say lonely because the bar/restaurant is a grits n’ pulled pork kinda place with down-home decor.  We were hanging out in the ‘living room’ which included a fake fireplace, coffee tables and mismatched leather couches.  Then there was the Marais chair, just sittin’ in the middle of the room.  My heart did a little leap when I saw it.

I’ve been putting a mental stickie on that chair for the last year or so.  They’ve got them at the MassMoca cafe, and every now and then they show up in a magazine or blog.  So let’s just take a moment and consider the Marais:

yellow Marais chairs



I’m not a yellow girl, but I love that Lemon.

Green, too!


Here it is in the standard Gunmetal:

metal marais chairs

(Living, Etc.)

And as DWR advertises it:


This one’s sporting the arms, but aren’t they all so chic with the chunky farm tables?

This presents a dilemma – what to do about my other crush?

I’m not one for resolutions – I don’t make them, so I can’t break them.  I do, however, keep a running home improvement to-do list in my head, and I figured getting it down on paper (or .php) might help me visualize the extent of the projects – and the reality of completing them in the next 11+ months.

So herewith are my 2009 home improvement goals, in room/area order (score on already achieving my first goal of writing it down):

  1. make a home improvement binder that includes measurements for each room, including windows, closets, floors, etc.  Also include contact numbers for repairmen, hardware store, etc.  (note: this is separate from my magazine ‘inspiration’ binder –  alright, binders.)
  2. strategize about deck issue (ugh, long story)
  3. add post to top of driveway with better address signage
  4. mudroom – a place to sit/put on boots/store hats
  5. living room – couches?
  6. dining room – reupholster & reglue chairs
  7. dining room – table
  8. living room/loft – tv solution
  9. master – bed and mattress –  no more sleeping on the floor!
  10. master – paint
  11. upstairs bath – sconces
  12. upstairs bath – solution for storing towels, etc.
  13. upstairs hall – clean and line drawers of dresser
  14. upstairs bedroom(s) – replace trim
  15. upstairs bedroom(s) – paint
  16. basement bedroom – bed
  17. basement bedroom – paint
  18. all bedrooms – update window treatments (IKEA?)
  19. water heater – wait for it to die?  replace?
  20. gutters?  repair?
  21. document improvements more regularly, and more professionally (my photos err on the blurry side)

You’ll note that many of these goals are simply furnishing rooms.  It’s true; though we’ve had our place for almost a year, there are still rooms that are nearly empty.  The hand-me-downs have been great – but they only took us so far.  That, and, well, we’re looking forward to replacing some of the pieces we inherited with pieces we choose.  That came out wrong – I love my inherited furniture.  I just mean a girl can aspire to having actual dining chairs and table instead of folding chairs and folding table (remember: those Queen Anne chairs aren’t safe to sit in).

So I guess I’ll check back in around say…December to see how I did.  Works done, right?  I set my goals?  Kudos to me and now all the above will simply fall into place?

I’ve been fantasizing about reupholstering this set of antique oak (Queen Anne?) dining chairs I inherited from my mother when she moved to North Carolina this year.  Here’s a couple of them – the rest are acting as bedroom furniture:

Dining room After - with rug

A few weeks ago, I came across the Calico Corners website (wasn’t that a country-cheesy catalog back in the 80’s? I think my parents ordered from it…).  There I saw and fell in love with Annie Selke’s line of bright, India-inspired fabrics, so I ordered a few samples.

Anuj was concerned.  Where did I think I was going to put this fabric?  I’d never upholstered anything before.  ‘I sewed in junior high school’, I replied in my defense.  ‘I was a Future Homemaker of America.’  (I really was, for about half the school year.  Let’s just say it didn’t exactly help in the popularity department).  When I told him it was for the dining chairs, he let it go.  See, Anuj doesn’t like the dining chairs: he thinks they’re country-cheesy, and the legs and seat are coming apart so they’re not even safe to sit in.  As far as Anuj was concerned, there was no plan to feature them in the house.  And my samples?  They were yet another fantasy of mine that I would forget in two months.

I, however, am hatching a plan to transform them from their tired, wobbly status into chic, contemporary conversation-starters.  I’m going to reupholster the seats (easy for newbies, right?), and either restain or paint the chairs.  Then they might look something like this:


Now, I’m not crazy about the fabric-paint combo, but you get the idea.

Anyway, I got the opinions of Anuj and friends who were up for New Year’s Eve and the consensus was Annie Selke’s ‘Scramble’ in Slate:


No sooner than that was decided then my February issue of House Beautiful arrives in the mail.  What’s on the cover?


Yep, a set of dining chairs upholstered in Annie Selke’s ‘Scramble’ in Slate.  I take this as a sign.  (I know, I know, I had a ‘sign’ last month, too.  I’m not going Shirley MacLaine or anything, I think the universe is just spinning in my direction lately).  I won’t be stealing the whole look, but overall, this completely validates my choice and inspires me to tackle the project tout de suite.

Also: I now have a visual to help Anuj imagine our chairs in their new look.  Now, if I can just get this fabric from Calico Corners before it sells out…

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