This set of six Mid Century Thonet dining chairs have been patiently awaiting an overhaul. Luckily for them it was sunny in Seattle last week so I had a good excuse to finally get this project started. In addition to the great weather I was also fortunate to have help in the form of my brother-in-law, Zach. He wanted to learn how to refinish wood and I needed a second set of hands.
Many of our pieces can get by with a small bit of touchup; removing a spot of paint or sanding out and oiling a scuff. Not this set. The vinyl was splitting and peeling, the finish had worn through, and the stain was splotchy. These chairs needed to be fully sanded, restained and reupholstered.
This project, although extensive, was worth it for us because these are iconic chairs with a classic silhouette. I feel great giving them at least another 50 years of life.
Here's what I used for this project:Lint Free Rags (Old t-shirts work great)
After I had all of my supplies together we disassembled the chairs. This made sanding quicker and in this case it allowed us to send off the cushions to be reupholstered while we worked on the wood.
Next we sanded every piece down by hand. Here's Zach being a hero and taking on the bulk of the sanding. We started with 80 grit sandpaper and sanded with the grain until the finish and stain came off completely. Then we went over it again with 220 grit sandpaper. The 220 smoothed out the surface and allowed the stain to apply more evenly.
I have learned to never be lazy about sanding. It feels terrible to sand away for hours only to have the stain go on poorly and then be stuck sanding everything over again. Don't skimp on sanding.
Once we had the first leg sanded we tested out a few different shades and types of stains and settled on a gel stain in dark walnut. Oil-based stains are great for bringing out the highlights and natural colors of wood grain but they're harder to work with than gel stains. Gel stain applies much more evenly than oil-based and it is easier to clean up . Since I was looking to keep the color as even as possible and because I was working with Zach on his first project, gel stain was the best option.
Before and after the first coat of stain.
I'm nearly done staining the chairs and the frames should be ready by the time we get the cushions back from our upholsterer. These two plaids were our top choices. Michele decided on the vintage blue Pendleton plaid fabric because the teal stripe feels more summery than the burgundy. Everything should be finished in a week or two. I can't wait to see it all come together.
A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of writing a blog post that was chosen to be featured on Assemble Shop & Studio's blog. It was a response to a post of theirs about "failing up". You should read it, it's a good one.
Assemble is a small business based in Seattle and run by the charming duo, Andie Powers and Emily Grosse. They have an online shop that sells housewares, books, stationary, art, crafting kits and all sorts of great gifts and accessories. They also have online tutorials that go hand in hand with their crafting kits and keep an eye out for their next pop-up shop or craft + chat! I feel lucky to have been chosen and that the post got such a positive response.
As many of you know Ryan and I had quite the year. I suppose I should have done a better job writing about it but it seems like such a buzz kill. The whole not wanting to be a downer aspect is most likely why it took me so long to re-post this super personal story about the whole thing. For a look at the full post with images check it out on their blog.
Here goes nothing.
Photo by Kristen Marie Photography
As many of you know we had to completely renovate our second story because of an electrical fire. Before the fire it was a cozy attic bedroom with dark eggplant walls and a low ceiling. Our bathroom was a golden yellow with white beadboard and a single sky light.
This was how it looked when we were featured on Apartment Therapy.
Up to this point I had pretty much only received positive feedback from friends and family on the house. I was proud of my work in general, but I knew there was room for improvement.
Before our house tour went live I was warned to under no circumstances read the comments left about it. People leave negative comments just because they can. Don't let them get to you. I couldn't help myself, I was really interested to see what my peers (other people who read Apartment Therapy regularly) thought.
Almost all of the comments were positive. It felt nice to hear that other people (people that didn't know me) thought I did a great job on our home. It felt "warm, cozy, perfectly Seattle." Maybe I should have stopped there. Of course I didn't.
The comment that stuck with me, and that actually made me cry, was something to the tune of, 'This is all just junk. Get rid of everything and start over.' Why did I hang on to this instead of focusing on all the compliments? I think it's because we occasionally need that kind of feedback to improve. Tough love. It hurts, but without it we would just flat line. At least I would.
It's safe to say that 99% of the things we own were not purchased brand new, but those things are not junk. I'm very sensitive to not letting my house look like a yard sale. I want to be a shining example for buying vintage by having a clean, stand out home that looks better than any cut-and-paste house filled with all Restoration Hardware pieces. I don't want people to think that vintage means out-dated upholstery, jars of buttons and dusty bowls of dried flower petals. Vintage for me is thick well-worn leather, solid wood, fine craftsmanship, classic metals, natural fibers, timeless patterns, and re-purposing (but not in the DIY kind of way) old pieces to fill current needs.
For example, we use this trunk as a laundry hamper. The only thing we did was clean it.
I want to continually grow as a decorator and push myself out of my comfort zone. That can be a challenge in your own home. When it comes to your personal things it's hard to see your stuff and your space with fresh eyes. I needed a clean slate. Luckily, that's exactly what I got.
When we moved back into our home our goal for the master suite was to make it feel like an escape from the rest of the house. Our main floor and basement are filled with Homestead Seattle things. The upstairs is our space. We wanted it to be clean and relaxing. I wanted to get rid of the majority of the tiny knick-knacks and highlight the pieces that were really stars. I wanted to lessen the heavy burden of all of our stuff.
Here's the first step of that transformation.
Good boy, Jake.
My brass animal collection.
I'm not crazy about the painted vanity but it was badly damaged in the fire and this rescued it.
That old wood container used to store nails and now it holds dog food.
The ottoman is for sale in our shop. We were borrowing it for size and color.
We lovingly named this guy Franken-Chair. He may be too distressed for some but he's not junk. We had the springs restored and frame re-glued so he is structurally sound and very comfortable.
There's still too much stuff on the bookcase.
The view from our loft.
The biggest changes upstairs are the vaulted ceiling, wood beams, loft, darker floors, new windows, additional skylight, painted vanity, glossy black doors and white walls everywhere. If you would've asked me the day of our Apartment Therapy shoot what I thought about white walls I would have told you, 'I don't live in a sterile apartment. I own my home.' What a snob. Also, what an idiot.
White walls, especially in an attic, are amazing. Talk to anybody that lives in Amsterdam.
While I still have strong negative feelings towards primer-white, there are thousands off warm whites out there that really make a room feel fresh and let the furniture and the things stand out. We used Benjamin Moore White Dove, semi gloss on the trim and eggshell on the walls. Part of me wishes I had used semi-gloss everywhere but I'm not going to beat myself up over it.
I am in love with our room. I think it does need a little work though.
My current design style is practical and need-based. I like to figure out what I (or the person who lives there) actually needs in a room and then to use that to dictate everything. The struggle here is I don't know what our exact needs are for this room.
This is our current list, these things can stay:- A bed
Ralph Lauren, Winter Rose. So good.
The best thing about our master suite is that no matter how crazy our day was, when we get in bed at night we feel stable, calm and proud. When we wake up in the morning we get to start the day fresh with a clean palate and clean mind.
I haven't given up on color, it will definitely be re-introduced thoughout the house, but the white gives our eyes and mind a break and some time to actually see our things and simplify our lives.
First off, no I have not finished the hall. Actually, it is pretty crazy right now. But there's the marble table and bamboo chairs.
It's a start.
I'll get to it soon, I promise.
The problem is I've been really distracted by our newly refinished basement. It was the final part of our renovation and we have been dying without it since we moved back into our house in September. Our house is big, but not big enough for us and all of the furniture that lives here.
The stairs were a nightmare and you hit your head on the ceiling every time you went up or down them. There were awkward useless rooms separated by rotting drywall. An enormous ancient heating system took up a majority of the space. The windows were old and didn't open. And the floor was something that no person should walk on with bare feet. Ever.
I'm obsessed with this rug though. On the other side of that wall was this eyesore. The soon to be top of our dining table. It was super creepy, and this is after a ton of work.
The goal is to live out our industrial warehouse dreams down here.
We don't have the insane natural light or square footage of this place. Which of course happens to be in Barcelona (adding insult to injury). But we do have exposed ceilings, new windows, waxed concrete floors, a 1903 brick chimney, vintage doors with original hardware and a loft. Not bad.
We plan on using our basement for shop related projects, to organize upcoming product and for general hang out during the day while we work. Essentially this will be our office and we want it to look dope.
So, we started with this chesterfield sofa that we found on Craigslist.
Read it and weep.
Super distressed Argentinian leather, original horse hair fill and a sprung front rail. I have been searching for this sofa for years and now I have it.
MY JOB IS AMAZING.
Back to the basement. It's a work in progress but here's what it looks like right now.
Ignore the dining room chandelier. Behind that tapestry is a huge loft that is currently filled with projects but some day will have a guest bed. This is our first crack at a layout. I'm sure as we spend more time down here things will change. And yes, we still have a ton of work to do.
BUT IT'S GOING TO BE INCREDIBLE.
I'm having trouble deciding if I want to keep the ceiling the way it is with the dark wood and stain all the newer beams to match or just paint everything white. I think a white ceiling would brighten up the space and give it a really clean look, but I hate painting wood that has such great character.
I guess we'll just have to start using the space and see how it makes us feel. Rooms have a way of telling you what they need.
Yes, my house communicates with me. It's only weird if you make it weird.