September 2011: Rental Rescue


I’m always fascinated by the people on those house hunting shows on television. I watch couple after couple immediately give up on some beautiful, affordable homes due to a few cosmetic imperfections. They wish the family room wasn’t carpeted, the kitchen had lighter cabinetry, and the dining room wasn’t adorned with sheep and maidens frolicking in an English Toile wallpapered paradise. Have these people never heard of laminate flooring, paint, and wallpaper stripping? 

Before: Outdated grandmother’s lamps.

The same goes for home furnishings: If it doesn’t come brand new, out of the box, and off the truck, people won’t give it a second look. Looking beyond the surface —of houses and furnishings—allows you to find affordable hidden potential and breathe new life into some forgotten favorites. 

Looking for a low-cost design challenge, I decided to go shopping inside my own home for neglected pieces in need of some serious love. I settled on a pair of table lamps that belonged to my boyfriend’s grandmother and had since been banished to the attic. Upon first glance, they’re large, outdated, and have damaged shades. Upon second glance, they have a really modern shape and size, similar to the lamps for sale in high-end boutiques. Using a few affordable materials and some quick, easy steps, I was able to breathe new life into these lamps without breaking the bank or blowing a fuse. 

Getting started

Materials: Spray primer, spray paint, painter’s tape.

Step 1: Prep the lamp by wiping it clean with a damp cloth to remove any dust, dirt, and debris (if you saw my attic, you’d know why). Tape off the metal base, socket, harp bottom, and vase cap (everything that you don’t want to paint). 

Step 2: In a well-ventilated area, spray the lamp with primer, using light, even strokes. Applying primer will help your paint better adhere to the lamp. 

Step 3: Once your primer is dry, spray the lamp with high-gloss paint in the color of your choice. (When spray-painting, always use light, even strokes in a side-to-side motion to avoid drip marks on your lamp. If the base/metal elements of your lamp need a spruce-up, you can use metallic spray paint, wrapping the rest of the lamp in plastic and securing it with painter’s tape. 

After: A coat of spray paint later, they’re fresh and modern.

Step 4: Top the lamp with a modern drum shade for a fresh, clean look. Attaching elements like grosgrain ribbon to the shade can add more detail.

Furniture, picture frames and mirrors can just as easily be painted for a quick and easy update. Get creative and add whimsy to your abode: Spray an old globe with a can of chalkboard paint to create a cute message center for adults, or a fun, interactive toy for the smaller set. 

Even reupholstery isn’t out of reach. With a staple gun in hand, you can easily reupholster the seats of your dining room chairs. Always start in the middle and work your way outward, making it easier to pull the fabric taut as you staple. For larger pieces, glue cording along the edges to hide staples and rough edges. 

Whether you’re shopping in a local consignment store or in your own attic, a little imagination, a few bucks and a few quick steps can make the old new again.—Ed Warwick

Before joining the ABODE team, Ed Warwick was the author of “Simply Cville,” a blog about D.I.Y. design, entertaining, and home improvement projects. A UVA grad, Ed currently works as the Coordinator of LGBT Student Services under the University’s Dean of Students.

Nitty gritty 

Sadly, sandpaper is not a romantic tool. This abrasive wonder lacks macho appeal and good looks. Yet sandpaper remains an essential part of your toolbox. Used to remove, polish or prepare material for finishing or gluing, sandpaper comes in many shapes, sizes, colors, and, of course, textures. 

Grit sizes adhere to specific standards, prominently marked on the reverse of the sandpaper to indicate that size particle’s best use. The lower the number, the larger the grit, and faster and rougher the removal of material. The average hobbyist, home-owner and/or woodworker will be well-equipped with a range of sandpapers from 60 to 400. For repairs and small projects around the home, I use predominantly 150 and 220 grits. 

Technology has advanced since sandpaper’s first recorded appearance in 13th century China, but a certain amount of elbow grease and repetitive motion is still required for any proper sanding job. 

Let’s say you wanted to refinish your grandmother’s antique hand-me-down cherry coffee table. And let’s say that your dear Uncle Frank decided to “protect the beauty of the wood” with a few coats of high gloss urethane back in the ’80s. Instead of breaking out the toxic chem-ical strippers, may I suggest that you hunker down with your col-
lection of sandpaper and perhaps a hand-held, electric sander?

Start with no finer than 60 grit, make short work of that thick topcoat. If you’re not using an electric sander (I prefer the random orbital, myself) equip yourself with a solid sanding block. Once you’ve gotten the majority of the resin off, step up to 80 grit and get down to the wood. Smooth out the scratches with 100 or 120 followed by 150, 180 or 220. 

Depending on how you are planning to finish the piece (I recommend a natural Tung oil), you may be done sanding or you may want to give it an extra fine rub-down with 320 and 400.—Christy Baker 

Christy Baker is a local Jane-of-all-trades. Whether it’s fixing furniture, building a chicken coop or maintaining her roller skates, this creative mom of two always keeps a tool-box (or at least some duct tape) handy.