Thursday, August 28, 2014

Up-cycled Desk

A few weeks ago, while walking on Hyde Street in San Francisco, my husband and I came across this desk, sitting on the street, begging to be picked up and to be given a new life.

After talking about it, we decided to give it a try. My husband walked back home with the dog to go get the car, and I stayed by the desk with our son, keeping guard in case anybody else decided they wanted it too,

Step 1
Pick up desk!

Once we had the desk at home, I immediately knew what color I wanted it to be: yellow. We were about to move into a new house and I wanted to replace my old desk with something brighter and prettier.

Step 2
Clean the desk throughly, sand any imperfections to make the surface even. Paint the desk. For this you have to choose your color (the hardest part) and the finishing of your color. I chose a bright (but not too bright!) yellow in satin finishing.

I had to apply 3 coats of paint for the old color to be completely gone and for the yellow to be vibrant and completely even. I let each coat dry for about an hour before applying the next one. Generally, it took me about an hour to finish each coast so, as soon as I was done with one, I could immediately move to the next.  After I was done with all the layer, I recommend you let the piece dry for at least 24-48 hours before putting anything on it.

I used a fine paint brush used in artistic painting to pain the small details on the desk.

Step 3
Choose your knobs. This is the perfect way to add flare to your project. It's the perfect place to add your mark, your own personal touch. I went to Anthropology and chose this knob design because the copper matched the handles on my dresser and the red also matched the color of my dressed, pulling it all together nicely.

Step 4
Install knobs and admire your beautiful creation! Total cost of this project: Under $50.00.

I love all the storage this gives me. I'm planning on making a matching mini-shelf unit out of an Ikea table I bought to hold my printer a long time ago. More on that later...

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

How to Mosaic a Bench

Finding the Right Piece to Mosaic
This project started when my husband and I were walking from our apartment to a park in Santa Barbara and saw this garden bench sitting on the curb, waiting to be transformed.

After having been watching some home improvement shows, we knew we could turn this rough beauty into a work of art. We didn't think too much about it and we picked it up, walked back to our apartment and left it there until the next step.

The bench was in overall good condition but it definitely needed some loving. We cleaned it thoroughly, sanded all the surface (especially a portion that had some zap on it), and added a bit of wood to one of the legs so that it would sit steady.

A good friend of mine had told me about her recent mosaic projects and I thought this bench would look beautiful with a mosaic top. It even had a ledge all around to provide the ideal framing for the tiles!

When the bench was clean, I stained it a dark cherry wood color that I thought would much the rest of my furniture nicely. It is very important to do the sanding and staining steps in a well ventilated area, preferably outdoor to prevent inhaling toxic particles or chemicals.

Choosing & Finding your Tile
The next step was to find tile to use for the mosaic. For this I went to the tile stores in town. After I explained what I was working on, the clerk at the store directed me to the bins on the back of the store that had all the tile samples from the previous season. They told me I could take as many as I wanted so, with the help of a friend, I loaded up on as much tile as I could carry and then trained home.

I also went to Home Depot to buy a couple of color ceramic tiles. Later, I went back to the tile store to see if they had any yellow tiles because I didn't find any elsewhere. Turned out they did and they let me take a couple for free!

So far I had the tile and the bench was ready, but I didn't have a design.  Inspired by my hikes in Santa Barbara I decided to do a lizard mosaic with a background that resembled the Spanish tiles that are all over Santa Barbara. I looked for a lizard image that I liked online and, voila, I was ready to go!

Doing the Work with Tools
Ceramic tiles can be broken with a hammer but, stone tiles need to be cut with a heavier duty tool. To cut perfect pieces to fit nicely in each space, I bought a pair of mosaic tile cutters. When using these cutters, it is VERY important to wear eye protection as each time you cut a tile, there is the potential for shards to fly all over the place.

Stone tiles for the lizard. I had to buy a couple of color tiles from Home Depot to add the colorful background

After you have your design, you can start laying down the tile pieces where you'd want them to go. Once it's all ready, start glueing it using Weld Bond glue. Put a little bit of glue on each tile piece and apply pressure on it after setting it down on the surface.

Let it dry for 24-48 hours. You want it to dry well so that pieces don't come off in the next steps.

Before grout
Before grout
Choose a color of grout that fits your project well. White grout is striking, but harder to keep clean. Black grout creates a more formal look, but depending on the color of the mosaic pieces, they may not show up as well. Apply grout to the table, smoothing it between the pieces of the mosaic. Press the grout into the spaces to eliminate air bubbles, and extend the grout to the very edge of the table. When all spaces are filled, wipe off the excess grout with a damp cloth.

After grout
Allow the grout to dry completely. Buff the mosaic with a dry cloth to remove any haze left behind by the grout. Then apply a spray sealant to keep the grout from staining. I used penetrating seal (safeguard) and applied it with a piece of cloth.

After grout

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Starting Fresh - Moving into a New House

We are moving into a house on Saturday. This is the first time we're going to be living in a single family home and we couldn't be any more excited! This is not the first time, however, that I am faced with a new space to decorate and make my own.

When we were students living in Saint Paul, MN, we were not allowed to paint the walls of our place or do much. Because we were in Santa Barbara for only a year, we didn't want to do much to our place. Once in San Francisco, our landlord told us to make our apartment our own and we did. We painted the place, each room as different color, and it looked great. In fact, it looked so pretty that, when the landlord was looking at selling the building, he asked us to use our unit as the model one for showings!

Our living room. This is one of four different setups we tried. The orchid on the top right corner is the present from our landlord for letting him use our unit as a model!

But, decorating is not only about painting, of course. I often think that it's the small details in a house that really make it a home. I love when people walk into a space and they see you in there. I also don't like spending lots of money of furniture and decoration because we are free spirited people and, who knows, we might end up moving far away at some place and I would hate to have lots of pricey earthly belongings to deal with. I rather save money for travel instead of for furniture.

For this new house, I plan to carefully look for the perfect details. The house is small so every piece needs to count. In order to do this, I'm planning on up-cycling pieces that I find in goodwill, at flea markets or on Craigslist. I've always loved transforming objects and doing art but the lack of a space to do the work has been holding me back for the past two and a half years. With a yard, now is the perfect time to start again!

Of course, not all these projects have to be elaborate ones. Some might just consist of finding the perfect frame in Goodwill for the sketches I drew while walking the Camino de Santiago, or painting a frame to match the other ones. In general, I try to cut my own matting when possible. For a while I was on a frame binge. I have so many frames I don't even know what to do with them!

I think I paid less than 50 dollars total for all these frames!
Or creating your own art.

The two whale pictures were cards I received at my baby shower. They were so cute I decided to frame them and use them as art in my son's room.

There will be more complex projects like turning an old garden bench we found on the street into a beautiful mosaic bench. More on that on my next post.

Found the bench on the street, got the tile for free at a tile store. Got my inspiration from all the lizards I saw while hiking the Santa Barbara mountains.

Whatever the project is, I'm planning on using this blog to record my work, share is with friend and put my ideas out there. I already have a project sitting in our baby's room, waiting for me to give it new life.

Found this gorgeous desk while walking around the city. I stayed by it while my husband went to get the car to load it up. I'm planning on sanding it, giving it a fresh new color and finding the perfect knobs to give it a new life!

Hope you'll find these projects interesting and inspiring!