Sunday, 19 May 2013

How to re-vamp, re-use and restore.

I try to decorate my house with things that I like, that are interesting and have a story. Sometimes the story is in how I came to find the piece, which more often or not is eBay, or council clean up.  It’s some sort of subconscious challenge I give myself…to get something awesome, for nothing. It’s not about being tight (although saving money is definitely a big plus), it’s about the creative challenge and finding unique pieces that can’t just be bought. I definitely think it is a skill to be able to find the potential in something that has been thrown curb side, and not everyone has that skill. If you think you have an eye for it, but lack the hands on know-how to revamp your find, then keep reading.

That’s not to say I don’t like new things…I mean who wants an old lounge or an old mattress, yuck. Even I have my limits. I definitely feel myself rebelling against societies pressure to have everything new, up-to-date, the latest trend. I loved that my Grandparents house always stayed the same. My Grandma would serve tea in the same cups that her mother did. The playing cards that we played with were the same ones my Dad played with. Grandma mixed ingredients with the same spoons for 65 years until they literally wore down. There was certainly a sense of comfort and stability that came from the familiar objects in their home.

When Grandma died, I got her spoons. That’s what I wanted. To me they tell a story of a bygone era. Where women were housewives, they physically worked hard yet were expected to appear well ironed while doing it, they bought or were given quality items when they were married in the hope they would last a life-time and serve their family well. Grandma baked and cooked from scratch every single day of her life, that is how those spoons were worn down. Women still work hard today, but in a different way. Today, nothing gets worn down. It either breaks and is tossed, or a newer, better one comes out and it is tossed to make way for the new purchase.

It’s kind of sickening all the waste that happens and not just from an environmental standpoint. I hate that society as a whole is made to feel that they need the ‘latest’ to fit in and be acceptable. Young women will put a $5000 handbag on a credit card because they just ‘needed’ it, or at least made to feel they did to fit in and be seen as a worthwhile person…seriously? To me it’s a kind of illness.

I want my home to be a welcoming place. A place where relationships can grow and memories made. A place that represents creativity, stability and family. I know it comes down to personal taste, but I definitely don’t want it to look clinical or sleek. I want it to look like a family lives here. I want to see evidence of life in the objects it holds. Everybody has a personal style, and my house definitely all me. Is your house you, or have you let the marketing genius from the 2012 summer collection decide that for you? Baaaaa (if the answer is yes, then yes, you are a sheep).

Anyway. Here is a quick ‘How To” re-vamp something that is old. I recently bought on eBay this pine dresser for $70. Pine generally is pretty crappy and it looks really 90’s country. They used to make furniture out of oak and walnut, but they are too slow growing for our societies taste for disposable furniture. Pines are a fast growing tree, which makes it a practical choice for plantations. All that said, this is a really solid piece of furniture. We have a walk-in pantry, which also doubles as a laundry. Bit of a bad combo. I had open shelving for all the food, but practically it was a really bad idea. Aside from looking really messy, it wasn’t really big enough and everything was getting covered with lint every time I used the dryer. This dresser will hopefully solve some of my problems. I decided to paint it a solid colour. Fortunately I had paint left over from another project, so I just used that.

<cough> I know, its bad.
1.       Give the whole thing a light sand. You need to create a surface for the paint to stick to. Ideally it should be sanded back to the timber…but there is no way I am that bothered. Also remove any handles and the glass if you are able. A professional would say to remove the doors and hinges, but I’m not a professional, so I just pained right over them. When you are finished, wipe it over with a damp cloth to remove all the dust.

2.       Next apply an undercoat or primer with a paintbrush. This is important because it is designed to stick better than the top coat, while also providing a better surface for your paint to stick to. The one I used also promises to block out stains which is important when painting timbers as the tannins will want to bleed through to the top coat.

3.       Paint the top coat. I did two coats. I also used a gloss, because this is just what I had. Glosses are hard wearing. I would normally have probably chosen a satin finish which is somewhere in between a matt and gloss. I find matt finishes are harder to clean and get grubbier quicker.

4.       I put new handles on. I happened to have these already from another project.

5.       I lined the shelves with scrapbooking paper, just to protect the shelves really while the paint was hardening…also looks nice.

6.       Da-daaaaa. Installed in my pantry/laundry.


These steps could be applied to any furniture. Next time you’re driving along and see an old timber chair on a curb-side clean up pile pull over and jam it into your boot.

Just to show you a few more re-vamp projects I have done. I bought our bed on eBay. It came from France and is 100 years old. It was upholstered in blue velvet that smelled 100 years old so I re-upholstered it in a white leather (pleather really). It has hand carved roses and forget-me-knots at the head, foot, sides and legs. I love it and want to keep it until I'm a little old lady.

The bedside tables I found on the side of the road. They were white, but I just painted them a bright watermelon colour. I wanted something fun to take away from the antiqui-seriousness of our bed and I think they do the job just great. I was trying to post more pics but my computer has chosen this moment to have a melt down. Until next time...x







  1. That looks fantastic Kathryn! I'd love to do that one day!

  2. Hi Kathryn,
    Only just found this blog today - Rach and I went to Gosford today where she bought a chicken house ... we were talking about you and your fantastic country ways ... thought I'd check to see if you had written a second blog yet ..and YESSSS, here it is.
    Love what you did to the dresser/pantry. Also love your refusal to fall for the pressure just to be 'modern'. Like you I love the sense of history that comes from owning family hand-me-downs. I think that 'old-fashioned' ideal of owning things for a life-time extended not just to items, but to family, and to other relationships as well. Too easy to throw away things (and people) in the hope of getting something better, rather than valuing, protecting and growing the originals.