A girl and her cat take on the world with nothing more than a cup of tea and a good book and enough dreams to fill the universe.
We might as well call this post “My Adventures in DIY” because what started as a quest for the perfect kitchen table and the growing sense of dread that I would be eating on the couch and unable to have people over to dinner until I received my first paycheck in September became a week full of sanding and repainting and more sanding and more painting and figuring out how to wallpaper. I have obviously been spending too much time on Pinterest lately and so my mind has been filled with thoughts about DIY – do-it-yourself. It’s supposed to be cheaper and supposed to be easy and geared towards people with the skill level of a newborn giraffe learning to walk, in other words people like me.
So, one morning while my dad and I were riding our bikes to Walmart to pick up some picture frames, we decided to stop at our neighborhood weekly garage sale. We asked the nice lady if she had a dining table and chair for sale and she actually did, which definitely surprised me and then it surprised me even more that it was a table and couple of chairs worth buying. Though we were on our bikes, we forked over the $25 and the table was mine. I was excited to have a table, but a little worried about how it looked. It’s a really ugly table that’s a rounded off 36″ by 36″ square with a white plastic sticker type top and edged in that fake plastic wood stuff. It has leaves that drop down, but that I will put up as soon as I am in my new place and I will cover that thing so quickly with a tablecloth, it’ll look like magic. The legs consist of four pieces of metal tubing that extend from the middle down and fan out in four directions. It was painted a really hideous off-white that had seen better days. The two chairs were a blond wood with wicker seats. They’re pretty small, but they’ll do. After returning from Walmart and picking up the chairs, I mentioned to my dad that I might like to paint the chairs. He kind of dismissed me saying it would be too much work.
The weeks dragged by and suddenly, I learned that I could move in Saturday, June 27th. I thought I’d be moving the first, but now I could move earlier. The nerves and anxiety settled in my stomach. I quit sleeping and with all that extra time on my hands, I spent more and more time on Pinterest. Through unspoken agreement, my dad went along with me when I asked for sandpaper because I wanted to paint my chairs. He helped me pick the right grain and let me get to work. I spent an evening sanding and sanding and sanding those chairs, the two stools I learned that I was going to get to take with me and a really old and ugly white bookcase I had. After all the sanding was done, my dad and I headed to Walmart again to pick out some paint. I wanted everything black. It might sound silly, but I really believe that black makes things look nicer and I wanted all of these blond wood things and this one white bookcase to look nicer. They were all in some desperate need for some TLC.
On Father’s Day, my dad showed me the ins and outs of spray painting. The key is to take it in short, quick bursts and to keep your spray paint can moving. I still got a few drips on my first coat, but I did all right. I definitely used too much paint though and had to go back to Walmart for some more paint. My dad helped me with the bookcase and the stools, but the chairs I spray painted by myself. All during this project, I kept thinking about how I really hated the wicker seats and wanted to build and upholster new seats. Dad called me off that project and kept me focused. It was a really sweet way to spend Father’s Day with my dad, especially since I can be a bit of a Tom Sawyer and try and pawn off the harder parts on other people. It was also nice to just do something productive and meaningful. My dad and I really struggle to get along sometimes and, while we’ve been doing really well recently, this project seemed to help us.
After a few more coats of paint and some sanding down of the drips, my chairs and bookcase were ready for the next steps yesterday. I put the wicker back on the seats and now the chairs are proudly finished. In all of the Pinterest reading, I read a lot about people wallpapering the backs of their bookcases. I thought I’d try it out too. I ordered wallpaper online from Amazon and thought I was getting a wonderful bright blue that would compliment my paintings and color scheme for the living room and dining room. When it arrived in the mail today, it was more of a grayish baby blue. Not quite what I was going for, but I’d make it work. Dad helped me again when I couldn’t figure out why the bottom corners of the wallpaper wouldn’t stick and we finished it up by putting the shelf back in it. The result is a very tarted up bookcase that I will now use as a place to stick my TV, DVD, and Roku player. I wish I had a before picture of the bookcase, but I don’t. So just imagine the whole thing a dirty white color. I also painted the table legs a shiny black and as soon as it’s covered by the tablecloth waiting for me in Wheatland, it’ll be bearable.
What I learned from all of this DIY is that I can actually do it. I never thought I’d actually be able to do what those people with their perfectly photographed tutorials and style blogs could do, but I can. It might take me more paint and more time, but I can fix my own furniture, or at least paint it, and that makes me pretty proud of myself.
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Brian Marggraf, Author of Dream Brother: A Novel, Independent publishing advocate, New York City dweller
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New York City based photographer STEFAN FALKE visits artists who live and work on both sides of the 2000 miles long U.S.- Mexico border to document the vibrant culture of the region for his ongoing project. All photos and texts © Stefan Falke (No use without written permission by the author)