Concrete Jungle Upgrade: Spray Tanning & Spray Painting.

When we last chatted about my nastypants, overgrown, decorated-with-rotting-furniture, concrete patio, we had some newly sanded, tanned stained, and sealed folding lounge chairs, but still had some work to do on the table and folding dining chairs.  Let me remind you again of where we started:

refinishing outdoor furniture before picture 1

Blech.  It’s so hard to even look back at that.  So next up on my to do list was to tackle the table on the left (if you recall the one on the right went straight to the trash – he was crumbling to the touch!), and the folding chairs.  My plan for the table was the same as the folding loungers (so I’ll skip the details since those are posted here).  You can see a pic of my progress on the table below.  And I’m really liking this spray tan analogy, he totally looks sunkissed on the one side.  And the other kinda looks like a giant tan line.  And actually, this kinda resembles the backside of my dear MKY after one day in the sun.  I sincerely hope she’s reading this…


I knew from the beginning that the folding dining chairs weren’t going to be able to follow the same technique.  They have endured way to much of the elements to be sanded and tanned.  My only hope for them was several coats of a good looking spray paint.  So for old time’s sake, here is one last look at the folding chairs pre-paint.


And on a side note, the overly-sensitive Magi was not very pleased that I have led readers to believe that she gave them to me in this condition.  So let me clarify.  When she gave them to me they were beautiful green-ish stained chairs from Smith and Hawken.  They were quite the hand me down.  But with our lack of a basement or garage, they’ve just sat outside and aged over the past few years.  Hence their current pre-paint appearance.

Now with that out of the way, let’s talk chair makeover.  I knew we were going to need serious coverage so I decided I’d prime them first, and chose Valspar Primer from Lowe’s.  (Side note I really liked this spray primer and highly recommend it for future projects!).  I wanted to include this pic because it really gives you a good close up of the chair too.  Blech.  Now you get the purpose of this upgrade.


So first step – prime the chairs.  I went with just a light misting of primer since I knew it had to last for 4 chairs.  Here’s what this guy looked like all primed.


Bonus points for readers who spotted the rotting leg of this one.  I swear he’s the worst offender.  The others are a lot safer.  It’s a game we like to play when we have people over.  The ‘Russian Roulette’ of patio chairs, if you will.

Back to priming.  Here’s a shot of the chairs primed and drying in the sun.  Poor pasty chairs, they don’t have half the color as those loungers.  Kinda like B’s legs in the beginning of the summer.  And we’re back to the tan analogy…


So fast forwarding a little, I followed the same process to spray paint the chairs as with primer.  Slow and steady misting of color, touching up as needed.  I forgot to take a pic of what I used, but it was Valspar Premium Enamel in Thorny Brush, also from Lowe’s.  I picked up the color on a complete whim.  I was thinking I’d use a bright-ish olive-y green, but it wasn’t really doing it for me when I was browsing colors.  In the end I’m very happy with my choice.  It’s a little more neutral, but that means I can add some fun cushions next spring (new project!) that will add a less permanent pop of colort.  Here is a close up of one of the finished chairs.


And here are a few shots of everything all finished.  A complete patio makeover!


This one shows the whole patio.  So much better.


And this one was my attempt at an artsy “after” pic.


Look at that glossy table!  And clean chairs!  And Thai Basil plant!  This patio has come a looong way.  In case you can’t remember, how about a side by side vertical comparison of the before and after?


refinishing outdoor furniture before picture 1



In addition to updating the furniture I had B trim the Ivy and rake the leaves.  All of it makes such a huge difference.  We’ve spent more time out on the patio and it just looks so much more inviting from our back windows.  And the total upgrade cost less than $50 (Free furniture, 1 can wood stain, 1 can sealant, 1 can spray primer, and 3 cans spray paint).  Can’t beat that.

And in case you’re wondering, I fully intend to tarp off all the furniture this year before the weather gets bad.  Considering it took me almost all summer to finish this project, I want to be able to enjoy it next summer!


Concrete Jungle Upgrade: Hand & Sand Me Down.

Well, it’s finally here.  The post where I tell you all about the DIY makeover of my 100% free outdoor furniture!  Only took 3 months to get it done, and one more month to post about it.  Yikes. So let’s not waste any more time.  Let’s do this.

The pic below is pretty gnarly, but yes, that was our outside patio area circa May 2012.  The table on the right was a hand-me-down from The Magi, along with the seriously grody folding chairs.  As you can see the table is basically rotting away, so that went straight in the trash after I took this pic.  The folding chairs were salvageable, but their surfaces were in need of some serious TLC.  On the left we have the bigger wood table and folding lounge chairs that we found on Mother’s day while walking around our neighborhood.  They were my special gift from B.

refinishing outdoor furniture before picture 1

Here’s a second pic that’s a little closer so you can see the icky-ness in its entirety.  And the lovely KP acting as our furniture model.

refinishing outdoor furniture before picture 2

After discussing with my furniture refinishing consultant (and herb-an garden specialist), I decided that my game plan would be to sand everything down as best I could, stain the new table and chairs (since they were pretty raw as-is), and spraypaint the very old folding chairs (they really were hopeless – sanding wasn’t going to help anything).  I wasn’t in the mood to track down a motorized hand sander, so I hand sanded…literally by hand.  Using these all-purpose sanding sponges pictured below.  Oh, and for this post I’m just going to focus on the two main chairs.  I’ll give you the deets on the rest of the furniture next week.

refinishing outdoor furniture sanding block

It was actually a lot easier than I thought.  The old layer of paint on the “new” table and chairs came right off.  It took me about 20 mins per chair to get them totally clean and naked, and about 15 mins for the table since I only focused on the top.  (Had to cut corners a little here for the sake of getting this all done during one A nap!).  The picture below shows what things looked like when the first chair was about halfway finished.  See how good of a job the sanding block did?

refinishing outdoor furniture sanding step

And here’s what the two chairs looked like post-sanding.  Pretty good for doing it by hand, no?

refinishing outdoor furniture after sanding

Then it was time for staining.  I got some sample sized stains from Lowes and eventually settled on English Chestnut by Minwax.  Of course this took me an abnormally long time (for someone so obsessed with efficiency, I am terrible at making decisions, especially ones for house projects), but I’m super happy with the finished product.  I picked Minwax because I’ve used their sealants before and they worked well.  They are also recommended at Lowes and priced well.

refinishing outdoor furniture wood finish_edited-1

Staining was a lot easier than I thought.  I applied thin and even coats going with the grain of the wood, wiping the surface down if things got gloppy.  But don’t be too fooled, I really was just sort of covering everything with the stain and trying to make sure it didn’t get crazy on me.  I used a random extra paint brush I had lying around (sorry, wish I had more details), and of course covered up our “patio” with old Philadelphia Inquirer’s and boxes from D-dot-C.

refinishing outdoor furniture staining chairs

Still with me?  I hope so.  This is what chair #1 looked like after his first staining.  Kind of looks like he got a super dark spray tan right?  (Ignore the primed folding chairs in the background…they are just foreshadowing a post from next week where I’ll show you what I did with the rest of the furniture…).

refinishing outdoor furniture finsihed staining

And for those of you that are really patient, ta-da!  The finished product lies below.  Two beautiful “new” wood lounging-folding chairs for our outdoor patio.  They look a little lighter than they really are for some reason in this photo, in real life they’re a little darker.  And I really do love the color.  I’m glad it took me so darn long to figure out that English Chestnut was the way to go for these guys.

refinishing outdoor furniture both chairs stained

So that’s the story of two chairs found on the side of the road on Mother’s day, how it took 3 months to finally upgrade them and 1 month to write the blog post about it.  Beautification and procrastination at its finest!

Questions Answered: DIY Home Office Organization.

Organized Home Office

I know, I know.  I’ve left you all hanging the past few days.  “My apologies.” (Inside joke with B).  But in all seriousness, my aforementioned cold, combined with several nights of early wake-up calls by A left me pretty beat.    Before the cold hit I did have some time to finally work on my answer to reader Kerri’s excellent question from a few weeks back, but I haven’t been able to post about it yet.  So here goes!


Hi Keep It Neat- I’d love to be able to buy everything that exists at the container store but that’s just not realistic. I have work papers and items that tend to messy up my work space at home. what is a good DIY Keep It Neat solution?


I too would love to buy everything that exists at the container store.  It’s an amazing place.  I don’t let myself go there too often because it usually turns into a spendfest.  And there’s no possible way to leave there without picking up at least a basket full of gadgets that weren’t on your original list.  So yeah, I hear you on this one.  After reading your question I was able to come up with a few ideas for getting your home office organized on a budget.  I really wanted to test a few my suggestions before posting, and I even took a few pictures to give you the gist of it.  I wasn’t able to tackle all of my ideas but Google Images came to the rescue on that one.

1.  I love Mason jars.  Uses for these are just endless, and they are 100% free if you just re-use glass jars you already have (jams and jellies come in great sizes, so does mustard and also the “canned” peaches and pears from Trader Joe’s that M brought down 2 years ago when I had my wisdom teeth removed – I’ve been holding on to them for a special project ever since!).  I think that glass jars would be great in a home office to hold pens and pencils, and depending on the size, flowers on a desk, paper clips, stamps, etc.  They’re great naked, but if you did want to spruce them up there are probably a million ways to decorate them.  I decided I’d clear the dust off my glue gun and leftover ribbon pile to make mine a little more fun:

Glass Jars as DIY Office Organization

And here is a close-up on the paper clip holder, just because it was my favorite (the tapered shape of the former Grey Poupon mustard container on the right didn’t make it easy to get the ribbon to sit right, it’s driving me crazy in the shot above, but I don’t feel like re-doing and re-shooting!).

DIY Glass Jar Paper Clip Holder

Side note: it’s really easy to decorate things with ribbon, and I must give credit to our cousin Lisa for introducing me to this quick and inexpensive craft idea.  She is an expert.  You can get ribbon really cheaply at craft stores, or if you don’t want to spend any money at all, just do what I do – hang on to the ribbon scraps you get with gifts and save them somewhere with other craft supplies.  I’ve found that a glue gun works best for attaching ribbon to things, but I’m sure you would be fine using any type of glue.  It just may need touch-ups.

I also pinned this idea for using glass jars for office storage on Pinterest.  Also uses a glue gun, so I’m interested in trying it sometime soon.  I love me some glue gunning:

Office Supplies in Mason Jars

2. Egg Cartons.  These also have endless storage uses, and would be great for holding small office supplies – in a drawer or displayed out on a desk.  Unfortunately we were out of eggs so I had nothing to use as a sample.  But I managed to find this pic online; it should do the trick.  I suppose you could paint it or jazz it up if you like, but if that’s not your thing or you just don’t have the time, it really doesn’t require anything other than re-using a clean egg carton:

Egg Carton Storage

3. Shoe Boxes & Gift Boxes.  Depending on the size these could serve a few different purposes.  Shoe boxes would make great spots for mail, an alternative rolodex, and envelope/small notepad storage.  Shirt boxes are the perfect size for an inbox, or somewhere to store stacks of file folders.  Jewelry boxes are good for smaller items.

4. Paper towel rolls.  These can be cut and/or decorated and then used to keep cords organized, or to store items on your desk.  Found a picture online to illustrate:

DIY Cord Holder Paper Towel Roll

5. Bulletin boards & old gift bags.  This one is out there, but I had a lot of fun putting it together.  I was looking at my craft supplies (which is not a huge stash, it’s really just the leftovers from things we made for our wedding or things I’ve made for holiday decorating), and I thought this would be a fun idea using things I already had.  I started with a cheap bulletin board from Staples that we covered with navy fabric for our wedding for hanging place cards.  See pic below for a walk down memory lane.  This was the bulletin boards before they went up at the venue:

B&S Wedding - Placecards

I took one plain covered bulletin board and stapled four gift bags that I had leftover from Christmas to the bottom.  I then cut and decorated some card stock to use as labels for the bags.  Unfortunately I have no place to put this in our house so it’s just a sample (but if anyone would like it for their home with custom labels, I would be willing to host a giveaway…just email, but I really think it could work as a fun filing system or inbox, as I’ve set it up here:

DIY Bulletin Board Inbox

And here is a close up:

Close up - DIY Bulletin Board Inbox

Hopefully these have been helpful ideas for organizing your home office space, without an expensive trip to the Container Store.  With a little creativity, a few odds and ends from your kitchen, and a little glue-gunning, it CAN be done!