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!

Summer Slump.

Working-Mom-Summer-Slump-Need-VacationAs I’m sure you’ve noticed, I’m in a bit of a blogging slump.  We’ve had a VERY off-schedule August and I’ve been too exhausted by the end of the day to blog about some neat projects I’ve actually worked on this summer.  I pretty much organize some area of my life or house every weekend.  Sometimes it’s small (like my coupons), sometimes it’s a lot bigger (like the outdoor space behind our house), but I can never let well enough alone.  I’m always “just quickly tidying up” while B rolls his eyes since he knows this will snowball into me fully reorganizing some space that he deemed perfectly fine.  So I have been busy keeping it neat around here and do have some things to share soon.

We’re on vacation starting this weekend through Labor Day and it can’t come soon enough.  I’m in need of some time away from work (and my organized spaces!) to just fall off the grid and relax.  We’re headed out to Montauk where my family has been going for 59 years. Until I was 18 I hadn’t missed a trip out there, but then along came college and the real world (aka a job in 2004, our wedding in 2009, and a super pregnant yours truly in 2011).  Needless to say in the last 12 summers I’ve only made it out there 4 or 5 times.  My last time out there was in 2010 when B and I made a long-weekend trip out to see my family.  While fun, it’s too short, especially coming from Philly.  So this time we’re doing it right and staying for just over a week.  I cannot wait.

I may do some blogging if the mood strikes (I really do have some fun organizing projects to share!), and I’ll definitely be doing some running.  I’ve got serious miles to catch up on for NYC 26.2.  My busy August put running in the back seat (blogging is obviously trailing behind the car – hanging from the bumper!).  I’m in the middle of Week 8 right now which is turning out to be a little challenging because of the Pangaea Juice Cleanse that I’m doing (that I mentioned here).  And I can’t wait to post about that adventure too – I just finished Day 2 of 3 and so far so good.  Trying to start my new decade feeling light and fit (yep, I turn 30 on Monday…whomp, whomp).

So, basically this is one giant multi-tasking post:  serving as a public acknowledgement of my slumpi-ness as of late, a warning that more slumping may occur  and a promise of some quality bring-you-up-to-speed future posts.  You know I like to multi-task!

Small Space Scores.

Sibille Furniture Ludovico

I read a really fun article in the New York Times last weekend on living with less in small spaces, in particular how to live in one of the yet-to-be-built 300 square foot “micro-units” recently proposed by Mayor Bloomberg as a [hopefully] cheaper alternative to the mega-pricey standard that has become NY living.  You can read the full article here.  If you choose not to read it (and I don’t blame you, I don’t like clicking around all the time either), I’ll summarize.

The writer of the article decided it would be fun to search for some clever space-saving ways to actually furnish one of these teeny tiny units.  He scored some great finds.  Some are completely unrealistic (a $35,000 mini kitchen on wheels?!), others are utterly weird (a Chewable Toothbrush that doesnt require toothpaste, water, or even a sink?  Blech), but others are actually genius.  My favorites are the Ludovico “desk in a box” by Sibille Furniture (pictured above), the Magnetic Nesting 5-Piece Utensil Kit by Joseph Joseph (clever, stylish, and practical!), and the Hot-Pot BBQ “flower pot grill” by Black + Blum (you heard me right – and it’s such a good idea!).

So if you find yourself snapping up one of these micro units, or are already living in a shoebox of a  pad, there already are some great ideas out there for saving space and multi-tasking furniture and gadgets.  And remember, sometimes you just need to do a little thinking outside the box – er, apartment – to come up with clever ideas of your own.

A Sign of Things to Bloom.

Thai Basil Chalkboard Herb Garden Sign

A DIY Chalkboard Sign, to be exact, for my herb-an garden that I started last month on our patio.  I finished the signs a few weeks ago and was finally able to snap a few shots of them keeping my blooms nicely labeled and organized.  It was a really quick and easy project: it required only 3 materials, costing just under $14 all-in.  I ended up making just 5 signs but I have enough materials for 10 more and for many other chalkboard paint-related projects for years to come.  So that’s a pretty good investment, especially considering I’ve seen signs like these retailing for $25-$35 on various websites.  I really like the fun touch it adds to the potted plants, and the look goes well with our half brick, half stucco back patio wall.  I’d love to say this look was intentional (we’ve gotten so many comments over the years), but it’s not.  It’s just nature doing its thing to an old layer of stucco that was never well-adhered to the brick wall it tried to cover.

Here is a tutorial for making the signs, along with a cost breakdown.  I assure you it’s like the easiest outdoor project ever, even though it looks like lengthy steps.  I just like to talk.

What I used:

Wood for signs and/or stands. (I chose to use basic shims from our local hardware store as the base for my signs, but you could really use any scrap wood you had on hand.  Depending on the shape of wood you might need to make a stand for the sign, but extra BBQ/shish kabob skewers could probably solve that for you). Shims: $2.79 for 15.

Chalkboard paint. (I find spray paint to be easier for any quick painting project so I went with Rustoleum Chalkboard Spray Paint, also found at our local hardware store). Chalkboard Spray Paint: $9.99

Chalk. (Good old fashioned Crayola, found at the Rite Aid down the block from me). Box of Chalk: $1.03

Total Cost of Materials: $13.81; most are pictured below:

Materials for Chalkboard Herb Garden Signs

What I did:

Step 1: Spray paint shims.  I laid them out on extra newspaper first, and did this outside so I didn’t breathe in the fumes.  I did not bother with primer for this paint job.  Instead I sprayed several coats of paint, keeping the nozzle about a foot away and using long, level strokes.  This made for thin and even layers that dried well.  I did 3 coats on one side, aiming for about 20-30 minutes in between.  We were in and out of the house that day so I did my best to do a quick coat whenever I could.  I let them dry overnight (both days were dry and sunny) and did the same to the back.  I let them dry out another 2 days so they were nice and cured.  Here they are drying after their last coat.  Ignore the popsicle sticks that are also in this pic, I was experimenting using another base surface but didn’t like how they turned out.

Chalkboard Paint on Shims

Here are the signs after drying for about 2 days:

Finished Painted Herb Garden Signs

Step 2: “Condition” the signs.  This was actually one of the instructions on the back of the spray paint can and I’m not exactly sure of the purpose, but basically once the surface had time to for a few days I rubbed chalk all over and then wiped it off.  Here are the signs before I wiped the chalk off:

Rub Chalk on Chalkboard Paint to Set

Step 3: Use the signs!  I labeled them for my herbs, and placed them in the pots accordingly.  I had to move them around a bit so they wouldn’t be in the way when I watered the plants, otherwise the chalk would wash off.  I’m also contemplating buying one of these chalkboard markers to make more permanent signs.  But for now these work well and look great!

Here are the signs inside before I placed them in their more permanent potted homes: 

Labeled Chalkboard Signs for Herb Garden

 And here are glimpses of the final product.  See how much my Peppermint has grown?!  It smells great, and I’ve found it to be a very refreshing addition to tea and ice water.

Peppermint Chalkboard Herb Garden Sign

And here is my Thai Basil.  It’s started to flower which makes it look pretty, and the shape of the pot allows for the chalkboard sign to be off to the side a bit and really stand out:

Thai Basil Chalkboard Herb Garden Sign

Ignore the glass jars in the background cluttering up this shot.   (We’ve established that along with having a black thumb, I’m also a terrible photographer).    After my big outdoor furniture refinishing project is complete I’ll fill them up with fun flowers to give the patio some color.  I’m still chipping away at that project though.  It takes good weather and a full weekend of being home during A’s naps to work on it, and we’ve been traveling a lot recently.  So hopefully soon.

In the meantime I’ll be enjoying my new chalkboard signs, which were a great quick fix to spruce up the herb garden.  And I’m now completely addicted to chalkboard spray paint.  I’ve been daydreaming about the next thing I can turn into a chalkboard.  I’m thinking a menu board in the kitchen would be fun, or maybe a big framed family calendar/planner.  You know, because we have so many social engagements to attend to these days.  But there I go again creating another project for myself.  I really have to stop doing that.