Lamps! Lamps! Lamps! Lamps!

This past summer in Ohio, R and I were nearing what felt like the definitive end to our year abroad. On an early morning walk through my hometown, Mom and I passed some auctioneers setting up in the front lawn of a small ranch. Near the street was a mid-century wood credenza – the kind with a flip-up wood top, turntable, and speakers. I was drawn to it like a moth to a flame. “No no no Katie,” Mom said. “The last thing you need right now is a project.”

True. And yet NOT true. Because when is it really a bad time for a project?

I convinced R to drive back to the sale with me. I did this by reminding him that we had no lamps in storage, that lamps are annoyingly expensive, and that this estate auction had a whole bunch of random lamps out front. Also I assured him that auctions are fun.

Over the next hour I firmly established myself as the premier buyer of ugly-ass 80s lamps in all of NW Ohio. In total we successfully bid on eight lamps, a sheet music stand, the giant credenza, and a big weird faux bamboo shelf that got thrown in with the credenza.  I called Mom to see if she could help us cart the rest back to the house. “You bought what?!” she sighed.

Yeah, but here’s the thing. We spent $8. EIGHT. That’s the magic of small town auctions. Eight dollars can buy you all this:

Then we got to work making it less ugly. When it comes to projects I want it all done NOW. Wheeee! Immediate gratification! R has learned to deal with this by jumping in or tuning out, but not by persuading me to wait. This time he jumped in. So did Mom.

We stripped the inside of the credenza, removing approximately 60 lbs. of electronics from 1955 and a whole bunch of insulation from the speaker bays.

// I stripped the top, stained it, and gave it 3 coats of polyurethane, then sanded and painted the sides and legs. The little music stand got the same treatment. credenza2musicstand Mom took some sandpaper to the lamps, and then we coated them in Rustoleum Oil-Rubbed Bronze spraypaint. The cut glass lamps were the most striking makeover I think. milklamp lamps glasslamp And then my amazing parents toted it all to Boston with a little trailer. The credenza fits perfectly under the front windows, and the music stand holds all of baby L’s books. She loves yanking them out one by one and turning all the pages. IMG_2238

Now in our house, if you want to convey enthusiasm for a project or plan, you give a little fist pump and chant “Lamps! Lamps! Lamps! Lamps!”

More furniture makeovers
the curbside dresser with 3 layers of paint
windsor chairs


Curb Finds: Refinishing a small dresser for Tami

Turning thirty might have triggered a lot of self-reflection and deep thoughts, but it also brought the best present ever…a carefully-orchestrated surprise visit from Tami.

What a sneak.  She and Read secretly schemed to plan a visit from Oregon, and she flies in this week! When I found out I texted her a hundred exclamation points, which I felt appropriately conveyed my excitement.

Tami’s visit inspired me to spruce up our spare bedroom. A couple weeks ago on my morning walk with Sam, bleary-eyed and cold, I passed this wooden dresser out on the curb.

P1020010Ten minutes later I sort of registered what I had seen – an extremely ugly, but nonetheless apartment-sized piece of solid wood furniture. FOR FREE. In the time it took me to circle back someone had stripped off all the hardware. Weird. But I lifted and limped it home all the same. I ended up with two big hip bruises, but by god I got it up the porch steps (I imagine that in times like this I resemble one of those burrow-dwelling ants, slowly dragging something backwards into the front door).

What was under that hideous and non-ironic olive green? Yesterday, armed with paint stripper, gloves, and a scraper I found out…

The green paint bubbled and puckered and scraped off to reveal a dusty rose.


Under THAT was a layer of shiny varnish. Geez this thing was like a gobstopper.

The little neighbor boy wandered over, curious. “Is that boring?” he asked, and I had to confess (to him and myself) that it’s actually incredibly satisfying. I like to pick things and pop zits and scrub grime. So an afternoon with a can of paint stripper is great fun. After a few hours I had gotten it down to this:
P1020026And then I brought in some rough sandpaper and took off what remained of the old varnish.

After running tackcloth over everything I applied a dark walnut stain, waited 5 minutes, and rubbed it off. The wood grain was really starting to shine through.

I added about $20 of new burnished brass hardware and rubbed Pledge furniture oil over everything. How’s that for a curbside makeover?