So I mention to my son, Ross that I’ve scoped out a pile of discarded furniture on the curb a few blocks from home. At our house, that means its time to explore the possibility of recycling at its finest. It’s even more exciting this day since Ross has just bought a condo, is looking for furniture and is on that new-homeowner budget that many of us have experienced. Free is good. We like free.
I’ve been doing this sort of thing long enough that I have no shame when it comes to snatching up cast offs from the street if I have a use for them. (When you see the “after” pictures, you’ll understand why.) My children now share this lack of humility, maybe not to the degree that I have it, but they share it nonetheless. I see it as an asset.
The key to curb shopping is to act quickly as our community has its share of decorators, stagers and designers who also have no shame. Many of these women incorporate their rummaging into their professions. They can spot a diamond-in-the-rough in a nanosecond, and I often run into the same talented, artsy women at estate sales, our local Habitat Restore, church rummage sales, garage sales and anywhere bargains can be found. None of us are destitute. It’s simply a thrill to create something unique, beautiful and functional out of nothing. And of course, there’s the “rescue” factor. I consider it to be an addictive art.
So Ross and I hop into my tiny use-me-like-a-pickup-truck Honda Fit, and set off on our adventure. Score! We pull a beat-up, but sturdy old dresser that’s missing a drawer out of the heap, and stuff it into my car. I have a vision. This is a very 70’s-looking piece of furniture based on the wood and stain color, but it has a nice shape to it and its solid. I’ve learned not to mess with pieces that are wobbly or are in need of repair that I’m not qualified to perform. It frustrates me, and I have enough gray hair.
So here’s our find.
The top drawer’s sliding mechanism has broken off, but is an easy fix with some small nails and adhesive. It only takes a couple of minutes to re-attach it. That, I can handle.
We lucked out because some dressers don’t have plywood in between the drawers like this one, which is what I need to fulfill my vision. I add small strips of wood underneath the plywood piece along both sides for additional support. Sorry—no photos of this. But I just use some scrap wood that I have on hand that is probably about 1” by 1”, and some wood screws to attach it to the sides of the dresser underneath the plywood.
The next step is to remove the runner that the missing drawer used to slide on in its younger, healthier days.
Next I sand the entire piece just enough to rough up the surface. After years of hand-sanding, I recently treated myself to a real-life, modern-day, electric sander. (The fact that I still have fingerprints is pretty miraculous.)
As is the case with most of the older, gaudy drawer pulls, they have a tendency to leave indentations on the face of the drawers where they rested and dug into the furniture over time. Since we’re going to update the hardware, we need to fill those indentations so they won’t show since the new pulls won’t hide them.
I smooth a thin coat of durabond over the face of the drawer to fill in the indentations from the hardware as well as any dings and scratches. If I don’t fill them in, the dresser’s going to look like something I pulled off a curb. Ewww! After it dries, I sand off the excess durabond.
Note: For more information about durabond, refer to my post “Yes You Can Paint Your Oak Kitchen Cabinets“.
You can see how the imperfections are now filled, and they’ll magically disappear after painting.
I look over the entire dresser, and perform the same process wherever I see scratches or chips. Clearly this dresser was in a child’s room or a toy room based on the extensive wear and tear. (Perhaps I should have been a private investigator.) It’s covered in scratches and dings. But never fear…
I then prime the piece so that the patched areas don’t show through the paint, and so the paint will adhere better. If the patched areas aren’t primed, they’ll show through the paint as a different, more flat-looking sheen.
Here’s the piece with one coat of wet paint. Most paint stores or paint sections of box stores carry premixed quarts of paint that are intended for furniture. Most have a standard black, and a standard white so you don’t have to mess with trying to pick just the right color. If you’ve ever tried to pick out a white or black paint, it’s a monumental task because there are so many shades. This takes the guess-work out of it for you.
We drilled holes through the back of the dresser for the electrical cords. It’s now the ideal entertainment stand. The drawers can be filled with video games and DVD’s, and the area where the drawer is missing is perfect for components and video game systems. It’s a great height for viewing from a couch or chair, and the width is just right for the space. Since black paint is a staple at my house, all my son had to spring for was an economy pack of handles which he also used on some other furniture pieces we refurbished.
Here are the before and after photos.
We feel this piece turned out just as well as any piece we would have paid a few hundred dollars for in a furniture store. And now you may have some insight into why we have no shame in pulling items off the curb. An added benefit is that we know we’re saving landfill space too!
Here are some other pieces we transformed for the condo with paint and a little elbow grease.
We paid $15.00 for two bar stools at a garage sale, and spray painted them black. We removed the swivel mechanisms since they weren’t in very good working order, and just screwed the seat to the base. We figured if they swiveled, they would get banged up easier anyway!
These little gems were purchased at a garage sale for $4.00 each. I painted these black, and added handles that match the entertainment stand to help tie all the pieces together since they’re in the same room. Note the nifty lock-tie on the cabinet on the left that was used as a door opener. One of the cabinets still had a shelf inside which is great for organizing. So Ross has one for each end of his sofa.
I found this gorgeous oak antique table stuffed in between two mattresses on the curb down the block from me. The legs weren’t attached when I found it, but I screwed them onto the table top, and they were perfectly fine. It appears there were leaves at one time, but there weren’t any on the curb. I guess beggars can’t be choosers, and if we want to extend the table, I’m sure we can figure something out.
I saw the chairs on another street near my house set out for the garbage man one day, and told Ross if he wanted some free dining room chairs to go snag them. And so he did! They looked brand new, and are very sturdy. I painted them black to match the bar stools that are in the same room because although the chairs are oak, as is the table, they didn’t match. So here is my son’s dining set that was absolutely free. It’s gorgeous!
The sisal rug underneath the table was from a garage sale. And the very cool wooden dough bowl on the table (that I almost kept for myself), I found at a neighborhood church rummage sale.
This night stand in my son’s bedroom was also from an estate sale. There are two of them, and I fixed these up a couple of years ago. They appear to be made of cherry, and I’m sure they were top-of-the-line back in the day. I found baskets to fit in the cubbies for storage. And as any loving mother would do, I let Ross take them to his new home.
Please keep in mind that I don’t have to search to find these treasures. All of these items in this post were found within a few blocks of my house, and I see things like this all the time. I live in a peaceful, run-of-the-mill, middle class neighborhood–maybe it’s just a Midwest thing, but this stuff is everywhere.
It makes me sad to think some of these items were going to be thrown away. There are many organizations in my community (and probably yours) that would be thrilled to have these types of pieces donated to them so they can be passed along to people who need them. There are many people who are struggling, so please take a moment to locate a place to donate to before throwing your treasures away!
This post was written by Tracy Evans who is a Certified Home Stager, Certified Redesigner and Journeyman Painter servicing the Central Illinois area. Feel free to visit her website at www.HelpAtHomeStaging.com to view her portfolio for more before and after pictures of her projects. And if you enjoy gardening, you may want to visit her gardening blog at MyUrbanGardenOasis.