I can find a secondary use for almost anything: an empty vodka bottle becomes an olive oil dispenser, single socks become dust rags and plastic bags have a long, useful life in my home. I had my first set of Oregon license plates just laying around and I knew I could create something cool with them. It dawned on me that the size of the license plates was perfect for a birdhouse, and if I angled them just right, I could create an A-frame style house. (I’ve always been partial to A-frames — it must be because I was born in the 70s.) Thanks to some assistance from my resident master woodworker, and voila, an A-frame bird house made out of my old license plates! Now, I haven’t seen many birds milling around it, but I also haven’t seen any bees either, so perhaps in a different climate this will actually serve a purpose other than purely an aesthetic one.
I have a soft spot for thrift stores, garage sales, haphazard antique stores and estate sales, all despite the fact that I absolutely detest most shopping. It is all about finding that gem lying amidst the junk. This quest is what led me to a junk sale (advertised as a yard sale) on the outskirts of town one hot summer day. I had already driven the five miles, so I ventured out of the car and continued forward despite the frightening piles of debris labeled as a sale. Among the piles of rusted yard implements and tattered faded clothes was a fine specimen of mid-century production. The problem was that the chair needed some serious attention and it was $5. Now, as I was one of the few brave souls who actually stopped at the sale pile, the sellers were amenable to taking anything I offered. I bought it for $3 knowing that I had a big project ahead of me.
Typically, I’m not a fan of painting wood, my reigning re-do philosophy being that wood should remain wood, unless it is veneer, which hours of painstaking sanding (by hand) revealed. My vision of a rosewood stained chair was soon replaced by another idea: something painted. Banishing my antiquated concerns about CFCs and ozone killers, I picked up a can of spray paint and quickly adapted to the idea of a sleek black chair. The key to making painted wood look good is in the pre-paint preparation. A good thorough sanding, preferably by hand, is very important to get a good base for the paint. After I cleaned off all of the dust from sanding, I primed the chair with some basic primer. Once the primer dried, I painted the chair twice with the spray paint. Since it was summer and I live in the high desert, the drying time was very minimal, but it’s important that every step is completely dry before moving on to another.
To re-upholster the chair bottom, I simply wrapped a piece of upholstery grade fabric (thicker and more durable than a cotton fabric) and used a staple gun to secure it discreetly to the bottom. To dress it up a bit, I purchased upholstery tacks from a chain fabric store to attach the fabric around the sides and the top.
After the investment in the improvements, the $3 chair became a $15 chair, and it is personalized completely to my taste. And since I purchased the chair on a whim, I decided to make it a more whimsical project and do something different. The chair is a good reminder that if you see something you like, you can always personalize it; a little bit of attention can go a long way.