Posts Tagged ‘salvage’

From Morocco, With Love

It’s well-established that our Habitat ReStore is the Greatest in All the Land – witness this, and this, and this, and this, and this, for example.  At least two other housebloggers have sought out their local ReStores after seeing the things we’ve found, and that makes my liberal heart all tingly with joy.

This afternoon’s find, however, may be a once-in-a-lifetime sort of thing.  It certainly puts silly chairs and dressers in a second-tier category.

We’ve been looking for a rug for our family room since we moved in, but rugs are quite an investment (especially for people who’ve always lived in carpeted apartments.  It’s serious sticker-shock when you price rugs for the first time).  On top of that, our homeowner ethos demands that we live without until we can buy what we really want.*

So I was giddy when I saw a giant, multi-colored, non-floral rug mixed in with the carpet remnants at ReStore this afternoon.  It was duct-taped into a tight roll and the store was only open for 10 more minutes, so I had to go with what I could see.  I could see three things –

  1. a piece of masking tape with the size, 9’x12′ – that’s massive.
  2. the back of the pattern, which was bold greens and blues and oranges and reds and yellows, but importantly, not floral, not overly-modern, not southwestern/Aztec, and not Native American.
  3. the price, which I’ll make you wait for.

I called Missy to get a conditional OK (“If it’s gross, I’m putting on Craigslist immediately“), and Josie and I loaded it in the trunk.**  I don’t think I’m exaggerating that much, if at all, when I say it weighs over 100 lbs.  108 square feet of wool is heavy.  I unrolled it in front of the garage when I got home, and not only is it ridiculously heavy, it’s in near-perfect condition (which doesn’t mean we’re not going to steam-clean the hell out of it before putting it down).  Without further ado, here it is –


The tag was rolled up all the way in the center – it’s Moroccan, and signed by six different people.  I don’t even want to guess how expensive this rug was new.

But at our wonderful ReStore?  The Finest ReStore in All the Land?  It was $10.

Please don’t hate me so much you stop reading my houseblog.


*That said, there were some tempting Black Friday deals that would have been OK as temporary solutions.  Cheap rugs are ugly though – who knew?

**With friendly help from a man with a McCain/Palin sticker on his giant truck.  Josie and I were bridging aisles in addition to furnishing our house on the cheap.


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Light it up

A quick trip down south to the big city this morning brought two antique lamps into our little family (the pair for well under what we’d pay at a moderately-priced restaraunt – I won’t even tell you, you’d be so annoyed with me.  OK, I’ll tell you this much – we would have done far worse buying a Target knockoff).

Neither has a home at the moment, although I’m picturing the one with the leaded-glass shade and copper base (which tips the scales at a hefty 20 lbs, in case you lack the ability to judge weight from 2-dimensional images) on a tabouret table in the living room, and the brass adjustable lamp on a massive oak library table in my office.

Those are pictures in my head, but neither of those tables are in my house.  So sad.




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The back door, which I’m now convinced was sold by the owners of our house in 1979 (when the mudroom was built), is coming along much, much faster than my last post suggested.  Sarah from Bangor Bungalow wrote this in the comments –

Hey Jason – I had the same (wallet) problem with chemical strippers, and I’ve found a hydrid approach seems to be the most cost effective: I use the heat gun (~$35) to strip off the bulk of the paint, then use a coat of citri-strip after that, to remove the gunk & residue. It seems to go quite well, especially in the situation you’re describing: paint over varnish. The heat seems to melt the varnish, which makes all the paint above kind of slide off (with help from Mr. Scraper). Anyways, it saves cash because you can get giant globs of layers of paint off before shelling out for the good stuff to finish up. Just don’t overheat the varnish or it can blacken.

The degree to which she’s right is, frankly, astonishing – I’ve nominated her for the Nobel Home Renovation Prize.  Of everything we’ve done in the house, heat-gunning the paint off this door has given me the most emotionally satisfaction – it’s face-meltingly boring, but incredibly satisfying.  Who knew that 1020 degrees of narrowly-directed heat could make such a difference?


The paint slides off like butter (although it tastes slightly worse)

Far and away the worst part of the job was cleaning out the edges of the panels

Far and away the worst part of the job was cleaning out the edges of the panel


A coat of CitriStrip is working on the riff-raff as I type this, then it's time to flip and start all over

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The longest journey begins with a single step.  And by that I mean I’m never going to finish this ridiculous door.  Here are the things I know:

  • That odd box was, indeed, a doorbell.  The door used to have a hole from the outside and, I’m assuming, some sort of a knob to activate the chimes on the inside.
  • The interior has at least four layers of paint – white, puke, mustard, and cream.
  • Citri-Strip is incredible stuff, but I should have shelled out for the big jug.
  • The exterior has three layers of paint – red, a very attractive blue, and cream.  No puke or mustard to be found – but everyone knows those are interior colors.
  • Both sides have dark stain with glossy varnish underneath all that paint, and by hook or by crook, it’s going to see daylight again.
  • The glass was held in with a grand total of zero glazier’s points and four bent nails – no wonder it rattled.
  • Our basement looks disgusting.



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ReStore ReScore #2

We found this midcentury-modern dresser on the same ReStore trip that brought us the office chair.  The finish wasn’t anything to brag about and the pulls were a little too modern for our taste (even Missy’s), but the drawers are all dovetailed (front and rear) and the overall shape was ideal for a tv stand.*



The sticker inside the top drawer says it was made by Johnson/Carper Furniture.  Johnson/Carper doesn’t seem to be in business anymore (or at least doesn’t have a website), but according to the archive at the Virginia Tech library, this is the company’s factory in Roanoke, circa 1934.  Building furniture creates a lot more pollution than I realized!


Painting it white has been a lesson in doing things right the first time.  First, I tried some spray-paint that purported to be excellent for furniture.  I didn’t like the idea of spray-painting, but the paint was cheap and I was open-minded.  It was terrible – splotchy, uneven, just bad all around.  So I re-sanded, and we tried a can of “Diamond-Hard” paint from Jo-Ann Fabric.  The brand was new to me, but it was expensive ($24/quart, but 40% off with a coupon).  That means good, right?  No, apparently it means terrible.  Diamond-Hard was, hands-down, the worst paint I’ve ever used.  It applied in streaks, ran like Steve Prefontaine being chased by a wolverine, and covered about as well as Paris Hilton’s skirts.

(Update: I forgot to mention, the Diamond-Hard paint was so terrible that I took advantage, for the first time ever, of a company’s Satisfaction Guarantee.  I took it back to Jo-Ann and said, “Look, I realize you wouldn’t normally let me return an obviously-used can of paint, but I was in no way, shape or form satisfied with this product.”  To their credit, they gave me my money back without making me feel stupid.  And that’s something I always appreciate.)

After that, finally, I re-re-sanded and used what I should have used in the first place – oil-based/alkyd paint, environmental damage be damned (not that it matters).  I could have gotten by with two coats, but I gave it three to make the finish rock hard.  Success!  Painting done, I drilled some holes (with a ghetto homemade jig made of cardboard) to mount the new cup pulls.**   I wish I could say we used antique pulls or something nice from Restoration Hardware, but they’re just a $12.99 six-pack from Target.


Overall, we’re really happy with the way it turned out.  I was pushing for a Maine Cottage sort of paint color – yellow or blue or something – but now that it’s done and in the room, I’m glad Missy talked me into white.  But we need something else white to balance it, right?  I’m thinking white picture frames against the opposite wall, but I could be convinced that white end tables are a better way to go.  We’ll just have to see what the ReStore gods provide.


*Not for the TV we have now, which is a hulking monstrosity that Missy bought her freshman year of college.  But it’ll work really well for the TV my parents are giving us for Christmas.  Our first new TV in twelve years – what are we going to do with ourselves?!

** Another sign of quality – the drawer faces are so thick that I had to countersink the bolts so they could reach.

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ReStore ReScore #1

On our last trip to ReStore, we found a great (after a little work) office chair and dresser/tv stand (which I’ll write about very soon – it’s ReStore ReScore #2 and it’s drying as I type this).  Josie and I made another quick trip this afternoon, mostly to get out of Missy’s hair while she finishes some class prep for tomorrow night.

Low and bee-hold, Josie and I found the spot-on perfect door for the mudroom.  It’s shocking, frankly, how similar it is to our front door.  Josie looked shocked anyway.  It’s not hung, but that’s only a minor obstacle to put in a door that looks like it could have been stolen from our attic (says the guy whose never hung a door).


I have no idea what that box in the top panel is - some sort of a doorbell? Maybe an alarm?

Original brass hinges (which will need to be stripped)

Original brass hinges (which will need to be stripped)


Just needs cleaned - the other side needs to be stripped of paint. You won't hear me complain about the original hardware being intact though

Our front door is a near-perfect match

Our front door is a near-perfect match (and will also be losing its paint)

It’s in terrible shape, but I’m a doctor now, and I think this is a patient I can save.  The glass has a slight rattle, so it’ll have to come out and be re-glazed.  Then it’s chemical stripping – so much chemical stripping.  If it’s like our house’s original doors – and every indication says it is – there’s great old oak underneath that chipped paint.

Century-old doors that match our house are a surprisingly-affordable luxury

Century-old doors that match our house are a surprisingly-affordable luxury

The mudroom has two small interior steps just inside the storm door, so after re-fitting the glass and refinishing the door, the plan is this – (1) trash the storm door, (2) raise and reframe the door opening by 24″, (3) plywood over the stairwell to create a flat floor, (4) hang the new (old) door, and (5) build a small set of exterior stairs up to the new mudroom landing.  Piece of cake.

Door #1 it's replacing - the non-locking storm door at the bottom of the mudroom steps.

Door One it's replacing - the non-locking storm door at the bottom of the mudroom steps

Door Two it will replace - the painfully ugly steel door just off our kitchen, added in 1971 when the mudroom was built.

Door Two it will replace - the painfully ugly steel door just off our kitchen, added in 1971 when the mudroom was built.

ReStore ReScore #1 is only part of the story – keep an eye out in the next few days for ReScore #2 and #3.

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Our Seating Multiplies

On the spectrum of decor, Missy and I are different shades of black.  We’re not at each other’s throats or clamoring about the other’s foolishness – it’s not bootcut versus straight-leg jeans, in other words.  Missy likes the clean lines, visible functionality and simplicity of midcentury modern design, while I’m drawn to the clean lines, visible functionality and simplicity of the craftsman movement.  Different strokes, but when push comes to shove, we’re basically the same folks.  Neither one of us, for example, likes ornate, frilly details (except as an occasional fabric pattern).

It’s only fair, then, that our second chair project this week falls closer to Missy’s end of that spectrum.  We went to ReStore to price 6×6 posts for a short fence (no dice – lumber was very scant this week), and found this 50s-era office chair for a princely $10.  Even I, who usually appreciates modernity from a safe distance, could admire its “form”, to use some furniture-nerd lingo.

30 this afternoon

Ugly, but solid - 2:30 this afternoon

It's for the office now, for Missy's studio later, but not going anywhere in this condition

It’s a chair with internal tension – its shape makes it squat and sturdy and the metal gives it an industrial vibe, but at the same time, there’s a whole lot of open space and the metal legs are pretty spindly.  Even better, I think we ratcheted up both ends of that tension with $3 of fabric from JoAnn and a $6 hunk of white oak from Menard’s.

In progress (I was this close to taking the back off, just so I could say we completely stripped it)

In progress (I was this close to taking the back off, just so I could say we completely stripped it)

Missy reupholstered the seat with a black & white floral fabric (leaving the black leather on the backrest), while I swapped out the 1×1.5″ maple armrests for much beefier 1×3″ oak.  I also lengthened the arms by 2.5″ (1/2″ off the back and 2″ off the front) to give them more substance.   One small detail that no one but a wood geek would notice – both arms are rift-sawn oak, but I oriented them so the ray-flakes are visible on the outer edges.*  The finish is two applications of Provincial stain by Minwax (leftover from refinishing the floor in the entry, so I didn’t even have to buy it).

Total cost: nineteen simoleans.

Laying out the new arms

Laying out the new arms

The new arms go on

The new wings go on

Daughter approves

The daughter approves

The shape and arms remind me a lot of a Stickley prairie-box chair, one of my favorites

Ray flakes on the edges of the wings

Ray flakes on the edges of the wings

There's more that unites them than divides them

There's more that unites them than divides them

*If I had access to some, I would have bought a 1×3 of quarter-sawn white oak, which would have the ray-flakes on the broad sides instead of the edges.  Alas – we lack a good lumber store.

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