The Eternal “Before” Stage

Ever start a project that seems quick and easy, only to have it turn out taking a million times longer and costing three times as much money? If you answered  “no”, please go away.  Please don’t tell me about your speedy decorating makeovers, cause I don’t think I could handle it today.  In fact, reading chapter one of this saga will most likely torment you. Normally, I don’t like to write about a project until its done and I can show the gratifying before and after photo sets. Lately though, it seems like none of my design projects has been quick or easy.  Especially my current makeover: the desk chair. Maybe writing about it will help the healing begin.

I thought this would be a doable Memorial Day weekend deal, something I could get done while the hubby was away for work, and in between bouts of caring for and hanging out with my 7 month old son.  Needless to say, I was WAY off the mark this time.  My initial thought was to spray paint the chair and recover the seat cushion with an ikat print.

On Friday, I went to JoAnn’s and found the fabric I was looking for, although a little different than what I intended. At that point, I had pondered fabrics for about thirty minutes. I grabbed a number at the cutting table: 81. The now serving sign read: 61. Wow. I now had like an hour to kill, so I wandered around the store carrying two heavy bolts of fabric while pushing the stroller, where, thankfully, my son was sleeping. I stared at the spray paint cabinet deliberating whether I should go with ivory or matte metallic gold. I say “stared”, because of course, the cabinet was locked to deter hooligans from graffiting up the joint. I asked for help that never came. Finally I hear number 79 being called to the cutting counter, so I left my post in the paint aisle, and my arms got relieved of their load. While my fabric was being cut, I requested help with the spray paint again, and had success. Dover White was the winner.  I even got the snap on spray trigger thingy, to make quick work of the job.

Back at home, I did everything right to prep the chair. I laid down cardboard to protect the deck, and sanded the surface gently with a fine grain sand paper. I wiped down the chair with a rag to remove any grit and dust. Then I read the back of the spray paint can.  It told me to prime the surface after sanding it. Great, did I have any primer? Of course not. Night was falling, and my son was ready for dinner and bed. Day two would be devoted to retrieving primer and getting the job done.

On Saturday I packed the babe in the stroller and headed out to the local hardware store.  Got my spray on primer and went home. Well, the snap on spray thingy didn’t fit on my primer nozzle, so I ended up with trigger finger anyway. With the chair primed, and my son still napping, I decided to forge ahead. I snapped on the trigger, and sprayed the heck out of that chair…until the paint ran out, and the job wasn’t done. Was I really going to have to go back out and get another can of Dover White?  It would have to wait until Sunday. I snapped off the trigger thing to throw away the can, and it broke! Off to the trash with it too.

On Sunday, I went to the Woodland Park Zoo with my friend Candace.  That was nice.  Lots of fresh air and new things for Thomas to see. It took up the better part of the day, and I was too beat when we got home to even think about that darn chair. (As it turns out, Thomas sleeps through the night much better when daddy puts him to bed! Chris had been gone since Friday, and I was a little worse for wear at this point).

On Monday, I brought the chair inside to pair it with the fabric I bought, just to visualize what it might look like finished. I put it next to the desk.  I hated it! It was not “off-white”.  This was really, really white. Nothing else in my house is really, really white. It was stark and ugly and did nothing to enhance the nice flirty lines of the chair. Now I had to rethink the whole thing again.  Uggh! In the meantime, I thought I could at least cut the fabric to fit the seat pad, and get it stapled on so that some aspect of this nightmare would be complete.

Right.  Not so fast chica! My staples were too long, and would not go into the wood of the seat. Guess I would be headed back to the hardware store later in the day. While I did my job as mommy, I deliberated what to do. Should I spray paint it a bright turquoise? Maybe just use plain old paint, and do a pretty pale blue? Silver leaf? Sand it down and stain it? Expose the bare wood? I lightly sanded the surface to see if the spray paint would flake off.  It did. The more I sanded, the more beautiful the wood underneath became. I think its cherry.  A simply gorgeous warm red tone. The previous stain had not done it justice.  My mind was made up, I would return the wood to its natural splendor.

Well, I’ve been sanding ever since. I decided not to use a chemical stripper, I just don’t have the right set up to deal with the mess it creates. I’ve been back to the hardware store twice, and will probably need to go again for more sand paper. Sanding is sort of addicting, and maybe even a little therapeutic. It feels good to erase mistakes, to see results… not matter how slowly they evolve. The cherry wood really is lovely, and I know that once I’m done, I’ll be happy with the chair. Maybe this time I have actually learned that tried and true lesson: it always takes longer than you think…always.

The various stages of this chair's not yet complete transformation. There's still lots of work to be done.

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