Archive for February, 2010

China Cabinet Snafus

As promised, a rundown of all the rookie mistakes from the china cabinet project.  First, a reminder of the before picture:

As you can see, it’s got a dark cherry-ish stain.  If you’ve ever painted furniture before, you know that stain bleeds through paint, so if you’re painting a stained piece white, then you obviously need to use primer.  Which I did.  However, for some reason I decided to put two coats of primer on the frame of the piece, but only one on the doors.  This was really dumb, because as you might notice, when you’re looking at the cabinet straight on, those two lower cabinet doors are the largest unobstructed flat plane–and thus the most obvious place for any stain bleeding through.  And bleed it did.  I only needed two coats of paint on the main frame (and the second coat wasn’t really even that necessary), but it took coat after coat on those doors before I was satisfied that they were solid white.  I didn’t keep track, but it was easily five or six coats.  That’s quite a bit of waiting around for paint to dry.  Very frustrating.

Rookie Mistake #1: Being Stingy with Primer

The next issue arose with the inserts in the glass doors.  Remember that the details on the glass doors of the Ruth & Ollie inspiration piece were one of my favorite elements.  So when I decided to paint the china cabinet, I immediately planned to paint the inserts bright white for more contrast with the blue.  But if you look at the after picture, you can see that the inserts are missing altogether.

This was because my attempt to spray paint these pieces was entirely unsuccessful.  They were made of this plastic-y fake wood material, and I thought the spray paint would work better than the regular latex-based paint I used for the rest of the piece.  Wrong.  The paint didn’t stick to the material well at all, and looked like a runny, gloopy mess, even after a couple coats.  Plus, I let it dry on newspaper, which ended up sticking to the thing, turning it into a bigger mess.  So I’m counting this as two snafus:

Rookie Mistake #2: Spray Painting the Insert and
Rookie Mistake #3: Spray Painting the Insert on Newspaper

Who knows if this will ever come up again, but now I know.  Fortunately, I was happy with the way it looks without the detailing, so I’m not going to fret too much over this one.

And now for the doosie.  This one almost made me cry.  Eric was helping me reassemble the cabinet, and we finally got everything in place: the china was set up, the doors were on, the new knobs sparkled.  All we had to do was close up shop.  But as Eric tried to close the top left cabinet, it got a little stuck, and when he forced it shut, the scraping sound made my stomach hurt and this seeing this seriously crushed me:

All that hard work ruined.  That’s how it felt at the time, anyway.  No, the mistake wasn’t letting Eric close the cabinet.  This would have happened even with my gentler touch.  The mistake was deciding to paint the edges of the doors.  My thought process went something like, “Hmm, well, you’ll see the vertical edge of the door when it’s open, so I should paint that” and then “Well, if I’m painting the vertical edge, I might as well paint all the edges.”  Big mistake.  Since it was an older piece, the doors already fit pretty snugly, so that added snugness from the door’s paint and the frame’s paint (the part that actually got scraped off) was just too much.  If I were to do this again, I wouldn’t paint ANY of the edges of the doors.  It’s just not necessary.  No one sees that part anyway.  In fact, I would sand the edges of the door down as much as possible to make up for the added layers from the frame’s paint.

Rookie Mistake #4: Painting the Edges of the Doors and
Rookie Mistake #5: Not Sanding the Doors Down More

I think these two things would have been enough to save me from that snafu, but I also wonder if I would have been better off using oil-based paint.  After this happened I did some research, and many people suggested that oil-based paint doesn’t chip as easily as latex, so that could have helped too.  As could have stripping the stain before painting.  Or sanding after priming.  I’m going to summarize all this as one mistake.  I don’t need to feel too bad about the project, right?  After all, I did like the outcome.

Rookie Mistake #6: Not Doing Enough Research Before Starting

Sometimes research feels tedious and unending (kind of like sanding, actually), but it would have been nice to have avoided the stomach ache and the feeling of crushing defeat from the scraped ledge.  Next time.  But to end on a happy note, at least Seamus isn’t bothered by the blunder.

The unconditional love of dogs is such a blessing after so much self loathing for one little scraped ledge.  Which I haven’t fixed yet, by the way.  I will, but I needed a break from the china cabinet.  You can see a bit of my next project in the upper right hand corner of the Seamus pic.  But more on that later.

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February 27, 2010 at 11:59 am 3 comments

Transforming the China Cabinet

A month or so ago, I became obsessed with finding a buffet/sideboard for our dining room, which is one of the least-finished rooms in our house.  I knew I wanted something crisp and clean looking, but not too modern.  I was hoping for a solid white piece, which didn’t seem like a lot to ask for.  But after spending an inordinate amount of time searching for such a piece, I realized that most white furniture is either a. shabby chic or b. uber-modern, neither of which are our style.  But then I hit the jackpot.

Or at least I thought it was the jackpot.  I loved the way it looked with the bright white paint, vibrant interior color, and detailing on the glass doors.  What I didn’t love (and couldn’t fathom, actually): the price.  It cost over two-grand.  For a piece we don’t actually even need.  For those that have that kind of money, you can find this beauty at Ruth & Ollie in Carytown.  It’s actually on sale right now, and still way out of our price range.

So onto Plan B: ask Apartment Therapy for help.  I knew their readers would have some good ideas.  And they definitely did.  But before I could find the perfect Craigslist piece to experiment on, something really obvious dawned on me.  We already owned this china cabinet, a Christmas gift from my parents:


Now, there’s nothing wrong with the piece as it was.  I recognize that it probably pains  a lot of people to see real wood painted.  He didn’t tell me at the time, but apparently my dad had heart palpitations when I told him I’d painted it.  He was afraid to tell my mom.  So yeah, I get it, but although I thought it was a charming piece, I didn’t really think it was us.  So, I went for it.  I decided that the teal in the Ruth and Ollie sideboard was pretty, but too girlie for our house.  I picked a darker, moodier blue for the inside: Benjamin Moore’s Van Deusen Blue, for those keeping track. And the final outcome?  See for yourself.

Not too shabby, right?  I mean, I don’t think I could sell it for $2000 or anything, but I’m still pretty happy.  I’m smitten with crisp white and the way the china pops off the blue background, and I’m madly in love with the hardware I found that match the original glass doorknobs we have throughout our house.

But this blog is about fessing up to my mistakes, and, hopefully, learning from them.  I’ll just say that there were more than enough snafus for their own post, so it’s coming soon.  Prepare to be amazed with the number of blunders I can squeeze into one project.

February 26, 2010 at 1:37 am 1 comment

Day #9587, Post #1

Welcome to my blog. I realized recently that I’m a novice in many areas of my life right now, and with any luck, that list is only likely to grow over the next few years. I’m a newlywed. We’re raising our first puppy. I’m already in my 3rd year teaching, but I sure as heck don’t feel like an expert in that yet either. Within the next few years we hope to purchase our first home and start a family. We have dreams of numerous “projects” we want to try our hands at. I’d like to chronicle those adventures and others, firstly, for myself and secondly, for anyone who’s interested in following along. I like reading other people’s blogs, so hey, maybe someone will like reading mine. Here’s what I envision for Rookie Mistakes & Beginner’s Luck:

  1. I’m going to write about trying new things, learning from my mistakes, and improving with practice. “Things” is very open-ended, and I like it that way.
  2. I’ll have a focus on frugality, because that’s important to us right now, and pretty much everyone we know.
  3. I’m going to have fun with it.  If it ceases to be fun, there’s no reason to keep doing it.

My name is Catherine. I’m 9587 days old today, but only just beginning to figure my life out, and that’s okay with me. Here we go.

February 25, 2010 at 1:26 am 3 comments


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