Sunday, November 15, 2009


Yep, that's me these days, not a fashionista (not that I ever was much of a fashionista)- a budgetista.
Coupon clipping is a regular Sunday morning activity. I don't buy anything without first checking online for a coupon. The library is my new best friend and I delete all store emails without opening them. I also bring my own lunch and as a result dropped about 10 pounds. Who knew?

But what's an addicted home improvement nut to do if on a budget? I was feeling frustrated without "a project" for a while. Maintenance,while necessary, does not always provide the same feeling of making an "improvement." Maintenance is more like, "we better do this or else something bad (or worse) will occur."

You know this. It's why most people would rather buy a new sofa than put on "a new roof". A new roof just isn't something most people get excited about spending money on. It's a necessity.

Having a flat roof here at the 2-flat, it's not even visible for us-unless we go up there to check on it, which we do every year for ongoing maintenance. While I like going up there for the view an satisfaction of seeing that our roof is in such good shape (for now anyway), I wanted something that I could perhaps see more often.

Which brings me to my current project. It started with something I look at every day, I'm loathe to admit- the television (note the station on is HGTV, so predictable).

With this photo, I am revealing our tube TV. Yes, some people still have those-especially those who spend all their money on a 100 year old building with a history of deferred maintenance.

The project is getting rid of the particle board TV stand and getting ready for that flat screen TV down the line.

Steve is planning to build a piece for this, but he's also planning to build 4 dining chairs, a sideboard, and 2 end tables for the living room among other things so I convinced him to go along with a "temporary" solution. It's like pulling teeth sometimes, seriously. But I love him anyway.

But how to find an inexpensive replacement that will inspire rather than merely take up space? In two words: estate sales.

We went to a few, and incidentally, one could write a blog about such experiences, because going to estate sales is very interesting and thought provoking. The last one we went to was billed as a "pre-foreclosure" sale. I was at a bungalow in the Old Irving neighborhood. The scene was a bit chaotic. There was no heat, no electricity (meaning no lights) and the place was pretty well gutted to the studs. We were told by a family member running the sale that we were "entering at our own risk" as we walked up the falling apart steps. There were pickers all over the place grabbing boxes and bringing them outside to look at them in the light.

I thought to myself, "this is going to be good."

It was a cold day and Steve and I made a mental note to always bring a flashlight along with a tape measure , which we had, to estate sales in the future. Incidentally, I carry a mini tape measure in my purse at all times. Old habits die hard.

In the midst of all the chaos, there were some quite interesting things. Old lighting, furniture, misc. unusual objects. It was really pretty interesting. The basement was filled with boxes, but without a flashlight, it was useless. The house itself was for a short sale and a sign said it was $150,000. Pretty good for a brick bungalow near the expressway on a quiet street. Not liveable, but already gutted!

Anyway back to my project. I spied this beat up deco piece and upon inspection  determined it was quite solid. The finsh was trashed. They said they wanted $50 for it. In cases like this, it is quite helpful to have someone like Steve around. Someone who tries to talk me out of almost everything I look to buy and often succeeds. I hedged, "I don't know, it's awfully beat up. I'm going to have to refinish it." They acquiesed, "For you, $35.00." And so it went into our SUV.

I thought I might have to paint it because the finish was really trashed. In the light, we determined it was either walnut veneer or cherry.
The next weekend, the weather was really nice and so I stripped it outside. I used a methyl chloride-based stripped, toxic but effective. Two applications and it looked like this.

There is one small veneer repair that is needed but I am fortunate to have the craftsman Steve available for that.

Here is the top. It's almost pristine. After Steve works his magic on the small veneer repair I wil shellac it and that's it! Bye bye particle board, hello beautiful deco piece. He promises me we can have it done by Christmas.

Yesterday, I applied some stain to a few areas that were lighter and did not match the rest of the piece.

All this for $35 plus the cost of stripper and about two days work.

Besides the deco design and solid wood construction (dove tail drawers etc...), the piece has another nice feature, the wood on the face is what you call "end or book match", that is, one piece of wood as cut in half for the veneer and then joined together at the center makinga mirror image. It's a pretty detail.

I feel like this piece is totally something that could have ended up homeless in an alley but instead it won the lottery and will get all the TLC it deserves and live in a warm & cozy home.

This makes me happy.