A “Quick” DIY Project 3+ Years in the Making

Several years ago, the big house on the corner across from us was sold furnished and the new owners had a yard sale. We hadn’t intended to buy anything, but as we happened by on a weekend walk, we were drawn in. Long story short, we ended up buying several basic black Ikea chairs (never enough seating for bacon club gatherings), a light wood armoire (also probably from Ikea, but having never been to one of their stores, I can’t say for sure), a really nice, wooden futon with a thick cushion and sturdy corduroy slip cover, and a solid pine coffee table. We scored all of this stuff for like $50 cash and only had to carry it across the street, so win-win.

I thought about painting the chairs a variety of bright colors, but since there are 3 ladder back chairs upstairs, 2 of which I have finished painting and all of which need the seats either re-caned or bases measured, cut, and upholstered, I figured my track record with completing “easy” chair projects isn’t too good. So I turned my attention to the proverbial blank canvas of the pine coffee table. First step? Pinterest research, of course. Should I paint it? Upholster it into a shabby chic ottoman/table? Mosaic tile it? Decoupage it? I pinned dozens of ideas, ruminated on them, consulted my mom for her thoughts, posed logistics questions about the project to Tyler, etc. Final verdict? Get the super cool nautical chart of Tybee and surrounding area and somehow affix it to the table top. There are tons of shops and restaurants around Tybee and Savannah who have this same map framed or made into throw pillows, and an acquaintance makes adorable frames, clocks, drink trays, Christmas ornaments, and more using a trove of leftover nautical maps printed for the 1996 Atlanta Olympics which hosted several of the yachting and sailing events in area waters.

Last December, I popped into West Marine Savannah to inquire about procuring said nautical chart and they had one left in stock. I threw in an octopus Tervis cup with lid and my Christmas to me/for me/from me shopping was complete.

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It’s #11512, Savannah River and Wassaw Sound, should you wish to purchase your very own copy.

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The octopus is my spirit animal.

With the map in my possession, I attempted to pick out paint samples for the table legs and sides to tie everything together. I looked at various hues to complement the greens, blues, and yellows of the map, finally settling on a light yellow color called “Barely Yellow.”

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Hint: It’s the top left color box

Side note: about 6 months ago we went to a friend’s catered bbq (he “won” it at one of Savannah’s numerous fundraisers’ silent auction opportunities) and we mixed and mingled with his eclectic bunch of hip, in-town friends (hip as evidenced by the fact that they all wore shoes whereas we Tybeeans are always in flip flops regardless of the occasion or weather). We ended up talking to a young couple who used to live on Tybee. Somehow, we connected the dots and figured out that they had been the owners of the house on the corner and we were now the owners of their previous furniture. It’s a small world alright, but, by golly, Savannah is even smaller!

Fast forward almost a year since last Christmas and the rolled up map has been moved from upstairs to downstairs to remind me of my procrastination, and my mom finally held me accountable by declaring that she was going to come over and help me start this project once and for all (notice, she said start, not finish!). She consulted a book on decoupage circa the 1950s (notable b/c it said to use glue, not Modge Podge, which, in retrospect, we figured out was probably because Modge Podge was invented after the initial printing of the book to which we were entrusting our project) and planned to gather all of the necessary supplies so I would have no excuse but to begin and we set a date for a Sunday afternoon DIY table transformation.

Side note: we also decided to test Jack’s science fair project the same weekend, and when he and I headed to the Dollar Store after school for 9 volt batteries, copper wire, and electrical tape, mom’s bright orange car was parked right in front of us, undoubtedly at Ace Hardware amassing the various sand paper grits, glues, varnishes, and other potions we might need for what I was now calling “operation-finish-the-damn-table-already.” So we popped in there first and, sure enough, she had gathered all of the supplies. No turning back now. 

Fast forward one more time (or maybe it should be rewind since I am writing this after the fact?) to a recent Sunday, and I prepped the table by sanding it with a medium grit paper and then rubbing it down with a damp and then dry cloth.

Supplies gathered and ready:

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Seems easy enough…

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Ready for my transformation!

We rolled the map out to determine how to best space and cut it rather than overlap it down the edges of the table top lip.

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I declined the proffered box cutter and used scissors to free-hand cut the edges. Not bad, but clearly done by an amateur with crappy, uneven cutting skills. We flipped the whole thing over and used paint brushes to coat the backside with heavy-duty glue (I would’ve spread the glue on the table and then affixed the map, but that’s not what our ancient text specified, so we dutifully followed their method). Once flipped over, we worked quickly, using rags to smooth it out, trying to avoid creases or tears, and pushing any air bubbles out the sides. Satisfied with our DIY cutting and gluing skills thus far, we took it outside to dry in the sunshine for a bit and then added our first coat of spray varnish. The book called for sanding and varnishing your project like 40 times, but I am going to commit to maybe 5. Basically, however many coats I can get out of the varnish spray can that I have on hand is how many it will get. However, because I can never leave well-enough alone, where we put extra glue under the edges is nice and shiny and the varnish is matte, so I may break down and cover the whole thing in Modge Podge after all. And I’m skipping painting the legs.

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So I decided to cover the whole thing with glue after all. I started with about a 1/4 of it and the paper was buckling and bubbling and I was convinced that I had ruined everything so I quit while I was ahead, figuring that maybe I could sand the newly glued area down once it dried. However, by happy accident, when the glue section dried, the bubbles magically disappeared, which gave me courage to cover the remaining 3/4.

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Argh! This looks terrible! Please oh please of please let the bubbles magically disappear again!

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Phew! It worked. Now onto some more light sanding and varnishing, and reminding myself that I suck at DIY projects and having the patience to complete them if it takes more than, say, 15 minutes.

Here is the finished project in situ (maybe I’ll get around to adding some more varnish one of these days).

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Me and Krypto, chilling and admiring my handiwork.

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Blurry pic, but fully functioning table!

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