Monday, December 31, 2012

The Most Popular Posts of 2012

This has been an amazing year of growth!

A year ago, I was struggling to find my niche. Which, ironically is not as simple as refinishing furniture and selling it! Don't get me wrong. I LOVE to fix up old furniture and breathe new life into it. But, I am passionate about sharing the secrets of the trade with other aspiring DIYers and finding ways to inspire others to create! It wasn't until I signed a contract to sell Annie Sloan Chalk Paint in January that I really had an outlet to teach other people how to transform their amazing finds. Since then, we have successfully trained over 50 people in the art of painting, distressing and waxing furniture!

A year ago, I (literally) threw some new and old hardware in a basket with a price tag to "clean off" some much needed shelving. I wasn't expecting it to sell...after all, it was hardware that I was intending to use in some future projects...but, it flew out the store. It was like a light bulb went off! If you can come buy paint at knot too shabby, then you should be able to get everything else needed to refinish a project. So, I set up accounts with some brush suppliers for paint brushes, waxing brushes and soaps and contacted a hardware supplier oversees so that I could start selling my own "Anthropologie" style knobs. Now, we sell fabric, burlap sacks, ribbons, sanding blocks, sandpaper...oh, and Miss Mustard Seed's Milk Paint in our "Do-it-yourself Center."

A year ago I put a stop to offering consignment opportunities in the shop. Reason number one; I simply didn't have the space to share with others. Reason number two; it didn't mesh with my personal style. Since I quit selling consignment items, I have been able to hone into my own style and let it flourish throughout the store. Which, is keeping to the vintage flair of worn metal and wood and re purposed items. It brings about a greater sense of unity throughout the entire shop. many changes this year, lots of blog posts and some great new friends and customers! It is quite fulfilling.

I went back through my blog stats and was curious to see what the most popular posts were this past year! I was surprised at which ones made the list.

Number 5
A Kitchen for the Kids

I wrote about this really fun transformation just before Christmas last year because I refinished this play kitchen from the 1950's with a paint treatment, new hardware and faux granite counter tops. My girls got this from Santa last year, and it is still their favorite play thing in the house!

Number 4
From 2 to 10

I think this one made this list because this farmhouse style table is so popular right now...and what's not to like about it! It was a fabulous transformation from a golden maple color to this rich dark walnut top and painted base. Can I tell you a secret? The base is painted with spray paint! It looked great when it was finished and expanded from a simple 2-seater to a 10 seater!

Number 3
Redone Again

This post was about a dresser I refinished that didn't sell for over six months so I refinished again. This was a post from 2011 as well, and I think it was so popular because I used a homemade chalk paint mix for the paint finish. About a year ago, the homemade chalk paint frenzy was all over blogland...but, I think it has fizzled out a bit since it just doesn't compare to the real stuff.

Number 2
The Art of Re-purposing

This was another post written last December and among the most read this year! The entire post was dedicated to re-purposing everyday household items (or junk) and making them part of your home it furniture, wall hangings, garden accessories...etc.

And the Number 1 post of the year...
Vintage Decorating Styles

This entire blog post defined the differences between the popular "vintage style" decorating. Who new that there were so many different styles from French Country, to Shabby Chic to Modern Country? It also shows my personal decorating style which I defined as Early Americana Vintage...a cross between Urban Vintage and Modern Country (without the modern element). Basically, if it is made from old wood and metal, I tend to love it...and the more re purposed it is, the more I like it...but I still need traditional elements thrown into the mix to balance the "junkiness." and add some class.

Looking back at the list of popular posts, I loved seeing the variety in topics! I'm going to take that as a cue for the new year and keep blogging about anything and everything. Of course, painting transformations will make the cut because that is what I do the most!

Thank-you for sharing in the adventure of our business this year! I hope that you have a wonderful and safe New Year's!

From all of us at knot too shabby, Happy New Years! Here's to a great 2013!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Christmas in the Retail World

Last year, I expected the "retail Christmas season" to be huge! We ramped up the store; stuffed it full of furniture (keeping in mind that last year we only had 1,000 square feet to stuff as opposed to our 1,800 square feet this year). We decorated like crazy and polished all the silver. After all, retail wouldn't survive without the Christmas season, right? was a HUGE let down. In fact, of my first six months in business, December and November were my two worst (financially speaking) months.
When I looked back at my sales from the two years I sold out of my garage, I had the same experience in December. So, I figured people just don't buy furniture during the holiday season.
This year, we approached the holiday season a bit differently. The idea was, rather than pushing for sales of large furniture pieces, we would display the store in a fashion that offered tangible ideas for home decorating. Ideas like how to integrate different styles of furnishings and make it work.
Other ideas like how to re-purpose "things" for decorating and display (i.e., the picket fence, decorative ice skates, enamel plant holder, drawer container, Christmas tree made from books...and the best re-purposed project of the year, the Singer Treadle table).
We set up coffee tables as benches, integrated retro furniture with classic antiques and proved that a potato basket makes for a great pine cone container!
And, we pushed for sales of some of the more "gift style" items like unique, handmade Christmas ornaments and paper wreaths!
Plus, we introduced Michelle E. Black's image transfers for the first holiday season!
Well, Christmas has come and gone! We sold more furniture this month than any month to date! Talk about an unlikely turn of events. I'll tell you one thing for sure, if it wasn't for the fabulous four interns we have right now, I don't think I could keep up with it.

These are a few samples of what has sold that didn't even get properly photographed and updated to the for sale page of the website.

A beautiful mahogany buffet with a dark walnut re-stained wood top and base painted in Emperors Silk. It's a pity we dont' have close-ups of this piece because we used Annie Sloan's Craquelier on the drawers and they looked so awesome! 

The sister dresser was finished the day before and was a total (but totally unintentional) Miss Mustard Seed knock-off piece. The drawers are painted in a 50/50 mix of Paris Grey and Louis Blue and the framework is Old White. It wasn't until I put the drawers into the framework that I recognized this as an identical color-scheme on a MMS buffet. I was pretty bummed that it ended up looking like such a blatant rip-off, but it was beautiful in its finished state.

Both of these sold in less than 24 hours. And, another low boy dresser and mirror set painted in Graphite with Old Ochre accents sold one hour after it was finished. It was a whirlwind!

To restock the store, we have fifteen different furniture projects underway that are being featured in fifteen different Annie Sloan Chalk Paint colors. I can't wait to share more about this project when it's all said and done. You will definitely be seeing process pictures of everything that we are working on.

We have some exciting things planned in the New Year so I do hope you will come back and visit to see what we are scheming! :)
In the meantime, I hope that you have a safe and fun New Year's!  

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Moving On

It's been over a week since I posted anything. I had a couple of blog posts sketched out for this week, but after the awful Connecticut news last week, my general feeling was "who cares about furniture?" Who cares about how to make a wax glaze? What difference does it make that we chose Emile over Henrietta

I can't go online or turn on the radio without hearing about the teachers, the children, the parents. It hit waaaay too close to home! So, I've spent my week cuddling with my little girls more, exercising a greater level of patience and basking in the simple joys of picking them up from school and watching them sleep. Then I pray that God will keep them safe and I move on in my day, recognizing that I have no control over what may come.

And, we manage to move on, even as we reflect, show sympathy and pray for those impacted.

Thanks to our awesome new crew of painting interns (we have four now), we finished a few pieces in the past week.

A cute side table painted in Emile with a "stencil" treatment using a large doilie.

Old Ochre covers the base of this coffee table with French script on the original wood top.

Just finished today and not even properly photographed, a fantabulous mahogany dresser refinished with a 50/50 mix of Paris Grey and Louis Blue, Old White and dark walnut wood stain.

And, we got a new addition with the vintage carousel horse.

I think she needs a name. Any suggestions?

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Store

It's been such a long time since I've taken complete store pictures, so I  thought I would share a snapshot of how things are looking these days. In total, there are ten new pieces that have shown up in the last 48 hours. We've been very busy!


The view in from the front door. 

The Do-It-Yourself Paint Center 

I've never had this many empty chair hooks since I opened the store!

Another painted barrel chair with a faux grain sack treatment on drop cloth.

An awesome, simple round drop leaf painted in Old White with a pop of Emperors Silk on the drops so when it isn't up, you get a sneak of red.

The beast!

And, my happy Painting Passport holders for our "Free Paint Day!"

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Dollar Desk

I didn't bother to take a before picture of this desk because I didn't have any intention of fixing it up so I have to paint a picture in your mind. 

It was awful. A black spray paint finish with a horrible amount of warped areas on the top and wonky drawers. It was!

My mom picked it up for me and said, "before you freak out, it was only $1." Well, a desk for a dollar...can't pass that up! 

Now, fast forward about a week or so, it was sitting in the workroom giving me the evil eye. Sabrina and I were working on some projects together and I pulled out some leftover paint from a custom color mix. It was so old, it had turned into a thick goop. I got a little excited because it was PERFECT to teach her how to do an impasto finish and this desk was PERFECT because it had so much damage on the top surface. I love when things happen like that. 

The paint color is 50/50 mix of Aubusson and Paris Grey with Old White on the drawers.

This is what the top looks like with the impasto finish and straight dark wax.

There's so much awesome texture and it all blends with the flaws!

 Patches of dark wax add a lot of depth of color.

The drawers are Old White and have a heavy clear wax/dark wax mix so they have as much color variation as the framework.

And, when you only spend $1 on a desk, you can invest more time in the details. Like the knobs and inside of the drawers. 

Thanks to the graphics fairy, we used some vintage images of a car, trike and scooter for the inside and the knobs. 

It's completely special now! 

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Sweet Redemption

I told you I could paint fabric!!!

Let me back track...

The Epic Fail:


This couch was a disastrous paint project which I have deemed my Epic Fail. You can read more about it, but I have since wanted to redeem myself from the result of the sofa!

Meet the vintage barrel chair.

The perfect candidate for painting the fabric! Just the back, though. The seat got a different treatment.

The framework is painted in Greek Blue, the upholstered back is both painted in Old White and waxed.

The seat cushion is covered with an extra wide-weave burlap coffee sack from Kenya. The original greenish/blue fabric peeks through the burlap and looks really cool!

The wax on the fabric softens the paint and makes it really comfortable. 

Before and after, side by side. What a difference!

 Have I been redeemed?

Friday, December 7, 2012

Simple Changes

I can't buy into gold frames. Gold framed mirrors, picture frames, chalkboards...etc. It's a very iconic French Country design look...but I just don't love gold.

However, I do love the detailing in most gold frames. 

The embellishments on the corners make these ideal for dark wax and the gold is perfect for distressing!

It takes less than 30 minutes to change the look of one of these beautiful picture frames!

This one, in particular was painted by Fiona from Australia! Fiona has her own very successful blog, and when she visited LA a couple of weeks ago, she made a special trip to Glendora just to visit the store! It was such a treat to paint with her for a few minutes and chat about refinishing furniture!

The base coat is painted in Paloma with a smattering of Emile on top. I distressed it down to the gold and added a heavy coat of dark wax to settle in all of the detailing!

I just love simple changes for a fresh look!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

How to Strip Paint and Re-stain Wood

Back in the day, I was completely intimidated by the thought of stripping layers of paint and re-staining the wood. To my surprise, it's much easier than I ever thought possible. With the right chemicals and tools, you can easily strip layers of old paint, varnish in stain in just a matter of minutes. 

Our subject piece:

The key is to ensure that what you are stripping is solid wood, like this versatile five-drawer dresser.

I use Klean-Strip, a chemical cleaner. I've used the Citristrip, all natural "green" brands and think they totally suck. I've never had good luck with them and it's been way more aggravation than a help. So, this is my brand of choice. Wear gloves (and eyewear) because this stuff burns like crazy if it splatters on your skin. Really...I know from experience. You're skin will turn bright red and it feels like it is burning right through to the bone! In the meantime, you're tongue ends up bleeding because you are biting down so hard in an attempt not to curse!  

I pour the Klean Strip on liberally and use a cheap, $1 chip brush to spread it around. It doesn't take long before you will see the paint start to bubble up. Give it a few minutes and use a putty knife to start peeling off the paint. You want to start peeling the paint while the Klean Strip is still wet!

The paint will start coming right off. I scrape all of the excess off and put it in an old grocery bag.

Once you get the first coat of paint off, you usually need to go back over with another round of Klean Strip for the thicker layers that didn't penetrate. Again, put another liberal coat of Klean Strip on the painted areas and wait for the paint to bubble up. Note: The Klean Strip is prone to splatter along the sides of the piece and the drawers. I strip and re-stain prior to painting the base so I can paint over the areas on the side where it strips off rather than repainting those same areas.  

I repeat the process of using the Putty Knife to wipe off the rest of the paint and the top layer of varnish two more times. The third and final time is to get the last little bits of paint and the top layer of varnish.  

Again, I put it on pretty liberally...probably more than I need to. But on my last round I'm focusing on the edges and the patches of varnish.

I use the chip brush to spread it around, and for the final time scrape the last layers of varnish and paint with the putty knife.

With the last layer removed, it is ready to be sanded. If you are a professional wood worker, this is where you want to turn away because once I start sanding, I do it all wrong! Consider this your warning!

I only want to sand it once! I use a course, 60-grit sandpaper on my palm sander to clean up the finish that the Klean Strip didn't get to (although an 80 grit would have been sufficient). Note: The key to easy sanding is to let the sander do all the work. There is no need to apply a lot of pressure on the sander.

Then I apply my first coat of stain. I almost always go straight for the Dark Walnut.

Once your first coat of stain is on, wipe it off fairly soon after you apply it with a cloth. Note: If you don't wipe off the wet stain, it will look nasty. Think of stain as a medium to penetrate and re-color the wood. Try not to think of it as paint. If you don't wipe off the excess stain, it will dry streaky and most likely have drip marks along the side, looking like it was painted rather than stained.

Once the first coat is wiped off, this (above) is what it will look like. Now, remember when I told wood workers to look away? Well...I sand incorrectly. REAL furniture re finishers will sand working from a low-grit to a high grit sandpaper. I don't have time for that and the result of my sanding technique is "sanding swirls." See the teeny tiny swirlies above in the wood? That is from using a low grit sandpaper with a palm sander and only sanding it one time. Sometimes, those sanding swirls look really cool in finished pieces. But a real woodworking furniture re finisher would cringe.

To "fix," or rather diminish the sanding swirls, sand the top again with a 220 grit sandpaper once the stain is dry (okay...mostly dry). Re-sanding roughs up the finish just enough so that the second coat of stain can penetrate. Wipe down the dust and stain again.

Once the final coat of stain is dry, go back over with the 220 grit sandpaper and apply Dark Wax (or polyurethane) to protect the finish.

Then commence with painting the base. By now, it will need it!

Check back to see this dresser in all her glory when it's done. Give it a day or two for a reveal!

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