Dumpster Diving and my little ongoing projects!

Our former house was a very old home with the ornate original woodwork, wood floors, formal foyer, dining room, living room and lots of space for antiques and special pieces that fit into the character of the home. Even before that house, we started collecting antiques before we were even married. One of our first furniture purchases was this large and very heavy antique wardrobe piece. It stood over seven feet tall and was a little wider than four feet. It wasn’t very deep so to secure it from tipping over, we put a few shims under the front so it would tip back just a tad. It had shelves on one side with a solid wooden door and shelves with a glass door on the other side and the two met with those old antique latches that I love. It was very rough when we bought it. It was almost old natural wood with a weathered grey look and was full of all kinds of spiders and friends. I cleaned it up and stained the piece very dark and it held a lot of treasures and miscellaneous kitchen items that didn’t fit anywhere else. We hauled it with us when we moved to two different apartments (one was on the third floor without an elevator, I might add) and then moved it with us to our last home. Oh that was fun. It was awkward and heavy. When we moved this last time, we decided to pass it on down to another family. We ended up giving it to our favorite neighbors who lived across the street. I think her daughter was going to use it in their nursery for a wardrobe. I hope it continues to live on in their house or whoever they end up passing to.

Over the years, our tastes have changed a little and we like more and more modern pieces, but still love the history and craftsmanship of those older pieces. There’s something I really enjoy about combining antiques and older classic pieces alongside more modern finishes and furniture. One of our favorite finds last year was a cabinet that was handmade with a mixture of old and new materials. The structure itself is all new, but the front door is an old pane window. It’s painted in a distressed red with hints of green underneath and the interior is green. It’s aged, but practical for storage and display and we love the character it adds to the room.

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We bought the cabinet at Green Oak Antiques in Rochester Indiana. If you are ever in that area or on a road trip and love to hunt for treasures, it’s a must stop! They are super friendly and helpful and do a wonderful job of finding special pieces, repurposing old things, bringing them back to life, as well as making custom pieces that will stand the test of time. If you read my post about our office project, the old lab table we use for our desk came from Green Oak Antiques. We found it in what they call their “Rough Room” for a bargain price. There’s a few shops in our area that do a great job of giving life to old pieces and refreshing their look so they work well with many styles of furniture. Maybe it’s my sentimental heart or my appreciation for things older than me, but I really enjoy finding treasures and giving them a little updating so they can mingle with those newer pieces. I’ve stopped the car and checked out items that were thrown in the trash or as I drove by and looked in my rear view, I couldn’t help but wonder where I could make that piece work. Or maybe it’s a slight hoarding fetish and difficulty to throw anything out. Am I alone? I don’t think so. I know there are plenty of other “Cousin Eddies” out there who hate to see anything get thrown away.

“Clark, I’d like to try to fumigate this here chair, it’s a good quality item. If you don’t mind my askin’, how much did she set you back?”

One day at our old house, I noticed our next door neighbors had an old chair out by the road by their trash cans. It sat out there looking at me the rest of the day and even the next day. I eyed that old chair and thought it had a little more life to give. Trash pickup was approaching so I knew I had to grab it if I was going to get it. I quickly ran out there, with a baby on my hip, gave the chair a good sniff test, sat our youngest daughter down in the seat of the old chair and carried her and the chair to our garage as quickly as I could hoping no one saw. 

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It was a couple of days until my husband noticed my new find. I’m sure he was pleased. We were getting ready to pack up the house which was already full of furniture and move. Sure, we need an old dumpster chair. I told him it had good bones and just needed a little love. So it went onto the moving truck with its old worn and dusty fabric. It found a home in our basement just because we needed a chair down there and there it sat for about two years. I was planning my strategy. Occasionally my husband would joke and ask how the chair was coming along. In my mind, it was looking a little more complicated than when I spotted it by the road from our window. I am not really a skilled sewer. At All! I have a sewing machine. Most of the time I can figure out how to thread it, change out the bobbin etc. I’ve made plenty of curtains, a few throw pillows, slip covers for dog beds, and an occasional Halloween accessory, but this gal doesn’t know how to follow a pattern or make anything too complex. I had stripped and repainted wood furniture, recovered simple seat cushions with fabric and a nifty little staple gun and some nail heads, but that was the extent of my furniture upholstery background. Most people would cut their losses and admit they were in over their head and carry the chair to the road, but not me. I was going to make this work. I was going to prove that this chair could be pretty again, give a little class to a room and wouldn’t cost much at all. Much at all!  After two years, I finally did buy fabric, foam, and supplies for the chair. It was the end of summer and the girls needed school supplies and somehow instead of going and buying school supplies, my car just decided to stop into a Hancock Fabrics and wham, there was fabric on sale that I liked for the chair and it seemed to fit the look of chair and since I was getting the fabric, I may was well get the foam and new sharp scissors and oops, looks like I blew the school supply budget. We can laugh about it now, but let me tell you – this was not a happy conversation between my husband and myself. I know I tried, but there really was no defending my rabbit trail scatter brained decision-making that day. Some days I lack self-control. It may be diving into a project, or eating a huge bowl ice cream, but admitting it is a step in the right direction, right? I’m a work in progress for sure. So I had bought the fabric and foam and whatever else the kind lady at Hancock told me I needed. Sure I can do this, right? And there the fabric sat for a good year and a half. The chair just sat there in its same ugly dumpster state, just mocking me each time I went down to the basement. A few times, I had planned to get to work and do the transformation when my husband was out-of-town so I could surprise him with a new and improved dumpster chair. Nope, didn’t happen. Many, many opportunities and it never happened. I made a plea to my mom to help me. I was just too overwhelmed with the project. I didn’t know exactly how to begin. My parents planned to come for a weekend visit and it was the perfect chance to tackle this project. So this winter, yes three and a half years after saving the chair from the trash and with the help from my mom and demolition happy dad, I’m happy to say the chair has been transformed. I could not have done it without my mom’s sewing skills and knowledge. This was a project even she had never taken on before and we both agreed that I would think it through a little more before I decide to gut and recover a chair.

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It’s been updated with all new foam and fabric. It’s been cleaned and polished and goes along nicely in our bedroom. My husband even joked that the chair looks so nice, we should keep it down in our living room! Say what? Can you repeat that?

Demo is my dad's specialty. Any opportunity to bring out the crow bar and a good set of needle nose pliers and he's on it!
Demo is my dad’s specialty. Any opportunity to bring out the crow bar and a good set of needle nose pliers and he’s on it!
I’ll share a few pictures of our progress, but I’m not going to go into how to or step by step instructions, because honestly we didn’t know what we were doing. We just kind of winged it and made it work.

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We messed up a few times, we had to rip out seams and redo them, we measured once, twice, three, and four times and still managed to get the size a bit wrong on the seat cushion.

Why yes, I sewed on two of the same pieces of Velcro to the opening and had to re do it :)
Why yes, I sewed on two of the same pieces of Velcro to the opening and had to re do it 🙂
I'm pretty sure professionals have their kids hold up the cushion so they can sew the final edge.
I’m pretty sure professionals have their kids hold up the cushion so they can sew the final edge:)
But you know what, it looks a heck of a lot better than it did. I’m sure those old neighbors would be pleased that their old chair has a new life.

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I placed this chair in the spot where my treadmill used to sit. We sold that baby this winter. So long, farewell! Well, after I cleaned the months and months of dust off of it. Lesson learned, no more large exercise equipment purchases. I like the gym and the gym is where I go so who am I fooling that I’m going to run at home?

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The side table was an antique we picked up somewhere along the way many years ago. Lamp and canvas print are from TJ Maxx. Mirrors were another project that I’ll share with you some other time, I promise!

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So maybe if you have a little project that you’ve been avoiding, a piece of furniture that you have intentions of refinishing, maybe this will give you the motivation to just dive right in. Go for it! I still have more projects to get to, but it felt great to check this one off my list. Now if I can take the plunge and refinish that old buffet and dresser that are waiting on me.

Maybe someday when I’m not always driving the kids to and from their activities and just trying to keep up with our Mount Everest of laundry, I will spend some time on this hobby and do something with it.


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