Friday, August 30, 2013

In honor of Labor Day, I give up

Remember back in May when I painted our home office this lovely shade of blue? And I was so excited to do projects in my newly-organized space and have room to take photos for my Etsy store and all that?


Now don't have a heart attack! I know everyone loves the office as much as I do. I'm NOT painting it. Ever. It's the gutsiest, most successful room I've ever put together and it's staying just like it is.

No, what I'm giving up on is this:


I liked the idea of shooting photos in the office because it was supposed to keep the mess that is my Etsy business out of the living room. However, since my computer is always in the living room, that hasn't really happened. Also, the office isn't the darkest space in the house (that's a tie between the laundry room and the bath), but it is tied with the bedroom for the second darkest space because it has just a single window that never seems to get full sun.

Lemme tell you: life is too short to struggle with: 1) too dark, 2) too freaking blue and 3) too narrow for my nifty brilliant new 50mm camera lens plus the tripod. Every. Freaking. Day.

I will now be going back to shooting in the living room, which gets full sun most of the day thanks to two huge windows (plus the front door I can leave open if I really need more light) so I can get more photos like this:



And fewer photos like this:



Yay for giving up self-imposed irritants that actually make your life harder!

What self-imposed irritant can you give up this Labor Day? Tell me in the comments!

Speaking of Labor Day, now through midnight on 9/2, take 10% off anything at Delightfully Modern with code LABORDAY13. Just enter the code at check-out and you'll get a delightful discount on your new modern treasure!



Thursday, August 29, 2013

Kitchen update: The middle makes no sense

My very favorite bloggers at Young House Love have a saying: "The middle makes no sense."



This perfectly describes the situation we're in now with our kitchen update. Limited workspace means that I can only paint one bank of cabinet doors at a time so it will take several more rounds before they're all painted. Being that we'd rather wait to do the countertops until the cabinets are painted and the floors until we can afford to do the whole house at once, this stage is really quite odd looking, hence the several pretty close-ups I'm about to present.











That said, now that all the cabinets on one side are done, the kitchen is definitely brighter.


The other side is another matter.


So let's see what's left, shall we?

  • Paint kitchen cabinets (half done)
  • Replace kitchen cabinet hardware
  • Take out cabinet & countertop on fridge side of kitchen and replace with rolling island
  • Install small amount of countertop on remaining cabinet on that side
  • Replace the kitchen flooring
  • Replace oven and dishwasher
  • Finish painting walls
  • Install tile backsplash
I have a couple other furniture painting projects to tackle next week, but then I'l be starting in on the other side of the kitchen. I admit I was feeling a little discouraged about the whole project, but now that one side is done, I'm feeling much better about the final result. Maybe that will buoy me along as I go through two more rounds of cabinet door painting.

Do you have any projects going on that seem rather endless?



Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Before and After: DIY Dipped Bentwood Chair



On Monday, I mentioned that I had found an old bentwood chair at the Goodwill in Annandale for just $10 and I was considering painting it. And rather than doe a solid color, I decided to spruce up the wood a bit and then dip my toe in the dip dyed trend that has been making the rounds this year. So here's what I started with.



First thing, I decided to determine what the finish on this chair was so I could clean it up a bit. I strongly dislike the look of over-refinished antiques and so if I can clean and repair a finish, I'd much rather do that than strip and refinish. Plus, it's faster! I got a clue about this finish down near the back feet of the chair.



See how the finish looks like the back of some kind of reptile? All bumpy and uneven? That's often called "alligatoring" which isn't really a technical term, but you'll see it a lot when people talk about old finishes. Generally when you see that, it's old shellac, which given the age of this chair was completely possible. Luckily, I had some denatured alcohol left over from the antique movie theater seats I restored a few months ago so it was pretty easy to test whether I was right or not.



See, every finish has a corresponding solvent. For shellac, you use denatured alcohol. The magic of shellac is that it's almost infinitely repairable. Just by rubbing down the feet with a little bit of denatured alcohol on a lint free cloth, I was able to wipe off the damaged finish. Even though the feet were the worst, I went over the whole chair, removing the shellac anywhere it had pooled. They were pretty grungy.



Then I took a short handled angle brush and brushed over the whole chair with a new coat of shellac, which was also left over from the antique theater seat project. The reason I wanted to give it a new coat was that I didn't want any of the new paint seeping into the old wood. That way if anyone ever decides they don't like the (admittedly very trendy) dipped look and wants to bring it back original, it will be easier for them to strip the paint without damaging the wood underneath.

The other reason shellac is great is that you can put almost anything over it and you can out it over almost anything. However, I was careful to select a water-based primer because premixed shellac has wax in it, which can cause bubbling of the final finish if you use an oil-based paint.

For adding the dipped look, I didn't follow a very scientific process. For the "feet" I did measure: 4" from the floor because the supports that come down from the bottom of the chair are actually uneven. Antiques, huh?



Anyway, I put painter's tape at the 4" mark, pressing firmly to get a nice, crisp line. 



Then to tape off the top, I stretched a long piece of tape across the top where I though the bottom of the paint should go, cutting and wrapping the tape around each piece of the back as I went. 



It mostly came out pretty straight, but it was a challenge because the round, angled pieces of the back made it difficult to wrap the tape to create a straight line. Perhaps if I had a laser level it might have been easier?



I finally had to buy more primer after about a year of using the quart I bought for the radio I turned into a bar. I went ahead and bought a gallon this time since I have at least two other painting projects on the immediate horizon!



The paint color I used is the same one I used on the vintage faux bamboo shelves I painted, which wasn't exactly color matched to another chair we have in the room, but it's pretty close. It's Robin's Nest by Benjamin Moore in a their Regal Semi-Gloss finish, a pretty light blue-green. Normally I'd use Benjamin Moore Advance for a furniture painting project, but since I already had the right color in the Regal, that seemed a little wasteful.



I'm quite pleased with how it turned out. I love the added pop of color and the new shellac makes a nice contrast to the matte dining table, which is finished with Danish Oil. 


This dip dyed look been around since the spring, but this was my first attempt. I rather like the little pop of color it offers. And a $10 thrift store chair seemed like the perfect thing to experiment on. As for the cost of the project, I had everything I needed except for running out of primer, but since I only used about 1/100th of the gallon can I bought, that really only accounted for pennies. Not bad for a quick, cheap upgrade!

So do you like the trend? What are you itching to paint?


Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Deaccessioning: 4 ways to get rid of your stuff



When a museum decides to remove a piece of art from their collection, it's called "deaccessioning". It's really just a fancy word for getting rid of stuff. But it makes me happy to think of refining my collection rather than just making things go away.

Regardless what you call it, you have a bunch of options.


1. Have a yard sale

If you have a lot of household items to dispose of, holding a garage sale or yard sale can be a good option. You get to move a lot of things quickly without the hassle of trying to package up and ship stuff. The downside is that garage sale shoppers are looking for a stellar bargain so if you are looking to get more than a couple dollars for something, you might not sell very much.


2. Sell stuff on eBay, Etsy or Craigslist

For those more valuable items, selling online can work well. However, keep in mind that there will be some set-up involved. Selling on Craigslist is quite simple, but most people are going to be looking for larger things like furniture and electronics. Valuable pieces can sell on Craigslist, but here too, many shoppers are looking for bargain prices.

For smaller items, eBay and Etsy let you broaden your audience. To sell vintage on Etsy, you will need to set up a store and a shop account at the very least. You can also take Paypal payments. This is definitely more time-intensive, but if you plan on continuing to bring new things in as you send old things out, it might be worth it to have such a thing set up. Keep in mind that anything sold on Etsy needs to be either handmade or made before 1994.

eBay is another good option for selling vintage wares. That said, the marketplace is much more crowded now than it was a few years ago and even the least internet-savvy of buyers now have discovered the ability to buy on eBay. This is why eBay is no longer my first choice. After being repeatedly hassled to reduce shipping prices, lie on customs forms and break up item sets, I only sell on eBay as a last resort. However, if you have just a few items to sell and you're not planning on making a habit of it, eBay can be a good option.

With both Etsy and eBay, be very careful in your packaging so pieces do not break in shipment and keep in mind that if you weigh your items incorrectly, you can be out quite a lot of money in shipping costs, particularly when selling to international buyers. Be very mindful when you post those weights and shipping costs and keep track of what you spend on shipping!


3. Consignment

For large furniture or big ticket items, consignment can sometimes be better than trying to sell things yourself on eBay or Craigslist. You don't have to deal with shipping and buyers can inspect your items in person. However, retail space does not come cheaply. Most consignment stores will take as their fee 50% of the value of the sale.

I recently took some items in for consignment so I could report back on the process. First, I had to make an appointment by calling the same day I intended to come in. It actually took me three tries as the first two days I called, the appointment slots were already filled five minutes after the store opened. Second, there was an up-front annual fee to consign of $20. This was even before anyone had looked at the items I brought with me. Third, consignment stores are very serious about condition. Items in poor condition with chips, cracks or stains will be refused. Finally, once your items sell, you will need to know the policy for getting your money. This store sends a check at the end of the month if you provide a self-addressed, stamped envelope. If not, you need to pick up your check at the store.


5. Donation

Donation isn't necessarily the last resort, though it may seem like it's costing you money. First of all, you're usually helping out a worthy charity when you donate, though be cautious of the for-profit thrift stores that are popping up. Make sure you know who your donation is supporting. Second, don't forget to get a receipt. Feel free to make detailed notes of what you gave right on your receipt, save it for tax time and don't forget to follow IRS regulations. Finally, some thrift stores will give you a coupon for a future purchase if you make a donation. Usually it's something like $5 off a $25 purchase. It never hurts to ask if your favorite store has this policy.


How do you dispose of things you no longer love? Have you ever tried any of the above options?

Linking up to: New Nostalgia Anti-Procrastination Tuesday

Monday, August 26, 2013

DIY Painted Bentwood Chair

Last week I had a great run of thrifting luck. I found some fantastic objects, some of which have already made it into my Etsy store, like this super cool wine rack shaped like a tee pee. Totally Camp Wandawega, right?

But since I have an incurable love for chairs (oh, and dressers, but this post is about a chair), this bentwood chair was probably by favorite find.



You'll often see these chairs referred to as "Thonet" chairs because in 1859, Michael Thonet invented the process used to bend wood into these types of shapes using steam heat. However, this is not an original Thonet chair. It's an old copy made by someone or other and imported sometime either a little before or a little after the turn of the last century. It does have part of its original label, which I always think is pretty neat.



That said, what I really like about this chair is the shape and that fact that it's solid wood. And the reason I like it is that it sort of echoes this chair that I already have around our dining room table.



Plus, being solid wood, that makes it very ripe for paint! So I've gathered some images of rooms I like featuring bentwood chairs onto this Pinterest board to help me decide how to paint it. Here's a round-up of some of the cool painted (and not painted) bentwood chairs I found!









It's going to be light blue for sure. But should it be solid blue? Blue with natural wood "feet" via that dip-dyed look that's been making the blog rounds this summer? Mostly natural wood with just a blue top? Only time will tell!

How would you paint it?



Sunday, August 25, 2013

Antiques Roadshow Week: A Chat with Roadshow Appraiser Matthew Quinn

I've had a really great time sharing my stories from attending the Richmond taping of Antiques Roadshow last weekend. For this last post, I met up with Matthew Quinn, an appraiser for the show, at his family's auction house in Falls Church, Virginia. We had a nice conversation about the show, the auction business, some of the items currently waiting their turn at auction and just life in the business. On Monday we'll be back to our regularly scheduled DIYing, thrifting and decorating posts!


Unpretentious, big-hearted, even funny? These qualities might not be what most of us think of when we think of folks in the auction business, which has a rather stuffy reputation, but it describes Matthew Quinn of Quinn's Auction Galleries perfectly. Most of our conversation took place over coffee at Dunkin Donuts.



A second generation appraiser and antique business veteran, Matthew joined the family business after 8 years in public relations. His mother and father had been collectors turned dealers (hm, now where have we heard that before) turned antique mall owners turned auctioneers. His brother David and his father Paul are also both active in what is clearly a labor of love for all of them.



I met Matthew last weekend at Antiques Roadshow, where a little friendly bantering about Weschler's Auction House (a local and respected competitor of Quinn's and who I tapped to help me evaluate my Van Oorschot paintings a few months ago), led to a meeting when we both returned to Northern Virginia this week. We barely discussed television, though how Matthew ended up on the show is a funny story: initially he thought Dale Sorenson, a rare book dealer whose company Quinn's merged with several years ago, might make a good appraiser for the show, but a chance meeting on an airplane convinced him to pitch himself instead. Though he is very young and, compared to some of the other appraisers on the show, new to the business, he applied and was accepted. When he first stepped onto the set, he says he was terrified, but four years later, he feels like he has finally gotten comfortable.

Evaluating a lap desk at the recent taping in Richmond

That said, we spent a lot more time talking about his philosophy of how the appraisal and auction business really should work as opposed to how it does. In fact, the first thing we discussed was ethics. Did you know that appraisers are required to charge an hourly or per item rate for their appraisals and that they should never, ever make an offer to buy what's been offered for appraisal? Both that and charging a percentage of the value of the object as payment for the appraisal are considered unethical, which is a great thing to know as a collector, or even someone who might have to handle an estate some day.

Wonderful photographs of Washington area landmarks, soon to be auctioned by Quinn's

Matthew is clearly ambitious, as not only does he have a real estate license, but Quinn's formed a partnership with Ken Farmer, another appraiser on Roadshow, to expand their business throughout Virginia, making for a total of 120+ auctions network-wide throughout the year. He also formed a partnership with a local estate sale company, Partners, in order to help his clients get the most value for their goods. In fact, he said several times that it's not about the stuff: it's about the people. And as a result, Quinn's has been offered the opportunity to auction collections over larger and better known houses because for them, it's about the people.

Part of a collection of mid century sculpture and furniture soon to be offered by Quinn's:
Bertoia's Spray sculpture

I was so impressed with his take on avoiding the predatory and impersonal practices of some other firms that it made me curious about what motivates him in his business practices. He said, "My father always said that you have to be able to look yourself in the mirror and like what you see. I don't know if that was just a parenting technique, but it stuck."

Quinn's merged with Waverly's Rare Books in 2004.

At Quinn's, the entire business process is arranged to ensure that no object gets overlooked. Matthew estimates that they miss less than 1% of items that hold value by training staff to look up everything they sell. Recently, in a box slated for a weekly auction, they found a James Peale hand-painted miniature on porcelain that the family didn't even know they had that was then estimated to fetch a $2500-3500 price at auction.

James Peale miniature.

Quinn's hosts a weekly auction on Wednesday nights so if you're a DC area local, I highly recommend getting on their email list. Plus they have periodic catalog and collector auctions for items that will appeal to collectors of specific categories of objects. From my walk around the Quinn's facility with Matthew, it seemed like they will have some wonderful nautical and maritime objects coming up soon as well as some very big name mid century pieces.

Though Matthew has many dreams and plans for the future of Quinn's, he acknowledges, "There is no greater privilege than doing what you love." And it sounds like he's doing a great job of it.


Thursday, August 22, 2013

Antiques Roadshow Week: Richmond Love

Antiques roadshow wasn't the only thing we did in Richmond last Saturday. We also grabbed some Dixie Donuts on our way to the taping and then after, we hit up our fave BBQ place, Buz and Ned's. We also stopped in at The Decorating Outlet, which carries Shades of Light remnants and seconds. I was looking for a rug for the office, but we haven't found one yet. That said, I may be getting ready to order another one online (cross your fingers it'a a good choice this time). We capped off our day with a trip to the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden for a little outside time. It was the perfect day for it: overcast and not too hot.

And that's all the words you get for today! Yesterday's post was so explain-y, I thought we could all use a little break before tomorrow's post: an interview with Matthew Quinn of Quinn's Auction Galleries! He's got an interesting story, a big heart and a passion for serving his customers. You won't want to miss this one.
































So there you have it. Have you ever been to Richmond? What did we miss?



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