Shabby Chic - Restoring and Reclaiming Furniture
Kitchen Sink Renovation & Bath Redo; Rebirth of Two Kitchens
SHABBY CHIC IS MY KIND OF STYLE
I’ve never fit in to the “nine to five” world. Having to be somewhere Monday thru Friday has never worked well with my crazy quilt personality so, I learned to create ways in which I could avoid weekly work and, in its place, create an income producing interest which managed to pay the bills as well as be a source of enjoyment and peace of mind. One of my favorite ways to do this is to create “shabby chic” pieces from old, thrown away, discarded and ill used furniture, household items and even, the kitchen sink! Following are my own personal ways to reclaim the discarded! Some of these suggestions are, probably, a bit out of the box but, so far, these formulae have worked for me!
Yearning to travel back to the past
I have always loved the Shabby Chic style since I was first introduced in the early ‘90’s. The beauty of old, delicate and intricate things; furnishings, wall hangings, fabrics, quilts…all the beautifully crafted items carefully made by expert hands. Lovely aged wooden treasures; so well made that they stand sturdy today, even after having been misused, mistreated, poorly stored or thrown away! Finely made things with delicious detail given “new” life in the hands of those who refurbish and resell these vintage gems which were found in very poor condition, in second hand stores, yard sales and the local dump! Something about this wildly popular return to the past resonates with me! I have turned my love of such things into something of a thriving enterprise as well as filled my home with some of the pieces I’ve redone. Following are some of the ways in which I have reclaimed and restored others’ cast offs.
“One Man’s Trash is Another Man’s Treasure!”
Or, in this case….One person’s trash is this woman’s treasure!!!
If the piece is heavily damaged; the first thing I do is remove all hardware and place aside carefully. Wipe or dust with a clean rag and then, using warm water and cloth, gently clean the areas which have tougher spots of dirt. Now, sanding is probably going to be the next step if the item is made of wood and has rough, splintered or deeply stained places. If the item is painted and you wish to repaint it; make sure all runs, bubbles, and scaly paint is sanded smooth or removed. To remove piled up, repainted over and over layers, use fine steel wool or 100 grit sandpaper. As you work on cleaning up the old paint, you’ll use finer and finer grit sandpaper and/or steel wool the closer you get to bare wood.
There are exceptions to every rule and here is one: I love the "crackle paint" look. Today, we try to replicate this with special paints that automatically 'crackle' as they dry. As old paint weathers and wears, it begins to degrade, causing the surface to pull apart over time, leaving an uneven, spider like surface. Believe it or not, this is considered desirable because, if it isn't too badly deteriorated, this effect is very cool! I love it! In the case of keeping the crackle finish, sanding is out of the question! If you sand, you will lose this sought after evidence of age. So, to restore or save such a piece, gently dust, wipe down w/damp rag...again, very very softly, and let it be. In some instances, it may be possible to paint the surface using clear verathane. This is a water based sealer which will protect the paint just as it is without changing the appearance or texture.
If the surface of the item is too damaged; you'll have to remove most of the old paint and sand to smoothness. Then, go ahead and try the 'premade' crackle paint. which can be found in just about any home improvement store or....as I've learned to do, paint your first layer of enamel paint, put the piece out in the sun and, before it's completely dried, apply another layer....the newer application will "curdle" and pull resulting in, when it is dried and relaxed, the appearance of aged paint. I came across this by accident and it has been working for me since then!
Some choose to leave mars such as I described, above, just as they are. Truly SHABBY but NOT chic. To obtain this “look,” I feel it is necessary to take the ruined finish down to bare wood and begin again. Prepare your project piece as I’ve described earlier. Then, you can “distress it,” or use paint in any number of ways to achieve the effect you want without having an end product that looks messy.
Distressing can be done in any number of ways. Because old, vintage and antique "farm" furniture (usually made of pine or chestnut, etc) has been painted many times over; and bumped, thumped and, in general, 'abused' which is what adds to its charm...you might want to bump, thump and sand your way back in time. Just be careful not to do so too roughly. Just a little nick here, a sanding using more pressure to cause the appearance of constant use over the years gives that age old effect.
This is a way to cause a piece to appear aged and weathered without looking beat up. Lightly sanding over a paint job that, otherwise, is not too bad, is one way to do this. Using fine paper, sand in the direction of the grain which will expose some of the natural wood through the existing paint. This gives that really cool age old appearance. Another way to do this is to use several colors of paint together, lightly applying each individually but not thickly. Paint one first; wait until it is dry, buffer it a little with steel wool or very fine sandpaper, then apply the next color. Blend it into the buffered areas but not totally; so that the first color shows through…continue doing this to gain the effect you desire…which is what makes your piece completely unique and individual because no one else will have done it the same way!
WORKING ON CAST IRON
Cast iron, oftentimes, is an amalgum of several kinds of metals resulting in an end product which can be brittle or uneven. When working on old pans, wall light fixtures, standing lamps, etc. it is very important to be extra careful as even the slightest "collision" or bump can cause the piece to break in half. Naval jelly is one of my favorite products to remove old paint and rust from cast iron things. Every process to clean and refurbish delicate lamps, lights, fixtures, etc. should be done very gently and by hand. Brush off rust with fine steel wool, continue using metal cleaners such as Brasso or Wright's metal cleansers. Some prefer to leave the 'patina' which is built up over decades. In this case, simply clean w/warm water and gentle dish soap and that's it.
Naval jelly is an excellent rust remover on vintage finds such as old porcelain enamel cast iron kitchen or bath sinks. I found the greatest, heavy, 1930’s sink with dual drain surfaces on either side of the sink and thought, “ohhhhh, this would look so great in my farm kitchen!” Thus began the many steps necessary to bring the beautiful antique piece back to near perfection. First, Clean clean clean! Then, using soft scrub bleach cleansers, gently rub the surface of the enamel to get rid of deeper stains, rust stains and lime, etc. There are harsher products but, I have a hard time using these as they can, if you ‘re not careful; eat into the surface of the enamel into the porcelain.; you’ve got a bigger problem to deal with.
But, don’t despair! This, too, can be fixed! Using a combination of porcelain and enamel fill in (get this at your local ACE or Home Depot), read the directions carefully and proceed step by step.
Next, on the bare metal surfaces (not the enamel or porcelain) use a hand drill with a brush attachment to work on the harder to remove rust. Gently but with pressure, move back and forth over the rusted areas applying the pressure evenly. Always wear a mask when doing this, and safety glasses, too.
Anyway, if the bottom and backside of the sink is in need of further repair before repainting, you’ll need your Naval Jelly, some steel wool and a strong arm! Clean the surface well, rubbing off as much rust and dirt as possible. Then, apply the naval jelly to the rusty areas. Allow to sit (according to the label) and then, wipe clean….repeat if necessary. When most of the rust is gone, prime and paint using rust resistant spray paint.
At this point, the things you've worked on should be ready for display and placement..Have fun!
More by this Author
America's 4-H teaches impressionable young people all the WRONG messages about loyalty, friendship and trust. A wolf in sheep's clothing.