Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Shabby-chic-y-fying furniture

I don't know if people on instagram check out my blog much, or if blog readers look at my instagram(@beckyloisburns) BUT recently I have been doing a lot of DIY/upcycling and posting about it on instagram.

I've heard that Switzerland is ridiculously expensive, I also experienced this when I went to St Moritz with my friend, so I decided it would be best to get all of my furniture sorted while I'm still in England. Unfortunately I made this decision just 2 weeks ago and then had the challenge of sourcing/making/upcycling all of my furniture before going to Ghana, not as easy as it sounds. I will be staying in accommodation provided by the company for the first 3 months(March-May) but then I will have to fend for myself and most Swiss apartments seem to come unfurnished.

Being the thrifty person I am I have managed to get a sofa bed for £40(facebook marketplace is a dream of upcyclable bits) a dining table for £10, 2 dining chairs for £5 and a coffee table and bookcase for free(because I made them myself). I have also shabby-chic-y-fied a beautiful free standing pine mirror and an old hat stand.....and I have made them all wonderfully white.... after living in my lovely white attic studio in Brussels I really can't imagine living in a flat that isn't whitewashed....I now have fairly high maintenance housing needs!

Anyway, I thought I'd share my DIY week with you all as I'm actually quite proud of my sanding/shabbying skills and found a pretty good technique that people might want to try out.

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A few photos of the table process, as you can see it was pretty grubby and green to start with.

So this is the table I got for £10 from a junkyard.....as you can see it wasn't in the best state to start with. It looked like it had been left outside for a while and the varnish layer had gone an algae green colour. As you can see on the left I tried to sand it by hand to start with, after an hr of making very little progress my dad offered me his electrical sander. It is now my favourite tool and I want to buy one for myself. It made life so much easier!!! The 3rd column of images here show the colour of the table legs before and after sanding, as you can see there's quite a difference. I really love the shabby chic style and natural pine furniture and, although I understand that putting a lacquer/wax coat over the top keeps furniture watertight, I hate the way it looks with a coating on. I think, subliminally, that chestnut coated furniture effect reminds me of school. In the bottom right you can see how they look with the white coat on.

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My lovely dad sawing the wooden stepladder for my shelves and coffee table. The middle images show the pieces of my furniture in their initial dirty stage, and on the right a sneak peak inside a scaffolding yard.

Next challenge.....a lot more challenging....I decided it would be a GREAT idea to try and make my own furniture because I have so much free time on my hands/example of really extreme procrastination. So I took a trip to my dad's scaffolding yard to see what bits of wooden scaffolding planks I could get- he owns a scaffolding business so it was all free. There's a pile of smaller pieces that they throw away because they can no longer be walked on or hold any substantial weight so I could take my pick from those. My lovely dad also helped me cut down the planks and an old wooden scaffolding ladder I wanted to use to make my bookcase. Being the independent young woman I am, I could have definitely managed cutting the wood myself. I thought I proved my proficiency with power tools quite nicely while sanding the table, however my father does not trust me with a power tool that is used for cutting.....fair enough. So as you can see from the above photo....the boards were pretty grubby. Walked on by scaffolders, exposed to the British elements(a lot of rain) and painted in the bright blue and yellow colours of L&H Scaffolding.....like I said 'a lot more challenging than sanding and painting a table.

So the sanding begins!!!

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Pre-painting photos of my coffee table development from the sanding to the assembling.

The above photo collection shows the beginnings of my, now lovely, coffee table. I used 2 old scaffolding planks and 4 rungs of a wooden stepladder(2 on each side). I wanted to keep the furniture looking quite old and rustic so I purposefully chose misshapen wood. I actually love the way the sanding worked out as the pine looked so beautiful underneath all of the dirt, as did the step ladders. The pine in the stepladders actually had the most beautiful grain pattern after sanding that I was reluctant to paint over it. I also wanted to keep some of the blue and yellow on the stepladder so I chose not to completely sand it off. As I'm moving away from home I wanted something to remind me of my dad- I'm quite sentimental like that! Anyway....I finally assembled all the pieces together after hours of tirelessly sanding in my parents garage and covering everything in a thin layer of dust and this is what it looked like. At the beginning of the project I showed my mum the grubby planks of wood and told her my plans for them....she gave me the standard "Becky you're insane" look(which I'm immune to as people give me this a lot)and I could tell she could not quite see how I could possibly make two dirty scaffolding planks and two bits of wooden stepladder into an acceptable coffee table...I can completely understand her qualms BUT add a layer of white emulsion paint and 10,000 layers of white spirit and ta-daaahhhhh.....

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My finished coffee table and a close up of the white emulsion wash I did over the top.

So there is my new coffee table. I understand that a lot of people will think it's ridiculous to have an item of furniture in their house made of  scaffolding planks and bits of stepladder, and I know there will be others of you who will tell me I should have left it at the sanded pine stage and not whitewashed it BUT I absolutely love it! After a great deal of trial and error I even got the whitewash effect right. I really loved the way the sanded pine looked after the dirt was removed and felt like there was something poetic in the way there was beauty underneath the grime. I wanted to retain the pure pine underneath the whitewash and this meant making sure the white paint was super thinned out. My mum was in despair that week as I basically went to town on white spirit and insisted on whitewashing all of my furniture....if anyone is about to try out shabby-chic-ing furniture OPEN ALL OF YOUR WINDOWS- white spirit smells strong.


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Before and after sanding photos.

I took a few before and after photos to show the difference a little sanding can make. The photos really don't do it justice but you can see how much difference it made and how beautiful the natural pine is underneath. I'd be very curious to see what scaffolding planks look like when they're initially purchased. The ladders brightened up nicely too!

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My scaffolding bookcase.

So this is my bookcase- the rest of the wooden scaffolding ladders and 4 1metre scaffolding planks. I also left the metal scaffolding plaques with my dads logo on the plank shelves to add to the rustic effect. I guess it's quite a masculine piece of furniture, but it's free, handmade and flat pack which is extremely useful when you're shipping your life to Switzerland in a Luton van.


The chaos surrounding my DIY attempts.

Just a little taster of what my poor parents have had to put up with over the last week! I have occupied the garage, expanded into the driveway, and used the living room as a furniture storage facility. I have covered every inch of the garage in a layer of sawdust and have accidentally created a white version of Jackson Pollock on the floor where I have been painting, combine this with the constant smell of white spirit over the past week and a half and I am genuinely surprised our neighbours haven't reported us for re-enacting a budget version of breaking bad.

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Before and after shot of the free-standing mirror

Here is my new shabbyfied mirror. Half of my blog readers probably prefer it in the original pine state....but I am hoping for a whitewashed flat so I'm matching my furniture to the flat I hope to find..fingers crossed.


I also intend on making a sofa from pallet boxes and have designed one in a way that it can also be used as a spare bed for guests....that is yet to be made...and I'm going to Ghana in 6 days so realistically it's looking like a post-Ghana challenge.

Now I just need to find a beautiful whitewashed flat that is perfectly located, affordable, possibly with beams but not on the top floor with no lift...oh and a balcony/terrace overlooking Basel but not overlooking neighbours so that I can sunbathe without leaving my flat........not that I'm being picky... 

I'll do another post next week when I arrive in Ghana!
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