getting sketchy…

I took a little hiatus from daydreaming about furniture overhauls this weekend to focus on the reality that we are moving into the Casa in three weeks… and still need to paint EVERY room! Thus, my weekend was filled with primer and Pandora (Florence + The Machine station kept me going). I made good progress… only two and a half rooms and a stairwell to go! The goal will be to finish the priming and move on to painting the ceilings this week, then begin painting the walls next week. It is a tedious process, but I know it is the first step towards making our home (and my future furniture) look amazing!

So, the only time I was able to devote to my mirror project consisted of tracing a few sketches of the pattern. Part of the reason I did this first was to get a better handle on how I would go about painting it, and also to start thinking through some color options that could work. The sketching process also helped me to better see the intricacies of the motif, which I love:

After hand tracing this, I started to realize just how detailed the pattern is, and how difficult it would be to hand paint it with multiple colors. Also, I had to keep in mind my goal for this and all future projects, which is to create affordable pieces. If I spent $50 on multiple paint colors and different size brushes, I might end up spending more in total than I would on a brand new mirror! So, for now I have decided to move forward with painting this piece in a single color.

I have two ideas for where this mirror could go in my house. My first thought it to use it as a vanity mirror in our bedroom. I hope to have a simple shelf wall mounted that will serve as my “table”, and have enough space on it for my jewelry, scarves and and perfume. I liked this idea, which I found on Pinterest:

We are planning to paint the walls a light gray color, so I think a bright mirror could be a nice feature piece. Since we are considering a yellow bedspread, and have a painting that is predominantly green-yellow, I am leaning towards a teal color to balance everything out. As some of you might remember, teal and yellow was the color combination I used for my wedding, so I am not surprised that this was my instinctual selection! To visualize how this might look, I colored in my sketch…

If I do go with teal, I am hoping to do a slightly lighter color than this (Sharpies don’t offer a lot of flexibility!). Annie Sloan chalk paint offers some beautiful colors and the paint itself is supposed to be an easy to work with option for furniture repainting. I might look into purchasing the Provence color, featured here in a dresser refinish:

The second option is to use the mirror in our living room above a console table for mail. While I haven’t found the perfect table yet, I am in the process of collecting ideas and searching for the right piece… either new or in need of refinishing. Here is one of my favorite refinished consoles (from the DesignSponge blog)… made from old library card catalogs!

Since our living room will be a neutral beige color with a charcoal sofa, coral-red and cream patterned accent chair and a cream colored wood coffee table, I thought a silver or pewter finish on the mirror would be a nice complement. Here is what the mirror pattern could look like in that kind of a finish (hooray for silver Sharpies!):

What do you think… would you refinish the mirror in teal for the bedroom vanity, or silver for the living room? This will be a tough choice… but, thankfully I have a while more to ruminate about this while I finish my priming!

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Posted by on April 10, 2012 in sketches


a spark

Hi Everyone! Welcome to my blog, “polished coal.” I’ll explain the name in a minute, but first I want to explain what sparked this idea…

I (very) recently purchased my first house in Pittsburgh with my husband (hereafter known as “Dave”). Since we have shared a one-bedroom apartment for 5 years, we are seriously lacking enough furniture to fill a 3-bedroom house. We have been shopping around at various home goods and furniture stores since March, and I have to say I have been disappointed with the selection and particularly the pricing of many items. I am a very creative and artistic person, but am also on a budget due to a bathroom remodel that is currently underway at the new house (hereafter known as “The Casa”). So, I have been on a hunt for unique pieces at reasonable prices. So far, all I have are two pillows, two lanterns and a throw blanket!

In addition to scouring home stores, Dave and I have also been watching a lot of HGTV/DIY Network programs. I have to admit power tools terrify me, but the idea of taking something old and crappy and making it new and beautiful does appeal to me. This has translated to my Pinterest account, where I have been happily pinning furniture finds and DIY projects I hope to try.

All of this crystallized for me today when I was out running some errands and happened to pop into Tuesday Morning (do not judge me!)… you never know what you are going to find in that place. I meandered my way back to the furniture section, where I was again appalled at the ridiculous prices for things that were broken, beat up looking or worse. $375 for an old distressed trunk that was originally $800? No thanks!! Then, I happened to spot the mirror and wall art section… and there it was! A beautiful wood framed mirror with a carved, repeating motif… almost reminiscent of Spanish tile. Yes, the brown/bronze speckled finish was heinous, but I saw the potential. I picked it up and immediately started ruminating on the possibilities… should I hand paint it in bright colors? Should I spray paint it a metallic silver or pewter, a la the tin tile ceilings of many a bar I frequent?

This mirror had not only caught my eye, but inspired a spark of creativity in me. I love to do arts and crafts, and I hate paying for expensive furniture… why not combine my chief passion and loathing into one symbiotic hobby? Thus, I am embarking on a quest to “polish coal” — finding and refinishing those diamonds in the rough, be they furniture, accent pieces or plain old junk. An appropriate name, given that my adopted hometown of Pittsburgh is the definition of polished coal — a gritty steel town that transformed from the ashes into a shining center of enterprise and industry. I want to take a cue from this great city that is constantly reclaiming and refurbishing what is old — from the Armstrong Cork Factory to Bakery Square — and helping it thrive again with new life.

I hope you will enjoy following my journey to learn the art of furniture refinishing. I am completely untaught, inexperienced and naive to the ways of practicing this art. I can only try to learn as I go, and share with you what works and what doesn’t. Hopefully, I will be able to share my polished coal with you!

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Posted by on April 7, 2012 in furniture finds