Archives For April 2012

This weekend I finally got to tackle a project that’s been weeks in the making: slapping some glossy navy blue paint on the $25 dresser I picked up from Craigslist for Jack’s nursery. Armed with a quart of Olympic’s no-VOC semi-gloss in Victory Blue and a gallon of Olympic’s no-VOC primer (about $17 I think), I got to work. Originally my plan was to use primer only on the top, since that’s the only area where the old paint literally peeled off, but when I got started painting the smaller front pieces with a brush I realized quickly that perhaps primer all over would be a wise decision. In the photo below, you can see where I started painting without primer, then below where I gave it a coat of primer first to see if that would help.

The paint went on much more smoothly and actually stayed where I put it, instead of sliding all around on the glossy red surface. I did the whole front of the dresser with a brush, and it was not fun. I see now why folks who regularly use glossier finishes are always harping on about brush quality. Turns out it actually matters with shiny paint. The cheapo brushes I usually use for flat paint just were not cutting it, but no way was I making another trip for more supplies after getting started so I just soldiered on, figuring few would ever see this part of the dresser anyway (most of it will be hidden behind the drawer faces).

For the top and sides, I used a 4″ foam roller to apply two coats of primer and four (!) coats of paint. Here’s another thing I’m not used to: apparently more saturated tones take more coats to build up. It seemed like it took forevvvver for the color to start looking smooth and consistent, or even resembling the rich navy I was going for. Observe the photos I took between each coat below.

Geez that took forever. I worked on this pretty much all day on Saturday, although for someone less pathetic than me it would probably only take a few hours. My need to lay down and rest every 30 minutes or so tends to really slow things down. But finally, the outside was finished.

I’ve been having the hardest time photographing this thing in front of the big west-facing window where it lives. No matter what time of day I try the camera just cannot capture its beauty. The photos below are two of my more successful attempts. Note that the very bottom part is still red. I needed Nick to lift it up for me so I could fit my roller in there, but he was at an LSU baseball game Saturday evening so I decided to just wait and paint it when I tackled the drawer fronts.

I can’t get over how shiny it is. And the blue is perfect–deep and rich without being too serious for a little boy’s room. You just wait until I get the new hardware on there. It’s gonna be awesome. I’m soooo excited that the end is in sight–now all I have to do is paint the drawer fronts and install the new hardware. That’ll mean tackling something else I’ve never done before, since the new pulls I got require slightly wider holes. Maybe the experience will finally give me the confidence I need to install new drawer pulls in the kitchen (something I’ve been wanting to do for months). I’m starting to get a little nervous now, since Jack is due to arrive in a little less than 10 weeks and I still have kind of a lot of work to do in here. I know that it won’t matter a bit to him, but this nursery project has really helped me stay focused when pregnancy was wreaking havoc on my health and I want to see it through. Fingers crossed that I can get it all done!

Wine corks have become one of my favorite things to have around. Last year I got a big stash from my friend Jen, who works in a fancy shmancy restaurant down in New Orleans and saves them all. At first it was just to help me make this wine cork bathmat I’d been dreaming of.

But then I had so many left over that I started putting them in little bowls and vases all around my house. I love the way they add texture and interest, plus there’s a bit of sentimental value, as well. A couple of years ago there was a great bunch of girls who would come over on the first Friday of every month and we’d all sit around drinking wine and making fabulous, meaningful conversation. Many of them have since moved out of town and the gathering sort of dissolved, but I cherish those memories and the corks are a nice little reminder. I’m getting a little teary-eyed just thinking about it. Probably the pregnancy hormones, and the fact that I haven’t had a glass of wine since October, haha.

Even after making the bathmat and placing little bowls all around I still had a ridiculous amount of corks sitting in bags, so I decided to start selling them in my shop. And let me just tell you, they’ve been going like hotcakes. I can’t keep them in stock. I recently had to actually buy more corks to sell because my stash ran out and I was calling Jen every month begging for another bag and still couldn’t keep up.

50  Wine Corks at Living la Vida Vintage

I’m always curious about what buyers are doing with all the corks I sell them. One lady bought like 500 to fill up a giant glass jug. Another customer, Cara, was sweet enough to send me pictures of how she used them to decorate for a wine-themed party.

Aren’t all those ideas so clever? I think my favorite is the second picture, where she used them to surround a small cylinder vase placed inside a larger vase with a candle in the center. I’ve seen lots of pictures on Pinterest where folks fill the outer vase all the way up to the top with corks and the result is very pretty, with candlelight flickering between the corks and making the whole thing sort of glow.

If you want to go beyond corks as vase filler, Pinterest is full of ideas on using them for small craft projects. I’ve seen everything from sticking bits of green garland in them to make mini Christmas trees to trivets made from corks and a hose clamp.

I sell corks in my shop in quantities of twenty-five, fifty, and one-hundred, plus larger quantities upon request, but you can always stock up the old fashioned way. Invite a bunch of friends over to help you empty those bottles, or if you’re not such a lush maybe just ask everyone you know to save all their corks for you. Or find a good restaurant source like my friend Jen, although I think it’s pretty rare for bars and restaurants to save their corks so diligently. And if you’ve found a clever way to decorate or craft something with corks I’d love to hear about it!

My friend Sarah recently bought her very first place, a condo in an awesome Houston neighborhood. She and I have been talking a lot lately about her efforts to make it her own. I even wrote a post a few weeks ago about her dilemmas and my suggestions. One of the biggest things bugging Sarah from the get-go was this builder-basic bathroom. She’s not quite ready to pull the trigger on a new countertop or any other big, expensive changes, but she had the genius idea to add character on the cheap by framing out the mirror. Here’s what it looked like when she first got the place:

Sarah’s parents came from Ohio to help her get settled and this project is only one of many they tackled during their stay. Step 1: pick up four pieces of seven-foot moulding and two dowel rods.

Their plan had the moulding sitting on top of the mirror. On the three sides facing the wall, ceiling, and counter this was no problem, but on the left side there was nothing to hide the edge of the mirror from being visible beneath the molding. Sarah’s dad responded by glueing the dowel rods to one piece of molding, making a little lip that would cover the edge of the mirror. Problem solved! Side note: be careful not to let the glue seep out onto areas that will be stained. If you’re planning to paint go forth with reckless abandon.

Sarah used an old rag to apply the stain (Minwax’s English Chestnut). She went back and forth over whether to paint it white to match the other trim in the room or to use stain, but eventually decided to stain it a deep, rich brown to create some nice symmetry with the cabinets below. Besides, she can always slap some white paint on it down the line if she changes her mind. They finished up with a coat of poly to seal it from water damage in this humidity-ridden room.

Sarah’s dad cut the corners to matching 45 degree angles using a miter box and a hand saw. I was totally inspired by this because the lack of a fancy miter saw has held me back from tackling many a moulding project. Then they taped all the pieces up with painter’s tape to test the fit. Oh, and did I mention that they painted the room Ben Moore’s Van Courtland Blue? They had it color matched to Behr semi-gloss, which Sarah’s dad swears by.

Once they were sure they liked the way everything looked all they had to do was glue it into place. They didn’t realize until they got started that their glue was expired. It seemed to be sticking just fine but it was a real pain to get out of the tube, so they just cut it open and used a stick to spread it on.

They used scrap wood and spare pieces of molding to wedge the moulding into place while the glue cured. What a smart idea!

And finally, ta-da! Mirror=framed.

Doesn’t it look awesome? I’m usually all about the white paint, but in this case I love the way the stain balances out the dark cabinets below. And for only the cost of some moulding, stain, and glue, Sarah now has a very expensive looking mirror. This is a way better solution than ripping the mirror out and replacing it altogether. I can’t wait to see what Sarah tackles next, especially as my own ability to take on big projects (or small projects) dwindles. It’s like I’m living vicariously through her while I lie on the couch!

Let’s recap:

I wanted a low, wide dresser to double as a changing table in my baby’s nursery. I drove out to the middle of nowhere to buy this one for $25, only to get it home and realize it was in terrible shape, evidence of former avian tenants included.

To get over the ick factor of how insanely gross this thing was to start, I decided to do something I’ve never done before: paint the inside. I know now why I’ve never done this before. It’s a ridiculous amount of work. Like, I could have painted four dressers in the time it took me to paint the inside of just this one. But I did it.

I used the same Olympic no-VOC paint color matched to Ben Moore’s Classic Gray that I had left over from the walls. I gave it about two coats + touch ups here and there. It took me a week of working off and on whenever I had the energy and inclination.

Then there were the drawers. The drawers took a whole weekend (interspersed with plenty of breaks). I worked on them in pairs, and by the time I got to the last two I had a pretty efficient system set up. First, I’d set them back to back on top of the dresser.

Then I’d cover the outsides with a 4″ foam roller. I usually just work with a paintbrush, but I decided to treat myself this time since I had so much space to cover. The roller was a big help once I learned to load it with enough paint.

Next I’d roll the inside of one drawer, then switch to a small brush to get the corners. I like to mix up my painting apparatus to keep my hands from getting cramped.

Then onto rolling and cutting in drawer #2.

Then I’d do the whole thing over again in the same order for coat #2.

This system was great because all the pieces and parts were dry in time for coat #2 even if I didn’t stop painting for a second. I usually stopped and took a break, though.

Also, I found it helpful to roll before I cut in so I could more easily see what my paintbrush needed to cover. See how obvious it is below?

I skipped painting the backs and bottoms of the drawers because by this point things had just been dragging on for too dang long, and I knew I’d never see them. Plus I was almost out of paint. So now I have them all stacked up in a corner to wait.

The next step, obviously, is painting the outside of the dresser. I already picked up a quart of navy blue paint (Olympic’s Victory Blue). I think that it will contrast really nicely with the Classic Gray on the walls and inside the drawers.


I feel like I need, like, a whole week to recover from painting the inside of everything. That was such a giant pain. I’m doing all kinds of things I never do for this kid’s room: paying attention to details, taking extra steps to do things right. I know he won’t notice, but I feel compelled to make things nice. Maybe to distract myself from how uncomfortable I am. I’ll be so excited when this dresser rehab is complete. That nasty red is totally junking up the room. Once I’ve got a few coats of smooth and deep navy blue on there, I can move on to some more manageable projects, like rehabbing the rocking chair I got for $15 and DIY’ing some blackout shades. It will be soooo nice to work on something that I can actually complete in one weekend.