One thing I’ve learned as a stay at home parent and budding entrepreneur: Children and Business Supplies do not mix. Munchkin steals my painters tape on a regular basis, and anything “put away” is fair game for a wandering, curious Elf to get into. On more than one occasion I’ve swooped in at the last minute to rescue stacks of paper from going flying, shipping labels from being ripped asunder, and packing ribbon from becoming hopelessly tangled.
To give you a mental picture of my working space (or heck, here’s the “About Me; Etsy shop tour“)… I have a drafting table set up in the corner of the living room with a bookshelf right next to it. While I love that I can just sit down and work without going anywhere, I don’t love the way everything is unprotected when sitting on open shelves.
Obviously the ideal solution would be to have my own little space just a few steps away with lots of lovely light that I could close the door on when not in use. (Let me close my eyes and savor this idea for just a moment. Mmmmm. Isn’t that what every Mama dreams of? A comfy little place to be alone for a few minutes?) Okay, back to reality. That’s not happening any time soon. Some day, maybe. So the second best option is for the supplies to be protected. Hmmph. Those supplies are getting all uppity now, thinking they can just take over the place… 😉
So to accomplish this mission, I decided to refinish a cabinet that we had sitting in the garage. We found it at our local building materials reuse store last summer. It previously lived in a coffee shop and was your pretty standard fake-looking wood MDF. My original plan was to simply slap paint on it and store the computer and accompanying electrical cords in it. We ended up using an alternative solution, so it has just been sitting out there by its lonesome. (Well, lonesome except for the other 4 or 5 building/refinishing projects living out there!)
Like plenty of other folks, I browse Pinterest and repin beautiful pieces that catch my eye. My internal dialogue goes something like this:
Ooh, that dresser is so gorgeous… surely I could do a reverse stencil like that! Omg! I never would have thought to do a headboard that way… hmmm, wonder if the hubby would go for that arrangement.
Somehow my ambition always runs away with my head. I get all excited about a project, run out and get the paint, make big plans for the project and then… boom, ‘nuthin. Life gets in the way. I am beyond envious of anyone who can refinish (let alone build from scratch!) a piece of furniture in a weekend. The interwebz seem filled with lots of cute little “oh, I did this in a just a couple of days and it’s so super-duper easy! Tee hee!!!” Now, that really does happen, I’m sure. But if you’re a parent… puh-leeze.
Luckily for me, the Engineer took almost two solid weeks off during the holidays, and I took full advantage. The cabinet was already sanded (we’d gotten that much done at least) and I’d bought the base color paint previously. So the first order of business was just to paint. I didn’t paint the inside, bottom, or back as those areas really aren’t seen and it would have taken longer. That was two 30 minute installments over two days. So far… so good, a piece of cake!
Next I needed to decorate the darn thing. I decided to continue the theme I have going in the dining area/living room, which is basically to use bright colors and patterns from India, North Africa and the Middle East. (Redecorating is a slow work in progress.) I found a stencil pack, layered on my first coat of paint with a sponge brush, removed the stencil and… promptly washed it all off.
What’s the best way to trigger my decorating OCD? Apparently to have bleed-under on a stencil. Strike one. Tried again, with less paint. Strike two.
Back to the craft store I went (after doing some looking around online) and got foam-pounce brushes and Elmer’s Spray-on Adhesive. Another life lesson I’ve learned: No project is complete without at least three requisite trips to the craft/hardware store.
I got back, sprayed down the stencil with adhesive, waited the requisite few minutes for temporary adhesion, and tried yet again. This time it worked a little better, although occasionally the adhesive would just goop on the project when I removed the stencil. This situation required cleaning with goof-off and repainting some areas. All in all I ended up spending about 12 solid hours – broken into two chunks – on stenciling… first doing the initial design and then going back to clean up the lines. I debated adding stems and leaves to the flowers, but I would have had to freehand those and I couldn’t bear the thought of cleaning it off and repainting if I screwed it up.
After that part was done, finally(!), a friend cut shelves for the inside, put it back together, and installed legs on the bottom. I’m pretty happy with the end result. The best part is that there’s locks on both doors – so all my supplies are now safely stored away where sticky little fingers can’t get to them!
Things I learned from this project:
1) Thicker plastic on stencils seems to work better. The Martha Stewart stencils were much more prone to under-stencil seepage, the other one I used (the daisy) was just slightly thicker. We’ve done stenciling on our walls before too, and that plastic was also thicker. Both of the thicker designs still required touch up but, overall, much less in comparison.
2) Either Elmer’s Spray-on Adhesive is not my friend, or else I was doing it wrong. As the adhesive built up (after a couple spray applications) it stuck on the paint instead of coming away cleanly. I was trying to clean the stencil between applications, too! I could have tried a citrus cleaner instead off the Goof Off, but ultimately it may have been more trouble than it was worth. I finally got the best results by just taping the stencil in place with lots of painters tape and holding down the section I was working on with my fingers.
3) All the sites say use less paint when stenciling for a clean result. What they should really say is pretend you actually don’t want to use paint. (Also, definitely use the foam pounce for small, intricate designs.) Put a tiny little bit of paint on your pounce. Look at it, does it seem like enough? No? Good, now go get rid of some and THEN you probably have enough. Believe me, this is hard-won knowledge. Did you spend 15 minutes filling in one little flower? Then you’re probably doing it right.
4) As always, triple your estimated time-budget for this kind of project. This is the hardest one for me, since I always have visions of customized pieces dancing in my head.
Want the look? For this project I used Benjamin Moore’s Advance paint in Bahaman Sea Blue (2055-40), Folkart acrylic paint in Wicker White, Martha Stewart Crafts Arabesque Stencils, and a Folkart Gerbera Daisy stencil.