SHABBY CHIC SHENANIGANS

Ten years in the making (in my mind), two years waiting (since we’ve moved to Blue Belldon Farm) and two months of physically working on this project – but it’s finally DONE!  Although we don’t have any sort of television programs, we do enjoy BBC and PBS-type broadcasting from our computer, which we project on to Richard’s large screen,  (Mom/Joy just watches her lap-top upstairs, mostly CBC).  We especially do this in the dark evenings of winter when we are so much less busy outside on the farm.  Reading, writing and Scrabble are also favourite off-season evening past times, of course. I also periodically still do some coaching and theory lessons, and for that a screen is needed to show playbacks of the students’ riding as well as any of my massive collection of equine educational video.  But I have always despised the look of a television in any room, (ESPECIALLY OVER ONE’S BEAUTIFUL FIREPLACE, FOLKS – A T.V. SCREEN IS NOT A WORK OF ART!) and as a dedicated and long-time decorator of farmhouses, I have always tried to hide the t.v. wherever and however possible.

Thus, despite both sets of my grandparents being collectors of fine antiques, and the one grandfather actually spending years scraping generations of thick lead paint from furniture and then refinishing these pieces to their natural wooden sheens, Richard and I have done the UNTHINKABLE.  Well, unthinkable to my four grandparents, no doubt, and despite her compliments, rather shocking to my mother as well, I suspect.  But shabby chic is ‘IN’, and has been for nearly the decade that I’ve had my Rustic Revivals business. So, we’ve MADE – from scratch- the bespoke pie-safe-like cabinet of which I’ve always dreamt.

Now, of course, if we could have found a wonderful chippy-painted primitive hutch that would have held our television screen and all its accessories (V.H.S., D.V.D. players, stereo, etc) we’d have bought it, but we knew we had too many requirements for anything to ever fit ‘just right’.  Also, there are NO antique auctions of any type in the whole of northern New Brunswick anyway, and getting old wood across the border from Maine is often tricky.

To build something similar yourself, read paragraphs UNDER each related photo for the explanations as to how we did this D.I.Y. project, finishing just in the nick of time as the weather (finally) warms and the snow is (slowly) melting!

(as always, click on each photo in a grouping, to make bigger).

The first part of tidying up the last-to-finish corner of our living room was for Richard to design and build the bookshelves (to left) we wanted, to match the other side that he built LAST winter. (those, on right, are mentioned and seen in the post entitled “…That Time Has Tried”:

https://bluebellmountainblog.wordpress.com/2016/10/23/that-time-has-tried/ ).

The finished book shelves, sharing the corner where our new shabby chic T.V. cabinet resides, look lovely with my ancient trophies, and our pottery and books.  I stained them with 4 different shades of dark stain (which we just had around – I never go buy new!) to make them look older and bring out the various colours in the grains. The shelves look grand, yet homey, in both daylight and lamp-lit, don’t they?

My friend Ron from Carlisle (prayers are with him as he is in and out of hospital of recent weeks) gave me two big boxes of wood-turned finials a few years ago.  I have used these for a plethora of decor, but they are especially perfect for stacking into various heights and painting as candle holders. If you look on the lamp-lit bookshelf, you’ll see two used as such, and I’ve just painted 16 in the lime green and purple wedding colours for Richard’s niece’s wedding here on the farm in July as well – thank you AGAIN, Ron!

We needed legs on this project, not just for it to look like an authentic pie-safe, but to raise it above our water-circulating radiator on the wall.  So 4 of Ron’s finials were perfect for this, with Richard adding pieces of pine on top and bottom of them to raise them and make them sturdier.

The above also shows the use of just regular white glue for the crackle effect.  You CAN spend the money on “Crack It”, and sometimes it does seem to work a little more magically, but in general and for a large surface area, just regular Elmer’s or Bondfast is fine. Paint your wood with a dark colour first. Apply the glue liberally and start painting your outer chosen colour after about 15 or 20 minutes, when the glue is still ‘tacky’.  As it dries, it will expand and ‘crackle/chip’ your paint.  DON’T GO OVER IT AND TRY AND RE-DO A SPOT.  (more on this below) But I also, as seen in all the photos below, do other things to distress and age with paint effects.  (And for more on this see my blog post on our other great project this winter – our pantry bins! https://bluebellmountainblog.wordpress.com/2018/01/13/the-pedantic-in-the-pantry/ )

Other ways of distressing and aging besides just crackling:

  • dry-brush streaks
  • apply paint, let partially dry, then wipe off HARD with cloth
  • beat, chip, gouge with various tools as seen in “The Pedantic in the Pantry”
  • use knives to scrape paint off edges where natural wear and tear would occur
  • apply a brownish or ‘rust’ coloured paint and or light STAIN over some parts to ‘age’
  • and as you’ll see near the end, attach tiny bits of masking tape for ‘chips’ and paint them, so that rather than just crackling you have actual ‘peeling’ bits of paint!

For the sides of the cabinet/pie-safe, Richard cut two pieces of pine left over from the library shelves.  As with the legs, I first painted black and left to dry completely. Then slathered on the glue, left for 20 minutes, and then put on the 2nd coat.

Some extra tips: Don’t take your brush over the glue more than the one time!     Do slather the glue on horizontally and then paint VERTICALLY to follow the grain.  The crackle works its magic best this way.

I didn’t ‘beat these up’ as much as I did the pantry bin fronts but I did gouge a few spots out with the claws of the hammer and then painted over again.  (The colour wasn’t quite right on these sides, either – it was too ‘minty’, so I later mixed some more paint to match the legs better and lightly went over it again, but the crackle isn’t nearly as effective of course).

Neighbour and Richard’s helpmate Zeb came over to help assemble the legs and the sides, then put on the shelves and attach to the wall with all the heavy equipment lifted in after two years of them perched on an upturned plastic bin.  Richard always glues first with wood-glue, then nails with his air gun so the nails are barely seen – just tiny indented specks.

Next came the design of (and arguments over) the cabinet’s top decor. To start (the designing, not the arguing- you can figure that part out for yourselves!)- draw your outline on HALF the paper, then flip it so it’s exactly the same on the other side, but mirror image- and trace it out in full.  We didn’t like the first design (above) – there was too much wood and not enough decorative ‘cut-out’ (or too much positive, not enough negative).  So we tried again and ended with perfection, thanks to my eye and Richard’s hand with a jig-saw!

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I gave all of this front-facing (built right over the t.v. which has always been mounted on the wall) the same distressed-paint treatment as the rest.  Black, glue-crackle, turquoise.  Paint some with dry-brush streaking as above, wipe off hard in places too.  A word about the paint – you don’t HAVE to use chalk paint as it’s expensive. You can buy a chalky dust and make your own from regular acrylic/latex.  The chalk paint WILL make your piece look older than just regular acrylic.  But in order to crackle and distress, you DO need acrylic/water-based paints.  It won’t work at all with oil-based (bad for the environment anyway). AND it won’t look authentically ‘primitive’ either.

I asked Richard to make this piece round-edged as I thought it would look ‘softer’ and more authentic than square edges.  Thus, I could also do a ‘wipe-off’ for a lot of the black to show, which replicates the ‘worn’ look in a natural spot – where it would be most often handled/touched over the centuries!  The above 3 photos were taken as the glue is still drying so you can see how it’s slathered on in some spots, but thin in others (those bits already crackled).

Pie-safes, in case you don’t know, have chicken wire, screens, punched tin or drilled holes to let air circulate and allow pastries, breads etc. to cool off and be stored.  I wanted MY pie-safe to have the chicken wire on the bottom to cover the equipment, but with thin cloth behind it so that the remote controls could still function with the V.C.R., etc.)  Richard made the light-weight frames and I first painted and distressed them.  Then I painted the chicken wire (just some pieces left over in the barn from outdoor projects – again, we didn’t buy anything if we could help it)  to make them look a bit rusty in spots.  Next, I cut them to size and stapled them in.  As I do on Rustic Revivals projects, to avoid any sharp edges from the wire, I caulked a lot of ‘gunk’ from my caulking gun where there were sharp pieces sticking out.  This, when dry, also helped hold the chicken wire in place.  Lastly, I cut some of the fabric from extra curtains I’ve had in the last 3 places we’ve lived – pleated it a bit and stapled it in. The turquoise and the olive-green go with all my pottery, esp. my good Franciscan earthenware dishes, so these are the ‘pop’ colours of our otherwise dark brown living/dining room. Plus turquoise is a very common vintage paint colour.

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(Note: I ended up having to paint more of the chicken wire than I’d first intended, as it simply didn’t show up well enough.  So parts are white, parts ‘rusty’ red, and parts aluminum/unpainted. And by the way, I did add some turquoise dabs to those too-shiny hinge spines. Didn’t want THEM looking new!).

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The last main part of the project for Richard was the bead-board ‘cupboard doors’ I wanted replicated for the top.  We did NOT go buy more bead-board, either, I’m glad to say. Part of the bathroom wall I tore out when I first came here two years ago was salvaged for this, although Richard had to hot-gun some old wallpaper and glue off the backs to make it weigh less (important for its function as you’ll soon see).

The white part is how it was in the bathroom. Richard made pine frames for it, although I believe the same effect could have been done without the frame if you’d prefer and it would be lighter in weight to ‘slide’ as we’re doing with ours.  This is the part that will cover the screen itself.  Thus, I painted everything black for the undercoat that would show through. Except for two roughed-up bits of olive paint I mixed myself. Using my old faithful ‘visualization’ technique, I had decided that there’d be far too much turquoise on the top, so I wanted some olive colour to match the fabric below. But we didn’t want it to look ‘contrived’ and all matchy-matchy. So it needed to look like it was old scraped off layers:

This is where I also used the masking tape effect to look like truly scraped-off, chipped paint.  Plus, underneath on the olive, before lightly going over with some of the turquoise and a dry brush, I’d ‘thrown’ and dribbled some black paint and intentionally dolloped some blobs that I could later scrape off, showing the olive underneath.  If you want something truly old and primitive-looking, from a new piece of sanded pine board, you really have to be artistic and WORK HARD~!

Also, as this was the biggest painted piece that would be always seen, I wanted the crackle to be really defined. So instead of the big jug of Elmer’s, I used the expensive ‘Crack It’ from Home Hardware . (Remember to go horizontally with the glue or crackle product, if you then are going to paint VERTICALLY down!)  And it REALLY worked! Almost more than I might have wanted!

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Then, as all the turquoise was a little TOO bright still, I dulled parts of it down with a light stain.  I almost always, when distressing paint furniture, use a bit of stain to ‘age’ the colour in places, as paint is prone to do if over a century old!  (See what I did with our kitchen cupboards and bake table here: https://bluebellmountainblog.wordpress.com/2016/06/17/recent-reno-country-kitchen/  )

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Lastly, I debated spending SOME money on some true antique ceramic matching door knobs.  But why do that, really, when your husband has cheap plastic dollar-store knobs in his worktable in the barn, left over from a reno. he did over 20 years ago?  Exactly.  So we didn’t spend a penny on these either.  I lightly sanded them so paint would stick, painted the olive colour, and decorated vintage-style.  There’s a calligraphied “R” and “J” for the top knobs, and some little twirlies which Richard calls ‘bugs’ for the bottom.  I gave them a coat of urethane as well, to protect the paint and to make them look shiny as they would have done if they’d BEEN the $24.00 per knob I was looking at online!~

I also wanted the bottom doors to open just like the old way (and as I did in the kitchen) by simply swiveling a wooden ‘bar’, which is from a tobacco slat from the famous cousins Pete and Linda Baxter that I cut and painted.  Richard, once nick-named “Mistah Particulah”, has SOOOO caught on to distressing and replicating primitives, that he even pounded a rusty old nail into the centre to create the ‘swivel’. Yay!

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You know from previous posts that we often traipse back and forth to the barn in our pajamas of a morning.  Sometimes, we work on projects wearing them as well.  Here, Richard is drilling the holes for my doorknobs.

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Above, Richard has put on the knobs and the swivel (on which his old rusty nail is barely noticeable against my little black dot decor with the tops of my paintbrush!) As well as staining to age some of the painted effect, I also dry-brush-streaked some olive paint on (seen faintly above on the middle strip) to tie in the other olive accessories and effects.  Here is the difference:

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The top ‘cupboard doors’ are one piece that simply slide back to reveal the television screen when we want to watch something.  We will eventually have a blacksmith make a big black iron hook to hang from above that will hold this, but for now the adjustable piano stool and trunk work fine.  Richard’s so happy to have our equipment and storage for video tapes and DVDs finished!

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So that’s it!  The finished masterpiece!  We figure, not counting the designing and arguing at various stages over the last two years as we visualized and discussed and disagreed, there was about 20 hours of physical work EACH in this.  Still much less than a Da Vinci, but we sit and enjoy it all every bit as much! That is, of course, my Franciscan Nut Tree plate upon which this whole room has been based with the few bits of colour here and there on shelves, in pictures, and in fabrics… And let’s not forget how well it matches Mom’s huge effort from last winter – our beautiful hand-braided rag rug!

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above, Mom/Joy’s project from last year, the braided rag rug that ties in all the colours of this room and our dishes and pottery. On my grandmother’s chaise longue, see also a blanket woven by Mom, and a cushion hand-dyed, spun and woven by Aunt Ila, the aunt who passed on her skills to her niece.  To see the posts on Mom’s weaving and braiding of rugs and other household ‘needfuls’, click here:

https://bluebellmountainblog.wordpress.com/2017/04/18/5338/

and near the bottom of this one:

https://bluebellmountainblog.wordpress.com/2016/12/07/secluded-habits-not-about-monks/

I know many of you wanted to know when my humourous verse dedicated to Joy’s textile work would appear in the N.B. mag Created Here. It was supposed to be in the online version, but I’ve yet to see it online. I’ll let you all know.  I am also planning to devote all of next week’s blog to Mom/Joy’s weaving, spinning and braiding as she’s just finished three delightful projects for us as well as helping the pastor’s wife a bit to take on this new and rewarding hobby.

To finish, here’s the masterpiece, alongside Richard’s other recently-completed project of beauty and comfort in our Blue Belldon farmhouse:

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4 thoughts on “SHABBY CHIC SHENANIGANS

  1. Wow..you and Richard certainly have been busy! Did reread the piece about Joys braided rugs! Beautiful! I know there is true talent in getting a braided rug to lie flat! Gifted family!

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