Refinishing Furniture Tutorial + a New Nightstand!

Getting a nightstand at Goodwill for $4 is a great deal, especially when it takes less than $15 total to create a beautiful new piece of furniture.

$4 + tax = $4.32
+$11/quart of paint, used about 1/3 = $3.66
+$1 (or about that) for sanding disc 
+$1 for Polyacrylic paint (that stuff lasts FOREVER)
+ all of the things spread out over tons of projects (sander, cost of electricity, paintbrushes, water to clean brushes - I know electricity and water may seem like minuscule things, but they still count!) = $2 max
= $12 for all things considered

Really, this is a simply done piece, but I'm in love.

So far, though, my process of refinishing the furniture has changed a bit since the first post and, as you may have noticed, I've been through the wringer trying to find out the best possible way. In the future, I'm sure this will change, but here is my new process:

Again, the lighting in our house is atrocious and these are taken with my phone at night, when I do most of my work, so I apologize for the yellow glow on everything.


First, I took a good look at the nightstand and discovered that it really needed a good sanding since there were a ton of scratches in the sides and top. Remember...$4. 

 So I took out my orbit sander and ground down the scratches and divots using a 120 grit sanding disc. 

 Since I knew I was going to paint it (with my new Porter Paints Advantage 900 Paint + Primer mentioned in the finance post), I didn't completely sand off the finish down to the bare wood.

In addition, I hate having sharp corners in my house...
(yes, that is a common occurrence) 

...so the furniture I refinish all of the edges with softer, more curved corners. 

One coat of paint is never quite enough, especially over dark wood (though Benjamin Moore's Aura paint comes close).  By the way, that color is a greenish-yellow, as you'll see in a minute.  Also, I did not put down plastic or a sheet or anything because we are going to end up sanding down the floors and refinishing them at some point.  Until then, the paint gives the floor extra character.  That room will eventually be the master bathroom, so there will probably actually be stone tile put down there and the floor boards will be pulled up to replace other boards around the house. 

....and here is the finished product, after another coat of paint and a coat of polyacrylic.  I used a piece of scrap fabric that is brown with little colored flowers on it to protect the surface of the top from the vase.  Even though it probably doesn't need it at all, it makes the stand look a little cuter.  Plus, the flowers match most of the colors in our house, including the vase and the nightstand.  By the way, the vase is also a Goodwill find, which I splurged on for $4.  For some reason, I had a feeling it would be a nearly perfect match to the Mecca Gold Olympic no-VOC paint in our house.  Turns out, it is!


Currently Listening To "Miss You" by The Rolling Stones

Mi Familia

Since I am taking a hiatus from my house/furniture/yard endeavors to visit my near and dear in Michigan, I figured I would post a little bit about what we are spending our weekend doing.  As you know, Tom and I became beekeepers in July when my mom and stepdad came down to visit.  They brought a starter hive and we got the bees from a local beekeeper.  This is how my family got started:

...and this weekend, we extracted the honey from the hive frames.  I'm sure most of you probably don't know much about beekeeping, so another post will come soon.  In the meantime, here is a video showing some of what happened on Saturday. 

Sometime in the next week, I will be posting a tutorial on how to build a compost bin and more explanation about beekeeping, honey extraction, how to make products out of beeswax and other things I find interesting.


Currently Listening to "Be Gentle With Me" by The Boy Least Likely To


Round II: Dancing to the Music...Again.

Quite a while back, there was a post relating to current songs to clean house to or something along those lines.  As you may have noticed by the end of every single post, music is something that is important to us. It inspires, rejuvenates, energizes, etc.  Basically, it helps us get stuff done.  Also, I've linked up each song to its clip on Amazon so you can listen to a 30 second clip of the song if you would like.  If you google it, iLike will also play a 30 second clip for free.

That being said, here is the current list of Jessie songs to get "stuff" done to:
"Limelight" by Rush
"Sweet Jane" by Cowboy Junkies
"Hell on High Heels" by Motley Crue
"California Gurls" by Katy Perry featuring Snoop Dogg
"You Make My Dreams" by Hall & Oates
"Loser" by Beck (and the Glee version)
"But It's Alright" by Huey Lewis and the News
"Something" by The Beatles (and the other version from Across the Universe by Jim Sturgess)
"Still Here" by Girl Talk
"Letter to a Pretty Girl" by The Avett Brothers
"Once in a Lifetime" by The Talking Heads
"Girls Girls Girls" by Motley Crue
"Relator" by Pete Yorn & Scarlett Johansson
"Shout it Out Loud" by Kiss (also the Glee version)
"Here Comes Your Man" by the Pixies
"Tell Me Something Good" covered by the cast of Glee/Matthew Morrison (originally done by Rufus featuring Chaka Khan)
"Samson" by Regina Spektor
"Man in the Box" by Alice in Chains
"Catch Us If You Can" by Dave Clark Five
"Christine's Tune (aka Devil in Diguise)" by The Flying Burrito Brothers
"Do It Again" by Steely Dan
"867-5309/Jenny" by Tommy Tutone
"People Got to Be Free" by The Rascals
"Dr. Feelgood" by Motley Crue (yes, there is a lot of Crue on here - I must be going through a phase)
"Bungle in the Jungle" by Jethro Tull


Currently Listening to "Tainted Love" by Soft Cell

Also, since I'm missing my usual pictures, here are some clues for what my Halloween costumes are going to be...(Halloween is my favorite holiday - next to 4th of July).

(image taken from Fox's Glee Forum)


Blogging Accoutrement

Our blog, brought to you by Jessie and Tom, with this sweet gear:

Jessie's Laptop - a 3+ (almost 4) year old MacBook.  After 4 years of trying with various Windows laptops and desktops, I dished out the money for a Mac (since I still had my 10% student discount - woohoo!).  By the way, if you are a college student or have one in the house, check out their Apple deals.  Typically, most universities offer a 10-15% discount on Apple products (well, at least I know they do that for computers).  Lo and behold, it's still running after almost 4 years.  Plus, I have this pretty sweet guy in my life that decided to upgrade my hard drive to something pseudo-big so I could actually have more than one tv show and several pictures on it at once.  Yes, I know they have online storage for pictures and I do use Picasa, but I haven't been able to figure out how to link the web address from the online albums to the blog....and I thought I was fairly good at internet-type things.  Argh for always setting my privacy settings to make myself invisible!

After several years of having this great Apple Protection Plan for my computer, which lasts for 3 years, I could not get any chips or cracks replaced for free.  Therefore (yes, I know it is late), I actually got a silicone cover to protect my keyboard, especially since Optimus sheds a bit and his hair gets all up in my keyboard.  Gross, I know.  Anyway, I am in love with this cover.  It took forever to find since my laptop is moderately elderly compared to the current technology of the day, but after some sleuthy detective moves, I found one that wasn't clear or white.  If you just so happen to have an older 13.3" MacBook like mine and you LOVE pink silicone keyboard covers, you can find them here on Amazon.  While Amazon lists theirs for $9.99, you can get them new from the "Used" list for $2.75 plus shipping, which is about half of what it costs to buy directly.

Tom's MacBook Pro, which he got about 3 years ago.  At that point in time, we were in a VERY long distance relationship between North Carolina and Michigan.  Video chatting was weird to me (think Skype), but we needed a better way than talking on the phone every now and then to quell the 2 month breaks between seeing each other.  Enter the iChat feature.  With built in cameras, we used mac's version of AIM (iChat) to be able to see each other face to face even when we weren't together.  3+ years later and his computer is still holding up like a champ. 

iPhone.  *Deep breath and pause*  Yes, we are those yuppies...but only in that way...I hope.  Nearly ALL of the pictures we use in our blog are taken with the cameras on our phones.  They even take video, which you may have seen in the post showing our buzzing bees.  In the next few days, I am going to be including a tutorial on how to make a coat rack which will include that exact video feature. 

Of course I am one of those people who has a puppy picture of my dog on my screen.  Optimus was a cute little one.  He looked so fierce and majestic.

So this is the equipment we use.  Well, the aforementioned and these: 

Yes, my incredibly dirty, grody, gross fingers that I use to type out the blog posts.  Also, I may have mentioned in the "Manic Monday" post that I busted through the platinum prongs on my wedding ring and lost the diamond.  Well, we found it next to Optimus' food bowl (the weirdest thing, I swear) and got it all fixed up.  Plus, you can see my pretty thrift store ginormous costume jewelry. 

Before you judge about the Apple products, let me just say it has been the right decision for me.  All of my products have lasted SO much longer than any non-Mac item.  Plus, I like to use the photo editing, video editing and music composing software that comes built in with the computer.  Every now and then, I bust out my guitar and open up "GarageBand" to rock out and record a few songs.  My thesis was composed in my video editing program and all of our wedding photos were edited through iPhoto (as well as every other event in the last 3-4 years).   In the last few years, I've convinced my brother, sister and dad to go Apple.  I'm still working on my mom though.  


Currently Listening to "Tennessee Flat Top Box" by Johnny Cash


You Can't Always Gets What You Want???

In one of my previous posts, I described the process I went through to refinish a piece of furniture.  However, my methods have changed somewhat.  Basically I use an orbit sander to buff out all of the scratches that exist in the piece.  After the obvious scratches are done, I just paint it and...BOOM.  DONE.

Ok, it may not be quite that straightforward, but pretty darn so.  Previously, I was gushing over Benjamin Moore's Aura paint, which I still love.  I do not, however, love the $20 price tag for one quart of paint.  Our local Benjamin Moore/Porter Paints was having a Labor Day sale on gallons of paint, so of course, I had to drag Tom there.  Optimus came along too and hung out while I lamented over the colors for our front door and deck and whether or not I wanted to paint it with exterior paint or with completely solid colored stain.  

(Yes, he blends into the couch fairly well)

As it turns out, this is going to be a post not about my adorable nightstand I just painted, but rather about negotiating and how that can have a big impact on what is possible for us to do with our house.  

While the paint guy was having an entirely too lengthy discussion about the different kinds of paint and which are low-VOC and which are No-VOC, I told him about some of my furniture projects.  Instead of the Aura Paint, he recommended Porter Paints line called "Advantage 900" which is supposedly better than the Aura Paint...at least for things that get a lot of wear, such as chairs.  You can also get it in your choice of oil-based or water-based.  Only gallons were on sale, so I expressed how I was disappointed since I don't really have the desire to paint 6 different pieces the same color.  He understood my predicament and told me he could work out a deal with me with the quarts of paint (which was at least $5 cheaper a quart than the Aura).  I picked out 4 colors thinking he might give me a better deal if I bought a larger quantity...so I asked if he could possibly go lower (my brother has been teaching me to ask for things like that.  What's the worst that happens?  They say no?).  He told me the lowest price he could go was $13.97/quart (instead of the $15) and I said, "Ok, I will only go with these 3 today", completely prepared to walk out with the 3.  He said, "Wait a minute.  What is your last color?  I'll just give it to you for free".  So I walked out with an extra quart of purple paint and I paid $13.97 for each of the other quarts.  Free paint plus more fairly discounted paint. 

Lesson Learned: Ask for what you want.  There are some great articles on this site for women Learn Vest, which specifically gives financial advice for females such as credit card rates changing and what prime rate gaps mean, how to understand your salary, graduation checklists, budgeting tools, understanding credit scores and how to improve them and how to save money on fun things like hosting dinner parties, obtaining fashion at a low cost, budgeting for fun things.  Written by women for women.  Recently, they did an article about negotiating, which was eye-opening and inspiring. 

If you are interesting in learning about how to ask for what you want effectively, check out their blog post "How to Complain About Bad Service and Negotiate Effectively", which provides 5 tips to live by as well as giving references to other research being done about the topic.  To find out more about the differences in men and women in effective negotiating, you can check out the webpage for the new book Women Don't Ask; Negotiation and the Gender Divide by Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever.  

- Women's earnings relative to men's have stagnated at 73.2%. 
- In surveys, 2.5 times more women than men said they feel "a great deal of apprehension" about negotiating. 
- Men initiate negotiations about 4 times as often as women. 
- Women will pay as much as $1,353 to avoid negotiating the price of a car.
- Women who consistently negotiate their salary increases earn at least $1 million more during their careers than women who don't. 

Anyway, some interesting food for thought.  

(He's awesome.  Notice how he's "helping".  By "helping", I mean snoring so loud it is interfering with my ability to hear my songs on itunes.)

How Negotiating and Just Plain Asking Has Helped Us: 
- We negotiated for all of our closing costs to be paid for us, which saved several thousand dollars. 
- We keep my brother on our phone plan with AT&T to get better rates.  He gets a corporate rate of 14% off for his plan, so we split the amount saved.  Plus, he calls up the phone company about once a month and asks them to take things off our bill. 
- When we go bargain hunting for furniture, I typically have a certain amount of money in my pocket.  I tell the sellers (usually men) exactly what pieces I want and how much money I want to spend.  Almost always, I walk out with exactly what I want. 
- At one secondhand store in town, I told them I lived close and wanted to buy a few things but couldn't fit them in my car.  Free delivery in their truck immediately...plus they carried the furniture into my house exactly where I wanted it.  Yes, I know there are perks to living in a small town. 
- Craigslist: Posters are frequently frustrated with people who are flaky, don't have cash, have a difficult schedule, etc.  Usually, when I make an offer for something on CL, it is for at least 25% less than they listed it for.  However, my emails generally include, "We have cash on hand and are ready to pick up the item as soon as possible.  Let us know when you are available and we can be there."  More often than not, we get the items for the price we ask for because we cut out that hassle and time wasting part that CL so often provides. 
- When there is a bigger item at a chain store I want to buy, I ask the managers when the next sale is going to be on that item.  Generally, they know and aren't at all apprehensive to share that information. 

Growing up in a very frugal family, I always felt really uncomfortable about negotiating because I was embarrassed.  However, I have come to recognize the definite merits of it and know how it has helped us in our endeavors with this house, even though it has been only 3 months.  

Another cute puppy picture because he just looks like such a sad sack.  He's a happy puppy...really. 

If any of this financial information is at all interesting, leave a comment letting me know and I can include more tips and examples of ways we have cut the costs of our endeavors. 


Currently Listening to "Welcome to the Jungle" by Guns and Roses

P.S.  This post had no pictures.  That wasn't right, so I went back through and included some which may not make complete sense with this post.  Oh well.  They're pretty. 

Currently Listening to "Things I Don't Remember" by Ugly Casanova (as of when pictures got inserted)