Tag Archives: roadside finds

Makin’ great updates to my living room (cheaply)

Earlier this year I did a post on my decorating-on-the-cheap living room and another on wall art made from somebody’s castoff IKEA shelves. I’ve since made updates I’m pretty pleased with and want to share.

First, somebody local on Facebook was giving away an assortment of paints and I’m all about free paint so I pounced on the offer. I originally painted my IKEA wall art using whatever I had on hand and the color palette kind of had a retro look which I liked. However every time I looked at it, which is daily, the fire engine red looked wrong to me. I only used it because I didn’t have a darker red at the time. The freebie paints included just the right shade so I repainted only those slats. Much better!


I then took down the small white shelf and replaced it with this dark stained one I made years ago. It just works a lot better as does this different lamp.


The bigger, darker shelf isn’t so dwarfed by the IKEA shelf-art

The major change in the living room was a splurge, a great, half-wool 5 x 8 rug, which while a “splurge” was still under $40. I am/was SO tired of boring rugs and dreary, old-fashioned “grandma” style rugs. This one suits me so much better. I removed the love seat’s red slipcover for winter just to have a change (and because I am more confident it’ll stay cleaner in winter; no sweaty bodies, no dirty bare feet, etc.).


Does this rug not rock with the $1 painting, the $1 throw pillows, the free love seat and the free coffee table?!

I have to tell you a little story about those throw pillows… I was delighted to get them very inexpensively at a big, multi-person indoor yard sale early in the year. The only thing was they’re feather pillows inside and have made poor support or bolster pillows – this love seat is very deep so additional pillows were needed or it’s awkward to sit – because feathers just smoosh. Luckily, I later found sturdier thrift store pillows (don’t worry – I wash everything in hot water and only buy linens or fabrics that look good) and swapped them into the zippered pillow cases. Aaaah! The couch is SO much comfier now!

So now I had these two feather-filled “inserts” (that’s what the plain white pillows that go inside zippered covers are called – who knew?). I didn’t want to waste them and I DID need a new bed pillow so I got a bright (ahem) idea to open them up, remove the feathers and stuff them into a standard size pillow cover and then sew it shut. I was a little uncertain about the wisdom of this endeavor so at least I had sense to take the whole shebang outside to do it. Oh. My. As soon as I got one feather pillow open and grabbed a big fistful of feathers, I knew it was a mistake but I pressed on. The ground around me soon looked like I’d been slaughtering birds. White birds. Feathers were literally flying. Those pillows were never meant to be opened again!  But by god I ended up with a big feather pillow.

This next one is a small addition but I found an IKEA table runner (I didn’t immediately know what it was but guessed) for a buck at a local church-run thrift store (an odd little place open only one day a week – for six hours). I thought the colors would go well with the others so I added it to this wall.


I was able to cram the top of the fabric in between the fake “bricks”

Here it is in the larger context.


The corner “hutch”? Roadside find many years back. It was an ugly dark brown; so much better with a new paint job. And that’s contact paper from Dollar Tree accenting the lower doors.

Oh, oh! I must show you my best recent curbside finds! These are so awesome – and different – and blend perfectly with the colors I’ve been using. I already have several spots I want to use this chair.


I’ve wanted a “bar stool” type chair for a long time and this one is over-size (16″ square seat), heavy, and well-made. And you can put your feet on the rungs. LOVE it.

Here’s the other find. The shade is fabric-covered and even has tiny mirror tiles, so unique.

It doesn't throw a lot of light but I like it just as decoration when it's turned off.

It doesn’t throw a lot of light but I like it just as decoration when it’s turned off.

I have to tell you this is the most beautiful my home – anywhere I’ve lived that is – has ever been. It pleases me every day. Frugal creativity baby!

Let’s (sort of) make a coffee table

It was one of those dreary, cool days not at all the long-promised sunny and 50°. Why, why, must forecasters say these things? Because of their talk, I had days to get my hopes up about cheerier weather only to be cruelly duped. I’d much rather be pleasantly surprised by an unexpected nice day than look forward to a predicted one and be disappointed. Anyway, I just felt I needed to be productive somehow and hit the end of the day with something to show for it. (I don’t always feel that way – I believe in the power of sloth – but today, despite being tired, I wanted activity and results.)

I’ve never been one to drop money on furniture. It’s just not my thing. Second-hand and homemade generally works for me. I’m not against nice things, matching things, but it’s not a big priority. If you said to me, “Here’s $1,000. You can spend it on furniture, clothes, or food,” my order of purchase priorities would be food, clothes, furniture. If someone wanted to give me nice furniture that suited my style and preference (oh yes, I DO have those), that’d be another matter.

I needed a coffee table. The last one I had was one I made that even had a lower shelf, but it really wasn’t the right size or shape for the space. I think the top board was once part of a microwave cart that turned up – I usually wait for lumber to come along (and funnily enough, it usually does). The whole thing was always more ricketey than I like though, in large part because I used no hardware on the top so it would look nice and smooth like proper furniture. But the braces I put below never really did the job. I routinely put my feet up on the coffee table (that IS what they’re for, isn’t it?) and over time I suspect doing that – i.e. sort of pushing it away every time I propped my feet – added to the instability. Occasionally I’d try to “beef up” the supports but soon enough it would start to feel a tad shaky again. It was bothering me.

The other day, in a home improvement decorating fit mood, I just went ahead and knocked the whole thing apart. This isn’t my typical m.o. as I generally wait till I have a replacement on hand or in the wings. I briefly considered whether I should keep the top board and smaller lower shelf for something else, but decided they were both too big for any new projects I have in mind. I put them out by the road with a FREE sign and they disappeared fast.

But now I had no coffee table. Where would I put my feet? A cup of cocoa? A nice bowl of pasta? Gee, I really did use that clunky thing a lot, didn’t I. My preference for a better new one was either round and fairly small, or longish and skinny. Traditional coffee tables tend to be wider than what I want and dwarf the small space. (In fact, I did have a beautiful large pine coffee table that I found by the road in perfect condition that I used for awhile but ultimately gave to a friend with a bigger space. Before that I had yet another “found” one I’d painted and handed off to someone else. Both were men unfamiliar with the pleasures of owning a coffee table before that.)

Waiting for a new “perfect” coffee table to turn up or just the right board for a top seemed ill-advised. I needed something NOW. However, I’ve been whittling down my scrap wood and the pickins‘ were decidedly slim. Even if my plans for a quick-n-dirty table weren’t long-term, I didn’t want to go to the trouble of making something that was hardly better than what I just gave the heave-ho. Aha! If I was clever about it, I had just enough pieces to cobble a serviceable coffee table together.

I had 4 same-length boards of two different colors and widths. If I spaced them I could make the table wide enough and I could “hide” the fact they don’t match by putting two the same in the center, flanked on both sides by the other two to create a design (hot damn, that’s what we’re calling it). I could use the legs from the coffee table I took apart. And fortunately I had exactly two other pieces long enough to be leg supports.
Just the right size: 3 feet long, 14.5″ wide, slightly under 18″ high. You’ll do, little coffee table, you’ll do.

Let’s fix up a roadside find!

I took my bike out for a short spin and on my way home, I spied a piece of furniture by the road that hadn’t been there on the way out. At a distance I thought it was a wood chair, which I wasn’t too excited about – wood chairs, broken and not, turn up a lot.

As I drew closer and got a clearer look, I grew more interested. A bench! Ohhh, benches I like. Now, I knew if I wanted it, I’d have to take it right then and there. I have learned my lesson. If you find something you want in a spot 15 miles due East from the Last End of the Earth with no signs of human activity or habitation in sight, and tell yourself, “I’ll come back and get that later,” and go on your (naive) merry way without it, I’ll be damned if when you return, that thing will be GONE, even if prairie dogs and rattlesnakes had to drag it off to their dirt homes.

As found, no wonder they threw it out

As found, no wonder they threw it out

I took a cursory look at the bench and this not being my first rodeo, knew the best option was to get it onto the bike and walk it home from there. I easily picked it up and balanced it on the seat and handlebars (watch and learn kids!). Just as I’d done that a man came biking behind me and said, Would you like a hand with that? I can help carry it as far as I’m going. Ha ha! He really said, That will be hard to take… on a bike. As he continued on by. Yeaaaah. It was already on the bike for starters. And I mean, come on, I’m fairly spry and such, but I was going to ride the bike while carrying a 3.5 foot long bench? Perhaps I could balance a person sitting on the bench with a dog wearing a party hat in their lap, like in the circus, too.

I easily walked the bike/bench the short distance home. Once I got in there, I saw it had a few issues, ones that might have made me disinclined to take it had I noticed them earlier. The front left leg was broken near where it attached to the bottom of the seat, and not cleanly either. A spoke came apart. The seat was unbalanced too, even with a clearly homemade “peg leg” addition to the right front leg. The dull black surface looked like it had been painted with tar.

Although the bench seemed old – both from the state of the wood and techniques used in its design – it did not cry out “valuable antique.” Old but poor workmanship are an odd combination. Plus features: the arms “scroll” under at their ends, the legs taper at their tops and actually go up through holes in the bench seat, the two long slats on the bottom sit in cut-outs in the legs, and each of the nine back spindles taper to a surprisingly skinny and more surprisingly, unbroken 1.5″ diameter.

On the not-so-plus side in addition to the flaws already noted: one armrest visibly turns out and the other turns in, sloppy-looking screws attach the arm rests to the back and seat, the wood is cracking in spots on the seat, and that seat at a depth of 13.5″ is very shallow for sitting. The bench would offer a few challenges, but this is the kind of project I really enjoy. I get to be analytical – solving the problems – and I get to be creative – making it purty.

First, I used Shoe Goo, the best glue I had on hand to connect the spoke that came apart and more importantly, reattach the leg to the seat. I pried off the homemade leg additions and pulled out a host of odd nails. I used a white plastic bottle cap to prop up the right front leg. Then I put on a coat of primer; I had just enough left in a can to eke out the job.

"Ghost bench" but still looking better

“Ghost bench” but still looking better

I knew I wanted red and just two days earlier, someone I’d received Freecycle paint from last winter, offered me a quart of “Cabernet Red” which I was delighted to have. Once I started, I thought having the legs and back spindles white would make it more interesting than solid red.
First coat, what a difference!

First coat, what a difference!

Welcomed inside after its second coat

Welcomed inside after its second coat

"Fancified" with cushions I already had. Voila!

“Fancified” with cushions I already had. Voila!