We recently celebrated [i.e., refinanced] the two-year anniversary of Buying the Babushka House. I’ve learned so much from owning a neglected Victorian-era Workers’ Cottage. Now I know the difference between a flange and a flapper, and that they are not 1920s dress styles but, in fact, parts of a toilet. I’ve even discovered actual sink parts called the Ball Cock and the Escutcheon Nipple. Oh my.
Don’t let all this House Learning fool you. My first Project Love, my raison d’être, will always be Fixing Up Junk I Find In The Alley (FUJIFITA).
Sadly, the Babushka House is somehow smaller than our last apartment, so we have no room for new FUJIFITA furniture projects. Thus, when I stumble across some mouth-watering alley junk, I simply alert my network of Fellow Scavengers (all human). Here’s a scrapbook I created to remember those I left behind: *
Then one magical day in May, I found something I could actually take home. I was riding our cargo bike back from – ironically** – a decluttering drop-off event. I detected some choice items placed carefully next to an apartment building dumpster.*** I carefully strapped this dingy, but very sturdy, Mid-Century Modern style night stand to my bike:
Why did it not end up in the Album of Forgotten Alley Finds? Because a perfect FUJIFITA scheme was already brewing in our bedroom! It starts with our existing bedroom set: A dresser and [ONE SINGLE] night stand:
Like socks, feral cats and peanut butter cups, night stands work bettter as matching pairs; the solo yellow fellow on Scott’s side of the bed**** is forced to share night-standing duties with a dark-walnut side table. The whole room is out of balance, visually and emotionally.
Enter my dingy alley find. The perfect size and shape, all it needed was a quick dye job to join the Bedroom Set Family and claim its rightful place on My Side of the Bed.
STEP ONE: EXFOLIATE
Like a bad sunburn, my nightstand was molting a layer of laquer that needed to come off before I could even think about repainting.
I gave the whole piece a firm, but light (150+ grit) sanding, enough to rough it up but not destroy it.
I wiped the dust off with a damp sponge and microwaved some spaghetti for lunch.
STEP TWO: PRIME + PAINT + POLYCRYLIC
Since I would be dipping into an old can of oil-based “sunburst yellow” paint for the drawers, I had to give them two coats of oil-based white primer. Then, I applied two coats of white latex primer to the cabinet. A cleansing prime always feels so good:
Wow. Turns out Harvey Probber was an influential, prolific and suuuuper laid back mid-century furniture designer.
Most of his signature pieces could best be described as “Orgy Ready.” Are you really surprised, with a name like Harvey Probber?
And then I discovered a pair of Harvey Probber night stands – identical to mine – selling for $7,400. Seven thousand four hundred American dollars.
I got to experience my very own “It’s a Wonderful Life” feeling telling Scott that I just painted over a piece of furniture that may be worth more than our new roof. And then I feel like Uncle Billy all over again as this “sponsored post” follows me around the internet:*****
Ahem. Anyway, after the primer dried, I dug around in our Paint Archives and applied two coats from a can labeled “kitchen ceiling.” Then I applied three coats of “sunburst yellow” paint to the drawer fronts.
Since the top of this nightstand is sure to get a lot of wear-and-tear — think bumpy library books and a leaky humidifier — I applied three coats of clear, glossy polycrylic, with a light, high-grade sanding between coats.
STEP THREE: SCAVENGE THE HARDWARE
Since this thing was sitting dormant on my back porch for six months, I honestly don’t remember what happened to the original drawer pulls. No worries, I’ve developed a useful habit of pulling the legs and hardware off of everything that I find in the alley that I can’t take home:
I could have drilled two more holes in each drawer so that the pulls matched the “original” bedroom night stand, but I figured the new guy had already been through enough. These shiny chrome saucers will do just fine:
It wouldn’t be the internet without a before-and-after, so let’s see how far we’ve come in two years:
Welcome to the family, little night stand! I think we’ll call you Harvey.
* My kids are skilled at spotting good stuff in the alley. They alert me by saying, “Mommy, don’t look over there! There’s nothing good next to that dumpster! Please let’s keep going!”
** Yes, this is an appropriate use of the term ironic.
*** The Scavenger Code says that items placed INSIDE a dumpster are not fit for re-use. Items placed carefully NEXT to the dumpster, facing out, are asking to be taken home by you.
**** MARRIAGE TIP: To keep things caliente, Scott and I like to switch sides of the bed every six months. This also helps equalize bed lumps, since he’s got about 30 pounds on me. It’s simpler than rotating the matress.
***** I will admit that the ad for those $7,400 Harvey Probber night stands is a refreshing change from the “Period Panties” that have been trailing me online for the past year. Shoo Period Panties! Go on now, get lost!