Sunday, February 15, 2015

Sister Project

Last December when the ice storm hit Southern Ontario, people lost power for the week of Christmas. But my sister Donna had a bigger problem to deal with. Two hours before the power drop, my sister had a house fire (from the clothes dryer). The damage was contained - well, as contained as the entire house being engulfed in smoke could be. There was no structural damage but everything had to be cleaned, deodorized, overhauled, and in some cases thrown out.
My sister and my niece were safe, but they were displaced for the next two months while the house was put back together. Donna had only moved into the newly rented townhouse about six months before when she ventured on her own, and now everything was turned upside down.

As the saying goes - 'things happen for a reason'. 
She was about to discover the reason for the added turmoil.

selfie of my big sister Donna and me

Donna kept finding dimes on the floor at the oddest occasions the entire time she was displaced out of her house. It was frustrating her and then concerning her, because she knew it meant something. ' It's Dad looking out for you', I told her.
And although the fire was frightening, everyone was safe and 'home' was being put in order. Many of the things Donna brought with her to this house came from a long term marriage. Now those things were being discarded and replaced with new because they couldn't be recovered. As sad as that may be, my sister needed the fresh new start and I told her 'this is the reason it all happened'.
This is where the sister project began. A dining room set Donna had was recovered and cleaned after the fire, but it needed a face lift. So I suggested that we paint it. Did I mention that my sister doesn't paint.

I'm all about the reality that things will get ugly before they get pretty. But today I thought we should start with the pretty. This is my sister's almost completed dining room.

the newly painted dining set

Donna's Mother-in-law gave her the dining room set many years ago. So when the word spread that I was painting it out there was much discussion - not all of it positive. But in the end we gave the old set a fresh new look that works for my sister. And her happiness made every stroke of the brush worth it.


I gave my sister some options on what we I could do with the set, and in the end we decided that for her use and the costs associated - painting it out was best.
Before I give you my pathetic blogger details (I'm so bad at documenting anything I do) - one of the highlights is that the total cost to restore the suite was $130 including the chair recovering. We live about an hour and 15 minutes drive apart in good traffic, so timing the many trips out was important.  Surely by now my sister knows just how much I love her. Whew - yes, I bit off a bit more than I planned for - but, her happiness is worth it.

I have had great success painting furniture out with regular paint and that is what we opted for. In an upcoming post I'll show you a dresser set that over the past 30 years has been stained and painted over about a dozen times. I recently refinished it again for my sisters new bedroom.

For this project I used BEHR Premium Paint with primer - the finish on the dining set and cedar chests is satin enamel. The colour is White #52 - yes, really going out on a limb here. It's a clean and creamy white without a yellow or blue cast.

Because of the fire, the set had been recently cleaned down. We gave it another once over and did a bit of sanding in spots that I felt needed to be smoothed, tack clothed it off, taped the glass doors inside and out....... and let it roll. We had to paint the set in the dining room itself because space is at a premium and the only other spot was too cold for the paint to cure. So drop clothes and careful manoeuvring it was.

first coat

I prefer to work with a small sponge roller and sponge brushes, which I did for most of the hutch. I used the roller and a regular paint brush on the table and chairs because the wood is more grained on these pieces. I find it helps the paint to flow into the grain and still show the grain.

You know you are on the home stretch when you can load things back into the cabinet. My sister and I sorted through her dishes and picked out what would showcase best in the hutch. The harsh light in the hutch will be replaced with something softer to add a gentle glow to the inside. The dining room fixture is being replaced with a chandelier ..... that I need to paint yet.

There are various shades of blue all throughout Donna's house, it's complimented with white trim work and pops of dark accents - like her three panel shutter screen which sits between the living room and dining. Adding more white to the decor pulled it all together and lightened the look. While I was in the painting mood we decided that an old cedar chest in the dining area should get the same treatment.

I have a few 'plans' for styling the cedar chest - soon to come.

OK - back to the dining room set and those chairs. The chairs needed to be painted and recovered. And if you've never done anything like this before here is my tip - take your time. This is labour intensive.
I lined the chairs up in my sisters laundry room and started the multi-layered process. I dismantled the chairs taking the seats and centers off the backs. I numbered the pieces and the chairs to make it easier to put them back together.
I paint the underbelly of the chairs first, every piece of the chair needs to be covered. They offer a multitude of opportunity for drips, so applying the paint in thin layers and monitoring the project is important.

The fabric looks yellowish in this picture - it's more oatmeal shade.

The fabric was incredibly expensive - all of the chairs are upholstered with a painters drop cloth for $22. Six seats and six backs for $22 - wow. Buy an extra drop cloth to keep in case you need to reupholster one of the items - then you will have the same brand and colour. If you are upholstering or slip covering with with drop clothes they need to be regular - not backed.

The look isn't perfect, but it did allow me to upholster the chair seats and backs with something that is functional and cost effective. I originally planned to make a box pleat slip cover for the seats, but my sister liked the idea of actual upholstered seats better. The same amount of work, less fabric and saved the step of pre-washing the drop cloth. Normally I would wash the drop cloth with bleach (since they tend to grey a bit when washed).

The colour varies in these pictures, but the oatmeal shade of the drop cloth against the white paint is a pretty look. And if something goes wrong with the upholstered seat it can be taken off and replaced easily. The same with the painted pieces - they can be touched up if needed. But rarely have I had to touch up painted pieces later.

I must be honest and say that I had a some help beyond my sisters input. Lovely Audrey the cat and Lucy (better known as 'bad Lucy') the dog. Those poor animals hated me the first two trips in, but quickly learned that I was making their momma happy - so suddenly the constant sound of the staple gun wasn't a problem.

Audrey, taking in the sunshine while I paint.

Lucy - not as innocent as she looks.

One of the hold-overs in my sisters living room was a large media unit against one wall. It was too big and dark for the space. I had in storage a waterfall-front cedar chest that had belonged to our Aunt. It was pretty scratched up, so I hauled it out to Donna's to be painted the same shade of BEHR white 52 to match the rest of the pieces.

I painted an IKEA desk riser to sit the tv unit on top and the cable boxes underneath. All of it together creates a new clean and more compact spot for her television. And now you see the pretty turquoise wall which is a highlight in the room.

We have a list of things to be added to complete the project:
  • Painting a metal chandelier with a hint of blue for over the dining table.
  • Replacing the light inside the hutch. Two small LED glow lights will add warmth and charm.
  • Styling the cedar chest with pretty books, floral, pictures - and well, anything that lovely Audrey will not interfere with.

I had a couple of Doulton Images figurine's packed away that I thought would add dimension to the cabinet. So I took them out for Donna to decide if she wanted to play with them among her new all white look. This one in particular brings the spirit home for both of us - it is titled Best Friends. The spirit of the girls is captured as they dance and swirl around together having fun, just like Sisters do.

To my Sister:
I had so much fun - all our crazy talks and laughs while we did this Sister Project.
It makes me happy to see you happy.
Love you Sis.


  1. The last two years have been full of changes & trials, but with the love and support of my family & friends its been made a little bit easier,
    But last winter was a true test of my strength. As the house slowly came together my daughter and I finally got to move back in.
    Last summer my daughter purchased her first home & I was truly on my own for the first time. But what a lucky lady, I have an incredibily talented sister.We shopped , we talked looked through web sites, tossed around ideas, she listened....alot.
    My sister is fearless, and the diningroom suite was a huge job,but she jumped right in. I'm a pretty good helper, I do paint a little bit, clean brushes and make a mean cup of tea, but for the most part my sister wished me a good day a work and dove in, creating her magic. My home is beautiful, its who I am, my personality....
    Dear Sissy I love you I've long admired your talents, and am so grateful for all your hard work...but mostly thank God for blessing me with a beautiful sister like you.
    loving you d xo

    1. I promise to torture you with more projects and crazy antics. Love K

  2. Lovely post! Great job you did! Everything looks lovely! Greetings, Storage Heasden Ltd.

  3. That is so scary, but I'm so glad you posted about it. The more that hear about fire safety the better. We had a fire in our chandelier once and had we not been home it would have burned the house down. I'm SO glad she is ok!

    1. Stacy, I remember when you wrote about thatt - you were very lucky. My sister is doing great and I'm thrilled to see her enjoying the new look. It makes me happy.

  4. I hope you know you are the best sister in all of the world Katherine!!!!!!!! Not only did you give her support during a difficult time, but you even PAINTED for her! What an amazing change you made in the dinning set and cabinet. Absolutely gorgeous. I have some pretty great sisters, but I don't think they would ever paint for me :) This post just warmed my heart.
    big hugs...

    1. It helps that my sister lets me take over and play with her space.... and we aren't finished yet. more to come.

  5. Fantastic job, Katherine! So fresh and new!

    1. Nata, remember what I told you when I was out to your house - it's just paint. If you change your mind it's just new paint. Your veranda awaits warm weather and new colours.