I took on a relatively simple DIY project for Baby T‘s nursery recently – transforming this basic fabric drawer unit into a custom furniture piece, using a little paint, pattern and creativity.
We bought this handy little 3-drawer unit when Toddler E was born (I think we paid $30 for it at Target) and used it in her bedroom to store things like pacifiers, burp cloths, little toys and books, etc. It’s 20 inches high, 14.5 inches wide, and 15 inches deep, with a black particle board casing and three green fabric bins that act as as sliding drawers. The drawers are collapsible, but they hold their shape when open with inner cardboard supports. Pretty basic construction, but it’s held up well over the last three years, with only a few stains and scuffs.
I wanted to re-purpose this for the new baby’s room, but not go overboard with our time or money. The green color had worked well for E’s room, but didn’t fit with the orange-yellow-blue palette for the nursery. So I decided to try painting the drawers a pale yellow and lining them with some coordinating patterned fabric.
Since I haven’t really painted fabric before, I did some online research to see what it might entail and how to go about it. I actually found quite a few tutorials and examples of painting upholstery (such as Kristin’s blue chair, A Beautiful Mess’s couch, and this DIY Ikea hack) and the results were amazing – seemed like if you do it right, painted fabric will hold up really well without the color flaking or rubbing off.
Because my project was a little different – instead of a piece of furniture that needed to be as soft and comfortable as possible, my drawers would be used for storage, and so holding their shape and staying a little stiff wasn’t a bad thing – I took these tutorials and adapted the materials and steps a little to get a specific end result. Here’s what I did.
First, I pulled the drawers out of their case and set up a little painting station in our garage. (Sorry for the bad early-morning lighting!)
I also gathered all my project supplies together, including:
- Flat interior latex wall paint. I bought a quart of Behr Premium Plus in Pale Daffodil (I brought one of the baby’s yellow crib sheets to the paint store and matched it against several light yellow chip colors).
- Fabric medium. Adding this into the latex paint helps give it flexibility on fabric surfaces (more on this below). I used Martha Stewart’s fabric medium.
- Foam brushes (since my fabric drawers were not heavily textured, I figured that these throwaway brushes would be easier to use than bristle brushes), a paint cup for mixing, and some basic protective gear.
Even though I was painting outdoors with zero-VOC paint and lots of fresh-air ventilation, I was also eight months pregnant, so I decided to wear a mask just to be safe!
From the upholstery painting tutorials, I learned that the best formula to use is a ratio of 1 part paint, 1 part fabric medium, and 1/2 part water. The idea is to do several coats this way to help the paint mixture bond to the fabric fibers, while retaining as much softness as possible. Again, since I was painting drawers instead of furniture, I adapted this to fit my particular needs – I didn’t think I’d need as much fabric medium in my “recipe” since I preferred keeping a measure of rigidity and strength on the drawer surfaces.
So for the first base coat on the drawers, I started out with 1 part paint, 1/2 part fabric medium, and 1/2 part water. I used stock white latex paint for this first layer instead of the Pale Daffodil, to help initially cover the darker green for the subsequent yellow layers. And I pretty much just eyeballed the “recipe” amounts (because I’m a rebel like that).
The paint mixture was very thin and watery, which I had read would help this first coat to soak well into the fabric fibers.
Just before applying the first coat of paint mixture, I brushed plain water on the fabric with a clean foam brush so the paint would adhere better, another tip I found during my fabric-painting research.
Then I started painting. The white paint mixture went on pretty smoothly and created a good bond with the fabric. I used the corners of my foam brush to get into any seams and make sure the slight texture of the fabric was totally covered.
I had plans to cover the bottoms of the drawers with a fun patterned fabric instead of painting them (more on that in a minute), so I didn’t paint those – just the front, back, and sides of the drawers (both inside and outside). The heavier white spots show where the paint is still a little wet.
After the drawers were all painted with the base coat, I let them sit for a few hours until they were completely dry to the touch. I noticed that the white base coat hadn’t made much of a color change on the fabric, because it had been so thin – the drawers just looked like a paler shade of green (see the photo below).
So for the next coat of paint, I switched to the Pale Daffodil yellow. I used 1 part paint, 1/4 part fabric medium, and 1/4 part water. This second layer of paint covered the base coat pretty well, but I still kept my application relatively thin. The upholstery tutorials I referenced suggested several thin coats to keep the surface as flexible as possible. Even though I didn’t need a super flexible surface, I did want the painted drawers to be durable and not crack or flake. So I made sure not to glop this second coat on too heavily.
Again, I let that dry for a few hours. The color was looking better – definitely yellow, but I could still see a green undertone.
I was crossing my fingers that just one more coat of paint would do the trick, since I was doing this project over the course of one weekend and really needed to finish it in that timeframe.
Before starting the third coat, I lightly sanded the painted surface – I was starting to see some rough fibers coming through and wanted to smooth them out. My mixture for the third coat was mostly paint, with a small dash of fabric medium and water. Again, this combination would probably make an upholstered chair feel stiff and uncomfortable, but that didn’t matter so much for the drawers, and I was trying to get as much color coverage as possible.
Even though it was the thickest mixture so far, I made sure to apply it smoothly and evenly, working the paint well into the fibers and staying glop-free. The color looked pretty true to the final shade I was going for, but I left it for four hours again to see how the paint would look when dry.
And luckily, the color looked perfect! A pale yellow with no hint of green underneath.
The last step of this fabric drawer transformation was to add a fun pattern to the bottom of each drawer. The drawers came with a square of green fabric-covered cardboard, so I decided to cover these with my own fabric.
I had this yellow-and-gray fabric on hand from an earlier project, and it worked well with the new drawer color and the room’s overall palette. For a more detailed tutorial on how I put these together, check out my similar post on how I made the covers for our DVD bookcase shelves. It’s a pretty simple method of just using heavy-duty masking tape to secure the fabric around the edges. I also cut a small slit in the fabric to allow the little tab to pop through the fabric (since the inserts fit pretty snugly into the drawer bottoms, and we do need the tabs to pull them out). Notice that even though I left these bottom inserts unpainted, I did paint the tabs yellow since those would be visible and uncovered by fabric.
Then I set the new fabric inserts into each drawer, put the drawers back into the black case, and moved the unit into the nursery.
I love the way it turned out! Functional, practical, and super cute. With our gray rocker-recliner, orange rug, yellow throw blanket, and blue print pillow, this 3-drawer unit fits in perfectly.
Not bad for a quick upgrade to a basic piece of furniture that we will use a lot every day. And it only took one weekend and about $22 to do this. The cost included the quart of Pale Daffodil paint ($12), and the fabric medium ($10). I already had the fabric for the inserts, the white base coat paint, the foam brushes, and the paint cup. But even those would probably add only an additional $15 to the budget. Since we paid $30 for the 3-drawer unit in the first place, it’s nice that our DIY upgrade came in at less than that original price!
(And now that I’ve shown you this one small corner of Baby T’s nursery room redesign project, I need to finish the rest of it for the final reveal. You know, before he goes to college!)
This was such a fun project! Have you had any experience painting fabric before? What method did you use?
As you know, we’ve been slowly renovating our 1920s house for over a year now, doing most of the work ourselves. Throughout this process, we’ve discovered some fascinating hidden treasures that may provide clues to how our house was originally decorated and used. So we thought we’d share a round-up of some of the strange-but-cool things we’ve come across!
Bathroom tile and stamped plaster
As we were working on our budget bathroom update project, John removed the access panel to the bathtub plumbing at one point (which is located in our linen closet). In the space behind and between the walls, he found a few interesting remnants of past renovations.
It looks like our bathroom once had a hexagon tile floor and a stamped plaster wall. We’re not sure if these elements were original to the house when it was built in 1922, but it’s a good bet since those features were common back then.
Since we want to redo the bathroom floor one day (right now it’s covered in an ugly cheap-looking vinyl tile), these finds are inspiring us. We had been considering installing cork floor tile, but maybe we’ll go the hexagon route to bring the bathroom back to its origins?
The previous owner mentioned to us that there had been wallpaper in most of the rooms when she bought the house in the 1990s, and she had removed it and painted instead (red, yellow, and peach). So only a few walls still had wallpaper (the dining nook and the entryway and stairs) when we moved in. In the course of our renovations, we’ve found evidence of old wallpaper, but we’re not sure when it was used.
I mentioned in an earlier post that we had found some red-and-green wallpaper pieces in the living room, as well as some nautical-themed wallpaper scraps in two of the upstairs bedrooms. Were previous owners using these bedrooms for children, like we are? Seems likely.
When we were moving things into our kitchen, we also got a glimpse of what that room may have looked like decades ago. We know that the wall of pantry cabinets isn’t original to the house – they were added sometime in the last 20 years. But before this wall was built out with the cabinets, it must have been wallpapered, because we found evidence of it way back inside some of the cabinets and behind a connecting bulkhead.
Looks like there were actually a few layers of wallpaper back there – a global-themed herb-and-spice pattern (with metallic glitter accents!) on top, along with a couple of others peeking out behind that. Again, we don’t know how old any of it is, but the “spice” wallpaper evokes the 1950s-1960s to me. What do you think?
It’s kind of fun to envision what these wallpapered rooms may have looked like once upon a time!
Glass bottle in plaster
John was re-plastering our basement walls recently and came across this strange piece of glass embedded in the old plaster.
Someone must have put a glass bottle in the plaster when the house was being built. Was a worker taking a beer break during the building of the foundation? Was it a remnant of the Prohibition era? We’ll never know.
National Geographic maps
When we were customizing and painting the built-bookcase in our living room, I found these old National Geographic maps stuck behind the drawers – they must have fallen back there at some point and been forgotten.
They’re dated 1978 and feature historical details and geography of the Middle East. I’m pretty sure the people that owned our house in 1978 did a lot of traveling, so it’s not surprising they’d have these maps around. I wonder if they ever ended up taking a trip to this area of the world?
As John was starting to dig up our front yard and take out the giant yew bushes, he found this plastic figurine buried upside down in the dirt. He took it out, cleaned it up, and realized it was a tiny statue of St. Joseph.
We thought it was kind of funny and kitschy, and had no idea why someone would bury it in the front yard. But a quick Internet search revealed this interesting factoid: burying a figurine of St. Joseph in your yard is supposed to help sell your house!
Apparently this practice was common in the 1980s and 1990s, but our house wasn’t for sale during that time period. It changed owners in the 1950s and then not again until the 2000s, and then we bought it in 2013. So our best guess is that St. Joseph was put in the ground for the 2000s listing. Well, it worked!
Have you discovered any weird/interesting/historical items around your house? Tell us in the comments!
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Now that Baby T is here, we’re doing a lot of newborn holding, snuggling, and rocking these days. And so we’ve decided to add a new piece of furniture to our living room… a replica version of the classic Eames rocker chair.
In previous posts about Baby T’s upstairs nursery, we’ve talked about the wonderful gray La-Z-Boy rocker recliner we’re using in that room. We bought it a few years ago when Toddler E was born, and it’s still super comfortable and perfect for late-night feedings and cuddles. But now that we live in a two-story house, we’ve been spending our daylight hours downstairs in the first-floor living room with T, which really only has our Ikea Karlstad couch for seating. Rocking a baby while sitting on a couch gets tiring pretty fast (although I’m getting a great ab workout), and we quickly discovered a need for another rocking chair option in our house.
John looked around and found a good deal on the white LexMod molded-plastic rocker above. It’s a knockoff of the iconic Eames rocker, and we liked it because of its modern-yet-classic lines and its reputation for comfort (and we’ve seen similar chairs featured on some of our favorite blogs like Making it Lovely, Apartment Therapy, and Design*Sponge). And its “replica” price tag won’t break our budget. So, we decided to order it and try it out. It should arrive any day now.
We’re curious if it’s as comfortable as we’ve heard and can’t wait to set it up and see how we (and Baby T) like it!
Who’s had experience with the Eames rocker (or its knockoff counterparts)? Would you recommend it? Why or why not?
(linked at Miss Mustard Seed)
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Just before Baby T was born a few weeks ago, we were able to complete the last item for our budget bathroom update project – replacing the old teardrop sink faucet.
Here are some “before” photos of our main bathroom, showing the faucet in all its teardrop glory. It felt very outdated – not only did we not like the plastic-crystal aesthetic, but it was difficult to move the handle when turning on and off and adjusting the temperature.
We’re keeping the existing hexagon sink and gray laminate countertops for now, both of which are in pretty good condition. But since the faucet was old and corroded, and we didn’t like how the spout hung so low over the sink basin, it wasn’t a tough decision to decide to replace it. And it would be a relatively cost-effective way to update the sink area.
The one feature of this old faucet that we did like was its simple single-handle operation. With our rambunctious toddler recently potty-trained and wanting to wash her hands by herself, having a single handle instead of two separate handles made more sense for us. So we shopped around for a new faucet with a single handle, a brushed-metal finish, and a higher arc.
We ended up going with the Pfister Parisa faucet in a brushed nickel finish. The finish works well with the look of our new light fixture and cabinet handles, and the design has simple graceful lines and a nice mid-range arc. We figured it was a good size for our sink area (a little larger than the old faucet, but not so large to be overwhelming), and would also provide great functionality and ease of use.
Since I had installed our kitchen faucet several months ago, I felt comfortable switching out this one myself as well. I started by removing the old faucet and scraping off all the old adhesive putty around the base.
Before installing the new faucet, I investigated the plumbing connections under the sink and compared them to the installation diagrams, to see if any major adjustments had to be made. Luckily, things seemed to be pretty standard between the current plumbing and the new faucet, and I’d only have to make a few minor tweaks.
Once I had the connections figured out, I began installing the new faucet. First, I applied this plumber’s putty to the base.
Then I set the rest of the faucet hardware into place and connected the hoses and pipes under the counter.
Finally, I trimmed the excess putty and installed the new drain stopper. And with that, our new faucet was ready to use!
So far, we’re pretty happy with the way it helps modernize the bathroom counter and ties in visually with the new lighting and cabinet hardware. And since it’s a fixture we use on a multiple-times-a-day basis, its smooth functionality has been such a nice change from the previous old and clunky mechanism. The handle is easy to move around and much more ergonomic than the teardrop one.
So that wraps up all the major items on our budget bathroom update to-do list! Here’s where we stand now:
Repair and repaint the walls(check out how we did this here) Replace the old yellowed light fixture(read part one and part two of this process) Update the electrical outlets and switches(we did this as part of the lighting update) Make and hang a curtain in the window(read about this fast and simple DIY) Fix the broken hand towel rack(more on that here) Change out the old vanity cabinet handles(check out this easy but effective upgrade) Change out the clothes hook on the back of the door(another quick change)
- Touch up the paint chips on the vanity*
Replace the sink faucet with something more modern(that’s what this post is about!)
*No, we haven’t touched up the vanity yet, but we’re actually thinking about doing a more extensive cabinet door upgrade down the road, so we’re holding off on painting the existing doors for the moment until we make a decision either way.
We’ll have the final reveal of this overall project (including before-and-after photos of the whole room) in an upcoming post. Thanks for following along!
(linked on Thrifty Decor Chick)
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We’re so pleased to announce that our fourth family member has arrived. Baby T was born last week, and… he’s a boy!
Once we learned we were pregnant, we decided not to find out our baby’s gender ahead of time (we did the same thing with our toddler), so it was a nice surprise to learn in the delivery room that we had a new son! Baby T is (so far) a very peaceful and happy infant. He’s already sleeping in his new room, and even though our house looks like it’s been hit by a tornado of baby clothes, bottles, and other assorted gear, we’re so happy to have him here.
Toddler E is excited to be a big sister and loves to “help” us take care of him. And she’s amazed at how small he is compared to her almost-3-years-old self.
Now that we’ve got two kids in the Rather Square house, we’re going to start referring to them here on the blog by their first initials. But we’re going to continue our current policy to not share their photos or full names, to protect their privacy. Plus, since Rather Square is primarily a home design and improvement blog, we like to stick to exploring those types of projects rather than writing about parenting or kid-specific topics. So, like before, our kids will only make an occasional appearance when we’re working on house projects that involve them directly (like their bedrooms or E’s playroom, or when they are helping us with yardwork).
As we mentioned last time, we’ll be posting a little less frequently in the next few months as we balance blog and family time. But we’ve got a lot of new projects to share and we’re already working on writing up those posts, so look for something in the next week or so.
Thanks to you all for reading along as we go on this journey, and for your kind words and support!