A Real Trash or Treasure Situation: Restoring a Mid-century Dresser (Changing Table)

Sometimes beaten up and mistreated furniture just cannot be saved, but sometimes a piece that looks almost certainly like trash can become a treasure with hard work and luck.  When I brought home the dresser, that I hoped to make into a changing table and storage for Mini, it did not look promising.  At all.

As I’ve written about before, I’d been keen to use this old dresser for Mini.  It was in the guest room of our house when I was growing up, and it was one of the only pieces of family furniture that I ever liked at all.  I took it to my first adult apartment and refinished it, but later I didn’t have a space for it, so it went into storage at the farm.  Then it was kept in a damp basement for several years and was nearly destroyed.  I still can hardly believe that I’ve managed to save it!

rescued midcentury dresser changing table

That is the dresser topper that I scored at the Restoration Hardware outlet for $20.  It was really a lucky find for the price and that it fits so well.  I hadn’t planned on using a topper, but it finishes the look and seems useful.

Here is the dresser when I picked it up from my Father’s basement:

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He had it airing outside in the heat for a day or two, but it was still warped and mouldy.  It was a sad sight, but I thought it looked salvageable.  Maybe.  We don’t have a very good vehicle for transporting treasures, so my mother was kind enough to drive me home with the dresser.  We’d planned it in advance, so I decided to go ahead and take it home figuring I could set it out for trash there if it turned into a disaster.

Soon I set about trying to clean it up and get it ready for repairs and staining or painting. Veneer was warped, separated, bubbling, and broken.   It was covered with mould inside, and the chipboard back was beyond gross from moisture and mould.  All the drawers were a bit stuck, but a few did not open or close at all.  Check out some of the mould…

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Photos did not adequately capture how bad the condition was, I think, and after really taking a look I was discouraged.  At that point I decided to slather every surface with Citristrip and wash every nook.  I’d deal with the effects of more water later, but I had to do something to clean it.  Also, I tore off the back having deemed it too nasty to save.

It looks pretty decent in the photos, but it dried a complete mess.  I was even more discouraged by now, and L suggested we toss it and buy something.  However, I’d already done a lot of work and hated to spend a few hundred dollars for a similar dresser off Craigslist.  Then I’d have to figure out a rental truck or something and go through the stripping ordeal again.  (None of my searches produced anything available less than an hour or two away, and everything was a few hundred dollars.  Bleh.)  So, we carried it upstairs where I could continue work where it was clean and dry.

Thus began days and days of gluing.  I have a handful of clamps and some scrap wood to hold things tight while drying, and I had to keep doing bit by bit.  Besides, one can only glue certain portions at a time anyway.  Every day I’d glue some section as soon as I woke up, and I’d do another round or two by the end of the day.  Some parts only required a squirt of glue and clamping overnight.  For the thinner veneer I had to use a pin to squeeze glue into the layers.  The two bottom drawers practically disintegrated, and I had to carefully rebuild the plywood itself!

Some week or two later I finally was done glueing.

The original handles are pretty cool, I think, and they cleaned up fairly nicely.  I waxed them to prevent any more corrosion.  Usually I avoid brass/gold toned metals, but this should go perfectly with some little stamped brass covered tables that I have already.

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During the glueing process I had also been painstakingly sanding the drawers and rails so that they would slide smoothly and open properly.  I nearly replaced the rails with drawer slides, but I didn’t want to deal with installing them or spend the money either.  Luckily sanding and planing made a huge difference, and I am glad to have the original mechanism.  It sure was a pain, but it helped that my sanding block fit perfectly in the groove on the drawers!

Next I nailed on a new back and filled in the missing portions of veneer with stainable wood filler.  I had hoped to use stain and not resort to painting, and by now I thought that the veneer looked decent enough to.IMG_3128.jpg

All ready for stain.  You can see that one entire veneer strip was gone:

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Choosing the stain was a tough decision.  On the one hand I wanted a nice light pickled oak whitewash sort of look or especially classic grey, but I wasn’t sure the condition was suitable or how well I could get it to turn out.  L prefers a really dark finish on furniture, so I considered ebony stain or doing a wax and stain treatment like our dining and coffee tables which are meant to look sort of Restoration Hardware.  At the store I also saw neat colourful options, but I was too afraid of adding yet another colour to the room yet.  (I’m full of regret about the purple-pink walls.)  Carbon grey looked nice and became a contender too.

I agonised over the choice in the store and at home.  L voted for the carbon grey, so I tried it out, and also the ebony, on hidden areas.  The wood inside of the dresser was different, but I could see that ebony was not at all forgiving of any variations in tone.  I suppose classic grey would have had the same limitation, and I went ahead with the carbon grey once L saw a photo and loved it.  All along I had reservations, and even with it complete and looking good I still wish, just a little, that I might have chosen another finish.  I do like it very much, but there is always the thought of what could have been if I went in a different design direction, you know?

All stained, including the hidden parts of drawers!

And clear coated with polycrylic:

L absolutely loves it and is nearly in disbelief that I made this happen with such a piece of junk.  I’m quite pleased with it also.  Yesterday I stripped the lacquer off of the rocking chair, and I’m pretty sure I’ll use the same carbon grey stain for it.  The only reason I might not is if the fabric doesn’t go well with it, but even then I’m more likely to get new fabric.  The wood of the frame will not cooperate with the wax/stain Restoration Hardware inspired treatment, but carbon grey will work very well and match the dresser.  Anyway, that is the next project calling my name even though I should really be doing trim paint and a few other things first instead.  Yet I’ve begun to work on it to take advantage of the creative energy, because I’ve been feeling very tired and not motivated lately.  Then today I was up at 6:30, so I mowed the lawn and removed the storm windows from Mini’s room in order to repair them and the windows.  I’ll replace the screens and paint this week, and I already scraped and glazed one of the three windows before it became too hot this morning.

I didn’t think to take a before of the storm windows and their metal screens, but here is a shot that shows them well enough.  You may see a difference compared to the smaller window to the right, because I took it apart last fall to replace the screen with modern stuff.  It is less noticeable and looks far nicer in my opinion, but I wish I could have made the metal frame look better too.  I did my best with steel wool but it didn’t make much difference.  Perhaps one day we will buy wooden storm windows to replace them or even have the original windows switched out.  I HATE to use modern windows when the old kind look far, far more lively and attractive, and can be made efficient with storms, but the truth is that these were never good quality and aren’t in great shape now.  Maybe we can find replacements that keep the style and upgrade the quality?  I’m sad that a few other windows were replaced with very generic ones by the pervious owners.  It changes the look badly in the front of the house.

Before of the storm windows:

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Right after removing the storm windows.  Dirty, but they sure are more attractive without the sturdy and practical metal storms.  I’d leave off the inserts for the summer if I could, but they also provide the screens:

Scraped and looking like complete crap:

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Beginning to glaze:

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Finished glazing one whole window!  Of course it still needs to be cleaned up and painted, but I’d say it has improved already:

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The glazing went much better than the first windows that I worked on last fall.  Perhaps warmer weather improves the flow of the glazing compound?  It felt like I’d really improved my technique since it went so quickly and easily, but I’m guessing it was really the heat.  😀  In the fall I didn’t quite complete the job, but I think I’ll get to those windows too.


Today I made some changes and updates to my lengthy to-do list, and here it is in case you would like proof of my insanity…

13th of June to-do list:

Front of house
-Patch broken front steps.
-Paint foundation a more pleasing shade.
-Buy new light fixture and install with sensor bulb.
-Last bit of patching.
-Last bit of painting.
-Wash windows (uninstalling and reinstalling storms.  Make screens??)
-Finish glazing windows

Mini’s room
-Brush final trim coat on nursery panelling.
-Remove storm windows
-Disassemble, and replace screens.
-Scrape and glaze: (One,) (two,) (three.)
-Paint exterior windows.
-Reinstall storm/screens.
-Remove security crap from windows.
-Patch.
-Paint windows (interior.)
-Change light switch and cover plate.
-Buy floor lamp.
-Buy and install shades.  Or make some.
-Have crib sandblasted and finished or do clear coat.
-Attach casters to crib.  Create replacement hardware.
-Attach casters to walker and assemble.
-Bring dresser from Dad’s and refinish.
-Sew Kirghiz felted carpet to a dowel for wall-hanging.
-Strip rocking chair.
-Sand rocking chair.
-Stain rocking chair.
-Reupholster rocking chair and sew pillows.
-Fix leaky sink valve.
-Set up furniture, wall art, and organise.

Main living areas and stuff
-Replace certain outlets, switches, and cover plates.
-Paint dining/living windows.
-Scrape messy paint.
-Finish painting kitchen trim and panelling
-Repaint living/dining ceiling.
-Apply sealant on entry and hearth tile/grout.
-Sew back of sofa.
-Staple cambric.
-Sew pillow covers.
-Finish sanding dining chairs.
-Stain and wax chairs.
-Paint and Mod Podge antique travel chest.
-Touch up kitchen chairs and hoosiers.
-Repair coffee table.
-Repair and sand end table.
-Paint to match coffee table.
LATER:
-Reupholster recliner.
-Reaupholster little round chair.

Exterior
-Stain east side of house.
-Stain or hire west side of house.
-Powerwash patios and chairs.
-and paint rusty table with hammered finish.
-Stain patios.
-Permanently attach umbrella to deck with bolts.
-Powerwash fence.
-Stain fence.

Unfinished part of basement
-Finish painting walls.
-Rewaterproof spot on floor.
-Touch up floor paint.

Organisation
-Organise storage area.
-Organise basement.
-Organise Garage.
-Organise attic.
-Organise kitchen.
-Organise sewing room.
-Organise baby items in closet.
-Organise master closet.

-Have yard sale.

Dressing room and spiral stairwell
-Touch up ceiling paint.
-Shift PAX and MALM to left.
-Patch.
-Brush edges.
-Roll walls.
-Paint trim.

Sewing room
-Remove sewing room door.
-Mark and chisel hinge mortises.
-Mark and drill door knob.  -Install knob.
-Hang door.
-Paint door.

Other kinds of non-house projects 
-Remake lamp shade for hanging lamp in Mini’s room.
-Remake a play mat and arches for hanging toys
-Stain and make a busy board for Mini
-Sew dresses for myself; light coat for myself and Mini; dresses, pants, and quilted coats for Mini; a small quilt; sew some soft toys; …
-Crochet or knit sweaters, hats, pants, and booties for Mini
-Make a mobile?

Pushed to later:

Master
-Caulk.
-Paint master ceiling.
-Touch up master bath vanity.
-Recoat walls.
-Poperly hang mirror.
-Install tub trim kit and drain.
-Install shower trim kit.
-New switches, outlets, and cover plates.

Storage room (now office)
-Remove stored items from storage/office.
-Rip out carpet and pad.
-Remove panelling.
-Patch and caulk.
-Prime.
-Brush paint.
-Roll walls.
-Paint sewer pipe with hammered finish.
-Paint ceiling.
-Change light fixtures.
-Change outlets and cover plates.
-Frame the two cinderblock walls
-Install foam insulation panels
-Drywall or panelling…
-Prime and paint newly insulated walls

Media room
-Get rid of giant speakers and console.
-Mount TV and sound bar.
-Rip out crappy laminate.
-Remove trim.
-Install DryCore.
-Lay insulating underlayment.
-Install vinyl planks.
-Reinstall trim.
-Paint touchups.  (I did re-paint a lot but need to finish since I ended up using a new gallon that doesn’t match perfectly.)
-Arrange furniture.
-Paint or replace stained ceiling tile.  (or ideally change to 2×2′)

Part I: Reupholstering & Refinishing a Rocking Chair

Today I meant to write about the nursery dresser restoration, but I’m very close to completing it and should wait until I have final photos.  The most important task of the day is to clear coat it, but I can never be sure when I’ll get to write the post.  So, I’m here this morning  with my next-ish project for a Before…

For a few months I’ve thought about getting a new (but fairly ugly and stupidly expensive) glider, reupholstering a small recliner (that I have waiting in a state of sad neglect,) or nabbing a (cheap, used) rocking chair.  I hated the idea of purchasing a new glider since they aren’t very attractive, cost a lot, and don’t meet my usual quality criteria.  A couple display models have been persuadingly comfortable though, and we began to seriously consider going for one.  Another annoyance with those is that it seems you must order in advance, and the few I’d liked (in the sitting test) were not available without a trip to inconveniently located stores.  Given my hesitancy I don’t know how likely it is that we’d deal with that in time?  Meanwhile I saw a very nice old rocking chair at a local sale.  The wooden frame was gorgeous and very compact, it was cheap at $15, and I was able to convince L that reupholstering would make a world of difference (and was simple thanks to the design)… then it turned out to have already been sold.  I would have snapped a photo but didn’t.  :Sigh:  Besides this I do have a comfortable and small recliner from a thrift store years ago.  I even reupholstered it once.  It could work out pretty nicely with better fabric, but I’d need to buy some for it and deal with the complicated shapes and sewing involved.  Most recently I was leaning toward doing this although L was suggesting a glider.  I still browsed CL, thrift stores, and ReStore but never felt like actually purchasing any of the many rocking chairs I found.

Then I was chatting with a friend about organising, and it came up that she had a “really cool rocking chair” from when her son was a baby, and she lit up with the idea that I might want it although it needed $1k of reupholstering.  Not a problem, I can tackle that myself!  A couple of days later she sent me a few photos, and yes!  I did want it.  She’d tried describing it, and I had imagined and Googled, but I’d never come up with the actual design or anything close:

I’m not sure what to call the style at all.  ???  I think it is pretty darned neat though, and I love having a nice backstory, so I’m excited to get it.  Hopefully that will be soon although I’m trying to be patient considering that I have painting and things that ought to be done first anyway.

The excitement of a new project has all of the fabric and refinishing options constantly on my mind regardless.  She said her cat had peed on it, but I wondered for a moment if I could save the leather (assuming it isn’t vinyl) or somehow manage to re-do it with a gorgeous new hide.  (Yeah, not likely given how much is needed and the unknowns of working with thick leather for the first time.)  Then I pondered upholstery fabrics and prices until I remembered that I have some on hand that may work too.  The most economical new fabric would be “Warsaw” linen from Grayline, which is what I used for our sofa (in wheat, I believe.)  It would look good, I think, but if I’m realistic then something a little heavier and more forgiving would be more ideal to work with and better for longevity.  Next up would be something from eBay… maybe even leather?  Maybe?  The most likely candidate is some beautiful linen velvet that I won on eBay at least seven years ago without having a plan for it.  It is fabulous steel/pearly/dark grey that I couldn’t love more.  I’m sure it would look awesome, and my biggest concern is just that I’ll have a hard time actually using the fabric for fear of messing up or wishing I had it for something else, haha.  When I looked in the closet to take a photo of the grey velvet I saw a forgotten remnant of light sand coloured velvet too.  It has some synthetic content and there might not be enough of it, but it is a perfectly decent option otherwise.  Next to the sandy taupe is a roll of sage green linen velvet, but that is slated for a sweet little round and tufted chair that I’ll hopefully get to some year.  Besides, I’d better stick to a more neutral colour.

The colours may not have come out so well in the photos, but there you go: steel grey, sage, sand, and wheat.

I highly doubt I’ll buy anything new, but I did think of using something fun like these when considering options for the recliner or this rocker:

 

Anyway, I need to get to work now.  I was delayed by writing this and phone calls, and it is getting rather late!  Just let me add a photo of a marble end table that I scored this week at one of my favourite thrift stores.  (I miss the thrifting on Long Island so much!  Furniture is hard to come by and pricey where I live now, but on LI I always found cool items, and it was often really cheap too!)  I ended up saving 50% off of it too, so I’m pretty thrilled.  I just have to make some repairs and then do some painting or a whitewash.  That same day I visited the Restoration Hardware outlet and scored a dresser topper (to make a diapering area) for only 20$ too!  I’m saving the photo for the dresser post though.

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Both the base and marble can perfectly match the coffee table in our media room, but I might use it as a night table in the nursery?  (The coffee table is supposed to be replaced some day after all, but it has hung around for five years and a move despite the broken marble top, so… I’ll see.)

Painting, Painting…

I expected that my next post would be about the tiling projects from December/January, but that can wait.  Yesterday I painted the nursery and just about completed it (aside from another coat of trim paint on part of the panelling and work on the windows.)  This room has been the most ridiculously involved painting project I can remember doing.  It seems like I’ve been patching, caulking, caulking, caulking, brushing, and more for ages.  Judging by the timeline in photos, I have been!

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Before:

guest room blue

At first I’d planned to paint this room with a colour matched gallon of deep blue that I purchased in the fall.  It was dark, and I doubt I’d have picked it on my own, but L loves dark blue, people have remarked since we bought the place that it was particularly lovely, and it happened to go very well with some linen curtains I’d scored at a thrift store some years ago and finally had a chance to use.  However, it is a very dark shade which sucks away the light.  Most of the main floor of the house is done with dark paint, and I’m sometimes regretting that fact.  Then it became clear that instead of being a guest suite we’d be turning it into a nursery for MiniMonkey.

I still thought I’d just use the blue paint, and it didn’t bother me whether girl or boy.  I just hoped the kid would like dark blue!   But… soon I was thinking how nice it would be to plan something from scratch: something lighter and brighter.  When I asked L about it (expecting he’d prefer to stick with what we had due to preference for the colour and to avoid buying more paint) he said it was a good idea.  Still, I didn’t jump on it.  The ceiling paint was in poor condition, and I knew I’d have to begin there.  I despise painting ceilings, I really do, but there wasn’t any avoiding it.

There was so much prep-work to tackle first.  The crown moulding had gaps all around and needed caulking.  It was the same with the trim of the panelling too, and it really took forever to get to the point of painting, because I dutifully primed it all too.  It wasn’t only the panelling to prime and coat a few times with ‘coconut ice.’  Only the entry door had been (mostly) painted after moving in, and I had to do the bathroom and closet doors.   Actually, the windows have yet to be primed and painted except the parts along the drywall.  Once spring finally arrives I must remove all the ugly motion sensors, fill the holes, and paint when they can be opened.

A few weeks ago I grabbed some purplish paint chips while at the store.  I’d been feeling fond of purples and aquas for a while, but aqua seems tough to get right (besides, L doesn’t like green and considers many aquas too green) and would be more difficult to coordinate well with the ’60s blue tiles in the bathroom.  Only one chip looked decent at all.  Another could have been nice elsewhere but read a bit too tan in this lighting.  I left it up for a while, and L immediately agreed to it when I showed it to him.  He answered so fast I’m still skeptical that he could have even seen it, but he always has been extremely quick to judge that he likes something.  😀

We had just found out Mini is a girl when I showed him the colour.   (Uh, hopefully the accuracy of that determination isn’t called into question later, because I’m very set on her name!)  Again, we were fine with a light purplish shade for either, but it does push the envelope a bit now that I’ve seen the entire room in it.  It’s so very… PASTEL and infantile, but then again it is a nursery, heh.  In a few years I can slap on the blue again or something else.  I do like it, but it is quite a change!

 

Now I’m just waiting to furnish and set up the room, but I do feel I ought to wait.  As much as it would be nice to start setting up the crib I might as well let more time pass.  So far I’ve removed the antique dresser and am hoping to refinish one stored at my dad’s, and I bought a laundry hamper.  That’s it.  I may or may not try out the new positioning of the bed shortly, since it must be moved for painting.  I haven’t any ideas for decoration, but I removed the curtain rods at the last minute and will likely do shades instead.  It’s very much a work in progress…

The only thing that caught my eye for decor was that I remembered seeing mounted butterflies on eBay years ago that were very pretty.  Then I was at Home Goods and happened to see a beautiful shadowbox arrangement thing made of them and beetles.  I was stunned when I saw it and gleefully eyed the red sticker indicating that it was on clearance, but then I saw the actual price and sighed.  $250 was not happening.  So sad.  I took photos instead.  I also saw a pretty carpet.  There aren’t really any plans to get a carpet, and I have no idea if I’d want one that looks like this, but I liked it enough to take a photo.  (It is too feminine, I think, unless I’d used pale grey as the wall colour.)   Those butterflies though!  Sigh

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Here and There

Hello again!

I really should have written about the tiling that I was working on in December while I was at it.  Why did I convince myself that projects must be complete before I could post?  All that leads to are delays, and it is silly considering that all the blogs that I’ve most enjoyed reading all seemed to be progress posts rather than complete and perfect before & afters.  Speaking of, I recently found a really enjoyable blog, written by a talented and impressively productive lady, while researching for a future project.  It took me forever to click through to begin reading at the first post, so you’re welcome for the link to it.  😛  (I don’t know about you, but I have to start at the beginning when I find a great blog.)

Just after my last post I did grout and finish the hearth and entryway.  (Although I didn’t seal it yet, now that I think.  Whoops.)  Photos were taken, and there will certainly be a post about those coming up.  Aside from that we enjoyed the holidays, and I was focused on frenzied sorting and organising of all the things before succumbing to 1st trimester exhaustion.  I’m still fighting it, to be honest, and I don’t think that the dreary winter weather is helping much.  Sporadic project-ing does happen, but I could use some energy.

Yesterday I caulked crown moulding in the guest  baby’s room and edged the ceiling.  Rolling on the paint was too much, however, although I re-coated the hallway where water had leaked months ago.  At some point before Christmas I pulled all the furniture to the middle of the room and brushed one coat of Coconut Ice trim paint onto the wainscoting.  Slowly I’ll get there.  Now the dilemma is whether to paint the walls with the colour-matched dark blue (that I already purchased) or go light and bright, perhaps with the Polished Limestone that I have on hand?

This is a difficult choice!  First of all, I already bought the blue.  It is a lovely shade that matches a bedspread and picks up the blue in some heavy linen curtains that were finally put to use after being found at a thrift store some years ago.  It has character and cohesion.  …But it is soooooo dark!  Our entire first floor is done with rather extremely dark shades of paint, and the light does get sucked right into the walls.  It would be lovely to have and airy room on cloudy days.  …But the pale grey is so neutral and boring comparatively!  Sure, it is a lot more “nursery,” but it feels like giving up.  Heh.  Yesterday I asked DH about the situation, and he surprised me by not jumping at keeping the blue.  I thought he’d be all for it since it is his favourite, but he even suggested choosing something entirely different.  Perhaps?  Such a shame to lose that blue though!

This is not the most helpful photo, but I was laying on the bed tired and just wanted to get a shot of the two colours.  The colour-match may read a little differently than this, I believe, and Polished Limestone can be seen in the hallway beyond the door.  Disregard the need for at least one more coat of the trim paint.  😀

Anyway, this will be a long series of progress posts for the nursery, I am sure.  I already plan to move the bed to fit a crib, and the dresser will be stored indefinitely.  I love it, and it was a Salvation Army bargain which I felt lucky to find, but it doesn’t store very much and is delicate.  I used to have one handed down from my mother that is much more suitable, but it has been stored in my father’s basement for a few years.  The condition is questionable.  Once I refinished it and would love to again, but I’m afraid paint may be the best case scenario now.  At worst I have to find one on Craigslist and figure out how to get it home or resort to  Ikea.  (I realllllly don’t want to do Ikea.)   Due to the placement of windows, closet, entry and bathroom doors I don’t know whether I can fit a recliner/glider into the space too.  Gliders are wonderfully comfortable but mostly ugly and always expensive, but I have a thrift store recliner in storage (and pieces.)  It needs refinishing and  reupholstering, again, because the cats shredded the fabric the first time I did it.  Also a nicer fabric would be ideal, but the one I planned to use isn’t in stock (now that I waited a couple of years before buying it.  Unfortunately upholstery fabric isn’t cheap, so…)  I can only hope it will be available again and soon  or else the recliner is doomed to sit in pieces for years.  😦  Planning a real makeover for the nursery could be fun, but I’m not sure I’ll go for a full leap.  The kid is sure to love navy blue and Jacobean floral curtains, right?  Right?  What I do have so far is a lot of linen crib bedding that I scored at the Restoration Hardware Outlet during big sales.  It is all shades of grey and white.  The crib is iron, but I don’t know yet how I want it finished/painted.  Perhaps just clear coat over bare metal?  Boringly safe white?  Decisions!

Lately I’ve been dreaming of spring and have been making garden plans.  Today I placed an order with RareSeeds, and I bought a montmorencey cherry tree too.  We moved to this house two years ago this week, and that first spring I planted a tiny cherry tree thinking the sooner the better if I ever wanted to eat any fruit, but the poor thing died right away.  Last year I told myself not to bother and be glad not to attract more critters, but now I’d really like some tart cherries to look forward to.  I have fond memories of eating them straight off the tree once at a relative’s house (she had an amazing garden) and this pushed me to go for it so that our child can pick cherries in our back yard.  (If I can get the thing to live and grow!  I opted for the more expensive one instead of bare-root hoping to improve my chances.)

The RareSeeds order is basically for decorative stuff that was in the goth garden already, but I added some beans too.  A few of them are gorgeously purple and will be part of the decorative garden.  This year I’ve decided to make use of the somewhat sunnier front of the house more ambitiously.  There is no water source, however, so I’m thinking of ways to extend soaker hoses knowing anything out there is otherwise doomed.  Some of the beans should be pretty there, and perhaps I’ll try a few tomatoes and watermelon?  Last year the tomatoes were a dismal failure since we are so shaded by neighbouring trees, but I desperately want home grown tomatoes if nothing more!  I was working too much and think they were not watered enough either, so my hope it that more attention will make a difference.