Thursday, May 31, 2012

Anyone for a spot of tea?

I couldn't wait to cross something off my list for the upcycle challenge... I've been meaning to make a tea table and chairs for MONTHS.  I found the perfect little table for $2 (!) at the local Habitat for Humanity ReStore and couldn't wait to dig in!  The problem was, I couldn't find the perfect little chairs to match.  I was at my wits end until my husband told me I had to do something about...

... the empty kitty litter boxes in our basement!  That combined with the theme this week was enough to kick me into gear.  When I was finished, I had Tea for Two: Tea Table and Stools.  

Everything on the table (and decorating the stools) was thrifted/recycled/upcycled for a chic little tea party.  The "stools" were spray painted and upholstered with pieces from a  vintage sheet, which was pleated on all sides and trimmed with vintage lace.  The attached cushions are comfy AND cute, and fortunately don't affect the overall functionality of the stools - storage!  They flip up from the side and snap down tight.  The old end table got a facelift and a LITERAL lift - a stabilizing new base - and the top was hand-painted in a soft gold.  (An added touch for the party - all of the china, trays, vases, etc. were thrifted, cleaned and some were sprayed with paint to match.  The dessert tray was created with two saucers, some large wood beads and E6000.  Even the little hostess is dressed in vintage attire!)
The stools came together well, so I couldn't help but make a third, just in case another guest dropped in unexpectedly.  When you're all finished with the party, cleanup is easy - just whisk all of the fixings into a stool!  Another stool can hold a few beloved tea party goers (don't know about you, but stuffed animal storage is sorely needed around here...)  All in all, our hostess thinks this upcycle is a huge hit!

I was so excited for the upcycle challenge!  I'll admit it.  I am a... hoarder collector.  Hoarder is such an ugly word... So.  I'm a collector.  I can't throw away my elastic scraps, for instance, for fear I will then need them a day later which would, of course, be a travesty.  So, yes.  I save things.  And then I have to find stuff to do with said things.  And thus began a love affair with the "taking junk and making it into... NOT junk" philosophy.

When my husband began complaining about the empty kitty litter boxes piling up in our basement, I knew we needed to find a use for them.  Sure, we could throw them away, but what a waste of some perfectly nice sturdy plastic buckets!  With lids!
It just so happened that I was also searching for the perfect little chairs at the same time.  During a maddeningly unsuccessful trip to the thrift store one day, the light bulb magically went on.

Now, I don't presume that you will find a table exactly like mine.  You might.  But you might not.  My point in showing you the beginning of this table tutorial is to illustrate that even though you may not find the PERFECT piece, you can make it perfect!  For instance:

Ugly table.  Dark brown. Kind of outdated looking.  It had obviously been removed from something permanent, as the very bottom of the base looked like it had been sawed off on two sides.  I don't really know what that's all about, but obviously the very bottom piece had to go.  Plus, the table was a little short for kitty litter box stools.  With the bottom piece removed, I worried that the base wouldn't be as stable.  But there's a way to work with all of these issues.

First, take an adjustable wrench and take the nut off the bottom of the bolt.  (Did you notice the nut is SQUARE?  Weird!)  Remove the wood piece.  And you're left with a big bolt sticking out of your table.  Not cool.

Take your vice grips.  And PULL... tug... WRENCH that bolt out of the table.  Use some elbow grease!  Give it your all!

Now we'll address the height/unstable base issues all in one.

Take a scrap board.  Cut the board into squares that are all the same size and a bit bigger than the bottom of the table base.  Cut enough squares to make up the height you need.
Dab wood glue all over one side of two boards.
Smooth the glue out over the boards with a putty knife (or similar).
Smoosh the two boards together.
Take some finishing nails and nail them into the boards.  You'll want to clamp the boards together so they don't shift.  Trust me on that one.
Then, put wood glue all over the top of this stack, and all over one side of another board.
Smoosh that board onto the other two.
Add your nails.
And continue this with all of your squares until you get the height you want.
See why you need to CLAMP the boards??  

Fortunately, the next step is to sand it all down, really really well.  So that takes care of the unevenness along with any splinters.  It would have been easier to sand had it not been so uneven, though.
So, use a belt sander with coarse sandpaper to really smooth it down.
I then used a palm sander with fine sandpaper to round the edges and make it less angular.
It'll be smooth as butter then.

Now, sand the table down.  Belt sander and palm sander.
Wipe it all down.
And spray the table and the block you made with primer.

Now drill some holes around the base of the table.  One on each side.  You don't have to go all the way through, these are just guide holes.  Make sure you drill at an angle.
Center your table base on your block.  Take some deck screws, or something really long and tough, and drill them through the table into the block at an angle.  Make sure you've really got them in there.
Take some wood filler and smooth it over the screw holes.
Let it dry.  Sand it.  
Paint over the entire thing with satin spray paint.  You'll probably need two or three coats.  

Draw guidelines with a ruler.  I drew lines straight across horizontally and then diagonally to make triangles.  Then I hand painted the champagne-colored diamonds on.  I also painted in the groove that runs around the tabletop.  I used regular acrylic craft paint.
When it's all dry, erase the pencil lines.

Spray the whole thing down with a clear sealant.

On to the stools!

Wash out your buckets.  Wash them GOOD.  I used bleach.  And then left them in the sun for a while.

First up, use a screwdriver to pry the handles off.  Try not to stab your hand like I did.

Use Krylon Fusion spray paint to paint the boxes.  It adheres to plastic!  Awesome stuff.  I used - of course - white.  Satin.  You will likely need an insane amount of spray paint to cover the words and images.  Insane.  But I really wanted them to be white in case I needed to remove the pleated covers.  Just be aware that the fumes in your garage may be enough to kill a small mammal.
Make sure that you spray the inside of the boxes, too.
Turn them over and spray them upside down, too, so you really get into all the grooves.
While you're at it, spray the lids.

I don't have a ton of pictures of this step, but it's really straightforward.  To make the cover that goes around the bottom of the "stool" you just need a vintage sheet.  Measure around the box.  You'll need to add pleats to three sides, so add about 8-10 inches per pleat to the box circumference.  Cut your sheet to this length and slightly longer than the height of the box.  Hem the top and bottom by folding over twice, ironing and sewing with a straight stitch.  Measure the distance from mid point of one side of the box to midpoint of the next side.  Iron a pleat in the sheet at these points.  Pin at the top of the pleat.  Sew the pleats down with a straight stitch all along the length of the sheet.  To attach it to the boxes, I just hot glued the sheet on under the lip.  I hot glued vintage lace over the top edge.

Now you'll need to make the cushions.  Grab some thick cardboard.  I used a huggies box.
Open it up at the sides and lay it flat.
Cut the sides apart.
Cut the bottom flaps off.
Lay the lid on the cardboard rectangle,
and cut around the curves.
Lay out your fabric, right side down.
Cut a piece of craft foam the same size and shape as the cardboard.  Lay it on top of the fabric.
Put the piece of cardboard on top of the foam.
Wrap the fabric up and over the cardboard.  Tuck the corners in, like a present.  Staple the fabric down with a staple gun.

Use your hot glue gun to glue the cardboard to the top of the lid.  

I used complimentary scraps to dress up the cushions a bit.  I just stapled them down like the other fabric.

And you're done!

With some thrifting and spray paint you can turn some inexpensive items into tea party treasures!

Clean up is a snap!  Awesomely, you can just lift the lid and store all your tea party goods!  Including your stuffed guests.
Perfect for your little one to enjoy a beautiful outdoor tea party picnic.  The rain took a short break just long enough for an impromptu photo shoot.  It was perfectly sweet, until we were swarmed with lakeflies (quite possibly the most disgusting bug ever.  Like a skinny spider with wings.)  We'll have to try again later.

Thank you so much for voting!  I think this was my favorite project yet.

*Be sure to check the right sidebar for all the fun parties I link to!

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