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Birds, glorious birds!

One of the things I love best about my home lies outside the walls. It’s the abundance of birds that visit my yard. I wish I could say they were here to see me, but they’re just visiting the feeders. Today, they came in droves. Well, I guess “flocks” is a more accurate term.

Whether it was the cooler weather, or light rain, I can’t be sure – but the birds were plentiful.

At one point I looked outside, and saw common sparrows, mourning doves, a pair of Eastern bluebirds, brown-headed cowbirds, grackles, a pair of cardinals and several goldfinches – all sharing among the four tree-hanging feeders at the same time. It was heaven. And I observed them closely with binoculars.

Just moments later, I passed by my front living room and saw wings fly past the window. When I approached I heard the insistent peeping that can only be baby birds. There they were – two small, but well-developed mockingbirds. Their notoriously aggressive parents were flipping about, and when they noticed me at the window, the mama or daddy (I can’t tell them apart) abandoned the babies and took flight. So, I snapped a photo and left the room. I’m happy to report that when I went back an hour later, all were gone.

Here’s those little babies on my front sidewalk:

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And here’s the a photo of the most American Goldfinches I have ever seen in my yard at one time. I counted fourteen in this picture!

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And just as I am sitting here writing this, more wings fluttering past the window caught my eye. (I might be part feline the way birds have a way of getting my attention) When I got up, I was surprised to find a red fox in my yard! I ran to grab the camera, which was connected to my computer. When I got back this was the best photo I could snap as it was running off. Do you see it? I’ve circled his bushy tail. The wings I had seen belonged to the mockingbird parents. They were dive-bombing that fox! I’ve seen them do that to crows before – but this was pretty ballsy!

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In other bird-related excitement, another pair of Eastern Bluebirds are making a nest in our outdoor abode. A pair made a nest in the newspaper section of my mail box both last year and this past Spring. The babies did not hatch in either instance. Last year I could understand – it was extremely hot – with days in the 90’s and above. We assumed the eggs just fried in there. This year I don’t know what happened. One day the pair just stopped coming. I haven’t seen them for weeks. So, today when I saw a male and female popping in and out of my son’s hand-painted birdhouse, I was delighted!

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Other birds that make regular appearances in the winter include woodpeckers, the adorable tufted titmouse, nut-hatch (those gravity-defying birds that literally walk down tree trunks) and black-capped chickadees. Other spring and summer birds include the red-headed little house finch (which I saw on my front porch today – I swear, I’m not lying, this was a good bird-watching day!), and when we’re really lucky – the indigo bunting, the brightest, all-over blue bird I have ever seen.

If you live in Northern Virginia like I do, you can see all of the birds I mentioned in your own backyards, or on this great website, where I go regularly to identify new visitors to my yard: http://www.pwconserve.org/wildlife/birds/index.html.

I love sharing my space with these little feathered creatures, and get so much enjoyment from watching them chase one another, eat, and splash around in the bird-bath. Even Saxon is starting to know their names. Now if I could get the image-capture feature on my binoculars to work, we’d really get some awesome photos!

Happy birding friends!

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DIY Lamp Makeover

I bet you all have an old lamp somewhere in the attic or basement that isn’t being used because you think it’s outdated, ugly or doesn’t match your decor anymore. I had one of those. In fact, it sat by itself for so long, I almost forgot it was even there. Today that lamp got a face-lift, with a technique I’ve been dying to try – stenciling!

Here’s how I did it:

Oh, can’t forget the “Before” photo. Plain Jane cream-colored shade, and gold. Gold. I don’t even know why I ever bought this.

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I chose to use ASCP in French Linen. I used a small brush and quickly painted a base coat over the entire black base and gold center. Nothing tricky here – just slapped it on. No primer, no prep beforehand. Just paint.

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While that was drying, I moved on to the lamp shade – the part I was most excited about, yet still a little nervous to attempt. I hadn’t stenciled before and worried that if I screwed it up, that was all she wrote. There were no other lamp shades to take its place. But, my worries quickly faded as I discovered how easy it was.

First, I taped the stencil in place on the lamp.

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Next I dipped the flat end of my stencil paint brush into the paint. The directions on the stencil said I should wipe the excess paint off the end of the brush onto a cloth. That is an important warning – too much paint and you’ll see it spread underneath the stencil. So take heed – less is more here!

After you’ve dipped and wiped, then start dabbing at an open section of the stencil, applying the paint in a circular motion. I had to dip and wipe several times just to complete each swirly shape.

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An important note to bear in mind as you are working – gently keep your stencil in place with just the tips of your fingers. If you apply too much pressure, you’ll inadvertently move the stencil. I found it slid around easily.

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Once I painted the sections of the stencil I wanted (in this case, the whole thing), I removed it and marveled at how good it looked, and thought, “dang, that was easy!”


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My next step was to turn the shade slightly and start working my way around. I chose to slightly turn my stencil, so the swirls would not all be facing in the same direction. And in some sections of the shade, I had the swirls running off the edges.

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You can see a few of the places where the paint was too heavy (I got lazy and stopped wiping the excess on the cloth) and it spread under the stencil border. But, I was so anxious! I had to tell myself to slow down. Once I got one side of the shade completed, I set it aside to dry. Then I went back to the lamp again.

I applied a second coat of French Linen. Once it dried, I started to distress lightly. Since I was working with metal, I chose to not use sand paper, but instead used a wet rag. I lightly rubbed the rag over the paint, until the metal beneath showed through. Like the edges on the base here.

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See the gold peeking through in spot…

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After that was complete, I went back to the shade and finished stenciling the other side.

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And here it is all done! Doesn’t it look pretty nifty on top of the dresser, which just so happens to be in the same shade – French Linen!

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Talk about an easy way to give an old Home Depot lamp new life! Doesn’t she look all custom, boutique-chic now!

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Items for Sale

Scroll down for a running list of items currently for sale. If you are interested, please email me: niese.traci@yahoo.com or call 717-424-8788. Currently I do not ship. It’s pick-up only, please.

Thanks for giving my beloved work a new home!

French Country Coffee Table – $125

Bombay table newly painted with Annie Sloan Chalk Paint in Old Ochre and Graphite, with clear and dark wax. Lovely legs! 45.25″ wide x 23.5″ deep x 17″ high (from floor to top)
Items for Sale (20)
French Country End Table – $100
Bombay table newly painted with Annie Sloan Chalk Paint in Old Ochre and Graphite, with clear and dark wax. Lovely legs! 23.5″ high x 25.25″ wide x 16.75″ deep
Items for Sale (19)

The Hayden – Vintage Desk/Vanity Table – $175.00

Vintage desk or vanity table painted in Annie Sloan Chalk Paint in Old White with a base coat of French Linen. Drawer fronts also painted in French Linen. Distressed and aged with dark wax, and sealed with a top coat of clear wax. 40″ wide x 29″ high x 17.5″ deep
Items for Sale (16)
The Surprise – Storage Cabinet/Chest – $150.00 -SOLD
Heavy duty storage piece with 2 doors, an interior shelf and drawer. Painted with Annie Sloan Chalk Paint in Paloma and Old White. Aged with dark wax and sealed with clear wax. The doors open up to reveal aged, decoupaged decorative paper. 25″ wide x 30″ high x 15″ deep
Items for Sale (18)


The Ida – Tall Vintage Accent Table – $75.00
Beautiful table gets a paint job with ASCP in Versailles with light distressing and clear wax. The round top is 13.75 ” in diameter, and it stands 31″ tall.
Items for Sale (10)
Pinky – Accent Table – $60.00
Little accent table painted with ASCP in Scandinavian Pink, distressed and aged with dark wax. Sealed with clear wax. 23″ high x 13″ wide x 13″ deep.
Items for Sale (15)
Vintage Shutters turned Memo Board – $20.00 – SOLD
Painted with Old White and dry-brushed with French Linen.
Items for Sale (17)
Pedestal Table with 4 Chairs and 2 Leaves – $450.00 – SOLD!
Painted with ASCP in Duck Egg Blue. Distressed and sealed with clear wax. The top has been stripped, sanded and stained a light walnut color allowing the grain to show through. Sealed with polyurethane.
Items for Sale (14)
Shaker Style Peg Rack – $15.00
Painted with ASCP in Versailles. Distressed and sealed with clear wax.
Items for Sale (11)
Shadow Boxes – $25 for the pair
Small and large shadow boxes, ready to hang, are painted with ASCP in Old White, distressed and aged with dark wax. Sealed with clear wax.
Items for Sale (13)
Bird Prints in Distressed Frames – $30 for the pair – SOLD
Lovely bird prints framed in newly painted wood frames. Old White, distressed and aged with dark wax, and sealed with clear wax.
Items for Sale (9)
Decorative Glass Dome with Newly Painted Base – $25.00 -SOLD!
Previously an old cheese serving tray, this gorgeous glass dome gets new life as a decorative table ornament with a painted wood base in ASCP Old White. Distressed and aged with dark wax. Sealed with clear wax. (Not to be used for serving food)
Items for Sale (12)


Vintage mirror, ready to hang, painted in Annie Sloan Chalk Paint in Arles with Old White dry-brushing, distressing and clear wax. Dimensions when hung in Landscape: 33″wide x 21″ high
Items for Sale (8)

“The Chloe” – 6-Drawer Dresser in French Linen – $300.00 – SOLD!
This beautiful 6-drawer dresser was transformed with Annie Sloan Chalk Paint in French Linen, with 2 coats of clear wax and light distressing. The drawers are dovetailed, and the dresser was constructed completely from wood. The drawers are made with wood-cut tracks – no metal. I am not an antiques expert, but my guess is that it’s pretty old. The brass drawer pulls are exceptional, and are original to the piece. Dimensions: 45″ high x 36.5″ wide x 19″ deep

Items for Sale (5)

“Little Ben” – Child-Sized Bench – $60.00
This small Amish-style bench, perfectly suited in size for kids, was painted in  Old White Annie Sloan Chalk Paint, with clear and dark wax. It’s got an aged patina, and heavy distressing. Dimensions: 33.5″ wide x 25″ high x 13″ deep

Items for Sale (4)

“Sad Sally” – Accent Table – $25.00 SOLD!!
This poor little table has a crooked leg, and a slightly bowed top, but with a beautiful new coat of paint in Annie Sloan’s Duck Egg Blue, those imperfections only add character to an old piece. Shabby chic for sure! Dimensions: 15″ wide x 29″ high x 15″ deep

Items for Sale (2)

“The Buster” – Display Box – $20.00
Buster is a small 2-door display box, perfect for highlighting your collection of miniatures. The outside is painted with a base coat of Annie Sloan’s Old White, and topped with French Linen. It’s been distressed and coated with clear and dark wax, for an aged appearance. The inside is painted in Duck Egg Blue.

Items for Sale (1)

“The Diana” – Stenciled Lamp – $100.00 SOLD!
This fun, working lamp is painted in ASCP French Linen. The lamp shade was stenciled in the same color paint. A lovely companion to The Chloe dresser! 

Items for Sale (6)

“The Annie” – Frenchy coffee table -$125.00 SOLD!!
This beautiful, curvy coffee table was painted with a base coat of Annie Sloan Chalk Paint in Paloma (warm grey/taupe color with a hint of lavender). Old White was dry brushed over the legs and base, and then aged with dark wax. The top was accented with french damask and vines, distressed and clear waxed. Lovely carved shell and finial designs.
Items for Sale (7)

“Miss Lovely” – Bench and Pillow – $450.00
This bench project included a paint and upholstery transformation. I gave it a new tufted seat, and painted the frame in Old White, with clear and dark wax, for an aged patina. I also made a coordinating little pillow.

Items for Sale (3)

If you have a piece of furniture you would like to discuss, please contact me. I am happy to come out and take a look and provide a quote.

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The Dresser – Before and After Photos

For all my neighbors who have seen me working in the garage day in and day out on the dresser – it’s done! Finally! But, I must say, I love how it has turned out. I think its just a thing of beauty. In fact, I am tempted to keep it. But, I really don’t NEED another dresser. And goodness knows, that I hope to keep finding diamonds in the rough like this.

So, here’s the new and improved dresser in French Linen (Pardon my make-shift staging in the garage. It’s just too heavy for me to get into the house by myself.):
Remember what it used to look like? Heavily stained, majorly dinged up, with pulls covered in years of grime, and probably the same stain on the wood.
Now the beautiful curves and carved sides are accented with light distressing, and sealed with clear wax.

I chose not to distress very heavily on the fronts of the drawers and did not distress on the top at all – except along the edges. Where you do see distressing, it was done to intentionally accent areas that were already imperfect – like scratches or dents.
And the drawer pulls got a good cleaning with  Brasso. They had been heavily stained with the same wood stain that was on the old dresser, and covered with years of dirt and grime. Look how lovely they are now – they shine and you can really see the intricate metalwork.
I had so much fun watching this transformation happen before my eyes. As soon as I started painting the drawers with the first coat, I was amazed at the difference. Amazed!
This dresser is for sale, along with a few other pieces I have completed lately. Click here to see my inventory: Items for Sale
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Gold pictures frames get a makeover

Yesterday I worked on my powder room. It wasn’t a big renovation (although I would love to take out the mirror, replace the lights, and add glass tile down the vanity wall – but that’s for the future). All I did was paint a few pictures, a small little table and hang a fabulous shelf I found at a consignment shop.

First things first – I had to remove pictures I had hung in there when we moved into this house. They’re about 10 years old, and each were framed in gold frames. I like the botanical prints inside – just have outgrown those gold frames. In removing them, I had a few little holes to patch in the walls. A quick slab of joint compound, some light sanding and a coat of our original wall color (another thing to change sometime soon), and we were back in business.

The picture frames got a coat of in Old White. Just one coat and no wax (Why no wax? There’s very little potential for the frames to see any touch of water, so a seal isn’t needed). To distress, all I had to do was dampen a cloth and rub over the raised edges. The paint came right off. We actually worked on this technique at the Annie Sloan workshop I attended in Leesburg. They provided us with a gold, gilded piece of trim work. My frames were very similar with their detailing, so I pulled out my notes and proceeded with the same steps.

Next I quickly painted a small little table I keep in the bathroom to hold toilet paper and tissues. This got a coat of Duck Egg Blue, clear wax and distressing. I went with the blue, as I want that to be my accent color in the tiny little room. I hope to pick up some pretty little hand towels the next time I am out in that same color. Shouldn’t be too difficult – since summer is upon us it seems every retailer is pushing nautical and beach decor themes and gorgeous shades of blue are in abundance.

After everything was painted and my bathroom wall was dry – which took all of 5 minutes because the space, which is about the size of a catholic confessional, heats up like a sauna when the door is closed – I hung the shelf. This was no small feat. Each iron bracket is heavy and had 6 screws to anchor them to the wall. I had to measure the wall, measure the distance between the two brackets and figure out how to space it smack dab in the middle. That required math. MATH.

After 20 minutes of thinking and making pencil marks on my wall I was ready to drill anchor holes. Slapped in those plastic wall anchors, and used hubby’s big boy electric screwdriver. I felt so Holmes on Homes!

Here you can see what the largest frame used to look like.

And here’s the “before” for one of the smaller frames…

Here they are all finished up! The white gives them a softer, more feminine feeling.

And here’s the shelf hanging happily in the powder room.

And the small pictures on the back wall.

And a close up of the iron brackets. Love the chippy paint! I did not paint these – found this shelf with the included brackets at a consignment shop. It’s from Pottery Barn, so I’m sure you could grab the same thing off the internet.

There ya have it. Another project checked off my to-do list!

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A Wreath and Coffee Table Kind of Day

Today I decided to do something that would remind me of Spring – considering it was in the low-40’s and raining for the 2nd day in a row. Our sunny weather is M-I-A, and I needed something that would warm my spirit, if not my bones.

I drove out to AC Moore and grabbed a 14″ grapevine wreath and all these beautiful silk flowers: pink Joyous Gerberas (okay the name says enough!), Lemon Leaves, pink Lupinus, onion leaves, green Pom Poms, and a greenish-pink hydrangea.

On the drive back home, we also stopped by a thrift store, where I found my next paint project: a curvy coffee table with beautiful carved accents. And a lovely decorative pull handle. Check her out!

This is going to look so pretty when it gets a fresh coat of paint and dark wax in those carved spots!

That means I have to finish up the dresser I am currently working on. I gave it a final coat of paint today. If its any nicer outside tomorrow, I will wax and distress it lightly. The final step will be to polish up the hardware and put it back on. Pics to come – I promise. But, here’s a sneak peek…I love this color!

So back to the wreath…

I got home, snipped the flowers off their stems and got out the trusty hot glue gun. Then I just started glueing those bad boys on. In about an hour it was all done! Here’s a little trick I learned online for getting rid of the pesky hot glue strings – zap them with a hot hair dryer for a few seconds. They disappear!

The weather outside might be less-than-perfect, but the inside of my door looks mighty nice!

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Tangerine – my new favorite color

Today while strolling through Home Goods, I came upon this gorgeous set of orange beauties! Aren’t they fabulous? I stopped, stared, touched them longingly, and imagined how perfect one would be inside my recently “refreshed” master bedroom. You might remember from my Facebook posts a couple months back, that I added a few tangerine accents to my otherwise blue (aka drab) decor.

I love this bust, but Saxon is afraid of it. He doesn’t even like to look at her.

I’m not really a fan of silk flowers, but these look like the flowers in the painting below and I just had to have a few. They’re on my bedside table, and feel so springy.

This painting hangs above our expresso-wood headboard. It really changed the room and brightened it up!

These throw pillows are probably a little too feminine for my hubby’s taste, but he endures them without a word. Gotta love that!

So, when I saw those tangerine chairs today, I would have loved to snag one for the corner of the room.  But, I refrained. I had that conversation with myself…you know, the one that goes something like this, “Traci, do you really NEED that chair?”

Of course not. I just want the chair. My inner voice of reason, the one that pointed out the more practical things I should buy with the money, won. Bitch. I hate her.

So, here I sit – thinking about those chairs, as I am sure to do over the course of several days – browsing the net for other tangerine goodies to drool over.

I will not put roosters in my kitchen…I will not put roosters in my kitchen. Oh, but maybe just this one rooster. How cute it this!

Wow – those chandeliers make a bold statement! I love them! The site where I grabbed this image says that Tango Tangerine is the Pantone 2012 Color of the Year. Guess that’s why we’re seeing various shades of orange all over fashion and home decor. While I love the color, what happens next year, when the color of the year is something like Perfectly Plum? I suppose they could be painted easily enough!

This is a great little space, and the tangerine accent wall looks great behind those floating shelves. So sophisticated. I must have a tiny nook like this in my house somewhere just begging for attention!
This is where I get up, start pacing around the house, looking for a place where I can paint and drive nails into the wall. Until next time!

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Little Garden Bench Makeover Step-By-Step

Yesterday I promised I would “show” you how I achieved the patina on the bench, I am now calling “Miss Lovely.” I started a new, little bench and used the same colors and process. Unfortunately I failed to take a photo of the bench in the “before” state. Just know it was your run of the mill brown wood.

Here’s a photo of what it looked like after a quick first coat of Annie Sloan chalk paint in Old White.

Next I added another coat of Old White, as I could still see a hint of the brown wood underneath the first coat. Note, I used a large brush to apply this paint easily and quickly.

After the 2nd coat of paint dried, I applied a layer of clear wax.

I rubbed it on with a big brush, making sure to get it into the cracks and crevices. Then I removed the excess with a clean cloth.

Notice the clear wax deposits no color. It just bonds with the paint to create a seal, with a touch of a sheen.

Next, I began to distress, using a fine piece of sandpaper. I gently rubbed areas where I thought the piece would naturally shows signs of age; edges, seat, back, corners, etc. I rubbed until I could see the wood show through.

Then I grabbed the dark wax….then comes the fun part! Doesn’t it just look gross?

I dabbed a little on the corner of a clean, lint-free cloth, and rubbed it across areas of the bench that I wanted to have that aged patina. After I rubbed it on, I then wiped away the excess.

There were a few place that the wax left a darker-than-I-intended patina, so to remove that, all I had to do was go back over it with a little clear wax, and rub it away. So simple!

Here are photos of one side of the bench before the dark wax, and then after the dark wax – see the difference…
And here’s the bench all finished up! 

This bench is for sale, as are a few other pieces I’ve worked on recently. If you are interested in them, feel free to email me. And if you have a piece of furniture that you are considering painting, give a shout – I am happy to come take a look at it, and discuss how you would like to transform it!
Thanks for following everyone!!
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Dark wax? How do I dark wax?

After I posted photos of the new bench yesterday, I’ve had a couple people ask me how I achieved the aged patina, and what to do with dark wax. I’ll try to explain it here, but will “show” you in my next post. I’m currently working on a small bench, and will use the same techniques – and photograph them, so you can “see” what I mean.

For the curvy white bench, I painted first with Annie Sloan chalk paint in Old White. I gave it a coat, wait ed for it to dry, and then gave it another coat.

Next I rubbed on Annie Sloan clear wax. Her waxes come in clear and dark, and have the consistency of Crisco. The clear wax leaves no color, but bonds with the paint to provide a protective seal. It definitely gives the paint a deeper hue, and just the tiniest bit of sheen. You can buff (rub with a clean cloth) the wax after a day of drying to give it a higher shine if you prefer (I did not do that).

So, I had rubbed the clear wax over the entire piece. I use a big wax brush to apply clear wax – it really got the wax into crevices and those turned spindle legs. Then I used fine sandpaper and distressed the edges by gently rubbing the white paint away until I could see the wood underneath. If I had planned to NOT patina the piece, I would have then just clear waxed the distressed areas again to give it the final seal. And I would have been done. But, since I thought the piece was just too bright white for the white fabric on the cushion, and the look I was going for was shabbier, I decided to try some dark wax.

It’s funny – I was afraid of dark wax before this project. And my plan for this bench was just a clear wax coat – no tricky business. But, like all the experts said at the Annie Sloan workshop I went to, “let the piece tell you what to do.” And it did. It called for dark wax.

To apply dark wax here’s what you do: you take a lint-free cloth (I purchased a bag of them from Lowes, and they are basically clean unused t-shirts torn into small pieces) and dap it into the tin of dark wax. Then you rub it on to a small space of your furniture. Always work in small spaces.  After you have rubbed it on, use a clean cloth to wipe it away. You’ll immediately notice the patina – or aged, brownish appearance. It especially settles into cracks, crevices and the places where you distressed. For a carved piece of wood, or furniture with a lot of detailing, the dark wax really emphasizes those beautiful areas!

So, I applied the dark wax with the cloth, and then rubbed off the excess. If there is too much patina in some places, you can actually take some of the clear wax on a cloth and rub it over the patina area and it removes it! The clear wax acts like an eraser! Pretty cool, huh?

“Wax on, wax off”…you know that reference, right? At least if you grew up with the original Karate Kid – not the cheesy, new version with the Will Smith kid that Saxon insisted was a girl. (but, that’s for another blog)

After you’ve wiped off all the dark wax, you are done. In my next post, I’ll provide the photos for each step, so you have a better understanding of what each part looks like.

Until then, happy painting!

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The Bench is DONE! Before & After Pics

Finally, the little bench that was a big headache is done. And the hiccups experienced along the way feel so worth it, now that I look at the pretty thing she has become. It’s a gratifying feeling, to know I DID this! From a plush, new cushioned seat to a paint transformation – my new bench looks shabby chic and romantic. I love it!

Remember what it looked like originally? Well, just in case you didn’t catch the first post about tearing out the cushion here’s a link to read that post, and the BEFORE photo….

And here is Miss Lovely is now…

Look at those curves!

Have I gotten her from every angle? Here you can see the three simple tufts in the cushion.

And there’s the little pillow I made from the Waverly garden collection of fabrics. See the curtain? That floral pattern is from this collection too – I found it just yesterday at a consignment shop! 

Even Charlotte had to get in on the picture-taking action. Doesn’t she look pretty?

And not to be outdone by the dog, Saxon posed for a pic too!
I left the back open because putting another cushion up there would have required work I wasn’t really willing to do, and frankly, I like seeing the open lines. It looks more contemporary now.

For those interested in the recipe for the paint makeover – I used Annie Sloan Chalk Paint. Two coats of Old White followed by clear wax. Then I distressed with fine sandpaper, and gave it a patina with a coat of dark wax.

I had considered selling this bench. Now I think she’s a keeper. I’ll be moving it around my home, looking for a permanent place to settle her in.

I’ve started working on another little bench. It is a much simpler project and should take another day or so to complete. Keep watching!