It’s been a little while since we’ve published worked on a refinishing project, which honestly seems to be the most popular thing we do. We’ve been on the hunt for a while for some patio furniture we don’t detest. The problem is that it’s all ugly plastic or REALLY expensive. So we’ve kept our eyes out for something we can work with.

Finally this weekend we found some plain metal chairs. nothing special but the perfect base for a refinishing project. The chairs were $4.99 each, not in bad shape or rusted, and we bought two cans of spray paint at $3.50 or so each.


They started out black, with a few rust spots here and there. Still, they were stable and in decent shape.


Add a little paint…


And viola! They went from dud to fun in about ten minutes. We let the paint dry and set while we work on cushions for the seat and back (because hey, why not).

We haven’t made the cushions quite yet, but have our fabric planned out. This fabric was another Goodwill find at about $3.00.


I think this project will be a great start to spicing up our back patio. We have a really sizeable patio that is covered, which is nice, but doesn’t keep rain or snow or wind out. It’s nice for the summer when our house is sweltering because we have the stove, oven, and dishwasher running all day, and I’d like to make it more functional. I’m a super huge fan of the “outdoor rooms” you see set up at home improvement stores and such.

Don’t tell Katie, but I have designs on our outdoor space. I’m really tempted to put in a low wall around the slab and then put in canvas and vinyl or screen “walls” that we can roll down when it’s nice, and can go up when it’s not so nice. I think we can do it and it would be pretty much epic. I think it’s about time to recruit Father Burb and Father Burb in law to come out for a visit.


(Garden party last year, but you can see the space and get the idea. )

Please Be Seated

January 18, 2012

This here, is a bench.

Not only a bench, but an ugly bench. We picked it up because we always need more seating and such and figured we’d do something with it eventually. Well, eventually finally came, after the inspiration of our new bed pillows. We picked up a new bench fabric at the same time and figured now was good. The bench was about $5, and the fabric I’d guess is around $10, and the trim another $5 maybe. Of course, Katie could say differently if she wanted.

Anyway, reupholstering is another thing that makes a piece of furniture look pretty snazzy and it can be simple to do. This bench required unscrewing 11 screws, removing staples, stapling new fabric, cutting said fabric, and hot glue. Not bad.

First, take your object and disassemble it. This was a pretty straightforward project, but if you are doing something a bit more complicated, be sure to track your parts and order so that you know how to get it back together at the end.

Once the top was off, we removed the staples holding the black fabric and the mustard fabrics on. The black fabric is basically to keep the raw edges from showing underneath. Remove your staples carefully if you want to preserve this piece of fabric. I find a flat-head screwdriver or needle-nose pliers are best for removing staples.

Once all the staples are pulled out, you should be able to lift the top fabric off.

Underneath, hopefully you find foam or padding that is in good shape. If your foam is in tough shape, you can get new padding, glue it down, and you’re good to go. Ours was in good shape so we just recovered over the existing padding. The white in the corner is some extra padding to help fill out the foam, which was missing a chunk in the corner. We also were left with the frame. I’d like to paint our frame at some point but we didn’t have a good color at the time.

Next, take your new fabric, lay it out right-side-down and place the bench top on it upside down. Staple one edge with a staple gun, starting at the corners and middle, and filling in the in-betweens.

Next, pull your fabric under so that it is tight. You want it to be tight so that you don’t get loose fabric on your cover. It may take a buddy to help keep it tight while you staple.

Now, there are a couple ways to go about the corners, which I think is the trickiest part. You can measure and cut your corners ahead of time, and sew them in to the right shape (Make a cut from the corner in, then fold together and sew), as was done on the old cover. You can ease the corner around like fondant and avoid a crease, or you can miter the corner by folding it. We chose to miter it.

Once stapled, you can clean up your fabric edges if you want, or place your backing (old or new) on the bottom and staple it. Then, reassemble!

Our final touch was to add a decorative trim around the bottom. In our “final pictures” it hadn’t been glued on yet, but I basically took a glue gun and glued it to the bottom of the top piece (not the frame!).


For most of us, our bedroom is the core of our personality as we express it through our houses or apartments. However, it’s also one of those spaces that isn’t really public once you’ve moved out of your college dorm room. What that means, at least for us, is that while we have individual things about our bedroom that are awesome, we also have areas that are pretty neglected and that we haven’t done much about. One of those areas was our bed. Upon leaving college we upgraded from a futon to a real mattress and box spring, but we’ve never had a head- or footboard, or any kind of matching bedroom set. So, one of the things we’ve been contemplating lately is doing something to make our bed look a little more grown-up and finished. We have plans for a headboard, but it’s been a trickier project than originally anticipated, so in the mean time, we went with decorative pillows.

We got 2 27″ square pillow forms to add some height and a generally finished look to the bed (Sora thinks she adds refinement as well). We then got some fabric. The fabric was a great find, it was on the bargin rack at Denver Fabric for $6.95 a yard, plus it’s intended to be curtain panels, so it was double wide. We got enough fabric for both pillows for about $6. The one downside is the fabric isn’t  as durable as you would usually use for something like a pillow. It’s definitely not a cuddle-up, fall asleep and drool kind of pillow.

To make the covers, I used the simplest pillow cover known to man-the flap pillow. I took a length of fabric long enough to cover the pillow, and folded it over hamburger-style, leaving 6-8″ overlap on one end. I then sewed up the sides to make a shape like an envelope.

From there, I just stuck the pillow form in, and folded the flap inside (think of a letter that you want to close and be able to open again later). Because these aren’t functional pillows I didn’t worry about making it fasten, however, if you wanted it to fasten, you could add buttons for a visible embellishment, or velcro on the inside for an invisible hold. The only other detail was to finish all of the raw edges. They’re mostly out of sight, so I just serged along all of my edges, but they could be zigzag stitched or folded over as well.

A Weekend Project

September 5, 2011

We’re all about the quick and dirty projects that beautify your home. We found this little stereo cabinet for $5 at our local Habitat for Humanity Re-Store. We use it to store overflow cookbooks and other small objects, to reduce the clutter in our dining room and kitchen. We bought a $4 piece of art paper at our local art store, a little spray adhesive, and voila!

Fast Forward 2 Months

August 20, 2011

And here’s what you get!


Also we’ve started a new refinishing project for a darling little table we found.

We’re using the same stuff we used for the yellow two-level table, plus a new metal scraper. Our total investment is about $13.


July 22, 2011

Katie and I have been pretty busy the last few weeks, but we have managed to make some progress on a couple projects- namely chairs. As always, we’ve had our ongoing battle with the re-upholstering project, and we’ve finally gotten all the pieces sewn, all the buttons made, and we’re ready to go. I’m hoping to finish the chair this weekend.

First, we had a long battle of finding the appropriate fabric to cover the seat. I was hoping to find a modern fabric to pop from the grey corduroy we found at Goodwill. It had to be a home dec weight fabric to hold up to the seating, and interesting enough without being *too* interesting. Here’s what we found:

I cut a small slice from the edge to cover my own buttons to match. The end result is

Next, I began sewing the buttons through the front of the chair to the back and securing them. The intention is to pillow the buttons in to the padding of the chair. I will then secure the fabric to the frame, pulling it tight.


I ran in to an issue on my first attempt. The buttons pulled right through. After a little research, I just made sure to thread the buttons through twice, so that more fabric was caught and securing the button.

The end result is starting to look pretty good I think. More pictures to follow in the next update.


At the same time, my mother and grandmother were in town and helped us re-organize our problematic living room. We didn’t spend much time there and it was really just a landing zone for my massive shoe collection.  After an afternoon of cleaning, reorganizing, dusting, and clutter control, we hit the thrift stores to find a couple chairs to drop in for seating. We came up with two chairs- one I’ll make a separate post about as it is not quite finished, and the other:


I’m not sure who decided that a red chair should be assaulted with that fabric. Ugh. We popped the seat out, ripped the fabric off, applied a nice creamy coat of paint, new fabric, and voila!

A super cute, modern looking chair. I’m thinking about painting rings to match on the back, or making arms for the chair, but that’s a post for another day. Stay tuned.

One of the projects we have started is taking apart a chair. Neither of us have done much upholstering, but this chair was too good to pass up. After cramming it in to our tiny car, we got started pulling staples out. The plan is to take apart the chair piece by piece, cut new fabric pieces using the old ones as a template, and put the chair back together. The chair cost $9.99 at Goodwill, and we found several yards of fabric at goodwill for $5.99. Total investment so far is about $16.

Here is what the chair looked like initially:

We love this chair for it’s shape and of course the awesome buttons. Once we got the chair home, the staple-pulling began. Lots. and lots. of staples. We started pulling off layers of fabric, batting, and cardboard support. The piping came off and we stripped it down to the core frame, burlap support, and usable foam.

The batting scraps have gone in to our suet feeder to help birds with nesting. The fabric pieces we’ve carefully taken apart so that we can begin cutting our new pattern.

Since this is an on-going project that we have not yet completed, we will post updates along the way. The next step is to cut out the fabric, acquire new batting, and re-cover the buttons pulled out of the chair. Then the re-assembly can start!

Two-Level Table

March 29, 2011

One of the things that we’re trying to do here at Suburban Experiment is accumulate some furniture that doesn’t look like it belongs to a college apartment or dorm room. For me, that means trying to stay away from things made out of particle board. Unfortunately, real furniture, the kind made out of wood, is expensive. This has led me into the land of thrift store furniture and refinishing. My first project was this nice little two-level table:

Two-Level Table, before

Our lovely little table, direct from the thrift shop.

This isn’t a great picture, but you can get an idea of what it looked like. A pretty standard, medium-tone finish, that was pretty badly scratched on the table surfaces. That upper level of the table is covered in what I originally thought might be a formica in a avocado green-harvest yellow gradient, with a gold greek key pattern stamped around the edges.

So I stripped the original finish, and went after the ugly finish on the upper level, only to realize that it was not formica at all, but actually a piece of finished and stamped leather. Then I painted:

Two-level Table, stripped and painted

This shows the paint job without any embellishments. Or drawer pulls.

This paint color is called “cantaloupe smile,” which is just a fantastic name, and it’s a great sunny, cheerful name. Which is good, because a section of my garage floor is now also this color. Just a note: never set your paint can on the surface you’re actually painting. Especially if you’re inclined to lift the object you’re working on.

After painting, I went in and added a piece of fabric to the top level to mimic the effect of the original table decoration. I just glued it on with decoupage paste, and am trusting to the varnish to help make it stay in place.

Two-level table with fabric

This gives a better idea of the color, and shows the fabric on top.

Two-level table, inside of drawer

I also used the same fabric to line the inside of the drawer. After that was all said and done, I put a layer of varnish over the whole thing, and I used some Brasso on the drawer pulls and the wire lattice in the side to reveal that they are actually made out of metal, and not just oddly shaped tarnish. The finished result looks like this:

Two-level table finished

Two-level table finished, front

Two-level table finished