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Sanding, staining, mixing & flooding


I had great plans for today.  I was going to get two furniture pieces finished and fit in e-mail and some photo shoots as paint dried.  The day was going as planned until about noon.  It’s been raining here for two full days.  Hard.  We’ve had a little bit of water seeping into our basement, just because the water table is so high.  This is normal, though, and the water is mostly corralled into channels with the help of some strategically placed towels.  I was busy oiling one of the shoe racks I bought and noticed some water seeping beyond the towels.  I figured they were sopped, so I exchanged them for dry towels and put them on the spin cycle in the washer.  The new towels were soaked in minutes and I realized there was a big problem.  I could hear water splashing.  It was pouring in under the window sill and through several pin holes in the cinder block walls.  Water was running in faster than I could control it, so I started rolling up rugs and moving stuff where it would be dry.  We’ve always kept things off the floor in case of flooding, but we haven’t had water in the basement for years, so I had become a little complacent.

I spent a few hours pumping, wringing, bailing, sopping and drying and things are pretty much under control now.  We’re still getting a few heavy bands of rain, but hopefully we’re at the end of this storm.  Nothing was ruined and anything that got wet will dry out again, so I had to keep reminding myself that it could’ve been much, much worse.  It was merely a kink in the day.

So, here’s what I managed to get done before the rain came in…

Yesterday, I stripped the tops of the vanity and dresser that match the “Trophy” dresser.

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You can check out my tutorials on stripping furniture here – Part 1 & Part 2.  I love painted furniture, but I like wood tops on pieces.  I think it feels nicer and wears better and I also like the contrast.

Once the tops were stripped and cleaned, I sanded them smooth and also sanded the body of the pieces to prep them for painting.

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I sand furniture for a couple of reasons – First of all, any paint is always going to grip better if the surface has a little “tooth.”  I only sand pieces that are glossy or slick and these were.  The second reason is that I don’t like shiny polyurethane showing through when I distress or if there is chipping with milk paint.  It just look strange and takes away the authentic look.  So, I sand to take off that factory-finish-look.  I think sanding has gotten a bad rap, but this isn’t the Bob Villa variety of sanding a piece.  This is a quick, five-minute-max rough-up.

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I sand the body by hand and with an orbital sander and then use a finish sander for the tops.  It doesn’t leave those swirly marks in the wood that you get with an orbital sander.

I did the vanity/desk in Typewriter….

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…and the dresser is in Apron Strings.

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I’m going to warn you – Apron Strings looks more like Flamingo when you’re first applying it!  This is one that definitely changes as it dries and will change even more once a finish is applied.

I stained the tops in Dark Walnut, which is my go-to stain for everything.  It’s dark, so it’s forgiving, it’s very warm and seems to go with everything.

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I just apply it with a clean cotton cloth and wiped away the excess in long, smooth strokes.

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 See how much better that wood looks with the rich Dark Walnut instead of that orangey/red stain?

I often get questions about working with veneer.  In general, I just leave it alone unless it’s bubbled and a total mess.  This piece has a little chipping along one side…

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 I just sanded the edges and then applied the stain, working it into the crevices.

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The stain makes the chipping less obvious, but it still retains some character.

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Remember that I’m not about restoring a piece to look like it’s brand new.  I want to refurbish furniture and use the imperfections and quirks and all of the things that are a part of the history of the piece to my advantage.

More to come on these pieces next week.


Lastly, I wanted to show a photo shoot of one of the newest products in my line – the Milk Paint Mixer.  There are a lot of ways to mix milk paint, but we found a little electric frother worked perfectly, so we had some custom made.  They are inexpensive and run on 2 AA batteries, so it’s easy to use.

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The little whisk agitates the milk paint and water mixture just enough to break up the lumps and clumps that can happen when mixing milk paint.

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Give it a stir for about 20 seconds at the bottom of the container and your milk paint will be nice and smooth.

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Click HERE for a detailed tutorial on using the Milk Paint Mixer.  Now I’m going to be a terrible sales woman and say that you don’t *need* one of these little mixers to mix milk paint.  You can shake it in a lidded container, use a small whisk, fork or stir stick or a blender or immersion blender.  This is just a handy tool, so we thought we would make it available.

If you want to purchase one online, I know they are in stock in the following online shops –

Shade of Amber (Colorado), Robyn Story Designs (Florida) , The Treasured Home (California) , The Pink Bee Company (Canada) and Sea Rose Cottage (Rhode Island).

Click HERE to find a retailer near you (and we have them all over the US as well as in Canada, UK, Europe and coming soon to Australia.)

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  1. Man! I am such a sucker for Typewriter!! I can’t wait to see what the desk looks like when it’s finished.
    I’m painting a vintage desk chair in Typewriter – I’ll have to share it!
    I before E (except in breida)

  2. Oh darlin’ you have my deepest empathy with the basement flooding! It sounds as if you did a heroic job in keeping it under control, and I wish you luck with the drying out. (Sometimes, bleach is your friend … just saying.) We used to live along a river, and flooding happened every 7 years or so. Then we moved high on a hill, and houses were built higher on the hill . . . and the flooding happened again! French drains. They were worth every penny. A lot of pennies, actually.

    Love your furniture makeovers. Walnut stain is the best general color — it’s so wonderfully, just, brown! No off colors.

    How long is it from finishing a piece to being able to use it in daily use — or to offer it for sale? I sometimes sell painted pieces, and I keep them for a few weeks before selling them; I have a horror of someone’s coffee cup getting stuck to a still-very-slightly-tacky table top. I’m probably nuts. And I LOVE that little stirrer. And so much nicer than using the
    big KitchenAid. :-)
    All best wishes, Cass

  3. Mary-Beth says:

    I was so thrilled to see that there is finally an Austin TX retailer carrying MMS paint. Yay!! Just finished painting a dresser in dried lavender with antique white wax. The wax was a dream to apply and had no unpleasant odor at all.

  4. Fingers crossed we don’t get anymore rain. It is times like these I am so glad we shelled out 7K a couple of years ago for a new roof. There is nothing worse that the feeling of unrest you get when water finds its way in.
    Glad I checked your blog, I can’t sleep tonight and now I am compelled to paint something black. Have you notice there has been a lot of black furniture sightings lately? I think I could be a convert. Both pieces look awesome so far!

  5. Let me just say that I’m in LOVE with the Super-Duper-Handy-Dandy mixer! It is THE BOSS when it comes to mixing milk paint. The paint is mixed beautifully in mere seconds. Seconds. Not minutes. I highly recommend it. :)

  6. We had our first flooded basement since owning this house when we got 7+ inches of rain in a week last spring. Thankfully, our basement is mainly empty, with just a few junky things down there, so nothing was ruined. Anyway, I feel your pain on that matter…wish I could afford a swanky sump pump!

  7. Tamara renfrow says:

    I love your pieces! Can you give me a few ideas beside craigslist to look for pieces for my home? I love the dressers on legs that you refinish.

  8. Donna says:

    Do you put a finish on the stain? I did this to an end table, waxed the top, someone put a glass on it now it has white water stains! Suggestions?

  9. The rain has been crazy!!! Sorry to hear it put a hold on your plans for the day but glad to hear nothing was damaged. Just started a bench in Typewriter today. Excited to see how it comes out! One quick question: Should the paint be pretty runny? Every time I mix up a batch with the 1/1 water powder ratio that the package suggests it just seems so loose. I don’t want to waste powder though either.

  10. I hope you don’t need this, and can fix whatever leaks you have, but craigslist always has free pallets to pick up, and a few lining the leaky area can keep things up enough to give you time to move stuff or get more towels. Just sayin’.

  11. Marlene says:

    Feel for the rain leakage–I know the feeling living in Ohio – Most of the time it’s under control and just made me think, I better update my sump pump.

    Love both pieces – Couldn’t choose if I had too.


  12. Kathryn says:

    Looking good. I have been using the MMSMP recently and find I need to apply 3-4 coats of paint before the piece is opaque and even then there’s very little chipping. What am I doing wrong? Anyone can jump in to give me helpful hints. Thanks

  13. Sorry about the house problems, but I’m glad nothing was ruined. I love the typewriter on the vanity. It’s going to be a stunning piece.

  14. So sorry about the basement. Been there, done that. Hated the experience!

  15. I love the lines of the vanity, it’s just the perfect size.

    Sounds like you need a sump pump or new weeping tile…….. hope the rain stops.

  16. Gilda says:

    the walnut stain is really nice on the wood! Great job with it!

  17. That agitator is exactly like a milk whipper you use for lattes. Comes in the same case only gray, so I bet that would work as well.

  18. How fortunate you were that your flooding was manageable. You have such a great attitude about an inconvenience that would have unhinged the next person. Thanks for your good work at giving the rest of us, “a hand up”. You are blessed.

  19. Jane Dawson says:

    I’m a sucker for vanities, love this one! Sorry to hear about your flooding, I know just how you feel. I’ve been home from work for a couple weeks and had big plans for furniture. We live on an acreage and our septic tank backed up into our house. We don’t have a basement, so that’s our main floor of our house. Much worse than rain water, let’s just say. So I haven’t got that furniture finished quite yet. But hey at least I get to buy new carpet :)

  20. So glad you were home when the flood started!

  21. I think both pieces are looking great and can’t wait to see the end results. Sorry to read about the flood but you are remarkably philosophical about it, I would have been stressed.

  22. Your dressers are looking lovely! Can’t wait to see more. I also LOVE your mini mixer. It is great to work with and really gets the milk paint smooth and frothy.

  23. Oh, not fun! My house got flooded last spring and I was frantic about getting as much furniture as possible out as fast as we could! The insurance didn’t cover anything, of course, as they found tons of reasons not to pay a single euro! I hope you have everything under control now!

  24. Annie Gauthier says:

    I wonder if the Minwax product used is tinted oil. If so, is it safe to put a glass of water on top of the furniture? If not, what would you use?
    I just love your work. Thanks for sharing ideas :-)

  25. Hi there!
    I am loving your blog ! I have just started renovating my lake house and started my own blog. I am in the process of doing floors and wanted to ask you, does your kitchen through to your office have different colored floors? I just chalk paint whitewashed my new floors in my dining room that lead to my oak living room, but i kind of like the contrast, what do you think? :-)

  26. A few years back, we put an addition on our home. We built upward, adding a second story over our dining room, living room, and kitchen. Unfortunately, before the house was water tight (gutters on, soffits closed, and roof shingled) a severe storm passed through which dumped 8 inches of rain. Our poor home didn’t stand a chance. My husband was out of town that night (one of only 5 nights per year!), and due to a stress fracture on my left foot, I alternated between hobbling around on crutches attempting to bail water as fast as I could (collecting it in buckets, tupperware containers, and anything else I could grab) and scooting on my bottom so I could use the heels of my feet to our furniture to “drier ground”. Water literally poured in everywhere. It ran down the walls in sheets, it poured through light fixtures and heat vents, and it collected in the ceiling which I actually had to puncture to let the water run out steadily. Not a pleasant experience! There was an unbelievable amount of clean up the next day, including pulling out all of our carpeting (which wasn’t necessarily a bad thing – I had been hoping to eventually move to wood floors – just not then!) We were also fortunate that none of our furniture was ruined. But the biggest blessing is that the one and only room in the house that stayed dry was my oldest son’s bedroom, where my three young children slept peacefully as the storm raged and I bailed water all night long. When they woke up in the morning the skies were blue, the sun was shining, and they were none the wiser!

  27. Karen says:

    I pray that your basement doesn’t flood! We flooded a few years ago and had 5 sump pumps and a submergible, gasoline run, industrial pump running for 16 days (24/7) to keep the water level at 18 inches. My husband and I took turns getting up to refill the gas pump every 3 hours! We lost everything in our basement (which was storage for my antique shop) and had a huge mold clean up when the water finally receded. I will continue to pray that it remains a little seepage and manageable! Love the pieces so far… :-)

  28. Lori M. says:

    Hopefully the weather will be better this coming week. Love reading your blog it is always informative and can’t wait to see the dressers. There are so many MMS colors I am having a hard time deciding what colors to do things in. Thank you, Lori

  29. kathleen says:

    Post Irene, post Sandy, I feel your pain water poured in so fast we just gave up. First time they said it was a 100 yrs storm, one year later oh just another 100 yr storm. I cringe watching the weather now. We never ever had water before Irene. I have to agree with another poster, bleach is your best friend. Even if the water was not there long you have to clean, if black mold develops you will be in for major headaches.

  30. Oh, Marian, I can totally relate to your flooding story. My basement also does not typically flood but labor day weekend we had a freak rainstorm that filled my basement with about 4 inches of water overnight. The basement is where all of my decorations and craft supplies are stored though so there was a lot to be moved and dried. Like you, though, everything that got wet could dry and very few things had to be thrown away. You just hate to see things like that happen when there are so many other things you could be doing with your time!

    Love that you brought up keeping the veneer as it was and staining over it. I recently did a table and questioned whether I was right in leaving the few chips in the edges. I’m glad to hear from an “expert” that it is okay! Great job on your furniture refurb as normal!

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