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Maybe I should have held this for Christmas or Easter instead of a regular ol’ day in early October post. But why hold back on a good thing. Years ago I thought one way to increase seating at our dining table from 4 to 6+ was to find an old church pew to put on one side. Recently church pews in homes again crossed my laptop screen, so I … actually I didn’t “Google.” I searched Pinterest. So that big prominent search bar on Pinterest is doing its job!
Here are examples of church pews in homes where the pews really look like they are at home, like they belong …
Painted white, this pew blends well in this cottage-y country space, from Houzz. Painting all the same color is a great way to unify the mismatched furniture:
In this showhouse shared at Houzz, the entryway has a bench that is perfectly balanced with the varied visual elements in this area. This also shows that the church pew look can work in more upscale spaces. I say “church pew look” because this bench is described as a built-in. So if you can’t find a pew in the right style and size you need, you could probably build a bench that looks like a pew, such as this one:
Most of the time, when you see church pews in homes, they are in dining rooms, entryways or mudrooms. Sometimes you see them on covered porches. They’re best for areas where you sit for only a short time, such as to put on or remove shoes. They’re good for places where you’re not looking to curl up in super soft furniture, such as when you’re eating at the dining table. I grew up Catholic so I spent plenty of Sundays in church and, yes, you can sit in a pew for an hour at church. But why spend significant time sitting in one at home? I can’t imagine they’d be comfortable for sitting and watching TV! So this explains why there’s limited use for church pews in homes. But where they are used, they do serve a clear function.
I collected more images of pews in homes on a Pinterest board for you:
Urban Farmgirl recently posted a pew on Facebook and it brought the idea home because I’m also in Illinois. So I thought hmmmmm, maybe there’s one out there for our dining room, somewhere not too far away. Because something of this size, I’m not shipping it.
What do you think? Would you put a pew in your house?
But where might you use such a little pedestal table? Once I did that project, I started to see similar tiny pedestal tables all over online. Funny how that happens. Somehow, seeing something opens your eyes and you see it all over the place! I’ve learned there may be no more truly original ideas left on this planet. Here’s a few similar side tables …
These were featured in Traditional Home. Not DIY, but they show how they can be used as a design element. Because I’m not sure how else you would use these other than for a cup of tea:
Here’s a hot red little number at The Lily Pad Cottage. She painted it an OPI color, yes, like the color of OPI nail polish:
In addition to candlesticks, you can also make these little tables with tall lamp bases. Here are some tables made with vintage brass lamp bases, from a company called Ladies & Gentlemen. It looks like wood discs were used to make the top, as I did with my table:
I’m not sure what she put in the tabletop – it looks like either fabric or scrapbook paper and you could do either to get a touch of pattern and color. Cute idea.
The Richmond Thrifter also shared the Anthropologie table below which looks similar to her DIY’d table, but for $298 retail! Now I think you can easily make this table for under $29.80, including a tall candlestick or lamp frame (thrift it or get it on sale), pieces of wood and a picture frame.
Here’s a pedestal table from Safavieh for about $225. Seriously. DIY it or BUY it? If you DIY it, you can afford to buy a lamp to put on the table.
I should start a new series here called “DIY it or BUY it!” It’s true that some DIY projects are so much time and trouble or they require pricey specialty tools, that you might as well BUY it. But I can tell you a pedestal table like this is so easy to make. All you need to build it is wood glue or E6000 glue, really. If you’re not standing on the table, you don’t even need screws. But you certainly can add screws or nails for extra strength and security. Then, paint the table. It’s an afternoon project, if even that long! I stenciled and gold foiled my table so it took more time. But if you’re giving it a single color of paint – so super easy. This is the kind of project where the final result looks like more than the sum of its parts.
You can even add a larger top on to a DIY table to make it more practical to use. Like you can actually fit more than a coffee mug on it. Infarrantly Creative shared this cute DIY candlestick table with a larger top:
This next example from Pearle’s Rosebuds shows the “before” and how you should keep your eyes open while thrifting for shapes. Look beyond the color and the pattern. Look for the potential of what things could be, not what they are at the moment. Because with some paint, they could become totally different looking, like this DIY pedestal table she made:
So? Have I convinced you to try this? Making my table was so fun, I might have to make another one!
Paint a mother-of-pearl look all over the table first with pearlescent paints. Don’t do an even application of one color – paint with different shades of natural pearlescent/shimmery paints. Once the stencil is painted, this pearlescent blend of colors is what you’ll see peeking through the gray lines above.
Then, paint the stencil with different browns and black in the geometric shapes. Sort of like you see on this antique Moroccan inlaid table at liveauctioneers.com:
You might at first think this is wasteful of all the pearlescent paint you won’t see, but the pearl effect is underneath the top layer of paint so it will look “inlaid.”
I’ve been checking HomeGoods and TJ Maxx in my area and no Moroccan table like these in sight in NW Chicago burbs so far. As you can see, this is a painting project that must be done! Of course you can buy a table. But isn’t it more fun to make it yours, yourself.
If you like the looks of these inlaid style tables, visit my Pinterest board full of tables from Morocco, India, Syria, Egypt:
For a recent Throwback Thursday post, I shared a story about the time the wrong chairs were shipped to us from Thailand. Why would we go furniture shopping in Thailand and risk such things? Because we love style from Asia: Thai, Burmese, Chinese, Japanese. They have it all there in a village called Baan Tawai. A woman working in a very upscale mall in Bangkok actually told us about Baan Tawai. We must have looked shocked at the prices of antiques in her store, because she told us: “Go to Baan Tawai. Looks like this but new. Cheap-cheap-cheap.” So to Baan Tawai we went. (And from now on forevermore, whenever we talk about something cheap, we have to say three times, “cheap-cheap-cheap.“)
These are crates of furniture from Thailand that arrived in our garage eight years ago:
When we opened them, we were thrilled with nearly everything, except two Chinese style chairs we expected weren’t there. The chairs we received had interesting features:
Grapevine carvings on the backrest
Thick sticky yellowed plastic cushions
If you sat on the cushions with bare legs on a hot day, the plastic made you sweat and the cushions would stick to you when you stood up. Nice!
You might ask, why not ship them back? Each chair was fifty bucks. Not worth the cost to ship them around the planet again. And because I could do a makeover, we didn’t want to quarrel about a refund. It was our mistake to not give the shipping consolidator a better description of our purchase. Lesson learned! Mark your purchases and give pictures to the shipper.
STEP 1:Spray paint the chairs black
Pretty self explanatory! Good thing, because there are no photos of the spray painting. Which also means there are no “before” pics. This was so long ago, it was before this blog and the obsessive photographing of everything that happens when you blog.
STEP 2: Recover the cushions
Remove the sticky plastic from the cushions and recover them with leopard patterned suede. Yeah!!! While you might not think of “leopard” and “Chinese chair” in the same sentence any more than you’d think “grapevine” and “Chinese chair,” I’m likin’ the leopard. So does Chaai the Crafty Cat and because he supervises every DIY here, he has lots of experience to know these things.
STEP 3: First attempt to hide grapevines
Recovering the cushions was a big improvement. But the grapevine carvings still had to go. The backs of the chairs are curved, so I struggled with how to fix this area.
The first attempt to fix it, when I started writing this post way back in September 2011 (!!!), was to “upholster” the carved area with orange tiger striped suede.
I thought the leopard and tiger combo would make a cool “Chinese safari” effect. And for sure, I’d strike design fame and fortune with this innovative style mash-up!
Instead it looked just like what it was — tiger striped rectangles taped on the back of a chair, trying desperately to hide something. I could only imagine what HGTV Design Star judges would say about this tiger print band-aid:
Then during an insomnia-fueled brainstorm — because the most creative problem-solving happens for me at 2 a.m. — it hit. Sculpey! Why not fill the carvings with Sculpey? Then sand it smooth? I probably saw something Sculpey’d on Pinterest a few hours before that. That’s how this subconscious problem-solving works, you know.
So I sought out the Sculpey, and then found it must be oven-dried. Hmmm. I don’t know much about Sculpey but one thing I do know: These chairs aren’t going in the oven.
Thankfully nearby there was this stuff called Paperclay with magic words on the package: air dry. Really? I gave it a try …
STEP 4. Paperclay smooshing
I smoooooshed Paperclay into all the nooks and crannies of the grapevines:
I Googled Paperclay and found you can sand it and sculpt it after it dries. So I didn’t worry about making it perfectly smooth yet. Just smoooooosh it in there.
Let it dry overnight. I couldn’t get back to the chairs for a week. That’s fine. The Paperclay was dry. I sanded with a block. I don’t know the grit, but it was a coarser sanding block.
Sanding made a mess. If you sand this stuff, be forewarned.
After sanding the Paperclay, there was still a lot of unevenness. See:
While Googling, I found Paperclay can shrink and crack a bit while drying. No worries. You just smooooooooosh some fresh wet Paperclay in any cracks or uneven areas, and let that dry. It will stick to the first layer of Paperclay. Then sand it again:
You can see after this second round of smooshing and sanding, the finish is more even.
STEP 5. Paint the chairs black again
I’m not 100% happy with the finish. Ideally the “Paperclayed” area should be so smooth, it looks like nothing was ever carved in the wood. I don’t know if I’ll achieve that perfectionistic ideal. Now that we have a decent orbital sander with a vacuum, I might do another round of filling and sanding.
Also the Paperclay absorbs more paint than the finished wood around it. It probably needs to be sealed so you don’t get this weird two-tone effect:
So what did I do to fix it? This:
STEP 6. Throw textiles over the backs
Isn’t it easier to hide a mess than to fix it? Of course! Yes as a child I was the kid who, when mom told us to clean our room, I shoved my toys under the bed and called it clean. Some things never change. So, I draped some throws over the chairs:
A woven and beaded skirt from a tribe that lives in Laos and Vietnam, found at Arastan which was a store in Bangalore, India
The rug is silk (so luxurious for your feet!) that my husband got at auction many years ago. Back in the ’90s before we even met. The curtains behind the chairs are damask print curtains from Target. The things hanging on the walls are carved wooden combs found in India, and I DIY’d cute little museum style display shelves for them.
To round out this global style corner, I’m on the hunt for a small side table to put between the chairs. I can see a little Syrian/Moroccan/Indian inlay table here, something with some pattern on it.