Friday, March 16, 2012

Orphanware™ - The Tutorial

Back in February, I posted about my glass and china project. More recently, I figured out a way to eliminate the scads of jewelry boxes I have and incorporating the sparkle of glass and the delicacy of china to both decorate and organize an awkward space in one of my closets. I can't claim that I came up with the idea on my own, I was inspired by something I saw at Martha Stewart online.

I suppose I've been putting way too much thought into it, as usual, but I've been trying to find the "just right" piece to go with the orphaned saucers and small plates. I really like my adaptation of using glass pieces with the saucers; it allows the beauty of the china to show (and is sparkly!). I've also been playing with stacking the pieces to make tiers, something I've seen on Etsy from quite a few sellers. Call it upcycling or repurposing, or whatever crafty buzzword you like, it's easy to do, inexpensive, and personal. If you do it yourself, you get exactly what you want, with pieces you found. I'm calling these sets Orphanware™* because I'm using single pieces from what was once a set (usually), even the glassware in many cases were single pieces. I don't like to take one piece from a pile, in case someone else comes along later, wanting to buy a set of the same pattern, but that's me.

There are probably tons of tutorials on the net for this, but I haven't seen them, so I'm doing my own since I have a bunch I'm about to start gluing anyway.

FIRST, gather your pieces. I don't recommend raiding your stash of family heirlooms, but hit the thrift stores - Goodwill, The Salvation Army, and Habitat for Humanity's ReStore are all excellent places for finding pieces, and you can also check The Thrift Shopper for other stores in your area. The nice thing is, many of these stores are charity organizations and by shopping there you're also doing some good in your neighborhood. Prices can vary widely, but plan on paying 50¢ to $1 for saucers and small plates, maybe $2-3 for glass particularly if it's lead crystal and the people pricing recognize it. If you're buying saucers, try to find glass pieces that fit inside the well for the cup (there may be a correct term for that, but I don't know it). Saucers are nice because you don't have to worry about centering anything like you might on a bread and butter plate. I also tried to find glassware that was compatible with the design on the plate. (Perhaps you're less obsessive than I...)

SECOND, soak 'em. Those price stickers are a pain in the butt. The best way to get them off, without leaving a bunch of glue behind, is to soak them in the sink in hot soapy water. Leave them in long enough and you'll probably find they slip off on their own. After they've soaked and you've gotten all the stickers off, wash your pieces carefully. Some of them may be antique or at least vintage, so scrubbing them isn't a good idea. They will need to be completely dry before you start gluing.

THIRD, assembly. I use E-6000 adhesive. It's industrial strength (literally) and stinky, but it works great. For some reason, the tube comes with warnings, but not directions, so save the cardboard that the tube was carded on. If you, like I, threw away the card, the link above has all the instructions you need. If you've never used it before, here's a word of caution, squeeze the tube veeeeerrrrry carefully. It keeps coming out of the metal tube even after you stop squeezing. Once glued, set the pieces aside, out of the way, where you won't be tempted to mess with them. Leave them be for at least 24 hours. If you're making tiered pieces, don't apply your second tier until the adhesive on the first one has cured.

So that's the basic process. Simple, eh? Here's the photos from this latest batch of Orphanware™

This saucer has light blue flowers, and the candle holder accents that.

Because the wire looped around the bottom, I had to use quite a bit of glue to make it enough to adhere to the plate. What's there in the photo wasn't enough - I had to add more. The glue in the center isn't functional, it's to scrape off the excess glue that kept coming out of the tube.

When you have something that's larger than the well in your saucer (or no well at all), you have to eyeball it, or get all anal and measure. It helps if there's a design to follow.

If what you're gluing is transparent, you can also look down inside to see if you're centered.

With no well, it can be tricky to get everything centered. This still needs adjusting.

This saucer has a design in the center of the well, and is too pretty to cover. The candlestick is the perfect way to use the dish, raise it up and make a small pedestalled dish.

The easiest way to do that, including making tiers, is to flip it over. Much easier to get it centered that way.

An example of both a well-fitting piece inside the saucer well, and the glassware complementing the china.

A saucer, a very small brass vase, and a butter plate, soon to be a tiered set.

I like to rotate the piece I'm gluing, to try and distribute the adhesive evenly. This will probably put glue where you don't want it, but once cured, the adhesive can be scraped away.

I did what I suggested you NOT do: I didn't wait for the first two pieces to cure before adding the third. (I'm impatient. Don't be me. Really.)

One reason not to be me, it's much harder to get things centered when you're craning your neck to see the bottom. Also, that brass vase wasn't completely level on top. I had to position the butter plate where I wanted it, tipping slightly forward. (Tipping to the side accents the fact that it's not a perfect vertical line.)

One of the hazards of gluing clear glass on an edge - you're bound to make a bit of a mess with the glue, smearing it inside, where you won't be able to scrape it off once the top piece is glued on.

One more example of pieces fitting well. The top of that candlestick fit perfectly into the bottom of the bowl. Also, the finish of both is a warm white, almost a bone color. Together, it nearly looks like they were always that way.

Other than jewelry or makeup organizers, what else can you do with these? Candy dishes, desk organizers, saucers on pedestals make cute individual cupcake plates... you could even take one plate/bowl combo and put some Easter grass in it with a decorated egg and make individual place settings for Easter brunch. My mom uses the one I have her to organize sweetener packets, and it's way cuter than the things sold for that purpose. This is so very easy to do, and the cost is so small, there's no reason for you not to play with this idea on your own.

* Yes, I am being facetious with the ™ on Orphanware. Because I can. Because it's silly.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Closet Woes, Continued

I got the memo board put up. I used clear pushpins and glued rhinestone stickers (I didn't want to trust the adhesive) with E-6000 glue to the tops so they were more decorative and had a larger head to keep things from slipping off. I did way more pushpins than I needed -- it's a small memo board, after all, but I figured I might as well.

The original memo board had 4 hooks (though one was missing) and I couldn't find the exact right kind of hook to match, or even ones that were the right size at the hardware store. I did find what I thought would work at D. Lawless Hardware, and they worked great! I even added 5 more hooks, staggering them in a row above the original 4 to accommodate 9 necklaces.

I did hit a bit of a snag, though. Many of my necklaces are on longish chains, so there's not as much room at the bottom for bracelets as I'd hoped. I also discovered that my jewelry boxes contain a number of broken chains, one's I'd kept with the thought I'd repair them one day. (If I haven't by now, it seems unlikely I will.) So perhaps I'll replace them with shorter ones...

The other issue with the length is that the ones hanging below take up considerably more room than I'd budgeted for, for the shelves I want to put in below. I may go ahead and put in the shelves as planned, and put the longer necklaces elsewhere; I have a lot of organizing to do! But this was a good start, and I'm pleased with the results.

The coloring of the memo board (purple, pink and yellow-green) matches the colors in the bedroom. When you open the closet doors, when I'm all finished with my closet reno, it will look like a part of the room and not just something that go thrown up on the wall randomly.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Inexpensive Library Table

When we bought our house, we were excited about the formal living room. Not because we're formal people, but because the space was perfect for a home library. We're both bibliophiles, and have a ton of bookcases. We bought more...

Because the room was sizable, we decided to make a library table using six short bookcases (two rows of three set back-to-back) with a furniture-grade plywood top, and trimmed out to look like a single, sizable, piece of furniture. The whole thing sits on a rug that protects the hardwood floor and breaks up all the woodgrain, floor to (laminate) bookcases. We bought the bookcases (furniture-in-a-box; I think the manufacturer is Sauder) on sale at Meijer as part of their back to school sale, so if you're thinking of trying this, that's a good time to buy them. 

The top of the table is made from a sheet of plywood, cut to size and stacked. A single layer didn't give us the height we needed to add trim and have the trim be high enough to get books off the top shelf.
We used that grippy shelf/drawer liner stuff to keep the plywood from sliding on the tops of the bookcases. I used green wood stain on the plywood, a color close to one of the shades of green in the rug. (The room also has one green wall.)

Two coats of Minwax Express Color in Emerald, much prettier in person.
Once the top was finished, the trim was stained. I used Minwax PolyShades hoping to do it all in one shot -- don't be lazy; I hate that crap and won't ever use it again. Use stain, then seal it with polyurethane. PolyShades is nearly impossible to apply evenly. ANYway, we found trim that had a leaf motif, an excellent complement to both the green colors in the room, and the leaves in the rug. The trim was mitred to fit perfectly onto the table surface, and nailed into the plywood. (If we had to, the table surface can be lifted off of the bookcases, but it would take several people to do it -- it's heavy!)

First coat of poly/stain. We found the trim at Home Depot.
The finished table, exactly the right height for looking something up in the big unabridged dictionary, is my pride and joy. It's the first thing I see when I come downstairs in the morning, and it still gives me a bit of a rush.

Completed table, with the trim stained to closely match the color of the laminate bookcases.
I call it an "inexpensive library table" only in comparison to something that was made in a single piece and out of wood instead of particle board. I honestly don't remember exactly what we paid for each one, but it was probably around $20 each on sale (this was two years ago), so "inexpensive" is highly relative. If you're thinking of picking them up one at a time, as finances allow, remember that availability may change, styles may be discontinued, etc. 

Also, if you're a serious bibliophile and need to keep track of your collection, I highly recommend LibraryThing, an online book cataloging website. It's fantastic!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Closet Woes

I have a weirdly-shaped closet. It has a bulkhead containing ductwork that juts into what would be a typical 57 x 24" reach-in closet, eliminating more than 12 cubic feet of usable space. Bummer. Worse, it leaves such a narrow space that it seems suitable only for stacking shoeboxes up the bulkhead wall... except I don't have all the boxes for the shoes I do have, and not enough shoes to really utilize the space. SO! what to do?
See? What the heck is that stupid space good for?!
I got to thinking; what if I used the 4.75" return wall and made angled shelves that fit into that weird corner? I want to use the space to potentially eliminate a few small jewelry boxes and make it easier to find what I want, without digging in all of them. I already found a memo board that had hooks on it for keys, and thought I could add more hooks to hang necklaces from at the bottom, and pushpins to hold more.

Repainted memo board. It was missing one hook, so I'll replace them all and maybe add more (at the bottom). Above (the green) is a small shelf. The pink is corkboard.
I already figured what my maximum comfortable reach is, so I know where on the wall the memo board needs to hang so it's usable, and with hooks on the bottom, I know I need to leave plenty of clearance below for necklaces.

This is my not-quite-perfectly scaled "blueprint" for the space. (The side of the bulkhead wall is way off scale, but the rest is pretty good.)
Basically, I'll start 8 inches off the floor and put in an angled shelf, using quarter rounds on the wall for cleats. The cleats will be along three walls, and I'll nail the shelves in place, so they should be plenty secure for no more weight that will be on them. I'll make the second shelf 8 inches above that one, but one inch shorter on the bulkhead side, and the one above that another inch shorter, etc., so that they are stepped slightly and not completely concealing the lower shelves. Why? Because of how I plan to use the space in a decoratively AND functionally.

So imagine the white paper is my shelf, the lowest one. The pretty mismatched china and glass bowls (glued together for stability) will hold earrings, bracelets, rings, what-have-yous, in a pretty and functional way.
I've been staring at my plans, sketching and re-sketching, looking at the space, measuring... and I think this will be a good solution. It should let me put pieces I love on display so I can use them easily, plus make a pretty display in the closet in otherwise unusable space.