The Wonderful World of Sock Monkeys!

mid century kitchen and food

A couple of housewarming gifts from bits of the house!

My friend EJ and her husband recently purchased a new house circa 1961. The house needed work, but EJ is always up to a challenge and she had great ideas to modernize it while leaving a lot of the wonderful mid century details intact. She enlisted my help on the project, and we had a great time knocking out walls, painting, restoring wood floors and trim, more painting, and of course, SHOPPING for new stuff!

Many years ago some different friends of mine were putting new flooring into their old house, and unearthed that cool old linoleum they used to do with borders or to make into the appearance of rugs. It was all cracked and broken, but I saved a couple of the prettier pieces, squared them up and framed them, and gave them to them as found “art”, and a reminder of the old. So remembering that, I started “shopping” all the junk that we were ripping out and throwing out of EJ’s place. The kitchen ended up being a goldmine of project and crafting bits, I just needed them to reveal what they were waiting to be transformed into.

The previous owners had decided to “Victorianize” their very ’60s kitchen by applying layer upon layer of decorative moldings and trims to the cabinets. It might not have been so hideous if they’d actually finished the project, but they seemed to run out of steam and never bothered to PAINT the raw wood trim, and in some cases, didn’t bother to nail it up either, but “secured” it in place with blue painters tape – UGH. Well I knew some of the decorative trim was a definite keeper, and started squirreling bits of it away right from the start.

The original 1961 linoleum counters in the kitchen were in nice shape, but they had to go!

The original 1961 linoleum counters in the kitchen were in nice shape, but they had to go!

One cool thing about the kitchen was it still had the original countertops intact! They weren’t perfect, but they were a wonderful ’60s snapshot of decorator chic – white with tiny leaves of aqua, coral, chocolate and chartreuse with a sprinkle of gold across it all. Once those slabs of old formica were ripped out I knew I had to put a couple chunks into my treasure bag too.

The last bit of inspiration came from the electrical wiring. The kitchen had these bizarre and ultra-dangerous electrical outlets – a double plug per outlet that weren’t even grounded! In fact they were so scary, the building inspector told EJ he couldn’t sign off on the safety of the kitchen because the plugs had to be replaced – no questions asked. This was the perfect little bit of kitchen inspiration and nostalgia I needed to move forward.

Quick and easy trivet!

Quick and easy trivet!

The first item was quick and simple. My handy work friend, Marc, trimmed a piece of wood with decorative molding and we glued a piece of the formica on top to become a trivet. It’s really a decorative trivet because this old formica can burn or melt if something hot gets on it, but it looks pretty cute and I know EJ will find a use for it. I just needed to fill the nail holes with spackle, sand and paint – easy.

The shadowbox made from "Victorian" cabinet trim - what were they thinking?

The shadowbox made from “Victorian” cabinet trim – what were they thinking?

The second project I envisioned was a “shadowbox” to showcase the cool but crazy dangerous plug. Marc made me a little box,trimmed it with the decorative wood, and I had him back it with the formica. Some more spackle, sanding and painting and it’s a pretty dang cute little piece of art for the kitchen wall, isn’t it?

Doesn't this ungrounded, kitchen outlet scream "FIRE HAZARD!"?

Doesn’t this ungrounded, crazy FOUR PLUG kitchen outlet just scream “FIRE HAZARD!”?

You could easily use these ideas as a starting off point for your own craft projects made from parts of the old house. I used the formica, wood pieces and an electrical outlet, but there are dozens of bits you could salvage for housewarming gifts or from a remodel project of your own: cabinet knobs or pulls, house numbers, old shingles, decorative wood trim and molding from baseboards or ceilings, fireplace bricks – the list is endless and your imagination is going to go crazy with it once you put your creating hat on. In fact I’ve got quite a few bits of decorative wood trim available and some small glass tiles – maybe a birdhouse?

I like the way this turned out so much, I wish I'd made one for myself!

I like the way this turned out so much, I wish I’d made one for myself!


Upholstery class – week #3…..and redecorating!

Well not a huge update this week, other than the fact that this was the last class and I DIDN’T FINISH MY CHAIR! I guess it’s not that big of a deal, as a couple ladies in my class were taking it for the second time and one was taking it a third time (although she was working on a pair of channel-backed chairs, which is quite difficult). So even though I hoped to finish it in three weeks, I’ll be signing up for one more round.

Adding more batting to the seat

Adding more batting to the seat

The first step was to add more batting to the seat bottom. I wanted the seat to sit up higher, and other than just making the cushion fatter, this will help beef it up. Then I had to put new batting on the arm and “reshape” it because of the snack my mom’s dogs had made of it. IMG_4120

At that point I was ready to start on the sides. My instructor did some magical calculations about how what size the piece of fabric needed to be. I really don’t understand how he came up with it, probably because too much MATH was involved, but however he did it, it was the right size. I was given this tool to push the IMG_4121fabric under the arm frame and to the back to attach it. It looked like a long, thick ruler  that was kind of beveled, and had the highly technical name of “stuffing stick.” After using it and getting everything tacked down correctly, I managed to get the other side cut out before class was over. There was a lot of extra stuffing going on for the front panels as well to get things “filled out”. I’m still amazed at how little sewing there is for upholstering – more stretching, tacking and stapling than I’d imagined. But I can see how the chair is going to look now and I’m excited!

The highly specific "stuffing stick"

The highly specific “stuffing stick” in action

I started to imagine some needed decor changes at home featuring the new chair, and if I change one thing, then a whole bunch of other stuff will need updating too, right? I’m envisioning some new paint in the living room, and I’m working a trade for an amazing 1960s “Declaration” secretary made by Drexel. Designed by Kip Stewart and Stewart MacDougall, the designers looked at creating a a clear modern aesthetic, while relating to Shaker furniture and the Shakers’ desire that the construction details of furniture be visible. This is a brilliant design, because it appeals to modernists and traditionalists, alike. And, it’s frickin’ FANTASTIC! If you are into mid-century furniture and/or design at all, you’ve gotta check out my favorite new website, retro renovation.

The great '60s secretary I'm working a trade for

The great ’60s secretary I’m working a trade for

Of course I will have to have a chair to sit on when I use the desk part, so I bought another chair to work on! I couldn’t pass it up – a beautiful mid-century Gunlocke arm/desk chair I snagged for only $5 on craigslist. It’s going to look great with the new secretary, and it should be an easier project to tackle (famous last words) as it only needs a small back and seat, and I know I can find some great coordinating fabric to go with my armchair. And I’ve got a great ’50s rattan chair that needs a little work, then I’ll need to tackle the beatiful Danish Modern sofa that’s been languishing in the garage the last three years (it was FREE – I HAD to get it!), but maybe that’s a project for a real upholsterer…..

My $5 craigslist score

My $5 craigslist score

This blog is just a little insight into the tangential way my mind works – from sock monkeys to crafts to furniture reupholstery then redecorating the house, I suppose it’s really not that big a surprise that I have so many unfinished projects and millions of ideas without the hours needed in a day to finish them. And I haven’t even gotten to COOKING yet! For that, you can check out my other blogs – COOKWITHSCOTT.COM and my blog for the Seattle P.I. newspaper. It gets a bit crazy trying to fit it all in on top of working, doesn’t it?

My chair's gonna look GREAT!

My chair’s gonna look GREAT!