wooden bench refurb

Monday, August 31, 2015

I am the oldest child of three, born to an accountant dad and a crafty pediatric nurse mom. I graduated college with a degree in history and Spanish, my younger sister with a degree in architecture (and our youngest brother with a nursing degree). For *years* I thought all of my mom's creative genes skipped over me and landed squarely on my siblings, who were all design, craft, song and creative-oriented. And for the most part, that is true. (You can even visit my sister's etsy shop here - see what I mean? Uber talent!) I remember one summer that I spent on the Mexican border, my mom mailed me a watercolor paint set along with all the necessities for watercolor that you'd need. I had no idea what she was thinking - I tried to paint even one half of a scene of the backyard of the building I was staying at, met total failure and gave up. Creative genes were just not part of me.

Until last summer. We were in need of a patio table and chairs so that, hello, we could take advantage of the California weather in which there is no rain (pray for us - I'm serious) and have friends over for backyard BBQ's. I was on a bit of a "don't buy anything new" kick (I still am), and started scouring Craigslist for tables. I finally found one that looked amazing, except for one problem: it was in serious need of a refurb.
See what I mean? Beauty to be found underneath!
I knew next to nothing about refurbishing patio furniture, but I had some serious nesting energy (oh yes! forgot to mention that part - 2nd trimester nesting energy with a toddler. People always shy away from asking pregnant women to do physical things, but I am telling you there is nothing like the energy of a woman who is pregnant and nesting.) So, 8 million YouTube videos later, I was confident enough to purchase the table (at 1/4 of it's original cost), and basically the process went like this: 
Step 1: Powerwash to get down to the beautiful teak wood & vow to refrain from showering
 for a week because you live in drought plagued California. So sorry, California. Note: I power 
washed over the patch of dead grass that needed water. Trying efficiency.
Step 2: Set a good example - safety first! Then sand with electric sander.
Step 3: Stain the top. 
Step 4: Paint the bottom a fun color. 

I stained most of the chairs but, eeek, a year later I have yet to finish them. I had a baby somewhere in there, and I'm pretty sure my modus operandi is to nearly complete a project, but never quite get it all done. I did, however, get some help from my mom (who also has an Etsy shop that sells baby booties - see what I mean about creative genes?) to sew some matching chair cushions, so you know - completely usable!

So, imagine my delight when last Friday on my way to a friend's house I happened upon a patio set that was dumped out on the curb ready for trash pick up! There they were, four benches and a table to match. The table would have been great but for two reasons: one, it wouldn't fit in my car along with my children and the benches, and two, it was caving in the middle, meaning something was broken - probably part of the reason it was out on the curb. But, I swiped those four benches up (into our little Honda Fit, which was thankfully mostly empty except for my kiddos - hooray that they are small!) and set to dreaming.
Four little benches - what to do? what to do?

We have a problem area in our back yard that always gets leaves from our gigantic sycamore. I love having so much shade, but particularly when the fall comes and those leaves start making their way down to the ground, it can be a headache to constantly be sweeping, raking & blowing them. Plus, they really just look ugly when they fall - not like those beautiful MidWest leaves that are all sorts of bright colors. Nope, California fall leaves are just plain brown and crunchy. I had tried to put flowers along our fence in that area, but they kept getting covered by leaves, and I would forget to water them, and then the leaves would prevent them from getting any water at all when precious little rain would come. These benches weren't a particularly nice wood, and they were short and shallow - not great for sitting on, but with some nice character. I recently started following Natalie Freeman on Instagram, and have fallen in love with all of the bright colors she uses in both her inside and outside decor, particularly the flowers she uses! I planted some zinnia seeds in our garden, and decided the benches would look so great with a coat or two of brightly colored paint to match the flowers I planned to set on them against a wood fence backdrop. I took a little inspiration from Natalie, and a little inspiration from a cute pair of sandals that my daughter recently outgrew - they just had a really nice color scheme. A trip to Home Depot for some paint and brushes (and a couple of potted plants - including some succulents, though I usually like to purchase plants from my local nursery), and a couple of weekend afternoons later, and this is what I got. Pretty satisfied with the result for a self-proclaimed "non-creative"!
Hooray for colorful backyards!


  1. Oh my GOSH! I am so insanely jealous of your beautifully fun and colorful benches! You are lucky that you live in drought-plagued California where fun colors and sunshine abound, and benches like that are perfectly appropriate for backyards. Here in stodgy Chicago we have to suffer through gray all year - in our weather and our outdoor furniture choices. :-) GREAT job on these!!

    1. Thanks so much Bre! I really appreciate the positive feedback! I think 5 years ago if someone had told me I'd use colors like this in my decorating scheme, I would have said "no way!". But maybe this sunny atmosphere does have something to do with it :) I love Chicago though! Missing the MidWest this time of year - lots of fall colors you guys get that just don't happen here (not to mention legitimate sweater weather!)

  2. I LOVE this project. It turned out delightfully!


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