by Lisa Lombardi in , ,

If, like my mother, you're wondering what the heck happened to those chairs I was moaning about, here's a little something to get you off my back:


I'm trying to come to terms with the fact that they're never going to be perfect. See how it's darker around the edge of where the caning is? There lies the remnants of the old stain that, despite my many attempts, I haven't been able to banish completely. (I might give it one more go before I completely admit defeat — I just need to do it while the guys are out so I don't have to witness the inevitable "Really? This again? Is the apartment ever going to stop smelling like chemicals?" look.)

There's also just some naturally occurring variation in the color, because the chairs are constructed of multiple, different pieces of wood. Strangely, I'm okay with that. I'm actually pretty okay with the whole thing, in general, which is good because I've had moments of sheer panic over these chairs where I wake up in the middle of the night, thinking "OMIGOD WHAT HAVE I DONE??"

I'm just kidding. Kind of.

My anal obsession with the lingering stain, aside, I'm in the home stretch. All I really need to do is pick out new fabric and slap it on those cushions. (I'm also going to work a little Frankenstein-like magic on the foam cushions themselves, but more on that after I put my plan into action.) The issue I'm facing, though, is this: the dining room is a total blank slate. There's nothing but dark wood and empty walls — no real direction to influence what color or pattern (or lack thereof) I choose. This would be a blessing — a license to run wild, really — if not for the fact that I can't get past the idea that what the room really needs is a rug. A big one.

Which leads me to this: how can I pick the upholstery fabric when I don't have that rug to work with? What if I pick some crazy pattern that makes it impossible to find a rug to coordinate with it?

I have this thought cemented in my brain that the dining room can't get just any rug. No, it needs something amazing that goes with the other ones we already have in the apartment. All of the doorways in the living room are so large that they make the whole office/living room/entryway/dining room area feel like one giant common space. That, in turn, makes me feel like I have to come up with some cohesive style that isn't too crazy different from room to room. (The kitchen, with its buffer zone of hallway and pantry, doesn't suffer from this problem. As such, it's noticeably different from the rest of the common spaces.)

So. The rugs. Here's what we're working with:

First up is the rug in the living room, which, as you can see in the photo, is within easy sight of the dining room. 

Next we have the rug in the entryway, which shares doorways with both the living room and the dining room. Similar floral pattern in a slightly different color scheme.

Finally, this is the rug that's in Andy's office, which doesn't share a doorway with the dining room, but is still within easy sight. This rug has a decidedly different pattern and vibe from the other two, but the geometric qualities, color scheme, and vintage look help it mesh just fine. 

For months now, I've been scouring the Internet for a vintage rug that shares some of the qualities found in the ones we have, but for the size I need (between 6'x9' and 8'x10' to keep it from looking dinky) and the budget I'm willing to part with, it's proving damn near impossible. I thought I had a good Craigslist lead last week, but in my attempt to barter, all lines of communication went cold.

I'm thinking now that maybe I try plan B: get a big-ass neutral rug and just layer a vintage one on top of it. It could work; I've found a bunch of rugs that I love and can afford, but they were all just too small on their own.

This is what I've been looking at:

via Apartment Therapy

Via SAS Interiors

So, what do you think? Should I continue my search for the perfect Persian, big size and all? Layer something smaller over a neutral jute or sisal rug? Throw away this notion of cohesion and go for something modern and different? Or maybe do some layering, but with a bunch of neutrals, like in the seventh row of images here?


by Lisa Lombardi in ,

I received two responses to my chair dilemma. My lovely mother suggested that I simply paint them, to which my immediate thought was, "NEVER." A mysterious second commentator recommended that I bribe my friends with beer and have them help with the sanding. While this was a wise suggestion, I unfortunately have no friends here in Boston that have even the slightest interest in refinishing chairs, and no amount of beer in the world would change that.

So I went with plan C: chemical stripping. It all sounded so simple — paint on the stripping agent (in this case, Citristrip), wait, and then scrape off the finish. It'd be the chemical equivalent of magic, and this dilemma would be solved once and for all!

Based on the tense I'm using to describe this situation and the dead giveaway of the title of this blog post, you can probably guess that it didn't shake down like that. 

Using the tips I made from bartending all day yesterday*, I gathered the necessary supplies and got to work. All of the labels on the bottles I was using were quite ominous, so I opened a bunch of windows, tied on a bandana, donned protective glasses, and grabbed some rubber gloves. Safety first.

Then, I realized that I couldn't breathe or see, so off came the bandana and glasses. Sorry, safety. If I grow a second head or all of a sudden develop respiratory problems, we know what to blame.

The process of applying the Citristrip to the chairs took approximately one hour, or two episodes of Parks & Recreation (highly recommend: The Fight and The Bubble). First, I wiped the chairs down with a TSP solution to remove any gross stuff that would hinder the stripping process; then, I applied thick, even strokes of the Citristrip (note: the online tutorials I read suggested using cheap foam brushes to do this, but both of the ones I bought started to dissolve and fall apart within about twenty minutes of use, so I bought a cheap one with synthetic bristles that held up better). I waited about 45 minutes before trying to scrape a small section: success! The stain was definitely coming off, but the result was nowhere near as light as what I got when sanding. After scraping down as much of the chair as possible, I hit a second snag. Due to the bizarre (but very cool!) design of these chairs, there are small corners and edges that I can't really fit the scraper tool into — which was one of the big problems with the sanding, too. 

Welllllllllll, crap.

After two applications of Citristrip and vigorous scraping, the chairs are noticeably lighter, but also noticeably a mess. Even after wiping down with some mineral spirits, they're sticky and gloppy and will still require sanding.

Do I want to scream in frustration right now? Yes. I am quite downtrodden. However! I know the sanding process will go a lot faster now that several layers of stain have already been removed, and I know that the Citristrip will be handy in those smaller areas that I can't easily reach with the sander. As long as it's only small detail areas, I think I can handle breaking out smaller tools and putting in the time to get it done. 

Now I just need these two failure chairs to completely dry so I can attack with the sander. I've made a self-imposed deadline to have all the heavy-duty, messy work on these chairs done by this time next week. That means by next Sunday, I need to have the power sanders packed up and put away, the dirty drop cloth gone, and the dining room clean of sawdust and bottles of mysterious chemicals.

Challenge accepted. Now, please excuse me while I finally shower and wallow in beer and more old episodes of Parks & Recreation.


*I bartend part-time, picking up shifts at catered events whenever I need some extra funds. My personal rule is that any money I make in tips is mine to spend, guilt-free, on anything I want. Going to the movies, eating out, or — as is most likely — blowing it all at the hardware store? Totally fine. Remember that the next time you don't tip your bartender: you might be preventing her from spending her Sunday breathing in chemical fumes and getting brown goop all over her clothes. What a jerk.