Dresser Shenanigans

by Lisa Lombardi in ,

Like most of my more ridiculous ideas, it started with asking Katie for help.

You might recall Katie as the recipient of my infamous jellypenis painting. The fact that she proudly displays this in her apartment says a lot about her willingness to put up with my idiotic schemes.

"Can you do me a favor?"

I innocently tested the waters and then quickly launched into the backstory.

"So I was supposed to pick up this dresser from Craigslist last night, but the girl changed the pickup time and I wouldn't have had anyone to help me unload my car at that point. And I needed my car empty to pick up those chairs the next day. So I had to cancel our arrangement...but the dresser is still for sale. And she's moving out tomorrow. And I still want it."

And, more importantly, I felt like the seller might be willing to agree to a lower price than we had arranged, since she was getting down to the wire. But I had already tried negotiating, and then bailed, so I didn't have the best track record with this person.

"So...you want me to respond to the Craigslist ad for you?" Katie asked.

She just gets me.

This is the dresser I was obsessed with.

My job often requires me to scope out competitor furniture retailers, and when I stumbled upon this dresser from Land of Nod, I was hooked. 

It was bold. It was glamorous yet handsome. It was the low, wide style I was looking for. (Though, okay, probably bigger than I realistically needed.)

It was eleven-hundred-freaking-dollars.

After watching it for months, I knew there was no way it would ever drop into what I would consider an acceptable price range. So I went with Plan B: find a campaign-style dresser on Craigslist and treat it to a fresh coat of paint.

That's how I ended up outside an apartment building in Somerville on a Thursday evening, prepared to introduce myself as Kathryn.

I shouldn't have worried. The girl was so relieved to get rid of the thing that she simply opened the door and led me upstairs without confirming who I was. (Fabulous. I'm terrible at lying.)

If you were reading the blog of a normal, sane person, the next step would be to take the dresser home. This, however, is my blog. So, like the weirdo I am, I then drove on to a hockey game in downtown Boston, where I deposited my car (filled to capacity with an old dresser and drawers) in the sketchiest parking lot ever. And I went to see my Red Wings crush the Bruins.

Maybe it was the rush of the win. Maybe it was all those extra sessions of Kick It class. Maybe it was a tear in the space-time continuum. I honestly have no explanation for how it happened, but it did: when I got home from the game, I unloaded the dresser and carried it into my apartment. By myself.

To provide a little context for this anomaly, you should know that my nickname during high school summer softball was "Twig." Friends have been known to refer to me as "tiny."

You know those stories about moms who lift cars off their kids in moments of extreme stress? Me, I lift heavy pieces of furniture when I know I need to drive my car to a date the next day.

One of the nicest things about my new apartment is that it comes with a huge, dark, scary storage area. I think most people would probably only venture in there to do laundry and leave it be the rest of the time, but the second my landlord showed it to me, I knew it was destined to become my own personal dungeon-slash-work room.

The entire makeover process took a few weeks. First, I needed to clean the thing, remove all the hardware, sand down the chips and scratches the best I could, and slap together a new corner using layers and layers of spackle (I don't recommend this remedy, but hey, it worked).

Once that was done, I primed it all, and then it was the moment of truth: picking the right paint color.

I'd like to say that I was smart and got a couple tester cans so I could be sure of the color before committing, but I totally didn't and bought the wrong color on the first try. Don't be like me, folks.

This is about the point where I called Katie in a panic and told myself over and over again that I was an idiot. Fun times painting!

My second pick was much, much better, and I actually only needed the small tester can to cover the entire dresser in two coats of paint. Go figure.

Meanwhile, the metal knobs, pulls, and corner pieces could use a little help. Initially, I tried just scrubbing everything with a mixture of salt and white vinegar, but that didn't have much effect. Steel wool and Barkeeper's Friend, however, did the trick.

Here's where I ended up:

It's not a perfect match for the Land of Nod one, but the influence is there! And I like that it's completely different from anything I've ever had before. (Okay, and I like that it was one-tenth the cost of the original, too.)

Now my clothes are all put away and my apartment is starting to look less like it was hit by a tornado. Can you say "progress"?

PSA: Watco Danish Oil is the Shit.

by Lisa Lombardi in , ,

We've already established that I've been a regular Craigslisting fiend lately, but what I skimmed over in my last post is the fact that these finds usually don't arrive in pristine condition.

Take my glorious, beautiful chairs. General Assembly, a company here in Boston that hosts professional development classes (think stuff about online marketing, coding, engineering, etc.), was moving their offices and needed to unload 14 of these puppies, so I jumped on the opportunity. However, due to some crazy planning on my part, I wasn't able to pick up my four until the last available day.

Translation: I got the ones that no one else wanted.

That's not to say that I regret my decision, but I did feel a little knot of worry when I was loading them into the car. There were some fairly noticeable scratches and gouges in the wood, and one had a particularly dark stain on the woven seat. But how much can you complain when you're getting something for reportedly 10% of the original price?

Deep breaths. I could fix this.

You know how when you first move out on your own and really start cooking for yourself, you realize that recipes call for all these spices and seasonings? And that stuff is actually really freaking expensive? It sucks buying everything for the first time, but then you're pretty much set for the next 5-10 years. (I cook pretty exclusively with paprika, garlic powder, and cinnamon. Everything else is virtually untouched.) (Don't be me. Throw away your spices after like, a year.)

Anyway, that's how it is when you first start building an arsenal of tools and magical potions acquired from the Home Depot. Luckily, I've already dipped my toes in that water and had some handy things already waiting in the closet to come to my aid. Namely: steel wool, Murphy Clean & Shine for wood furniture, and Watco Danish Oil in natural.

A little elbow grease, a little actual grease, and some oil later, and my chairs were looking pretty great. The scuffs buffed out and those ugly scrapes and gouges? Completely filled in by the oil.

All that was left was the stain.

I threw everything I had at it. Oxyclean. Mineral spirits. Nail polish remover. (I'm pretty sure it's paint.) And while I'm still not convinced there isn't more I can try, I'm pretty pleased with how far it's come.

Plus, I plan on either have it tucked in under a table or draped with a throw blanket the majority of the time anyway, so I'm not too disappointed.

I officially have seating for six now! Whoo! Party at my place. Except not, because the only kinds of parties I like are parties I can leave at any moment.

Adventures in Craigslisting

by Lisa Lombardi in

Psst. I have a secret.

Even though I work for a furniture company, and am finally at the stage in my life where I'm no longer juggling two part-time jobs and not just barely missing the threshold for the low-income tax break (seriously, Massachusetts?!), I still love getting stuff second-hand.

Goodwill. Boomerang's. Buffalo Exchange. Random thrift stores and consignment shops. My eye is always drawn to them when I'm in the car, wishing I had the time to stop and poke around. But my free time is extremely limited, and typically doesn't show up until around 9 p.m. on a weeknight, which is why my favorite will forever and always be the great and powerful (and always open) Craigslist.

Is there anything better than the thrill of the virtual chase? Scrolling though page after page of crappy snapshots until the perfect piece jumps out at you. Frantically emailing the seller and either trying to bend over backwards to fit their schedule or playing it coy, negotiating for a better deal. Sweet-talking your friends into helping you load and unload endless random things from your perfectly sized car.

(For years, my dad drove a Mercedes station wagon, the ultimate luxury brand and the ultimate dorkmobile model. He claimed he needed the wagon so he could "haul stuff." Sadly, I understand this desire a little too well.)

Maybe one day I'll prefer the convenience of ordering brand new stuff. But for now, I'm still cheapskate Lisa, who loves a good deal and good story above all else. 

Like the time I scored vintage post office bins for $4 a piece at a random garage sale on the way to the Brimfield Flea (did I buy anything at Brimfield? 'Course not. That place is pricey!). Or the time I picked up my dining table from a trailer park after dark in Nowheresville, PA. Or my trusty green dresser, which went to me because I told the buyer how much I loved the color and how perfectly it would match my duvet cover. 

...Or, more recently, the IKEA bookshelf that I thought would fit in my friend's car but most certainly did not, so I ended up crouched in between the shelves in the back seat, trying to hold the trunk closed with a combination of brute strength and strategically placed seat belts.

(Sorry, mom.) (More to come on that shelf soon, because I made some modifications and now have it all set up, and I'm pretty pleased with myself.)

Here's how it works: there's cheap, there's picky, and there's impatient. You can be impatient and cheap, but you gotta take whatever you can get. You can be cheap and picky, but you've gotta be willing to wait around for the right thing. Or you can be picky and impatient, but whatever you end up with sure as hell ain't gonna be cheap.

For now, I'm settling with being cheap and picky. And flexing my patience muscle, waiting for the right thing to come along.

Like, oh, say for instance, these babies:

I don't even know how I stumbled upon this listing a mere 20 minutes after it was posted, but when I saw it there was a heavenly choir playing in my head. Well, that, and the part from Dane Cook's Just Wanna Dance bit: "MINE. SHE'S MINE." (1:27 for your reference. You're welcome.)

So I scored four of these babies for less than one currently costs. They're certainly not in perfect condition (it didn't help that I had the last pick of the lot), but I think I can clean 'em up a bit and they'll work just fine. Once I buy a table, that is.

I also picked up a dresser this week, but that story deserves it's own post. Especially after I'm done giving it a brand new paint job. Basically this whole post is just a teaser for things to come.

Thanks, Craigslist!