Refinished table and chairs

On the long list of things I’m thankful for this year is our beautiful refinished midcentury table and chairs. I’m excited to share how we transformed a pretty broken down set into something that looks like it came out of a West Elm catalog (and for a fraction of the cost).

So, way back in January, I think, we found this dining room set at the Cordelia Junction antique mall. It was covered in dishes, but I could see how cool it looked underneath. Although the set appeared to be missing a chair with arms and one without, it had all the other pieces, including two table leaves. And it was exactly the midcentury style I’d been hoping to find. So at $125 with 20% off, we felt like it was a deal not to be missed. Into the car it went.

The table itself was pretty bowed in the center and a little wobbly.

It also had quite a bit of damage to the surface and it was a pretty blah color.

Mike started by repairing the wood so that the table would be nice and flat and more sturdy. Then came the sanding part, which was not easy. Every curvy arm, nook and cranny of those chairs had to be sanded rough and then fine. We have very little free time these days, so he worked on it when he could. Eventually, all the parts were ready to be stained.

The staining went pretty quickly. We chose something darker, and a little more cherry colored. We felt it went with the rest of our furniture better.

Then we came to the final stages. While Mike was applying several coats of the clear finish, I decided to replace the nasty fabric on all the chair seats.

It took forever to get the fabric off the first seat, but the rest came off pretty easily. I used a hammer to pull out a lot of the staples and mostly just ripped the rest of the fabric off.

The seats had a layer of soft material underneath, but I added another layer of batting just to make them a little softer. Then I cut a square of (much more attractive) fabric around each seat and stapled it on.

It’s a little tricky to fold the fabric around the rounded corners, but overall it’s super easy. When in doubt, add more staples!

I thought the seats looked about 1000 times better when they were done.

Unfortunately, just as Mike was about to finish all the clear coats on the table and chairs, we had to get started on our bathroom remodel. So the table had to be put on hold for another 2 months. And just this week we finished the bathroom (more on that in another post) and so we could finish the table.

Doesn’t it look amazing? It’s just exactly what I wanted for that space, and I think it turned out so well. I’m glad we didn’t pay a huge amount of money for it, since it will be getting a lot of use by little ones in the next few years. I think with the initial cost, the sandpaper, stain, clear finish, batting and fabric, we probably came in less than $300. This one at West Elm is $600 plus $350 per chair.

Oh, and I forgot to mention that my mom had found some midcentury chairs out on the curb that we decided to incorporate into the set so we’d have 6 chairs. I covered those seats in matching fabric, and they fit in amazingly well. I think this project was meant to be!

Mom’s new booth

Here’s some exciting news — over the weekend I helped my mom get set up in a booth inside the Cordelia Junction antique mall.

I wrote about the mall (which has actual train cars as part of the building) on the Goodsmiths blog back when mom and I checked it out for the first time. We thought it was great, but wanted to see what else was available locally as far as a place for her to sell. Well, there just aren’t a lot of antique malls around here. Most places are either junky stores or really high end places that didn’t seem to fit with what she sells. So we ended up back at Cordelia, and it’s just perfect.

She decided to start off with a small booth and see how it goes. Hers is upstairs right next to this super cool space full of retro midcentury stuff (swoon).

Mom hasn’t had a ton of time here to thrift yet, but she does have a LOT of jewelry. Come check it out if you’re in the area!


I was so excited to repurpose the crappy mirror we found in the garage.

Also, don’t forget to follow mom’s shop on Etsy. Someone needs this fab vintage swing coat!

Vintage costumes in mom’s shop

Just had to share some fun items my mom has in her Etsy shop right now. Great options for a Halloween costume party, perhaps?

This mid-century party dress is gorgeous. All you need is a pair of pumps and a highball glass to go with it.

This burlesque outfit is just so great. Not sure what occasion requires it, but someone has to have it.

This Victorian capelet is perfect for an 1800s costume or some kind of Tim Burton character.

And oh my gosh doesn’t this crazy quilted pantsuit crack you up?

We think someone might have sewn it themselves from a ’70s pattern.

Anyway, lots of fun stuff to look at, and she’s adding more all the time.

Check out my mom’s new shop!

I’m so proud of my mom for embarking on her next journey as a businesswoman. She just opened her new shop, Sale Away Vintage, and it is already filling up with cool finds.

I love these Art Deco shoes from the ’40s.

And everyone needs a Burberry style scarf.

This designer leather purse was quite a find.

I hope you will support her like you’ve supported me. Check out her shop on Facebook, Etsy, and Twitter. And you can always see her finds in person at the Lawrence Antique Mall.

Go, mom!

Blue glass canning jars

One last vintage post for ya.

I stopped at a garage sale on my way home from breakfast this morning, and I found these four blue glass canning jars. I only paid $2 for all of them, which I consider a great deal. I am collecting blue glass jars to use for my wedding, so it’s always great to find them, especially at a low price!

But it got me thinking that I don’t know much about these jars (which are much beloved in the blogging world) so I did a little online research.

From what I can tell, unless you find a canning jar that is incredibly old or has a unique color (like amber or green), you’re probably not going to get rich collecting these jars. But the blue ones are worth more than the clear ones, and given their popularity with my generation, they are definitely worth finding and selling.

Here is an excerpt from a really good article I found. It’s a few years old, but I doubt the information has changed much since then:

If the jars are “Ball Perfect Masons” or “Ball Ideals” and blue in color they are probably worth in the neighborhood of $5 ea. This will be true of many (but not all) of the old blue or aqua colored Ball jars. If they are clear they will probably be worth $1-2 each.

As you can see from these Etsy listings, there’s a range in what people are selling them for, depending on size and quality.

I bought a whole box of jars from a woman at a craft fair who wanted to get rid of them at the end of the day. She sold all of them to me for $20. She also mentioned that collectors like the jars with lids, which might increase the value a little. You can see that reflected in some Ebay listings.

Dating them seems like it’s a little tricky, but from the articles I’ve read you can tell one made with a mold by the seams on the side. If the seams go all the way up to the top of the jar, then it was machine-made and a little newer. All of the jars I have appear to be machine made.

Some of them have numbers stamped on the bottom, but I don’t think that increases the value. Unless you have a number 13, which isn’t necessarily rarer, but more intriguing to buyers.

One of my jars has a bicentennial logo stamped on the side, so you can tell it was made in 1976. The others I would guess were made sometime between the ’30s and the ’60s.

Apparently there is a way to turn clear glass jars into blue ones if you’re looking to save money. I’m not sure how I feel about that (i.e. sending a bunch of fakes into the world), but it makes it clear that people really are crushing (ha) on blue glass lately.

What is this?

It’s a vintage pouf!

I have a special place in my heart for this object, which my mom brought me, because I make knitted poufs for one of my Etsy shops.

Mine look like this:

I thought these were kind of a modern Scandinavian creation, but it turns out they have totally been en vogue before. This one is clearly from the era of scratchy acrylic yarns, which thankfully has passed. It must have taken a great deal of work because it’s crocheted with several strands of thin yarn held together (mine are made with extra bulky strands that knit up quickly). And the colors – wow.

But overall it’s totally the same concept as what I sell now. A squishy, round pillow that’s a little silly looking but so much fun.

Fun storage around the house

I had been keeping this lacey milk glass bowl in my bedroom to hold watches when I’m not wearing them. Once I had a pair of earrings sitting around and I realized that I could just hang them in the little holes of the bowl. Voila, jewelry stand.

And by the way, I could not resist buying this necklace from Ephemera.

I also love my magazine rack.

It’s actually an old milk bottle crate. I had to put some felt on the bottom of it because it’s so scratchy, but it’s been sitting in my living room holding rolled up magazines for years now, and it still looks great.

I just love the worn surface. Also I love magazines. Maybe too much.

What is this?

This is one of the coolest things I’ve ever picked up. I found it at a local flea market, having no idea what it was except that it looked like a coffee pot. It turns out that it’s a vintage percolator that uses a vacuum system to suck the water up from the lower pot, perk it through the grounds in the top pot, and then drop the water back into the lower part, which you can detach and use for serving.

(The photo doesn’t show the lid, but I have that, too. Also love the art deco design on the front of the bottom pot).

It’s called a Sunbeam Coffeemaster, and mine is a model C30A. The copyright dates show that this was made sometime after 1944. I Googled the name and discovered that these are prized among coffee snobs, and selling anywhere from a few bucks to more than $60 on eBay. I think I paid $6 for mine, but it does have a few issues.

The main issue with these is that they are often found stuck together because the rubber seal has hardened over time. It took me a long time to discover that the way to get the thing apart is actually just to run a cycle of water through it. The steam seems to soften the rubber and then it comes right apart. You also have to do this to get it back together. One YouTube video said that you can sand down the rubber, and I might try that.

Actually, you should watch the whole video because it shows you how the thing works.

Mine is also missing its original filter, but I just made a new one out of a piece of muslin. There’s a chunk of the decorative ring around the top that has broken off, too. Overall, though, I think this thing is so cool. And I did actually get it to work a couple of times.

How to tell old Pyrex from really old Pyrex

A vintage post for your Monday morning:

One of the very first items that piqued my interest in collecting and selling vintage items was a Pyrex bowl. My mom was already selling items in an antique mall, and she had been looking for the green bowl that went with the Pyrex primary colors set of mixing bowls. She had the other three, but wanted the fourth. I spotted it in someone else’s booth, and bought it for her for Christmas.

Then, around the same time I was at a flea market, and someone was selling a complete set for, I think, $75. That was a lot of money for me to pay for anything at a flea market, but something about those bowls just sucked me in. I wanted them, and I wasn’t going to leave that day without them.

So, by Christmas, we both had our own full sets. I still have those bowls. They are some of my favorite pieces, and I will never sell them. When someone asked me what I’d take with me if my house were burning down, I responded that I’d probably run out with a Pyrex bowl under each arm.

Anyway, the point I am finally getting to is that sometimes when people are new to collecting Pyrex, they want to know how much pieces are worth and how old they are. I found some information on Pyrex Love that I found really helpful, and I just thought I would share it. The primary color set of mixing bowls was first produced in the 1940s. Then newer versions were sold up until the ’70s. You can tell a ’40s set in two ways. First, the stamp on the bottom is simpler and has no number on it.

Later sets look like this.

The older bowls are also a little bit thicker. It’s kind of hard to tell from this photo, but the older bowl is on the outside, and when you put it next to a newer one it’s definitely thicker.

I’m getting pickier about the Pyrex pieces I buy just because there are so many out there in poor quality, and they don’t sell for much. I only buy them if they have no chips or cracks (a few scratches are OK), the patterns are in good shape, the patterns are fairly attractive to me, and they don’t show any signs of having been put in the dishwasher. Usually you can tell right away when this has happened because the paint is extremely faded. Most pieces I sell are $10 or less, but those primary bowls are different. I would put them closer to $20, and up to $100 for a set.

And if you want that green bowl, it’s here!