Sunday, November 8, 2009

Something out of Nothing

Frugal Remodeler Episode 1

Too many people now-a-days are totally obsessed with new stuff! In my architectural design work, I see the symptoms of this more often than I would like. I can't tell you how many times I've heard someone say - "gut it" or "tear it down" or "that's gotta go" Ugh! Why is this? Sure, some portion of whatever it is may need to go, but why do we think it's okay to throw the baby out with the bath water? What has happened to the frugality that was so cherished by our grandparents? The idea that we don't have to be frugal the way our grandparents had to be frugal doesn't fly with me. Today, our landfills are full of construction debris and a mass amount of energy is being used to churn out the new products that we are all demanding. What's more, many of us don't have the money right now to remodel, even though we may have spaces that are crying out for it.

I think the real problem comes from lack of vision. People have a hard time seeing the potential in something. They may think that something could be reused but it will always look old. Not true! I love stylish design. I like things to look neat, contemporary, and fresh. But, I believe that remodeling can be done with less new material and for less money than what is commonly spent. That is why I am starting this blog series. I have been knee-deep in the (low-budget) remodel of my house for over a year now and I have learned much along the way. I'd like to use this series of blogs to share what I have learned and hopefully provide inspiration as I take you with me on my wild ride of frugal remodeling.

To prove my point about creating a fresh look out of old stuff, I want to begin this series by sharing a few projects from by remodel with you. Each of the following projects re-invigorates an item that is either worn and in need of TLC or is just down right boring or outdated.

Sewing Machine Cabinet Reincarnated
When I decided to splurge a little on a white porcelain vessel sink and fancy faucet, I knew I could balance out the damage by saving money on the vanity. So I took a trip to the antique mall. Right now, I can hear some of you crying out "blasphemy"! But, don't worry, I know that most of the pieces in an antique store are much too pristine to alter by saw and drill. Besides they would be way too expensive anyway. I knew I was looking for a quiet little wallflower in need of some love. I had almost finished combing my first antique mall and was ready to give up for the day when I found this little gal - an old, worn-out sewing machine cabinet. The finish on this thing was SAD and you can still see some of the imperfections in my bathroom today. But that's the character! And, I really enjoy combining sleek modern elements with slightly rustic pieces. The best part about it?  It only cost me 15 bucks!

Above & Below: The sewing machine cabinet reincarnated as a vanity.

(Supplies used for this project:
 sandpaper, walnut stain, polyurethane, self-leveling metal feet)

 Chandelier Rescue Mission
This "lovely" little item came with the house when we bought it. Of course, we immediately upgraded the incandescents to CFLs - you know, to improve it's aesthetic qualities. When we finally got a ceiling fan to replace it and realized we needed a chandelier for the entry, my brain geers began to turn and voila - the result was a cute chandelier makeover for a third of the price of a store-bought chandelier!

Above & Below: The chandelier after being rescued.
(Supplies used for rescue: spray paint, lightbulbs, lamp shades)

O' boring, boring filing cabinet

There's not a lot of cute filing cabinets out there, and when you do find one, it's really expensive. So I purchased a used metal filing cabinet that looked just like the picture to the right for only $30 and set out to set if free from it's office cubicle attire. Just a little paint and fabric did wonders! By the way, when you paint metal, make sure you rough up the surface with sandpaper and prime it before painting. This will increase the durability of the finish.

Above & Below: Not-so-boring filing cabinet
(Supplies: primer, paint, fabric, decoupage, wood feet)

Looking to do similar projects? I am quite happy to elaborate on any of the methods I used to revive these items. Just send me an email and I'll post more information right here on my blog.


  1. OK, now we have to have a crafty night at your house soon so I can see all of your fabulous work! You are so creative and inspirational - love it.

  2. Christi, I love this filing cabinet! And the tiny room! And your quilt! And you! :) I'd love to have you do a similar filing cabinet for us. I need to upgrade from a box to a cabinet, but didn't want to buy a 'spensive one and similarly don't want a cheap ugly one. As soon as I get one, I'll let you know!

  3. Ditto on all of what Nicole said! Perhaps we should have a revamp a filing cabinet night(s)?

  4. Brilliant! I'm so happy to have found my way to your blog. You're so creative and it looks like a million bucks!

  5. these are all SO AWESOME!!! you do such a great job..awesome, awesome work!!! cheers - casacullen

  6. I love it! But I'm a bit new to being crafty and am nervous about working with fabric, how do you stick it on? do you treat it with some sort of finish over top of the fabric so that it doesnt get gungy? are there any tips for making sure there are no wrinkles in the fabric? What sort of fabric did you use - upholstery? or something thinner? Thanks!

  7. Hello Dear,

    How beautiful they are in their different design! I like this blog. A lot of these things we have, but I got some really great ideas about this site. Thank you very much.

    Porcelain Vessel Sink

  8. Super cool. I have a rusty old filing cabinet that is now part of my kitchen/office. We have been looking for ways to make it fit in. Can you post a bit more info on how you made the fabric panels in the front look so fabulous?

  9. Where did you get the fabric? I love it!