Humble Contributions to the Peoples' History

Archive for the ‘Restoration’ Category

Low Cost Urban Garden Makeover

The alley that runs in back of row houses can present aesthetic problems for homeowners, given that developers provided the space to handle utilitarian functions, such as car traffic into garages and trash pickup. However, the back door is still an entrance, and making it aesthetically pleasing does not have to compromise utility.

Rather than cement over the entire area in front of the garage, which was in disrepair at the time of purchasing the house, I opted to reserve a garden space at one side. For several years I let this garden alone except for planting a few borrowed cuttings from neighbors. For the most part I concentrated on landscaping the area in front of the house.  We dug up the grass, not an easy job, and planted a crêpe myrtle, two butterfly bushes, two hydrangea, lots of variegated hostas and other donated plants from friends. I requested a tree from the city for the curb. The slide show the transformation over three years.

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Now I’ve turned my attention to the small back plot. What started this initiative was the realization that we had no house numbers back there. Inspiration came from Pinterest, which has a wonderful collection of trash to treasure ideas for the garden. I decided to look around the garage and attic to see what I might find. I discovered an old rusted sign that I thought might work for those numbers. I spray painted the sign, not worrying about the rust holes, and painted numbers on the sign. I also found a small garden hook and lantern that I recovered from the garage.

I purchased a couple of bags of soil and mulch, cone flowers and three small mums. Because I had already planted a crêpe myrtle, hostas, Pachysandra and few other varieties, these established plants made the project move along quickly. First, I cleaned out the overgrown weeds and added water-retaining soil. This spot is particularly dry and the surrounding white cement bakes in the summertime. Then I added the extra plantings and smoothed out the soil and added the mulch. After sweeping up, I used the hose to clean off the wood trim to ready for painting. Since many of the flowers were purple and pink, I decided to go bold and trim the wood around the garden in purple.  A pole going up the back also got painted in purple.  As the last step, I added the accessories, including a piece of driftwood. For a bit of whimsey, I hung three spinners off the deck, and painted a snake around the pole.

What was great about this project was that neighbors stopped by to talk about gardens and offer encouragement. This was a fun project with big returns in satisfaction.

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Total time:
Installation of garden and painting the wood: four hours.
Preparing and painting the sign: two hours.
Trompe l’oeil: four hours.

Mulch and soil: $17.00
Plants: $21.00
Paint: $18.00

Discard or Restore?: Bistro Patio Set

Forty Years of Service: Time to Go?

The chairs and table sat on the patio in a state of disrepair for several years until I could no longer ignore that they were falling apart. The seats had deteriorated as water had seeped into the cushions and disintegrated the wood bases.  However, the metal foundations were intact with only a few rust spots. After pricing several similar sets on the Internet, the  decision became obvious: restore. Here’s the breakdown of expenses and effort (other materials on hand):

Plywood for bases: $5.97

Fabric (on sale): $14.95

Spray cans: $11.16

Total: $32.08

Swirls characterized the paisley fabric so decided to emphasize the metal scrollwork on the chairs and tables by painting them white. This step involved more work in masking and repainting by hand and not spray painting the entire set.  Total hours in restoration: 4.5.

Kitty admires new seating

Satisfaction in restoration: priceless.

Seven Whimsical Garden Accessories for just a Few Dollars

Over the years I’ve added accessories to the garden, which cost just a few dollars . . . either because of having some luck, making it myself or fixing up a cast-off.   Sometimes I had some mini disasters along the way, but in the end these whimsical additions enhanced the garden.

Gazing Ball Pedestal: When enrolled in a pottery course, I hand-built this stand for a gazing globe.  The globe cost about $20 but unfortunately, I dropped the first one which fell into dozens of pieces. I guess it really cost me $40 as I had to buy a second one. The globe is supposed to give off a solar light, but because our lot is too shady for absorbing sunlight, it doesn’t really work. For all of its faults, I still like it.  Sometimes I put colored lights inside the cylinder.

Trellis: I found this trellis while hiking along a back road and saw a small part of it sticking out from under a pile of leaves.  It took me a few minutes to pull it out from under the debris. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize that an ant colony had taken up residence inside the hollow metal, and the trunk of my car was swarming with the little guys by the time I arrived home. After shaking them out, I let it sit for a while before deciding where it should go. Purchased a clematis and attached the trellis to the side of the porch.

Donkey and Cart: This piece traveled through four states and found a new home when my parents moved to Pennsylvania. When they sold their house, we debated whether this kitschy and very heavy lawn ornament should just stay behind. The cement on the legs had totally deteriorated, and the paint was pealing off. I decided to keep it, and began the restoration including cementing the pieces back together even though I had no experience with cement. At first, the cement just oozed into pile instead of sticking to the iron core posts but eventually it dried out and began staying in place.

Bench: This was another rescue from a family move. Rust covered the metal, and the top covered with mildew. After scrapping the rust off, painting the stand and cleaning up the marble, the bench found a place in the side garden. I added a couple small ornaments and planted hostas on either side.

Cider Press: Found this piece at a yard sale. After giving it a quick coat of stain and inserting a plant, it was ready for display. The press was not in the best condition to start with and the water flowing on the wood contributed to some decay, so I added a piece of clear plastic at the bottom, which has kept it intact now for ten years.

Bird bath: My pottery instructor was ready to throw this dish away because of a serious crack that ran along the bottom rim. The patterns in the glaze were beautiful, so I took it home to see what I might do with it. I used clear caulking to patch the crack and placed the plate on top of a pot. The caulk has held up well for several years now.

Watering Can with Floating Spigot:  Ok, this one cost me a few dollars, but I splurged for no other reason except the floating spigot looked cool.  I once put it in one of the window display for Bindlestiff Books, and children would stare into the window wondering how the magic happened.  Kitty knows the magic of getting a drink of water from anything but her water bowl.

Outfitting a Nursery for under $30!

Our first grandchild is due early August so our thoughts turn to assisting our daughter, MaeC, and son-in-law, Jared, in setting up the space for the new arrival. As a yard and thrift sale aficionado, its time to see what treasures are waiting out there. Thrift store shopping requires frequent stops, but it’s possible to hop in and out quickly when focused on what you want. Because baby things are only used for a short time, most people are happy to give away what they can no longer use, so usually there’s a good selection.

After MaeC and I checked out two thrift stores with no success, our luck changed with our third stop, for right in front of us stood two changing tables, one standard, top platform and two shelves, and a second dressing table with drawers and shelves. The two pieces matched and had a rich cherry finish. However, both were dinged up and needed a good polishing. Knobs had fallen off the drawers. Still, at ten dollars each, we couldn’t pass up the deal.

On our way home from the thrift store, we stopped by a hardware and picked up three knobs. Once at home, we started the restorations, beginning with cleaning the pieces with furniture polish, and using a furniture marker, fixing the places where the finish had worn off. The marker worked especially well with the dark wood. I’ve used these markers on furniture the cats attacked and even deep scratches disappear.

Next, we attached the knobs, which was an easy process of inserting the screw and turning the knob.  For some reason one knobs was still loose, but after adding a washer on the inside of the drawer, that adjustment made the knob fit tightly.

The shelves, spotted and stained, gave the pieces a poor appearance. We had two choices: to paint the shelves or cover them. Since I had saved leftover wallpaper, we decided to cover the shelves.

We went up to the attic to retrieve the rolls, selected two and then began measuring. Double-sided carpet tape worked great for affixing the paper to the shelves.

In keeping with our recycle up, I returned to the attic to find the clothes and blankets I had saved from the children’s baby days. After washing them up and air drying, the baby items were ready for storage in the changing table.

Jared’s mother, Gwen, sent along some new baby clothes. A little steampunk shirt rests alongside of the knit hat and sweater MaeC wore on her trip home from the hospital all those years ago. Gwen also sent two handmade blankets and stuffed animals from Jared’s childhood.

MaeC and I had a great time fixing up these pieces and spending time together working on this project. Adding the finishing touches, all we need now is the baby!

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