Sewing, Refashioning, Repurposing & Thrifting Through Life

How to Clean Old Hardware

How do you decide whether to buy new hardware (handles, drawer pulls, knobs) or keep the existing?

There are some beautiful new pieces in the stores. I especially love anything made of glass. Seems the choices these days are silver, nickel, oil-rubbed bronze and black. What?! No brass? Of course not. There’s not a whole lot of selection out there if you like gold. Silver everything. Nothing could outdate your home more than having brass anything in your house, right? I hear it’s making (or made?) a comeback. I don’t know. I don’t really care.

Here’s my point. I think you should do whatever you like and whatever looks good with the piece you’re working with.

My first thought is usually to get new stuff but now that I’ve discovered how to clean the old pieces, I’m happy to keep them, even if they are gold.

Take a look at the before and after pics below. I think they’re brass. They’re solid and heavy and quite beautiful.

These are the pulls from the antique bedroom set I just painted. After on the top and before on the bottom.



And these pulls from some vintage end tables. Before on the left and after on the right.20160801_143718.jpg

Not gonna lie. It took some elbow grease. OK, a lot of elbow grease but when you stop and consider it’s all just years of dirty fingers (BTW, ewwww to that!) and you CAN get them clean, please don’t spray paint them or buy new ones. They’re gorgeous and you just brought them back to their glory days.

I used Bar Keeper’s Friend-amazing stuff!


What’s your preference? Clean up the old or buy brand new?

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Projects I’m Working On

I hope everyone is enjoying a fantastic summer. I was able to escape on a camping trip “up north” as we say here in Ontario and enjoyed a few days of much needed R &R. Completely unplugged nevertheless! No choice! There was no cell signal where we were. It was a welcome break.

Mr. Restyle is working on building our basement bathroom. So far he’s tiled the shower. He even built in a little soap and shampoo niche with lights I might add and started the ceiling and painted the walls. Doesn’t look like much yet but it’s getting there. It’s been so incredibly hot that most nights we don’t feel like doing anything.


The mister insists on dropped ceilings in the basement. I don’t blame him as he has this house wired to the max and wants easy access. For this bathroom, he’s not using pre-fabricated ceiling panels but making them himself out of drywall. We’ve already purchased the shower doors and the toilet and sink. For the vanity, we will be installing this vintage dresser that I’ve painted white. The top will remain the original wood tone. It will be home to a cute little vessel sink. I cannot wait to show the finished room.


We decided not to build a closet but use a charming antique bookcase to house towels and toiletries.


Here it is after the first coat of white.


There are a ton of projects going on. Once the bathroom is complete, we will begin replacing all the bedroom carpeting with laminate, restaining the staircase, building a tray ceiling in our bedroom, redmodelling the master ensuite and building a system for our walk-in closet, all DIY/reclaim/repurpose style! So exciting.

We saw an antique bedroom set we liked so we scooped that up and I’ve already painted it and it’s been moved to our room. Yes, we do things backward. Not intentionally of course but that is the reality when you are reusing and redoing the way we do. There is no rhyme or reason.

Here’s a sneak peak. Excuse the mess but hopefully you can envision that ugly brown colour replaced with a soft blue-grey with a greyish wood toned floor.

20160803_225745 - Copy

Oh, and I’ll be adding a diamond tufted headboard and creating a bench out of an old coffee table. I think I have enough on the go for now don’t I? Kinda explains why I never do any sewing or clothing related posts!




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Early 1900s Sideboard Turned Kitchen Island

Happy National Thrift Store Day! Heading out later to see if there’s anything good left. For now, here’s this.

If you read my last post, you may have gotten the hint that we are in the middle of a complete kitchen transformation, DIY-style. One of the things we knew we wanted was to replace our oak island with something old. Found this quarter-sawn tiger oak sideboard from the early 1900s.


Man, was it in pretty rough shape. You can see a lot of the tiger oak veneer is peeling and there’s a big chunk taken out of the top.



But look at those claw feet! Gorgeous!


Here’s a picture of our kitchen taken a few years ago but this is pretty much what it’s been looking like.

kitchen before

You can see the island here and the oak cabinets. As for the yellow paint, I did this a few years ago. Not sure what possessed me as I am not a fan of yellow. Suffice it to say, I was reading about feng shui and got caught up in the whole (what I deem as ridiculous now-sorry if I offend) notion that colour affects what happens in your life and in your home. I am so anti-new age anything now. If you’re wondering what happened to the old island, we posted an ad and had several responses to this free giveaway. It went to a good new home!

We had a plan to find something old and paint it but when we saw this piece and Mr. Restyle sanded it and removed the veneer that absolutely had to be removed, we both felt bad about the idea of painting it. So what did we do? We stained it. And then we both hated it. Back to our original idea. I’ve done this before where I’ve had doubts. Don’t do this. Go with your gut!

We painted it with ASCP in Old Ochre but stained the top with General Finishes Java Gel Stain. Mr. Restyle used a router saw to fix the top piece where a good chunk was missing. So clever! You can barely tell now. Sealed the whole thing with the satin top coat also from General Finishes.

New knobs were added still in keeping with the original look.

keyhole drawer

I love our new island and I am sure it will serve us well for years to come. Here’s another look at the before and after.




Sneak Peek: Upcoming Furniture Projects

Here’s a sneak peek at some projects that I’ve been working on for the past few months. Yes, I said months. Not days, not weeks. Months. Ugh! If only I didn’t actually have to “work” at a real job. I couldn’t even guess an ETA on these but they are coming. I promise.

#1. 1990s Floral Loveseat Reupholstery.


This one is almost done. I just had the cushions left to do when the zipper foot on my sewing machine broke.

#2. This pair of chairs for reupholstery and refinishing. One is in progress right now with the tufting finished. I had someone at All Experts answer some questions on these and now I can’t find the response. If anyone knows what styles these are, please let me know in the comments. I believe the legs are Queen Anne style and the chairs are Louis XIV or XV, from what I can remember.


#3.  Late 1960s/1970s 8-Foot Sofa

I had to have this sofa. It is the perfect size for our large family. I got a quote on reupholstery. Labour: $1000-1400, Fabric:18 to 20 yards @ $40 to $120/yard. Holy moly! I’m doing this one myself. Notice it is in our basement on blocks of wood. A couple of the legs are missing. The woman at the upholstery shop told me it was a really good sofa. Well, of course. It wasn’t made yesterday. They don’t make ’em like this anymore. The lines on this are absolutely gorgeous. I plan on purchasing a couple of armchairs in the same style.


This sofa project won’t happen for a while. I have 2 other chairs that will be painted and reupholstered as well as a cane chair that needs to be redone along with an enormous sectional that I inherited from my parents. It resides in our basement family room. The fabric is UGLY and something will need to be done. So many projects, so little time!



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Circa 1930 Radio

Another addition for our 1920s/30s dining room. This DeForest Crosley radio, which Mr. Restyle fell in love with, now occupies a corner in our home. I don’t know anything about it except that the company was located in Toronto.


1930 DeForest Crosley radio

The great thing about this is that it still actually works! it takes a few minutes for the bulbs to warm up.



I haven’t done any refinishing to it. I may just leave it the way it is. It is a little rough along the top and the screen is in need of some repair. A quick and inexpensive fix to swap out the fabric.


Speaker fabric in need of repair

The kids wondered why there was no FM radio on this thing.




Legs detail

Now all I have left to do in here is repair the chairs, build a new leaf for the table, add some window treatments, reupholster the chairs and hang a new era-appropriate crystal waterfall chandelier!



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Vintage End Table Find

Scored these beautiful vintage 1960s or 1970s ? end tables a few months ago. At $25 a piece, I couldn’t resist. Hidden away among countless tables and chairs, there they were-upside down, when I spotted them and let out a delightful “Oooh, what have we here?” as I reached to pull them out from under the pile of stuff.

Made by Kroehler, dovetail joints and a wonderful pull out drawer. In absolute PERFECT condition minus a scratch along the side of one. I knew some Briwax wood filler would fill this in so it wasn’t an issue. The wood is of the walnut family. Pecan to be exact. They’re a little shorter than most end tables but that’s going to work out fine since I’m going for some very tall vintage lamps to put on top. I’m looking at buying new lamps with a vintage look but all the ones I’ve seen or like are WAY out of my budget. I mean really, $400 a lamp? Meh, ain’t happening. When I find what I like and it’s not in the colour I want, I don’t care. I’m just going to paint them a nice light turqouisy (is that even a word? probably not) blue.

Lesson learned from this thrifted-from-a-massive-warehouse-of-junk store? Check EVERYTHING out! The hidden treasures are there just waiting for you!

Awesome vintage Kroehler end table

Awesome vintage Kroehler end table

Top and side view. How much do I love it? There are no words.

Top and side view. How much do I love it? There are no words. I may darken them up a bit. We’ll see when the room comes together.


Restore or Refinish?

I used to think that all old wood furniture had to be refinished: entirely stripped of existing varnish and stain right down to the bare wood. It’s probably not a good idea to take on a full restoration where you’re going to do all this work on a genuine antique. A piece must be at least 100 years old to be considered an antique, otherwise the piece is vintage. I have refinished several pieces over the years and believe me when I say I have learned from my mistakes. It is these mistakes that have made we wiser (hopefully).

I recently purchased a 1920s walnut dining room table and chairs and got a quote for restoration of the table. Price? $1600! Um, no thank you. Am I cheap? No, not really but my attitude has always been “Oh, I can do it myself!” And nobody and I mean nobody, is going to tell me otherwise. The table is actually in very good condition. The chairs are another story but lucky for me I am married to a pretty handy guy. His only problem is his attitude! Luckily again, he’s gone from saying things like “Don’t ask for my help. You’re on your own” to “Yeah, I can help with that. I can do that.” Yay me! More on the dining set later as this is going to be a huge undertaking: all chairs need reupholstery and most of the chairs need some sort of repair. It will be months before we even start on this.

The walnut sideboard show here is a piece we picked up through a private sale. This piece is HEAVY and I love it. There is something so intriguing to me about bygone eras: the 20s through the 60s. I sold our 1980s dining room (a hand me down from my parents). I never liked the set-oak and boring! I knew I didn’t want another china cabinet. I think they’re useless. Why do people feel they need to “display” their dishes? It’s probably a me thing. I just think it’s weird, so sideboard it is. This gave me a great excuse to go through all my china and glassware and either donate stuff or put some things away for Daughter Restyle. My dishes could live in the 2 side cupboards. Anything that didn’t fit in here, I wasn’t keeping.

So here’s the sideboard as it sat in our garage:

1910-1920s walnut sideboard

1910-1920s walnut sideboard


1910-1920s walnut sideboard


1910-1920s walnut sideboard





I wanted to find out more about this. The appraiser believes the drawer pulls may be original. Apparently, they are of the chippendale style but when he looked at the legs more closely, they are a modified chippendale style. Believed to be made in the 1910s-20s.

Can’t see it in the pictures but one side was pretty badly roughed up. I really did NOT want to strip and refinish this. I already have several projects on the go right now. Such a shame until I found a product called BRIWAX. I wish I’d known about this years ago. Briwax (pronouned bry wax, not brie wax) is an incredible product. I can’t say enough about it. It can’t be purchased in stores. At least not in Canada. This is a British product made from carnauba and beeswax. I seriously recommend this if you don’t have the time or skills to completely refinish something. In fact, refinishing old pieces like this actually depreciates their value. A simple restore may be your best bet if you don’t mind the dings and nicks that come with hundred year old furniture.

Toulene free Briwax

Briwax comes in different shades. I chose toluene free Briwax in a shade that I thought closely matched the existing finish. A little bit of Briwax goes a long way. Simply apply using a soft cloth, working in small sections and leave it on for about 15 minutes, then buff with a clean cloth to a nice shine.

It covers nicks, dings, scratches, etc. quite well. Much better than those stain markers, Briwax cleans the wood as it works. To cover any gouges, small holes, etc. use the wax filler sticks. Briwax Wax Filler StickThis product also works wonders.

I’ll post the after picture of the sideboard soon and hopefully my 1920s inspired dining room will appear on this blog too!

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Have Trunk, Will Travel

Every few weeks we go treasure hunting. These are my favourite days. It’s just so much fun and I love that Mr. Restyle is all on board for this type of outing. He never says no! I believe he enjoys our “vintage days” as we call them as much as I do.

This particular Saturday it was his turn. He’s not the type of husband who asks for much. He wanted an old trunk. he found this:


Beat up old 1800s steamer trunk.

I am going to admit, I had no idea what to make of it. There are old things and then there are old, useless things. To me, this fell into the old and useless category. I mean, what on earth are we going to do with this? And more importantly, where in our house would we PUT this thing? I know people use them as coffee tables but this one isn’t flat on top and I really didn’t see it going with what will soon become our vintage 70s inspired living room but I gave in. I said yes. Yeah, I let him buy it.


The inside of the trunk contained paper that was peeling off. I think the paper was there to disguise the wood and make it seem “prettier.”

We searched everywhere on this old thing and couldn’t find any manufacturer’s marks. The only thing on it was the old sticker, which, with a bit of research, we discovered came from a train station in Switzerland.


Sticker from “Basel” train station, Switzerland.

This made things a little more interesting so we investigated further. We know it’s a European made trunk, but we do not know in which country it was made. Since there is very little hardware on the trunk, we know only that these styles were made and used in Europe from the 1880’s until as late as the 1920’s. Many parts of this type were used for many years, even on American made trunks.  Most likely the trunk is from about 1890 to 1910. It is a bit of an unusual style with the single slat across the top, but the double locks was not that unusual for European trunks.


Lock Detail

Estimating value is difficult for this since there are not as many examples being sold for comparison, so it often comes down to what someone believes it is worth to them. It is an interesting piece and an antique in original condition, so the estimate of its value based on similar items at auction or in shops in the U.S. is between $200 to $350. Our cost: $85.

Maybe we’ll hold on to it for a while. When I think about how old it is and where it’s been, I only wish I had the story of the person or people behind it. Where were they from? Where were they going? Were they leaving everything behind and starting life in a new country? How did it turn out for them. If only these treasures could tell us…


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