"Just go with it" is what I said to Alex as I reached into my neighbor's trash.

"Someone is going to see you" he replied as, with an embarrassed look on his face, he tried to distance himself from me in an "I've never seen her before" move.

Inspiration comes in a number of ways, and I had just spied my new family room end table in a pile of cast offs just a few houses down the street. There sat a dirt encrusted, paint splattered narsty wooden stool that I knew just had to come home with us.

Very Before

Proud of my find and reassuring Alex that this stool wasn't going to end up on his honey-do list, I immediately set to work when we arrived home.

  • First I gave the entire stool a once over with our sander with a 120 grit paper to remove the pesky paint splotches.
  • Next, I hand sanded with 220 grit to continue prepping the surface.
  • Finally, using a small piece of a Trader Joe’s paper grocery bag, I gave a final “sand” to the entire surface, thus rendering it ready for primer.

Heading to the paint store, and after some deliberation, I decided on a quart of Benjamin Moore high gloss metal & wood enamel oil paint, premixed in Classic Burgundy, the exact shade of red I was looking for. Once home, taking the stool outside into a well ventilated area, I applied one coat of oil-based primer that we already had on hand and waited four hours for it to dry. Later, I applied two coats of the red, allowing for 24 hours dry time as well as for a light sanding in between each coat. Just to play it safe and not wanting to mar the new finish, I waited another two days before setting it up in the family room and placing anything on it.

I'm thrilled with the finished result, and for only $25 (the cost of the paint) and a little elbow grease, I’m the proud new owner of a charming end table and a “you were right” from my other half.

Finished Product

I admit that my pulling items out of the trash may indicate I have a problem. That is, after all, how we acquired the frame for a dining room painting, our garden potting table, and the storage cubes/bedside tables in our guestroom.

They say that admitting you have a problem is the first step to recovery, but I don't see an additional 11 steps in my future. This is an addiction I don't want to kick anytime soon.

Anyone else have any free finds or trash-to-treasure tales? If so, tell us your story!

Comments 7


5/9/2011 at 1:28 PM
Step 1 is admitting that this is not a problem at all.

Step 2 is continuing to make beautiful use of things that others are discarding, whether in an alley garbage can, the city dump or Community Forklift or ReStore. Just because something is in the trash doesn't mean it IS trash.

We've had a few of these moments, but nothing too flashy yet. I just built a workbench out of a laminate kitchen countertop I found in the alley this weekend (www.ouroldrowhouse.com/2011/05/brand-new-workbench-for-12-bucks/), and we repurposed a cheap dining room chandelier for the entryway (to replace a ceiling fan) and painted a new/old one that was given to us for the dining room. www.ouroldrowhouse.com/2011/04/chandelier-swap-is-complete/

love the stool. What was the oil based primer? Just Kilz or the equivalent?
Ha! Thanks Steve. Nice job on the workbench!

The oil based primer I used was Benjamin Moore's fast dry. Worked like a charm.
6/22/2011 at 4:24 PM
I am always on the lookout in alleys. Living in Chicago there are so many trash to treasure projects but the best I had was a coffee table. I rescued it - glass top in tact, sanded, stained and viola! 6 years later and it's still in my living room and I've had three of those since then!
7/9/2011 at 10:31 AM
Hi, I’m Kat from south Arlington and I have this problem too. My best find to date was the console table someone put in the dumpster in our building. The left drawer was a little funky, but a few taps with a hammer to tighten it up made it great! It’s currently in our bedroom and holds our TV, alarm clock and photos.

I also re-finished my mom’s childhood chest of drawers when I moved here 4 years ago. Sanded, primed, painted and new hardware to turn it from this awful greyish cream color to a shiny black with silver knobs to match the cheap furniture I could afford. I love it!
7/11/2011 at 4:05 PM
It's not an addiction, it is a lifestyle. It just seems that some who enjoyed it when they were younger go through a phase that its no longer cool or desireable. don't worry. They come around again.
1/15/2012 at 3:14 PM
Apparently Alex needs to be "fully inducted" into this way of life. LOL Turned out super! Love the color you chose too.
:-) Thanks so much Toodie!
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