Tag Archives: DIY

D.I.Why? Making an Ugly Coffee Table Into A Simple Work Of Art

Beautiful Photographs by Sean Gin. Ugly Photographs by Orlando Soria.

coffeetable6Dear Old Coffee Table I Got from Emily Years Ago,

You taught me a lot of things. Firstly, you taught me that it’s important to take care of things or they’ll turn into garbage. I remember the day years ago when Emily and I looked at each other and were like “What are we going to do with this piece of garbage?” This once-beautiful royal blue lacquer coffee table got scratched after we moved it around in our storage for two years. Which reminds me, I HATE LACQUER. Yes it looks amazing for a little while. But if you just so much as set your teacup down the wrong way, it scratches immediately and you have to get it re-lacquered and it’s totally annoying and expensive and terrible. Emily was going to donate this piece to Goodwill, so I took it home KNOWING I would think of something to do with it. Fast forward two years and it’s still sitting in my parking space outside, waiting to be loved. I really couldn’t think of anything to do to it. But then one day I was daydreaming, thinking about how much I love Christo, and I remembered his early work where he used to wrap furniture in canvas and other materials. Those pieces looked like this:

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I’d love to make a sofa like that someday, all wrapped and organic and crazy. But I wanted something simpler for my coffee table, so decided to try and make it look like a giant canvas, wrapped in raw fabric that’s meant to be painted on. Like this:

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This is the table I started with:

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I know. Gag me with a spoon. But good bones for a new, canvas-covered coffee table. Below I’ll tell you how I transformed my table.

Firstly, Here’s What You’ll need:
1. Ugly Old Coffee Table That Literally Makes You Want To Scream
2. Raw Canvas (I got mine for $6/yard at Blick)
3. Scissors
4. Staple Gun
5. Iron

Before you get started, it might be helpful to revisit my How To Strech A Canvas Tutorial, many of the same rules apply here if you cover your table in canvas.

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Step 1: Cover both ends of the coffee table by stapling canvas onto the table. Don’t worry about the staples, you’ll be concealing them later. Just like you concealed your true opinion of your best friend’s new French Bulldog, which is scary and looks like a gremlin.

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Make sure to pull the canvas very taught so it won’t be gross and wrinkly. Like my face is after a weekend of heavy drinking in the sun.

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Step 2: Drape canvas over the top to determine width (you will be folding it under so the seam is not exposed).

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Step 3: Tape your creased canvas into place. This will help keep everything in place while you staple the folded over canvas to the bottom of the table’s legs. Make sure you are pulling everything tight while you do this. Whatever you do, don’t relax. You should be as tense and wound-up as possible while you stretch this canvas over your coffee table to ensure that you pull it hard enough. Keep in mind that if you mess this up your life until now has been useless and there really is no reason to continue living.

Step 4: Using an iron on a high steam setting, iron out all wrinkles and creases in the canvas. This will also help tighten the canvas as it shrinks a bit when exposed to moisture.

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Step 5: Make sure to use lots of trays and coasters. Raw canvas is highly sensitive and cannot be cleaned. I plan to eventually paint on mine so I’m not too worried about stains. If you are an out-of-control messy barbarian, you can either choose a more stain resistant fabric or choose something darker that wont show all the wine stains that result from staying home alone every weekend to watch “Maid in Manhattan” whilst wearing Garfield pajamas.

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The whole project cost me about $25 (all I had to buy was the canvas) so I’m pretty pleased with my practically-free new coffee table. It’s a scientific fact that people with nice coffee tables are 90% more likely to run into handsome men on the street who are carrying big stacks of books. It’s also known that people with nice coffee tables will themselves be carrying large stacks of books and when they run into aforementioned handsome men carrying books, they will both simultaneously drop their books and then the books will get mixed up and then they will fall in love as they try to figure out which books belong to which person. Thus, it’s very important to have a coffee table that you can be proud of.

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So, there you go. I transformed a coffee table from despicable to delectable within minutes, for mere pennies. Now, go forth and do it yourself! Hurry!

Love,
Orlando

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How To Plant a Succulent Garden Without Making a Giant Mess in Your Apartment

Photographs by Sean Gin

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Dear Other People Who Live in Urban Apartments,

Do you ever feel sad about the fact you have no outdoor space? Like no yard with a hose to water your plants, a space to run around in? That you can’t just go outside and dig your hands in the dirt and feel SO connected to nature just like you did in your forest upbringing? I do. As someone who was raised in a land where I could stick my hand in dirt whenever I felt like it, without the risk of getting a lethal strain of face-eating virus from the city-germs in the soil, I feel sad whenever I have to buy dirt at a nursery. Also, I don’t understand how people who live in urban apartments pot their plants. I tried one time, and I totally clogged the sink and my landlord told me I’d have to buy a new sink if I ever did that again. So I’ve decided to share a few of my tips for living in a big city AND potting plants without getting kicked out of your apartment.

Plant nurseries are one of my favorite places to hang out. I find it so relaxing to be around all those plants growing, birds chirping, pesticides brimming from the potted succulents. One of my favorite nurseries in Los Angeles is Mickey Hartigay Plants, where I went this week to search for plants for Rumi Neely, a wonderful fashion blogger whose house I’m designing for Homepolish. The nursery is in the middle of Hollywood and feels kind of like it belongs in another time. I can be totally pissed off and crazy and high on caffeine and as soon as I step into this place I feel better. Perhaps it has something to do with the big-ass Buddha head:

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So here we go…

Five Tips For Potting Plants If You Live In An Apartment

1. Force the dude who runs the nursery to pot your plants for you.

This is a trick I learned a few years ago. Normally I feel badly asking anyone to do anything for me. Like at a restaurant if the waiter brings me a meal I totally didn’t order, I’ll just pretend it’s what I wanted so I don’t cause a fuss. I wont ask him to exchange it for the right one because that makes me feel like a jerk. But I’ve noticed a lot of people who work at nurseries (I’m talking about mom ‘n’ pop nurseries not big box places) tend to be really friendly and willing to help. If they won’t pot your plants for free they will normally charge you a small fee (usually around $5). Which is totally worth it not to make a big mess in your apartment. If you’d rather plant your own plants (like I did), you can ask them if it’s okay for you to use their facilities. Most will be fine with this, especially if you are doing something interesting like potting a succulent collection. They might stand there and ogle you, but the attention will give you energy and make you feel important.

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2. Choose your pot wisely. And make sure to look very concerned while you do so. 

Choose a pot that looks like it actually belongs indoors. If you choose a terra cotta pot or something that looks too rustic people will feel like they’ve stepped into a terrifying outdoor farmland when they enter your space and they will never want to talk to you again. Also, most plants need drainage so keep that in mind. Or be very careful with how frequently you water (I actually chose a pot with no drainage, but I’ve figured out how to  make sure the soil gets dry enough between waterings).

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3. Use the variety of plants available to your advantage.

I like to compose my succulent arrangements while looking at all the options available. Thus, I tend to arrange them right in front of the succulents on display. As a genius plant artist, you need to be surrounded by all your most essential art supplies. I like to have a few statement plants, a few clusters, and a pop of color. It’s good to vary the scale and texture to keep the eye moving around the arrangement. Really it’s not rocket science. Just play with plants until they look pretty and then you’ve got your composition. Watch this video Emily made if you want more info on composition.

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4. Ask boring and sciency plant questions.

Nurseries are a great place to ask a lot of questions about your plants that no one else would know how to answer. Keep in mind these people spend all day watering plants and trying to make sure they don’t die, so if there’s anyone who can tell you how not to kill your fiddle leaf fig, it’s them. You can show them pictures of spaces in your apartment, describe lighting situations, and ask them what plants would survive there, ask them what type of plant food to feed your plants, how big the pot needs to be, etc. The kind man at Mickey Hartigay referred me to the correct soil for succulents, which hopefully means the plants I buy for Rumi will live forever. Like I plan to.

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5. Make sure they wrap/box up your plants so dirt doesn’t get all over your car/everyone on the subway/however you get home.

Nurseries are great at figuring out how to wrap plants so dirt doesn’t go flying all over the place on your trip home. Usually this means they wrap them in newspaper and tape to hold in the dirt and keep the plants in place. Make sure they package your plants adequately so they don’t get murdered on the way home. I’ve had one too many fast stops where the plant goes flying and my car turns into a succulent graveyard FILLED with dirt. Don’t let that be you.

So there you go. Mainly the moral of the story is that if you live in an apartment with no yard and hose, you should never try to pot anything inside. It’s just a recipe for disappointment and misery and fear. Kind of like eating a giant burrito right before going to a fancy gay pool party.

Love,
Orlando

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Restoring a Rain-Destroyed Dresser in Three Easy Steps Without Exerting Any Effort at All

Photos by Sean Gin 

Dear Diary,

I had a wonderful trip to New York a few weeks ago. If you haven’t heard of it, New York is a large metropolitan American city where residents are known to complain about winter for six months out of the year and then flee the city for the entire summer to go to the Hamptons or Fire Island. Anyway, while I was in New York there was a monumental rainstorm in Los Angeles which I named “Rainmageddon.” Rain is a  big deal in Los Angeles. Like as soon as it starts raining cats start wailing, luxury automobiles inexplicably careen into palm trees, and women with enormous artificial breasts start sobbing uncontrollably, wondering how they will get from their cars into the restaurant without ruining their hair. Living in LA makes you somewhat incapable of dealing with anything that resembles actual weather. Or dealing with anything at at all. So rain is basically the most devastating natural event that can occur (aside from the terrifying earthquake that woke me up this morning).

Another fun fact about Los Angeles is that because it never rains here many of our dwellings are not water tight. It’s kind of like we all live in thatched huts because we are island people and we don’t know any better. It’s not until a torrential rain that we notice a leak in the roof. When I walked in the door after getting back from New York, I was greeted by intoxicating scent of toxic mold. I was devastated, because I hate smells (all of them).

But no one was more devastated by Rainmageddon than the beautiful mid-century dresser I bought at Rose Bowl last year. I came into my bedroom to find it bewildered, scared, looking like this:

It was all “Why did you leave me for so long?!?” It was covered in rain damage and I felt guilty. I assumed my dresser was destroyed forever. Sidenote: I bought this dresser with my ex and it was a positive memory until we broke up and then it was a sad memory, like a totally depressing “you-broke-up-and-now-you’re-all-alone” dresser. I thought of my ruined dresser as a metaphor for my failed relationship. Second Sidenote: Do you ever make things that, like, totally aren’t metaphors into metaphors? And then you realize that instead of being a symbol of failure maybe your dresser is just a really cool mid-century dresser? I need to stop doing that…

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Okay, sorry that was depressing. Here’s where the story gets good. I had used a product called Restor-A-Finish on a few vintage pieces before so I thought I’d give it a try. Even though the company that makes it has no idea how to spell “Restore,” it’s actually a great product. It looks like this:

The process I used to restore my dresser is as easy as 1-2-3! Seriously:

1. Sand surface with very fine sandpaper until white moldy stuff disappears.
2. Apply Restor-A-Finish to a rag and apply to freshly sanded surface.
3. Wipe away excess and begin the first day of the rest of your life.

After being restored, my dresser was ready for its close-up:

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While I was at it I painted the weird stainless pulls gold to match the fun gold inlay “X’s” on the top of the dresser.

Before:

After:

So all in all Rainmageddon really didn’t end up ruining my dresser’s life. It took me like 17 minutes to make it better. Now I urge you, if you have a dresser that suffered through its own Rainmageddon or something similar, give it some Restor-A-Finish and, like, get on with your life.

Love,
Orlando

PS: This post was in no way sponsored by Restor-A-Finish, but if you work for that company please contact me and I will tell you where you can send a check.

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What’s Going In My Sunny Bedroom?

Photographs by Sean Gin 

Dear You,

Do you ever wonder what my bedroom looks like? Me neither! Because I live in it! Well your wondering can stop because my glamourphotographer Sean took some great pics which I will share with you now.

My bedding is from West Elm. It’s hard to find something that classic and simple, so I love it. The stripe throw is from NineSpace, the lamps are from the Rose Bowl Flea Market, and the giant cactus is from my childhood.

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My ex founds these awesome nightstands at Pepe’s Thrift Shop. And then he went away forever. And it was kind of like that PJ Harvey song from Basquiat.

I believe in always keeping a carafe with water in it next to the bed in case you get thirsty. And by “always” I mean “when you are taking a photograph of your bedside table and you want to look fancy.”

My mom made that awesome wave pillow out of fabric she found in a cute little wine country town called Healdsburg. Don’t you just want to hug that pillow? Then punch it? Then hug it and apologize for punching it? But then punch it again just to confuse it even more? I do.

Love,
Orlando

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D.I.Why? How To Make A Giant Paint-By-Numbers

Photographs by Sean Gin 

Dear Reader,

Are you curious how I made this giant painting?

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And then stuck it in my normal-size bedroom?

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Read the full story on Refinery29! More shots of the finished bedroom next week!

Love,
Orlando

Miss the refinery link before? It’s RIGHT HERE!

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Extreme Makeover: Pinecone Lamp

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Dear Smokey The Bear,

Do you own any lamps? I bet you don’t. You don’t even have a shirt. But if you did own a lamp I bet you’d want to own a lamp like this awesome pinecone lamp I found recently at American Way Thrift in Burbank:

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That’s right. I snagged this piece of garbage for $12.99! At first I thought it was the worst thing I’d ever seen. But just like Freddie Prinze Jr in She’s All That, I knew a makeover was possible. I started fantasizing about spraying it matte black and putting a simple drum lampshade on it. Check out how gross the speckle finish was:

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Barf river! So I grabbed a can of Matte Black Spray Paint:

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And ran home as fast as I could, screaming, foaming at the mouth the whole time about how amazing the lamp was going to look once I got rid of that horrible sponge painted finish. Just kidding I didn’t really scream. Well I did sort of. But just in my head (no comment on the mouth foaming).

I chose to spray it black because I wanted to simplify the whole situation. Like my personality, the structure of the lamp is overly complicated and ornate so I thought it should be paired down a bit.

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When I spray items like this, I tend to spray them from all different angles to make sure I coat everything. Because of the pinecone details, there were a ton of nooks and crannies to get to. I did two coats on the front side, let it dry for 30 minutes, then flipped it over and did two coats on the backside. And by the end it became impossible to tell that the lamp was ever not matte black.

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Because of my woodsy roots, I have a thing for woodland objects. Thus, I love the rustic mountain story this piece tells, along with its elegant structure.

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I set the pinecone lamp on a bedside table, thinking to myself that even if I die alone in my sleep with no one to rush me to the hospital because I’m all alone, at least I’ll get to look at that pinecone lamp one last time before my totally tragic death.

Love,
Orlando

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D.I.WHY? Mobilando

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Dear People Seeking Balance in Your Lives,

Does your life feel crazy, imbalanced, and out of control? Do you ponder why work either feels like a pitching machine throwing raw eggs at your face OR a lonely horse standing in a field wondering if anyone is ever going to come and pet him? Like you’re either way too busy or way bored because there’s nothing to do? Well if you’re feeling this way it’s probably because you don’t have a driftwood mobile to stare at. If you did you’d realize that all is right in the world. That there are so many reasons to keep on living. You’d step off that ledge, call your friend Becky, and be like “Hay Gurl, wanna see my mobile?”

I was visiting my parents up in Sonoma County last week, hanging out with my cute little 2-year-old niece, when I came across a collection of driftwood my mother has been hoarding for years. “I’ve been meaning to make these into a mobile for a long time,” she said. At which point I screamed.

“WE MUST. WE MUST MAKE THE MOBILE TODAY. RIGHT NOW!”

And so we abandoned my adorable baby niece, left her to play with a box full of replacement Xacto blades, and began our journey of making our very first mobile. Below are images of the final product, along with a SUPER HIGH TECH step-by-step how-to guide.

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WHAT YOU’LL NEED:

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14 Gauge Galvanized Wire

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Thick Thread

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Wire-Cutting Needlenose Pliers

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Drill with Tiny Drill Bit

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Awesome Collection of Driftwood or Other Objects

STEP 1: STRING YOUR OBJECTS

My mother has been collecting driftwood for years at California beaches (make sure NOT to do this at state parks or places where collecting is prohibited). We used a tiny drill bit (1/32″). Once you’ve drilled your holes, string the thread through the driftwood, tying a knot at the bottom to make sure they stay put. We tied quadruple knots to make sure they were big enough but you’ll have to feel it out to ensure your mobile doesn’t fall to pieces the second you put it up.

STEP 2: MAKE YOUR SUPPORTS

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The building block of this mobile is galvanized wire. This is strong enough to support light objects, such as driftwood. If you are mobiling something else, you’ll need to use thicker wire or wooden dowels. The loop in the center is for attach it to other supports, the two loops at the end make sure everything you tie to it doesn’t fall off.

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Base the number of supports on how large and wide you want your mobile to be. You can also add them as you go if you realize you have more objects to hang than you expected.

STEP 3: STRING YOUR SUPPORTS TOGETHER

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Hanging the top support from a hook on the ceiling (or in a doorway), attach all the supports together. These early steps are the hardest because nothing is balanced yet. You will use the objects to balance the whole mobile.

STEP 4: ATTACH YOUR OBJECTS

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I’m going to be honest, this is the most annoying and stressful part. Keeping everything balanced is pretty difficult. Add the driftwood pieces one by one, tying them to the wire supports tightly so that they don’t slide around. You can also dab a bit of white glue on each knot to make sure they stay put. When you add something to one side you have to add something of a similar weight to the opposite side. If you’re still struggling with getting things balance after you’ve adjusted all the objects, you can also adjust the wire to help balance things out. For example, if you have this:

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…you can shorten the side that is too low. This changes the center of gravity and helps the support go back to being more horizontal. Like this:

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Creating a mobile, like life in general, is a nearly impossible balancing act. I am sure that master Mobilers like Calder got really good at balancing theirs, but if it’s your first time making one don’t feel bad if it takes a while to get the whole thing to float and balance like you want it to. You have to be kind of zen about it. It really wont look good until the end when everything is perfectly aligned and you can finally stand back and watch all your little treasured objects wiggle around in the air above you on your gorgeous, handmade mobile.

Love,
Orlando

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