Table for 2, 6, 10… everybody

Every time we have people over for dinner, I realize we need a larger dining room table. The table that we have fits four comfortably, six if we squeeze. A typical family dinner, no matter whether we’re hosting Matt’s family or mine, usually involves about eight people, not including us. Special occasions like Christmas or Easter when we add in extended family require a second table and lots of extra chairs.

Well, we may still need a few extra chairs, but we should now be set in the table department.

Antique dark wood dining table

I’ve been casually searching kijiji every so often (more popular in Canada than Craigslist), looking for a few very specific pieces of furniture. A couple of weeks ago, browsing the dining tables, I came across a beautiful antique dark wood table for an incredible price. I emailed, the seller replied, a meeting was scheduled. I borrowed my dad’s truck, we met, the table was examined, money was exchanged (a whole $130) and the table came home with us.

I know nothing about antiques, but I know I like this table. The unique legs obviously drew me in first. The size was what sold me: four feet wide by eight feet long when it’s fully extended. It has four leaves, and I think it could probably stretch to include a few more.

Triple curved legs on an antique dining table

At some point I may have some more leaves made. I feel like our dining room can comfortably accommodate up to a ten foot table. If we do add extra leaves, I’ll definitely need to also add an extra support leg of some kind in the middle. The table has a wee bit of a sag when it’s fully extended, but nothing too noticeable.

I would also like to have the top refinished someday. It’s pretty rough, but since I use a tablecloth most of the time, I can wait on the refinishing. The finish on the legs and apron is in great shape, so I’m hoping that I could find someone who would just refinish the top.

Damaged top on an antique wood countertop

I do need some bigger tablecloths. But not too big. I still want to see the pretty legs.

So who wants to come over for dinner?

Has anyone else had success with second hand shopping online? Any antique experts out there who can share what to look for in furniture? Anyone have any tips for refinishing furniture?

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‘Twas a month before Christmas

‘Twas a month before Christmas and all through the house, there was scrubbing and dusting and vacuuming the couch.

(Not a perfect rhyme, I know).

Despite my earlier anxieties about hosting a big Christmas dinner before we were finished with renovations, everything came together–new carpet included–and the house was pretty presentable by the time Matt’s family arrived for the party last Saturday.

My main focus was on just having everything clean, so decor was mostly limited to the tables (and with 17 people for dinner, we needed two tables and lots of extra chairs).

Table set for Christmas dinner

I kept things simple with my go-to cream table cloths, a burlap runner down the middle, khaki napkins, a single candle centrepiece, some greenery, pine cones and our wedding china and crystal

The inspiration for the theme came from Mrs. Limestone’s woodsy place cards. Stefanie’s engravings are beautiful, and the animals were perfect for our rural setting.

I adjusted them slightly for our party, eliminating the tag portion and adding people’s names in George Gibson, a cool handwriting font I found via The Art of Doing Stuff. Then I tucked them into pine cones I picked up from behind the house and slipped them between the cutlery on everyone’s napkins.

Placecard

I love the attitude this porcupine has!

The other adjustment I made was on the back of the cards, where I printed little bits of trivia about each person’s animal.

Trivia place card

It might be a little cheesy, but people did enjoy reading about their animals. Little known fact: the porcupine with the largest quills (nearly a foot long) lives in Africa.

Of course, the decor is only one small part of a successful dinner party. The most important part–the food!–was a hit as well. While I was running around in the freshly fallen snow, gathering tree boughs and searching for similarly-sized pine cones, Matt took charge of our 20 pound turkey.

The best part of this shot is he’s not mugging for the camera. This was his actual facial expression as he was getting intimate with the turkey.

The fruits of Matt’s labour: a perfectly cooked turkey, a pile of dirty dishes, a bowl of stuffing and a sink full of vegetable peelings. (And yes, he did the clean-up as well as the cooking).

Before, during and after at the Christmas party.

According to the camera’s memory card, I spent the party doing things other than taking pictures, so I don’t have much documentation from the rest of the day. By all reports a good time was had by all. To return to where we started:

“We heard them exclaim ‘ere they drove out of sight, happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”

I hope everyone has a great weekend. Do you have a Christmas party to attend or host? A major meal to cook? A big cleaning blitz to complete? What’s your go-to decor for a dinner party? Anyone have any interesting porcupine facts or experiences to share?

Party time

I booked a Christmas party. Hosted by us. At the farm.

What’s with the tone?

Well, I’m a bit anxious.

Because, you see, the party is set for exactly one month before Christmas Eve. One month from today.

And my dining room currently looks like this.

Dining room

Keeping it real, folks. The drawer for the china cabinet was damaged in the move and won’t slide into place until we fix it. The extra furniture tucked in the left corner, the boxes stacked on the right and ironing board that is just outside of the picture will all go into the basement…whenever we finish the reno.

My living room looks like this.

Messy living room

The couch is in the right spot, but the grocery bags and cleaning supplies in the foreground of the photograph are not.

Oh, and my kitchen looks like this.

Messy kitchen

Our “island” is a metal patio table over which I have thrown a plastic dollar store tablecloth. All of my small appliances and boxes of cookbooks are tucked underneath, as I have no other place for them yet. On the bright side, we have a spot for our stash of Hallowe’en candy.

You may now realize why I haven’t shown a lot of pictures of the inside of the house.

For the past seven months since we moved to the farm, we’ve been living in an increasing level of chaos. And it seems to be getting worse.

Books, boardgames, extra furniture, sports equipment and all of the other items that will someday be in the basement are still packed in boxes and stacked behind the couch between the dining room and the living room. As we buy new things or have to access our packed items, everything gets a little more disorganized (see exhibit A above).

You can see the tracks of our footprints in the drywall dust on the living room floor (see exhibit B above).

I emptied the front hall closet, so that I could fit it out with shelves and rods and racks to actually store things in a somewhat more orderly fashion. That means our ancient vacuum cleaner, shopping bags, hats and gloves are all piled in the corner of the living room (see exhibit C above).

The good news is that we are heading into the home stretch on our basement reno.

The better news is that after exhibits A, B and C were photographed, a couple of tents, an air mattress, a camp stove and assorted Christmas decorations made their way downstairs.

Cartons in a storage closet

No need for colour, carpet or trim in the closet under the basement stairs. Two coats of prime do the job just fine. Some proper shelves would be nice though.

I’m hoping that by party time carpet will be the floors in the rest of the basement. We may not have baseboards or much furniture by then, but if we can at least put some more things downstairs, I’ll feel a little better about our living environment.

I like hosting parties, and I don’t worry too much about my house being perfect. However, I do have some standards. A basic level of organization and tidiness is required. The current state is not even close.

Here’s hoping a hard deadline makes things move a little faster.

Oh, and to Matt’s family… we’re really looking forward to hosting you next month! Really.

Anyone out there have any tips on how to get organized? Please tell me someone else has tiles stacked in the living room, an ironing board in the dining room, dust tracks on the floors, a makeshift kitchen island and tools sitting on pretty much every available surface? Or perhaps you’re already looking ahead to Christmas. Who’s also in party planning mode already? What makes a good party at your house?

How to recover a chair seat

As part of preparing for the family dinner that we hosted on Good Friday, I had to put new cushions on our dining room chairs.

We had our dining room set refinished just before we moved into the farm, and since moving in the chairs have been naked.

Naked dining room chair

Yikes, naked chair!

I know it’s not a hard core renovation, but it is DIY, so I’m posting a brief how-to. I should be clear though that this was my first true upholstery project, and I am sure I made a few mistakes along the way. There are lots of great tutorials online by people much more skilled than me. However, here’s the method that I used for our dining room chairs.

1) Remove the seat from the frame. In my case, this meant unscrewing the seat from four corner braces that were underneath.

Bracket

Brace under the seat that holds the seat to the chair frame.

2) Cut your foam. My foam was 1 1/2 inches thick. I cut the foam about a 1/2 inch bigger all the way around than the seat (no measuring, I just eyeballed it). If you’re fancy or a professional, you’ll probably want to use a foam saw for this step, or even an electric knife. I didn’t have either of those things. I tried a utility knife but ended up having the best luck with my kitchen scissors. The edge wasn’t perfect, but it was smooth enough for me.

Cutting the foam

I allowed about a 1/2″ border all the way around.

3) Using the tips in this video, I tacked the foam to the top of the seat. I stapled about every 3 inches around the three outside edges. Again, if you’re fancy or a professional, you will likely use a pneumatic staple gun for this. I am neither of those things, so I used my manual staple gun that’s a hand-me-down from my father-in-law (pictured in the upper right below). It takes a bit more muscle, but you can do this project without fancy (or professional) tools.

Foam tacked in place

Foam tacked in place

4) The next step is batting. Cut a square of batting that’s about 8 inches bigger all the way around than your seat. Lay the foam covered seat face down on the batting, fold the batting around your seat and staple it on the bottom. Make sure to pull the batting taunt. This is the moment to make a nice smooth surface for your fabric. Start on the straight edges in the middle and work your way out to the edges. Do the corners last. For the corners, I didn’t have a special technique. Usually, I just tried to smooth and squish the batting into position and then I stapled the heck out of it. Once you’ve stapled all the way around, trim off the excess batting.

Batting

Bottom of the chair with the batting stapled in place

5) Flip over your seat and admire the lovely cloud that is now your cushion. At this point, you’re ready for fabric.

Chair seat ready for fabric

Chair seat ready for fabric

6) The process for installing your fabric is the same as the batting. Make sure to allow yourself lots of extra fabric all the way around your cushion, start in the centre of the front edge and staple in place. Pull your fabric taunt as you go and make sure it’s square on your cushion–especially important if you’re using a plaid or striped fabric. I probably stapled every inch or so. For the most part, I used 5/16″ staples, but I switched to longer staples for the corners where I had to staple through a lot of batting and pleats of fabric. The corners are the spots where you’ll have to spend a bit of time figuring out exactly how you want your cushion to look. For me, because I had rounded corners at the front, the best solution seemed to be a double pleat. It took some time to get my fabric to lay exactly the way I wanted it. And then it took some more time to make sure the other corners all looked roughly the same as my first pleat.

Pleats on the front corner

Pleats on the front corner

At the back I did a simple single pleat that’s pretty much hidden by the chair frame.

Back corner pleat

Pleat on the back corner (ignore the wrinkle)

7) Once your cushion is complete, the next step is to reattach the seat to the frame. In my case, this meant rescrewing the seat to the corner braces. I ended up having to get longer screws for this because, with the batting and fabric, the old screws were too short.

Finished chair

A finished chair

As I said at the beginning, this is my first upholstery project (beyond sewing toss cushions for the couch), and my verdict is that this is a very easy DIY. You don’t need any sewing expertise, and you need very minimal equipment. My chairs are not perfect by any means, but I still think they look great, and I’m really pleased with the fabric I chose.

I picked a linen blend that looks very natural. It has a slightly rough texture that I think is appropriate for a farm setting.

Close up of the new fabric

Close up of the new fabric

We’ve had this dining set for five years (I’ll save the story of how it came to be ours for another post), and during all that time the cushions have been torn, mis-matched and not at all cushy. It’s so nice to walk through the dining room and see the chairs finally finished.

Dining room set with finished chairs

Dining room set with finished chairs

For a more comprehensive (and professional) tutorial, I recommend you check out this video which I mentioned in step 3. I used this as a reference when I was beginning my project. Jenny on Little Green Notebook also tackles a lot of upholstery projects and posts great step-by-step tutorials, including this one for chairs that are much more complicated than mine.