Feathering My Nest the Clean Green Way

The concept of re-using things is certainly a “green” idea. But it’s not always a “clean” idea, as in non-toxic. Some old pieces of furniture carry an ugly past —mildew, lead paint— that can pollute your home if you bring them in unawares.

Recently I’ve been enjoying a number of DIY decorator blogs (like theinspiredroom.net and funkyjunkinteriors.blogspot.com), and with 6 weeks until my baby’s due date (and nesting instinct in full gear!) the inspiration has been enough for me to take action, scour craigslist.com for cool vintage items, break out the sand paper, and start feathering my nest. So how to balance a love for vintage items with a determination not to bring toxic stuff into my home? Here’s my go-to list:

  • Check items for signs of mildew (black spotting on wood) and odors. No smoke, mold, or animal smells welcome!
  • Check for peeling paint/other finishes, and be aware of work involved to restore pieces. There’s a real design trend for “chippy white paint” and “weathered finishes” but these are just asking for home contamination as they continue to wear.
  • When attempting a restoration project, be aware of the risks involved with both dust and chemical inhalation. Choose low or zero VOC products (paint), apply in a ventilated area, and wear protective gear.
  • Vacuum and wash/scrub all items with a rag and water, vinegar if needed, before bring into your home.
  • Clean up your mess as you go, so paint chips from old furniture, etc. don’t spread around your work area/home.

Want to see some of the things I’ve been working on?

Drawers

Old drawer used as a kitchen table tray

These drawers (3 of them) came inside this cute old cabinet which I snagged free off of craigslist. (Yes, free!)

Old cabinet

OK, so it isn’t so cute in this picture, but wait until you see my after photo (coming later…). The lady I got it from had scraped half of the paint off, and was done with the project, so I took over. I love the scraped look of the drawers, so with a thorough inspection and washing I brought them inside.

The first drawer is used as a tray on my kitchen table with a basket of napkins and glass bowl of flowers in it. It keeps things a little neater and gives the whole group presence.

Here is another drawer, which I’ve used to hold books in the living room. Love how it again gives presence to the grouping, as well as allowing them to be displayed upright on a trunk.

Drawer used to tidy coffe table books

(By the way, how do you like the architectural paper book covers? I’ve seen this treatment in Pottery Barn to simplify the random colors of a stack of books. My husband thought I was crazy to “cover up all the color.” Hmm, I’ll have to live with it awhile and see if I miss the color. )

Old Mirror

Here is another project that I got for free off craigslist (gotta love free stuff). I actually drove over to get this old mirror, and left because it was too decrepit, then thought, hey, free is free, turned around and went back for it. The lady said it had been hanging on the side of the barn. Oh my. Do you see where the mirror backing is peeling from the frame mirror pieces?

Peeling old mirror

It sat in my garage for 2 months before I figured out a brilliant solution: scrape away what’s coming off, and paint those areas of the mirror black. So, with dust mask and rubber gloves, and a vacuum to clean my mess and not allow it to spread, I scraped the backing off those side pieces. Then I carefully masked up the other areas, and sprayed it with black satin spray paint. It was not a low VOC spray paint (I don’t know of one, do you?), but I did this job outside, in a full breeze, while wearing gloves, a mask, and holding my breath for spurts, then walking away to catch my breath again. (A pain, but I think this is about the only way to do spray painting with a chemical awareness.)

Here is the finished product in my living room.

Old mirror new

Amazing, eh? I think so! This was a completely blank corner, so it’s really added a lot to the space.

Oh, and here are the books before being covered with paper. Thoughts on the difference?

Do you have some fun before and afters from feathering your nest?

I’m linking to a blog party on uses for old drawers at FunkyJunkInteriors and a linky party for inspiration at TheInspiredRoom.