Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Found Objects

I'm not ashamed to pick stuff up on street corners, or out of a's sometimes worth that little bit of effort. I don't climb up onto or into tall dumpsters or lift up the tarp! If it's in my line of vision, and it's actually set out as garbage, it's fair game. With a little elbow grease, paint and fabric...I've got a few neat pieces around the house that have elicited "Where'd ya get that? Whaddya mean you found it?" from more than a few people.

1996: 10th Avenue and 57th Street. Armoire.
After checking to see that the legs, 4 small casters and interior rod and shelf were intact, I went through some effort to roll a wooden armoire back up the hill to my office at 59th and 1oth. A family was headed to talk show host Sally Jesse Raphael's studio for a taping, and I guess the husband decided I was just a crazy New Yorker, but not a dangerous one. He helped me push it most of the way! I gave up hailing a cab as numerous taxis whizzed past me, so I stashed the armoire at work and brought my car in the next day. I strapped the armoire to the roof, drove across town and over the 59th St Bridge, inched it down off the car and shimmied it across the sidewalk and into the house. I think my neighbors flee into the safety of their homes when they see me coming.

I don't have the 'before pix' because the word blog was not even a twinkle in my eye, but it was plain, brown wood. Since there's no closet in the living room, I thought it would be perfect for storing winter coats, gloves and scarves. And it is.

How to: I gave the piece a light sanding, and painted just the frame. The doors and side panels are inset, so I cut fabric to size, ran a bead of  Aleene's fabric and craft glue just around the edges, and pressed it in to place. I glued down decorative braided trim called "gimp" (see pic below) but there is a wide array of cording and rick rack from casual to formal that you can choose from to fit your style! I found a color coordinated tassel in the sale bin at a fabric store and just stuck it into the keyhole. With some extra fabric, I covered 2 nearby switchplates. I like that continuity. I didn't bother to paint the inside of the piece--too much work--and you can't see past the coats anyway.

I found a 2nd wooden armoire a few blocks from my house in 2003, and I rolled that puppy right home...screeching down the street at 10am on a Sunday morning. My neighbors are quite used to me and my shenanigans by now! "For the love of God, what is she doing NOW?"
I'm using that armoire as a linen cabinet, upstairs in a teeny former bedroom that is my office/walk in closet. I painted the frame and used gingham contact paper rather than fabric and cut the edges very cleanly so I did not need trim. Using vacuum storage bags to shrink extra pillows, blankets, dust ruffles, a duvet and sheet sets down to mere inches, I can keep them dust free and out of sight.

2002: Greenwich Street, West Village NYC. Star shaped ottoman!
Ok, that was a dicey one. It was about 95 degrees and super humid (my least favorite weather) and I saw an ottoman sticking out of a street corner garbage can. I walked past, but it nagged at me and I went back about 15 minutes later. It was still there, a fact that pleased me, but also gave me reason to pause. This is New York, blink and you miss it! The ottoman looked very sad. It was 3 ft in diameter, covered in dirty pink denim, had pen marks all over it and 3 of the 5 legs were missing.
I thought, "I can save you!!"
I put it on the ground and kicked it to make sure nothing was living inside. No rustling and no skittering. So, I carried this heavy, hot thing that was kinda skeevy all the way to the subway, then home to Long Island City. I know a local upholsterer who does work for magazine shoots and Manhattan residential jobs. She does not mind small side projects. Ileana and her husband took on the job...and rebuilt the bottom, gave it 3 new legs, recovered it in fabric that I provided, and added a nice flowy 6" Bullion fringe. I think they charged me about $125. Well worth the price, for the care they took, and the fact that star shaped pieces are 'more rare.' Oh, and it was free to start with!

So, the next time you see something on the street, don't think twice! Take it home and give quick fixes like these a try. If you screw it up or don't like it after all, you can always put it back out in the garbage.

Chances are, someone like me will come by to nab it.

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