Monday, June 01, 2009

Giving hand-me-down baby furniture a facelift

In this week’s baby bargainista column, you’re in for another DYI treat as Rebecca Atkinson shares how she and her husband updated hand-me-down nursery furniture with a little paint and a lot of elbow grease.

One good thing about having family – especially those who have already had children – is that when you announce you’re pregnant, you’re bound to get offers of hand-me-downs. This happened to us from both sides of our clan, and begat our ‘eclectic’ second-hand collection, which included a crib and a rocking chair/glider. We also included a wooden storage bench we’d had kicking around, simply because we couldn’t fit it anywhere else... The only problem was that nothing actually matched.

Having spent so much time on painting and decorating the nursery, we definitely didn’t want to just put a mishmash of coloured furniture in the room, but hadn’t saved room in our budget to go out and buy many new pieces besides a dresser/change table combo and a bookcase.

The rocking chair was a nice maple, and the other two pieces we had were more of a birch-y finish, although not ‘real’ wood. We’d though about staining them all to match, but realized it would take a huge effort to get it to look right, and my significant other doesn’t have the patience to sand. We then had another idea: if we found a change table to match the rocking chair, perhaps we could paint the other two pieces of furniture a colour to compliment the room’s existing scheme and the maple pieces. However, we wondered if it was possible to paint the crib or if it had to be done professionally, and if so that would cost a lot of money.

After doing some research, we learned it’s perfectly okay to paint a crib and/or other furniture in baby’s room if you follow these guidelines:
1. Paint it with enough time to cure before the baby will be using it (i.e. 3-6 months). This will ensure when baby gums it, he/she doesn’t eat or take off the paint
2. Replace the plastic guards on the top of the rails to make triple sure they don’t get gnawed
3. And of course, don’t use lead-based paint

In terms of the actual painting portion, Hubby experimented with any number of brushes, but discovered that the small-diameter foam rollers (about 4" wide) work wonders to get into all the crevices. Touch ups with a small brush were required, but not as much as if we’d used brushes exclusively. The larger, standard size rollers are too large to fit anywhere comfortably.

If you have access to a spray gun, use it! That would have made life immensely easier, especially if you’re not going to/able to take the piece apart. However, renting one isn’t cheap ($75/day from Home Depot) and buying even a cheap one ($90 and up) hurts the pocketbook, so if you don’t have one, don’t bother. It’ll look fine.

Once we had everything painted, we found that it looked kind of plain, so pulled on our creativity hats and decided that we could at least decorate the bench to match the theme of our room. We’d found some small, cutout chipboard versions of the flashcard animals we stuck to the wall, and used the same wallpaper glue to attach them to the bench. Easy peasy.
So whether it’s an inexpensive hand-me down or a family antique, go ahead! Adding a coat of paint or two can really spruce up a room for very little money.

Lessons learned:
1. You don’t have to go out and buy a matching baby-room set at inflated prices. Find a few used or free items you like (or can live with) and get creative!
2. Baby won’t care about paint drips or brush marks, so don’t get stressed if you aren’t Leonardo Da Vinci.
3. Talk to the paint people at the hardware store to see what they recommend based on the materials you’re trying to cover up.

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5 comments:

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