Making over a thrift store centerpiece

Okay, one last post about the decorations for Sandy’s retirement party, and then I swear, we can all go on with our lives. I saved this one last, because I wasn’t quite as happy with the items turned out, but if I can’t share the things I’ve learned, then no one really benefits, right?

While at the thrift stores in Clintonville looking for frames, I dragged my (very patient) friend over to check out the “candles and random centerpieces” section, because I thought it might be neat to do some sort of centerpiece for the party. My friend spotted a candleholder/basket combo that she said seemed very much like Sandy’s style, and I agreed immediately. However, the metal candleholder part was a black metal and the basket was a not-very-inspiring brown. Having gained some confidence in spray-painting the register cover for the bathroom and reading a bunch of “oh, making over furniture/accessories with spray paint is super easy” articles and posts, I was convinced that it’d be a snap to change the colors on the candleholder, so I picked it up (plus a really cute wire tray with sleek wooden handles). A trip to Home Depot to get some fun colors of paint, and I was ready to tackle the project.

Pulling the pieces of the centerpiece apart was a little bit difficult, but manageable. I taped off the handles of the basket (it’d be a shame to cover that pretty blonde wood) and laid down some cardboard. Because the painted register cover in the bathroom floor has held up marvelously, without any chips or scratches, despite being walked on, I figured that these metal decorative pieces wouldn’t need a primer or anything. This may have been mistake #1. I sprayed each piece with slow, even strokes to avoid drips and managed to get full coverage with two layers, plus some touch-up. (Mistake #2? Maybe more layers next time?) I let everything fully dry, because I was able to tackle this project early in the week and I didn’t attempt assembly until Wednesday when I was putting together the other projects.

Since pulling the pieces of the centerpiece apart had been a bit tough, I was apprehensive to put them back together. Sure enough, I managed to scrape a little of the paint from the metal candleholders with the basket. Not sure how to touch up the paint with the pieces assembled, I tried wrapping the basket part in a plastic grocery bag to protect it while I resprayed the damaged parts of the candleholder. Yay, success! I let the centerpiece dry overnight in the garage, so I wouldn’t wake up o find some curious cats with sage-green paint in their fur. Thursday morning, I used my rotary cutter (totally a worthwhile tool to have purchased), metal ruler, and cutting mat to cut some strips of the striped fabric from the dry erase board project. I applied fray check to the edges of the strips and let them dry while I was at work. On the way home, I popped into the grocery store and picked up some mini gourds for the basket, and then tied the strips of ribbon in bows around each arm of the candleholder. A stop at Meijer on the way to the lake for some tapers, and I had all of the parts I needed.

I put the wire basket over on the buffet for people to set cards in, and then I set up the centerpiece, but the centers of all of Sandy’s tables tend to be meticulously decorated. I shifted some candleholders around on the deck and parked the freshly-painted, be-gourded and fabric-ribboned candleholder out on the glass table in the covered part of the deck. It looked awesome. I lit the tapers and ran into the house to help with some other things, including decorating the cake. I didn’t come back out onto the porch until we were serving dinner. This is when I learned that they make dripless tapers for a reason. (Whoa, mistake #3.) The candles didn’t do great in the windy environment, and while they stayed lit and dry, the wax had dripped all over the metal bits of the candleholder, down on the gourds, into the weaving of the basket. It was lovely. I am supremely glad that I had put the centerpiece on the glass table, which was easily cleaned up with a razorblade, instead of on one of the tablecloth-covered places to eat inside. In picking bits of wax off the candleholder, I also discovered that the paint was entirely too easy to accidentally chip off of the metal surface. I had been lulled into a false sense of security by our register cover, but next time I’ll be priming pieces before I spray them. In packing up the next day, I noticed parts of the wire basket had managed to get scraped up a little by the cards. (Seriously? So random.) Okay, lesson learned, spray paint is not necessarily durable. I have not been scared off from these kinds of projects, but next time I’ll be thinking through the process a bit more and looking into primer!

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