I won’t lie to you: I’m nearly as pleased with this post’s title as I am with the items pictured below. This weekend I picked up three emery pillar candleholders from Crate & Barrel and then rounded out the half-dozen with three blogger-approved candleholders from CB2. (Manhattan Nest is surely responsible for moving some units for CB2.)
I buy very few purely decorative items – I’m not into having tchotchkes and gewgaws cluttering up surfaces and enticing Jarrod to break them. One of the other decorative items to slip past my knickknack filter is Dwell Studio’s urchin object in antique gold, as seen in my IKEA VITTSJO nesting table hack post.
Likewise, I permitted myself to get swindled by Rebuilding Exchange on a $15 brass door plate. Is so pretty! I think I’ll put it on the kitchen-facing side of our bedroom door. The hieroglyphs will fool people into thinking something exotic is contained within — not the piles of sweatshirts littered around my half of the bed which I shed mid-sleep because our sheets are so warm.
The Most Interesting Man meme is still a thing, right? Totes!
And now for my next trick, I transform IKEA’s VITTSJÖ nesting tables…
into nesting tables!
But let me back up: as with all things, I had very specific requirements in mind. I wanted a larger table for our lamp (West Elm’s Morten Table Lamp, which I scored for much cheaper via a floor model sale) and a smaller table for Jarrod to pull out to use next to his chair when we’re camped out in the living room for the evening. It had to be at least 18x18x18. It had to be metal and glass because we already have too much wood happening in there.
I searched for used nesting tables on Craigslist for months before giving up. I then searched for new nesting tables at every store/website I could think of before giving up. It seems that stores offer only a few nesting table options, and they are very expensive.
Enter the VITTSJO nesting tables, which seemed perfect in concept, except what’s up with the child table being twice as long as its parent table? Not sure what IKEA is going for there. I would prefer that the smaller table nest fully within the larger table. I bought the set planning to hack it but partially assembled it first just to confirm that the table as-is didn’t make any sense.
Nope, that doesn’t make any sense.
I totally winged it with this hack – there were several opportunities for disaster and I would have preferred to buy them used because it would made it less of a bummer if I ruined them. The VITTSJO series is new to IKEA, however, so it’s not turning up on Craigslist yet. Much love to Jarrod for encouraging me to barrel through.
Just like your favorite New Kids on the Block song, there were five major steps: cutting the metal frame, piecing back together the frame, cutting the MDF shelf, cutting the glass and painting the legs. I’ll use NKOTB and some modified IKEA assembly illustrations to walk you through it step by step.
Step one, we can have lots of fun… learning how to cut metal.
I needed to make six cuts, as indicated above. I tried three approaches: a grinding wheel on my miter saw, a hacksaw and a jigsaw. I’ll elaborate more in a separate follow-up post (oooh, I bet you can’t wait for that); for now I’ll say that I went with my Ryobi miter saw, which was fast, accurate, loud and sparky. Hence the precautionary fire extinguisher. (Update: see Metal Cutting Options)
Sawing left me with the pieces seen below. Modifying the bottom rails was easy; I just needed to drill new screw holes at the end of each piece to replace the holes I sawed off. The top was more challenging because I needed to reconnect the pieces in a way that would be as stable and seamless as possible.
Step two, there’s so much we can do… to piece this back together. I walked around The Home Depot inserting all manner of things into the hollow metal tube to determine what would allow for a nice, tight fit.
The winner: a piece of 1/2 inch hardwood. It fit perfectly tight – so much so that I didn’t need glue.
I touched up the cut edges with a Sharpie paint pen while Jarrod crept up on me with the camera. I think I look half-crazed in the right-hand photo: I was really excited that this hackneyed scheme of mine was actually working out.
The cutting scars are discrete like a high-class face lift – not invisible, but you wouldn’t notice them if you weren’t looking for them.
Step three, it’s just you and me… and a too-long particleboard shelf. Nothing a jigsaw can’t fix.
Step four, I can give you more… photoshopped IKEA illustrations.
No pictures of this step, because I paid Ashland Glass to do it for me. The IKEA glass is tempered, which means it can’t be cut, so I had a new piece of glass cut to fit. $34, which isn’t cheap, but $34 + the $60 tables is still significantly cheaper than anything I found elsewhere.
Step five, don’t you know that the time has arrived… to dress it up a bit with some gold dip-dyed legs. I tried three different types of gold paint and will compare the products in another follow-up post that you can await anxiously: Plaid’s Liquid Leaf in Brass, Rub ‘n’ Buff in Gold Leaf and Krylon’s Gold Leafing Pan. I liked Liquid Leaf best. (Update: see Gold Leaf Paint Options)
Pro tip!: start with the back legs. Not as big a deal if you mess them up. I learned that FrogTape didn’t create nearly as sharp a line as good ol’ 3M Scotch Blue.
Seriously, when all other projects feel too daunting/expensive to tackle (I’m looking at you, Bedroom), just paint a door or two. Enormous and immediate gratification.
Take this exterior back door, for example.
Someone had even scratched their name into the paint. I corrected it for them.
So satisfying! I sanded it a bit and then repainted with Rust-Oleum Stops Rust Protective Enamel in Gloss Smoke Gray.
Another example: someone got creative with brown paint on the exterior side of our apartment’s back door (the one leading to the catio). Yech.
Furthermore, the original brass door plate had been painted over so many times that you can hardly see the decoration.
I sanded the door, cleaned off the dust with Klean-Strip Easy Liquid Sander Deglosser, applied a coat of Kilz and then three coats of white paint.
I didn’t intend to dive into restoring the door plate, but once it was in our backyard I thought “Well, might as well…”
It required two rounds of stripper to simply expose the screws that allowed me to pry off the plate.
Then it was time for a soak in a pot of boiling water, followed by a Bar Keepers Friend + toothbrush scrub, followed by a lot of toothpicks. Rinse and repeat, three times.
In truth, I don’t even love the plate itself – it’s too ornate for my taste and I think the crystal knob looks we’re running a bed & breakfast – but I’m satisfied nevertheless to have recovered it from years of paint. I like seeing it when I come home, even if I’m also thinking “Man, that door needs a new knob.”
Both of these projects can serve as examples of why I never feel bad for doing things to our rented apartment “without permission.” Are my landlords sacrificing a Saturday to paint a blazing hot exterior door or restore a vintage door plate? Nope. I am. So, please excuse me: while I’m up on this high horse I’m going to replace a ceiling light fixture.
One more thing, on a more personal note: Happy 2nd Birthday to my niece Cora! I’ve been trying to teach her about feminism (gotta start ’em young) but I think our cats have had a bigger impression on her. The other day when prompted to say “Bye, Aunt Marti” she said “Bye, Aunt Kitty!” I couldn’t ask for a better downstairs neighbor.