Friday, August 12, 2011

before & after: flat file

So all of the fun questions I've gotten in the comments of my studio's Apartment Therapy debut have inspired me to ACTUALLY sit down and post some Before & Afters and How-Tos for some of my favorite elements in my place, since Mom and I really managed to achieve a lot on a pretty teeny budget by getting creative with materials, tweaking cheapie Ikea purchases and vintage finds, and just generally getting our hands dirty.

So to start, perhaps my greatest triumph: THE FLAT FILE!

You may remember it from my first post about it a BAJILLION years ago when I first found it abandoned on the curb, but just to refresh your memory, this is what the sucker looked like when I first laid eyes on it:

TONS of potential, don't get me wrong... but definitely a little shabby.  I knew I needed to paint it, but HOW? Spray-paint seemed the most logical, but where would I find a large enough workspace? If I painted it with a brush to avoid the whole potential-asphyxiation dilemma, what kind of paint would I use so there wouldn't be distracting brush strokes everywhere? Where would I leave it to dry between coats? These questions would probably have seemed less daunting if I wasn't already in the middle of painting all of my kitchen cabinets, installing carpet myself in the closet and office area, and just generally feeling DIY-overload from moving into my new place.

So I turned to Craigslist.

 The "Creative Gigs" section on Craigslist is an overwhelmed DIY-er's best friend. I figured since I spent ZERO dollars on the piece itself, I was willing to throw down a little bit of cash to make sure the painting was done right.

I got a lot of responses from shady-sounding auto body shops in the outer-reaches of NYC (think Staten Island, Queens, N. Bronx, etc.), but the very first response I got turned out to be the right one: a sweet gal in Clinton Hill (the next neighborhood over from me) who was a painting major at Pratt, and had a studio in her apartment, was happy to do the job for $100. She told me the best kind of paint to buy (self-leveling SIGN paint, which I would have NEVER come up with on my own), and after a *hilarious* Lucy-and-Ethel-style scene of me and her lugging that enormous thing up a ridiculously narrow, CURVED flight of stairs (she forgot to mention she was in a second-story walk-up), it was in her studio, ready for its makeover.

Two days later I picked it up and brought it back to my apartment (with the indispensible help of a burly man-friend whom I bought lunch afterwards), and it was GORGEOUS!

... but still not finished (I am a perfectionist; so sue me).

I still wanted to put it on casters so that I could move it around, and to keep it from looking too heavy. Utilizing a highly-scientific ratio of J-B Weld metal glue, power tools, and an odd number of nuts and bolts to secure the suckers to the super-thin sheet metal, we managed to get the casters securely (well, securely ENOUGH) in place.

We totally failed to document the process adequately, mainly because we were too focused on keeping all of our fingers, toes and eyeballs intact, but if you have any specific questions about exactly how we did it, feel free to leave questions in the comments.

I also had a piece of glass cut to fit the top of it, since the sign paint scratches easily, so for about $150 total, I now have a ridiculously gorgeous, functional, conversation-starting piece that I will keep forever. Woo hoo!!!

Ok, we DID lose a drawer-handle along the way. One day I will replace all of them with less-cheap versions. Emphasis on ONE DAY.

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