Painting and Decorating Made Easier!

Archive for July, 2014

Furniture Recycling: How to Ensure Optimal Finishing Results

The recycling and refinishing of any furniture piece depends upon its overall condition. Check your piece very carefully – in full light!

Is the frame solid, and even? Are all of the legs, or feet, in good condition – no big cracks or breaks? Is the piece free of any damage or infestation from mold, mildew, termites, carpenter ants, etc? Are there any signs of water damage – eg. warping, peeling layers of wood?


1. Assess your skills and abilities. Have you ever repaired anything? How handy are you with hand and power tools like screwdrivers, pliers, sanders, drills, and saws?

The number of projects, and the result of each, will show your understanding of tool use. No one can be fooled here. Not even the recycler himself or herself.

2. Rate your patience level. Is it up there with the fine craftspersons that are recognized, and well-paid, for their expertise, workmanship, and fine detailing? Is it down there with the “who’s that again” beginner hobbyists? Or is it somewhere in the middle, with touches on both ends?

In my experience, members in the first group tend to be patient overall, yet “impatient in their practice.” And, this adaptability helps them to persevere, until their projects are done to perfection. Those that you’ve never heard of or seen haven’t got that far yet.

That said, when choosing a furniture piece to recycle, be certain that you have enough patience and perseverance to do a quality job.

Here’s a short list for achieving the smoothest finish possible…

It’s all about multiple applications, and abrasive (eg. sandpaper) polishing between each.

1. Each type of wood requires slight variations in surface preparation. Example: Hardwood (eg. oak, cherrywood) requires thinner coatings to be applied, and finer grades of abrasives to be used.

2. The furniture can be stripped of its original finish. Then you can a apply a new color of stain, followed by separate coats of sealer and clear finish(s) – mainly varnish, polyurethane, acrylic, or urethane.

3. When the furniture is to be painted, the old paint may or may not have to be removed – based on its present adhesion.  In the case of clear-finished furniture, the surface must be sanded before applying an oil-based primer.

4. The optimal finishing always requires the complete removal of the existing finish. This is where the real work rests.  Once the stain and sealer, or first prime coat of paint, is applied and allowed to dry, the process of sanding may begin.

5. It is important to use abrasives in stages of increasing smoothness between each coat of finishing product used.  You can start with a No. 220 or 320 sandpaper, Then step down to a No. 400 only and/or on to a No.. 600. After each sanding, use a tack cloth to wipe the surface clean.

6. Each step in the sanding process increases the smoothness of the piece – including the smoothness of the finished piece.

7. The brush and roller techniques can produce fine work. If available, it’s advisable to spray finish the final coat(s) to produce the ultimate finish. Here, experience is required!

8. In the final application of using a clear finish, finishing compounds – eg. pumice powder, waxes and polishing – may be used to increase surface luster.

9. The greatest requirement for completing fine wood finishing is endless patience.

A personal  example…

My wood finishing skills were put to the test with the finishing of a newly-constructed courtroom. On completion, all of the surfaces were ultra smooth, with perfect color uniformity in the stain work.


The variety of finishes available is there to appeal to one’s personal sense of décor, creative style and imagination. When completed, they can be the focal point of any room, and an important part of the room’s enjoyment and usefulness.  A few examples. . . 

1. Solid color opague finishing – eg. dining room chair, entrance settee, desk 

2. Distressing, which makes furniture appear old and warm – eg. dresser, side table, lamp base

3. Crackling, where surface has cracked finish – eg. candlesticks, light fixtures

4. Federal style colors such as grey, dark red, royal blue, olive green, mustard yellow – eg. china closet, wet sink, large trunk, writing table

5. Marbelized finish, look of fine stone – eg. table top, blanket chest, bench

6. Oriental simulated lacquer, high gloss black or burgundy – eg. jewelry chest, large floor table

I’m always looking for furniture pieces to recycle, refinish, restore, rejuvenate, etc. You can, too. Starting with the furniture in the room where you’re sitting now!

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Thanks for visiting. Have fun “with the process.”

Hospital Painting and Decorating: Questions and Answers

1. What are three appealing, yet low cost, ways to revitalize the front lobby of the hospital?

A. Clean all surfaces.

B. On clear-finished wood surfaces, apply a new coat of varnish, or polyurethane finish.

C. Create small areas using accent paint of contrasting colors.

2. Keeping the walls in a very active pediatrics wing/area looking great can be a big challenge for the staff painter(s). Any surface treating suggestions?

If the walls are not tiled, I would suggest applying a high gloss enamel or epoxy for durability, and increased brightness.

3. What paint products hold up best on surfaces frequently exposed to cart and gurney slams, crashes, scrapes, etc.?

There really are no “best” paint products to use. Even a hardened urethane finish will not withstand the contact with moving metal objects. A clear plastic laminate is suggestion, however.

4. The general patient rooms in our small hospital need a facelift, and we can’t afford it right now. What can we do?

One easy and inexpensive method is to apply a painted border to the walls of each room, or to one accent wall. Multi-colors can be used to create a fresh look, and to blend one area/space with an adjacent one (eg. corridor).

5. Keeping the surfaces of public areas – eg. restrooms – neat in low-budget hospitals and clinics can be a major challenge. Any suggestions?

Many areas are tiled. So, this limits what can be done. Sometimes, the only thing that can be done is to clean, then paint the ceiling. Preferably with a high gloss finish with greater washability.

6. Graffiti has become a problem with certain, less used exterior areas on our hospital campus. Any ideas?

There is little deterrence for delinquency. As it occurs, if it is a hard surface, it can be sandblasted, or removed with paint remover. In many instances, the graffiti-area can be touched up with paint which correctly matches the immediate and surrounding surfaces.

7. The front desk areas in many departments look unappealing – to employees, patients, doctors, etc. People-wise, it’s a “must do.” Budget-wise, it’s a “How can we afford to do this?”

You can afford to do this if you look first at what’s already available to use. It might be time to clean out the paint shop-related storeroom(s). You’ll be amazed by what you find there. Also, this is a great time to employ the creativity of a few interested staff members.

8. Places like the doctors’ lounge need an upgrade. Is there any cost-effective way to get this done? How do we keep our doctors happy – and stay within our budget? 

A. I would ask the doctors for any ideas they have.

B. Then, choose what’s most affordable, and time-sensitive.

C. A repaint is easy. It’s less expensive than wallcovering, which can be very decorative.

D. A wallpaper border or stenciling can be applied over the finish-painted walls.

 9. Our nurses’ stations are a let down. What can our staff painter(s) do to “face lift” these areas, and “uplift” our nurses’ moral?

Including desks and cabinets, there’s not a whole lot that can be done. Whatever space is available, consider a finish product and effect that is decorative – eg. sponge or colored texture.

10. Some of the hospital’s lifeblood work areas could use a little lift, to show support for the employees that work so hard there, behind the scenes. Any creative and cost-effective ideas for our painter(s)?

Usually, painters are not the ones who are given the choice to utilize their creativity in decorating such areas. Even though their suggestions tend to be both professional and simpatico. Many scientific studies have been conducted about hospital décor and color choices. Forget most of these. Ask the people who actually work in these areas. They’ll appreciate the gesture.

11. Re: What patient room bathroom colors and hues stay looking good, and are both soothing and pleasing to the eyes of ill persons, often under a lot of stress – and fear?

Light color earthtones with pastel accent are the easiest on the eyes. Neutral colors alone, especially of one hue or shade, can be boring. Try using one bright color to create an accent wall.

12. What wallcoverings hold up, and are still relatively affordable?

A. The most durable wallcoverings are also the most expensive.

B. There are select wallpapers which have a clear plastic coating on them. This finish increases product lifespan and wearability. And, these products are quite affordable.

C. Generally, wallpapers, which cost less, will not hold up to light effects, repeated cleanings, and multiple repairs. Also, they can turn slightly yellow over time.

D. You will get the most out of your money with a commercial grade vinyl. That’s why they are used predominantly in business construction applications. And, yes, it carries a higher price tag.

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Thank you for visiting. I hope that your projects run smoothly – and safely.

Hotel Painting and Decorating: 10 More Questions and Answers

1. When needing to touch up a very visible surface with new paint, versus old product, what can be done to maximize the blending of a new product into the older surrounding finish?

Wash and dry the surface. Try to touch up the area, using the same method as was used originally.

2. In very hot and humid climates, such as Florida, what cost-effective paint products hold up better?

Interior or exterior, it is best to use a smooth, non-porous paint. Either semi-gloss or gloss, in either latex or oil paint.

3. When more than ten guest rooms need a paint “face lift,” and budget is very limited (a major consideration), what can be done first?

Clean the surfaces first. Next, touch up with paint. Then, paint the entire room, if the budget allows. An appealing, cost-effective option: In each room or area, paint one wall in a complementary hue or shade.

4. Let’s say that the property owners can’t, or don’t, fund guest room upgrades. What cost-conscious painting and decorating touches will enhance the area’s aesthetics and please the guests?

Wood furniture can be touched up with stain or varnish, even made to look “authentically old.” Repainting the entire room, including all trim, creates a fresh look – and tells guests that they really matter. Another option: Solid wood pieces can be sanded lightly and painted. “Touches” such as these will please the guests – and detract from the non-funded upgrades.

5. How do you repaint and childproof a family suite at the same time?

While painting a room, the maintenance techs can secure all loose items. Also, they can add electrical protection to the guest room, to prevent electrical shock to those little, and very special, guests. Regarding paint: Choose acrylic latex. It dries quickly and leaves behind few/no fumes, little/no odor.

6. In choosing which public areas to prioritize painting/decorating wise, during major budget-crunching periods, which should be at the top of your list?

There is always a difference of opinion here. I, however, would make sure that the bathroom and kitchen areas are kept as neat as possible.

7. During first shift, is there any way to paint a high traffic area, and keep guests from using/crossing “wet paint” zone anyway?

Normally, an area to be painted is secured by using “CAUTION” perimeter tape, and “WET PAINT” signs. These should be quite sufficient to get the guests’ attention.

8. During second or third shift, what’s the best, and probably most available, light source to use, when you need optimal light to paint or finish very high visibility and high traffic areas?

The available interior ambient lighting is sufficient. If the work includes exterior, then a halogen work light can be used, if needed.

9. When the total square footage of guest rooms that need repainting by far exceeds your paint supply of the original paint color, what are two alternative solutions that management might authorize?

Management either will say, “Do what you can.” Or, they will say, “Hold off until we can get more paint.” If very little paint is needed, you can offset the amount by adding a small amount of water,  if the paint is latex.

10. How can the “works” of our graffiti-inclined guests (usually teens and young adults) be treated without breaking the paint shop budget?

In most cases, the graffiti is done with an ink marker. This can be spray-primed, initially. When dry, touch up the area with the appropriate paint(s). It is not effective to wash only the graffiti. It will only dull the painted surface.

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Thanks for visiting. Enjoy your day! Enjoy your life!

Hotel Painting and Decorating: 10 Questions and 10 Answers

1. How do you prep an exterior concrete surface or area for painting?

First, the area should be sprayed with an etching/neutralizing solution, recommended muristic acid. Then, scrub the surface with a stiff brush, and rinse thoroughly. Also, a concentrated solution of TSP (Trisodium phosphate) can be used to remove the calcium or lime deposits. Be sure to patch the area with a concrete resurfacer, or its equivalent.

2. What types of exterior concrete paint adhere better, and hold up longer in high traffic areas – also extreme environmental conditions?

Concrete is very porous. So any recommended coating will work. It is always better to prime the surface with a high viscosity primer, then topcoat with an exterior acrylic latex. To keep the surface cleaner and more washable, you can apply a clear coat, if desired.

3. What paint products work best in offices or work areas of staff with chronic medical conditions, such as asthma and allergies?

There are products available with low odor and reduced residual solvent evaporation, that will absorb into the carpet, or other porous or absorbent surfaces. In general, latex paint offers the least negative effects for those with breathing difficulties.

4. Which wallcoverings, if any, are childproof – eg. crayolas, markers, paint?

To my knowledge, there are no wallcoverings that a person can buy, that are resistant to all stains or writing objects. That said, I’d check out some of the newer products made especially for children’s areas.

5. In meeting rooms, how can wallcovering be used to both recharge and soothe attendees?

Where people gather, walls that have textured, patterned, or bright or earthtone colors – or a combination – are the most uplifting. Wallcovering installation options vary, and depend on budget, layout, time, etc.

A. Install wallcovering on every wall in the room, to create uniform and monochromatic effect.

B. Install wallcovering on only one wall/area in each room, to create accent wall.

C. Install wallcovering on the top or bottom half of one-to-all walls, to create wainscoting effect.

D. Cut wallcovering into narrower vertical panels. Hang in alternating vertical covering-to-paint-to wall-covering-to-paint and so on one wall only, or on all walls. Effect: subtle stripes.

E. Install wallcovering border near the top of all walls. Effect: Stylish and eclectic. Option: Stencil border.

F. Install wallcovering on one, opposite or all soffit areas in each room. Effect: Futuristic, relaxing.

6. How can hotel fences be repainted/resurfaced without breaking the budget?

Look at the available paint in your paint shop/department. Especially, look for paint which has set for a while. Next buy the best, most inexpensive paint that you can find.

7. To maximize fence paint adherence and durability, how should the metal surface be prepped?

On unpainted fence, if it’s galvanized, an acid wash primer or galvanized primer is the best choice. On previously painted fence, all of the surfaces should be pressure cleaned. Then, apply an acrylic or oil-based primer.

8. The wallcovering in large public areas – eg. meeting room – looks shabby and faded, and there’s no time to redo the room right. What can be done at reasonable expense?

Wash the entire surface(s) with soap and water. Let each area dry. Repair any damage to the wallcovering. Then, paint over the wallcovering using an appropriate paint. Added tip: Acrylic latex can be applied directly to wallpapers. Vinyl wallcovering should be primed first with oil or latex based primer.

9. Say that a few panels of wallcovering in a lot of guest rooms need to be repaired and/or replaced – and you can’t find any extra rolls in storage? What do you do?

The damaged areas should be patched. Then you have two options. One: You can paint the entire room to create uniformity. Or, two: Paint over the wallcovering only. I recommend using an accent color, complementary to the room’s or suite’s overall color scheme.

10. What paint products, if any, can be used in guest rooms, when turn around time is very tight and environmental contaminants – eg. fumes – must be strictly limited?

A low odor interior flat or low sheen latex paint is recommended. Select a product that will create, or leave behind, the desired finish.

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READ ON: “Hotel Painting and Decorating: 10 More Questions and Answers”

Painting and Maintaining Farm Buildings

On a long wooden shelf in the cellar, my great-grandfather kept a one-half gallon stoneware jug filled with “medicinal spirits.” The females in the family pretended they knew nothing about the corked brown and white jug’s content. Thus, they never mentioned it in public.

On the shelf below, he stored his “farm house” paint supplies. Considered to be many by the standards in the 1940s and 1950s. His inventory included the following:

. wide assortment of artist brushes, standing in quart-sized Mason glass jars,

. 1-to-3 inch paint brushes for interior painting and varnishing,

. turpentine in tightly-sealed Mason jars,

. pints and quarts of oil-based and lacquer paints, soft hues-to-vibrant colors,

. pints and quarts of stain and varnish,

. bottles of linseed oil, etc.

Setting on the floor were metal buckets (“pails”), small aluminum wash tubs and two wooden one-step stools. Under the nearby wooden cellar steps stood several well-worn, five-to-six foot wooden step ladders.

“Your great-grandfather had a lot more painting supplies that that,” affirmed his granddaughter.

Great-grandfather had two garages. In garage no. 2, he stored brushes as wide as six inches…pints and gallons of exterior paint…more cans of stain and varnish…a big metal container of turpentine, more ladders, etc.

In the barn that faced U. S. 27, he kept his workshop. “It always smelled of paint, and sawdust.” Shelf after shelf was stocked with more paint and more finishing supplies.

On shelves built onto one wall, he kept supplies and equipment needed to repair and maintain his many outbuildings: cans of building and barn paint (red and white), paint brushes, gallon-size metal containers of turpentine; sanding blocks, hammers, hand saws, screwdrivers, planers, wooden miters, plumb lines, etc.

Newspapers in the area ran articles that mentioned my great-grandfather’s farm. They reported that all of the farm buildings always looked freshly painted, and well-maintained. Even the huge DeKalb Hybrid Corn “advertisement” on the south exterior wall of the main barn.

In his later years, my great-grandfather turned all of the painting tasks over to his sons. That arrangement didn’t last long. They were busy operating their own large farms.

Eventually, Great-grandfather put the job of painting and keeping up the farm buildings into the hands of the young and strong sons of an Amish neighbor. That worked out very well. Growing up, the three young men had visited my great-grandfather many times. They respected him, and the great care he gave to everything on his farm.

Two years after Great-grandfather’s death, my grandmother and great aunts sold the farm. It must have been difficult; that was their family home. The U. S. foundation of their heritage. Still, they were ready to move on.

Recently, I read a copy of the sale notice for the farm – and the related story carried by papers five Midwestern states, plus Pennsylvania, New York, and Florida.  Great-grandfather’s farm was identified as having been “the farm enterprise of the most prominent farmer in Adams County’s history…”

The description said that it was “prime farmland…producing bumper crops every year.” Every foot of the property was said to be “in excellent condition… All buildings and structures have been freshly-painted. Every section of fence is taut and mended, every post firmly imbedded…”

The “custom-built, red brick farmhouse featured twelve-rooms including a living room, parlor and dining room, kitchen, six-bedrooms and two bathrooms…all hardwood floors, fine woodwork and trim in every room…large front porch, enclosed back porch…”

The notice read, “Shade trees surround the farm house and the summerhouse…” The fruit trees were described as “healthy, producing large yields every season.” The remaining grape arbors still produced “heavily-loaded bunches of large black, red, and white grapes for eating, and making juice…twelve beehives produce gallons of natural clover honey…”

Within a few years of the sale of the farm, its new owners tore down every building except the red brick house and the summerhouse. Three or four adjoining areas had been planted in grass. The surrounding land, that my great-grandfather had cleared and prepared to grow crops, had been sold or rented out to a nearby farmer.

That’s what I saw on my last visit to the area. The view didn’t compare to the old, full-color photos in family albums. Nor did it come close to the old newspaper descriptions, or stories told by generations of relatives.

Nor to the 9-by-12 inch photo hanging on the wall here. The last family portrait of a strong, principled and traditional farm family. Everyone standing in their Sunday dresses, suits, hats, and gloves. In front of the pristine red brick house, with the freshly-painted white window frames, green shutters, and white front porch trim, gutters and downspouts.

Proof that Twenty-first Century commercial painters can still find worthy inspiration and outstanding examples hanging in their own family trees. And, growing on their crop-yielding lands. Farms and otherwise!

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Thanks for visiting “Painting with Bob.”

Wallcoverings: Much More Than Just Paint

Does paint appear to be not quite good enough? Does an area of your office or house seem to be lacking that special something? It could be that the right wallcovering is just the thing you need.

Paints may have a lot of beautiful colors. Yet, it is the wallcoverings which reveal the most splendid styles in textures and patterns you will ever see.

Your eyes will be set ablaze. This is true, especially when you look through the many sample books available to choose from. Depending on the particular area you wish to decorate, you can choose from a very wide variety of wallcoverings.

In a broad sense, there are three main types of wallcovering: wallpapers, vinyls and textiles. Even more refined, in each you will discover exciting variations in color, texture, surface material, pattern, and effect. Two examples: flocks and foils. Also, there are differences in backing material –  namely, paper and cloth.

A wide variation in wall coverings is ready to respond to your desire to create a decorative atmosphere. One that is pleasing to the eye, in an exciting or sublime form of expression.

For me, the diversity of wallcoverings add to the creativity which can be expanded upon in designing your office or home décor. In keeping with the furnishings you have in mind. I would add that selecting the design or pattern should be completed with full knowledge of your purpose.

In selecting your wallcovering, ask yourself: “Who will be installing it?”

If you choose to do it yourself, then, for your sake – and that of your decorating budget, I hope you have the knowledge and skills necessary to complete such a detailed task. If you are that confident in yourself, by all means be my guest. And enjoy yourself.

On the other hand, when you are in doubt, seek a professional installer. Put your mind at ease. You will be glad you did.

Remember: There are inherent variables in hanging wallcoverings, which only an experienced person can manage successfully. With everyone else, there will be a struggle included in their attempt to do it themselves.

If you must give it a try, test yourself out.

Make some sample boards. Or, try your paperhanging skills out on a wall in the garage. (No joke!)If you have mastered anything, it will show. If not, don’t show your family or neighbors what you’ve done. They might get a good laugh at the time it took and the money you’ve spent.  And, who wants that?

Closing thought…

Installing wallcovering right takes skill, precision, patience, and flexibility. A little humor, and some great music in the background helps,  too!


The Lodge in Quebec

It’s one type of experience to stay at a lodge, overlooking a crystal blue lake and surrounded by thousands of towering Pine, Spruce, Balsam, Yellow Birch, and Hemlock trees. It’s another one to own such a property. It’s a totally unique one to work on its restoration.

For over three generations, our relatives in Quebec operated a lodge and 1,000 plus acre hunting and fishing retreat. One that was reached only by teams of horses, and later also by small airplanes.

The compound had been designed, built and established by an ancestor who emigrated from the Lorraine Province in Northeast France. From what my grandfather said, the man was very eccentric, a self-educated architect and a shrewd businessman. He spent nearly every dollar he had to purchase a huge chunk of Canadian wilderness. Then, he spent the rest to turn the property into a getaway for persons who, like himself, possessed a great love for nature – and an uncompromising need for privacy.

All of the log buildings were constructed of “axe-squared or trimmed red pine timber”, harvested from the surrounding forest. Each building distinctive, blending well into the overall scheme.

The “Main Lodge” structure had two stories with thirty-five bedrooms and twenty-one bathrooms. Each bedroom and bathroom was entranced from the interior nine-foot wide wrap-around corridor that overlooked the great room on the first floor. Also, it had an end-to-end attic and observatory, and a partially above-ground basement that housed a fruit and vegetable (root) cellar, a meat locker and a complete laundry.

A massive two-story high stone fireplace rose majestically in the middle of the great room. A custom forced steam system heated every other room in the winter. Centrifugal ceiling fans cooled them in the summer.

The lodge had a thirty-foot long dining room with a hand-carved table that seated fifty people. Its gourmet kitchen featured a fifteen by twenty foot server’s pantry. Other amenities included a library lined with well-stocked, built-in bookshelves, a billiard and game room, an enclosed orchid nursery and solarium, a wide wrap-around porch, and even an elite outhouse system.

The adjacent “Cottage” provided free accommodations for the live-in staff. Its 5,000 square foot, two-story structure included twelve double bedrooms and eight large bathrooms. It featured an open living-dining area, stone fireplace, two kitchens (one eat-in), two dens, game room, sewing room, laundry, and solarium. Large porches graced the front and back walls of the building.

By the way, thick and smooth-to-the-touch hardwood flooring stretched throughout both the “Main Lodge” and “The Cottage.” During winter months, custom dyed and weaved rag rugs were put down in every area, every room – even the bathrooms, and the lower work areas (eg. laundry).

Two barns were situated on the property. One sheltered the dairy cattle, sheep, horses, chickens, ducks, dogs, and cats. The other stored hay, livestock feed, wagons, a sleigh, implements, and later two tractors and a small combine.

“The Summerhouse” was built later for canning, freezing and preserving, also for drying tea leaves and herbs. Part of the cleared land had been turned into a small working farm to grow and produce most of the food needed to feed the guests and staff.

According to my grandfather, the lodge was busy year-round. It boasted an impressive list of  return guests that “sought adventure, refuge and peace.” In 1975, a relative wrote my grandfather, “They didn’t mind the little inconveniences that brutally cold winter weather, heavy snowstorms, and isolation from civilized life might cause.”

My grandparents last visited the relatives in the early 1980s. The lodge and retreat business had been closed for over two years. The only things left in tact were the main lodge – and the forest.

“The Cottage” had been turned into a north woods-type bed and breakfast inn. “The Summerhouse” had been remodeled into two sizeable apartments. One barn had been transformed into a fine dining restaurant with live entertainment, and a gift shop. The other barn and most of the farm land were being rented out to a large commercial farmer in the province.

By 2004, the U. S. part of our family had lost touch with the relatives in Quebec. And, efforts, a few years later, to notify them of my grandfather’s death failed completely.

That’s why the July 4 e-mail from “a Canadian relations” in Cincinnati surprised me, and others. An architect and construction engineer, the man is the grandson of my grandfather’s Quebec cousin. He explained that he decided to Google and check LinkedIn, after someone on his Ohio project asked if he had a Florida relative by the same name.

In my reply, I asked the obvious question: “What happened to the big lodge?”

Through his e-mail, I could see the man’s smile. “My brothers and I purchased it all back in 2009 and 2011. We’re restoring the main lodge, with a few upgrades for the modern sports enthusiast. Communications system, new airstrip, paved roadway, etc… It takes time to do it right…”

What about “The Cottage”? He said that two of his brothers and wives live there, and run the “B and B.” When the main lodge is ready to reopen, the “B and B” will close. And, the “cottage” will also serve as the residence of some of the lodge staff.

What about “The Summerhouse”? One-half has been reclaimed for its original use. “…retrofitted with 21st Century cooking, baking and preserving equipment…”

The European-style restaurant and gift shop were closed in 2001. The equipment, furnishings, and inventory were sold. Eventually, the barn was dismantled; and its rough-sawn lumber was sold to pay revenue taxes.

Structurally, all of the buildings are solid. Their complementary designs and layouts are as aesthetically appealing and amenable as they were in the early 1900s.

The lake and streams on the property are clear and well-stocked. The dense forest – Red and Eastern White Pines; Balsam, Red, Black and White Spruce, Red Oak, Yellow Birch, and Hemlock – still majestic, and protected with limited allowable cutting.

Finding Recyclable Furniture and Other Gems: Search Cautions and Ideas

Recycling pieces of furniture and other articles has become a lucrative career for a growing number of persons. For others, it is an avocation that brings in extra spending money. For still others, it is simply a hobby that they enjoy doing.

 If you, or someone you know, retrieves and recycles furniture and other items discarded by others, read on. . .

 1. Many communities have ordinances that make it illegal to remove items set at the curb, on a public access area between the roadway and private property line, or into a garbage cart or dumpster.

 2. Items left at the curb, placed into a garbage cart, or deposited into a dumpster are considered the property of either the local municipality, or the company that provides the solid waste collection/management service.

 3. Some communities sort of ignore it when their own otherwise law-abiding citizens pick up and haul away things. Pieces of furniture, left-overs from yard sales, equipment, boxes full of books, clothing, household items, etc. They figure that the local citizen intends to recycle the items. Resell them, donate to a local church thrift shop, repair and reuse in their own homes.

 4. Some businesses, in smaller communities, allow employees to remove certain types of items from the dumpsters on their property. Removal must be done very discreetly, and during a specific time slot on a certain day of the week. And, it cannot interfere with any business activity or policy, community ordinance, or government regulation.

 5. Some businesses offer a creative alternative to their employees. Periodically, they post a notice of specific items available for pick-up, before they ever reach the dumpsters. Examples: desks, chairs, shelving, cabinetry, tables, room/cubicle partitions, organizers, serving trays, even empty coffee containers.

 6. Some local government agencies such as school systems, police departments, park and recreation departments, etc. hold public auctions These well-advertised events help clear out storerooms, warehouses, inventory, etc.

 7. A Florida community deters “curb” and “dumpster” retrievals by running a public recycling “shop.” Local residents drop off items in new, like-new, or very good condition. The public can visit and purchase the goods at reasonable prices. One third of the proceeds helps stock the local food pantry. Another third goes to the community homeless shelter. The other third helps pay the center’s operating expenses, including wages for the three part-time workers that operate the “shop.”

 8. A mid-sized waste management company promotes a special recycling program among their own employees. The company’s regional operations manager described how the program works.

 A driver notices that a dumpster he’s loading up contains some good or excellent quality pieces in new, like-new, or very good condition.  He calls the yard master and alerts him to what’s coming in. It can be furnishings, office equipment, carpeting and padding, boxes of new tile, wood paneling, fancy trim, kitchen/bath fixtures, cabinetry, construction material, etc.

 He pulls into the yard.  The items are retrieved from the dumpster. And, they are placed in a storage building on the property. Certain days of the month, the building is opened to the public. The items are sold ‘as is’ at ‘unbelievable low prices.’

The company official explained that the money generated by the program goes into a fund to help out their employees and families. “We’ve found that every family can run into a situation where they need a little financial boost.”

 9. For years, a relative has retrieved small pieces of period furniture, also useful new and like-new items, from the curb. She makes certain that the clothing, toys, household and decorator items, etc. are donated to local church thrift shops.

She researches and refinishes some of the retrieved furniture herself. Other pieces are turned over to me. The finished pieces are given away as gifts, donated for fundraising purposes, or purchased by friends and colleagues. Always with a descriptive booklet about the piece’s background and refinishing process.

During an early morning walk, she spotted a pile of new and like new baby and toddler items. Every piece carried an expensive brand. There was a car seat, stroller, a pair of whimsical Disney lamps,a bouncie baby, toys, stuffed animals, and books. Two boxes setting on the ground contained over seventy-five infant and toddler clothing items. Many still had store tags on them.

The relative hurried home and drove her sedan back to that pile of goods. She had no sooner arrived when a waste management truck arrived to pick up the trash.

The driver eyed her. He explained the city ordinance. “What do you plan to do with those items?” he asked.

 “Take them to my church’s thrift shop. All of these things are must-haves for a baby or toddler.”

He asked which church thrift shop. When my relative answered, he smiled and said, “Hurry up.” Then, he emptied the garbage container, and drove away.

This encounter with the waste management company’s driver did not discourage the relative from looking for great curbside “finds” in the future. Instead, she got better acquainted with more of her neighbors. A colorful brochure was created and handed out to neighbors to encourage them to donate good quality discards to local thrift shops, Salvation Army and Goodwill stores, etc.

 11. A Central Florida woman paid $100 for the contents of a commercial storage unit. In the deal, she got over 100 used televisions, and over 100 quilted queen and king sized bedspreads. We met as she was loading a large number of the hotel bedspreads into commercial-sized washers at a laundromat. The spreads looked very familiar. She and I checked several of the bedspreads. We were able to confirm that the spreads (and tvs) were the same ones replaced while I still worked with my hotel.

I asked, “What do you plan to do with so many bedspreads?” She said that she might sell the best ones on e-Bay. Her focus was on getting the spreads cleaned so she could assess their condition.

 I suggested that she donate some spreads to the church thrift shops. She smiled and said that it was a “perfect way to recycle good quality items that someone else had simply thrown out.”

 Yes. It was.

 Blogging soon: “Furniture recycling: Basic steps toward a successful finishing job.

What Do Luxury Autos and Artisans Have in Common?

When a relative married a native of St. Anne’s, Jamaica, I inherited a fascinating group of the man’s friends. A vast network!

One of the most likeable, and connected, is Bradley (not real name). He owns and operates a luxury and custom vehicle repair shop in South Florida. Among his clientele are sports figures, entertainers, entrepreneurs, developers, real estate moguls, authors, and fashion icons.

Customers that live wherever – Florida, Caribbean Islands, New York, L. A., Seattle, Houston, Canada, the Americas – and take, or pay to transport, their prized vehicles to Bradley’s shop.

Any time that I visit, I’m free to roam the shop and property. And, get a close look at some of the most finely crafted vehicles on the road today.

Each vehicle’s unique characteristics are apparent. By looks alone. The design. The lines. The harmonious front-to-back, top-to-bottom blending of standard and custom features. Bumpers, grillwork, lights, glass/windows, mirrors, hardware, etc.

On some vehicles, the finish is still pristine. The paint colors – even black – a rich, luxurious patina. On others, the body shows the natural wear of the original finish and materials.

Occasionally, a vehicle in Bradley’s shop also needs body work. Work that is performed in South Florida, but not at the mechanical and electrical repair shop.

With vehicles such as Phantom Rolls, Ferarris, Bentleys, Bugatis, and Lamborghenis, repairs and restoration require ample time, special skills, attention to detail, and money. A budget redo can start at $10,000. A top quality job, which includes trim removal, finish stripping, etc. can run $40,000 or more. This special work is executed by highly-skilled craftspersons. Many of them European-born artisans.

One such team in South Florida works out of a shop, an old warehouse, that you’d miss if you didn’t know where to look. The building’s exterior looks indistinctive and blends into the neighborhood.

Its interior has been redesigned and retrofitted to accommodate the class of customers – vehicles – that it serves “by appointment only.” More important, it’s been equipped with every amenity, tool and piece of equipment that those artisan finishers could possibly need to do a top quality job.

 This particular team of artisans is made up of experts. All of them are highly-skilled in basic surface assessment, product selection, preparation, spray finishing, and clean-up.

At the same time, each craftsperson is certified in one or more special areas. Some are experts in paint composition and pigmentation. Some in adherence. Some are magicians at surface prepping. Some are technical geniuses at mixing, matching and blending. Some are masters at using an HVLP spray system.

It’s a real pleasure to watch each of them work. To stand an arm-length away, and observe the way that each artisan approaches his or her specific tasks.

During one visit to Bradley’s shop, I watched a paint master examine a 1980 Phantom Rolls Royce. The vehicle had “an appointment” for minor body work, then a complete, top quality repainting. The goal: Return the vehicle’s exterior to its original pristine finish.

The man carried a little notebook. On its pages, he had been making different sketches notes and computations. He used two gauges to measure the finish thickness in areas that he had marked previously.  

With a special magnifying glass, he closely examined the entire body for marks, scratches, pebble indentations, color imperfections, etc. At each trouble spot, he used a clear, expandable circular ruler to measure the circumference of the overall area.

In broken English, the craftsman asked about my interest. “I’m a journeyman painter and decorator,” I responded.

“Automobiles?” he asked, with a rolling French accent.

“No,” I answered, almost apologetically. “Buildings, structures, furniture…I specialize in interior finishing, some faux.”

He turned and faced me. “Ah! My wife has a French Provincial armoire that she desires for restoration.” He returned to his work.

“Bradley knows my residence address and telephone,” he continued. He reached in a pocket, and handed me a card. “Tell Bradley to write it on back of card.”

Then, he dismissed me. No problem, I told myself. He had more important things to do.

Like get that Rolls ready for its refinishing appointment. After Bradley’s group of mechanical and electrical experts finished their jobs.

Footnote: In comparison to the craftsmanship of these artisans, my vehicle restoration work has been second class. That’s why I held back from mentioning the 1967 Mach I Mustang, 1965 Mustang, 1987, and full-size Chevy Blazer. And, as time permits, the repairing and prepping of a 1989 Mercury Sable’s body for repainting and finish coating at a great paint shop, located in Central Florida.

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