if ya like it then ya shoulda put some spray paint on it (Or, the story of one of our favorite ways to upcycle.)

12 Sep


Yeah, even I’m not sure if my post title and “oh”-so-musical interlude is a tribute to Beyoncé or the great Kurt Hummel of Glee. Aaaaaaanyway… the actual point of this post is that I’ve developed a love of spray paint. And not just paint, but lacquer, enamel, metallic, even plastic fusion spray paint.

When you’re standing in a flea market or consignment shop, the knowledge of spray paint’s glory suddenly makes all that is dingy and worn appear new and full of endless possibilities. Like this stool — a pre-Location 27 project from our old apartment, and my first real spray painting adventure: 

stool before black spray paint

(The before photo comes with a bonus kitten, since I somehow have absolutely no other pictures of the stool prior to its makeover. Shiva was only a couple of months old and had an adorable habit of falling asleep while making her way from one “bed” to another.)

After years of heavy use, the stool’s wooden base had seen better days, but a few coats of flat black spray paint and voilá:

stool after black spray paint

The best part is, spray paint creates such a dramatic transformation that you really feel as though you’ve accomplished something, even when the project seems tiny. When my husband snatched up this weird wire basket-ish thing at one of our favorite vintage shops, I didn’t see the appeal.

wire basket before spray paint

But ten coats of white enamel later…

wire basket after white spray paint

…it makes a great abstract addition to our dining room decor.

My favorite transformation so far came in the form of these bronze lion bookends, another vintage find:

lion before spray paint 1

lion before spray paint 2

I was pretty sure that they weren’t actually bronze, just bronze-colored, based on the large patches of black wear showing through. I was also pretty sure that they could add a great pop of color to our newly painted dining room, if only they weren’t gold. High-gloss, cherry-red lacquer, on the other hand, was perfect:

lion after red lacquer spray paint 2

The key to retaining the vintage look in a spray-painted piece is having the patience to use very thin, deliberate coats. I sprayed the lions roughly a dozen times over the course of two evenings, but each coat was translucent and in the beginning had minimal noticeable effect. The longer I kept at it, the more cherry they became, but you could still see hints of the dark, aged areas in all of the sculpted cracks and crevices. The result is a bright, modern pop of color with a touch of vintage shop funkiness and a hint of historic character.

lion after red lacquer spray paint 1

I personally prefer this unpolished flair, but if you’re going for a more finished, “what’s old is new again” look, I would guess that twice as many coats would probably cover all of the flaws and get you to a solid red lacquer.

Looking ahead, we have two more spray-paint projects on our immediate to-do list. Up first is to bring new life to this rather beat up frame, which we’ll ultimately turn into a kitchen chalkboard:

gold frame before spray paint

We painted about ten frames in a similar way back in our old apartment, so we’re optimistic that this will be a smooth-sailing project. But since that statement tends to be the kiss of death, stay tuned for the results in a few weeks!

Then we have these chairs, which you may remember from our sound of silence post way back when, that have been giving us a little trouble:

chair before spray paint

We stripped off the old paint, covered the raw surfaces with a plastic fusion primer, and set to work with some glossy royal blue. This photo is from about halfway through the spraying process:

chair in progress with blue spray paint

Unfortunately, spray paint isn’t always foolproof, and we’ve been having some problems with the sealing phase (a story for another post). We’re thinking of sanding them down for another attempt sometime this fall.

Call it an addiction, but I just love the satisfaction of upcycling something old. Vintage items come with a story, a life of their own, that you just can’t find on the department store shelves. Location 27 itself has almost 100 years of history within its walls, and we’re eager to keep adding to it in our own way.

How about you? Any other spray paint lovers in our midst? Tips on other creative ways to reuse what’s old? Or is there anyone out there who prefers an “out with the old, in with the new” approach? As always, we love to hear from all different viewpoints!

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5 Responses to “if ya like it then ya shoulda put some spray paint on it (Or, the story of one of our favorite ways to upcycle.)”

  1. Mom September 12, 2011 at 11:24 am #

    I’m sure you guys remember my ivory sculpture paint project that your Dad did for me. I would add a photo, but you might consider it too risque!

    • me September 12, 2011 at 11:47 am #

      I think Sam helped with that project, too, didn’t he? Without him smashing it to pieces, Dad would never have had the chance to spray paint it ivory!

      • Mom September 12, 2011 at 6:02 pm #

        your right!

  2. "Mom from Maine" September 12, 2011 at 3:51 pm #

    I love the lions!


  1. amateur stripping (Or, why automotive brake cleaner has a place in your home.) « - October 4, 2011

    [...] something else. Initially we planned to mod podge one of our favorite comic strips to the chairs, but as you might remember Kim mentioning, she has somewhat of a fascination with spray [...]

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