Category: DIY

Furry Stool Makeover

$25 Craigslist Score | Shopping with Gwen | Motley Decor

I take great pride in finding a good deal and Craig’s list has always been good to me in that respect.  Case in point–my latest acquisition–a $25, three-legged, triangular stool with gold, cabriole legs that hit the ground and then spiral like pumpkin stems.

Although, I can’t say this find was exactly what I was looking for, a few things drew me towards it.  First, it was only $25.  Secondly, the dimensions worked in my favor.  I was in search of something small enough to fit behind my front door that I could sit on to put on my shoes before leaving the house.  And finally, I had never seen anything like it before.  This a particular weakness of mine.  I spend hours each week scouring the internet for various pieces of furniture and vintage items.  So, it’s not often that I come across the unfamiliar.  However, when I do, my hunter-gatherer instincts surface and I feel compelled to add it to my collection.  So, one sunny Sunday morning, Gwen (pictured above) and I set out to collect our new stool with cash in hand.

Furry Stool Makeover on

For aesthetics and hygiene reasons, I always like to reupholster anything I buy second-hand.  Luckily, I still had some long, black, faux fur leftover from my Kelly Wearstler-inspired chair makeover that I thought would suit my new stool well.  Recovering a pop off seat is pretty simple and I’ve discussed it a couple of times already on this blog–both in the previously linked post and on my Fortuny-inspired footstool post.  So, I won’t bore you with it here once again.

In any case, I was pleased with the results.  The stool now feels a bit edgier and, although the faux fur may be a little trendy, I didn’t spend any additional funds on the fabric.  So, I can recover it in the future with no remorse if (or when) this whole faux fur/sheepskin trend gets played out.  Please check out my next post to see how the stool looks in my entryway.


7 Incredible Upcycles

In honor of Earth Day, let’s examine 7 incredible upcycles to–hopefully–inspire one of your own.  Following are a handful of projects that are both amazingly clever and undeniably good-looking.

7 Incredible Upcycles | Earth Day | Motley Decor

Instead of a kitchen island, designer Annie Brahler upcycled a large, vintage chest to occupy this cheery, light-filled kitchen.  To properly arm the piece for the job, she added additional storage and slapped on a marble counter top.  Kitchen-specific furnishings can often feel severe and sterile.  This chest-turned-kitchen island escapes that fate and is a charming companion to the fireplace, chandelier, antique chair, and other pieces that lend so much warmth to this space.   Found on House Beautiful.  

7 Incredible Upcycles | Earth Day | Motley Decor

This chandelier above boasts a traditional silhouette with cascading chains and festoons.  However, it is crafted entirely of used bike parts, primarily the chains.  The result is a tension between elegance and edginess that takes “statement lighting” to a whole new level.  Both ‘green’ and impossibly cool, these upcycled chandeliers by Facaro are receiving tons of attention in the design and art communities.

7 Incredible Upcycles | Earth Day | Motley Decor

We hear about “reclaimed wood” all of the time, but driftwood doesn’t seem to get its due.  Having spent many a summer of my childhood collecting driftwood from a nearby like, this strikes me as completely unjust.  Driftwood has infinite character with twisted curves and spiraled nubs and, as you can see from the vignette above (from AD France), it can be upcycled and fashioned into  some pretty fantastic-looking furniture.

7 Incredible Upcycles | Earth Day | Motley Decor

The origins of this dining room’s spectacular wall coverings may surprise you.  Those brightly colored, concentric panels are composed of discarded lottery tickets.  Was there ever a better example of “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure”?  Artwork by Ghost of a Dream (Adam Eckstrom and Lauren Was) and image via 1stDibs.

7 Incredible Upcycles | Earth Day | Motley Decor

Found objects often make for conversation pieces in a home.  This oversize letter “A” is no exception.  Presumably the remnants of some mammoth signage, the alphabet’s first letter now spends its days propping up this improvised architect’s table, who’s top is an old door.  Together, these two upcycled pieces are much more interesting than your average, run-of-the-mill desk.  I call that green synergy.

7 Incredible Upcycles | Earth Day | Motley Decor

Getting creative with headboards has long occupied DIYers and–apparently–architect Dmitry Velikovsky.  He repurposed the back from 19th-century Burmese monk’s chair to add some oomph to his otherwise streamlined bedroom.  Both the intricate carvings and sense of history make for a awe-inspiring focal point.  Found on AD.

7 Incredible Upcycles | Earth Day | Motley Decor

The plain doors of this closet get a Hollywood Regency-inspired upgrade with a little paint, new knobs, and…wait for it, wait for it…a pair of ceiling medallions!  Why didn’t I think of that?  This clever hack is courtesy of OKL.

Upcycling isn’t just a way to be green–although that is an enormous perk!  It can also be chic and sophisticated.  Furthermore, it’s an opportunity to showcase your cleverness and incorporate artifacts into your home that might not fit under conventional circumstances.  Are the wheels of creativity in your head turning?  Fortunately, Earthy Day has landed on a Friday.  So, you now have the whole weekend to DIY and upcycle.  Get ‘er done!

A Fortuny-Inspired Footstool

Fortuny fabrics are distinct, romantic, and have been celebrated by A-list interior designers since Elsie McNeill Lee, a New York based decorator, stumbled across them in 1927.  Today, they still impart a sense of luxury and good taste to any space they occupy.  Having long admired these unique textiles, I was moved to take a stab at creating my own Fortuny-inspired fabric and recover an old footstool scored on eBay.  Here’s how I did it…

Gathering Supplies

Fortuny-Inspired DIY Tutorial


A mottled, watery background is a hallmark of Fortuny’s.  In their factory, this effect is achieved by multiple printings with specialized dyes.  For a similar, but not-quite-as-exquisite substitute, I purchased a length of cotton, watercolor batik fabric (found in the quilting section of most fabric stores) in a rich, rust-meets-burnt-orange colorway that recalls the dusty jewel tones for which Fortuny is known.


Step 2 was to find a damask-like stencil.  For this, scale was important.  The footstool I was refinishing had a cushioned area of 12″x16″, so the stencil needed to be a bit smaller and allow for some repetition.  I found this nice 9″x9″ stencil on Etsy.


Finally, there was paint.   After some disappointing experiments with inexpensive fabric paints (which proved to be too thick and transparent), I went to an art supply store, explained my project, and gobbled up their advice.

DIY Fortuny Inspired Fabric Tutorial

The nice people at Blick advised me to choose any acrylic paint and combine it with a fabric painting medium.  However, they warned me that I might have to play around with the proportions so that the mixture did not become too runny and bleed beneath the stencil.  They also cleverly suggested that I apply the paint using a lint free rag rather than a stiff bristled brush.  This turned out to be solid advice.  Supplies in hand, I got to work.


The ideal mixture turned out looking something like this:

Fortuny-Inspired Fabric Tutorial | DIY | Motley Decor

I can best describe the consistency as that of maple syrup.  Test the paint mixture on a corner of your fabric.  It should apply flat and evenly without bleeding into the fabric fibers.

DIY Faux Fortuny Tutorial

Beyond getting these proportions right, the 2 other important things were to tape and measure.  I taped the fabric to the table to avoid movement and then taped the stencil to the fabric.

Fortuny-Inspired DIY Fabric Tutorial

Then, I just started carefully dabbing away.  Once I had finished, I’d let the paint dry, remove the tape and the stencil and used a small paint brush to fill in the blanks spots where the stencil was held together by thin bars.

DIY: Fortuny Inspired Fabric Tutorial | Motley Decor

Re-positioning the stencil for the next round, I always measured the distance from the previously painted area and the edge of the fabric.  I decided to keep the stencil facing the same way for vertical repetitions, but then staggered and turned it the opposite way horizontally.  I also stenciled an area just a few inches larger than the surface of the cushion.  This gave me so wiggle room when it came to upholstering.

DIY Fortuny-Inspired Footstool | Motley Decor


After all of the stenciled areas were dry, I was ready to upholster.  Planning ahead, I had already broken down my stool, repainted the base, cut new foam, and stapled it to the base using batting.

A Fortuny-Inspired Footstool Refurbishing

Next, I positioned the design in the center of the cushion and stapled it into place.  At this point, something occurred to me that hadn’t previously.  I decided that my new footstool could benefit from some kind of decorative cord trim.  So, I ventured out again and bought a couple of yards of gold braided trim with a lip.  I used a hot glue gun to glue the lip to the underside of the cushion.

DIY: Fortuny-Inspired Footstool Refurbishing

After the glue cured, the only thing left to do was to screw the cushion onto the base.  My end result looked something like this…

A Footstool Gets a Fortuny-Inspired Makeover

Fortuny-Inspired Footstool | DIY Tutorial | Motley Decor

If you need some additional Fortuny inspiration, check out these 7 eclectic rooms that showcase Fortuny textiles.



Warhol-Inspired Pop Art

We all have them: those pictures that always make us smile or remind us of a happy time in our lives.  Mine happens to be a picture of my sister around age 3.  She’s rocking some pretty sweet pigtails and a mouth full of baby teeth.  She’s so genuinely happy and smiling so hard that her nose is slightly scrunched up.  Looking at it never fails to brighten my mood.  So, this seemed like an ideal portrait for an Andy Warhold-Inspired pop art make over.

DIY: Warhol-Inspired Pop Art

My mom scanned the original 8×11 photo and emailed it to me to manipulate digitally.  However, first, I needed inspiration…

While Andy Warhol definitely has a distinct signature, his treatment of objects and portraits varied over his career.  Bright colors might be painted on Marilyn Monroe like makeup, traced over a still life of abandoned cocktails, or take the form of random shapes in the background of The Last Supper.  However, what ultimately inspired me was his treatment of the Mona Lisa and “The King” aka Elvis.

How to Make Your Own Andy Warhol-Inspired Pop Art | DIY | Motley Decor

Like most of his works, both Mona Lisa and Elvis are manifested in high contrast.  However, these works have two other defining characteristics in common: the absence of color and a double rendering.  To introduce my sister to their ranks, I first converted the image to grayscale.  From there, I increased the brightness to 12% and the contrast to 83%.  (I arrived at these two percentages through trial and error and it will likely differ for every photo, but this might be a good place to start.)  Next, I made a copy of her and placed it adjacent to the original.  Lastly, I saved the image, uploaded it to Walgreens, and ordered a print to be delivered by mail.  Easy peasy.

How to Make Your Own Andy Warhol-Inspired Pop Art | DIY | Motley Decor

A few days later, a tube arrived with my Warholed-sister inside.  I hung her prominently over my bar cabinet.  Only afterwards did it occur to my that it might not be appropriate to have a 3-year-old presiding over happy hour.  But that’s art.  Right?  It’s emotion-driven, often unexpected, and–at times–controversial.

For more pop art inspiration, check out these 12 rooms.



A Pair of Chet Beardsley Chairs Get an Update

I first saw these Chet Beardsley chairs on Craigslist, advertised by a local thrift shop.  I had been on the hunt for a pair of vintage chairs for  a while and they had all started to look the same–but not these.   These chairs had alluring curves, elongated backs, and generously proportioned seats.  I was enamored and rushed over to the store to see them in person.

Pair of Chet Beardsley chairs

Truth be told, they were in horrible shape with badly stained mustard-gold upholstery and honey-stained oak legs that–while period appropriate–made me cringe just a little.  Still, they were too unique to pass up, so I paid for them and took them home.

It wasn’t until I had them in the house that I looked under the seat and saw the Chet Beardsley sticker.

Chet Beardsley for Living Designs sticker

Unfortunately, it’s difficult to find any information about designer Chet Beardsley online.  From what I’ve read, he was a Danish designer influenced by Adrian Pearsall and active in the 1950s-1970s.  A friend put me in touch with a mid century modern furniture “expert” who assured me that Chet Beardsley’s designs were “good solid stuff”.

Then came the difficult decision of how to refinish them.  Updating them for today while respecting their original era launched me into a tailspin of indecision and paralysis.  But, when I saw this fabric swatch featured in an issue of House Beautiful, the incessant internal debating came to an end.

Robert Allen Fabric Malakos Ink

I knew that the elongated, marbled pattern would suit the unique shape of my Chet Beardsley-designed dining chairs.  From there, all of the other decisions came easily.  After having lived with the wood stain of the swivel base, I was ready to compromise on period correctness and go with something darker.  Because many of Chet Beardsley’s similar chairs had a wood back (instead of fabric on both sides), I thought it was appropriate to employ leather on the backsides (matching the new wood stain as closely as possible) and securing it with brass nail heads.  This was the result…

Updated Chet Beardsley Chair

My husband and I eat dinner of these every night and I absolutely love them.  Perhaps I took too long deciding how to refinish and reupholster them, but in the end, it turned out all right.

Hutton Wilkinson’s Coral Dining Chairs

Few designers embrace maximalism and exoticism with the zeal of Hutton Wilkinson.  His interiors are luxurious, over-the-top, and downright exciting to behold.  The coral, cobalt, and gold dining room of his Beverly Hills home is a stunning example of his aesthetic.

Hutton Wilkinson's coral dining room and chairs.

Hutton Wilkinson’s dining room featured in Harper’s Bazaar boasts a set of stunning coral dining chairs.

If you’re looking for inspiration to refinish or reupholster your own dining chairs, why not take a page out of Wilkinson’s book and go coral-on-coral?  No doubt about it: it’s a bold choice, but as they say “fortune favors the bold” and this approach to design has certainly worked for Hutton Wilkinson.

Coral is an alluring color that can’t be categorized as red, pink, or orange.  Rather, it lives at the borders of those colors, occupying a space on the color wheel that is uniquely “coral”.  I have a personal attachment to this hue, because it always reminds me of a trip to Venice, Italy.  In that port, derivatives of coral can be found everywhere: earthy terracotta buildings, delicately carved peach cameos, blood orange Aperol cocktails, platters of blushing crustaceans, and–of course–the fiery sunsets reflected in the waters.  But I digress…[sigh]…

Look for chairs with intricate carvings or scrollwork or that boast a lovely, sculptural shape.  A saturated shade like coral with enhance the silhouette.   Benjamin Moore offers a plethora of paint shades in the coral family.  Try: Picante (006), Fan Coral (013), or Bird of Paradise (1305).

For seat cushions and upholstery there are also plenty of options.  Some of my favorites follow.

coral fabric

Beacon Hill’s Silk Lantern Coral Fabric is a close match to Wilkinson’s chairs…

Fortuny Corone in bittersweet & gold

Or splurge on Fortuny’s Corone

Pamilla Coral

Pamilla is an inexpensive alternative appropriate for outdoor use…

If I’ve managed to convince you to channel your inner Hutton Wilkinson and DIY a set of coral dining chairs (or even tempted you enough to consider it), I’d love to hear from you!  Please leave a comment.

The Easiest DIY Chair Makeover Ever

One foggy Sunday morning, I was doing the only thing I can drag myself out of bed early on a Sunday to do: prowl the Rose Bowl Flea Market. It was still early when I spotted a trio of interesting, outdoor, iron chairs and motioned to my shopping companion.  Unimpressed, she made a face.  Still, I stopped to take a second look and, obligingly, she stopped too.

The design was almost primitive, with skinny, stick-like legs that flared out in contrast to the tall, narrow backs.  The thing that really caught my eye were two brass knobs at the top.

After a moment my friend whispered, “I don’t think they are going anywhere.  We can always come back.”

I couldn’t argue with her logic.  The chairs were hardly the sort of in-demand item that get scooped up right away and there was still so much ground to cover before the flea market started to get crowded.  Somewhat reluctantly, I continued on.

Later that morning, those quirky chairs were still nagging me, summoning me back for another look.  By the time we made our way back to them, I already knew that I would buy one of them and exactly how I would refinish it.  Luckily, the vendor agreed to sell me just one of the chairs (breaking up the set)–and for a steal–only $25!  I handed over the cash, threw that sucker over my shoulder, and we headed towards the parking lot.  I could tell that my comrade still had doubts about my judgement, but my doubts were gone.  I had a plan.

Kelly Wearstler seating

Kelly Wearstler’s Sonnet Chair

Drawing inspiration from Kelly Wearstler’s Sonnet chair (above), I gathered the necessary materials for my easy DIY chair makeover: foam, batting, faux  Mongolian fur in black (with the longest pile I could find), sandpaper, a scouring pad, and black spray paint.  Prepping the chair was easy.  I unscrewed the seat from the base of the chair and and removed the decades-old vinyl covering and padding beneath.  Sandpaper smoothed away the chipping paint and prepped the iron for a new coat.  And knobs I had admired shined again after being scuffed with a scouring pad.

chair seat

The seat turned out to be a piece of circular plywood.  I opted for a much thicker foam than the chair had originally been given and cut the foam to be congruent with the seat.  Then, I stapled the batting around the two and trimmed the excess.  The faux fur fabric went over the batting, following the same method.  Lastly, I screwed the seat back on to the newly painted frame.

And this is how the easiest DIY chair makeover turned out:

Before & After: Easy DIY Chair Makeover

This chair now serves as my vanity stool 95% of the time and pulls double duty as a spare dining chair when I host a dinner.  (I’m a proponent of mismatched dining chairs and made a conscious effort to curate distinctly different styles, but more on that in a future post…)  In any case, I absolutely love my quirky little chair!  Is it exactly like Kelly Wearstler’s Sonnet Chair?  Well, no.  However, it does recall the same slender bars, furry seat, and even has similar brass knobs.

To close, here are a few lessons I learned from this experience…

Listen to my gut–and those nagging feelings.

Don’t let someone’s doubt cloud my judgement.

There’s noting easier than reupholstering a chair with a pop off seat.

Beloved items don’t need to cost a lot.

Embrace the quirky.

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