Utter De-porchery part 1: the furniture

A porch (or veranda as we would call it in Australia) is the transition point between the big bad outside world and your home. It is where you welcome family, friends and strangers, and also where you move from public outside space into your private world, and vice versa.

It should be welcoming, and should say something about who you are. Given this, I hate to think what our porch used to say about us.

Porch before

Populated by more sad furniture left behind by our landlord, plus 2 pots I put on there the week we after moved in (in a desperate attempt to inject some color), my first welding project, and some carved Chinese wood panels we found at an estate sale. It was pretty tragic.

Dirty, broken and stained director's chairs

Plant stand/table before

In previous posts, I have mentioned the Beige Palace we currently inhabit while we undertake the seemingly interminable search for our own place. While we are very grateful for a roof over our head, we have been rather bemused by the fact that we are living in a wall-to-wall-plus-ceiling beige McMansion in the ‘burbs. A McMansion in the ‘burbs that is a carbon copy of its six neighbors. Not the kind of house – or area – I ever imagined I would actually live in; however, the house and its environment has driven a lot of my efforts to inject color and character into this rented space.

Before we moved in: wall-to-wall-plus-ceiling beige

While you cant change the physical look of the actual house when you are renting (unless you have a brilliant landlord and are planning to stay in the place for a long time), there is a lot you can do with furnishings, plants and art.

With rug, art, objects and furniture. Beige-mitigation strategies in place.

Beige is not one of my favorite colors, I can confidently say that no interior or piece of furniture I have ever owned has ever ‘asked’ me to paint it beige (see this post for info on the way I choose color). I find it claustrophobic, smothering. Safely oppressive. It is not that there is anything inherently wrong with beige (just like there isn’t inherently anything wrong with this house or the area it is in), it just isn’t my thing. Each to his or her own.

So faced with a choice about whether to simply to succumb to the somnolent beige, or get out the fabric and paint-brush, the choice is simple. Because, in my book, life is definitely too short for beige.

Which brings me back to the front porch. Clearly what was needed was an injection of life and color.

Porch before

The porch positively wallowed in its beige stupor, whereas I wanted it to sing, to vibrate, to celebrate color. Like this Matisse collage, for example:

Henri Matisse: 'La Gerbe' 1953

In the latter part of his life Matisse developed cancer, and surgery left him in a wheelchair. Further risky surgery became necessary: going in he did not know whether he would survive. He did, and began what he called his second life. The works he made during this time, in the 14 years before his death, vibrate with color and vitality, a celebration of joie de vivre. La Gerbe  is no exception. Stylised organic shapes, cut from brightly colored paper and arranged with the aid of his assistant Lydia Delectorskaya, explode across the ground, in a rhythmic, pulsing dance.

A skillful blend of complementary and analogous colors prevent the work from being jangling, too hard to look at. The orange-red hums against the blue, the green against the orange. Putting paler and darker hues of the same color (darker, medium and lighter orange, light green and dark green) work to calm the composition down. The vibrant cobalt blue sings, and a sea green color is inherently peaceful, its value sitting between blue and the greens, effectively linking them.

The black forms at the top of the composition act like an exclamation mark. The two blue shapes that sit on top of the band of black shapes point to Matisse’s skilled placement (rather, he instructed and Delectorskaya placed). A sensitivity that can be observed in the way he interweaves the other colors: like a cord in music, where a group of different notes are played together, generating an harmonious whole.  The overall effect created is one of a joyous celebration of the energy of life.

This then, was my model for revivifying the front porch. Something with a little zing and pizazz. Something that would give you an energy boost heading out the door, and wow you home again. Something that overtly worked in rebellion against the beige, that clearly stated: I might live here, but this is not my house.

I began with the director’s chairs and the table. Director’s chairs are such a quick and easy fix. First I took them apart so I could repair them, a simple matter of unscrewing the hinges on the sides:

Removing the hinges from the sides

The legs needed gluing and clamping

As did the sides.

Then I sanded everything thoroughly. With the amount of water-marking on this wood, and the unknown original finish, sanding was essential. You do not want to go to the effort of doing this, and have the paint start to flake off after a couple of weeks. Do you? Thankfully this is ‘sanding so the paint will stick’ not ‘sanding so you can ebonize the wood‘, so it takes 15 minutes tops, and is well worth the small amount of effort involved.

The table was cane, and therefore would not take kindly to being sanded, so I brushed it briskly with a wire brush to get all the loose material off.

After sanding and ready for painting

After this it was a matter of priming and painting. I used Ace’s navy blue spray paint, the same paint I used on our patio setting (see this here). As we are in temporary accommodation I dont know how I will use these items eventually, so I wanted some sense of unity. Even though the patio set is currently on the patio, and these chairs are currently on the front porch, they might end up near each other in our next place, so it was important that they could potentially fit together.

After spraying

PLEASE NOTE: Even though the garage door is closed in this photo, it was open when I sprayed. Never spray paint in a confined space, always out in the open. I open the garage doors before spraying and while the air clears. I also ALWAYS wear a mask when I spray. NOT a dinky little dust mask (which is fine for sanding) but a proper mask fitted with cartridges that specifically filter out fumes. If you value your lungs and your brain cells, you will, too. Personally, I prefer to destroy brain cells in a more amusing fashion (with a large glass of Albarino, for example), so I save them from spray paint specifically for this purpose. I choose to keep my lungs exactly the way they are, thank you very much.

You learn something new on every project you undertake, and this one I learned NOT to spray paint in flip flops.

What happens if you spray paint in flip flops

Hmmm.The plus was it did hide my in-need-of-attention pedicure. Kind of …

While the paint was drying, I headed off to a large fabric store chain, which just happened to have all its outdoor fabrics on sale. Before leaving I measured the grungy canvas I had taken off the chairs, and used the pieces to figure out how much fabric I would need, and how I was going to sew it to fit the chairs.

I had two thoughts in mind while fabric hunting: ‘bright and vibrant’, and ‘fit in with the other outdoor furniture’.

Fabric purchased and sewing figured out

While the black and white damask-style fabric was not exactly the same as the cushions I found for our patio furniture, it was close enough. Plus I loved the way it suggested the organic shapes of Matisse’s cut outs. I cut the black and white fabric out, stitched it, then re-assembled the chairs.

One of the chairs after ...

The avocado and aqua canvas I made into cushions.

Let’s face it, director’s chairs are really, really uncomfortable. No wonder movie directors are notoriously grumpy and crazed, they are in agony because of their stupid chairs. I thought at least cushions might help with the pretense that you might potentially sit on these on the porch and watch the world go by. Even though, unless you were completely desperate to sit down and every other chair on the planet had mysteriously evaporated, you actually never would. It also gave me the opportunity to inject a little color into the mix. Always a good thing, that.

And the other chair ...

I purchased a plant called ‘mother in law’s tongue’ (otherwise known as sansevieria), and put it in a planter a similar color green to the avocado cushion. I’ve always loved the graphic patterns on the leaves of this plant, and it is tough and hard to kill. (And NO, I am not going to make a mother in law joke here, you can insert your own if you like. My MIL passed away before I had the chance to meet her, so any such jokes on my part – while potentially accurate – would be in extremely poor taste).

The zig-zaggy patterns on the leaves, and the plant’s upright form also fitted with the funky, zippy vibe I was aiming for on the porch.

The plant stand with sansevieria

All in all up-cycling the furniture on the porch helped a lot in creating the look I was after, and made a vast improvement on its previous tired appearance. Before the reveal, however, a quick reminder of what it was like when I started:

Porch before

And here it is after revamping the furniture:

Roxy and Treadwell inspect the new furniture (Yes I do have matching pets)

A definite improvement: yes! But was I finished? No!!!

Read part 2 for what I did next …


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