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A few days after we got back from Paris we got the delivery of all our stuff – after 2.5 months of waiting! FINALLY. I am pleased to report that nothing was horribly damaged and nothing went missing (both a real concern, given the awful stories I’ve heard from others). A chip here, light damage there… the worst was a super gross water-damaged box, but it was filled mostly with toiletries and the like, which could be replaced. Phew!

No more empty house!

I was so excited about our house that I drew up floor plans with our furniture when we first signed the lease, so we already knew exactly where to put everything. And since the floor tiles are 12″ square I didn’t even have to measure – it corresponded perfectly with my graph paper haha. The boxes were all unpacked in only three days (thanks, Randolph!) and now we’re slowly getting our house settled.

We made trip #1 to IKEA on MLK Day for Phase 1 of finishing the house and our project for the week was our DIY makeover of our media console (a Hemnes Sofa Table). IKEA hacks are all over on Pinterest and DIY sites and I’ve always wanted to try some out.

The conclusion: it is hard work! To be fair, we kind of made it more difficult than it could have been. We didn’t want to buy a sander (all the moving expenses adding up is making us feel thrifty…) so we hand sanded the whole thing to remove the thin layer of lacquer so we could stain it. Our arms felt like they were about to fall off, but I was determined! Since it’s fairly cold outside and the stain we chose has no toxic fumes we opted to do all the work in the house instead of the garage. I had a lot of vacuuming/dusting to do after we finished! Needless to say, we waited until after all the sanding and cleanup to roll out our new rug.


The console in pieces in the box
Powdered wood dye
unsanded (top), sanded (bottom)
Pretty sunset while I was on my way to buy more sandpaper (it took a ton!)

The Clou dye is pretty awesome – it’s an analine powder dye you mix up with warm water. No terrible smells, no environment-destroying toxins…my kind of stuff! I’m not sure if it exists in the US, but there were lots of color options here in Germany.

The only downside is that it’s very liquid, so I could only dye flat surfaces in order to keep it from running (which would leave streaks). This meant it took a little while, since I had to rotate through pieces as they dried. I used a regular flat-bristle brush to paint on an even coat, then sanded with fine sandpaper, then a second coat, then sanded again. It dried pretty quickly, though, so I didn’t have to wait too terribly long to flip the pieces to do the back sides.

When assembling, we opted to leave out two of the upper dividers so that it didn’t look as cube-y. Since you assemble it upside-down I had to place them in loose for support, then pulled them out later. The only actual modification I had to make was trimming down the wooden pegs that would have been hidden inside them and dipping them in the dye so they matched. And since we knew before we started that we’d be leaving these upper dividers out they were perfect for doing some tests with the dye in the beginning – which were definitely needed.

Both post-dying and post-assembling I had to wipe it down a lot with a dry cloth to get rid of the super fine dust clinging to it. Clou says its dyes are color-fast, but we worried about it rubbing off (although I’m pretty sure it was just some grey dust leftover from sanding). I bought a matte sealer made by Clou and tried it on the test pieces, but it added a yellow tint and looked too shiny. Since this is a media console we decided to leave it as-is, but I think I would’ve wanted to seal it if it were a chair or table.

All pieces are sanded and stained


The original & our version

I absolutely love how it turned out but I think I can safely say that I will never again be sanding lacquered furniture by hand!

About our choice of color: I quickly fell in love with the Restoration Hardware look at the beginning of my years working for the company, but their furniture is still mostly out of budget (aside from a couple of awesome finds!) and I really enjoy the satisfaction of DIY projects. The point of this furniture makeover was to make it look more Restoration Hardware and less IKEA. We ended up using just the grey dye to give it the ever-popular driftwood look. (For my RH peeps – this turned out like a slightly greyer Grey Acacia.)

Our living room is now preliminarily complete (except hanging a couple posters that still need to be framed). Next, on to Phase 2…


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