Project Misfire

Furnishing a house completely from scratch while you’re living in it is no day at the beach. Problems arise and snags occur. For instance, how do you prioritize which is more important . . . beds for kids or kitchen knives? This is a harder question than it looks. Kids are perfectly happy in their little bower of cushions, and yet attempting to cook virtually anything at all with only one very dull steak knife is a near impossibility and can almost (note I said almost) reduce a person to tears of exasperation. And yet somehow it seems frivolous and self-centered to go out on a shopping expedition for kitchen knives when the kids have no beds to their names . . . you see what I’m saying?

And things get more and more complicated because, say you’ve decided that the most important thing to be working on is the beds. So you do that. You work on the beds. You check every website, visit stores, look on ebay . . . and while on ebay you find a stunning deal on a piano, right here in town only 2 miles away! Steal of the century, and the kids are going to need lessons anyway. What to do? Well of course you buy the piano (and then commence with the headache of how to move it across town).

But meanwhile you still haven’t gotten kitchen knives OR beds . . . and then a friend takes you to a “swap shop” where you can take what you want for free. And there’s an almost unlimited supply of absolute junk, but tucked away under a pile of old dead Tupperware and ugly curtains there is a completely gorgeous antique side table. So you snag it, take it home, and now you have a side table, a piano in name only, and still no beds or knives. Then two days later you find a perfectly terrific floor lamp – carved mahogany with a barley twist post – for less than 2 pounds. So in it comes, and there you have it. More items that were WAY down the list . . . but then again, there they are – so you grab them while you have the chance. See what I’m saying? It’s a tricky business.

So far almost everything I’ve acquired for the house has come to me either free or dirt cheap. So far so good. But there’s a reason that these things are free or dirt cheap . . . and that is that they have reached that point of their existence where no one thinks they have even a spark of redeeming value left. (i.e., they’re old and cruddy, need a good scrub, a sanding, and a coat of paint.) This is fine with me. I really love being buried in projects, so the more the merrier. But I don’t want the house filled up with wretched old objects that I found somewhere . . . so I’m trying to paint them, lacquer them, upholster them, or what have you as they come in the door. That way I may have an extremely randomly furnished home (a living room with a side table and a piano) but at least they’ll be really great pieces.

However, this battle plan led me astray this last week. Our landlord let me look through his garage for old derelict furniture, and one of the things that I rummaged out was a small upholstered ottoman. Over here it’s also called a pouffe (as in, poof-ay), and I’m so excessively cracked up by it, that I’ve been saying “pouffe” every chance I get. But anyhow, this looked like it could be a really festive little item in the living room if I reupholstered it.

So into the house it came, and I stripped it down to its horsehair underpinnings. Then came the big question – what to do with it now? Whatever I did, it had to be with fabric that I already possessed because so far I haven’t found out where to buy fabric here. I finally settled on a really splashy little piece of oilcloth that was white with red polka dots. I figured that in a house with five kids, a poufee really needs to be outfitted in a sturdy PVC if it wants a fighting chance. And the dots would be nice and sporty. This piece of oilcloth, I might add, came from Liz’s shop and has been on the table for many a Sabbath Dinner at Mom’s. She had gotten a little tired of the red polka dots and sent the piece along with me. And I think I’ll take this opportunity to say that you can never really go wrong with a snazzy little bit of oilcloth – or so I thought.

I upholstered that poufee and did a remarkably good job too if I do say so myself. But this should have been a warning sign . . . whenever I do a really darned good job on something I should know by now that bad news is just around the corner. I finished the thing and took it into the living room. As I stood back to admire my work I suddenly realized that I now have my very own, 3D, oilcloth, living room version of Strawberry Shortcake’s hat. It really is a complete pain. I cannot look at that thing without thinking of Strawberry Shortcake. But I’m so put out with the thought of yanking out all of those staples, that I’m leaving it for the time being, and when I’m feeling godlier, I will redo it in something more, well, mature.

Since I’m sure you’re all following this little saga on the edge of your seats, I’ll make sure that when my poor pouffe gets yet another makeover, I will keep you posted. Further bulletins as events warrant.

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15 thoughts on “Project Misfire

  1. So the deep spiritual meaning of this story is that grace brings us unexpected gifts, and we should go with the flow, receiving and doing our best with what we’ve been given, but sometimes we still manage to be perfectly ridiculous in the process?

  2. Forget the kids’ beds and the quality knives…you need to buy a digital camera. I think we’d all like to see that Strawberry Shortcake poufee.

  3. Rebekah,
    In a small effort to transform your pouffe from Strawberry Shortcake to Lower Farm House chic I did a search on Google for fabric stores in Oxford. The result was this:
    Kings Fabrics
    5-7 New Inn Hall St.
    Oxford, OX1 2DH UK
    44 7865 791121
    On a map it put the store near Clarendon Centre…if that means anything to you.
    Hope this helps!

  4. I do actually follow the saga — on the edge of the floor rather. We lived for six months with the same plastic silverware while we prioritized on books. Somehow it seems appropriate for something called a ‘pouffe’ to look like Strawberry Shortcake’s hat.

  5. As Ben was passing through the living room just now he assured me that I didn’t do any false advertising by describing the pouffe as Strawberry Shortcake. I’ll see if I can post a picture of it for all you . . . but don’t say I didn’t warn you!

    Molly – thanks so much! That’s really good to know . . . and the Clarendon Centre is right next to our church – so I should be able to find it. Thanks! There are actually curtain shops on just about every corner, (I think the English must take their curtains extremely seriously) but so far I haven’t seen any regular fabric shops.

  6. Maybe the English didn’t get on the bandwagon with the Strawberry Shortcake thing. So your pouffe may be safe in the company of British guests. I think it is rather cute. You could probably sell it for a good price on E-bay, or barter for a bed or some sharp knives. The best place I found to buy fabric was at the Laura Ashley stores. Some HomeBases have a Laura Ashley section and sell fabric remnants. There is a nice quilting shop in Bath with a good fabric selection if you ever visit there.

  7. I must pass along this information to my husband; that I’m not the only woman in the world who can’t pass up a good deal on something that I might need no matter how low on the list of priorities it is!
    Here’s to dusty pianos and pouffes!

  8. Good work with all of your finds, Bekah!

    Your story made me laugh. It was a good warning to me, as I am working on finding the right oil cloth to redo my vintage kitchen chairs and was considering the red and white polka dots! I’ll have to keep searching.

    I talked to my friend Ruth in Oxford just yesterday and she wants to meet you for tea sometime. I’ll try and get around to a proper e-mail soon and give you details.

    Bless you! You are in our prayers.


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