Fake it til you make it!

By Sarah from Atomic Magpie. 

I love mid century decor and heaven knows my house borders on being a museum, but sometimes the price sticker for an original piece can quickly put something out of reach (and straight onto my wish list!).

I’ve wanted a vintage starburst mirror for ages, but I’ve never found one that I loved enough to spend the big bucks on. So when I saw this rusty, beat up, department store effort on a local swap and sell site (FOR FREE!), I knew I could make it (aka fake it) into something that scratched my Mid Century Starburst itch…well, for now anyway!

Before. A little bit tacky and way too bedazzling

Before I continue, I need to confess – this thing sat in my garage for months before I touched it. In fact, I avoided it….refusing to even look at it. I’m not sure why exactly, but now that it’s done, I wonder why I was so intimidated by a piece of metal. Anyhoo, I digress. This mirror was rusty and grimy. The smaller mirrors were either falling off or gone, which was ok because I hated them. And that was the first step – after removing the large center mirror for safety, I used pliers and pushed/popped the smaller mirrors off. This was not too hard as many of the joins had rusted.

Mangled baby mirrors

I worked my way around the frame until all the small mirrors were gone. As bad as the rust looks in the photos, thankfully it was only surface deep, and none of the rods had rusted through.

Is it seven years bad luck if you break a mirror deliberately?

Once I had removed all the small mirrors, I wiped the whole thing down with a wet rag. This is where it got a little messy. A lot of the paint starting flaking off in chunks where the rust had lifted it. These chips of paint stuck to everything – the rag, my hands, the drop cloth, you name it. After removing as many of the obvious paint flakes as I could, I went over the whole thing thoroughly with 200 grit sandpaper to remove peeling paint and rust. This part was laborious, mostly because every time I thought I was done, I’d see another patch I had missed. I’d say I spent about an hour sanding. Not my favourite thing to do, but necessary.

Almost there!

Once I had gotten as much of the rust and paint off as possible, I sprayed the whole thing with a coat of Killz primer with rust protection. I then followed up with 3 coats of my ever trusty Rustoleum Metallic Gold. It is by far my favourite gold spray paint, I love the final colour and tone.

And there you have it! A modern day starburst mirror, with a mid century vibe. Love it!

After1-001
Starburst in the Afternoon Sunshine….Fabulous!

Handy hint #1 – Classy & brassy, removing paint from Brass. 

Here at Atomic Magpie, we spend as much of our time cleaning and restoring vintage items as we do sourcing them. Pieces that are 40+ years old come in all conditions. From pristine and barely used to well loved, thrashed and modified.

Looking past decades of paint, grime and use can be challenging. That said, seeing good bones underneath 1980’s seafoam green paint and then restoring the item to its original glory is extremely satisfying.

Along the way I have picked up many handy hints and tricks for restoring items, and this post is going to talk about one of them.

Before. These Danish modern candlesticks covered in paint, have seen better days

This gorgeous pair mid century Danish modern candlesticks had been gold spraypainted (badly). Maybe the original owner didn’t feel like polishing them? Or wanted a matte finish? One can only guess, but they were covered in an uneven, drippy coat of paint and looked miserable.

A close up of the sadness

Here’s where the fun starts! After doing some research, I learned that brass expands when heated. Meaning that heating it would almost force the paint to come off. I’m no scientist, but this sounded legit, so onwards to heating the candlesticks.

After filling an old pot (that wasn’t going to be used for food again) with water and a shake or two of baking soda (I’m not big on measuring), I boiled the candlesticks for about 90 minutes.

The film of old paint appeared very quickly

The paint started to come off almost immediately – and stuck to the pot, which is why you should use an old one you don’t plan on using again for food prep. It should also be noted that it’s probably a good idea to do this in a well ventilated area, with the window open or an exhaust fan on. While the smell wasn’t terrible, it was present and, like all things old paint, you are never quite sure what you’re dealing with unless you’re the one that first painted it (lead anyone?)

Bubble , bubble, toil and trouble!

After removing the pieces from the pot, they were scrubbed gently with a regular kitchen sponge/scourer to get the remaining paint residue off. An engineer friend mentioned afterwards that it’s probably not a wise idea to put heated metal directly under cold water, as it can crack with the sudden heating and cooling/expanding and contracting. Brass is a softer metal so that doesn’t typically happen, but if you’re not 100% sure what type of metal you’re dealing with, take care with that step.

Last up, a quick polish with one of my faves – the ever trusty “Barkeepers Friend”. This stuff is amazing, and polished the brass in an instant.  Pretty flash I think!

Shiny, shiny!

Time flies when you’re having fun! 

Wow, we can’t believe it has been a year since our little mid century table makeover! Not only was the response on social media amazing, but it was featured on one of our very favourite design websites, Apartment Therapy, as one of their Before & After projects! It also appeared on the Norwegian design website “Kreative Ideer”.  So cool! 

Click on the photo to check out the story behind this fab table makeover! 

A mid century rescue

Do you know the way to San Jose? (an Eichler pictorial)

By Sarah from Atomic Magpie

Recently, I was fortunate enough to spend some time in the Fairglen tract, just outside of downtown San Jose, home to one of the iconic Eichler neighborhoods. Inspired by the designs of Frank Lloyd Wright, Joseph Eichler was a prominent property developer in the late 1940’s-1960’s, and was responsible for these very unique neighborhoods.

Eichler Homes sidewalk stamp
 
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Gorgeous streamlined frontage & flat roof
I did a short walking tour through the tree-lined streets, and imagined life way back when, in this Mid Century time capsule. It is a design and architecture lovers dream.

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Slightly A-framed roof, still low profile
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Yard facing glass walls
There’s something special about warm wood paneled walls, interior atrium, window walls and flat roofs, and these stunning San Jose Eichler’s are a true piece of Mid century modernist architecture. The open plan and airy feel were considered futuristic by many, and have influenced many design trends since.

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Iconic original kitchen cabinetry & glass wall
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Exposed wood beam ceilings, and stunning wood paneled walls. Swoon!
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More fabulous wood paneling & radiant heated floors.
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Afternoon silhouettes, windows galore!
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A gorgeous Mid Century abode, appointed with a mixture of modern and vintage pieces. Perfection! (Vintage Lava Drip glaze lamp & Mirro Medallion candy dish courtesy of Atomic Magpie!)
Street after street of these gorgeous, well preserved and respected homes make this neighborhood a treat to wander. Original fixtures, gates & mailboxes, some updated, some preserved, all fabulous. Anyone with an interest in all things Mid Century, or even those who just appreciate classic architecture, should go take a stroll around one of these incredible neighborhoods. You wont regret it!

To check out our selection of Mid-Century treasures, click here

Tiptoe through the Tulips…

By Sarah from Atomic Magpie

Recently, I was lucky enough to snag a trio of vintage Tulip style chairs for a steal. They were rusty, dirty and scuffed and needed a lot of love but, with bones like these, impossible to resist. Widely considered to be a classic of industrial design, the Tulip chair was designed by Finnish born designer Eero Saarinen in the mid 1950’s for Knoll. The smooth, modern lines of this chair have made it an iconic mid-century piece, and one I could not pass up.

Before, the “for sale” pic
Another photo from the
More before!

After giving the chairs a good look over,  I realized that the fiberglass uppers were actually in pretty decent shape and mostly just in need of a really thorough cleaning. That said, it was a good hour of scrubbing and buffing to get them into tip top shape. I started with a little regular kitchen cleaner to get the first layer of grime off, I then followed up with a magic eraser. Which lived up to its name! The chairs were shiny in no time.

Clean and shiny. The holes are where the seat pads attach...more on that later.
Clean and shiny. The holes are where the seat pads attach…more on that later.

The metal bases were another story – covered in rust and dings. Thankfully the rust was only surface deep and hadn’t eroded any of the metal too seriously. I started by sanding them (wearing a breathing mask of course!) with a coarse 100 grit sandpaper, which removed most of the obvious rust. I followed up with a 220 grit to smooth it all out. In between I used a wet rag to wipe away the rust and dirt that was coming off. Some parts of the bare metal were exposed, but I was able to get a smooth surface pretty easily.

Close up of the base

In much of my research of restoring tulip chairs I had read about the difficulties many people had faced with getting the bases back on the seats after removing them, so I opted not to take them off, and instead covered the seats. This was mostly because I get frustrated by mechanical things easily and knew I would probably struggle to get them back on in a timely manner. I’m also rather impatient. So trash bags and painters tape it was, and this worked perfectly.

High end paint protection
High end paint protection

I then primed the bases using “Killz” spray on primer containing rust protection. After letting this dry, I used Krylon’s  prime and paint in one, in Ivory. My only advice here is DO NOT USE KRYLON spray paint. I followed the instructions to the T, I shook the can for a good two minutes and the paint came out lumpy. Like little sand granule sized lumps. Freak out, lose my mind, lumpy.  So, I had to let this dry completely and sand it off and start the process over (cursing Krylon’s name the whole time). Once I was back to square one, I used my old trusty Rustoleum Heirloom White. This was MUCH BETTER and I should have stuck with what I knew. Lesson learned.

One coat down
One coat down

I did 3 light coats of paint, letting  each one properly dry in between. I’ve learned over the course of a few projects that when it comes to spray painting, the best finish comes from multiple light layers, as opposed to drowning the first layer. Of course, I’ve read this a million times, but had to learn it for myself. So, take my word for it, it’s true. Once it was fully dried (I let it sit for 24 hours) I went over with a final layer of Rustoleum’s spray on Ultra cover clear gloss.

Finished!
Finished!

So here is the mostly finished result. These chair pads aren’t the ones I’m going to ultimately use, they’re a temporary fix until the proper ones are finished. I just couldn’t wait to share, but will update the pics as soon as the new pads are complete.

Love!

Fab!

A horse of a different colour

What a great idea! We just love seeing items being used for things beyond their original purpose. Take this fantastic David Douglas designed 1960’s coffee pot – looks perfect holding fruit and herb infused water at a summer party. Delish!

For more great mid century coffee pots, visit our store!

Thanks to Jeanne for the photo!
Thanks to Jeanne for the photo!

Sew much effort!

By Sarah from Atomic Magpie

Before
Before. “Oh, easy!”

Once in a while I come across a makeover project that makes me think “oh, easy!” and this little sewing cabinet was no exception. I mean, lots of flat surfaces and straight lines, an easy strip, stain and seal and “Bob’s your uncle!” Well, no. Not this time. I loved this little table from the get-go, I hated it for moments, but in the end, I’m still enamored.  That top drawer that flips around to hold bobbins and reels, so unusual and unique. Hard to pass up.

So unique!
So unique!

It wasn’t the 50 years of peeling paint underneath that was work, it was the freshest coat that had been slapped on top recently to cover it that made this project a sticky, messy nightmare. And all those straight lines? Hmm, yes, well, except for the grooves on the trim.  The MANY grooves on the trim. Not fun. And then there’s the drawer fronts. Yep, they’re flat alright, flat…but textured. With this odd layer of some kind of raffia or thatched laminate stuff. Stripping wasn’t even an option for those parts.

So many layers!
So many layers!

So to say the prep was difficult, is an understatement. This wee gem took days of paint stripping, and for moments, a little piece of my soul. Then, those grooves…well, I tried everything from scrapers to wire brushes to steel wool to skewers. I finally got there, but in hindsight, sandblasting would have been the more effective option. Note to self.

Groovy. But not really.
Groovy. But not really.

Next up, sanding. This part was the easiest of all. My snazzy Black & Decker orbital sander whizzed through and made the surface silky smooth in a jiffy. Things were looking up, because the last step in front of me, staining, is the easiest thing ever, right? I tried Minwax stain in Special Walnut, it’s a favorite of mine. And do you think this wood would take the stain? Oh puhlease, no way. Admittedly, there were two types of wood in this cabinet, and in my enthusiasm I didn’t consider the impact this may have on the staining process….which was evidently huge.  So the stain on top looked great, on the sides looked OK, and on the front, looked awful. It was a patchy, streaky mess, no matter what I tried.

Love this orbital sander.
Sanding = the only easy part

It was at this point I went back to the trusty internet and this is where Gel Stain SAVED THE DAY. Gel stain, unlike traditional stain, is more like a paint. So it doesn’t soak into the wood, it sits on the surface. It’s a similar process, wipe on, wipe off, but the result was perfection. I used Minwax Gel stain in Hickory, and it was a rich, gorgeous tone that still let the wood grain shine through. Most importantly, it was even, smooth and consistent. Not a streak in sight. This stuff is GLORIOUS.

Gel Stain saves the day
Gel Stain saves the day

The last step was the drawer fronts which, as mentioned earlier, were this weird textured stuff which I actually kinda liked the look of, but wasn’t able to strip or stain (or remove completely without having to replace the entire face of the drawers. More effort than I was willing to put in at this point). So I painted. I had some amazing aqua blue “Island Oasis” paint left over from a table makeover, so I used that. A couple of chrome drawer knobs later, and a coat of Minwax polyurethane to seal the whole thing, and the cabinet looks stunning.

Aqua & Chrome. Swoon!
Aqua & Chrome. Swoon!

Worth the labor intensive process (I can say that now it’s over and I’m not knee deep in paint stripper and desperation)

Pretty fancy, don't you think?
Pretty fancy, don’t you think?

For the love of Mid Century Modern…

By Sarah from Atomic Magpie

My love of all things Mid Century left me with little choice but to get sucked into the vortex that was Mad Men (binge watching TV series on Netflix is a favorite past time round these parts) And as sad as I am to see it finish, its impact on modern design trends is undeniable. Even Target has come out with a range of Vintage Modern homewares and furnishings. Which is lovely, but to me, nothing beats an original piece. A sumptuous lava drip glazed lamp from the 50’s, a walnut end table from the 60’s…these things sing to me in a way that a replica can’t.

Of course much of the time spent watching each episode of Mad Men was spent coveting the gorgeous furnishings and backdrops. From divine credenzas to burnt orange sofas to atomic ashtrays and bronze crane statuettes, it was Mid Century perfection. Oh to be a set designer on Mad Men!

So much swoon!
Mad Men – so much swoon!

I seem to do this a lot. Another perfect example recently was Hitchcock’s 1958 movie “Vertigo”. Yes, the movie is visually stunning and the story captivates, but it was the little details that grabbed my attention. The coffee percolator in James Stewart’s apartment, the cocktail glasses in the restaurant, a pin on Kim Novak’s coat. All eye candy for the accessory obsessed. It’s not lost on me that a good portion of the movie was spent trying to determine the manufacturer of the white chair in Midge’s apartment  – was it Woodard or was it Knoll – rather than following the storyline. It’s a bad case of mid-mod design ADD.

Vertigo
Vertigo

But…surely I can’t be the only one? What movies have hit you in the design bone? What movie or TV set would you love to ransack? Or replicate? We’d love to know!

A pair & a spare

There’s lots going on here at Atomic Magpie! We have a number of fantastic mid-century furniture makeover projects underway, and we are really excited to share them – just as soon as the paint is stripped, the stain is set and the brass polished.

Also on  the horizon are some amazing new finds fresh from Australia. They landed Stateside last week, and will be hitting our store in the coming weeks. Our magnificent vintage treasures include a stunning enameled cookware pair by Siltal of Italy, a retro-fabulous red ice bucket by Decor Australia, an AGEE Pyrex bowl and some other absolute gems. We’ll be sure to post more info once we have them listed in our store!

In the mean time, we’re going to share with you this sweet trio (or “a pair & a spare” as we like to say) of coffee mugs by Arcoroc of France. The are tres’ chic, and feature one of our most favorite colors – turquoise. In the popular Jardiniere design, featuring ribbed rings around the mugs, these tempered beauties are fab!

Turquoise beauties by Arcoroc of France
Turquoise beauties by Arcoroc of France

We love lamp!

Every now and again we come across a piece that makes us swoon. This lamp did just that. With its textured base, featuring gorgeous orange and gold diamond shaped detailing, and stunning walnut neck, this mid-century beauty is absolutely fantastic.

We have several fabulous lamps hitting our store in the coming weeks, be sure to stay tuned.

Mid Century Lamp
Orange and gold and walnut…oh my!