House Proud – Imaginative Projects, The Toronto Sun

This column ran while I was away over the holidays.  I’m publishing it here as I submitted it however my editor will likely have made some changes.  I don’t know which of the many pictures I submitted ran with the article but I’ve included my favourites.  Enjoy!

        Industrious and imaginative people who love their homes are doing wonderful things with ordinary items.  Today I’m featuring a couple of projects whose completion made me say, “Wow!”

            Annette is a fellow motorcycle rider who shares my love for a renovation or recycling project and she has taken an overlooked piece of furniture and transformed it into a showpiece.


            “Once I had the idea”, Annette tells me, “I headed straight for the Habitat Re-Store. Whenever I have a project on the go, I usually check there.  I think the cabinet started its life as an upper bathroom cabinet. It was pretty dirty and gross but it was the right size and I knew I would be cleaning, sanding and painting it anyway.”

            Many people would avoid a “dirty and gross” piece of furniture but Annette saw the possibilities and started planning the cabinet’s makeover.

            “The doors got a couple coats of black paint and the cabinet was painted a brownish burgundy (it’s the colour of the accent wall in that room). I bought 2 wheels and 2 feet, 2 wineglass sliders, new knobs and hinges, and a rail that goes around the back and sides of the top. I found everything I needed at Lee Valley.”

barcart 010

            The cabinet now occupies a spot in Annette’s dining room where it serves as a cocktail accessory and glass display hutch, hiding CDs and games inside. Not only did Annette create a one-of-a-kind item with a great story behind it, she got it for a fraction of investing a brand new piece.  The cabinet cost $30. and she spent about $100. on the hardware. 
            Leigh and her husband are huge Montreal Canadiens fans who would love to show their allegiance but they don’t particularly care for the team paraphrenalia that’s on the market.  A relative’s fireplace decoration led Leigh to construct a unique team cheerleader for her home.

            “My sister-in-law had two soldiers made of clay pots that used to decorate her fireplace at Christmas, and I always wanted to make a pair for myself.  My daughter collects nutcrackers, so I thought I would start there. Last year, I made her a nutcracker that turned out beautifully. My husband was impressed, and wanted me to get started on the two soldiers.  Somehow, we came up with the idea of Habs players instead, one with home jersey and one with away.  That way they could proudly stand by the fireplace for the entire hockey season.”

            The project is fairly easy but the results are striking.  You need five clay pots of the same size and after they’re glued together with epoxy, your imagination can take over.

            “The hard part is the face detail and the team emblem”, explains Leigh. “I added a few missing teeth and a helmet and for the emblem, I’ve created stencils that I will use over again to get the proportions right.  I used doweling rods for the arms, and thick cardboard to create the shoulders.  Once everything was painted and ornaments attached, I sprayed with a matte finishing spray to set everything.  I’m still looking for some kids bob skates to complete the look.”

Leigh's project

            Her daughter’s nutcracker is decorated completely differently than the Habs fan.   

            “For that one, I used traditional shoulder braiding and pompoms to represent a fur hat and gloves.”

            The Habs guard the fireplace during hockey season and get put away for the summer.  The options for customizing your own nutcracker are only limited by your imagination.

            It’s inspirational when the result of a little sweat and a lot of imagination is a unique feature for your home that you’re proud to show off and even prouder when people notice and ask where you bought it, prompting you to tell its story.