Okay, first of all, let's pause and take the obligatory moment to make fun of the fact that my dreams contain things like side tables. Yes, I aspire to owning attractive side tables, so sue me. I aspire to other, more noble things as well, obviously—like owning an attractive coffee table, for instance, OKAY I'M JUST KIDDING—but I have, for the longest time, been fairly consumed with finding the perfect side tables. Some people may say that this is what is wrong with America today. I say that what is wrong with America today is that I couldn't find those damn side tables anywhere, despite the picture of them I had in my head.
And so I decided to make them.
Yes, I decided to make my own furniture! Like a pioneer! Look at me, out here on the plain, wielding a can of spray paint and an Exacto knife! What, you thought I meant I made them from scratch? That's adorable, but I'm afraid I'm not that hardcore. I didn't make them make them. I just....decorated them a bit.
But enough about that; let's look at some before and afters. Here is the world's most basic dresser, the IKEA RAST, which is $34.99 at everyone's favorite flat-pack furniture store.
It's pretty plain, right? Can you imagine having that as your side table? You'd fall asleep every time you walked into your living ro—wait, sorry, I fell asleep already just thinking about it. But what if I told you that you could take that RAST—I love how everything at IKEA is in all caps, it's like they're SHOUTING ABOUT FURNITURE ALL THE TIME—and transform it into.......
.........the side table of your dreams!
(This is the side table of my dreams. I apologize if this is not the side table of your dreams. We have different dreams, I guess. Hopefully, this means you don't also have the one about all your teeth falling out, because that one's a bummer.)
How did I do it? Well, it was both really easy and a complete pain in the ass. The pain in the ass part was mostly because I kept going away for the weekend or having people come and stay, which meant the entire project dragged on and on and on, and also I severely underestimated the amount of spray primer and spray paint I would need and ran out of both, like, six separate times. Which meant six separate trips to Home Depot for more. Which meant six separate times I cursed and swore and questioned why I couldn't just buy my furniture like a normal person instead of having to make it like an idiot. Also, I changed my mind on the stencil twice, and it took me three different tries to find a gold paint that showed up properly and didn't smudge.
But despite all that, I finally finished the project and now I have a couple of side tables that I love to pieces, and which are absolutely what I envisioned in my head. I should note that I was hugely inspired by—and am hugely indebted to—this post about making a DIY Dorothy Draper chest, but there are a ton of other great RAST hacks out there too if you're looking for something a little different. (This Apartment Therapy post has a slew of them.) If you are interested in making something akin to mine, however, I am here to walk you through the (relatively few) steps. It isn't hard, you just have to stop going away for the weekend so you can actually get the damn thing done in less than two months. Also buy twelve cans of spray paint. Yeah, you heard me.
You need these things on the right. But times twelve.
First of all, once you have your RASTS in hand (a RAST in the hand is worth two in the...yeah, that joke died before I'd even started it) you will want to put together the frames (but not the drawers just yet—it makes it easier to stencil later if they're still unassembled) and take them out back to shoot them. Wait, I mean prime them. Easy mistake. I used a spray primer, because I am lazy and like to fancy myself a teenage hoodlum, but it would probably be more cost-effective to use normal primer (there are a lot of parts). Then again, spray primer dries nice and quickly—and also you get to feel like a teenage hoodlum—so it's really whatever floats your boat, I guess.
Once the primer is dry, it's time to spray paint everything—again, you could use normal paint, but you may be sensing a theme here—which will take approximately seven squajillion years, on account of all the parts, and also on account of the fact that you will probably want to do two coats. I used a Rustoleum spray paint in a shade called "Colonial Red," and for weeks afterwards, I looked like I had just murdered someone in cold blood. It was kind of awesome in that people cowered in fear when they saw me walking through the grocery store, but also not so awesome in that I basically looked like I had splatters of someone else's blood on my forearms and shins for most of September. Still, a couple of people let me go in front of them in line at Costco, so I can't say that period of my life didn't have its bonuses.
Welcome to your new back yard for the next few days. Hope you like millions of pieces of red painted wood.
While we waited a day or so for everything to dry thoroughly, Sean made me a stencil, based purely on a totally made-up shape that I traced in the air with my finger. "I want it to go like this," I said, waving my hand around, "and then like this, and then like this, and then like this." And then that genius took my ridiculous air doodles, opened up Illustrator, and created this:
And then duplicated it so I could see what it would look like side by side:
We printed two copies (just in case!) on our regular home printer, on thick card stock we had left over from something else:
Then we took turns cutting out the black parts super carefully with an Exacto knife:
Concentrate, concentrate, concentrate!
After that, I taped the stencil onto the first drawer front....
.......and started filling it in with gold. Let me save you some time right now and tell you that I tried two different gold craft paints (Craftsmart, which was way too thin, and Liquitex, which was lovely and thick but had a nasty habit of running and smudging) before discovering that the absolute best tool for this job is the Krylon 18 Karat Gold Leafing pen. I got mine at Michaels, where they are fairly pricey at $8.99 each, but I used one of the ubiquitous 40% off coupons, which brought it down to a little over $5. Also, I did all six drawer fronts with only one pen, and it still seems to be going strong, so it's actually a lot cheaper (and easier, and less messy) than buying paint and paintbrushes.
You will pry this from my cold, dead hands! I will gold leaf everything! Everything in the world!
Once I'd gone around the entire thing with the gold leafing pen (then once again for good measure), I pulled off the stencil and used two strips of tape to get a clean line at the part that hadn't been cut out (you can't cut out the entire stencil, obviously, or the whole thing will fall apart.)
After that, it was just a case of assembling the drawers, screwing in the ringpulls I'd ordered online at Lee Valley Tools (I used the middle size in burnished bronze), and taking a few comedy pictures while Sean wrestled the drawers into the frame:
You are hereby excused from going to the gym for the rest of the week.
One quick photo of the side tables together......
.......and then they were separated and relegated to different sides of the couch for the rest of their lives.
Whew! And that is the story of how I created the side tables of my dreams for a grand total of around $185, averaging out around $92 each. True, it wasn't a huge crazy bargain like the $10 bar cart from last week, but I'm pretty sure I would have spent more buying something I only kind of liked from an actual store. Next up, I have some grand plans to make some ottomans! Am I joking? I am not. Yeah, I have no idea what is happening to me either.