Dumpster Findings

Dear Auntie Moonbeam

The dumpster has been good to me lately. Everyone must be spring cleaning because I’m finding all sorts of cool stuff out there.

In fact my bounty has been so plentiful I’m dealing with a surplus issue in my tiny apartment. Remember that William Morris quote from earlier?

Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful

Yeahhhhh, I might have to amend it ever so slightly;

Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful – unless it was free and has the potential to be awesome after a couple coats of paint and some fabric

I like to think given Will’s love of textiles he’d be on board with that updated philosophy.

And hey – if the worst happens and these pieces don’t work out they can go right back out to the trash heap for someone else to pick up!

Let’s review the current tally, shall we?

Dining Table

This was flat out silly to take. I already have a perfectly good and sentimentally important dining room table (Thanks Grandma!) However when I spotted this I couldn’t pass it up. I love a circular table. And the girly curved legs. And the size definitely suits my dining area.

Please excuse the messy background - I found this late one night. Which means instead of cleaning up the day's mess I spent the time hauling this up from the trash.  How did I get it upstairs by myself you ask?  Simple, I rolled it!

Please excuse the messy background – I found this late one night. Which means instead of cleaning up the day’s mess I spent the time hauling this up from the trash. How did I get it upstairs by myself you ask? Simple, I rolled it!

I’ve since removed the legs and stored the whole thing in the back of my closet until I can figure out how to solve The Puzzle of Two Tables.

When I get it sorted out here’s my plan for refinishing:

Strip off the chipping lacquer. Although for the sake of laziness I might try sanding it smooth first. Stripping lacquer seems like it’d be a lotta work. Then I’m thinking a glossy white finish.  And I’m toying with maybe using a colour on the legs…..hmmm….


Of all the things I’ve found lately this item will need the most repair. It’s not great quality to start with. It’s fiber board and veneer. One gable has a big split down the middle. And one of the drawers is missing a side. But the hardware is in good working order and (bonus) is solid brass. Plus I did mention it was free, right?

Secretary Before

Also, look how quickly it goes from frumpy to something approaching pretty with just a few accessories.

Secretary Before with Accessories

So here’s my plan – done in sketchy styles this time (see what I did there? I’m so sneaky!)

Secretary Sketch


I couldn’t resist this piece. Mirrors, especially ones with chunky frames can get quite costly. This one had been part of a larger cabinet piece – see the remaining hinge hardware on the back.

Mirror before

Out of all the dumpster finds this is the only piece not destined to remain in my place. Not that I couldn’t happily find room for it but as it happens I’m working on a nursery for a good friend and after a little refinishing this is gonna fit right in. I won’t say more ’cause I want it to be a surprise. Watch for that in future posts!

Dressing Chair

Lest you think my dumpster findings are always success stories I should point out this next piece was my second attempt to get a dressing chair into my bedroom. The first chair I brought up from the trash seemed at first glance to be a winner. Then I got it in place and the proportions were all wrong, the side support was completely broken (how did I miss that?) and worst of all it was uncomfortable to sit on.

As I returned it to the heap I spotted a second chair hidden behind some cardboard. Which is how I ended up with this beaut:

Dressing Chair before

Yes the fabric is old faux leather and torn. But the frame was solid and I even like the look of worn wood. Surprise surprise – this one might not get painted!

But it was crying out for some new fabric. I’ve ordered some samples from Tonic Living (a must glance for fabric lovers) but in the meantime I had a temporary solution easily on hand.

I recently hemmed about 1.5 yards off a pair of grey Ikea drapes. Perfect! Reduce, reuse, recycle – right?

I’ve never reupholstered a chair but when I pulled this from the trash I’d checked to make sure all seams were concealed by the wood frame. That way when I recovered it I’d have somewhere to conceal my mistakes.

Dressing Chair frame

First step – iron the wrinkles out of the fabric.

Second step – lay out and cut the fabric panels.

Dressing Chair during

Third step – start stapling the fabric to the frame. Which is where I made my mistake for this project. Going on the same principles used when stretching canvases I began stapling in the centres and working opposite sides concurrently. Turns out pulling fabric requires a little more finesse than stretching a canvas ’cause I ended up with a few lines.  Ooops…

Even with the lines it didn’t turn out too badly.  The midtone grey compliments the worn wood tones nicely.  I still think I’ll ultimately end up covering it with a colourful fabric (and I haven’t completely ruled out painting the frame).  But for the time being I’m happy to have a place to plop down when I put on socks!

Dressing Chair with Grey Fabric

And on that note – have a happy weekend!  Here’s hoping the weather where you are is better than the freezing rain Toronto is currently enduring enjoying!



6 thoughts on “Dumpster Findings

  1. Amazing what a change in fabric will do!
    I’ve done quite a bit if it! Easy least on chairs isn’t it? People don’t realize how easy
    It is. If they discovered that secret, upholsters would have less business. However, I did a settee once. Ordered the
    piping from an upholsterer rather than
    get bogged down with it. Then attached it
    it to the material etc. Had a ‘sunset’ how to
    book on upholstering! We had that settee
    for ten years! Wasn’t perfect, but worked
    for the time!! Wasnt easy, and I gained
    a new appreciation of upholsterers!!

    • I agree – I didn’t think it would be that simple. But it’s kinda like golf, isn’t it? Easy to play, hard to be good at!

      I hope when I do it a second time with a colourful fabric I can get better at eliminating the lines! :)

  2. Interesting to see the mirrow you accessorized the secretary with. Your grandparents would have bought it in the 60s in a gold gilded colour frame. It’s been through different colours as well. I remember Nanny painting it white and being so proud of herself for brightening it up.

  3. Hey Sweet Becks! I too LOVE dumpster diving … it is the absolute BEST! When we lived in Yellowknife we went to the town dump on a regular basis and got the most amazing stuff: beautiful furniture, power tools, working appliances, incredible fabric … even brand new clothes and diamond rings! Yes! Are you wondering whats so special about the Yellowknife dump? Wellll … because Yellowknife so far away from southern Canada people who were leaving town and heading south could not afford to take much more than the clothes on their back … everything else went to the dump, where they knew it would find a good home. And yes, if people were in a hurry they’d even inadvertently toss diamond rings!

    Yippee! Most fun ever, except for maybe Big Garbage Day on Gabriola Island … which is another story for another time!

    Love you Becky … your beautiful projects are a true inspiration! I love the aquas and blues!!!

    Auntie Moonbeam

    • Hi Auntie Moonbeam!

      I love that story. It’s like when settlers cruised across the country and dumped stuff they couldn’t fit in the wagon. Their loss is our gain!

      Send me pics of Big Garbage Day on Gabriola Island – sounds amazing!!

      Love to you too,

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