Off to the Races

Glamour, funny hats, champagne, and oh yea… horses too. The Spring Racing Carnival arrived in Melbourne! November is full of excitement with the sun coming out and the horse races under way. The Carnival lasts for a couple of weeks, and Victorians even get to enjoy a day off work for Melbourne Cup Day.

The festivities start with planning the most important accessory of the season… a fascinator! In the search for my perfect one, I came to find that these accessories cost a fortune! Especially if you want a statement piece (and why wouldn’t you?). Designers create incredible art works out of tulle, flowers, and feathers to adorn race goers noggins. Unwilling to dish out $400+ for a fancy headband I found the nearest craft store and loaded my basket up with some essentials and a hot glue gun. And voilà, a one-of-a-kind fascinator for Oaks Day (Also know as Lady’s Day… so now widely recognized as Blokes Day).

Joe’s office organized the Oaks Day outing at the Nursery Car Park. It is similar to a very long tail-gating party, except people dress up and pay top dollar to get in. The day was filled with sunshine, bubbly, and horse bets (no winners this time).

Furnishing our city pad

The first (of hopefully many design inspired posts) is finally here! I have been up to some home DIY projects to stretch our furnishing budget while making our apartment fashionably livable (and finding reasons to fill my days with treasure hunts and occasional paint fumes).

I quickly discovered the Craigslist equivalent in Melbourne (gumtree.com.au for those who are new to the city)! Gumtree, Ebay, and the dreaded trips to IKEA have helped in creating the modern industrial meets cozy vintage look I wanted for our loft-like city space. My first project: Repurposed Pallet Coffee Table (thanks pintrest for the inspiration!)

How to create yours in 5 easy steps:

You’ll need:
1 Pallet
1 Liter of clear polyurethane (or stain in the color of your choice)
1 medium-sized paint brush (for water based paint)
4 caster wheels
16 wood screws
Power drill (unless you have a lot of elbow grease to contribute)
Orbital sander
1½ Dedicated DIY days

Step 1: Find (or buy) a used pallet.

I found mine when I was picking up another ebay purchase! It was sitting on the sellers front porch and since they were moving out of the country I thought I’d be considerate and offer to take the pallet off their hands. I offered to buy it but they were so happy (and perplexed) that someone would want an old, ugly pallet that they threw it in for free! If you’re not having the same pallet finding luck, many warehouses sell used pallets… a simple google search will help you find yours!

Step 2: Prep!

If you don’t have the luxury of working outdoors, make sure you have a well-ventilated space. Put a large tarp on the floor and open your windows before you get started. If you’re working outside, I’m jealous!

Prep the pallet by giving it a good cleaning. It was probably a functional warehouse tool in its former life, but the dirt and grime from whatever bundles it carried have no place on your beautiful table.

Step 3: Sand, sand, sand!

Pallets are generally not very pretty, but a few rounds with an orbital sander will reveal a new life for your pallet. I sanded the top of the pallet using a medium grain paper with my orbital sander 3 times, until the surface was as smooth as possible. The nature of the wood is still imperfect, but I think that makes it an even more attractive piece. You just want to make sure that you don’t run the risk of leaving any ragged, splinter causing surfaces on the wood so sand away! After you finish sanding, wipe the sawdust off the pallet with a damp cloth to make sure you have a clean surface ready for painting (I would vacuum the area around the pallet as well to avoid dust particles from getting in to your stain or paint.

Step 4: Clear coat polyurethane.

Now it’s painting time! Get yourself a good brush and you’ll be able to reuse it for all your DIY adventures. I used a clear polyurethane for my pallet (again, loving the imperfections in the wood and I wanted the natural colors to show through), but you can opt for different wood stains based on your décor preference. When painting, be sure not to overload your brush with paint. Dip the brush in the paint can and let the excess drip back into the can by gently wiping the brush against the side of the paint can (similar to painting your nails). Taking the brush in the same direction of the wood grain, apply one thin coat at a time. I found it easier to do half of the pallet first and then move around to finish the other side. Applying thin coats is key! You also want to make sure you wait at least 2 hours before applying a second coat (and possible 3rd if needed). Don’t forget to cover all the visible sections of the pallet with your stain, that means getting the inside of the lower wood slab as well.

Then… wait! I know the feeling… I get eager about finishing projects too! It is best to wait a full day before touching the fresh surface and moving on to step 5.

Step 5: Attach wheels and enjoy!

Now that the stain is perfectly dry, flip your pallet upside down to reveal the four corner studs (aka new home for the wheels). Castor wheels come in all shapes and sizes. I used large grey wheels with built-in brakes that I found at the local home improvement store (I really wanted the all metal industrial looking ones but they were $25 each, so in the interest of saving some cash, I went for the less expensive rubber ones at $12.50 a pop). Using the power drill, screw on the wheels with your wood screws. Make sure the screws go in straight to avoid them from poking out on the side of your table.

Flip and Enjoy! You’ve created a conversation starting centerpiece for your room! Put some great books on it and enjoy it!

Everyone who comes into our place comments on the table! It has truly become a staple in our living room. I surrounded it with a mix of textures and seating to create an inviting and functional living space. My new texture obsession: sheepskin rugs! They don’t always have to go on the floor either… I added one to my black Barcelona love seat to soften the look of the black leather and chrome legs. The juxtaposition of the soft sheepskin with the burlap pillows I made from recycled coffee sacs make for an interesting aesthetic and easy comfort. I centered a geometric rug in the room (a great non-IKEA-looking IKEA find!) to add some color and repeated the metal accents throughout the room with the TV stand and a tray I fashioned as an industrial modern yet global remote control holder. Finished product: a come hang-out in me and feel awesome space!