serendipity |ˌserənˈdipitē|noun:  the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way.

Has this ever happened to you?  Have things ever come together in just the right way at just the right moment?  To say the events of the last few days were serendipitous seems a bit of an understatement….

Having recently moved into our new home we have learned that storage solutions that worked in the old place didn’t necessarily work in the new one.  Bathroom storage has been particularly tricky.  Book storage has been a nightmare…since, well, we don’t have any bookcases (they were “built-in” in the old house).

We were determined to find used bookshelves.  We were not interested in big box MDF board shelves for cheap(er) nor were we inclined to spend the kind of cash needed to acquire new solid wood bookcases (Gah!).  Used book shelves were kinder to the environment and much kinder still to our pocketbooks (which are still recovering from the move).  No worries.  Kijiji, freecycle, Thrift Stores…surely we would find something right?  Wrong.  In a university town there is a healthy appetite for such things.

I do not admit defeat easily.  So one evening when we were setting out to visit family east of the city, I decided we should go visit one of my favourite thrift stores “just to see”.  What did we have to lose?  We were headed in that direction anyways right?  Well, we were late for dinner but we did find ourselves a bookcase!!!!!!!!  Yay!

More happy spontaneity than serendipity at this point but stay with me.  We purchased our new, three unit, metal bookcase for all of $16.  It was rough but it had potential.  Unfortunately I don’t have a picture of it empty so the comparisons to later photos will not show the amazing transformation as well.

You see I am not the most patient person and I needed to see what the shelf looked like immediately.  I also had a pressing need to get those books out of those boxes and onto shelves.  I was pleased.  Especially so when Josh ran to the garage to find a piece of wood from the rafters.  Placed on top it looked perfect.  Well not quite, there was the issue of the faux wood metal shelves.  Some paint was in order.

I wasn’t quite sure what was involved in painting metal and a quick google search gave one option:  spray paint.  Not so earth friendly.  But I was recycling right?  I convinced myself that at the very least the two cancelled each other out and were likely carbon neutral.

Head to store.  Look at colour selection.  Sigh heavily.  It will have to do there are books to free from boxes…and friends coming for dinner and a party to plan.  Just buy it already.

I had doubts.  So I spray painted some bristol board and used fridge magnets to hold the strips on.  Did we like the colour?  Kind of Miami Beach House…less Scandinavian Cottage than I was hoping.  More sighing.  It would have to do.

We pressed on.

Toxic paint was conundrum number one.  Spray painting in winter was conundrum number two.  Acquire heaters.  Put in garage.  Would this work?  We shall see.

The answer is yes.  And no.  And oh, the no was miserable!  It looked like this:

The first misery is spray painting. It is smelly.  It hurts your hand and forearm.  As the spray bottles of primer and then colour stacked up beside me I started to wonder if this was ever a good idea…$16 down the drain.  Killing Mother Earth.  When I got back into the house I took down my face mask, looked in the mirror and realized I looked like a performer from Cirque du Soleil.  More evidence this was not a good idea.  But I had finished priming the whole thing and had two coats on the top part and one on the bottom.  It would work out.  It was going to be fine.

The second misery was waking up the next day ready to finish the bottom half, put up the shelves and have it ready for the dinner party only to start spraying and *shock*, *horror*….the paint began to, to, lift? scrunch together? I don’t know what was happening, but anywhere I had sprayed developed this.  It was horrific.  A true shelf painting disaster.  I then realized why there is so much fodder for those DYI reality shows.  Laughing to myself in the most maniacal of ways, I started to scrape off the mess I had made…cue the heavy sighing.  And some swearing.  Head shaking.  All of it.  Just look at the picture.  I bet you are shaking your head too.  Apparently I had two options with spray paint.  Apply the second coat within one hour OR after 48 hours.  The first half was done with the hour and looked like this:

I know.  It closely resembled my high school locker.  You’ve already seen what the second half looked like.  That I spray painted after 24 hours.  Crap.  I couldn’t face spray painting the disastrous bottom shelves.  This would never work.  So I picked up my copy of Canadian House and Home (Feb 2012) that had arrived that morning.  I sat down.  I sipped tea.  I flipped pages and landed on page 34.  Top right hand corner.  Go look if you have a copy.  It changed my life.  It saved my shelves.  Which looked like this at that very moment:

Enter this amazing product:  Annie Sloan’s Chalk Paint.

The magazine said I could “use it to paint out floors and furniture for that timeless Scandinavian style”.  Yes.  YES!  That is what I want.  I know it is a tall order for $16 dollar metal thrift store shelves from the 1960s but it was possible.  The magazine also said it was available from retailers across Canada.  I went online.  I got “chalkboard paint”.  Thawuzit. Darn.  I went back to the magazine.  I read “Annie Sloan”.  I typed that in.  I found her lovely website.  This was what I needed.  She lives in England.  Cue the sigh etc, etc.  I was tired.  I almost turned off the computer.  Then I spied “Canadian Stocklists” in small print in the bottom left hand side of the screen.  Could the dream stay alive?  I clicked.  I almost fainted (remember I had been breathing paint fumes for days).  This is what came up on my screen:

The Melon Patch

357 Main St Bath Ontario

No way.  NO WAY!  After all I had been through it was this easy.  357 Main St Bath was 30 minutes from my door.  I stood up.  I found the phone and I called Elizabeth.  She owns The Melon Patch.  She might be my new best friend.  My mind was working fast, hopped up on paint fumes as it was.  I think my mouth was working even faster.  I think I may have scared Elizabeth.  “Is it true you carry Annie Sloan’s Chalk Paint?”  “Yes” she answered.  I grilled her “Is it true this paint can be used on metal and wood and that it requires no prep or sanding?”  “Yes” she answered.  Oh my.  She commented that the feature in Style at Home Magazine had her phone ringing off the hook.  Style at Home?  Didn’t she mean Canadian House and Home?  Paint fumes.  “Where are you calling from?” she asked having received phone calls from all over Canada (she had indeed been featured in Style at Home).  “Kingston” I replied.  “You should come on over” she suggested.  So I did.

I got off the phone. I took a shower and a few deep breaths.  I was seriously excited about this paint.  On the drive I tried to collect myself not wanting to scare Elizabeth with my enthusiasm.  Such a lovely drive.  And oh what a lovely store (but that is a post for another day).  I was greeted by the very friendly Elizabeth and I did my best to act normal.  I will tell you more about the store and how The Melon Patch came to carry this paint.  But I must get back to the shelves.  I showed Elizabeth some photos taken on my camera.  She very politely nodded when she saw the disaster shelves (I didn’t perceive even a hint of a head shake…thank you Elizabeth).  I also showed her some of the other furniture pieces I had picked up at the various thrift stores I had visited and we spent a lovely half an hour or so discussing colours, eco-friendly properties of chalk paint, Scandinavian vs Shabby Chic, her daughter’s studies in Sweden and my daughter’s upcoming birthday.  I felt more like myself than I had in days.  The fresh breeze off the shores of Lake Ontario must have cleared the fumes from my head.

I left with my paint.  One pint of Duck Egg blue and a sampler of Paris Grey (for the end tables).  The pint was $40.  But maybe the best $40 dollars I’ve ever spent.  But I was also given a warning, “That paint is addictive” Elizabeth said.  “Don’t start until after your daughter’s birthday party.  Once you start, you will want to paint everything in your house”.  “Okay thanks” I said.  There was no waiting.  I had to paint.  Now.

What she told me about this paint was true.  No prep.  No sanding.  It was idiot proof. I love idiot proof.  And I did indeed have an intense urge to paint everything in sight.

See?  Look at me painting right over the hideousness.  Easy as pie.  And look at this pic.  The faux wood grain.  You agree don’t you.  It needed to be done.

That night Josh and I shared a paint brush and a bottle of wine.  The shelves were painted in a matter of hours, not days.  My hand didn’t ache.  We did two coats.  We went to bed.  We woke up to this:

Just fantastic.  My books have a home.  A $16 dollar bookshelf looks amazing (IMHO).  And I have found a fantastic local store to boot.  Serendipity indeed.

**A caution:  Elizabeth was right about everything, the colour choice, how easy it was to paint with Chalk paint etc.  I did absolutely want to paint everything…the end tables, the coffee table, the walls, the floor, the play furniture…oh my.  You’ve been warned.***


Here are some details you’ve been asking about:

First we cut the wood to size.  Then we sanded it and by “we” I mean Josh.  Then we got out the drill (I stepped in at this point, not one to miss out on power action).  Holes were drilled into the four corners of the wood.  There were already some holes in the metal.  Josh took over again for the screwing of the L-brackets onto the wood and into the metal.  Thanks honey.  Here are some pics:

Ahhhh.  I love it.  I should also mention for safety reasons we secured it to the wall.


13 responses

  1. Kelli
    What a lovely post , I am overhwelmed.
    You remind me of a younger me!!!!! The experience you describe is the goal of
    the Melon Patch to have people connect with the surroundings, tap into their
    creativity in an eco way.
    Thanks and look forward to meeting you agian.


  2. Kelli, I love this shelf and this post!

    Also, my mom has been friends with Elizabeth for years and years now (it’s always so odd when you see someone mentioned who you know….I feel kind of like Will Ferrell in Elf when he sees Santa and starts yelling “I know him”. Hah).

    • Jill I didn’t even realize it existed until I opened the magazine…I am joining the “obsessed with chalk paint” bandwagon. I can’t wait to see what you are going to do with you. I adore your stuff on the Painted Pear Blog!

  3. Pingback: A room of her own… | thousandislandsmama

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