One night, right before closing, I decided to pop in a Goodwill. Dedicated thrifters believe that first thing in the morning and late at night are often the best picking times—and the theory held true on this night. In the back of the store was a long and low mid-century console bench … for a steal.
I had long been on a quest for the perfect table to put behind my very low-backed Jonathan Adler sofa, and this piece really fit the bill. There was a table, a bench and a drawer. I knew that, with a little TLC, this table was just what my living room needed.
At first glance, the bench was pretty cute as is. The orange fabric on the bench was very ’60s. But the foam inside the cushion had started to disintegrate and crumble underneath the bench. The brass drawer handle did not sparkle to its full potential. The wood finish on top of the drawer had started to peel. A makeover would take this bad boy from amazing to banana-sandwich amazing.
Step 1: Sanding
Using a palm sander, I removed the finish. You could use plain old sandpaper and elbow grease, but a palm sander costs under 30 bucks and will save you hours. Be sure to sand outside and wear a mask.
Step 2: Sealing
I had planned to stain the bench, but then my mother licked it. Okay, she didn’t really lick it. What she did do was spit on her finger, then touch the rough sanded bench. This showed us what the wood would look like with just a clear top coat rather than a stain. I’m glad she spit on my bench, because the wood’s natural color was beautiful.
In a well-ventilated area (my patio), I gave the bench two coats of Polycrylic, allowing it to dry completely between coats. I made sure there are no brush marks.
Step 3: Polishing
Using brass polish, I made the hardware shine like the top of the Chrysler Building. Any time you are going to polish brass, first make sure it is really brass. The easiest way is to see if a magnet will stick to it. A magnet will not stick to solid brass, which means it will be fine to polish. Brass plate, which a magnet will stick to, can rub off with polishing.
Step 4: The Cushion (AKA, The Hard Part)
This is where my mother, Fredda Perkins, came in. I am not a seamstress, and making a fancy cushion for a bench is way out of my comfort zone. Mom, on the other hand, can sew like a son of a gun. She even had my son on the toy sewing machine helping.
I chose an upholstery-weight fabric and thick piping from the fabric store. We used a vintage astronaut tapestry from the ’60s for the top.
Space makes everything cooler. It’s a fact.
I’m not going to get into the gory pillow-sewing details. Let’s just say it was done in a night and looked amazing on the bench.
The Finished Product
When everything was reassembled and put back into place, all was right in the home decorating world. The wood was the best possible color, the brass was super shiny, and the kitschy cushion was perfect.
Man, am I glad I popped into that Goodwill.