Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Radioactive Orange Holiday Project

Once upon a time, I built a shelf with my dad.
I was sharing a 400 square foot apartment back then, so a nice tall shelf with a tiny little footprint was a great way to get a lot of storage in a small space. My dad's the king of cheap and sturdy design, so the whole thing was only about $30 worth of 2x4's, heavy plywood, and sixteen 4" carriage bolts. The shelf is unbelievably strong. I think it would survive a nuclear holocaust. At the end of time, it'll be this shelf, and cockroaches, and Twinkies (assuming an optimistic outcome for Hostess).
The apartment was a really low-rent place with old brown carpet, minimal windows, and dank brown brick walls that occasionally sprouted tufts of mysterious black mold. I figured that staining/varnishing the shelf with the warmest, happiest, nature-loviest color I could find would bring a little sunshine into that dank apartmentcave. 
I chose "Fruitwood." Little did I know that "Fruitwood" would be so orange. Like the worst self-tanning mistake of my early adolescence. Like an Ode to Oompa Loompa, rendered in furniture. 
For 10 years, "Fruitwood" has been punishing me with its surprising, regrettable orangeness. For 10 years, I've kept that shelf in a dim room because it has a weird radioactive glow in full light. 
I've wanted to do something about it, but I always seemed to lack the time.
I'm also secretly kind of worried that I lack the style. (I mean this the nicest way possible, but if there's an anti-aesthetic gene, my parents unapologetically have it. Assuming autosomal dominance and Mendelian inheritance, that means I'm basically screwed.) What if I tackled the project and made things go from bad to worse?   ...or orange to worse, in this case. My deepest fear of the project outcome is generally shown here:
 Inspired by a blog full of ideas from people with more talent and style than me (Better After), I finally bit the bullet.
 - Home Depot for a quart of Glidden paint in White Muslin, a 1/2" bristle brush, and a 6" roller
 - Blue tarp dropcloth I found at the bottom of my sleeping bag stuff sack. It originally came from a 2-pack of tarps, the other of which was used to make a gigantic kite two summers ago.
 - I free-handed the outline of the branches and leaves then painted everything else white, so the tree itself is still the original Fruitwood peeking through. Fruitwood turns out to be a nice color in small doses.

I'm pleased to report the entire project is 100% free of twinkle lights, maribou feathers, pink tinsel, or strategically-placed snowman heads. Therein lies the real victory!


  1. Ooh pretty! Did you have to use any kind of tape to mask off the tree design while you painted the rest?

  2. Found you at Better After...I love how it turned out!

  3. Love your project, love your funny blog. Lindsey was right.

    1. Thank you!
      Lindsey is always right! :)

  4. You and Mrs. Better After would be a hoot to hang with. She makes me laugh on a daily basis. I'm gonna sign up with you for more laughs. Also I love the deorangification. My very strict aunt and uncle had a basement full of orange cabinets and we had to play down there so we wouldn't mess up the upstairs. It smelled old peoplish and they weren't even old yet. I hate orange stain.

    Another thought: have you considered crown molding for the top? Or a more substantial top (thicker and wider so it would hang over/cover the 2x4s going up the sides)?

    1. Let that be the motto of 2013: "Orange stain smells like old people"

      That's a really good idea about putting on a more substantial top on it! I remember while I was building it I was really disappointed to realize the piece we cut for the top was going to be unpleasantly small. Now that the orange isn't blinding me, the tweensy top is more noticeable.

  5. Great job! Found you at Better After.:)

  6. To: Sarah
    From: Sarah

    Okay, the bookshelf is an awesome transformation, but, if you know it, can you please tell me the paint color on the wall in the picture? Thanks!

    1. I believe it's Sauge Pale (3203-31, from Sico,

  7. Sarah, This is Dad.

    I am looking. It looks very much nicer in white than in, um, ah, "whatever".