I can’t believe it’s been a FULL YEAR since Gadora was approached about guest-designing a small apartment for a young lady named “Sparrow.” I’d been full-time at Bazaarvoice only a handful of months… but already flexed my design prowess in the Marketing Pit and the 2nd floor lounge (shame on me for not posting those too!). Fred Smith, a wiz in sales, asked if I’d like to take on a project for their team-building day. He serves on the board of LifeWorks, an Austin-based non-profit that among many initiatives also helps transition at-risk youth into what might very well be their first apartment. “LifeWorks’ clients are former foster care children, former homeless youth and teen parents who may have never before received the help they need for a fresh start.” Gadora was in! *My apologizes in advance, this is a long post. But keep reading, “The BIG Reveal” pictures are worth it!
The Challenge: We were pitted against 6 bona-fide design firms (oh the self-imposed pressure!) to transform Sparrow’s space in a single day. We’d have a month to conceptualize, prepare, procure and then 7 measly hours to bring it all together.
The Keeper: We met with Sparrow to discern her likes, dislikes and drothers. She didn’t give us much to go on. When you haven’t had much, you’re not sure what you need. You’d like a roof over your head. And a sense of security. But we learned she liked green. And this lamp. It would stay and be incorporated into the final design. Look for it later!
A quick walk through her apartment revealed she needed A LOT of things to make her place a home. Dishes. A proper sofa. A new bed. New linens. Towels. A desk area for her to continue her studies.
Before: The living room and kitchen spaces. We were lucky enough to get our hands on an apartment who had a small face-lift from last years’ HIC (Home Improvement Challenge) crew. There was laminate flooring and the snazzy glass tile in the kitchen. What had to go? The brown. The dots. The crummy vertical blinds. *You can click on the picture and make it bigger!
Before: The bedroom and bathroom. Through no fault of Sparrow’s, the bedroom carpet was d-i-n-g-y and the bath was less than a retreat. We. Had. Work. To. Do.
Besides making a new place for Sparrow, each team competed in a number of categories. The Green Challenge. Design on a Dime. And then an overall challenge winner would be announced. Gadora thought we’d go for the “green” challenge because 1) Gadora prides herself of repurposing items that would otherwise end up in a land fill, and B) it was Sparrow’s favorite color.
MONTHS ago Gadora and Sandra set about Austin with a few bucks and a mission: hit up some garage sales and blow our wad. We had a ball, and late in our day we hit the mother load. A lovely lady was selling the farm and we scored a funky rug for $5 and four ladderback chairs for $2.50 a piece. That’s practically free, we thought.
4 ladderback chairs…
They sat in the garage all of the fall and most of the winter. Staring at me, sometimes I stared back. Once in a while I’d give them a close inspection. No markings, they appeared to be handmade. A little wonky, the front legs were longer than the back. But they’d make someone a nice set, and surely we’d recover our $10 investment.
The seats were tightly woven jute, soft and pliable, and in really great shape.
When Gadora first moved to Austin, I maneuvered my new city by mapping out consignment furniture stores and set sail. Navigating new (to me) boutiques, I rated them on a very serious four smiley-face scale. 1 “=)” was given to mediocre stores of which I’d already seen enough and 4 happy faces were awarded shops with discerning taste—those I’d recommend to friends. On one such outing, Gadora and Paige the Wonder Wagon happened upon an empty building at the busy intersection of Mary and South 1st.
Ooooh. It was fun. The cinder block walls and flat roof line immediately drew me in. The building reminded me of so many of the mid-century buildings that littered Tampa’s palm-lined streets, it simply felt like home. I parked and stuck my nose in every window it had. Who owned it? Why was it empty? Oh, wouldn’t I turn it into something marvelous! I pitched the notion to my GF—together we were sorting out how to turn “Gadora Wilder” into a viable source of income—but she just couldn’t see it. It was dingy. Lackluster. And needed work. With a little imagination, and with a few strokes of Photoshop, I reworked the building into this…
I’d paint the thing Gadora’s favorite Chartreuse green. Working with the building’s original metal awnings, I also envisioned adding a teak pergola along the street-facing front. As I’d use the space as a workshop-of-sorts to refurbish furniture, its garage doors were perfect for throwing open on those rare days the Texas heat let up. I showed my partner that pic, she immediately got on board. We mentally carved out every square inch of space: allocating room for my wares, a roomy workshop space, a place for gathering and learning and even fathomed a coffee spot. That was more than a year and a half ago now…
Found a handsome 6-drawer wooden dresser on a yard/estate-sale outing with some girlfriends (and thank you both for helping me load it in my wonder wagon!). Set out, over the course of a few trips to the parent’s house, to fix it up…
Gadora recycled the dresser’s original handles on this 3-table set and—because their “crackle” response was so great—gave this dresser a new “crackle” green face. Not as decipherable as the Lane Acclaim markings, the ‘internets’ claim K. Wee and Co. was established in 1966. Anyone care to take a stab at the manufacture date? Below (right); entire surface received a solid sanding, both belt sander and by hand, before first paint application.
Each hole, 16 in all, was filled and sanded allowing a fresh start for new handles. Having had a run-in with a mangled can of latex paint, Gadora re-purposed a plastic coffee can to provide easy access for the remainder.