Taking a 40 Hour Sabbatical is simple.
When I was in middle school, my family acquired new dining chairs. Well, not new. They came from a Habitat ReStore, who got them from a hotel or conference center. They were solid chairs with good bones, but the factory-applied paint and lacquer was yellowing and chipping off in places. We talked about painting the chairs, but only ever got around to putting primer on 4 of the 12 chairs.
Years later, I needed some chairs to furnish my dining room in college—and I acquired 6 of those same chairs. I kept telling people, “I’m going to strip & stain & reupholster them!” but I’m not entirely sure anyone believed me. It felt like a pipe dream for a long time. I knew nothing about refinishing furniture! I did a Google deep-dive, and figured out that I would need a lot of time and elbow grease to get them to look like what I had in my head.
I had ambitious thoughts of stripping and staining all 12 chairs in a week. I thought “it’s totally do-able, no way will it take me more than 3.33 hours per chair to do all that!”
I was wrong.
I learned that garages get really hot in June. I learned that it’s not physically possible to strip four layers of paint and lacquer off 12 chairs in one week—I quickly adjusted my goal to 4 chairs. I learned that you should wear gloves when you’re using Citrustrip, even if it does smell like oranges and not like something that will melt your fingerprints off. I learned that I can do crazy, difficult things like stripping paint off chairs.
And I learned that it’s okay to ask for help—by the end of my 40 hours, I had stripped the paint off 4 chairs and reupholstered the seat cushions, but that was it.
The factory paint had worked its way deeply into the grain of the wood, and required a lot of sanding to remove completely. My husband’s grandmother kindly offered to help us by hosting us in her garage for a day to finish prepping the chairs with her electric sander. I stained the chairs that same day, and they ended up matching our new dining room table perfectly.
It was so rewarding to be able to transform chairs that I’ve been using for the last 15 years into something I’ll use for the next 15+. Especially something like dining chairs, that have so many memories attached—family dinners, game nights with friends, birthday desserts. These chairs have followed me through adolescence, into early adulthood, and now to the dining room of my first house where someday my kids will sit on them. Aaaaand now I’m blinking back tears. :’)
Miranda is a collector of black shoes, amateur plant mom, Instagram-famous hand letterer, macaroni and cheese aficionado and unapologetic cat-cuddler.
"Be brave enough to live creatively. The creative is the place where no one else has ever been. You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. You cannot get there by bus, only by hard work, risking and by not quite knowing what you are doing. What you will discover will be wonderful; yourself."Alan Alda