DIY: Restoring a Thrifted Teak Bar


Back when I was surrounded by disposable Ikea decor like most people in their early twenties, I didn't care about furniture at all. Despite a couple of apartments that I rented for a while in both NYC and Connecticut, I was a nomad for the better part of those years, shuffling between friend's couches and living room floors. The furniture I did own during that time was purchased with my transient lifestyle in mind, so I didn't put a lot of thought into it.

But when I got to California and finally started to achieve some semblance of permanence, I became very picky about the furniture that I chose. I started out fairly sparse with a desk I got for free on Craigslist and spent months refinishing and a bookshelf that I bought for $15 while drunk. That was when I started to form a  pretty strong belief that furniture should have a story. Now, every time I see my desk (which is currently in Ryan's shop), I think about the months I spent working on it in the garage with my dog Coaly, during our first winter in California. And every time I look at my bookshelf I think about that hilarious afternoon with my friend Elysia, getting drunk off of mimosas, stumbling into the old Pat's Thrift Shop in North Park and having to walk four blocks back from the thrift store with it to her old apartment.

Around that time, my rules for furniture were born. First, it must have a story. Second, I have to be in love with it. Third, it should be unique, not too overly mass manufactured, and if it isn't, I should make it unique through modifications. Fourth, it should be high quality, durable. And finally, if it didn't meet the preceding criteria, then it should at the very least be necessary and functional to get us through the time until I find something that does. That last one is how I excuse the only piece of furniture in our house that doesn't meet the rest of my rules: the couch I'm sitting on as I type this. 

The story of this particular piece of furniture happened during one of my regular Craigslist trolling sessions. I stumbled across it in April of 2012, shortly before we moved into The Sunset House. The ad said it was a Vintage Teak Bar that they would sell for $50 bucks, but when I got there, the teak was completely painted over with a gross brown acrylic (minus the bottom of the bar, which is how they knew it was teak), covered in cobwebs and bugs from being outside and had a broken wheel. I haggled them down to $40.  Little did I know that I was walking away with something that currently sells for $1,250 on Frontgate and $2,000 on Westminister.

Over the past year and a half, I have stopped and started work on this bar so many times. With all the crevices and corners, stripping it of the brown paint (and about 4 other layers of paint and stain) proved an almost impossible task. I needed to finish it and I needed help. So when my Dad came to visit a couple of weeks ago, I knew just the way to give this bar the story and memory it needed. My Dad is a house painter and he loves this stuff, so like any good daughter, I put him to work on his vacation. 

Over the course of the week, the two of us finished what I had put off for a year and a half. We started with SmartStrip, the only paint stripper my Dad will let me use, and finished stripping the brown paint from the inside. Then we scrubbed as much of the rest of it as we could with soap and water to get rid of the stripping paste. We sanded the whole bar down and I painted a few of the slats on the exterior to give it a bit of color and hopefully some of that surf shack vibe that I love so much. And for the last step, we sealed it with polyurethane.

It's not perfect, but it never could have been unless I had dumped $1,000+ on a new one. But the memory of working on it with my dad while he was here is perfect and worth so much more than that. I can't tell you how happy I am that we got to work on this together. I love the way it came out and I'm so glad to cross another resolution off of my list just in time!