First blog post

This is the post excerpt.


My name is Kelli Fox-Kieffer, and I am the owner/designer of Aunt Ruh’s Attic LLC.   I am an Interior Designer who decided to leave the residential design industry to begin a new business refinishing, building, reclaiming, and repurposing furniture.  It’s been quite the journey over the last 5 years.

It all began while working with my interior design clients, who wanted to save and incorporate their heirloom furniture pieces, but had no idea of how to accomplish it.  You know, those pieces of furniture that you inherited from your parents and grandparents, the ones relegated to the attic, the basement or a spare bedroom.  It’s the piece of furniture you can’t get rid of for sentimental reasons, but you can’t visualize it being usable in any room of your home.  It’s also the piece of furniture that was constructed by a craftsperson and built to last…unlike many furniture pieces today.

Generally, the furniture required a simple repair and refinishing, but other times, the furniture required multiple processes of removing layers of old paint, repairing major damage, or restructuring a piece to fit into the modern home esthetic.    As an Interior Designer, I studied furniture construction, and the periods in which they were built.  I also knew what pieces could be refinished or repurposed, and the ones that should be left as is because of the value they held.  I knew how to paint strip and/or refinish furniture from helping my mother, who learned from her uncles (you can read about them in the about section of the blog.)   What I didn’t know, and had to learn, was how to construct original pieces, repair major damage to existing pieces, and how to deconstruct and reconstruct furniture.  That’s where spending time apprenticing with a master cabinetmaker/furniture maker came in very handy when going full-time with the business.

Starting Aunt Ruh’s Attic was truly a leap of faith moment in my life.  I loved the creativity of it, the problem solving, even the saw dust and dirt, but could it succeed as full-time business?  I’m happy to say…so far, so good.  I get to work from home (in the shop in our garage) listen to great music (when not using power tools) work with fantastic clients, and still earn a living doing so.  No complaints here.

In the upcoming weeks, I’ll be posting photos and videos of my work for you to see.  Hopefully, it will give you some ideas of how to save those relegated pieces of furniture.  I’ll also be doing tutorials of how to refinish furniture, paint strip furniture, repair, and some paint techniques I’ve discovered along the way.  Keep an eye out for those.

Thank you for taking the time to read my first post.



Newest Project 10/10/2017

Let’s begin at the beginning.  I purchased this oak cabinet (I believe it was the lower half of a hutch at one time) at an estate sale a few months back.  Given it’s construction, it is around 100 years old, and unfortunately was faux finished at some point.  The first step was to find out what was lying underneath all that paint.  I removed all the hardware and drawers, then came the process of stripping the paint off.  As you know from previous post, I use Citristrip on most of my projects because it’s less caustic to yourself, and the environment.  Remember to put it on extra thick, and don’t be impatient, let it do it’s work.  The paint stripper sat on the piece for about an hour and a half.  If it’s bubbled and crackled it’s working.

When the Citristrip was finished, I removed the bubbled up paint with a plastic putty knife (the metal ones will gouge the wood, so use plastic.)  I like to scrape the gooey stuff off into an old plastic container because it keeps the drop cloth from getting slippery, and you don’t track it all over the place.  The pictures below are what it looked like after the paint was stripped off.  You can see in the first picture that there is water damage to the top of the chest.  After sanding, the marks were still visible.

This is a photo of the piece after it was sanded down with a 120 grit and then a second sanding with a 220 grit sandpaper. DSC02211

Normally I like to bring pieces like this back to its original condition, but with the water mark damage that wasn’t possible, so I chose to do something a bit different.  I decided to change the chest into an entertainment console.  I also thought I’d try something a little different for the finish.  Minwax makes a tintable water based stain, that you can have mixed into almost any color you’d like.  I chose to do the piece in True Blue, and it seemed like a great idea at the time.  Unfortunately, True Blue on a yellowish tone wood looks ugly.  In the photo you can see that small strip in the middle, that was the True Blue stain directly on the wood.

Back to the drawing board!  Thought about it for a few minutes, and decided to do a light grey wash over all the wood, and then use the True Blue stain.  In the photo above you can see the difference between the stain directly on the wood, and on the left, the stain on top of the grey wash.

The pictures above are of the chest and the drawers with the grey wash.  To do the wash technique I used about 2 cups of Sherwin Williams satin finish Filtered Shade with 1/4 cup of XIM extender and leveler.  I brushed on a medium coat of the paint mixture, and then wiped it off right away with a soft cloth.  The wood grain is still visible underneath, and it toned down the yellow hue.  Next came the True Blue stain.

On this I also brushed on a medium coat of the stain, and then used a soft cloth to wipe some of the stain off and leave a light coating of the blue.  You have to work quick with the stain because it is water based, and dries quickly (even with the XIM extender mixed in.)


Next I spray painted all the original drawer pulls with a brushed nickel satin finish paint, and then did a very fine mist of a satin finish gold.  You can’t really see it in the photos above because that’s the back side of all the pulls…someone is really bad at taking pictures of the process.  The last few parts of the project were putting the door back together after I removed the wood panel and replaced it with glass.  Then I did 3 coats of Minwax satin finish polyurethane, and last the casters on the bottom.

Finally!  The finished piece.

Please feel free to leave a comment, and thank you for taking the time to read Aunt Ruh’s Attic’s Blog.

Latest Project Completed 8/7/2017

This project was one that comes my way all too often, and that’s fixing someone else’s mistakes.  My clients hired a interior decorator when they first moved into their new home, and she suggested that their breakfast nook table should be refinished to better fit their new décor.  The table and chair were high quality, and it made sense to refinish the set.  The original finish was a deep hunter green with wood stained seats and table top.  They were suppose to be changed to a satin black, with the chair seats and table top to remain a wood stain.  The problem arose when she recommended someone who took shortcuts, didn’t know what they were doing, and totally overcharged.  Here’s some photo’s of what I first saw.

I could literally remove the finish with my finger nail, and to top it off, they used a semi-gloss polyurethane on the seats of the chairs, but left the table in a satin finish.  My clients said that initially the set looked fine, but within a few months the finish started to chip and peel.  They contacted the decorator, and the person who refinished the set, but they made no attempt to rectify the problem.   The paint finish only continued to deteriorate.  This type of situation makes me so mad, and as I said, happens all too often.  Had the person refinishing the set taken the proper steps this never would’ve happened.  Even if they didn’t strip the furniture down to bare wood, they should have at least used TSP (Tri-sodium Phosphate) to remove any oily buildup, then painted with primer, and a high quality latex paint.  I wouldn’t do it this way, but at least the finished product would’ve lasted more than a few months.

I knew to repair this mess the proper way, I was going to have to strip the chairs and table down to the bare wood.  Out came the chemical gloves, and quite a bit of Citristrip.

If you decide to use Citristrip for your next project, make sure you put it on thick and let it sit on the piece to do it’s work (don’t rush the process, patience, follow the directions.)  Once the paint is all nice and bubbly, and with chemical gloves on, use a medium grit steel wool to remove the paint.  You’ll go through quite a bit of steel wool for a project of this size (I went through about 5-6 packs.)  On flat surfaces you can use a plastic scraper, but I personally prefer steel wool, scrapers of any kind can cause gouges in the wood because any type of wood stripper will raise the grain of the wood.  Once you have the paint off, then you must deactivate the paint stripper.  You can use a paint stripper wash, or Odorless Mineral Spirits with a stripping pad.  I use Odorless Mineral Spirits.  Now comes another have patience moment, and this is important…let the surface completely dry.  A few days if working in high humidity.   Next step, Hand Sanding.  This can be tedious work, but throw on some good music, and have at it.  This really is an important step because you want to make sure all of the old finish is off, and out of all the little nook and crannies.  If you’re going to all this work, you don’t want one tiny area to fail, and have to refinish it again.  I start with a 150 grit sandpaper, then move up to a 220, and finish with 320.  You don’t have to use the 320 grit, but I like to use it on horizontal surfaces, such as table tops and chair seats.  Make sure to tack cloth every piece to remove all the dust, you don’t want any grit left on the pieces when you start the finishing process.  Here’s some photo’s of the sanded pieces.


Heading into the final stages!  I covered up the seats of the chairs and table top with rosin paper, and FrogTape.  Taping around the spindles can be a pain, but if you go to Michael’s or Hobby Lobby, and go to their paper craft departments, you can buy different sizes of hole punches.  Find the sizes you’ll need for your spindles.  Punch out a larger circle of rosin paper, and then punch out the center of that with a whole punch the size of the spindle, and then tape it down.  I was going to do a video to show how to do this, but was on schedule to finish the project, and unfortunately didn’t have time.  I promise to load a how-to-do video of the process very soon.

Once everything was covered that wasn’t getting painted, it was time to paint.  I used a compressor and spray gun to do the black paint, and used a high quality latex paint/primer in a flat finish.  The reason for the flat finish is because I was going to use a satin polyurethane on all the pieces to protect the surfaces.  If I used a satin finish paint there would’ve been a difference in the sheen of black paint to the stained seats and table top.  If you’re using a compressor and spray gun, you’ll have to thin the paint, and there are a ton of YouTube videos out there to view, or you can check out www.hunker.com (search: How to Thin Latex Paint.)  If you don’t have a compressor and spray gun, you can use a brush.  A few recommendations for a better finish is to always use a high quality brush for latex paint (I like Purdy brush) and use an extender/leveler additive (XIM is great).  The extender/leveler will help eliminate brush marks, and give a nice smooth finish.

When the paint was completely dry, I then stained the chair seats and table top.  I used a combinations of stains to get the color needed on this project.  On this one it was a combination of Minwax oil based gunstock and red oak.  When I finished staining the pieces, I let them dry for about 2 days before doing the polyurethane.  Photo’s below are before the poly went on.

Now it was time to polyurethane the entire set.  I use a water based poly thinned down, and again used the compressor and spray gun.  You can use a brush to do this, but again, I would add the extender/leveler to the poly to eliminate brush marks.  I sprayed three coats of poly on the set, letting each coat dry thoroughly, then sanding lightly with a 320 grit sandpaper, and then tack cloth to remove dust.  These last photo’s are of the finished pieces.

My clients were pleased with the finished product, and I wish them many years of good use from their dining set.


If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave me a message.


Before and After

I thought you’d like to see a project I recently finished for a client, so you can get a feel for what can be done to make old furniture new again.  This was a Drexel French Provincial dresser that was an heirloom piece from my clients grandmother, and served its duty as a dresser when she and her husband were first married, and then used in her daughters bedrooms, it finally was relegated to a storage area in the basement.  The finish had seen quite a bit of wear and tear, and also didn’t fit into their décor anymore.  The good thing about the piece is that it was built rock solid with good bones.

The family was in the process of remodeling their family room, and the designer they were working with is one of the designers I also work with.  During the initial consultation, the designer learned about this piece of furniture, and suggested bringing me in to take a look at the dresser to see if it could be repurposed.  My first thoughts when seeing the dresser was…Entertainment console.   Our client liked the idea, and was thrilled we’d be able to save it.   I worked with the client and designer to ensure the newly designed piece would worked in both form, function, and finish.  I matched the stain to other pieces that would be incorporated into the room, and then did several samples of different finishes for the drawer fronts.

Then the work began.  First, I removed all the hardware, and used a citrus based paint stripper (Citristrip) to remove all the old finish.  I’ve found that Citristrip works well on most projects, it’s less caustic, and biodegradable.  I personally don’t like dripping furniture in paint stripping vats as it can loosen all the joinery and weakens the piece.  Citristrip is also easy to deactivate once the paint is removed; I use a paint stripper after wash.  The after wash removes any residue, and doesn’t raise the grain of the wood.

Next came the repairs and repurposing of the piece.  There was some minor damage to one of the rear legs, which required some stainable wood filler.  Then came the removal of the center post for the top drawers glides (those drawers were not going to be used again.)  Once those were removed, I then removed the screws that were holding the top of the dresser to the casework.  This allowed me to fashion a shelve for the future electronic components.  When that was completed, I reattached to the top, and gave the entire piece a light hand sanding with 220 grit sandpaper, and then a finishing hand sanding with a 400 grit sandpaper.

Now it was time for finishing.  With this piece, I had to mix two stains to get the precise color needed.  I mixed 1oz. of Minwax Dark Walnut to 4 oz. of English Chestnut.  The Minwax Dark Walnut toned down some of the red tones of the English Chestnut.  Next came the drawer fronts, on this I used a deep navy blue latex paint with a flat finish, and then I did a wash technique over the top of the navy paint. It consisted of a medium gray latex, also in a flat finish and then a very thin wash of satin finish silver.   Once all of the paint and stain dried completely, I sprayed 3 coats of a water based satin finish polyurethane to protect the surfaces.  The very last step was to replace the drawer pulls.

The final photo below is of the finished piece.  Ok, it’s not the best photo, and I should’ve dusted the component shelf before I took the photos…live and learn.  Hopefully, this will give you some ideas of how to save a piece of furniture.  It will take some sweat equity refinishing it, but in the end you get the satisfaction of saving a piece of furniture, and a job well done.

If you have any questions or comments hit that old comment button.  In the upcoming weeks I’ll be posting more photos and details of projects, and also some step by step videos.

Take Care All,