25 Jun Upcycling is Uplifting: A Mosaic French Bistro Table
Great joy can come from turning trash to treasure. Not only is there a thrill in making and then owning something gorgeous without breaking the bank, but the creativity involved in thinking outside the box and having the vision to take something out of the dumpster for renewal is inspiring and uplifting. Here is a recent resurrection of rusted metal. My creative outlet of mosaic upcycling.
This old rod iron bistro table and chairs was slated for the dumpster after being pulled from the overgrown bushes of a deep back yard where they were rotting and rusting for over a decade. The cement and ceramic mosaic top was moldy and cracked and decayed. The rod iron was pitted and rusted. But the form and weight of the set impressed me. I saw potential and could visualize their new life. I was inspired–some would say obsessed.
I thought about the process daily after pulling them from the dumpster and moving them to my garage. For the record, I have never made a mosaic table before, tiled anything, or removed rust. The revitalization would be a multi-step process that would be done over many weeks as I learned each step. No hurry. No stress.
Sometimes destruction is necessary to clear the way for progress
I wanted to get started right away and keep moving forward so the project wouldn’t stall and end up in the garbage after-all. So, I took a hammer to the decaying cement, first carefully chiseling away one little spot at a time, but quickly smacking the side of the hammer directly on the mass of yuckiness for maximal destruction. This was very satisfying! In a short time the top of the table and the seats of the chairs were empty canvases for me to imagine a new mosaic: Rocks? Shells? Broken plates? Old tiles? Beach glass? So many possibilities!
A new skin
Next, I removed the dirt and as much of the rust as I could using sandpaper, steel wool, and hard wire brush I found. It was a mess, but without much effort the dark lumpy rust was becoming lighter and smoother. With each step of the project, I researched enough to get started and move forward. Like learning to downhill ski, it can be overwhelming to look at the bottom of the mountain from the top and imagine how you’ll ever get down, but looking just ahead to your next turning spot is doable. This is the philosophy I use in any project that is big, unruly and or overwhelming – one step at a time.
After removing the rust came a really fun step: painting the table. I was tempted to be safe and paint it black, which I’m sure would have looked quite nice and would go with anything, but this was going to be a one hit wonder. My first and last mosaic. I found this awesome nautical blue spray paint that would go with the beachy theme I was going for. Painting it was fast and fun. Check out the cool color that makes this bistro sing!
Collecting dormant materials that were waiting to star in a leading role
I dug up old tiles from an old kitchen back splash that were tumbled frosted beach glass colors, and some cobalt blue glass tiles from an old bathroom project of a friends. The tiles were all beachy and beautiful! I had a collection of wampum from Martha’s Vineyard that I love and a very special sand dollar fossil that would be the center of the table. I also found some cool shells and beach stones I had collected that would break up the design of the tiles. I am a planner by nature, so rather than winging it and laying the tiles willie-nillie, I decided to research a few mosaic tile tables and lay out my plan. I created a template of the actual size of the table and laid the tiles, stones and shells on the paper until I was pleased with the pattern. I found it more interesting to mix stones next to the tiles with glass beads in between and separate rows of shells and wampum.
Sticking it all together
Once I was done playing around with the patterns, I bought some thin-set which is what sticks the tiles to the surface in a uniform layer. The problem is that the tiles were thicker than the shells, so as I put down the thin-set, I added it in a much thicker layer under the thin shells and a thin layer under the tiles. I used up 3x more than what the container said was necessary therefore, I allowed 3x more time to dry, just in case.
The grout I knew was going to be the hardest part: getting it in between all the tiles and shells without getting it in all the grooves of the shells or burying the ones that ended up lower. Letting it dry enough, but wiping it off in time before it hardens too much. The pictures show what a mess it was. Note: don’t mix the grout near your computer as a very fine dusting of grout will end up everywhere around where you are working, including the cracks of the mouse pad and in between the keys….
After letting dry for days, the finished masterpiece should be sealed – grout and tiles to preserve and protect. You couldn’t buy anything close to this gorgeous, adorable, one-of-a-kind bistro set!!
Be brave and tackle that dream project!!
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