Diana Durkes of Fine Diving in Chicago

Bio:  A confessed dumpster diver, I can't resist dragging home the stray chair or table I spy in the alley.  I do a makeover number on my finds and live to tell the before and after on my blog, Fine Diving in Chicago. The blog and I are going on three years of weekly makeovers.

In a culture where big box style is everywhere, everyone at any stage of ability and background can make room for some individuality with recycling and a little DIY.

My background swirls around mom hood, media and retail. I happily remember my mother's love affair with home design.  On any given Friday, my mother’s friend Phyllis would stop by for coffee. Minutes later, the two of them would be trying the couch on this side of the living room, the wing chair over there.

I write the Tossed and Found Column
for Time Out Chicago, blog as the Garage Sale Warrior  for the Tribune Media Company and.... new day job!  I just opened the charitable Lake Forest Resale Shop this April.  


~ Recycling and Diy ~

Of all the crap I’ve dragged home, this table rates high as one of my best finds. American Empire Revival style, sturdy construction. Can’t believe someone threw it out, but I live in a city where trade in the alley market can be rewarding.

Can’t believe I got it home, either—-thanks again, helpful jogger—-where it resided in the basement for a few months. In late November last year, with a little inspiration and cold weather, the time was right to give it a new life.

Step 1: Strip the whole thing, then apply a handsome Minwax Jacobean stain over all. Wood refinishing is not my favorite thing. If you try taking shortcuts, they show up right there in the wood grain, and I’m on the Steering Committee for Shortcuts. (If you can bake it at 350, you can bake it at 375.)   After the first schlocky sanding job, I went back and made it whole.

Step 2: Taping the design and applying the gold leaf. An artist in my neighborhood showed me how she’d been using gold leaf to create organic shapes on some old thrift tables. As I stood in her coach house admiring her work, my found scroll table came to mind.

{ One of Jody’s Tables }

The goal was to create a tree branch shape that had the same organic feel, not too symmetrical. At the same time, the design needed to span the table top somewhat evenly.

The gold leaf process requires a special sizing glue for sticking the leaf, so my usual habit of shortcuts and substitutions wouldn’t work here.  I followed the recipe, brushing on the glue, letting it dry to tackiness, then laying on sheets of gold leaf with a soft brush.

After two finish coats of polyurethane, the finished product.

 {written by diana durkes}


  1. Diana, it never ceases to amaze me how creative you are! I hope to do something exactly like this someday - you definitely inspire me. Thanks for writing this post!

  2. Okay, my first thought, honestly, was "dumpster diving?" My family used to do a bit of that in the day and my dad hated it. It wasn't a thing we needed to do, mind you. We had just figured out that a massive amount of retail stores threw away things that were still usable.

    I'm amazed. I seriously am going to start following your blog and putting it to practice.


  3. i definitely have friends who dumpster dive :]

    this though! this is fabulous. i love the line :

    (If you can bake it at 350, you can bake it at 375.)

    i can totally relate! haha

  4. So good - I love furniture makeovers! Hopefully one day I'll get brave enough to attempt this :)

  5. I am jealous and inspired all in one! Diana--so much creativity and vision. I'm excited to drive around on garbage night to see what trash I can turn into treasure.

  6. Wow! Those are really amazing! I envy that skill!


( hippies always welcome )