The listing on Craigslist seemed too good to be true. I was looking for a pair of mirrors to hang above the double sink vanity in the guest bathroom, which I am remodeling. Because large mirrors with decorative frames can get expensive, and because my kitchen remodel had tapped into my savings account like a giant tapeworm, I wanted a deal.
I searched on Craigslist. Boom! There they were: “Two matching silver mirrors ─ $150,” the listing reads. They were the perfect size to fit between the backsplash and the light fixtures. (What are the odds?) Their condition was “like new”, and they were only nine miles away. I exchanged a few emails and texts with the seller, who agreed to accept $125 for the pair. I jumped in my car.
While it’s always a bit scary to go to a stranger’s house, it wouldn’t be the first time I’ve put myself at risk for a home design deal. The sales people, a man and a woman, agreed to meet me in their garage. Just as I arrived, the woman got a call and slipped into the house.
The mirrors were in two separate boxes with foam corner protectors, implying that they had been handled with care. The man, who I assume to be in his late 60s, apologized and said he was unable to lift the boxes as he had just had a hernia operation.
No problem, I assured him. We took one part out of its box. It looked good. I asked if there were any dents, blemishes or chips. No. He asked me, reluctantly, if I wanted to see the other. No need, I said, not wanting him to make a point or anything. I handed over the money, loaded the mirrors into my car myself, and drove off.
Back home, happy with my agreement, I took out the mirrors to show my husband my economy score. That’s when I saw the fourth side that never came out of the box. While all three sides of both mirrors were in good condition, the silver finish on the fourth side of each mirror, presumably the edges closest to their sinks, was riddled with black spots and smudges. Did these people wash their faces with hydrochloric acid?
A difficult conversation
“I’ve been tricked!” I cried in DC.
“Didn’t you notice that?” he said.
“But the listing said, ‘Like new! “” I said, realizing how weak I sounded. Note that I am a journalist by training. I was taught that if your mom tells you she loves you, check it out, so why did I believe this guy? It was on me.
“You haven’t looked at them? DC asked.
“Yes. Well no. I mean, I trusted him. He had just had a hernia operation.
It’s amazing what you don’t see when you don’t want to see.
I considered giving them back to the seller, who had probably already fled the country. But then my inner tinkerer kicked in. I looked closer to see if I could salvage the frames. Unfortunately, they weren’t made of wood, which would be easier to repair. They were covered in plastic to look like painted wood. How hard could that be? I asked myself. Will I ever learn?
At the local craft store, I picked up two small bottles of silver acrylic paint to touch up the marks. I quickly made the problem worse by adding a whole new set of spots to the spots.
A productive conversation
Then I called my painter, who for some reason didn’t block my number.
“JW! I need your help!” It was a weekend and Jerry White, owner of JW Painting in Orlando, had gone to the beach with some friends. He must have heard the desperation in my voice as he patiently walked me through the steps of marbled frame rehabilitation, starting with “You can do it”.
Here is what I did, with his coaching:
Step 1. Tape the mirror around the edge of the frame with non-aggressive painter’s tape. Cover the rest of the mirror with newspaper. (Not the section with my column.)
2nd step. Using fine steel wool or ultra-fine sandpaper (220), go over the surface. Roughen it up or “profile it,” White said, but don’t scratch it.
Step 3. Wipe the frame with a damp cloth and mild detergent to remove any debris, dust or dirt.
Step 4. Lay the mirrors flat in a well-ventilated area, such as the garage with the door open, on a protective material like a tarp or more newspaper.
Step 5. Buy spray paint in the color you want. Check the paint can label to make sure it works on the surface you’re painting, plastic in my case.
Step 6. Shake the box longer than you think necessary, then spray the frames very lightly with paint. Don’t try to get full coverage in one pass.
Step 7. Let it dry completely, like for an hour, then apply a second light coat. Repeat until you achieve the desired coverage.
Step 8. If you see spots appear after a few coats (yes), sand that area and repeat the process.
Step 9. Let dry overnight. Touch up as needed, then hang them up.
Surprisingly the mirrors looked better than new. And they were a bargain!
Marni Jameson is the author of six books on home and lifestyle. She can be reached at www.marnijameson.com.
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