The listing on Craigslist seemed too good to be true. I was in the market for a pair of mirrors to hang over the double-sink vanity in the guest bathroom, which I’m remodeling. Because large mirrors with decorative frames can be pricey, and because my kitchen remodel had tapped my savings account like a giant tapeworm, I wanted a deal.
I searched Craigslist. Boom! There they were: “Two matching silver mirrors — $150,” the listing read. They were the perfect size to fit between the backsplash and light fixtures. (What are the chances?) Their condition was “Like New,” and they were only 9 miles away.
I exchanged a few emails and texts with the seller, who agreed to accept $125 for the pair. I hopped in my car.
While it’s always a little creepy going to a stranger’s house, this wouldn’t be the first time I put myself in harm’s way for a home-design bargain. The sellers, a man and woman, agreed to meet me in their garage. Just as I arrived, the woman got a call and slipped in the house.
The mirrors were in two boxes with foam corner protectors, implying that they’d been handled with care. The man, whom I’d guess to be in his late 60s, apologized and said that he wasn’t able to lift the boxes as he’d just had hernia surgery.
No problem, I assured him. We slid one partway out of its box. It looked fine. I asked if there were any dings, blemishes or chips. Nope. He asked, semi-reluctantly, if I wanted to see the other one. No need, I said, not wanting him to pop a stitch or anything. I mean, what would I do? I handed over the cash, loaded the mirrors myself in my car, and drove off.
Back home, ecstatic about my deal, I pulled the mirrors out to show my husband my thrifty score. That’s when I saw the fourth side that never made it out of the box. While three sides of both mirrors were in decent shape, the silver finish on the fourth side of each mirror, presumably the edges nearest their sinks, was riddled with black spots and speckles. Did these people wash their faces with hydrochloric acid ?
“I’ve been framed!” I cried to DC.
“You didn’t notice this?” he said.
“But the listing said, ‘Like new!’” I said, realizing how feeble I sounded. Mind you, I’m a trained journalist. I was taught that that if your mother tells you she loves you to check it out, so why did I take this guy’s word? This was on me.
“Didn’t you look at them?” DC asked.
“Yes. Well, no. I mean, I trusted him. He’d just had hernia surgery.”
It’s amazing what we don’t see when we don’t want to see.
I considered returning them to the seller, who’d probably fled the country by now. But then my inner DIYer kicked in. I looked closer to see whether I could salvage the frames. Unfortunately, they weren’t wood, which would be easier to repair. They were plastic finished to look like painted wood.
How hard could this be? I asked myself. Will I ever learn?
At the local craft store, I picked up two small bottles of silver-toned acrylic paint to touch up the marks. I quickly made the problem much worse, adding a whole new set of spots to the spots.
Next, I called my painter, who for some reason hasn’t blocked my number.
“JW! I need your help!” It was a weekend, and Jerry White, owner of JW Painting in Orlando, Fla., was off to the beach with friends. He must have heard the desperation in my voice, because he patiently talked me through the steps to rehab the mottled frames, starting with “You can do this.”
Here’s what I did, with his coaching:
Step 1. Tape the mirror off around the frame edge with non-aggressive painter’s tape. Cover the rest of the mirror with newspaper. (Not the section with my column.)
Step 2. Using fine steel wool, or ultra-fine (220) sandpaper, go over the surface. Rough it up or “profile it,” White said, but don’t scratch it.
Step 3. Wipe the frame with a damp rag and mild detergent to remove any debris, dust or dirt.
Step 4. Lay the mirrors flat in a well-ventilated area, like the garage with the door open, on top of protective material like a tarp or more newspaper.
Step 5. Buy spray paint 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 can longer than you think you need to, then spray a very light coat of paint on the frames. Don’t try to achieve full coverage in one pass.
Step 7. Let it dry completely, like for an hour, then apply a second light coat. Repeat until you get the coverage you want.
Step 8. If you see spots showing through after a couple coats (yes), sand that area back and start the process over.
Step 9. Let dry overnight. Touch up as needed, then hang ‘em up.
Amazingly, the mirrors looked better than new. And they were a deal!
Marni Jameson is the author of six home and lifestyle books, including “What to Do With Everything You Own to Leave the Legacy You Want,” “Downsizing the Family Home – What to Save, What to Let Go” and “Downsizing the Blended Home – When Two Households Become One.” Reach her at www.marnijameson.com.