Furniture for Dummies

The Furniture Guys, Ed Feldman and Joe L'Erario, have an unusual theory about DIY projects. While most of the bright-eyed fixer-uppers on cable cheerily suggest adding a whole new roof, or guest room, or even suggest redecorating the whole house, Ed and Joe offer how-to instructions in the possible -- refinishing one piece of furniture, maybe building a bookshelf. In breezy episodes such as "The Lady Varnishes," "The Manchurian Can of Paint" and "Some Like It Hot-Glued," Ed and Joe provided a fun -- and useful -- education for the mildly ambitious on their cable show, Furniture to Go.

Furniture to Go, a Philadelphia-based program, went national in 1993, providing all Americans with helpful information on restuffing horsehair sofas, faux finishes, and the importance of the movie Marty. In 1997, the Furniture Guys, heedful of trends in DIY programming, started Men in Toolbelts which, while focusing on home improvement, was fiercely committed to projects that the average egg could actually accomplish.

Ed and Joe don't look like they get up early. They look, and certainly sound, as though they stay up way past their bedtime watching old movies, and then start on reasonable projects at a reasonable hour. While restoring a pine Hoosier or rolltop desk to its original glory, Ed and Joe crack wise about newsworthy events and a century of film history -- and are careful to explain exactly how much of your precious time each step will take.

In the gospel of the Furniture Guys, garage sales and junk stores offer a wealth of salvageable furnishings. In their much-touted series, "People are Stupid and We Can Prove It," they claim that many of the coffee tables, armoires and china cabinets sold for a song and smelling slightly musty sometimes need just a little refinishing -- and not because they're old, but because they have hideous, poorly conceived and badly executed paint jobs. The guys can also help after you've just purchased a house that, sadly, still features a paint scheme and track lighting better left in the '80s.

We, as a nation, have made many mistakes -- bright white and yellow, black and chrome with pink accents, and decade after decade of decals and appliqué. Ed and Joe are dedicated to reclaiming our furniture and homes, one small step at a time.

While many of the booths and demonstrations at the 15th annual Houston House Beautiful Show celebrate improvements, such as whole new kitchens that require not only huge financial and time commitments, but also gangs of undocumented laborers, Ed and Joe will be on hand to advise and amuse those who, understandably, feel that life as a suburban professional is not adequate training for major carpentry/ decorating projects.

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Edith Sorenson