Monday, December 5, 2011

Mercury Glass or Poor Man's Silver

Mercury Glass
Mercury Glass is back in style and featured in catalogs like Pottery Barn and Wisteria, and popping up at my favorite chain boutique, Anthropologie. The glimmering silvery candle holders, lamps, and home accents look elegant paired with white for a dazzling winter glow. 

From the 1840's to the early 1930's, mercury glass was produced and offered to the public as a substitute for sterling silver. Called "poor man's silver," this double walled glass contained no mercury. A liquid silver was poured between the glass walls and sealed to prevent tarnish. Old mercury glass was often etched, providing even more twinkle. 

Today, antique mercury glass is somewhat hard to find, due to breakage, and so can be quite expensive. The new versions are affordable, even for those on a tight budget. 

But living in reduced circumstances, combined with the fact that I already own way too much in the way of decorating accents, accumulated over the years, I think I'll pass on the mercury glass. I will use my vintage silver plate instead, and allow silver to stand in for mercury glass. 

Even buying used silver plate is cheaper than the new mercury glass. Thrift stores usually offer lots of silver plate for less than $5.00 an item. Look for the tell-tale black smudges that indicate tarnished silver. Just take it home and polish it up. Vintage silver plate is the new poor man's mercury glass!

(Pictured above is new mercury glass. Pictured at right is a vintage silver plate sugar bowl with Queen Ann's Lace)

Monday, November 21, 2011

Vintage Wood Shoemakers' Lasts

Wood shoe mold or shoe last
Vintage shoe forms or shoemakers' lasts make attractive home accents. These wood shoe forms, once used in the production of footwear add an industrial yet organic feel to any design motif. 

Old shoe forms look great in an urban setting and are particularly suitable for a steampunk design style. Despite the seemingly quaint technology, the single last pictured to the right is dated 1959. Many of these shoemakers' molds bear dates, sizes, and the name of a manufacturer. 

Wood shoe lasts were made of a hardwood like maple to maintain shape through constant use. Chemical preservatives helped prevent swelling and shrinking of the wood. 

Shoe form
 Wood shoe lasts were made of a hardwood like maple to maintain shape through constant use. Chemical preservatives helped prevent swelling and shrinking of the wood.

The North East part of the United States was once a major manufacturing hub for footwear. As American production waned, many of these lasts became available in antique and salvage shops, as well as online sites, and can be quite inexpensive to buy.

Before the Industrial Revolution, shoes were commonly made on straight lasts and not intended to fit the right or left foot. Shoes made in this manner obtained a fit through wear. It was not until the mid 1800's that shoe mills commonly made footwear to fit the right or left foot. Today, most shoe lasts are made of plastic.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Make an Easy Landscape Quilt Pillow Cover

Some time ago, I became enamored with landscape quilts. I love landscape art in general and have attempted to paint a few landscapes myself. When I first heard of landscape quilts, I was intrigued. After searching the internet for examples, I was flummoxed. No way could I create something like that, or even understand the complicated skills needed to produce such work! The artistic talent, the sewing skills, and the patience were way beyond my humble capabilities.

So I decided to cheat. I made a pillow, covered on one side with the simplest landscape possible. At Joanne's I found several fabrics that would fit the bill, including one that looked like white birch       bark. 

I made a simple scene - several birch tree trunks in front of a larger forest which I suggested by using a deep green batik as a background. A wavy blue batik became a water feature. A lake!

After washing, ironing, and starching the fabric, I cut the green batik background. Next, I cut a strip of the "water" and sewed them together.

Thinner strips made the birch trunks. I cut the fabric with the slight bark pattern into long strips. I did not cut them perfectly straight, opting for a more natural look.
The edges of the trunks were hemmed with an iron, then  stitched to the background.

Using black embroidery floss, I added some dark shadows to the trunks, as well as some thin, black branches. 

The leaves were embroidered in metallic gold to give the suggestion of leaves catching a glint of sunlight. 

Voila! I made my own little landscape quilt and can honestly say that I am quite pleased with the result. Of course, it doesn't hold a candle to the quilts made by expert artists, but it certainly was fun. Though this project was simple, it gave me a taste of the real thing, and an honest appreciation of and admiration for the people who create those totally fabulous landscape quilts. 

If you want to check out some beautiful landscape quilts, check out Judy Alexander or Bobbie Sullivan.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

I Found My Dream House - Yes I Did

I found my Dream House, really I did. Not the idealized architecturally significant wonder home, or the cottage hidden behind hollyhocks and a white picket fence, but the place that I visited in several dreams. I haven't had that particular dream for some time, so the real one was as abandoned and decrepit as it would be if it was a barely remembered, deserted dream. 

Just like the one I dreamed about, it was an old farm house, two and a half stories, build close to a hill that rose up on the north side. In the dream, I was walking beside the outside walls, down the hill, through dry, sweet smelling weeds. And I can smell the water, wet rocks, and sun shining on grass. 

So, there was the real one, sans the green painted clapboard and brown trim. Paint was a distant memory here. Part of the house was built of logs and the lawn slanted gently  toward the water. A sycamore grew down by the clear, spring fed stream.

Like in the dream, crickets make way for me and silhouetted birds sing in the trees. I hear an oriole and a king fisher. 

A ruin stands nearby, an old kiln that looks like a place in a fairy tale. 

The white paneled door stands open. Do I enter?


Monday, October 24, 2011

Vintage Cocktail Trays

Vintage cocktail trays

The mid twentieth century was a great time for cocktail parties. Housewives had the time to make all those cute little hors d'oeuvres in what, for some, became like contests, featuring bread cut into fanciful shapes and topped with artistic designs made of cream cheese, canned shrimp, olives, and pimentos; all served on tiny, individual trays called cocktail trays.

There are still lots of these cocktail trays around. Flat, and stacked neatly, they did not take up a lot of room. You can often find them at thrift shops and yard sales at bargain prices, though I have seen a few at online shops that sell for a pretty penny. 

I think a modern cocktail party would be fun - everyone dressed up in vintage cocktail attire for a wink at sophistication.  Offer your guests handmade hors d'oeuvres, or use the little trays to serve sushi. 
The colorful plastic trays  pictured at the top of the page came from a larger set in a rainbow of colors.

Vintage cocktail trays

The attractive papier mache covered cocktail trays pictured above were made in Japan and have a tag on the bottom that says "alcohol proof."

 I'm not sure what they were thinking when they came out with these metal cocktail trays featuring silhouettes of people from Victorian times. Maybe they would work better at a tea party. 

Vintage cocktail trays are also nice to keep on a bureau for stray keys or change. They make lovely coasters or snack trays as well. When I was a little girl, we used the colored plastic trays for tea parties. That's probably why I no longer have the full set.

Dried Roses for a Vintage Floral Design

Dried roses mixed with dried hydrangeas
Roses dry out surprisingly well, and easily too! I discovered this when my husband dead-headed some rose bushes and tossed the spent flowers into an old iron pot set on the porch steps. It was a dry summer, and the roses, forgotten, dried beautifully. 

Another accidental incident of dried roses - at the home of a very busy lady, I  noticed that she had let a huge vase of yellow roses go dry. Totally dry. The stems were shot, but I snipped off the flowers, took them home, and arranged them in a shallow bowl. Without using silica gel, the roses retained their color, fading to a lovely vintage shade.

These roses were hung upside down in a dark dry area for a bit over a week. I loved the muted tones and the vintage look, that soft, buttery yellow. 

When drying roses, it is best to use buds, or flowers that have just begun to open. Roses in full flower will lose petals if dried. 
Dried roses

I think dried roses would look very pretty added to an herb wreath, or mixed in with some dried lavender, or even tucked into some evergreens in a Christmas wreath.

Dried roses

The yellow roses on the left are mixed in with dried lavender. The color really stands out against the dark wood, and brown pitcher. I think they look so bright due to the light coming in from the window on the left.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Christmas Sachets With Balsam Needles

I love the scent of balsam at Christmas. It seems like the iconic aroma of the holiday season. It's easy to make these cute sachets for gift giving or to add scent to your own home. The scent lasts for years.

I asked the local Christmas tree dealer if I could take a bag full of fallen balsam needles. Of course, he did not mind one bit. Here is how to make these simple holiday sachets:

First, you need to dry out the needles. Place a layer of balsam needles on a cookie sheet and set in an oven heated to 200 degrees F. Bake the needles for ten minutes, then turn off the heat. Allow the needles to remain in the warm over, turning occasionally to ensure even dryness. Let them sit in the oven overnight, or repeat the procedure until the needles are fully dry. The whole house will smell like Christmas!

Cut fabric scraps into small squares. I like to use material that has a vintage look. To add that aged look to newer fabric, steep the squares in a tea bath.

Sew three sides of the fabric squares. Turn so the rough seam edges are inside the fabric packet, like you would if you were making a pillow. Stuff with the dried balsam needles. Make sure the needles are totally dry. 

Neatly hand sew the open edge closed. You can add a ribbon at one end for hanging.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Vary the Style of Hyrangeas With Different Containers

Hydrangeas provide an instant floral arrangement. The large clusters of blue, pink, or white blooms need no greenery, focal point, or filler, offering a one stop floral design and a simple, though luxurious bouquet.

Hydrangeas dry well for lovely late summer or fall arrangements. Allow the blooms to remain on the shrub until they begin to lose their color in late summer, then merely place them in a vase without water.  The dried hydrangeas pictured below were once deep blue but have faded to a soft green and greenish blue with a tinge of pink for a muted, vintage look.

No matter what your own personal style or decorating theme, hydrangeas will compliment any look and add that finishing touch that only real flowers can do. Below, check out the same bunch of dried hydrangeas in various containers, illustrating how to set a style with the same flowers using different vases, tubs or pots.


Hydrangeas displayed in a bowl make a simple yet elegant statement. When placing flowers on a dining table, make sure they are low enough to allow eye contact. You don't want to have to lean over to see the person sitting opposite.



The long stemmed hydrangeas look marvelous in a tall glass vase where they grace the entry hall. A large space demands a sizable arrangement.


Arranged in an antique blue and white spongeware pitcher, the soft hues of dried hydrangeas take on an old fashioned charm.


These painted metal floral tubs, once used on a European flower cart make for a dramatic yet home-spun appeal.

Cottage Style

The clean white tea pot sets off the hydrangeas for a cottage look that is both simple and charming. The small arrangement would look nice on a table or for a tea party decoration.

Monday, August 22, 2011

About Sorta Fabulous

Creating a home or garden design can be a daunting task when you have a champagne taste on a beer budget. You can go to your favorite magazine for inspiration, find a look that you love, then notice the prices. Maybe you fall in love with a room, or garden design that would appear ridiculous in your hovel. Just remember that you are looking for inspiration. You don't want to be a copy cat.

Instead of moping, feeling defeated in your thwarted dreams of grandeur, learn to adapt. Living in reduced circumstances can lead to a creative lifestyle, to an adventure in thrift, where your life may seem sorta fabulous. And while the frugal life may lead you into the sustainable practices of reusing, repurposing, and recycling, you may just wind up giving Mother Earth a helping hand. 

When I admired some simple paintings at one of my favorite shops, but complained about the price, the woman beside me, a total stranger, said "why don't you paint one yourself? You can do that." She told me where to find the salvaged door panels ($6.00 a piece) in the basement. After many stabs at painting, I began to develop a bit of a style, not like the pictures that I admired, but my own. If I want a landscape painting, I just make one myself.

Art in a Nursing Home

Recently, I had cause to visit a nursing home. Many times, in fact, as my daughter needed physical therapy in order to recuperate from an injury. Despite the fact that I selected the nursing/rehabilitation facility, I cried as I wrote her name on all her clothing.

But the Good Samaritan Nursing Center's walls are covered with original art created by the patients and residents. The naive, amatuer paintings add a personal touch to the pristine halls. On closer inspection, I noticed that many of the painting were for sale. Several group paintings had been divided into four separate frames for an interesting and colorful display. 

How cool is that? Despite the presence of the sick and wounded, elderly people trying their best to accommodate stroke or deal with amputations, the art lent a note of hope and beauty, elevating the mood of what we often think of as a depressing place.

Some of the paintings were created using a technique that allows nonartists to understand the concept of painting. The art teacher lays a simple outline on the canvas to give the residents a basis on which to build their painting. The results, as you can see, are charming. 

This lovely farm scene shows a nice balance and  strong lines, with an inviting warmth. How many of the elderly in the home have memories of a rural past? This scene feels like home.

The framed painting on the left is not for sale. I love cheerful yellow house, and white houses beyond. Whether the artist chose to depict a suburb or a small town, the Old World feeling seems lush with a backdrop of trees.

The gardener or farmer portrayed in this painting appears quite happy with her work. Perhaps it is her green thumb, her way with the flowers so charmingly depicted on the right. The rustic feel with the sweep of blue mountains in the background is a far cry from predicament that is now the artists lot in life.

"The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven."  - John Milton (Paradise Lost)

Monday, August 15, 2011

Decorative Elements in the Garden

Create an individual style for your garden by adding decorative elements. Introducing an artistic flair to the garden design can be a thrifty, sustainable practice, making your back yard a highly personal space.

Of course, standard statues add a kind of personality to the garden. A Buddha statue creates a feeling of peace and serenity. Saint Francis, the patron saint of the ecology movement and animals connects us with the concept of God in nature. Angels add a spiritual feeling and aim us toward our better selves. You can purchase statues, bird baths, and garden seating at stores or online, but for a unique look, think outside the big box store.

Handcrafted art, found art, and junk can introduce a note of the whimsical or a taste of the unusual. These simple glass flowers can be made with thrift store purchases glued together and mounted on copper piping.

I found a copy of the Savannah Bird Girl (pictured above), a significant figure in one of my favorite novels, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, at a yard sale for $10.00. One of her arms was broken off, but I glued it on with Goop.

Broken containers, pieces of architectural salvage, old farm tools, and junk items add an artistic touch and provide a focal point. An unusual item, tucked behind a tree or shrub can seem mysterious or merely amusing and provide a bit of surprise. 

The doll's head on the right reminds me of a fairy peeking out from the green boughs of a juniper bush. Some visitors find her charming, while others think she's a bit creepy, but she adds an interesting element to our front yard. She cost about 50 cents at a thrift store. 

One of my favorite gardens is bordered by upended glass bottles. In a shady area, the glass reflects light quite prettily. This distinctive style costs nothing, using bottles left over from parties and collected from friends. 

The hunt for unique garden decor can be a lot of fun. Thrift stores, architectural salvage yards, and antique shops are excellent sources of materials for garden art projects. If you feel like getting up early in the morning, you can cruise the better neighborhoods in order to arrive before the garbage truck. You'd be surprised at what some people throw away. Okay, so maybe some pieces are not in pristine condition, but does it actually matter outside? A container with a crack can be used to best effect if you turn the bad section toward a wall. An old chair can hold a pot of flowers, a statue, or a personal art piece. 

Once you open your eyes, and put your creative intuition to work, adding unique decorative elements is a fun and inexpensive project.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Broke a Leg - Decorate the Cast

Breaking your leg is a real drag. There is nothing pretty about it. A broken bone is painful and inconvenient and can be humiliating. Then you get stuck in a cumbersome cast.

When my daughter broke her leg, the doctor applied an attractive cobalt blue cast. And in an attempt to add a bit of fun, I decorated it with a metallic silver pen, then added some fake diamonds for a bit of sparkle. The result is a beautiful cast. It's still a drag, but at least my daughter gets compliments on her cast.

Casts now come in several colors and there are plenty of decorations that you can add to spruce it up. You don't have to be an artist, just have a plan and have fun!

When decorating a cast, keep it simple and keep it cheerful. Do not add a skull and crossbones, flames, or anything that can be construed as negative. Cheer the patient up with joyful images such as:
Polka dots - simple and stylish
Stripes - vertical works well
Paisley - draw some paisley patterns and outline with bumps, fill in with swirls or dots
Flowers - daisies are easy to draw and so happy
Stars - in many sizes, add additional lines radiating out from or from between the points
Green blades of grass growing up from the bottom
Fleur di lis
Musical notes
Balloons - circle with strings, overlap some of the balloons for an authentic look
Hearts - different sizes for variety

Monday, August 1, 2011

Simple Recipe for Homade Soap

Making soap at home can be an inexpensive project using easy to find ingredients and equipment. The recipe presented below is the cheapest soap recipe that I have found, but can be altered with changes made with essential oils, coloring agents, or herbs.

Soap is a combination of fats, water, and lye that undergoes a chemical change called soponificataion. All soap contains lye, sometimes called caustic soda or sodium hydroxide. 

When choosing equipment, use steel, enamel-ware, glass, or Pyrex. Plastic spoons work well for stirring. Never use aluminum. 

Protect your eyes, skin and clothing when making soap. Keep some vinegar on hand in case of spills. Lye can cause a nasty burn.

Equipment  Needed to Make Soap

Large pot - steel or enamel-ware
Large Pyrex container - for lye solution
Electric hand mixer with steel blades
Scale - kitchen scale that weighs in ounces
Plastic containers for measuring fats
Glass candy thermometer
Plastic spoons
Mold - wood or plastic (Tupperware type container works well)
Eye, skin, and clothing protection
Plastic bags (to cover and protect counter)
Cutting board

Frugal Soap Recipe

42 ounces Crisco
17 ounces water
6 1/2 ounces lye
1 Tablespoon sugar (dissolved in water)
5 ounces Canola oil
5 ounces Castor oil
5 ounces Coconut oil
1 1/2 ounces essential oil
Coloring agent
How to Make Soap

1) Prepare work area and equipment. Place plastic on kitchen counter. Have everything you need on hand. Ventilate area when combining water and lye as it creates toxic fumes.

2) Dissolve sugar in small amount of hot water. (This will be part of your water measure)

3) Weigh water. Always remember to weigh the container first and set scale to zero. Pour into large Pyrex container. Add lye to water. (Never the reverse). Mix well.

4) Weigh fats, beginning with Crisco. Make sure to weigh the container first. 

5) Place fats in steel or enamel pot on low heat. Do not add essential oils until later

6) When the temperature of fat mixture and lye solution are both 110 degrees Fahrenheit, slowly add the lye and water solution to the fats. (This can be tricky, you may have to set one or the other into a sink with cold water. The temperature must be equal)

7) Mix together. Pulse with hand mixer. The mixture will thicken into a pudding like consistency called "trace," as pictured on the right. If you drag a spoon through the mixture, it will leave a trail.

8) During the mixing, add colorants, or herbs. 

9) Last, add the essential oils and mix well

10) Pour the soap mixture into a greased mold and cover with plastic wrap

11) Cover with a towel and slowly cool 24 hours to 3 days. 

12) Remove soap from mold onto cutting board. Run a knife around the edges, turn mold upside down and thump on the bottom

13) Cut soap into bars

14) Arrange soap on a slotted rack or basket. Keep a small space between the bars to ensure air circulation. 

15) Cure soap for one month. The longer it sits, the harder and  more long lasting the bars of soap.

Coloring Agents
This recipe creates a bar of white soap. You can add specks of color by mixing in some herbs. Fresh herbs will turn brown but dried herbs may retain color. 

Tumeric - golden yellow to orange yellow
Sage - pale, dull green
Sea kelp granules - pale green with dark flecks
Cocoa - dark brown
Cinnamon - reddish brown
Ground non-toxic crayons
Commercial cosmetic grade coloring agents

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Hand Crafted Soap - Basic Types of Homemade Soap

Homemade soap is a hand crafted product that can be as wonderful to make as it is to use. Soap making has become a popular craft thanks to the wealth of information on the internet. While 2o years ago, it was hard to find methods and recipes for soap making, the ability to locate materials and methods is so readily available that the old, once outdated skill has become wide spread.

If you have toyed with the idea of making soap at home, you must first learn to distinguish the various kinds of soap that you can make. It may be a good idea to attempt the easiest method first to see if you enjoy the craft.

Melt and Pour Soap is the simplest way to make soap. Kits and materials are available at most craft shops. Kits offer blocks of glycerine, instructions on how to make it, coloring agents, dyes, and molds. Blocks of glycerine are also available to those who do not wish to purchase a kit. Blocks of glycerine come in clear or already colored forms.

Remilled Soap can be made of soap you have made by the process described below, or by using purchased bars of soap. To remill soap, finely shred soap and melt at a low temperature along with liquid. When melted, add essential oil and pour into a mold. This is a step in a process and not really soap making. French milled soap employs the use of heavy steel rollers that press the soap, creating a dense, long lasting bar of fine soap and usually a factory product.

Cold Process Soap is the real soap making process from scratch and was the method used to produce the soap that is pictured above. A combination of the correct proportions of lye (caustic soda), water, fats, and oils by following a step-by-step procedure creates a chemical reaction known as soponification. One simple recipe can be altered with various coloring agents, essential oils, and the addition of herbs to produce many different types of soaps with healing, skin soothing, or deep cleaning properties.

Cold process soap must be cured for one month before using. This product may produce soft bars that may not last long in the shower, though hardens after a longer period of storage.

Hot Process Soap uses the method outlined above, but is heated again, after trace (the point at which the combination of lye, water, and fats begin to thicken). The liquid is reheated at a low temperature in an oven or crock pot. The reheating cuts down on the curing time. Hot process soap is ready to use in 3 - 5 days and results in a harder more long lasting bar than cold process soap. Care must be taken in the addition of essential oils as the heat may adversely affect the scent of the final product.

Thought making soap at home can be a mess, and engender a search for the correct materials, it is a creative process that is quite enjoyable and makes a wonderful gift.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Repurpose Vintage Silver for a Polished Look

Vintage silver plate utensils, trays, sugar bowls, creamers, and serving dishes can make a stylish impact for your table or anywhere around the house. Antique silver offers a genteel ambiance and adds panache to any home decor.

You can find lots of old silver plate dishware at thrift stores. I always see attractive items at my local Good Will Store at at other thrift stores in my area. Recognize silver plate by its tarnish which can turn a beautiful piece totally black.

Silver plate does wear off and some pieces will never regain their original shine even after a good rubbing with silver polish. In general, tarnish does not appear as circular spots. Those dark spots may be there for good. But even a damaged piece can look good. Just turn the bad spot toward the wall. Or think of those "age spots" as character.


Things to do With Vintage Silver

Fill a serving dish with pine cones, antique handkerchiefs, or sachets. In the bathroom, you can fill a silver dish with handmade soap. Silver plate can be very inexpensive. Use it to hold handmade soap, tea bags, candy or other items to give an elegant look to a gift.

Use a silver creamer or sugar bowl to hold flowers. Silver looks lovely paired with blue, white, or pink flowers and brings out the silver in artemisia and other gray or silvery foliage.

Use a silver cup or creamer to hold and display eating utensils at a party. A tall cup will add a new level to the table and make the forks or spoons easy to reach. (This cup could use a polish. But slightly tarnished silver can create a funky or rustic look)

Use a silver cup, creamer, or sugar bowl to hold tapered candles. Just soak a piece of Oasis floral foam, then place in the bottom of the container. Shove the candle into the foam. You can fill in the edges with leaves or flowers. Cut short pieces of evergreens at Christmas and insert into the foam. Add a bit of water to keep the green material fresh.

Once you start using old silver plate for decorating, you will think of many more uses. Why hide your grandmother's favorite silver plate in the cupboard when you can put it on display?

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Set the Tone With Vintage Flatware on the Cheap

Vintage Flatware
Who can resist the genteel allure of vintage flatware? Older designs provide an interesting look to a table setting and the antique knives and forks have a comfortable weight not always found in cheap modern stainless steel.

Not long ago, Anthropologie offered a collection of mismatched sets of old flatware, randomly selected so that no two sets are alike. Mismatched flatware adds a unique touch that I prefer to a full new set. And while Anthro offered their Rediscovered Flatware for $36.00 a place setting, it can be done for less.

With a bit of work - if you call shopping work - you can create your own original flatware collection. Comb flea markets, garage sales, and thrift shops like Good Will - a hit or miss proposition that can be a lot of fun and ultimately rewarding. It's like a treasure hunt. Silver plate also shows up a lot on ebay and etsy. It's not quite as cheap as if it's in the bin at the thrift shop, but you can find very attractive older pieces for about $3.00 each.

I found one piece of silver plate flatware that I researched and dated to the late 1800's. It cost me one dollar. I also found defunct restaurant silver plate flatware and some cute pieces from a country club that depicted crossed golf clubs.

While hunting through bins or plastic bags, look for blackened flatware. Stainless steel will look its natural color but silver tarnishes, turning black. It may look awful, but under all that tarnish, you can find beautiful silver plate. Chances are, you won't find sterling silver at the Good Will. But you never know!

Just bring out the shine with a little silver polish.

My flatware finds have cost as little as 10 cents each, on up to $1.00 - a real bargain for something that is sorta fabulous.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Create Cheap Crate and Barrel Style Wood Furniture

(All photos by Dolores Monet)

Getting tired of a piece of furniture is no reason to get rid of it or incur the expense of buying something new (or even used). There are easy, inexpensive ways to update wood hutches, tables, and chairs that can totally change the personality of the piece. My fussy old hutch (as pictured on the right) needed a new look and I really love the look of black painted furniture at Crate and Barrel, particularly the Cornerstone series.

My old (1960's) hutch belonged to my mother. In the faux finishing days, my sister had painted it in a tortoise shell design. It was quite attractive as my sister w
as a professional and knew what she was doing.

But the faux finish was too much and detracted from the dishes that I like to display on the shelves. Stripping the furniture seemed like too much work and mess; and I was not too sure about the maple wood. A paint job seemed the best way to go.

For the cost of a quart of paint, a few pieces of sandpaper, paint brushes, and a can of spray paint, I now have a whole new look and am very pleased with the results.

How to Create the Crate and Barrel Look

1) Remove all hardware, doors, and drawers before you begin

2) Sand furniture with fine grain 180 grit sandpaper. Heavy grit sand paper can spoil the look of the wood by leaving lines.

Remove doors and hardware
3) Lay a base coat of flat or eggshell dark paint. I had some flat brown paint, so I just used that.

4) Paint furniture black. I used Martha Stewart's Francesca black eggshell. I used cheap boar's bristle paint brushes, the ones with the plain wooden handles at Home dePot. I also used a comb occasionally on the brush to remove loose bristles. A painting sponge would work well too.

You want the paint to go on smoothly in thin coats, as any material embedded in the paint will detract from the finish. Make sure you paint in a well lit area so you can see properly.

Thin coats prevent drip marks and create a nice, even coat.

5) Lightly sand between coats.

6) 2 - 3 coats work best

Trim the Edges

Sand the edges to create interest and break up the flat look of plain black.

With a piece of folded sandpaper, sand along the edges of the furniture until you remove all the black paint. Your lines don't have to be perfectly even.

Decide where you want to remove the paint then occasionally stand back to see how it is going. Sometimes less is more.


The handles, and hinges were a bit too funky, so I took the rust off. To remove rust, immerse hardware in 1 Cup of white vinegar, 1 teaspoon salt, one tablespoon of lemon juice, and 1 tablespoon of hot sauce. Soak overnight.

I spray painted the hardware with Rustoleum Metallic Antique Brass

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Reuse Old Ceiling Tin - Make a Wall Hanging

As much as I love the beautiful things that I see in magazines, I realize the cost of living makes it nearly impossible. But using a bit of creativity, and learning where to look to find the right bones, we can create a unique home environment that enriches our lives.

Shopping has long been a popular activity for many but the ridiculous prices in the shops of my dreams has sent me scrambling for more realistic opportunities. But amazing things can be found at thrift stores, architectural salvage yards, and in the garbage.

I spotted antique ceiling tile and bought a piece of it with the thought of hanging it behind my stove for a vintage look. But the tile did not fit. So I cleaned it, cut it down, and wrapped it around a simple wooden frame. Old ceiling tile is remarkably easy to cut with tin snips and can be folded around the edges of the frame, then screwed on.

I removed the paint - outdoors on a tarp as old ceiling tile was most likely painted with a lead based paint. Then, I created several layers of paint in the colors I wanted - brown, blue, and an overlay of metalic copper. Of course, one color would be just as attractive, but I like to overdo things.

Finish with a clear coat of spray paint to enrich and protect the color.

The use of old objects for home decor adds a distinctive look and is a sustainable practice that cuts down on waste. Architectural salvage can introduce a feeling of antiquity, of warmth, charm, and whimsy to perk up any room.