Sunday, February 4, 2018

Creative Coffee Tables

   One way to add texture and richness to your living room is to get rid of your standard coffee table and replace it with something creative and unique.  There's no rule that says everything in your room has to match and be from the same time period.  Visit your local antique or vintage shops and have fun looking at objects with a new purpose in mind.  Here are some ideas for your new look:

   Factory carts make a popular coffee table that adds a rustic, wood touch to the room.  You can add a clear coat of polyurethane to bring out the character of the wood, and rub down the metal parts with oil.  Look for carts with labels or writing on them to add interest. 

   Crates, trunks, suitcases, and boxes are great choices for coffee tables, especially since you gain storage with the pieces that have lids.  You can stack multiple pieces for height, or add legs to smaller pieces like crates to make them even with the couch.

You can also use parts of trunks or suitcases to make your table, such as this trunk lid with legs attached:

   If you want a table that is even more unique, consider making a table from architectural salvage or repurposing unusual items such as a chicken crate, snowshoes, or a child's red wagon or sled into a table.  Legs or sides can be made from traditional spindles or from sewing machine bases, bench arms, blocks of wood, or metal salvage.

    You might have a piece of furniture that was intended for another use that would make a great coffee table and add architectural interest, such as this map case:

   Have an old window?  If you build a box for the window and add hinges and legs, you've created a coffee table that doubles as a display box for treasures.  Consider how this table would look with a map, sand, shells, and floats from your favorite beach:

   You can also personalize your table with meaningful decor like the license plates added to the top of this coffee table:

   With imagination, some treasure hunting, and a little elbow grease, you can easily update your living room with a one-of-a-kind conversation piece that will take your space from ordinary to interesting in no time.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Restoring Iron Beds

   Iron beds complement almost any bedroom's decor, whether a main suite or a guest room. Beds can be found at antique stores, flea markets, or vintage shows, but be selective when choosing a bed. Make sure the bed has side rails that fit properly, and that the overall structure of the bed is sturdy. Check for excessive rust, and measure to be sure that the bed will fit with a common single or double mattress.  Three quarter sized beds will require a special ordered mattress that may be more expensive.

If you are looking for a distressed or shabby chic look, merely remove any peeling paint and give the bed a thorough overall cleaning with a mild soap and water mixture.  Use water sparingly and dry the metal as you go...rinse and dry each section immediately after washing.

Sometimes restoring an antique detracts from its value, but if the bed has heavy rust or significant dents, you may need to make repairs to the bed.  A professional restorer can help with sandblasting or restructuring the bed.  Some beds can also be converted to hold a queen mattress.

If you wish to paint the bed a pretty, fresh color, make sure there are no loose chips on the bed, then paint it with chalk paint or a spray paint made for metal.  To protect the surface of your iron bed, whether painted or chippy, carefully apply a small amount of beeswax polish, buffing with a clean cotton rag as you go.  You can remove excess wax with a dry rag.

Add soft, pretty sheets and a fluffy duvet, then pile on the pillows.  Your bed is now ready for sweet dreams!

Saturday, May 6, 2017

A Gnome for the Garden


     As spring approaches, gardeners are dusting off their yard ornaments and tucking pretty pieces in among their plants.  The cheerful garden gnome has been a popular collectible for home landscapes for decades.  Made of a variety of materials including plastic, terra-cotta, porcelain, resin, concrete, plaster, or cast iron, the industrious little figures almost always wear a peaked cap and tend to have happy expressions.  They have always been considered a harbinger of good luck in the garden.

     History says that garden gnomes originated in Switzerland in the 1840s, but Germany is the country that made them popular.  Two potters named Philipp Grievel and August Heissner lived in a little town named Grafenroda in the state of Thuringia.  They competed with each other producing Gartenzwerge, or garden dwarfs, during the 1870s.  Over 300 styles of the wee creatures were created, and other countries soon caught gnome fever.  In 1847 Sir Charles Isham purchased 21 gnomes in Germany and brought them home to his home, Lamport Hall in Northamptonshire in the United Kingdom. British gardeners loved them, and soon gnome-making spread throughout the world.

     Collectors who would like to chat with other gnome-minded folks can contact the Inernational Gnome Club.  More information is available at  Gnomes can be purchased for a variety of price points depending on age and rarity.  If one merely wants to add a smiling little face to one's garden, the American company Kimmel Gnomes is a good source for outdoor-safe, glazed gnomes that stand up well to the weather.  Their website is  Garden work always seems lighter when shared by an industrious little gnome pushing a wheelbarrow, digging in the soil, or merely supervising while smoking his pipe.


Monday, April 18, 2016

Making a Repurposed Outdoor Light

            It’s almost time for favorite summer traditions—firing up the grill and entertaining friends, sitting on the porch talking into the night, whiling away an afternoon on the porch swing…going outside is something we all anticipate as winter melts away in the spring sunshine.  This year as you clean up the yard and begin updating your outdoor spaces, you might consider redoing your porch or patio lighting for a fresh look.  The project doesn’t have to cost much; you can repurpose any number of items you might already have in the house or garage, or you can visit a local thrift or antique store for ideas.  Your new light will add ambiance and charm to evenings spent outside. 

            Almost anything can be made into a light.  First, you will have to decide what type of look you are going for—an electrical hanging light, sparkly fairy lights, or candles.  For an electrical light, you will need to purchase a lighting kit from a hardware store.  They are easy to install and can be used with regular light bulbs or vintage looking Edison bulbs.  Fairy lights can be added and come with electrical or battery operated options. 

            Secondly, you will have to determine the style you want to achieve.  Do you want an industrial, metal look or a soft, romantic light?  Are you going for rustic-farmhouse, or more of a lodge look?  Your house style and patio furniture will help in making this decision.  Keeping the style in mind, look around and see what objects you can repurpose.  You can make a single hanging light, or use a base such as a wooden ladder or bed springs suspended from the ceiling to hang several lights from. 

Here are some ideas for objects you might use:

  •  Any metal basket, such as an egg basket, hung upside down
  • A minnow bucket
  • A metal funnel
  • Colanders
  • A bird cage
  • Galvanized tubs or pails

  •  Mason jars or wine bottles
  •  Barn lanterns filled with fairy lights
  • Round barn vents

  • A chicken crate with a row of lights inside
  •  Baskets, such a round apple basket
  •  Lampshades with the cloth removed
  • A bicycle rim with lights threaded down through the spokes
  • An indoor chandelier spray painted a fresh summer color
         You can hang individual lights, a row of three lights, or hang several objects such as mason jars or bottles together to create a homemade chandelier. 

If you need further instructions, both YouTube and Pinterest have a plethora of easy to follow tutorials.  For safety, be sure to check with an expert if you don’t know how to connect the electricity in the ceiling to your lighting kit.  Once your creation is installed, sit back with your lemonade and enjoy the compliments!

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Thinking Inside the Box

           As spring approaches, most gardeners pour over seed catalogs, dreaming about new plants to add to their landscapes. I am no exception, but while it’s still too cold to get outside and get my hands in the dirt, I like to use the time to treasure hunt for unusual vintage pieces to use in our garden and on the porch.  One of my favorite staples is wooden crates.  Sturdy, colorful boxes serve multiple uses, and they pair well with herbs and flowers.

            Large crates can be placed on the patio and filled with any combination of plants.  Arrange a variety of sizes of crates on a step or in a corner to make a lovely vignette.  You can also turn a crate upside down as a display base to create height for a potted plant.  Boxes with dividers such as soda crates are great for displaying individual, small pots or starting seedlings.  They also make handy carriers for multiple small vases.

            If you turn a crate on its side and attach the bottom end to a fence or wall, you will have an instant display shelf for potted plants, garden statuary, or birdhouses.  

They are also handy receptacles for garden gloves, hand tools, and seed packets.   If you take your veggies or flowers to the farmer’s market, crates make sturdy carriers and appealing staging backdrops once you arrive at the market.

            When looking for crates at antique stores or shows, make sure the crates aren’t stained with grease or other hard-to-remove substances, and test their construction for sturdiness.  Look for boxes with colorful fruit labels or graphics that pop.  Make sure the depth of the crate is appropriate if you plan to add plants.  Deeper crates are better for full season plants, while shallow depths are appropriate for short season crops like lettuce or spinach.

Once you get your crate home, protect it from soil and water by lining the inside with a black, plastic bag cut to fit.  Add about an inch of pebbles and horticultural charcoal in the bottom before pouring in soil to filter water and keep the crate from staining or retaining odor.  When the season is over, be sure to give your crates a good cleaning and store them inside for protection from the weather.

            As you get ready to plant this year, “think inside the box” for a fun and functional vintage touch in your garden. 


Saturday, June 27, 2015

Building a Bossuns Collection


     When he was young, William Henry Bossuns made lead soldiers for his friends.  As an adult, that artistic talent translated into a lifelong career sculpting character wall masks and plaques that became popular with collectors all over the world.  As Bossuns' success grew, he started manufacturing his pieces in a historic old mill in Congleton, England known as Brook Mills.  Silk was originally manufactured in the mill, but the Bossuns' family business inhabited it from 1946-1996.

     Collectors call the character masks "heads".  Prices vary widely depending on pieces' rarity, ranging from $10 to over $300.  New collectors should be cautious when buying as numerous reproductions or "fake" heads abound.  Look on the back or bottom of any Bossuns piece to identify its authenticity.  There should be a copyright stamp and the word "England"--NOT "Made in England".  The only exceptions to this are the earliest editions of some Bossuns pottery.


     There are numerous Bossuns collectors groups and price guides online for collectors looking to add a little "character" to their homes.

Friday, June 26, 2015

The American Barn Quilt Trail

    "There's another one!" my daughter exclaimed, and my husband obligingly pulled over on the soggy Oregon roadside so we could "bag" another barn quilt with our camera.  We were near Tillamook and had driven most of the day photographing and admiring barns and the colorful barn quilts that hung on them.  The quilts were decorative and artistic, and looking for them felt like a scavenger hunt through the countryside and small towns.

     While quilting itself is an ancient craft, barn quilts are an American tradition that began in Ohio in 2001.  A woman named Donna Sue Groves wished to honor her mother by creating an art project fitting of their Appalachian heritage.  She worked with the Ohio Arts Council after deciding to create an artistic quilt square to display on her barn.  The project quickly grew into a larger "sampler" of twenty quilt squares that could be dispersed on barns throughout the county and mapped into a driving trail.  Before their trail was completed, neighboring counties asked for help in establishing their own traditions, and quilt trails soon spread into Tennessee and Kentucky.  Today, there are quilt trails all over the United States, and thousands of barn quilts exist.  Montana's only established trail is in the Missoula area with fifteen squares and more in the works.  Fergus County has some documented squares but no organized trail.

     Barn quilts are painted on wood and mounted on the side of barns or buildings.  Unlike cloth quilts, barn quilts are usually a single painted square.  Barn owners choose patterns for a variety of reasons--sometimes they just like the geometric pattern or colors, but most often they choose patterns from beloved quilts that have been in their families.  Many communities have organized quilt trails with the help of service organizations such as 4-H groups, quilt guilds, or arts councils.  The Oregon trail we followed was a fun day event that included stops at a winery, some art galleries, and a few farm stands that featured barn quilts.

     We've come home inspired to create our own painted quilt.  I have an armoire that contains cloth quilts made by my great grandmother and others found on antiquing trips.  Now I just have to decide which pattern and colors will look best on our cedar-sided barn.  Who knows?  Perhaps our project will inspire others, and one day Yellowstone and Carbon Counties will have quilt trails of their own.