Friday, January 31, 2014

Pillow Power

          This time of year we long for warmth and color—a change from the winter doldrums.  You can infuse energy and fun into your rooms merely by changing your pillows and throws.  Pillows are inexpensive and low risk—you can try a variety of colors and patterns that can be interchanged to suit the season or your mood without breaking your budget or creating lots of extra work.  Experiment with different textures and fabrics, and don’t be afraid to mix and match.  From burlap to chintz, there’s a style for every personality.

            Many sofas and chairs come with matching pillows.  Designers recommend recovering them or finding pillows that have their own personality that will stand out against the furniture fabric.  When you choose new pillows, try to pull colors and fabrics in the room together.  Find designs that mimic color tones in your artwork or draperies.  If you choose patterned pillows, make sure that at least one of the colors picks up on color you already have.  When shopping for new pillows or fabric, take paint chips that match the current colors in your room or fabric swatches.  They will help you determine if the pillow you like in the store will go with your room at home.

            Throw pillows can help support you in a too-deep sofa, but if your sofa or chair is fairly narrow, be careful not to overcrowd the space.  While you want your pillows to overlap, you don’t want to have to move them every time you want to sit down.  You should also leave some space around the pillows to show them off.  You can match size, shape, and color to create a more formal look, or mix and match shapes and graphic designs to make a more playful look. 

 Match the style and size of the pillows to the furniture.  For example, pillows with lots of ruffles and fringe wouldn't suit a modern sofa, and a tiny pillow would be overpowered on a large chair or bed.

             If you purchase vintage pillows or linens, check carefully for stains and tears.  Stains can be permanent from years of washing/drying, but there are a few methods you can try to remove them.  First, check for color fastness in the embroidery or design by gently dabbing the thread against a damp, white cloth.  If no color comes off, you may probably wash the piece safely.  If color shows, have the piece dry cleaned.  Remove the fabric from the pillow if possible.  It is recommended that you presoak the fabric in clear water.  It may take some time to remove decades of dirt.  Then gently swish the fabric in lukewarm water and mild, non-abrasive, phosphate-free soap flakes.  Avoid using modern bleach as it can destroy delicate fibers.  Rinse at least twice to remove the soap and do not wring the fabric to dry it.  Instead, lay the fabric flat on a white sheet or towel, press gently, and then lay outside in the sun to air dry.  If the fabric is white, you can try the old fashioned method of bleaching and rub lemon juice and salt over the stain before laying the textile out to dry in the sun.  Some antiquarians frown on sun-drying textiles, but many experts recommend this technique, and I have had success with refreshing my linens using the sun.

            Never underestimate the power of pillows and throws when redecorating.  They are an inexpensive, quick fix for a ho-hum space. 

Friday, January 3, 2014

Decluttering Vintage Style

     Winter is a great time to get organized.  Putting things in place, however, doesn't have to mean plastic totes or cardboard boxes.  You can sort clutter into vintage receptacles that will give your space a distinct and classy new look.  Here are some ideas for storing your stuff: 

      Pile old suitcases, trunks, or crates to form an end table with storage.  Suitcases can also be placed on top of a wardrobe or underneath a parlor table for designer storage.  I have two old homesteader boxes that I’ve piled on top of each other to make an end table in our living room.  They hide magazines, blueprints, notebooks, and other items that used to clutter my coffee table (an old factory cart).

       Place old hardware bins or cubbies on top of a desk to hold small essentials like paperclips, rubber bands, index cards, and erasers.  Large bins can look great as furniture that doubles as storage space.  Library file cabinets and apothecary drawers can serve the same function.  Crafters can use these multi-drawer pieces for beads and jewelry findings.

      Paint blackboard chalk on Mason jar lids, fill the jars with smalls from your junk drawer, and line the jars up in the drawer.  Write the contents on each lid to easily locate what you need.  You could use this idea in the garage with nails and screws or in the potting shed with seeds as well.

         Hatboxes make lovely storage receptacles for linens in the closet, bedroom, or bathroom.

       Metal lockers in the mudroom help hide boots, coats, scarves, and gloves.  In the craft room, lockers can hold supplies and cloth, and in a child’s room, brightly painted lockers become a fun storage area for toys.  Metal locker baskets make great storage boxes anywhere—on shelves in the kitchen, an office, the potting shed, or the laundry room.

        Place an old muffin tin in a drawer to hold small items from jewelry to beads to office supplies.

       If you have knick knacks but no shelving, turn an old crate sideways and attach its back to a wall to make an instant shadow box for smalls.

       Nail a metal time card rack on the wall to organize cards, bills, and mail.

       An old ladder (single side) in the bedroom becomes a decorative rack for jewelry and scarves.  A metal grate or old fence section could be used for the same function.  Turn the ladder on its side and affix to the top of cabinets or partial walls, and you have a ready-made shelf.

       A map drawer has lots of room for wrapping paper, bows, tissue, and over sized ephemera.
       If you have a four-tine rake without a handle, hang it on a wall, and it converts to a jewelry or wine glass holder.

       An armoire is a beautiful way to store blankets, pillows, or quilts.  One could also be used in a bathroom instead of a linen closet to store towels, tissue, and soaps.  In the family room, use an armoire to hold games, books, or movies.

     You are only limited by your imagination when repurposing old things into useful storage.  Getting organized is lots more fun when you are decorating your house at the same time!