Shabby and Fabulous, Painted Furniture

May 3rd, 2009
White Painted Tea Table

White Painted Tea Table

From Shabby to Fabulous
In earlier articles I wrote about honoring the integrity of antiques, of not over restoring or changing the original finishes on antique furniture. In quality antiques, the original finish is a great part of the value and rarity of the item.
But what about the not so rare, valuable or just plain old good used furniture? With these types of items we definitely can get creative and have some fun. Painted furniture has been popular for a long time and can fit into many styles of decor. It was used in all the different eras as a way to dress up inexpensive woods, that finished in a traditional way had very little excitement or beauty because of a lack of grain or the ability to take on a hard high finish. Victorian Eastlake furniture many times was made of pine, painted in a base paint color that looked like walnut and then handpainted decorations of leaves and flowers were added to dress up the piece, this style was called “cottage furniture”, actually an early forerunner of the current “Shabby Chic” style which is so popular.
Whether you plan on doing an entire room of white painted furniture or just want to add a few pieces of painted furniture , here are some tips and ideas:

1. Find a piece of furniture that has the lines, shape, size and style that you want. Examine the piece carefully, make sure it is structurally sound, no cracks or spilts in the wood, legs, arms, seats, ect. or solid. Drawers work, doors aren’t warped and feet aren’t rotting. Minor repairs can be done if need be, but save the labor intensive stuff for the painting and decorating of the piece. There are many great places to find pieces of furniture to paint: flea markets, estate sales, tag sales, thrift stores, used furniture stores and roadside freebies.
2. Decide what type of finish will work best for your decorating scheme. Is this going to be an accent piece that will be totally different from what is already in the room? Or is this piece going to coordinate and blend in, in color or style with furnishings already in the room?

Assuming the piece you have rescued is already painted, use a putty knife to remove any loose paint, clean the piece with an all purpose cleaner to remove any grease, soil, ect. anything that will prevent the paint from adhering properly. Sometimes I will use 0000 steel wool with the cleaner to remove years of built up grime. Once the piece is clean and dry, any needed repairs or tightening up is done, you are ready to begin painting.

For a allover solid paint finish giving complete coverage for a look that looks like “new” your piece must be free of all bumps, dings, crackling old paint, old drips, blemishes, dents, anything that will prevent you getting a smooth surface. This requires sanding and filling of holes with wood putty or filler. Next after the surface is blemish free, apply a primer according to directions. After the primer is dry you can begin the painting process. My feeling is if you want a perfect like “new” finish, wouldn’t you be better off just purchasing a brand new piece of furniture, for the amount of work involved to get a piece totally blemish free?

If your piece has an old crackled finish and you wish to keep that aged look but just change the color or add color, skip the sanding, the priming steps, just make sure any loose paint is removed, leave the imperfections, (that’s what gives the piece it’s character and charm) using a brush working in one direction only, apply a light coat of paint to a small area, while the paint is still wet, you can experiment and with a rag wipe some of the paint off, allowing the remaining paint to seep into the cracks of the old finish. You are removing lightly a small amount of paint from the top flat surfaces. You can get creative and use a darker or different color for the cracks, wiping it away from the top flat surfaces. I have also used India black ink to color the cracks, wiping away the excess, allowing it to dry and then applying a top coat of light or white color paint which doesn’t cover the darker cracks completely. Doing this style of crackling, you have to work fast to wipe before the paint before it dries. You can apply more coats to achieve the look you desire. Remember to work in small areas, apply a light thin coat of paint or use a glaze, stop and wipe while wet, then move on. These is an aged crackle look, like broken eggshells. I use this look when the piece has the crackled or orange peel look already. To me it is not worth the work to sand it completely off or strip it, I just go with it.

A piece that is stained, should be cleaned, “roughed up” with steel wool or fine sand paper and a primer applied. A piece I just did, I used a combination primer/paint, it took 3 coats, going white over dark walnut stain, was maddening while I was doing it, keep finding spots that needed more coverage, but was worth it when the piece was finished. See photo. This piece is now for sale in our Collinsville Shop.

For the “Shabby Chic” look, there are several ways to achieve it. You can paint the pieces solid white covering the finish completely. It will require a couple of coats. If you are working with a piece that is stained, use steel wool to rough up the finish, then apply a primer or a combination primer/paint, this will require about 3 coats. After the piece is completely dry, you can enjoy it as it is or look at it as a blank canvas, to get creative by maybe hand painting a floral design in a focal point like the center back of a chair, a drawer front,, a center or a border around a table top. Timid about hand painting, use a stencil, or use decals (I have seen some great floral ones on Ebay) or decoupage some favorite pictures that are following a theme such as birds, flowers, ect. I have been saving some old magazines to cut up for decoupaging. I have plans for an old kidney shaped wooden vanity table that has a top that has seen better days, I plan to paint it all over with white paint and then on the top decoupage 1940’s ads of expensive perfumes that I have collected from vintage Vanity Fair and Architectural Digest magazines. After the ads are glued to the top of the vanity, I will cover the ads with a few coats of clear polyurethane to seal and protect the decorated top. Note: The vanity came out so good with the white paint, top looks like new, I didn’t do the decoupage look but left it just simply all white. This piece is also in our Collinsville shop now. Phot upon request.

Another “Shabby” look is to paint an all over base paint color and using goldleaf or gilt paint to highlight any embellishments or carvings or turnings on the piece. This gives it a “French” look, a little bit of gold adds some elegance. Here again you can experiment with wiping off or dulling the brightness of the gold. If the gold is too bright, too new looking, rubbing some bronzing powder or cigarette ashes into it while it is still wet will age it quickly. Contrasting or using an accent color paint can be used also on the embellishments or turnings also. If the piece has carvingsalong with the gold you can use black permanent marker in the crevices to create shadows, or black paint or India ink. Vary the pressure as you apply to make it look aged and somewhat worn off. Wipe some off for aging also. Remember all these techniques can be repainted if you don’t like the results till you get exactly the look you want. Like erasing your mistakes and starting fresh.

For a more primitive or aged look, if your new base coat is of a different color than the piece’s original paint color, you can use 0000 steel wool to “wear” off the new coat of paint on places where paint is normally worn off, ex. edges of tables, edges of the arms or rungs of chairs, seats of chairs, corners, tops of drawers, spots where wear is normal from use, rubbing off the top coat and having the different color under coat peeking through in these worn spots gives it an aged look by letting the different color show through. I had worked for a custom furniture maker and had learned aging techniques that would take brand new Shaker style furniture and make it look like an antique original. One style was to use a red or green base coat of milk paint and apply a new different paint color over it, ( blue over a red base was the most requested combination) After the 2 coats of the different color paint has dried, take steel wool and rub lightly over the seats of the chairs, the arms and chair rungs, all the spots of normal wear, to allow the different under color to be seen. After the desired aged effect was achieved, the item was polished with old fashioned butcher’s wax, no varnish, shellac or polyurethane was used. This is a great look for a active family, all the wear just adds to the charm of the piece.

The pleasure and advantage of painted furniture is that it works with a multitude of sins, blemishes, and wear and adding new wear areas will only add more character. It gives you the freedom to change colors and decorations so that a piece can be used in other settings and with other decorating themes. The best part of painting furniture, all mistakes can be painted over. We can rescue a cast-off and like Cinderella make it the “Belle of the Ball”.

Antique and Vintage Lighting

March 22nd, 2009

Crystal Chandelier
Nothing sets the mood like lighting. From dramatic accent lighting, to soft romantic mood setting to the all important task lighting. Apart from the function of lighting, lighting fixtures can be an all important decorating accessory item for a room. A French brass chandelier dripping with crystals can set the stage for a formal diningroom, or get a romantic shabby chic look in a bedroom or bath. An old 1860 library fixture with a glass shade and globe can be electified and add a traditional look to a den , office or study. Wrought iron or weathered tin can get an Early American primitive look going. I have talked about inspiration coming from out of the blue and get a whole decorating theme going, well a impressive lighting fixture can be a starting off point also for a room. It can set the theme for the selection of all the other furnishings.
Antique or vintage lighting doesn’t require a lot of work to adapt, electify, rewire or dress up. So if you see a great lighting fixture or a special lamp don’t be afraid to purchase it. Many people get rid of lamps simply because they may need a new plug or switch or socket, not realizing how simple and inexpensive it is to fix them. A lamp can be rewired for under $20.00. New sockets are easy to put on. So check out the tag sales, thrift shops, and consignment shops for some real beauties at bargain prices that just need a little work. With all old lighting pieces, if you are not skilled at wiring please take it to a professional to inspect and make needed repairs before you use it. The workings of a lamp are very simple and easy to fix. Be safe make sure the wiring is in good shape.
Start with a basic lamp, that is the right size and shape for the place you want to put it, next accessorize. Does it need a shade? A simple shade or a shade that has braid trim, beads, an unusual fabric or color? If you have purchased a great lamp at a flea market price maybe you can spurlge on a fabulous custom shade. Remember scale when it comes to shades, it should just cover the entire socket area, not too high and the socket shows, not too long that it is uncomfortable trying to reach up under it to turn the light on. A rule of thumb is appoximately, the shade should be 1/3 of the total height of the lamp. The height and size of the lamp should also be in scale with the furniture it is sitting on. Important lamps that are next to seating and used for reading should be high enough to illuminate what ever you are reading as you are sitting, a too low lamp won’t work, a too high lamp will shine in your eyes and make you uncomfortable. Also take into consideration your height. Using lamps you already own of various heights, try them on the table next to your chair to find what heights works best for you, measure it and use that for a guide in purchasing a new lamp. I hate the matchy matchy look in decorating, I call it the Holiday Inn style of decorating. The only exception to my design philosophy of not working in pairs is with lamps on either side of a couch or in the immediate seating area, if you are only going to be using 2 lamps, they should really be an exact match for height, shape and base material, if you don’t want 2 lamps the exactly the same, they have to be very similar in traits. In the rest of the room they should be in scale with the room and furniture and have some single unifying trait that coordinates them all together. There can be 1 single lamp that has a stunningly different look than all the others if it is to be a focal point in the room. Hanging fixtures should be hung at heights, where they will be noticed, provide lighting such as over a dining table, but not placed where they are too low and people will hit their heads getting up from their chairs or the lights shine in their eyes. One rule of thrumb is measure the space from the top of the table to the ceiling, halfway in between is where the light should go, but with about a foot space in that middle half-way point to adjust up or down for your indivual preference. Nothing looks worse or so lost as a chandelier hung way up too close to the ceiling, you can always add a decorative chain to extend it down.
Soft lighting from lamps and chandeliers are the most flattering to you and the room. Chandeliers can be put on dimmer switches to adjust the amount of light needed or wanted. Every woman’s nightmare is the lighting in store’s dressingrooms, the over head flourescent lights are too bright and tend to distort colors, they make every flaw show and turn your skin tones into something from a horror flick. Add the distress of trying on a bathing suits and you can lose your self esteem for a month. This overhead harsh lighting is not what you want in your home. You need soft, subtle lighting to light a room. Lamps can give spot lighting where you need it for tasks, spotlights can highlight special paintings or other works of art, recessed lights can shot down onto work surfaces for doing tasks. Hanging lights on dimmers can softly light a whole room. Out are the glaring overhead ceiling lights as the sole source of light for a room. A single room can use several lamps to spot light areas as needed instead of lighting the whole room. Lamps can vary in size around the room as long as they are proportinate to the pieces of furniture they are on or next to. Don’t over look using floor lamps, great where space is limited and also great for providing light from behind your chair to shine down on what you are reading. Wall scones are also another space saver, some that are used in bedrooms or in bathrooms can be on arms that move, to pull out or fold back. A room can have a combination of mood lighting, task lighting or accent lighting. For example I have a very large bathroom, it is over 22 feet long and has a cathedral ceiling, so it has a very long vanity and mirror to be in scale with the room, over the vanity is a strip of the typical round vanity bulbs, I think there are 8 of them. When the vanity lights are on, it is very bright with that many bulbs, good for applying makeup or shaving but really too bright for anything else. So I found 2 old frosty glass vase shaped lamps, to place on the vanity, decorated with handpainted gold flowers and leaves, very French looking. They are standard height table lamps and I put pretty chintz flowered fabric shades on them for a soothing soft lighting effect. So now just going into the bathroom at night, turning on one of the lamps creates a special soft lighting that is more room like than a cold overly bright sterile looking enviroment. Near the bath I have an antique brass and crystal wall sconce to add more soft light over the tub but not the glaring bright light that reminds me of the store dressing rooms light. Soft lighting in the bathroom can create a private personal oasis to help you to relax in a wonderful bubble bath or a pulsating long hot shower and enjoy some pampering time.
Lighting fixtures can be dressed with shades of cloth or glass, decorated with strings of pearls, hung with chains, or be dripping with hundreds of shimmering crystals, painted, made of metal or wood, the variety is endless as is what you can do to them. Ebay is a great source for buying crystals, drop pendents or strings of them in all different colors, sizes and shapes to suit your decorating taste. Silk ivy vines can be twirled around the chain that suspends them. Christmas brings a whole new area of decorating ideas for your lighting fixtures. A garden room with live ficus trees covered with white mini lights can turn the room into a fairy wonderland. Many people try putting the little white lights on their houseplant trees for the holidays and love it so much they leave them on all year long.
The term “they don’t make them like they used to” certainly applies to lamps and lighting fixtures. many old ones are works of art, wonderful examples artistic handcraftmanship, whether fine china, blown glass, precious metals, hand forged iron, ect.all have a special unique appeal of their own and add beauty as well as function to your home. Anyone can have a store bought, made in China lamp, functional but not unique. You take so much time in choosing the perfect accessories that made your home reflect your unique style don’t lose that creative edge with your lighting. Your home is your “stage” you have designed the set, you are the “star” make sure the stagelights flatter your beauty. Special tip, pink colored lightbulbs in the bedroom will give your skin a wonderful rosy glow!

Thrifting: Giving and Getting, A Win Win Situation

March 7th, 2009

Thrift Finds

Thrift Finds

It’s that time of year again…. Tax time. Now you are probably wondering what does the grueling task of getting ready for your taxes have to do with decorating? Lots! I look at tax time as another New Years Eve, time for reflecting over the past year, making resolutions and setting goals for the coming year. Going through the previous year’s receipts and seeing where all your dollars went, reliving the past year’s purchases, good and bad ones, helps you focus for the new year. In these scary economic times we all need to tighten up the budget.
This is going to be a little lesson called “Decorating On a Shoestring”. Along with doing the taxes another chore needs to be done, Spring Cleaning. Time to take stock, purge and organize. This task can be overwhelming and easily postponed but there is no time like the present. Tackle this, room by room, closet by closet. To make the cleaning go easier you got to get rid of “stuff”. First off, set up 3 areas in the room with empty boxes, large contractor size garbage bags, and storage bins or containers. Now comes the hard part, being objective. Start in one area of the room or closet and don’t leave that area till you have completely gone through it all. The big questions are: Do I really need this item? Have I used this item in the past year? Would I like to replace this item? Do I love this item and wouldn’t dream of parting with it? With clothing it is a little easier, does it fit? Have you worn it in the past year? This is like a game, you have to answer these questions quickly and make a decision, the longer you take and think about it, the less you will be inclined to part with it. Once the decision is made decide how you are going to dispose of the item. Here’s the rewarding part, think “Green” the ultimate recycling is to donate your unwanted items to your local thrift store, things that are still in good condition, useable, wearable and saleable for the thrift store will be most welcome by them. If it is broken, torn, or stained do not donate but dispose of. No one is going to buy a chair with a broken leg or a pair of drapes that the fabric is rotting or the tee shirt that would make a better polishing rag, these should never be given as donations. You are helping many people with your donations and you can take a donation tax write-off on your taxes (you must have an itemized receipt of what you have given).
Another fun alternative is a swap party with friends, whether it is a knicknack, decorative items party or a kids or adult clothing swap meet or even a children’s toy swap, it is a great excuse to get all your pals together and have a party. There again make sure all your swap items are clean and in good repair, your rhinestone decorated sandals that pinch your feet and you have never worn could make a smashing new accessory for your best friend’s new summer outfit. Everyone brings and goes home hopefully with a “new” treasure and had a fun afternoon.
Another way to look at all this purging is from a money making angle. Dollars made from selling your items at consignment shops, can be used to buy things that you really want for the new season. Or get together with a couple of friends and plan a tag sale, decide whose house has the best exposure for tag salers to find, pool your goodies and share the work and make some money. In a future article I will cover all the points in having a successful tag sale or estate sale. If some of the items you have decided to part with are collectible and have value you may want to contact antique dealers, used furniture dealers, ect. who would be interested in purchasing what you have for sale. Consult the Yellow Pages in your phone book, go online, stop in some antique shops, find dealers who would be interested in the types of items you have for sale. This is usually the fastest way to get rid of unwanted items. Remember a dealer will offer you a “wholesale price”, not the top retail dollar figure that you might get if you spent the time and money to advertise the item and sell it retail yourself. If you want to sell it yourself and you have time to deal with the numerous inquiries, you can try internet sites such as Craig’s List, or set up an account and sell it yourself on Ebay’s auction site. The classifieds in your local newspaper or Penny Saver may find you a customer. But a word of caution, don’t spend the money till you get it, and have sold the item. These times are tough, many people are cashing out the dollars in their closets and attics and things are a hard sell for the most part right now, you have to have a little more patience and swallow hard and compromise on price. What things were selling for a year ago, is no where near what they are selling for today. I was one of the first sellers on Ebay, in the beginning (ca. 1998) no matter what you listed for sale on Ebay, it sold and at a good price, now only 20% or less of what is listed on Ebay actually sells and many times for a lot less than it’s value. This was a lesson we all had to learn, something is only worth what someone is willing to pay you for it. This “Recession, Depression” whatever you want to label it has hit all of us hard, no one is immune from it. So the dollars you get from getting rid of unused or unwanted items may not be a “killing” but every little bit helps, whether it is cash in your pocket or a charitable donation it still helps.
Now remember I suggested you have some storage boxes earlier. These are for items you are keeping but not using at this time or in their original state or for their original purpose. Now I know you fellow collectors or packrats, didn’t totally reform and get rid of everything you aren’t using. But hopefully you gave it a good try. We are still using the “thrifty mentality” many of these items can be refinished, redesigned, or repaired. Curtains, sheets, bedspreads, many things made of fabric can be made into other things. Decorative items can be swapped into other rooms or areas, furniture can be redone, painted or refinished, the crafty ones will look at these items as raw materials to be transformed or made into something new. Quilts were made out of scraps of material, rag rugs were made out of old clothes, kitchen tables had their legs shortened to be made into coffee or cocktail tables. Old armoires were made into entertainment centers, old dressers into bathroom sink vanities. So back to recycling, what can we make out of our discards that we still like and have many more miles in them ?
We had turned into such a throw away society, our landfills were over flowing and new was always better, but times have changed and it’s time for us to be creative as well as thrifty and responsible. Hopefully we won’t ever be in the position of our grandparents, who lived through the Great Depression and made 101 dishes without meat or put cardboard in their shoes but we can re-examine our spending habits and go back to some of the old ways of re-doing, repairing, and redesigning and come up with some pretty clever and unique ways of decorating.
Now for our reward after sorting, cleaning and purging, we have a fresh palate to work with, to redecorate. After Spring cleaning who wants to put things all back the same way. Family and spouses won’t even notice all the hard work you did. Now it is time for the fun of redecorating, getting creative and achieving a new look. Work with what you have, swap things between rooms, spend a little of the money you made selling off your old things, after dropping off your donations at the thrift stores, go inside and check out the bargains, you may find just the treasure you need to start your creative juices flowing, inspiration may strike and you have a theme for a whole new look. That little ladie’s desk that needs a coat of white paint might be just the thing to put in your bedroom corner and make a wonderful place to sit and journal. Maybe you might find a small brass lamp with a toile shade to go with it at your neighborhood Goodwill. Recycle, it’s fun!

Decorating With China and Linens

February 24th, 2009

Delicate Hand Painted Porcelain

Delicate Hand Painted Porcelain

One of my antique collecting passions is pretty hand painted porcelain teacups and saucers along with teapots, dessert plates and cake stands. My personal collection started when I was a little girl, my Great Aunt Florence Atwater loved to serve afternoon tea to friends and family. My special duty was to set the table with her prettiest teacups, delicate dessert plates, polished silver teaspoons and beautifully pressed and starched linen napkins. At 6 years old this was a very special responsibility that I cherished. Her and I established this special bond of loving to entertain and setting a very beautiful table using beautiful china pieces and special heirloom linens, her teachings about manners and setting the proper table has lead me down my collecting and antique shop ownership lifetime path. Every birthday, Christmas and “just because” holiday she would give me a special bone china teacup from her collection, all of which I still have today, almost 50 years later.
Some table setting trends have changed since those long ago days. Today we have the fun of being more creative with mixing and matching of patterns and pieces. You no longer have to be restricted to owning and using a huge set of special china, often received as a wedding gift. As time progresses your entertaining style, your decorating themes and colors change. Also has we have become a more mobile society, changing residences as well as states and even sometimes countries, moving a 100 piece set of wedding china just isn’t practical any more. Nor do we always have the space to store a set only used on holidays.
So here’s the way to set a pretty romantic, picture perfect table with fine china. First find your inspiration, theme, pick something that you love and go from there. My muse is roses. I absolutely love dishes with roses on them. I am partial to small roses or garlands of roses. I collected an assortment of antique plates, cups and saucers, bowls and serving pieces, pieces made in Limoges, Austria, Germany, England and by various other fine china makers. All the dishes have the common theme of delicate roses. I have also purchased white and ivory solid color large plates and some serving pieces to mix and match with the rose decorated pieces. The combinations of putting together the pieces is endless and I have the freedom to be creative and am not limited to using just one set of dishes or having to store a whole big set. If one piece gets broken, I can easily find another rose decorated piece to fill in. It is very easy to find a small collection of china, maybe 4 bowls here and 6 plates there and before you know it you have enough pieces to host a teaparty or dinner. Bed and Breakfasts are famous for using these little collections of china to set a festive or romantic table setting for 2 and can do a different theme for each morning or meal. From my days of being a bed and breakfast I worked with the idea of having enough of each collection to serve 4 people. My sub-collection is a violet theme, there are so many single pieces decorated with violets, it is easy to build a collection. For a special teaparty, you could get a whole garden theme going. Add a beautiful bouquet of the theme flowers as a centerpiece and it is picture perfect.
The same goes for silver flatware. Buy pieces in different patterns to mix and match. We no longer sell by the sets anymore, we sell 6 or 8 of each type, whether spoons, forks, knives ect. and sell serving pieces indivually. Just so you can buy what you love, what you need and not make a major investment in a whole set. Nothing makes having a cup of tea such a special occasion as a pretty china teacup with a special silver spoon. Some of my teacup buyers purchase an assortment of bone china teacups and saucers and each guest gets to take theirs home after the teaparty. What a nice remembrance of the special day. Another idea is the gals who have a monthly moving teaparty, which is one at a different hostess’s home each time, each guest brings their own favorite teacup from their own collection to use.
Adding to the elegance of setting the table is a collection of table linens that complement your theme. Tablecloths can be layered with coordinating solids and prints or dressed with lace over a solid color, or perhaps a bright colorful 1950’s print with a solid. Or leave the table bare and use placemats or a runner just down the center of the table. There again the combinations are endless. And nothing says elegance like a collection of cloth napkins. There again, collect just the amount you need, find some coordinating ones and mix and match, should one get damaged, it’s not like ruining a whole set, because the set is made up of different ones, it is easy to replace. Sure most of the antique linens need to be ironed to have that beautiful fresh crisp look. But ironing linens is easy and a little spray starch is all you need. Being a linen dealer I spent hours ironing but it really isn’t a terrible chore, I get so much satisfaction taking something that is a wrinkled mess and looks like a rag, press it and it looks like a million bucks. Ironing damask is fun, when it is wrinkled the woven design barely shows, press it and the design pops like magic. Napkins can be embroidered, have lace trims, be classic damask, have interesting cut-work, and many have monograms. So even if you don’t use a tablecloth, use cloth napkins for a touch of elegance. They really are easy to care for. The use of napkin rings in the olden days was to let each person keep and mark their napkin so it could be used for several meals til it was really soiled and needed washing and no one else would mistake it for their own with the personal napkin ring around it. Napkins also come in several sizes with the largest 25 – 30 inch squares for formal dinners. Smaller luncheon size is suitable for every day.
Although I have been talking about special times for setting the table, what is more special than your family. Treat your family to a special dress up meal at least once a week, who better to spoil? It also is an excellent time to teach manners to the little ones and you will be surprised to notice on these special nights the behaviors at the table will magically improve. Even if you have a housefull of boys, learning fine manners will serve them well as adults in the business world, on dates and inpressing the future in-laws. I truly believe a course in manners should be part of every high school curriculum. It will carry them far in life.
After you have been collecting china pieces awhile, you may have more than you can use for dining, you may have a few pieces that have to be retired because of chips or cracks or some pieces just too delicate to use. Now give them a new life as decorating accessories. Use them to form a wall grouping instead of pictures. a stray saucer can become a soap dish, a earring holder. There are numerous jobs for stray bowls, plates ect. Single teacups can sit on a window sill, I have taken 6 same pattern orphan teacups and tied them with a tiny ribbon to hang off the arms of a painted white chandelier, I call it my “Teacup Chandelier”, perfect for a breakfast nook.
Alas some pieces will get broken or crack, if they aren’t too bad they can make perfect under plates for plants. If they are very bad, broken pieces of china can make interesting mosaics on tabletops, lampbases, anything. So if you come across some orphan pieces of pretty china, adopt them and build a family of china.

Lavender Path Antiques II Open

February 7th, 2009

Our New Satellite Shop, Lavender Path Antiques II

Our New Satellite Shop, Lavender Path Antiques II

After a long week of sorting, pricing, packing, moving, unpacking, and setting up , we are ready and open. Our new shop is filled with antique linens, fine china and porcelain, victorian vintage clothing plus wedding dresses and baby christening outfits.
This second shop is located in the Antiques on the Farmington Antique Mall, located at 10 Depot St. in the historic Collinsville Axe Factory Building, in the center of Collinsville. 70 antique boutiques are located in this huge old factory. It is an amazing center with a large variety of antiques and collectibles.
Our original shop in Harwinton, Ct. is still open with 20,000 books, a collection of fine china, silver, jewelry, hats, and vintage purses. We have moved all the textiles to Collinsville and both locations carry our beautiful china and porcelain.
I will be posting another Decorating with Antiques article in a few days when I catch my breath and get the creative juices flowing, right now remembering my name is difficult!
Be sure to visit our website: for more information on both our shops and merchandise.

A Potpouri of Inspiration

February 1st, 2009

Vintage Black Velvet Gown

Vintage Black Velvet Gown

This has been a crazy hectic week. My new 2nd shop Lavender Path Antiques II is going to be a reality in 2 days. Counting down the hours. This week has been an almost around the clock project, sorting, pricing and packing of inventory to stock the new shop. Much of my vintage clothing and textile inventory has been in storage for 2 years, since I downsized the original Lavender Path Antiques shop. It broke my heart to put those things away. I had been selling some of them off little by little on Ebay but still had kept quite a few of my favorite things, occasionally bringing a few out to display in the shop, but room was an issue. So now this week opening all the boxes, I was like a kid at Christmas, rediscovering treasures of glamorous vintage fashions, somethings I discovered I had almost forgotten that I had. The task of going through it all and getting it ready to move was almost overwhelming at times. I have gone through a box of 1000 price tags already and now started on another 1000 tag box. I sell a lot of pieces of lace trims and tons of doilies, so the units really add up. As I worked and I tried to sleep, ( I get some of my best ideas laying in bed) plans and ideas kept going through my head, trying to come up with a decorating and display theme on how to arrange the inventory and put it all together. In my past work as a designer, I designed store lay-outs as well as displays and window dressing, as in decorating all successful designs start with one idea or theme. You never know when inspiration is going to hit you and the source of the inspiration can come from anything, the idea pops into your head and you are off and running with it and the ideas start to flow. My inspiration was a 1940’s vintage sewing machine in a solid cherry cabinet, when closed it is designed to look like a small writing desk. I was running ideas for furniture to use in the shop, to sell and to display merchandise on. This sewing machine which is from the 1940’s and made in Italy has been enjoying life as a desk in my guest room, with it’s 4 side drawers and pretty matching chair it has been a desk for so many years now, I had almost forgotten it’s original purpose was a sewing machine. This piece is now going to be the focal point in the front display, arranged with the sewing machine open, a few bolts of fabric, baskets of lace trims and containers of antique buttons wil be arranged around and on it. The idea train continued to move along, bringing to mind a collection of vintage pincushions, antique sewing items, crochet hooks and old pattern books for tatting, lace making and crocheting. All these items are related and tell a story. By arranging like items with a theme that coordinates all the pieces together, you create an interesting area, people’s eyes are attracted to the arrangement and it holds their interest to study the parts that make up the story. You are probably wondering where I am going with this, but the point I am trying to make is that inspiration will come to you if you allow yourself to be relaxed and open to it. Decorating is a process that shouldn’t be rushed, find pieces a little at a time, buy what you absolutely love, don’t try to purchase everything at once for an entire room, you will find yourself making mistakes or settling for items that are second best, that you don’t really get passionate about, you are just filling spaces. Look at each room and find one piece that excites your passion and create a theme from that object and then find similar coordinating pieces to go with it to create a story. Your inspiration can come from anything, rooms have been decorated around a oriental rug, a painting , an interesting piece of furniture, you would be amazed at what could be the starting point for decorating a whole room.
Antique lovers usually have collections, stuff that they enjoy hunting for and filling their homes with. Some of us have been labeled terminally ill with this collecting affliction! But a collector knows passion and excitement. Now how best to show case your collection is what can make or break a decorating scheme. There is a thin line between clutter and creating an interesting story area. Let’s use the example of needlework samplers. Say over the years you have amassed a collection of 24 framed samplers. You have haphazardly hung them on the walls all over the house. By doing this they have lost their excitement and appeal. They are just another picture on the wall. They seem to be everywhere, but creating little impact. Gather them all up and place them on the floor and study them, look for a theme, is there several that share the same colors, is there something that unifys a group of them, put together do they tell a story? Isolate these 12 samplers from the group and find one large blank wall space and then hang this mini-collection all together on this one wall as an interesting wall grouping. This will have the “wow” factor making a stunning impact. It showcases your collection by grouping it together. When I taught landscape design, I would use the analogy of planting tulips. If you planted a dozen tulip bulbs, each one a different color arranged in straight rows or just randomly through out the garden, they would have very little impact, go almost unnoticed. They would get lost. If you took another 12 tulip bulbs, all in the same color and planted them in a group filling a triangle shaped space close together, you would have a solid mass of color making a huge impact. Singles spread around get lost, just make up clutter, but put a collection together and you make a statement. I like to work a collection, it could be a collection of anything , in odd numbers, grouping 3’s, 5’s , 7’s ect together , it is more visually interesting, than a pair, which is too planned or a single item that gets lost and has no impact.
Now how to use vintage clothing or accessories as decorating items. These are also considered collections. They can be great decorating accessories or set the mood or theme for a room. Bedrooms seem to a natural habitat for these items. A collection of vintage beaded purses arranged on a dressing table or dresser, or hung on a wall in a group. I had used a pretty wrought iron stand made for holding coffee mugs as a great way to display small beaded evening bags on my vanity. Vintage hats, perched on the edge of a mirror, a wall grouping on the wall, on a hat stand, vintage millinery are really works of art, I love using hats decorated with flowers, I have even put a beautiful flower trimmed big brim hat jauntly placed on top of a lampshade for a colorful feminine decorating accessory. Underneath the lamp, I placed a matching color pair of vintage gloves and a little coordinating beaded purse, those 3 items arranged together on the dresser created a little story area. Arranged together they made a statement, which they won’t have if arranged separately around the room. I love the glamourous fashions of the 1940’s, old movie styles, my passion is beautiful lingerie. The nightgowns of that era could be as fashionable as evening gowns. If you ever watched the old movies of that era, you know what I mean. A glamourous silk or satin floor length nightie, a bedjacket, or camisole with flirty tappants hung on a pretty satin hanger and displayed on the wall or hung on a door, or dressing up an old dressmaker dummy can really set the “Old Hollywood” theme. How about displaying with it a pair of slippers with a high heel and feather pompoms. Talk about creating a storyline with these accessories. Add a few pictures of Hollywood starlets from the era of your collection and you got a theme going on.
Small powder rooms can be dressed up with a display of vintage collections. Old hatboxes, great decorations and useful storage. I sold a collection of 30 hats to a tearoom that was going to cover the walls in their ladies room with vintage hats, mostly flowered. Certainly made a statement and everyone remebers that tearoom with the hats in the ladies. Bathrooms with showers I don’t suggest using vintage things because of the moisture.

Another great decorating idea is using vintage baby clothes, a pretty christening dress, dress or little slips on a special decorative hangers makes a great accessory. A collection of little baby shoes, bonnets, bibs ect. Even better when they are from your family passed down with memories.

Victorian houses are great places to showcase a mannequin all dressed up, standing in a room, foyer, alcove. Dress her in your favorite dress or gown, also a great way to display an old wedding gown. I sell vintage wedding gowns but unfortunately, most of them are too small in size to fit today’s modern bride, even if she is a size 2, our bone structure is so much larger than the ladies of the olden days, our backs and shoulders, ribcages ect are so much broader, the gowns would never fit. but they are works of art and the lace , beading, the styles ect. are meant to be seen and appreciated, what better way to enjoy them than to display either hanging or on a dressmaker’s dummy.
So what ever your favorite era of fashion is a collection can be put together and displayed as a decorating accessory. Maybe your teenage daughter would love to have your old fringed suede vest, your yellow mini skirt, your Anne Hall hat or tie dyed shirt to display in her room and her friends can chuckle about things you wore back in the hippie years.
So I am going to close with getting my thoughts together, about creating little story idea displays in my new shop, the theme being a French Atelier (boutique workshop) filled with lots of fabrics and trims, linens, vintage fashions, beautiful hats and French Limoge china and teacups decorated with shabby roses and lighted with a crystal chandelier. But first I have to crawl into my antique bed under the crisp vintage sheets, get some sleep to rest up for loading truckloads of treasures to share with my new customers.

Vintage Linens

January 28th, 2009

Fabrics Set the Mood

Fabrics Set the Mood

As I am busy preparing and packing inventory to bring to our new shop I can’t help but to stop and admire the beautiful handwork of our vintage linens. Taking in the beauty of the designs, the delicate stitches, the soft vintage fabrics, I can’t help but wonder about the woman who labored over these pieces. So much of this handwork is almost a lost art in this modern age of technology. We spend our evenings working a computer keyboard instead of with a needle, crochet hook, thimble or bobbins creating beautiful and useful items with thread. As the old saying goes, “idle hands are a devil’s workshop” , our hands are not idle but we are missing the joy of creating a thing of beauty from our heart and hands for our family and friends to enjoy. Fortunately antique dealers like myself who appreciate and value these pieces of handwork, rescue them from estates, wash and iron and pass them along to new generations to use and enjoy. Today’s article is going to pay tribute to these artisians of the past and give you ideas on using vintage linens.
What makes staying in a bed and breakfast so special? Why do so many BnBs describe themselves as a romantic get away? Their extra edge over staying at a hotel is the personal attention that they give to their guests. The special touches, the special soap , the flowers in the room and the beautifully dressed bed. Spoiled, pampered and all your senses indulged makes for a memorable stay and a want to return again. In this crazy stressful world we need to create this peaceful get away right in our own bedroom. What better way to create the BnB feeling is in a beautiful inviting well dressed bed. The popularity of high thread count luxurious sheets shows that people want and need this pampering. I myself have always loved the feel of luxury sheets. Vintage sheets with crocheted edges, lace trims, embroidered designs, fancy monograms have always been a favorite but are becoming harder to find. I have supplemented my vintage sheets, which are always flat sheets (fitted sheets are a new idea since the 1950’s) with coordinating new high thread count fitted sheets. I love to mix and match, florals with solid colors or coordinating stripes. I also mix and match the pillowcases, vintage with modern. The vintage pillowcases have pretty handwork embellishments, maybe embroidered designs or special crocheted or tatted edges, they add the the romantic touches. Vintage linens were for the most part, trouseau linens, a bride-to-be spents months before her wedding doing the handwork to decorate these fine linens. Many shower and wedding gifts were linens done with handwork by loving mothers and grandmothers. The bride-to-be filled her Hope Chest ( usually a large wooden trunk like container) with this beautiful handwork saving it for her first home. Many of these linens were packed away, considered too beautiful to use. Many decades later or generations later when I do estate housecalls, I find these linens carefully packed away and I am so thrilled to see and be able to appreciate all the special details these trouseau linens have. So I rescue them, some look like brand new, never been used or some so cared for, some may need a good washing and ironing so another generation can enjoy using them. Even not so perfect linens can be rescued, the trims can be taken off and added to modern sheets and pillowcases. I have even framed some beautiful embroidered sections from no longer useable linens and used them as wall art for a bedroom. Vintage sheets can be sewn together to create new larger modern sizes because today’s beds are larger in size than antique beds or vintage linens can be supplemented with new modern linens, even if pretty vintage pillowcases maybe your only added antique romantic touch, you can still achieve that bed and breakfast feel. Who doesn’t love sinking into a bed full of lots of comfy pillows, extra ones for propping yourself up for reading in bed, watching tv or eating a special breakfast in bed. Top it all off with quilts, what greater work of fabric art than a quilt. They come in all types of designs and styles and color combinations to match any decor. For your situation, modern quilts may be more practical because they are machine washable but antique quilts can be used as a decorating accessory, folded, stacked or hung on a wall. I have pets who love to snuggle especially when it is cold so my antique quilts are strictly used to display and add color to the room and not to cover the bed.
Fabrics can add such drama to a bedroom, or be used to soften a room. Florals can be mixed with the same colors in a small stripe fabric, accented with a solid color pulled from the floral or stripe print. Dust ruflles can be layered this way using different lengths so a little of each type shows. I have used a king size dust ruffle layered with a queen and topped with a double to get a multi-tiered look. Pillow shams can be mixed and matched this colorful way. Fabric can be draped over the bed, canopies faux or real created. Colorful needlepoint throw rugs to protect bare feet from cold floors add accent colors. Crocheted, woven or fabric doilies and dresser scarves, not only add decorating interest are practical as well, protecting your fine wood furniture from harm or hiding a well-worn finish on a dresser or table. Coordinating window treatments ties it all together.
So without a big decorating or remodeling job you can turn your bedroom into a private oasis just like your favorite bed and breakfast by spoiling yourself and your partner with all the added little romantic touches found in all the best BnBs. A well-dressed beautiful bed you can’t wait to get into. Beautiful soft linens, sprinkled with lavender water, lots of plump pillows, a vase of fresh flowers on your bedside table, a small box of decadent chocolates, maybe a great novel and of course someone to snuggle with, with fur or without!
I am going to close with the thought of the next time you see a piece of handwork, appreciate the dedication, the art and the hours that went into creating that piece. At first glance it may be just a crocheted doily but maybe the young girl who created it was doing it with so much love and hope for her new home, for when she married her handsome soldier when he returned safe and sound from the war. So much love with every stitch.

Decorating with Vintage Fabrics

January 18th, 2009

My trusty Antique Sewing Machine

My trusty Antique Sewing Machine

[caption id="attachment_27" align="aligncenter" width="434" caption="Layering Tablecloths"]Layering Tablecloths[/caption]
In no other area of collecting can you have so much fun, get so much value for the dollar and make such a decorating statement than by using vintage fabrics. For any style of decorating there is a world of choices. You don’t even have to be an expert sewer, many projects require little or no sewing. My girlfriend Sandy and I have a running joke”Who ever has collected the most fabric when that person dies, Wins”! I admit I have quite a stash of fabric pieces. When I come across an interesting piece I like, I buy it, even if I have no immediate plans for it. But sure enough I am always going thru the collection and pulling out the just perfect piece to create a redecorating project before long. I don’t limit myself to just fabric by the yard, if there is an interesting curtain, sheet, duvet cover, any already made item, even clothing at times, that is made out of an interesting fabric that fits my color scheme or decorating style I purchase it and put it away to be cut-up and redesigned for a future project. My favorite haunt for these snippets of treasure are the local thrift stores. The ultimate form of recycling!

As I have talked about in earlier posts, about saving the intregrity of an antique, the same word of caution applies here. Example: A beautiful handmade lace tablecloth in perfect condition should never be cut up and the value destroyed, it has lasted through the generations and should be appreciated, treasured and used without ruining the original value and design of the piece. But there may be a miriad of other uses for the piece other than what it was originally designed for that will not damage the piece and give you the decorating look you are trying to achieve and the item still can used for it’s original purpose at a later date. My cut-up and redesign projects are usually made out of vintage items that have some wear or damage and by redesigning I am saving or salvaging the piece. The handcrafted items of yesteryear, whether a crocheted or tatted doily, an embroidered pillowcase, a bobbin lace collar, a crocheted bedspread, all these items were crafted by some woman’s creative hands and made with love and pride. These handcrafted artifacts are a piece of someone’s life and history, many of these needlecrafts are a long lost art, the number of people mastering the skills to do this handwork now a days is almost non-existant. My Gram was a talented seamtress and could do all types of needlework, when I was a little girl she patiently taught me, now as an adult I wished I had paid even more attention to learn from her. My skills could be so much better now, but a little girl doesn’t sit still for long and fully appreciate the art that was being taught her with love. I was fascinated and wanted to do like Gram but also was itching to get outside and run with the boys!
Let’s start with a few kitchen projects. Back in the late 1940’s and 1950’s, bright colorful textiles were all the rage to make a cheerful homey kitchen, after the drab World War II years when there was a shortage of everything, including fabrics. Those great colorful vintage tablecloths are still a best seller today. Made of 100% cotton, they wear like iron. Stains can be bleached out, even if the colors fade over the years, it adds to their charm. (Some of my secret cleanig tips will be in a future post) Have one in excellant condition, use it to dress your table. Most of these vintage tablecloths were made in small square sizes, perfect for placing on the diagnal or for layering. Find one that has a few problems, cut it up and make colorful curtain tiers or valences. Make it into a runner for the center of your table or make a dresser scarf out of it. Line cabinet shelves with strips of them, removable and washable alternative to shelf lining.
Vintage aprons, can make a wonderful accessory in the kitchen, display one hanging from a hook. These were works of art, Grandma created these from scraps of fabric, embellished with ric-rac trim, bits of ribbon or lace. She had her every day apron with deep pockets to fill as she did household chores, and you would be amazed how fast she could dust with her apron as she ran to answer the door for unexpected guests. Then she had her Sunday apron, styled with fancier fabric and embellishments. Many of these have survived through the generations in pristine condition. The memories that they hold are priceless. Still a great ulitiarian item to wear, I have a couple of old favorites that I use gardening, those pockets come in handy.
Colorful linen dishtowels, whether plain with a simple stripe or printed with a souvenir travel graphic can make great decorative accents as well as be still used as towels. Potholders, placemats, teacozies are just a few ideas for them.
Tablecloths of all kinds are a great source of fabric to make all kinds of things out of. Natural fibers are the best for long wear, have bright colors and are easy to clean. Some may need a little touch up ironing, a spray of starch, but the crisp fresh look is worth the little time needed to press. Some may come out of the dryer needing no further care. Polyester blends to tend to hold stains and don’t have that soft feel of well washed cotton.

I am going to take a break here. The subject of decorating with vintage fabrics is quite a passionate subject full of creative ideas and interesting history spanning the decades. It is a lasting tribute to the women of yesteryear and an endless source of inspiration for our times. I could fill an entire book on this subject. I will be revisiting this topic and traveling from room to room with ideas. So you “fabric junkies” out there, continue the treasure hunt and check back here soon for more ideas and tips.

NEWS FLASH !!! I am so dedicated to vintage textiles, it was one of the founding blocks of my Lavender Path Antiques Shop, linens were my speciality. Over the 20 years I have been in business, the product lines have changed and evolved. Two years ago, with energy costs spiraling, I had a hard decision to make involving downsizing the amount of space that the shop occupied. Certain products had to be discontinued to make room for other products that needed additional space. Much of my vintage linens and textiles were packed away, just a few of the exceptional pieces were on display, but I couldn’t bare to part with the rest. They came out for special customers or special sales. After much thought and running out of storage room, enlight of the tough economic times we are experiencing , it seemed people are turning more and more to redecorating using accessories, rather than the expense of redoing a whole room with completely new things. Going green and recycling is a big part of my re-design work with vintage and antique items. So I am opening a new satelite shop in addition to the original Lavender Path Antiques, located here in Harwinton, Ct. . The new shop will be stocked with all re-decorating treasures , lots of linens, lace and textiles as well as china, and lighting. Plus small furniture. All the handwork will be out and available for adaptations and adoptions. It will be located in the Historic old Collinsville Axe factory building in the quaint village of Collinsville Ct. So I will be up to my elbows in sorting, packing and moving those wonderful fabrics the next few weeks, getting ready for a Feb. opening, I look forward to displaying these items full of potential and memories.

So check back here soon for more on this subject as well as other ideas.

Personalizing a Space with Books

January 7th, 2009

A Collection of Books on Ireland

A Collection of Books on Ireland

Accessories add life, beauty, interest and a bit of excitement, whether you are decorating a room or an outfit to wear. Using accessories properly to add just the right amount of drama can make a boring, impersonal space into a warm, interesting, inviting enviroment.
One of the easiest ways to personalize a room is to use books as a decorating accessory. What announces and shares what your most passionate interests are, is the books that you read. Whether you are a bookworm who just has to be the first to read everything on the best-seller list or a casual reader who likes light fiction or a collector who loves to research their finds or just an armchair traveler who dreams about visiting far off places, there are so many books to enjoy and to share that reflect your personal interests.
Books come with beautiful colorful illustrated dustjackets. Did you know, that 1/2 of the value of a collectible or rare book is the paper dustjacket? Without the dustjacket, the book’s value is dimished, so protect and handle carefully those paper book protectors. Many books come with fine decorative bindings, leather or faux leather, gilt lettering or designs, embossed illustrations ect. Victorian novels had covers decorated with beautiful illustrations of the fashionable heroine of the story, many of my customers collect these just for the cover illustrations, sadly and not read the stories but these look beautiful piled and displayed in a bedroom, on a lady’s antique desk , even a powder room.
Bedrooms are the perfect place to creat a special reading corner with a comfortable chair, a footstool, a small table with room for a lamp, a cup of tea and a few books. A basket or the footstool can hold a collection of your favorite books next to your chair. A wonderful place to escape to for a few moments of quiet to enjoy your favorite author. Maybe you are like me and have a nightly ritual of reading a chapter or two before sleep, I even have a bookmark that says “There is Where I Fell Asleep” to mark my page. My bedside table always has a collection of books that I am reading or next to be read. A bookcase or even a china cabinet doing duty as a bookcase can add to the decor of creating a personalized reading nook. These private little spaces can be created in a corner of anyroom, at the end of a hallway, an alcove under the stairs, anywhere you can fit a chair, lamp and a place for your books.
For those lucky enough to devote a whole room to a library of books, nothing makes a space feel more warm and inviting than floor to ceiling bookcases filled with all kinds of interesting books to read. A comfortable couch, filled with comfortable pillows, maybe a throw to toss over yourself, several lamps scattered throughout the room with to be used to illuminate just where you are reading, keeping the light level, comfortable and flattering, not glaring with overly bright overhead lights. Perhaps a large table that can handle stacks of books and still leave plenty of space to open a book and spread out to do research or take notes, a library table or a large wooden desk. I have sinfully sold books with decorative bindings by the foot to customers who just wanted to fill their bookshelves, to impress their friends or clients with their selection of classics but had no intention of ever reading the books. It is with mixed emotions that I fill these orders being a true book-lover, don’t they know that they are missing out? As a book-buyer, finding these unread libraries that were purchased just for their decorative appeal and never read or even handled is like winning the lottery in the rare book market.
Hallways can also be used to creat a library, if your hall is wide enough floor to ceiling bookcaes or all matching height bookcases can create a really interesting space and focal point to be observed from many other rooms or areas. Perhaps you have a loft or open balcony that can be seen from other rooms, it’s the perfect place to creat a reading alcove.
Livingrooms have so many places to place and arrange books on . The large colorful travelbooks, also known as coffeetable books are perfectly at home here. Great for guests to enjoy and share with them your favorite places. A wonderful ice breaker to get people talking. After you may have visited one of these far away places, a travel book is a great remembrance of your trip to enjoy over and over again. It could also be armchair traveling and dreaming material. Studying the great interiors in magazines like Architectual Digest, piles of books placed on tables, stools, in piles on the floor, on any flat surface add so much interest to the room, I am always fascinated by the tittles to see what the celebrities are reading. I learn so much about people from the books that they have read, it really gives an inside look at how they think and what interests them. In my business of buying books from estates, I can get enough clues from the books, the tittles, the inscriptions, the bookmarks and letters found in the books to put together the story of the owner’s life and interests. Nothing tells more about a person than their books. I rescue the books and hopefully pass them on to someone else to love and enjoy.
Gardening and art books can reside in any room, but make a statement in any of the public rooms. their beautiful covers, jackets and illustrations make a beautiful decorating accessory no matter where they are placed. You would be hard pressed to find anyone who doesn’t appreciate the beauty of flowers, gardener or not. I love to place a book of garden lore, garden art or garden poetry on the nightstand in the guestroom. One word about old garden and art books, if the books are falling apart and have lost their value, re-design, re-use, pull out the illustrations, mat and frame and display on the wall as artwork. I don’t encourage the pulling apart of a good book but to salvage a toss away and recycle the illustrations to enjoy for another decade or two is a great ‘green’ idea.
Cookbooks are not just books of recipes. We have an extensive collection for sale in our shop and the hundreds of International cookbooks we have are more travelogues, to learn from and are filled with photos to actually see the cities and countrysides and then complimented with anecdotes and text that will entertain you with the stories, traditions, and customs behind the dishes. Grandma’s favorite Red and White old Betty Crocker Cookbook from the 1940’s is perfectly happy sitting on a shelf in the kitchen but the new exciting cookbooks are meant to be on display and available for all to read. Books on wine wil not only educate you on making the right selections but the photos and with the travel information on the vineyards, whether France, California, Spain, Germany or many others, you can spend many happy hours armchair traveling with a glass of wine by your side.
There books on any subject, for any interests and there isn’t a place in your home that couldn’t be accessorized with a collection of books or just a single properly placed book. To protect your books from harm, try to avoid placing them in direct bright sunlight or in areas of extreme moisture. Try to arrange them to stand straight up or lay down flat. Move and rotate when on shelves, dust lightly with a feather duster. Don’t pack too tightly on the shelves, make sure they are easy to slide in and out without damaging the books or dustjackets. Books bring the world to your door, spread them around and share the ideas and dreams with all who enter your abode.

Re-Design Project: Victorian Fireplace Mantle / Bed Headboard

December 26th, 2008

Finished Project

Finished Project

[caption id="attachment_17" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Ca. 1880's Fireplace Mantle "]Ca. 1880's Fireplace Mantle [/caption]
HISTORY: You never know when inspiration is going to strike. I had been thinking about replacing my Walnut East Lake bed for a few years. I loved it dearly, the headboard was over 6 feet tall, made with walnut boards that went across the headboard diagonally with a scalloped and carved top header. I had had this bed for over 35 years. I had spotted it in an antique shop and fell in love with it. I got it home tied to the roof of my car, about a 40 mile trip, the benevolent spirits must have been with me that day, it got home completely intact. It has moved with me to new homes every time. The walnut bed was joined by a matching walnut dresser several years later. I live in a very unique home, it was built in 1783, orginally as a schoolhouse, it was called “The Academy” and served as a one room school for high school age students. After the civil war, there weren’t enough students, so the school was closed, no one really wanted the building, it was used as the 1st Catholic Church for several years, townhall for a short time and finally was sold to an adjacent estate in exchange for a large steel beam to be used in construction of a building damaged by fire. It was moved to it’s present location and plunked down in the middle of an orchard on the estate. It was the used as a private theater for the owner, who was the publisher of “Ladies Home Companion” Magazine, she used it for entertaining her guests and built tennis courts next to it. Several very noted, famous people in publishing, goverment ( including 2 presidents) and businessmen came to stay with her in the main house and enjoyed entertainment and tennis here. After she died the estate was divided up and sold off, this building eventually became a home in the 1950’s and has been home to Lavender Path Antiques and my home since the early 1990’s.
I am fortunate to have the original 24 foot domed ceilings, which made decorating a “large” challenge. The rooms are also oversized. In looking in furniture stores, all the beds available were just too small, uninteresting and of inferior quality woods and craftmanship compared to an antique bed. I keep looking waitng for inspiration to strike. New beds just didn’t have the romance I was looking for, and antique beds were getting very hard to find and the prices were really going up. One reason for parting with my antique bed was the size, I really needed a larger bed, with a large dog sleeping on my feet and 2 cats snuggling up beside me there wasn’t a lot of room for anyone else. So when I had almost given the idea of change, inspiration hit me. I had seen a photograph of an antique fireplace mantle re-designed into a headboard. I fell in love. Even though I am an antique dealer, to find a Victorian Fireplace mantle, exactly what I was looking for wasn’t going to be easy. I started by searching architectural salvage companies, years ago, many bargains and what interesting pieces could be found in them. But I got the shock of my life, looking at the prices for these items there in today’s market. I made several phone calls to antique shops all around, tracked down a few mantles but they didn’t fit my vision of what I wanted. Decorating with antiques can be a very slow process at times, to find the perfect piece when you are looking for it can be daunting. I wasn’t giving up. I shopped Ebay till I had blisters on my fingers, saw some that just might fit the bill, but had to think about shipping costs or distance to go pick it up. Price ranges were all over the lot. But the research help me formulate my idea and I knew exactly what style I wanted and the appox. price it was going to cost. I continued my search online and looked at several but it appeared I needed to find one I could pick up rather than ship. These are rather heavy. I decided to check my local Craigslist classified ads list. Bingo! I found one listed and only 6 towns away. The person emailed me a photo and I fell in love, he had what I had envisioned. The mantle had a mirror with candle shelves on either side of it and a upper shelf, bringing the total height to over 7 feet tall, just what I needed. There was some carving detail on the top section and on the lower section. It took a week to get our schedules coordinated so I could go see it. I was so afraid it would be sold to someone else who got there first but luck was on my side. I knew I was going to buy it even before I saw it in person. And best of all it was a bargain! It barely fit in my van even though it was in 2 pieces. But I got it home. Friends and family thought I had really flipped my lid when they saw it. But I could visualize the beauty it could become. *** Refer to photo at top of page for it’s original condition.

PROCESS: As I took it out of the truck, no easy task for a middle aged woman, who is fit, it was heavy, my excitement must have given me the adrenlin rush I needed to move it by myself. The mantle was covered with dirty, chippy, old white paint. It had been in storage in a basement for several decades and only recently moved into a garage. It was dirty. I scrubbed it down with good old Murphy’s oil soap and got all the decades of grime off. The mantle had no structural damage, the wood was in fine condition, aa little wear here and there but that is the charm of antiques. I had a decision to make on what to do with the finish. I could spend hours, sanding it down to bare wood and then staining it, or paint it. I felt stripping it would take away a lot of the character of the piece, it would never be “perfect” and perhaps all that work wouldn’t be worth it. There were several layers of paint on it. I didn’t want it painted white, I wanted it to marry with the Eastlake dresser that I owned. The dresser was painted a very dark reddish brown, almost black in some light and decorated with handpainted flowers and green leaves, all original. I had a paint chart wheel with over a 1000 colors on it, given to me by a painter, I took the chart and matched the color of the dresser to one on the chart. I went to Home Depot and they made it up. In the light of my bedroom the color looks almost like mahogany wood. I painted the mantle, it took 3 coats. Working with the paint, brushing in the direction of the grain only, I was able to create the look of grained wood, never completely covering with a solid coat over the layer underneath, leting a faint amount of the lighter color of the previous coat underneath peek through. I did this show-through technique on corners and other spots that wood had natural worn spots from years of use. I did not want to make it look new, I still wanted the antique character, wear and blemishes included. I work with a small sponge paint brushes, I find they give me the agility and ability to do fussy paint techniques rather than a regular paint brush, then when you are done, throw away. In a few spots, I would wipe off a little of the wet paint with a rag, further “distressing” or aging the look. It came out exactly matching the dresser. Taking the cue from the green leaves that decorated the dresser, I put a coat of forest green paint over the base color on the applied decorative carvings on the mantle, I did that quickly with an artist brush not covering the carvings completely, there again striving for a worn look, not newly painted. On top of the green paint I used another artist brush and used liquid gold leaf paint, there again quickly running the brush over just the high points of the design. In a few spots, I felt I had applied the gold paint to heavy, I just rubbed some off with a rag while still wet, to give it a burnished aged look. The bed was now finished and ready to be moved into the room.

HARDWARE AND ASSEMBLY: I had to purchase a new mattress, foundation and bedframe. I bought a queen size that would fit perfect size -wise with the mantle. I placed the lower part of the mantle against the wall. I used 2 very thin pieces of scrap wood, less than 1/4 inch thick, under the front legs of the mantle to creat an ever so slight pitch, so that it learns back towards the wall. I did this only because it was going to be sitting on carpet. I slid the bed frame and mattress to sit right in front of the mantle leaving about 2 inches of space inbetween the mantle and the bed. The top half of the mantle with the mirror and the shelves would sit on the bottom part of the mantle. Now here is the part that really took some thought. I wanted to make sure that the top of the mantle was secure. The bottom is mostly covered by the bed and will never fall forward. I put 2 heavy-duty round screw-eye hooks on the back of the top of the mantle, on either side like you would do with a picture frame , I placed them about 6 inches down from the top edge. I fastened into a stud in the wall a heavy round circle on a plate that fastened into the stud with 4 screws. This was actually a hook used to tie horses, I felt if it could hold a horse it could hold this mantle for sure. I used length of brass chain, the type that is used for hanging chandeliers, I used the chain to attach to the eye hooks on the back of the mantle and then attach to the horse ring in the stud. This may be being a little overcautious, but I wanted to be sure it was secure to the wall. I could have done some framing and fastened the whole mantle to the wall but I was concerned about damaging the wall permanently and wanted to be able to take the mantle headboard if I should ever move again. Once I got the top in place, I realized with the way it was constucted with the front posts on the mantle shelf, that would also prevent it from tipping forward. But I have now gotten it very secure. I’ll bet you are wondering about the opening in the mantle that is open for the fireplace. There are 2 ways to handle that. I purchased 4 bed risers to put the feet of the bedframe raising the bed 8 more inches off the floor. I had used them also with my old Eastlake bed. I like a high bed for the look, and for the storage space underneath and being able to vacuum under the bed easier. By using the risers the height of the bed is now only 1 inch short of covering the opening in the mantle, with big fluffy pillows, it never shows. The alternative that could be done would be to take a piece of plywood cut slighter bigger than the opening, cover the plywood with quilt batting material, staple with a staple gun in place and then cover with coordinating fabric that matches or compliments your bedding. Take the fabric covered board and screw it into the back of the mantle. My using the risers eliminated the need for covering in the opening in the mantle. I change my bedding quilts and coverlets so often that I would be changing that fabric cover all the time.

DECORATE: I purchased 3 bed skirts that coordinate, florals and solids in different lengths. Now remember using the risers you need a longer bedskirt, my need was for a 21 inch drop. Then I used a 15 and a 13 inch over that. I use 2 king size pillows at the very top of the bed up against the mantle, they are there all the time. I then layer 2 queen pillows on top of them and use 2 pairs of regular size pillows in front of them for that romantic Bed and Breakfast look. I mix and match florals, stripes and solids in pillowcases as I did in the bedskirts. Choose your decorations to put on the mantle and shelves. I have opted to leave the very top shelf bare, was concerned about things could fall but so far everything on the lower shelves have not moved an inch, all secure.

Result: I am just thrilled with my Re-designed headboard. I rescued an old mantle that had no home and it has a new life as a high headboard with the Victorian look I had envisioned, that fits perfectly with my very large room. The integrity of the mantle is still there, it can be re-used as a mantle anytime as it was originally designed for. This project went much faster than expected and the luck of finding the piece so fast must have had some divine intervention. So yes you can fall in love again.