Follow by Email

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

the bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten

I’ve been obsessing about old screens lately. And when I start to obsess about something, I really, REALLY can’t let it go. I saw a project on line somewhere, and figured with my collection of vintage ornaments and some appropriately sized crusty old screens, I could re-create that online idea and turn it into a little Family Christmas Project for those who would want to participate...and they would have a piece of art that has a history, and that they also made with their very own hands.

The only batch of screens to be found were in Toronto...a two hour drive. I actually convinced JR to take a drive last Sunday to get those screens. Of course, we made a day of it with our friends and were thankful just to get away from all the craziness of life and visit with them without phones, internet, iPad, Facebook.

Mission accomplished...$15 for ten old crusty window screens. 

Then on to IKEA. Not that there's anything wrong with IKEA. But I do love to pop in and see their amazing displays.  But the more we browsed, the more uncomfortable I became. It's SO much stuff...the warehouse of assemble yourself cool looking low end furniture stacked a mile high.  Definitely marketed to the budget conscious apartment dweller, I think.  But it made me thankful for the stuff we do...stuff with a history. Stuff with quality construction. Stuff that's one of a kind.

I compared the price of a chest of drawers from IKEA :  Solid wood construction, and not the best of wood or construction in our opinion. In fact, you have to assemble it yourself. It's a basic simple chest of drawers that has a cool look to it and might be just the sleek modern lines that you want. NO doubt birthed in a low income factory in a developing country then given it's fabulous Swedish name. This stuff is not made to last three years, let alone three generations.

IKEA $299

Okay, this is a chest of drawers that we re-purposed this week. They are probably about 75 years old. They have had a life, and have held up through thousands of drawer slams and generations of family storage options . I'm sure this dresser was replaced by something "new and modern" which eventually brought it to live the last years of it's life holding old Christmas stuff in an attic And that's okay.

It survived. And we gave it a new, interesting life. Lovingly finished with milk paint, painted detail and hand waxed finish. 

ellen j goods $325
Well, we left IKEA and my purchase?  A bundle of sticks. $15 sticks.

When we were going through customs, the border agent asked us the usual, and we showed him our purchase in the back of the car...our bundle of sticks.

Border Agent:  So you had to go to Canada to buy sticks? They don't have sticks in New York?
We all chuckled.  JR:  I know, right? Can you believe it?
Border Agent: Well, they don't have Swedish Sticks in New York.
JR: True.
Border Agent:  Make that Chinese sticks.

$15 for screens, $15 for sticks. Chinese sticks.  Lay money that those screens in their new re-purposed life will long outlive that stupid bunch of sticks.

Friday, November 15, 2013

new mattress, new bedroom?

Seriously, all it takes is a new mattress and I’m ready to re-invent our bedroom.

Because that’s the way we roll…doesn't matter that the kitchen isn't finished, or the entry stairs. I want our bedroom transformed.

That itch started a few years ago. I found a paint color that we are CRAZY about…it’s one of those blue/gray tones that is soft and neutral and blue and gray at the same time. Benjamin Moore. We painted our half bath  this color and I wanted more of it. I painted one bedroom wall, and it's almost covered with window treatment. That's right, paint a wall your fav color and then cover it up. So I’m thinking the entire room will be painted this color, with one focal wall stenciled in a soft, tone on tone subtle metallic damask….is that too many adjectives?

So what is the e bedroom of our dreams? See, I dream big, and then figure out how to fit those dreams into the space I have. We came up with a few things that are important to us in our room

  • It has to be calm and restful
  • It can't be too feminine, and it can't be too masculine.
  • Layers of textures:  in the textiles, on the walls, on the furniture. Textures keep a neutral room from being boring.
  • TV is a must...and we have gone back and forth about this a LOT. So, we have to find a way to make the small television blend in as much as possible.

We already have some good elements: Neutral bedding with my inspiration fabric, the window treatments
( because I could never replace them for the $40 I spent on this neutral wall to wall, floor to ceiling fabric!)
And a chair that I slip covered with a drop cloth.

So, now I figure, with a new mattress, we have to have an actual headboard. Seriously, it’s not like we don’t have the resources to make one! JR and I spent time this morning drawing and dreaming of what that headboard should look like. I think we have a plan.

We are thinking simple and on the rough side, but not too rough. It will be painted our style to compliment a pair of  dressers that we’ll bring home from the shop.

My Bedroom inspiration Board?
Pinterest is one of the best ways to plan a room, and explore colors and style.  I save images and then make a collage to see how everything fits together. You can find lots more of my bedroom inspiration pics  by following me on Pinterest :    Soon, very soon, I'll be sharing an ellen j goods page, too!

Friday, November 8, 2013

Start a movement! Buy Vintage for Christmas!

Why is it that many of us, even though we love vintage and re-purposed style  don't  entertain the idea of shopping vintage for Christmas giving? You can’t be the only cool person in your family that would appreciate that kind of love!

Want some reasons to shop vintage/re-purposed  for Christmas?

1. It’s economical. You can find a very nice item at a considerable cost savings. Probably better than anything you can ever find that’s pumped out by mega manufacturers. And if you can get your whole family or circle of friends on board, it sort of takes the pressure off . AND it eliminates those boring gift cards!

2. You get to hunt for just the right thing! It’s fun! Believe me, when you think of the recipient and their needs/wants/personalities, you can browse early and often for the perfect giftie. Uncovering treasure for someone is bonus fun for the treasure-hunter!

 Imagine starting someone off with a collection of vintage ornaments that you've discovered over the summer.

    Or finding a group of 60's paint by numbers for a trendy artist.

    A gathered collection of barware on a old tray.

 A pre-loved plaid skirt or a snazzy little bag that screams retro style.

 maybe charming pillow made by someone else’s grandmother, but will remind them of their own        grandmother. 

Be open to all of the possibilities…all of that stuff is out there and available to those who are willing to look. And to be honest with you, a gift is so much more appreciated when you know someone really did have YOU in mind while they were digging through old stuff!

3. You get to avoid the malls and know that you are not contributing to that crazed need for more and more and MORE. 
How much nicer to support a local vintage shop, who typically supports a local charity and believes in the value of recycling and re-purposing. Most of these local business owners are thrilled and excited to share the story of that piece of furniture or re-styled lamp over a warm beverage and homemade snack at the shop, making the whole personal shopping experience that much more special. I know that Yvonne and I are always willing to help you with your search for the perfect gift…even if I don’t happen to have it in inventory at that moment. Believe me, it's just as exciting for us as it is for you!

4. Giving a vintage gift gives you the opportunity to share some history and tell a story. 
A re-styled bag made from up-cycled clothes or a table made from re-cycled materials could be the inspiration for a new hobby.

A box of old jewelry becomes an endless source of DIY style. I am always proud to wear someone's old jewelry. It makes a statement! It's fun to play with and arrange in the most creative ways. I have a collection of vintage rhinestone pins that I love to wear. They are different, they have a history. 

A collection of old maps tells the stories of its owners’ travels, and gives the recipient the chance to add to that same collection…creating a history of their own vacations and memories.

Vintage game boards can be played AND displayed….imagine the fun of teaching someone how to play a good old fashioned game of dominoes or Chinese checkers?

5. You’re helping to educate the savvy consumers of the future.Even though kids can still receive the latest/greatest/newest, it is the upcycled/repurposed/pre-loved pieces that they learn the most from and appreciate in the years to come.

Curate a collection of something that they can research and hunt for,

a very simple old microscope

A wonderful box of dress up treasures for a little girl,
...little embroidered linens with real china tea cups for their tea parties.

 Or how about a set of old books that you once enjoyed, now shared with a young reader who would love to get to know Laura Ingalls Wilder, Nancy Drew or the Hardy Boys?

You have an opportunity...a responsibility to help children understand  that some things end up just as valuable and important years later and to teach them why we need to be stewards of those treasures.

6. Haven't you heard? Vintage is cool!
To be on the cutting edge sometimes means taking a few steps back. Consider buying vintage or re-purposed  for Christmas and start a movement in your family!

Monday, November 4, 2013

being smart, being "green"

Not long ago, there was a program on HGTV called  HGTV's Green Home... Now it's called HGTV's Smart Home.
Home building and decorating "green" style. Not the color green, but the latest societal buzz word "green." In this program, builders created their most energy efficient home and interior designers shared the ways we could be eco-friendly when we feather our nests.

Can we talk? 
The green home decorators were proud to use  salvaged materials. Salvaging...using furniture and parts that have been discarded and given a new life. We've been doing it for years! We have thrifted, antiqued, dumpster dived, trash-to treasured, flea-marketed and garage-saled. In fact, most of our  house is decorated with a "reusable resource!"

Energy efficiency. I'm sorry, did the planet just take notice of the "Energy Star Rating" that is on every appliance since 1992?  We have always looked for the most energy officiant appliances, along with putting plastic on our windows and a towel under the door  if we have to stop a draft. We don't have central air, but we close the windows until a certain time of day and open them for maximum airflow and coolness, just like generations past. I've hung my laundry to dry. We take advantage of shade trees and landscape to encourage habitation of birds and butterflies. In fact, it wasn't like a (compact fluorescent) light bulb went off in my head when the Green Home suggested we have birdhouses in our yards! And speaking of compact fluorescent...I'll tell you why I won't use them. I'm more concerned about the impact the mercury in them would have on our health and environment should they break or need disposal!

We already have low-flow toilets, and by golly, when I was growing up with a dug well and a septic tank in the back yard, my dad made us conserve flushes, if you know what I mean! And we didn't do laundry when the well was low. Period. We had a cistern! Imagine that! An actual, working cistern! We also had a rain barrel, and we have one at our  house. My old house, and the house we live in today has one and a half baths, not one for each bedroom. I raised a decent sized family with one shower in the house! If a kid wasn't done in 7 minutes, we would slowly cut back the hot water at the shut-off valve so they would move it along!
And by the way, who doesn't insulate to keep your energy bills down? We also wear layers in the winter and wear warm socks....we've done that for years!

I had to laugh at the part about dirt control. ...removing shoes at the door contributes to the "greenness" of your home! But seriously, didn't you grow up hearing their mother yell constantly,"Take your shoes off!!!!"
It's just interesting to me that many of us and many before us have been economizing and being sensible about our homes for years and years, and somehow, now it's called being "Green." I guess it's more trendy these days to be better stewards of our environment and our personal resources? I wonder sometimes if we're just plain spoiled by having too much?  The fact is that most of us will never be able to afford all of the bells and whistles of that $850,000 green home. But I guess the good thing is, it's now smart to be green, and wise to be thrifty, and we can all do our share to conserve.

That's smart living.

That's all I have to say about that.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

soft industrial style = comfort and function

If there is a trend that’s not going anywhere too soon, it’s industrial chic...the look that evolved from industrial era factories. It’s all about worn metals and exposed brick and concrete and weathered wood. It’s exposed infrastructure that is modern and aged at the same time….even if you are not a loft dweller.

A few years ago, I got my first Restoration Hardware “magalog” in the mail and I was hooked. I totally love the gritty, rough, non-pretentious guts of the industrial style. I knew that we needed some of that action in our own home.Gears and metal and parts moved up on my picking radar.

 So, you wonder, how did we add vintage industrial elements to a 1920 craftsman bungalow? It's easy, if you are willing to play with style mixing and layers of functional industrial fun.  Industrial lives comfortably  injected into a traditional or cottage home and creates a stunning contrast, a soft industrial style that works for many of us that are not loft-dwellers. And the fact that we want our homes to be comfortable AND functional seems like a win/win for adding some of that stripped back style. Salvaged elements and old factory/warehouse flotsam look great when they are mixed with other design styles.

One of the easiest ways to add the look is with lighting. Porcelain enamel light fixtures. We collect and restyle these to create a current look for the home. A little pendant over a table, in a corner or above the sink. In a hallway, on the porch.

Exposed wire is such a  fun of industrial style. You can get it with a bare lampshade or wire baskets.

We have added some metal touches to our home…without overdoing it, or screaming “INDUSTRIAL,” these accents give our home an edge that suggests industrial.

                                     (the shower curtain is actually an exposed conduit)

In the way of fabrics, think utilitarian…drop cloth slipcovers, raw, slubby linen pillows or upholstery.

Raw wood and groupings of like elements also speak to the functional and orderly manner of industrial style.

ellen j goods is a great source for industrial accessories. We always have a variety of very cool pieces…raw wood, metal and wire. Just a sampling of some things we added to our inventory in these past few weeks?

A set of black metal chairs

A very cool factory work cart

Several porcelain enameled lamp fixtures

Vintage office metal pieces, including old style file storage and vintage typewriter tables

A couple of sturdy office chairs

And an amazing drafting table top that is dying to become a dining room table.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

embracing the scratches and dents: an article

Our kids used to always say that they were never sure which chairs they could sit on in our home.. Not because they were "butts' off because of their monetary value or museum quality. But because they were afraid they were afraid they would break due to their rickety old age. Well, we've learned a lot since those early years of collecting and decorating, and now the pieces that we use in our home get "sturdied" up and fixed so no one has to be afraid of a
Mary  Katherine Gallagher moment!
 I love this article. It perfectly sums up a home style that we believe in. Comfort, scratches and dents. Other people's junk, transformed and loved. We can count on one hand the number of "new from the store" pieces in our home. We have long embraced a well worn and layered look that suggests a history, and well, has actually become our history.  JR and I pride ourselves on having an eye for discarded treasure and seeing the potential in it...finding  the perfect roadside junk, flea market find or hand-me-down castoff, that, with some imagination and a new purpose, becomes part of the family.

Kitchen designs, bathroom designs, and more ∨

Before starting a bathroom remodel, search for bathroom ideas and interesting products, including a one-of-a-kind tub, vanity and bathroom sink.
With the help of a bath designer, revamp your bland bathroom with a walk-in shower stall, multiple bath sinks and new bathroom cabinets.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Mirror, Mirror

I love mirrors. If they are funky and old, that much better...the view through a faded or tarnished or aged glass makes me feel as if I'm looking back in time. I'm drawn to all shapes and sizes, worn and aged, painted and plaster.

a glimpse of  an image in a mirror tells a story that may otherwise obscured from view,

I love how they reflect light and expand a vista....

We can be mirrors...reflecting the emotions, moods and  attitudes of our world....

A mirror can display a vision of who we are or what we want to be.

When I saw this Sunburst Mirror in the last issue of This Old House, I knew we had to make it. 


The good folks at This Old House have given us a great tutorial on their website.

It's made from carpenter wood shims. and a mirror (which, by the way, JR purchased at the new Hobby Lobby, and I didn't get to go with him).

It was a gift made  for someone special.

I hope when they look into it, they see not only a refection of now, but the possibility of what can be.