Decorating with Vintage Pieces

Last night, my friend Jade and I stayed up way too late arranging stuff. I can clean and arrange other people’s stuff — I can sagely advise my mom on what needs to leave her closet, clean my sister’s dresser in five minutes — but when it comes to my stuff, I get kinda paralyzed.  So thank heavens for brilliant people like Jade, who can magically make things work!

Here’s what we did (with a few touches that I finished up this evening):

Shelf made from an antique door header, with a window.This — this is my precious.  This is the Free Fish Tank Shelf.  Now let me explain myself. When my parents first got married and were very poor, they discovered an old fish tank in the attic of their first house. The landlady said they could have it. And they were like, “Cool! A free fish tank!” And THEN, they had to buy fish….and rocks….and fish food….and filters……and the list went on until the free fish tank had cost a fortune.

The shelf was like that.  The main portion of it is a really cool door header from an 1880’s house in Sparta, Tennessee.  I loved it. My boss gave me a very generous employee discount on this piece. And I was thrilled.  Then I bought a board to go on top of it. And a hanger for the back of it. And braces to fix where the roundels were trying to fall off the ends. And those drywall things for the screws. And stain for the board. And a second color of stain for the board, when the first turned out to be grape colored. And varnish. And sandpaper. And it took me every night for a week.

But now it’s finished, and I think maybe — just maybe — it was worth it.

Above the shelf, you will notice a parallelogram-shaped window.  I got this at work, too. These windows are a well-kept secret — they’re all out back, outside, and they’re very cheap, mostly $6-$10.  I’m trying to decide if I want to put pictures in some of the panes. Feedback?

Close-up of the shelf

On the wall perpendicular to the shelf, we put my $4 estate auction mirror, along with my $2 plant stand and my fantastic spider-plant that my friend Kelsey gave me.

Then we moved on the antique Vogue magazine pages. As mentioned in my previous post, I bought these on eBay sometime during college, and I finally got around to buying frames and making color photocopies to frame.

We hung these in the entrance hallway. The prints were an odd size — and I was lucky enough to find these “floating” frames at Kohl’s on sale. They’re designed for 8×10 prints, but these larger prints work just as well.

This is a close-up of the corner of one of the prints, for any of you who were skeptical about the idea of framing color copies.  We trimmed them carefully, and this retains the exact same worn and dog-eared edge as the original.

Does the header on the magazine look familiar?

I love these.

We also did a few little adjustments above one of the bookshelves.

The framed doily was made by my first-cousin-twice-removed (my grandfather’s cousin), and was the first wedding present that Jonathan and I received. The little bird was a gift from my great-grandmother when I was little. I picked up the fashion print at a yard sale a couple weeks ago, for a dollar.  And please take note of the antique letter slot under the plant — it’s a really rare piece by Corbin in their starfish pattern, circa 1890.

The can of Pledge is, of course, a fine and elegant decorating touch as well….

Jade was also able to pull together some mismatched pieces as a grouping in the hallway.

The center piece is a drawing of my great-grandparents and the family home.  The four fashion plates (repro, but still cute!) were from a Nashville estate auction, and the two butterflies were from a yard sale. I had a third that completed the set, but it met with an unfortunate fate last year while it was waiting to be hung at the old house (that’s a long story for another day).

This evening, I added a few more touches — my hand-embroidered piece here (a trophy from an estate sale) was hung from a little 1920’s floral picture hanger, and I installed another set of antique doorknobs.

The picture hanger was a gift from my friend Julia.  We’re not picture-hanger experts (I’m not even certain that it IS a picture hanger), but we think it’s from the 1920’s based on the style and the coloring.

Finally, I installed a cool Art Nouveau backplate and a rare spherical glass doorknob on the pantry door, with (comparatively) junky hardware on the other side until I find something else appropriate to go there.

And that, my friends, concludes tonight’s presentation on decorating with vintage materials!

About Charity

I have an inexcusable number of cookbooks (and like to experiment with them), have worked in architectural antiques, and have been sewing most of my life. I recently graduated with a Ph.D. in Apparel, Merchandising, & Design from Iowa State University. Doing household things (except for cleaning!) and hunting for antiques are my favorite pastimes.
This entry was posted in Decorating, How-To, Mrs. Armstead's Household Guide. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Decorating with Vintage Pieces

  1. Karen says:

    Great Job Girls! Looks wonderful!

  2. Julia says:

    Feedback on pics in the old window frame – I think you should do that, but not here – it already looks pretty above the shelf with stuff on it, and pics in it might make it look too cluttered. But I’m a huge fan of window frames as picture frames. And if they’re that cheap, you get another one and put it up somewhere else.

    My favorite, however, is the can of pledge. 🙂

    Aunt Julia

  3. marilyn everett says:

    I love it! Can I come up and see it Sunday?

  4. Ronnie Fie says:

    Just stopping by to lurk a bit. Great job with what you have done. I really enjoy your energy and spirit that eminates from you. See you at the shop soon.


  5. I like the transom without pictures, but I’m no decorating guru. My wife has an old mirror that’s a bit like that and much of the finish is worn off. Someone suggested reglazing it or whatever it’s called. No way.

  6. Charity says:

    Aunt Julia and Rufus — yeah, I’m thinking the same thing. I might have to buy another frame sometime and use that for pictures instead. 😉

  7. Charity says:

    Oh, and Rufus, I’m with y’all 100% on not resilvering the mirror. Coolness factor aside, it can actually decrease the value of the piece!

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