Author: Meg

  • A Real Secret Compartment!

    All kinds of interesting vintage pieces come into our shop all the time. Sometimes we let them be and they sell right away, so it is a quick hello and a faster goodbye. Other times, something unique catches my immediate attention and I can’t wait to explore it. One day, I was searching a nightstand that had come in early that morning. We had acquired it a few days ago from an estate sale. I had never heard of the family. Most of the items were very fine quality and Mum and I considered it a “good haul.” It became even better when I discovered a secret compartment. This kind of find adds to a piece’s value since buyers love these special features. I would point it out to buyers for sure.

    I didn’t know what to expect inside: jewelry, money, a photo, or other treasure. It was not to be. I found a lonely small canister of pepper spray. I suppose it was stashed there to ward off a thief or what we now call a “home invader.” It was pretty old so I doubt if it still worked. I started to imagine the previous owner: an elderly spinster wearing a lace and satin nightgown to bed covered by a bed jacket. Women wore them until maybe the fifties to keep warm. Now they look so old-fashioned, but I have sold one or two in the store. Meanwhile, the old woman had purchased the pepper spray after reading about it on Self Defense Guide. I suppose she learned how to use it, although she had to test it herself given that there were no instructions available on the nonexistent Internet. The will remain unknown. It is truly a secret compartment. I have invented its story.

    It made me think about the vulnerability of women, especially those who live alone. It wasn’t popular for girls to play sports in those days and certainly not to take a martial arts class, as they do now. Women were truly the weaker sex. The old lady needed to feel secure and had not considered a burglar alarm – what we now term a security system. She probably was terrified of guns and knives or anything violent. Pepper spray has been around forever and perhaps a relative or brother told her about it. Her can was small so they made “purse size” even in those days. I wonder if she ever used it by accident on a noisy housekeeper or dog.

    All this contemplation has made me want to get some pepper spray (popularly known by the brand name, Mace). I could keep it in the shop when I am alone. It would be perfect to place in the small drawer next to the cash register. I could get a second can for home and maybe one for Mum. I can buy in bulk online. Ha! Who else in my neighborhood needs one.

  • Out with the Old

    I have a creative outlet. While others have sports or personal hobbies and games, Mum and I have a vintage shop that contains the coolest stuff around. People come from near and far to see what is on the shelves. If something is odd and whimsical, we buy it. Many cast off items that people don’t want are repurposed to make something new and useful. Mum has led the way for a while and now I am on my own. Where someone would say “out with the old,” I would say “I can make it new.” I love a challenge.

    In the resale business, it is all about giving something a new look. If it catches your fancy, you can buy it in our shop. Negotiations and trades are always welcome. I am also somewhat of a “picker” out exploring for exciting finds. I can spot a gem in a pile of junk. Sometimes it needs a bit of welding, gluing, or otherwise fixing to make it work. I specialize like those guys on TV who like motorcycles and cars. I go for something with decorative potential small enough for any home.

    Here is a prime example. Recently, I decided to replace the toilet in the guest bathroom that has been on the fritz. I am tired of the leaking, which was when I decided to turn to the internet and went to find the best toilet to replace my old one with. I intended to clean it up the old one after I’d removed it and bring it back to life as a planter for the backyard. There is already a lot of funky stuff out there, so it wouldn’t look out of place or alone. I saw it in my mind’s eye with lush, green ivy pouring from its wide-open basin. Its shiny whiteness would stand out among the plethora of nature’s colors in the vegetable garden. It would stand close to its soul mate, a square painted sink. My yard is a statement about the old and the new, about modern life and the old world of growing your own food. Whatever you want to say about it, it is just plain whimsy and fun. That’s my style.

    I can help customers save themselves from the dreary and the mundane, who don’t want their environment to look like everyone else’s. I will find this and that to add glamour to the ordinary in any home. Old ceramic plates adorn my kitchen walls and an old metal bottle holder is a great cup rack. If you need lighting, I have the most unusual lamps repurposed from another era. A new shade and an old base and voila! You have art. Give me an old chair begging for recovering, and I can make magic with the frame. An antique bicycle makes a great wall sculpture in a man’s office.

    I am on the hunt for more old toilets since my friends all want this utilitarian planter. I put an ad in the reginal paper and got many calls. If you have such an item, I am heading your way, the toilet picker supreme.

  • Doing It Yourself? Make a Plan!

    You don’t begin an essay or tackle a proposal at work without creating an outline or going through a drafting process first, do you? You shouldn’t treat refinishing vintage decor or furniture any differently. I’ve learned and re-learned this lesson the hard way many, many times, believe me. We may not always know what this “plan” is when we find something we are immediately enraptured it – be it a bookcase or framed artwork – but if your initial passion for an item is strong, chances are your motivation to plan and achieve a refinishing or reviving of it will be strong as well.

    Mum and I plan before we tackle a project by talking it out. For others, writing it out with paper and pen may work best, but my bond with my mother has always worked best with us bouncing ideas off each other. The thing about working with vintage and antique items is they are usually relatively delicate to the touch. We may be able to get away with stripping old paint from its surface in order to properly re-paint it, but we certainly would not want to risk attempting it twice. That’s why before we work with a paint color, we always choose it and plan with it in mind very carefully. We would never want to pick a color we later regret and risk overworking the piece and ruining or damaging it.

    Planning is also important because it’s a thinking process, during which you have the opportunity to ask yourself a series of questions. Will the lamp you found at the yard sale look better in your entry hall or bedroom? Where are you lacking color or personality in your home? Does the wicker chair you found at a resale shop look like it would be suitable in your screen-in porch, on your deck, or possibly even in your living room? Spend time with the pieces you find. Planning an approach to their second life gives you the ability to pause and reflect.

    There was an instance in which I reupholstered from wingback chairs without planning. And while I was at it with my staple gun, I realized I hadn’t properly accounted for the amount of fabric needed and I didn’t have enough. I rushed to town to buy more of the same fabric only to find that the store no longer had it. It was a very specific velvet, orange floral print and I knew instantly that I would have to undo all of the hard work I’d already put in. This is just one example. Trust me, things like these tend to happen a lot in our line of work, but what I find is that when I reflect and think back I realize that these fumbles always occur when I didn’t have a plan in mind.

    So this is probably some of the best advice Mum or I could give to anyone refinishing furniture, as a weekend hobby or professional hobby – don’t skimp on planning!

  • Salvage Find

    Having a vintage store means lots of time exploring for unique finds. I want to change up the contents of the space so there is always something new. If you get repeat customers, they have seen your old inventory and are therefore not as tempted to make a purchase. I set up scenarios in the store so people can imagine furniture and fixtures in a home environment. Not everyone has a good imagination. Some know exactly what they want and exclaim “aha” when they spot it. So, every nook and cranny of my store is crammed with goodies and delights from large to small in size. People often come in for gifts or they might want to exchange a personal item. I take jewelry, silver and glass, china, clothing, and decorative ceramic ware. It is fun to see what people have collected over the years. Most only occasionally like to part with their treasures.

    I often visit a salvage yard some miles away in case there is something suitable for sale. Recently, I spotted a lovely carved wood fireplace mantle that was not in bad shape. A little loving care would bring it back to life. I brought it home in my truck and proceeded to strip and stain it. In my experience, refinishing goes a long way. I changed it from a boring oak to a deep mahogany. It would be a wonderful focal point for any home. You could put it over an existing fireplace to glamorize the look. It wasn’t for everyone, but surely there was a customer out there looking to upgrade an old fireplace. Sometimes mangles are simple blocks of wood, so having a carved beauty would spice up any living room indeed. I couldn’t wait to get it in the store. It didn’t take long for people to notice my salvage find. But it took weeks to sell as people that frequent my store are often just looking for small decorative items. You must hit the right opportunity and some are few and far between.

    And it happened. A few weeks after my refurbishing, a man came in with his mother. She was oohing and aahing over the mantle and said that she absolutely had to have it. She had the perfect place and even sowed me the measurements. My mantle would fit quite well. She wanted some new elegance in her home and a hand-carved mahogany mantle would do the job. It would inspire her to recover her old sofa and club chair. She made me a generous offer. I put the mantle in my trunk for an afternoon delivery. She would have her handyman waiting to install it. I was anxious to see it in place. After all, I had spent considerable time bring new beauty to the wood. I wanted to see the final fruits of my labor. It did look wonderful in the space as I expected. This was one job well done.

  • New Merchandise (with Bonus Pests!)

    Yikes! Suddenly I have roaches in our formerly pristine shop. It must be because of the boxes I brought in recently from an estate sale. I got new merchandise, but with bonus pests. All of a sudden, I needed to learn about DIY pest control.

    I wanted to find a safe, nontoxic roach killer bug bomb that would not cause me and mum to have respiratory problems. You must go to the health food store and not your usual source. If they don’t have it, I found several places on line that guarantee safety and results. I know some people rely on roach traps, but I will probably put them down and forget about them and their chemical contents. It’s a good think I don’t have a pet in the store. But customers often bring a small dog or cat and a roach trap could spell disaster to snoopy pets.

    These pests got into nooks and crannies of the store and I was so fearful that I would have them as permanent residents. In the future, I will unpack boxes outside in the alley and inspect the merchandise carefully before bringing anything inside. I can wipe each piece off and/or spray it with something to kill insects. Those tiny ones are harder to see than the nasty big black roaches. It was a sorry day when this invasion happened. If I visit a home where the owner wants to sell wood furniture or decorative items, I will inspect for termite damage. Bugs can lie dormant in unexpected places. Now pest control is part and parcel of my vintage store business. Mum prefers not to deal with it and has left the responsibility to me. Okay, I can handle it when it happens, but most of all I am into prevention.

    One day when a good customer was in the store, a large roach scurried across the floor right at her feet. She was appalled. I was appalled. I told her I had sprayed but needed a second application. Please forgive me, I begged. I talked about the boxes from an estate sale and promised that my shop was spotless and clean. It would never happen again. She understood. I am sure that is a warning to you, she added, not to bring just anything into the store. It could have been anywhere accumulating God knows what. We all face bug problems we agreed, but sometimes it is harder to stomach when you operate a public place. I was thinking all the while that I hope the customer would return. In fact, she did so a week later. I was so grateful; and I didn’t expect to make a sale. She trusted my word that no roaches or other pests had been seen since that day. But, let me tell you, it takes a keen eye to be sure.

    We are back to normal in mum’s and my vintage shop and everything is squeaky clean and bug-free.

  • Would Have Been OK If I Owned a Boat

    When I am dealing with antiques and used items of yore, I exist in a different world than normal. When I am staining a chair, my mind is a million miles away imaging where this chair once resided. When I handpaint designs to decorate boring chests of drawers or end tables, I am in the zone. It is not a matter of arts and crafts, but of bringing something to life. This takes my emotional energy and I forget about practical matters. I sometimes let my household chores go. I don’t pay attention to anything until a problem happens and then I jump in feet first.

    Most of the time things go along nicely on an even keel. But sometimes not. Not long ago, my old water heater cracked and flooded the garage. What a disaster. I had to have servicemen come at a hefty price. They drained the water and set up drying fans. They reminded me that it could happen to anyone, and actually it occurs quite often. I had been thinking about a tankless water heater because one was acquired by a friend and they extolled the great features and money savings involved, that they learned about here. You will see your utility bills go down. If you use a lot of hot water, you will never runout. They take up less space and are easy to install in a garage, basement, or attic. I wish I had gone forward with my thoughts before I incurred cleanup charges.

    Now it is time to take action. I must turn my attention away from the shop and direct it to my home. Once the tankless water heater is in action, I can relax and worry no longer about a leak. It would have been okay if I lived on a waterproof boat. Fortunately, the water stayed in the garage and only travelled out under the door into the yard. Imagine your fine furnishings and rugs if it happened inside the house. I still have an old water heater at the store and now I am thinking about a tankless model here as the damage could be great if it also cracked. It is equally old, in fact it might be older as I am not the first person to own the shop in this building. It is time to update. But it costs a pretty penny for two.

    I decided to have a quick sale to raise some fast money and I emailed all my former customers and friends. There is nothing like the word “discount” to draw people over, and it worked. I was able to move a lot of items, some of which had been lolling about the store for a long time. I covered my tankless water heater expenses with no trouble and my budget was no longer in the red. You might think about saving for such a contingency as a leak so you won’t be caught short.

  • Quick and Fun DIY Project

    I have been in this vintage business for some time. I love working with Mum, exploring for new finds, and creating a more exciting inventory. You get a lot of repeat customers so you must keep them happy with your discoveries. If they frequent a shop like mine, they love the used and worn, and expect to see repurposed goods at any given time. They don’t work on them personally they tell me, but they appreciate what I add to their appearance. Everyone likes a handpainted item in their home that speaks of originally artistry and quality effort. I had start the painting technique a while back with a lot of success and worked on not only furniture, but appliances, wood boxes, and a few times a bathroom scale. Now that is originality said one customer who came in often to see what she could find. I wish I could paint, she exclaimed. I love to see what you come up with.

    Having tackled so many projects, I was getting bored with chest of drawers and side tables and decided to work on creating the best ceiling fans my customers have ever seen. What would I do? Would anyone notice customized blades. Rather than invest in any, I wanted to give it a try first and I took often the blades from my own office fan. I would reinstall them and see if the customers mentioned them at all. Sometimes when there is so much in a shop like mine, no one thing gets immediate attention. It takes time. So, I got out my sketchbook and looked at some previous designs. I wanted something that would not just be at the end of the blade, but that would cover its surface with color like a trailing vine. This would be lovely in a sunporch to grace the ceiling and add interest to the space.

    I proceeded to adorn the blades and didn’t even need to practice. I had been handpainting all kinds of imagery for so long. This would be a breeze, figuratively and literally. The blades when in motion are wonderful for circulating air, but at rest they will be objets d’art. The customers did take notice and rather rapidly after I had returned the blades to their original location. More than one the first week requested a custom job. Everyone had a different idea of what they wanted and what colors. Some asked me to come over and see their fans so I could help them decide on the decoration. I more than obliged. It gave me inspiration and set me in the right direction. This was going to be a great addition to my normal business. I sell things as is, refurbished, and now handpainted and upgraded. The vintage business can be as interesting and fun as you like.

    Handpainting is becoming a staple of my business as time goes on and customers spread the word. There is no better publicity other than what is sitting (or hanging there) in your shop.

  • New Use for Something Old

    I often find myself getting tired of items around my own home, the same way I’m not interested in a dress I’ve owned for a year and always go out and buy a new one. It’s easy to become bored with your home decor, even if you still love it, you may get tired of seeing it (kind of like a husband!). But there is a lot you can do just with what’s lying around at home to make your house feel new and fresh again. If you have an old blanket that you’ve recently discovered isn’t your favorite texture in the world, you can use it as fabric for a throw pillow! This is a particularly popular option during the fall and winter when you’re not sure what to do with thick blankets that are starting to damage in the dryer. They may not be blanket material anymore, but they’ll look great for throw pillows and add a warm charm to your room.

    You can even turn an old sweater into a cover for decorative pillows. One of my favorite mustard yellow sweaters got a hug hole in its sleeve after I stupidly chose to garden with it on and a particularly thorny rose bush caught me by surprise. I couldn’t bear to throw it out, but then realize that the fabric of it was a fantastic color and texture that would match my den! I took it to Mum (a much better sewer than me) and she turned the tunic of my old sweater into a more than satisfactory pillow cover.

    One of my favorite and recent re-purposes was turning my late father’s old hat into a lampshade for my husband’s office. It’s a quirky piece that looks masculine and interesting in a room full of books and leather. Its sentimental value is amazing as well, and I feel so proud to see it in my home rather than stored away somewhere in a closet with board games and spare batteries.

    I challenge you to walk through your home today and try and find new uses for old items. Is there a way you can give it more life or a new life? Ask yourself. You’d be surprised how infectious creativity and resourcefulness can be. You may even end up taking up the hobby full time!

  • Came Up Short at the Storage Auction

    For someone with a vintage and used goods store, visiting a storage locker auction is a very good use of your time. It isn’t always my favorite source of inventory, but you never know what you will find. I spend my days scouting and try to leave no stone unturned. In this way, you can offer the public more unique and coveted items. As I survey the auction scene, I wasn’t impressed and found most of the stuff rather mundane and boring. I want my store to have more pizzazz so I passed on most of what the auction had to offer. However, I did spot a portable generator in the corner and thought to myself, now here is something I can use for myself or sell. Have you ever had the power go out at unexpected times? If so, you understand the necessity of a home generator or at least a portable one to keep the lights on for a while.

    I will use the small generator for the shop as once in a while we have pretty fierce storms. Generators can be waiting in the wings to salvage your day—or night. You can use batteries or propane fuel depending upon the type you plan to use. An old one is inexpensive and has plenty of good life left in it. I got the generator very cheap. I love saving money so I can spend what I have on new inventory and antiques. Good ones are costly and I want the shop to have a nice mixture of prices. People notice when you have a gem that can command a high price. These items are few and far between in my area so my customers know they can get something rare and special from time to time.

    Speaking of generators, I was in the midst of showing a new acquisition—a silk bee pattern covered sofa—that was exquisite. It was in great condition and the customer wanted a full inspection. Suddenly the power went out. I didn’t want to lose a very good sale that was almost a month’s revenue. It was such bad timing, but I ran to activate the generator and we soon had our overhead lights. I also keep flashlights so people can see into the recesses of a piece of furniture. They are looking for flaws that will lower the price. In this case, the sofa was perfect and I made a really good sale. The electricity went back on in an hour and I turned off the generator. It had done its job. In fact, it helped me make the sale. I think I might want to get a larger, more powerful one next time. You might not be so lucky to get power back in a matter of hours each and every outage time.

    Business has been good in spite of the weather and I continue to stock the store with wonderful finds. I love to refinish in my small adjacent workshop. You will find me there much of the time.

  • The Perfect Finishing Touch

    Many of us have stories about our mothers and their odd taste and behavior. My mom was unique and had a particular zest for life—in any era. She loved to collect vintage things from times long ago. I don’t know if it was nostalgia or just a quirkiness of her nature. It made exploring a lot of fun. As years have gone by, she and I now join forces to give new life to the used, tossed away, discarded, and old. We love nothing more than vintage classics that can be repurposed for new use. We ultimately found so many great items that we opened a shop. It is full of the best, coolest, and most desirable vintage pieces around. We spend our lives stocking it with new finds. People know us well and come from far and wide when they need something special—a Tiffany lamp, a three-cushion settee, a Persian rug from the last century, and more. We have old glass, carved wood boxes, ivory sculptures, and all kinds of rarities that please the eye. They don’t kill your budget either as we price them fairly to sell.

    We love to take special requests that require us to do research and go hunting in little known places. There are people who sell antiques miles out of town and you must know where as they are off the beaten path. When a customer came in requesting a particular faucet, we knew that we would soon be out and about. She has an oil rubbed bronze colored sink and not just any modern model will do. It has to suit the look she has created. A quest was before us.

    We drove for miles that day before stopping at some farms that also sold used items including furniture, kitchen appliances, bric-a-brac, and china. Not everyone had a selection of oil rubbed bronze faucets. We continued our motoring venture for a few more hours that day. Finally, we struck gold. One makeshift shop in the back of an old sprawling home had knobs, drawer pulls, and faucets.

    Eureka! We loved having a choice and not settling for one lone item. We had seen mobile phone photos of our customer’s sink so we knew what was likely to fit. We had to use our imaginations as we handled each faucet with loving care.

  • Unexpected Cheer

    I must have been born with some artistic talent as I seem to be able to draw and paint. This comes in handy when you have a vintage store as you can refurbish furniture and personalize it with handpainted designs. There was a fad for this kind of work a while back and in my store, it continues. People still ask to have their own pieces done if they don’t buy one of mine. So, I take custom requests all the time. You might say I have a local reputation. When I have free time, I look for things to paint. Meanwhile I keep a sketchbook of ideas. A lot of my work revolves around nature: fruit on vines, flowers, clouds in the sky, and lush trees. It just depends on the size of the object to be painted. If it is a small wood box, I will use my finest brushes. I might need a magnifying glass so I can clearly see my work. You get much better results this way. I don’t need it for children’s furniture and I do cribs and chairs all the time. I can do cartoon characters and playful scenes as requested. Some people like a circus theme and others stay with traditional images of nature.

    I recently took my handiwork to another level when I accidentally found a bathroom scale on sale at the hardware store that was a boring, stark white. It was a perfect canvas for creative designs and this would be an item that I could sell in my store. Now who would ever see such a thing anywhere else? If one is successful, I will purchase more and vary the decorations to suit customer tastes. Some people like humor as getting on the scale isn’t much fun for most. They don’t relish rising numbers over time. So, I want to bring a smile to their faces to break the dark mood that can accompany weight gain. So here is some unexpected cheer for your life.

    My store is like that—unexpected finds. It is small, but cram full of interesting things. People can spend an hour exploring and I don’t mind how long they stay. It is all about making a sale when you have a business of any type. But it is also about creativity and fun. I serve the need to enhance lifestyles. This makes me very pleased indeed. People tell me that they never tire of my unusual objects. The person who bought the handpainted scale went on for a long time about how it provides such amusement in his life. So what’s next? Handpainted stoves and refrigerators? I think I am more inclined to decorative tiles that you can install over the sink. I can do an orchard, a farm scene, a lake with boats, or cooking images that suit the space. The point is to keep thinking of new ideas and to utilize my skills to spread the fun.

  • Just Found a Gorgeous Piece!

    Yesterday Mum and I caught wind of an old chapel being remodeled. We knew this could potentially mean there were means for them to be selling items. We love purchasing items that have history to them, like solid oak church pews from the early 1900’s – nothing could be more beautiful! Furniture pieces with a history behind them create a dialogue between us and our customers, who love hearing about how we found them! When we sell these items, we swell with pride, because we know something that could have potentially been thrown in a junkyard is finding a new life in a home with a family. I particularly like selling these pieces because I love telling buyers how the unique items will translate as a conversation piece when they entertain.

    As we pulled up to the chapel, on its grassy little hill in the countryside, we saw men moving a large stained-glass window down steep concrete steps. While Mum introduced herself to the chapel’s committee, handing out business cards and creating chit-chat, I followed the construction workers to their van, where the stained glass window was now propped against. It was gorgeous. Green and red floral patterns with the pains unpainted and unstained, a nice, solid wood that could be easily restored and preserved with a little shine. We made quick about our intentions – we wanted to buy the stained glass window and any others if there were any.

    They were friendly enough, although they did seem a little stand-offish at first. Of course, they hadn’t expected two random women to show up and ask for prices. Mother was fair with them and I think they could tell. She explained that we often sell stained glass windows in our shop and that they can go for quite a lot; she didn’t want to offer them a price they weren’t comfortable with. In my head, while she spoke with them,

    I imagined how gorgeous the window would look embedded into the top of a dining room table with a protective glass over it, instead of simply hanging on a wall. The green was bright and happy, while the red was deep and rich inside of its pure wooden frame. We learned that the church was planning on installing new stained glass windows with more religious depictions – Jesus with a lamb, a cross with a sun settling deep and orange behind it.

    I also imagined the window hanging in a green room or positioned in a garden with vines growing and flowers blooming around it. There was so much potential for the piece and I knew we had to have it. In the end, we settled on a price with them that was a deal for both parties and Mum and I squealed with delight after we loaded it in our pick-up and drove out of the chapel’s parking lot, waving good-bye.

    On the drive home, I told Mum about the ideas I had for the window and she agreed. There really is nothing better than finding a gorgeous piece that we hadn’t anticipated. My favorite part of our adventure today was not just finding the stained-glass window, but getting to go through the process of driving into the country, learning about a chapel built in the early 1800’s, and returning to our shop with a treasure filling our trunk.

  • Re-Purpose with Purpose

    Hello all! Today I write to you with one important lesson in mind: practical design. Nothing is more beautiful than a freshly stained, antique vanity or a funky, new lampshade on a retro lamp, but what is even better is when a piece can be re-purposed with purpose. This means giving something that once was “useless” some efficiency by giving it a function. A popular trend currently is re-purposing old suitcases into mini-bars or mountable storage and shelving. Mum and I love this idea! It’s fresh, quirky, and adds interest to any home as well as storage space.

    Re-purposing doesn’t have to just be about refreshing something old. It’s not all repainting, sanding, staining, re-upholstery. Sometimes it’s an opportunity for you to create more storage in your home while also giving something vintage or antique a second chance at life.

    Today Mum and I stumbled upon an old ladder. It had this great, deep 1940’s red painted over its wood and was chipping. To most, it would have been garbage or firewood, but to us, it had great potential. Mum suggested we do very little to it (we loved the vintage vibe of chipped paint), maybe put a protective gloss over it and prop it against a wall that needs a decorative touch. Then I thought about how spectacular the ladder would look running horizontal on a wall rather than simply settling against it.

    “What about a bookshelf?” I said to Mum and she looked around the estate sale we were at, curiously.

    “I don’t see a bookshelf, dear,” she said and continued rummaging through an old trunk.

    “No, no, the ladder.”

    She must’ve thought I went mad the way she looked at me. I then explained to her my idea. The frame of the ladder was perfect for it, as its two sides were thick and flat, just as floating shelves would be. Situated parallel to the floor, nails could be used to mount the ladder evenly on its side; books would then be placed in between the slats that one would usually use as steps. Indeed, one wouldn’t have to put books on it at all, perhaps a collection of vases or other decorative items. Not only would the ladder’s rusty color add great detail and design to a client’s bedroom or den, but it would have another purpose other than just looking great – it would be storage!

    The lesson we learned today is never look at an item as it was once used before. You could be doing it a disservice by not thinking outside of the box. Once a ladder, once a travel suitcase, never always the same. We hope to have the ladder-book-shelf figured out within the next few days and available in the shop, but more importantly, we wanted to share our most recent inspiration of creating pieces for multi-functionality. Now go out and explore! And remember to be creative!

  • The Hunt for the Inexpensive Chandelier

    The thrill of the hunt for me really is digging through cardboard boxes, old garages, through racks of clothes, and around dusty shops full of cats and unfriendly shopkeepers. These are the settings where the most treasure can be found. Sometimes, however, Mum and I some up empty-handed. In fact, we’ve had spells where we don’t find anything of interest for weeks at a time! In other situations, we find everything we don’t need more of (tea sets, moth-eaten tapestries) and never the one item we are desperate to find. For us, it’s chandeliers. Once a means of lighting drafty castles in the medieval ages, chandeliers were not the grandiose, crystal-draped displays of wealth and class as they eventually became. Today, they can be purchased at stores and even online for thousands of dollars. The issue isn’t necessarily that they are a rare item to be found, but that often when they are they are either extremely overpriced or in less than excellent condition (sometimes both!).

    We get a lot of customers asking about chandeliers for their dining rooms, their foyers, or even their bathrooms. We understand the popularity. Chandeliers create a warm, elegant glow that other light fixtures just can’t quite cultivate, don’t they? We give these chandelier-seekers the same advice every time – be open-minded. The best way to find an inexpensive vintage chandelier is to not focus too much on how it looks when it’s initially found. Mum once brought home a chandelier with none of its original crystal pieces. It was like looking at a male roe deer without any of his antlers. “What is that thing?” and “How much did you pay for it?” was probably my first questions for her as I stared at its nakedness.

    Little did I know, the fun part was waiting to happen. Mum went into another room of the house and returned, jingling, like Tinker Bell on payday. She was carrying a large plastic bag full of what looked to be chandelier crystals.

    “I bought these two years ago thinking I could use them as Christmas ornaments and had totally forgotten about them!” Her face was pink and cheery as if it was Christmas.

    We spent the next half hour going through the bag and dividing the chipped crystals from the ones in better condition. Most of them had gold-flecked wire appendages on them, making it easy for us to attach them through the tiny holes of the intricate, gorgeous light fixture. For the ones that didn’t, we took out a bag of unopened ornament wire and quickly spray-painted them gold to create a cohesive, professional look. Once they were dry, we added the rest of the crystals.

    When the chandelier was hung, you never would have guessed the crystals hadn’t belonged to the light fixture originally. We had created a beautiful, expensive-looking chandelier without having to spend the money for a freshly bought one. So if you’re ever out and find a chandelier without its crystals – do not be discouraged. Crystals are easily purchased separately and can be found online or you may even find a whole bag of them at a resale shop. And due to the fact that they are bought separately, they are both typically priced lower; if only those pesky shop-owners knew how resourceful you were planning to be! My favorite thing to do with vintage chandeliers is to update them by adding color, whether that means painting the fixture itself a different, bright color – which, if you ever plan to do, will require a lot of patience and a small wedge brush to get into its intricate nooks – or adding colorful crystals to it. For my daughter’s bedroom, I painted a smallish chandelier a high-gloss black and then added pale and hot pink crystals to it. My daughter and her friends love it, and it fits perfectly with the punk rock princess theme of her bedroom.

    There really are so many options for you to find a chandelier that is inexpensive and even give it its own new personality!