Repurposed Decorations: Not-So-Fine Art

More on re-using items in decorating: old art (frames, canvases, etc.) can get a new life if you have an artistic streak, or are pretty handy with spray paint.

Here is a large framed printed canvas that I bought about 7 years ago at an auction for $5.

I had thought that I’d like to use the frame someday, probably repainted. It’s been in the attic all this time. Now 7 years later, I’m OK with the gold frame and the canvas itself gave me inspiration. I know the painting in there is a reproduction of something famous, but it doesn’t go in my house.

So I painted over it.

First, I masked off the frame from the canvas and applied a coat of Gesso (it’s like primer for art) that I got at Michael’s. Then I used oil paints to paint my picture (I was visiting my sister who is taking lessons and has a whole set of oil paints).This is my first dabble at oil painting.

The picture I painted is of my two boys playing outside in the early spring. I wanted something personal: it isn’t fine art, but I love it because it is meaningful. (And, to be honest, I’m delighted that the subjects even look human, and like my sons! Thanks, Mom, for all those art lessons years ago!)

Of course, my boys didn’t sit in that positions as models for hours so I could get the shadows right; so I snapped a photo to refer to as I painted. Here is my photo.

First I sketched in the main parts of the picture with pencil, then painted it in. You can see  that I changed some of the elements in the photo to be more elegant (no crabby fence). Also: I painted in a well drafted room with the windows open.

Novice that I am, I had no idea that oil paintings can take weeks, even months to fully dry. I had to come back home before that time, so we very carefully wrapped the frame in paper and placed a board over it to survive the trip home.

Then my new “art” got a place of honor on my mantel.

Here it is at Easter time with some spring moss, lamb, and bird.

Have you kept an item out of the landfill by repainting or re-purposing it in your home?

I’m linking to a blog party on mantels at Funky Junk Interiors.

More Nesting: Entryway Update

Do you remember back in March when I blogged about the Healthy Habit of removing shoes at the door, and mentioned I was working on making my entryway more friendly to shoe removal? Well, I finally have something to show you.

Here is my entry [before]. Not welcoming, and very boring.

And now . . . here is what it looks like [after]:

Big improvement, yes? So here was the progression:

First, I found a bench on craigslist. Addicted to Love craigslist shopping! (If you missed it, read my safety checklist on bringing used/vintage pieces into your home.)

I looked for a couple of weeks for a great bench, and finally saw this one for $60. Too bad it was about 45 minutes away, but then all the good stuff seems to be that far away from me. It just fit into the center area of my minivan (seat removed), with the kids stuck in the back. It’s a solid quality piece of furniture, but came with no pad. (Strange how the seat is stained a different color, isn’t it?) So I threw down a white quilt and some pillows, and it was OK for a couple months.

We continued to use the small metal bin for shoes, but as warm weather came we always had a pile of shoes in the corner which didn’t fit in the bin. It’s the other corner of the entry, and I don’t have a picture, but I’m sure you know what a pile of shoes looks like. Not pretty.

So I started shopping for baskets to go under the bench.

So after several trips to multiple TJMaxx’s, Ross’s, and finally HomeGoods, I found these baskets. I learned something: these kinds of discount home stores only stock 2 of any kind of basket. It’s like a rule or something. One cannot find 3 of a kind at these places. At least not in the dark color I wanted. So the middle one is the same type of material as the two on the sides, but a slightly taller shape. And our shoes fit great.

All this time I was considering what type of fabric I would want on the pad/cover I would make.

My children selling hot cocoa (day 2 of the garage sale). We discovered that kids can sell a lot more at a lemonade stand (day 1) than cocoa stand, even if it is raining.

And then we had a block-wide garage sale. My neighbor was selling upholstery from her garage; she has 2 pallets of a wide assortment of fabrics. She let me take several home to compare them to the bench, and then when I decided on one, she gave it to me. Thanks, Trish!

I really like the brown and cream houndstooth check. I think it’s classic, practical, and stylish.

Then it was just a matter of time for my pregnancy nesting instinct to kick in with enough energy to work on the pad making project.

For the pad, I used an old bedspread, cut to size and piled 7 layers thick. The cording is some light rope we had the in garage (I think it is made for clothesline).This is the first time I’ve done a cording project, and it was a learning experience!

The houndstooth check made it easy to cut straight pieces and pleat the skirt. The pad took me several days to make, working on it during toddler nap-time.

Then  I wanted to add some more pillows to the bench than I’d had on it, and I had picked up this ugly but clean pillow at a garage sale for 25 cents.

I had this pad thing in the linen closet. It’s from my grandmother and she couldn’t remember what it was for. . . seems like a table pad? Anyway, I like the old soft cotton and the quilted texture. I cut the center out to sew into a cover for the pillow. Two side seams and an envelope opening in the back to pop the pillow through. After sewing the bench pad, this pillow cover was easy-peasy!

Then I used a scrap piece to make a tiny pillow, and piled them on the bench with the pillows I’d had on it all spring. But after looking at it for a day I felt that the putty, blue, and white color scheme was too pale, at least for summer, so I switched in the flag pillow.

Now I just need to decide what I’m putting above the bench and the entry will seem complete. [Hopefully that won’t take another 4 months!]

I’m linking to blog parties at theinspiredroom and funkyjunkinteriors.

Feathering My Nest the Clean Green Way

The concept of re-using things is certainly a “green” idea. But it’s not always a “clean” idea, as in non-toxic. Some old pieces of furniture carry an ugly past —mildew, lead paint— that can pollute your home if you bring them in unawares.

Recently I’ve been enjoying a number of DIY decorator blogs (like and, and with 6 weeks until my baby’s due date (and nesting instinct in full gear!) the inspiration has been enough for me to take action, scour for cool vintage items, break out the sand paper, and start feathering my nest. So how to balance a love for vintage items with a determination not to bring toxic stuff into my home? Here’s my go-to list:

  • Check items for signs of mildew (black spotting on wood) and odors. No smoke, mold, or animal smells welcome!
  • Check for peeling paint/other finishes, and be aware of work involved to restore pieces. There’s a real design trend for “chippy white paint” and “weathered finishes” but these are just asking for home contamination as they continue to wear.
  • When attempting a restoration project, be aware of the risks involved with both dust and chemical inhalation. Choose low or zero VOC products (paint), apply in a ventilated area, and wear protective gear.
  • Vacuum and wash/scrub all items with a rag and water, vinegar if needed, before bring into your home.
  • Clean up your mess as you go, so paint chips from old furniture, etc. don’t spread around your work area/home.

Want to see some of the things I’ve been working on?


Old drawer used as a kitchen table tray

These drawers (3 of them) came inside this cute old cabinet which I snagged free off of craigslist. (Yes, free!)

Old cabinet

OK, so it isn’t so cute in this picture, but wait until you see my after photo (coming later…). The lady I got it from had scraped half of the paint off, and was done with the project, so I took over. I love the scraped look of the drawers, so with a thorough inspection and washing I brought them inside.

The first drawer is used as a tray on my kitchen table with a basket of napkins and glass bowl of flowers in it. It keeps things a little neater and gives the whole group presence.

Here is another drawer, which I’ve used to hold books in the living room. Love how it again gives presence to the grouping, as well as allowing them to be displayed upright on a trunk.

Drawer used to tidy coffe table books

(By the way, how do you like the architectural paper book covers? I’ve seen this treatment in Pottery Barn to simplify the random colors of a stack of books. My husband thought I was crazy to “cover up all the color.” Hmm, I’ll have to live with it awhile and see if I miss the color. )

Old Mirror

Here is another project that I got for free off craigslist (gotta love free stuff). I actually drove over to get this old mirror, and left because it was too decrepit, then thought, hey, free is free, turned around and went back for it. The lady said it had been hanging on the side of the barn. Oh my. Do you see where the mirror backing is peeling from the frame mirror pieces?

Peeling old mirror

It sat in my garage for 2 months before I figured out a brilliant solution: scrape away what’s coming off, and paint those areas of the mirror black. So, with dust mask and rubber gloves, and a vacuum to clean my mess and not allow it to spread, I scraped the backing off those side pieces. Then I carefully masked up the other areas, and sprayed it with black satin spray paint. It was not a low VOC spray paint (I don’t know of one, do you?), but I did this job outside, in a full breeze, while wearing gloves, a mask, and holding my breath for spurts, then walking away to catch my breath again. (A pain, but I think this is about the only way to do spray painting with a chemical awareness.)

Here is the finished product in my living room.

Old mirror new

Amazing, eh? I think so! This was a completely blank corner, so it’s really added a lot to the space.

Oh, and here are the books before being covered with paper. Thoughts on the difference?

Do you have some fun before and afters from feathering your nest?

I’m linking to a blog party on uses for old drawers at FunkyJunkInteriors and a linky party for inspiration at TheInspiredRoom.