Simple pleasures: flea market treasure finds new home

The last Renningers antique extravaganza of the season is always bittersweet for will be a long stretch from February until the next season begins in November. It's a lot like waiting for Downton Abbey to return and we all know how that feels.

But I found a great little treasure in this beautiful field shaded with a canopy of old oak trees. After tromping through acres and acres of vintages finds, there it was. I knew the minute I saw this turquoise terrarium that it would likely go home with me. But I walked away and kept coming back.

It is old, a little rusty and the pretty turquoise paint is peeling just enough to give it character. The stall owner had filled it with dishes. I knew I could give it a better life. So, we made a (good) deal.

Terrarium at Mt. Dora.JPG

I knew just what to with it.

I coated the bottom with some of my favorite shells that I have collected from Upper Captiva Island and some of my treasures from New Zealand beaches. Now they are all mingled together and sitting in the middle is a small piece of driftwood that I found that is just perfect. And my prized white nautical shell is the focal point.

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Now it sits in my entry on an early 1800's, English sideboard that is from a kitchen. Coincidently, this piece was also discovered at Rennigers in Mt. Dora. I like to think that it came from a manor house kitchen but will never know for sure.

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These houses are for the birds!

Photo of artist's creative birdhouseLong before I was an interior decorator I loved houses.
It was always so interesting to me to see how they were decorated, how the furniture was arranged and how the owner lived. I have collected small houses for years and have them displayed on a antique post office where I can study them with all of their little details.
And I have been collecting birdhouses for the past few years.  I find them to be very sweet and the perfect accessory for almost any style home or outdoor space. I find them at flea markets and I even journeyed to North Carolina where I found a birdhouse builder with acres and acres of these miniature homes.  I returned home with a car full.
But as a believer in using what you have whenever possible, and in repurposing when it makes sense, I especially love birdhouses that use local materials that mean something. And as a southwest Florida interior decorator, I am surrounded by beautiful driftwood, shells, treasures that wash up on the beaches and  more.

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Simple Pleasures: A vintage piece becomes a holiday treasure

It was easy to walk right past this little gem at the antique market in Mt. Dora.

Photo of vintage, shabby chic chair before

Someone had tossed some dried twigs on top of it and this vintage, white rocking chair didn't have much of chance with all of the other great pieces for sale. Plus, it was covered with dirt.

But the minute I saw it, I knew it was going home with me. More shabby than chic, it's white paint is very weathered. Perfect. Someone put a lot of love into making it as it has a pretty curved back. It must have spent many years on someone's porch. And now it was looking for a new home.

So, after negotiating a rock bottom price, into my car it went. I had no idea how I would repurpose it but as I always tell my clients, when something speaks to you, buy it. You will find a place.

Photo of vintage chair repurposed for ChristmasAfter a good bath and some gluing, it has found the perfect home. Years ago, a dear friend in Orlando gave me two holiday reindeer (dressed for Christmas dinner) that she purchased at an auction for a children's charity. It has become my most treasured holiday decoration. Today, they sit in my new (old) chair on my front porch with a holly berry wreath on the back.

Simple pleasures really are the best.


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The Little Rowboat That Could (Be Saved)

Vintage row boat repurposedAlways on the lookout for imaginative and yes, even quirky, decorating ideas, a magazine photo spread featuring a Boston beach cottage grabbed my attention several months ago. Hanging from the 12 foot high open beam ceiling in the master bedroom was a full size boat – actually a 12 foot racing skiff- mounted upside down complete with oars, refurbished paint and teak railings. Talk about a “gee whiz” focal point for a room!

I was quickly able to visualize how a similar nautical approach could be equally dazzling in an open, tin-roof outdoor Key West style gazebo. So my husband and I began a search of local marinas and newspaper ads for the “perfect boat” (“perfect” meaning small, lightweight, wooden and extremely old, with classic lines and the potential to be refurbished!) Months passed by with no results, and we began to think that our dream boat just didn’t exist. Then suddenly, a newspaper ad offering a “small decorative rowboat that spent many years as a display at a long since - closed Naples seafood restaurant---and not floatable” gave us hope. It was from the northeast, the seller said.

Vintage row boat repurposedWe hurried down to the owner’s house. And there, in the dirt underneath her stilt home was the remains of what I was sure used to be one of THE most charming ten foot row boats ever built. If boats had souls – and they may very well have – this one was barely alive. It had sat in the damp soil for years.  Huge gashes in the cedar shiplap showed daylight along one side, the walnut seats had collapsed, most of the supporting ribs had rotted away, and several layers of gray and green paint were peeling everywhere you looked. The keel had pushed up along the boat’s center, mis-shaping the floor of the little craft, and the fiberglass that remained on the lower portion of the hull was mostly torn away.

My husband looked at me with a “I’m just not sure we can save this---itVintage row boat repurposed may be too far gone” expression. And for someone as handy and resourceful as my husband to acknowledge that possibility, well, it was clear that this boat maybe had passed the point of no return. But there was something about it that made us both hesitate. The brass oar locks were intact, the original oars lay off to the side, and it met all the criteria we had been looking for. My husband ran his hands over the key structural features, as if examining a terminally ill patient. He lifted up the stern to check the weight---and to make sure it would survive even a short trip to a flatbed trailer without collapsing or falling completely apart.

After a short pause, we both came to the same realization,  that maybe – just maybe -  this sad littleVintage rowboat repurposed boat might be brought back to life. And even if we failed, our relatively small investment of the $100 we had negotiated as a purchase price would be worth the challenge and the experience.

Vintage row boat repurposedSeveral days later, we returned with a trailer and hauled our new acquisition home. The disassembling and cleaning process took days. Hours of pressure spraying and fiberglass removal revealed the enormous task that lay ahead. But the initial cleaning also showed that the curved lines of the boat were still true and unwarped, as well as the beautiful workmanship that had gone into its building, probably in the late 1890’s. I know it was my imagination, but I could almost see a slight smile on the front of the bow once the refurbishing had begun. Anything that could be saved was, and any structural members that needed replacing or reinforcing were carefully attended to. Vintage rowboat repurposed

A newly-painted, white hull and turquoise and gray interior was “aged” to pay respect to the little boat’s history and character. After the two oars were put back in place, antique floats and netting were added, and a special moveable cradle was built to cushion her from underneath. We named her (what else?) “Urchin.”  If she could talk, I am fairly sure it would be something like “…thanks for finding me…and for saving me.”

Vintage row boat repurposed Vintage row boat repurposed

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Repurposing Objects from the Past Can Turn “Worn” into “Wow.”

Wrenda Goodwyn • special to the Fort Myers News-Press• November 29, 2011

Decorating your home with things that have already seen a long life – furniture, art, sculpture--man-made or from nature --- can bring a unique, one-of-a-kind charm that shopping for something new can never achieve. And when objects that were intended for one purpose are given a brand new life as something entirely different ---well, the word “creativity” can take on a whole new meaning.

Photo of steel hatch cover tableA steel hatch from a salvaged Navy warship, still with its original rivets and brass fittings, becomes a wonderful coffee table in a local Captiva beach house.

Everything old is new again, as the saying goes.

The word “repurpose” appeared in Webster’s in 1984.  The definition: to change something so that it can be used for a different purpose. 

Repurposing is not a new concept. People have been looking for new uses for their “stuff” since the beginning of time. Sometimes out of necessity.  Often because it is just hard to part with something and you need to find a better use for it.  Repurposing is very popular at the moment,  a trend that is hopefully becoming a permanent part of our lifestyle.

Photo of handcrafted lentilA hand-crafted lentil that once hung over a window of a southern plantation home now serves as a wonderful display shelf for a collection of favorite shells and coral.There are some really good reasons to repurpose.  It helps to cut back on what takes up space in the landfill. You will save money repurposing instead of buying new.  And it gives a lot of satisfaction to know that you have “saved” a vintage piece that has been tossed aside.  

With antique fairs, flea markets and garage sales in full swing with the cooler weather, you may wantPhoto of vintage oarsFanciful-colored wooden oars, worn from years of service on row boats of all sizes, now hang as a striking nautical family on a rack that was originally designed for drying tobacco plants. to give repurposing a thought.  As you are browsing, remember that many items can be cleaned, painted or completely restored.  Look for items that can be used for functional, everyday uses or for an eclectic accent piece or as artwork.  The possibilities are endless if you develop a new way of looking at objects.  Several weeks ago I was going through an architectural salvage yard with a client who fell in love with two beautiful vintage doors.  She asked what she could possibly do with them.  I said:  "Headboards."  You will not find these new in a furniture store.

And repurposing does not have to cost anything. Think about the beautiful treasures from nature: wood and items that wash up on our beaches every day.  With a little imagination, they become art for our homes. 

And what will I do with the vintage ten foot Nantucket wooden rowboat that I just bought last week? It is falling apart, has charming but peeling turquoise paint and came with four antique oars.  And a big hole in the side. It cried out to me to be repurposed.  I am thinking of hanging it from an open beam ceiling over an outside gazebo bar!

Photo of vintage Nantucket boatOnce this vintage Nantucket rowboat is patched up and painted, it will be a focal point as it hangs from the open beam ceiling of a client’s outdoor gazebo bar.

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Decorating ideas: Searching and finding a vintage treasure

The only thing more fun than going to one of the winter Antique Extravaganzas at Renningers in Mount Dora is when you are lucky enough to find a real treasure.  And I found one yesterday.

I knew the moment I laid eyes on this 1800's, primitive farm table in one of the more than 800 dealer stalls, that it would be going home with me.  Nothing gives me more pleasure than repurposing a vintage piece. It is gratifying to "rescue" a piece of furniture that at one time functioned as an important part of a home someplace. After being forgotten for so long, it will once again be the focal point of someone's home interior.  I can just imagine the conversations  that took place in the farmhouse kitchen around this table. 

Rennigers Jan. 2011 003 Table.jpg

Once this table is cleaned up from the years that it sat neglected in an old shed, it will be a great accent piece.

Because one of the services offered by Spectacular Spaces is searching for unique accent piecesfor its clients, I am constantly on the 1st Dibs site so I know the value of rare, vintage pieces such as this lovely table. If you are not familiar with 1st Dibs, check it out. It markets itself as the purveyor of "the most beautiful things on earth." And it totally delivers.  I first learned about 1st Dibs from Nate Berkus and have been hooked ever since.

If you are looking for an accent piece for your home, here is a decorating idea from Spectacular Spaces:

Buy what you love.  What speaks to you.  What fits your design style.  Blend the piece with other styles in our home.  Don't try to make everything in the room match in the same style. Instead, decide what works for your lifestyle.  Search for it and create a beautiful space around it.  

I think I have found a new home for this treasure.  Mine.