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Decor Recycling - Past Treasures

Posted on May 21, 2016 at 8:05 AM Comments comments (2)

There's a lot going on right now. We've held a giant 'garage' sale in our building's community room on the roof to raise funds for the people of Fort MacMurray where the fire is still going strong. A few of us as well are going to the 'Beet It, Monsanto' march on Major's Hill Park here in Ottawa that's going on today at 1:30 pm. Still I did promise a spring decorating post and here it is - although it is not about my current home but a lovely apartment I once had that overlooked a garden and a park, surrounded by gorgeous oak and maple trees.



The living room slash office of the apartment was filled with second hand furniture and accessories. Starting way back when I was a university student, I haunted flea markets, charity shops, and church bazaars as well as the occasional garage sale for stuff. The great fun of this is that you never know what treasure you will find. And, boy, did I find treasures. The tables (I cut the legs of one to make a sort of storage cum coffee table) both came from the Library of Parliament and were just the right size for all my 'creative' endeavours. I got them at a second-hand office furniture shop for under $50 for both. The large mirror was made using an old frame that was a street find. I had a beveled mirror made for it because I knew this would look better than a flat one. This was pricey but worth every penny. The 'chalkboard' frame was also a street find. See - going for walks in the evening does pay off sometimes.


As for the chalkboard itself, it's actually a piece of black foam core board that I still use to make my blackboards. It's lightweight and costs very little. Only drawback - you can't use a wet cloth to clean it. 



For some reason fishing gear - fishing rods, baskets, pictures, whatever - always caught my eye when I went out foraging. I was lucky enough to have a friend, an antiques picker, who found and gave me most of the fishing poles you can just see in the photo. I used an old garden rake as a fishing rod holder - that was in a neighbour's trash can minus the wooden handle.



The fish specimen drawings were purchased at a framing shop on Bank Street years ago. They had been removed from a vintage book on fish species - tearing pictures out of old books was something a lot of dealers used to do as it was easier (and more profitable) to sell individual images than the whole book. Mine were kept in storage until I found frames for them, which I finally did at Ikea (so the frames were new). I picked up the fishing baskets at a flea market. One was in bad shape, so it was free. The small footstool in the photo was made by using a sturdy picture frame (again a street find - why I find frames on the street is one of life's mysteries - when I can't I head for Ikea) and covered with a quilt remnant. The feet are curtain finials which I picked up in Paris at the BHV (a DIYer's heaven, with lots of French flair) - who knows why I do these things. For the footstool how-to instructions, go here.



The seating area in front of the window overlooking some beautiful Victorian buildings across the street was kept pretty much minimal. A great place to lie down, read a book, and contemplate life. The antique foldable wrought iron daybed was purchased at an auction for a military cadet school in Montreal (now defunct) when I was a student myself (but not at the military school!). It weighs a ton and I was (and still am) lucky enough to have friends who had the muscle to help me get it up to my flat via a curved stairway. The mattress and pillow bolsters were covered in material picked up in my travels in France. A friend kindly did the sewing as I didn't and don't have a sewing machine. The fabric came from factory in Lyon where I also picked up some pearl-beaded silk fabric that is quite similar to the material used in Princess Di's famous Elvis dress. I still have this piece of silk and am still not sure what to do with it.


The rug is a silk and wool one that I found in an old barn. It was pretty wet and dirty but I could see the potential. I cleaned it with a big brush and lots of soap. Took over a week to dry but look at the result. Sometimes, you just have to go for it. If it turns out to be a dud at least you got some exercise in!



My desk held vintage Victorian gardening clay pots (bought at a car boot sale in London) and garden tools (purchased at the Vanves flea market in Paris) to keep me organized. The desk may look neat and tidy here but, in a few hours, it always ended up looking like a storm blew in. I never could keep tidy for too long.



When it's something I like, I look for ways to reuse it when it's original function is done. I bought this particular brand of coffee (Multatuli) because of the image on the can (yes, it was very good coffee but, unfortunately, no longer available!) and I knew that I would reuse the image - and here it is enlarged in another Ikea frame (they're inexpensive, come with a mat, and make framing easy). Cost was less than $8.00 and the cans were reused as pencil and art supply holders.



Finally, the bathroom. This little hot water bottle had a small hole near the top which leaked water whenever I used it in bed so it was no longer useful for that function. However, the bathroom wall needed something so I stuck a tulip in the bottle and hung it up. Easy-peasy repurposing. Cost $0 - I picked the flower from a neighbour's yard (with her permission).


My point in sharing this post is that you can have a very nice, very personal space if you know where to look and look and look (you gotta go more than once) and it won't cost you the earth. Don't be afraid to bring something home from curbside trash - it may be a treasure in disguise and will cost you nothing (okay, time, as you may have to clean and/or repaint it). By reusing second-hand stuff, repurposing what you already own, and/or making accessories yourself saves you money, yes, but maybe, just maybe, it will also help to keep the landfill smaller. And you'll have an original home.

Decor Recycling - Spring on the Balcony

Posted on May 14, 2016 at 1:10 PM Comments comments (2)


I love spring because it means that I get to decorate my balcony and my studio with an eclectic mix of vintage and found objects that have been stored away over winter. The warmer weather allows me to expand my living space. Here are a few of my balcony ideas.



I invite bird visitors to my balcony, not with bird feeders (these only attract pigeons!) but with bird baths - both water and sand. Birds like to take a dip into the sand bath to rid themselves of any pesky little insects that hide amongs their feathers. I make both types of bird baths using clay pots and saucers. I attach the saucers to the pots with velcro - that way I can undo them easily for storage or use for my extra plants.



Because wasps and hornets can be a problem when eating al fresco, I hang little jars of sugared water (flat coke works, too) a few feet away from where I will be dining. That way, the insects get their meal while I enjoy mine. By the way, the insects survive their little dip and I set them free once I've finished my meal.



I like to have a pot or two of herbs on my patio table while I work and usually pot these up in whatever container I have handy. This year, I potted my Italian parsley in empty maple syrup tins. This way I get to nibble on something while I work and the scent of herbs can be soothing.




When the sun goes down, I light up my patio with candles set in small vintage yogurt jars and topped with a few vintage cheese graters. I place these on an old laundry bench that I picked up in England.


As you can see, it's really easy to create a unique and personal atmosphere on your balcony or even in a small garden space just by using what you have on hand.


Tomorrow - what I do inside my studio.


Copper Tones - Upcycling in the Kitchen

Posted on October 3, 2015 at 11:50 AM Comments comments (0)


Upon occasion I am called upon to help someone settle into a new flat or apartment. This time my friend Davide called for help. He's in his first year at uni and, like most students, low on decorating funds. However, he knows what he likes. Currently, he's enamoured with the copper trend that's appearing online and in print. However, the cost of the real thing is not in his budget. Like most student flats, his kitchen has very little cupboard space but as a real foodie and a not too bad a cook, he wanted his kitchen to be organized and look good as well.


So, of course, I turned to his (and my) recycling bin to see what we could find. Glass and plastic jars and tins seemed likely candidates for a copper makeover. I hate to admit it, but we used copper spray paint but I did place the items to be transformed inside a cardboard box and hopefully the impact on the environment was reduced. We looked for copper paint but that was not available. 


Despite the fact that most of the glass containers we found came in different sizes and shape, I knew that painting the lids all the same colour would give Davide the look he wanted. 

When I left him with the can of spray paint he was busy looking for more items to spray. Right now, he needs a few of those large pickle and pepper jars that you see in delicatessens and Italian restaurants for his baking ingredients.

By the way, in my next posts I hope to be focusing on Christmas - my most favourite time of year - and yes, I know it's early. But from what I gather, my visitors are clamouring for ideas and who am I to object.

 

Halloween Table Settings - Use What You Have

Posted on October 28, 2013 at 6:55 AM Comments comments (0)


My Ottawa Citizen Halloween article came out this Saturday and in it I describe three Halloween table settings I created for guests who are coming over for a sitdown supper on Halloween night. For each guest, I designed a personalized table setting that matched their interests. I created one for a book lover, a movie goer, and a puzzle solver. Nothing too ghoulish or ghastly, since I don't want to frighten my guests. It would have been easier I know to go and buy stuff at the dollar store but I figured I'd use what I already had including old photocopies that I've used for other projects.


My friends tell me I'm not really a recycler - just too lazy to go shopping. True, my recycling bin is one of my BFFs. To read my Table Setting article, go here.