Many of us are spending more time at home because of COVID restrictions and guidelines, so we may as well love how our homes are decorated. Even if I had an unlimited decorating budget, I would still choose to incorporate vintage or antique pieces into my decor. I’ll use anything in my home that’s thrifted, gifted, new, or dragged out of someone’s trash pile. Just ask my husband how many times we’ve been driving someplace, and he’s had to quickly pull over to let me rescue a “treasure” out of someone’s trash. There’s no shame in my decorating game! There’s no creativity involved in buying a set of living room furniture that’s “matchy-matchy-woo-woo,” as I call it, and it’s important to me to have creative spaces with personality.  Maybe, like me, you have family furniture that’s been passed down. Incorporating old furniture into a space and still have the area seem fresh and modern can be challenging.  

This week’s column shares my tips for creatively decorating your home by mixing old and new pieces. Maybe your New Year’s Resolution will be to become a dumpster diving diva or dude by the end of this week’s column. Here are my thrifty decorating tips for mixing old with new:

Shop your house or trade with friends. Move items from different rooms and use them in new ways.  Try a bedroom dresser as a TV stand in the living room, or a dining room buffet behind the sofa as a console table.  Trade home decor items you’re tired of with friends.  Ask friends to text you photos of used home decor items they’d be willing to trade.  Maybe your friend has throw pillows that no longer match her living room, and you have some candlesticks that just aren’t your style anymore.  Do a “porch pickup” swap.  This way, you each get items “new” to you!

2. Don’t be afraid to change furniture. I couldn’t give an old reproduction buffet away at our yard sale because it had seen better days.  I decided to paint it with chalky paint and add gilded accents. I’d never sell it now! Freshen up tired furniture with a coat of chalky paint. I love chalky paint because you don’t need to sand or prime, and I want ALL my decorating projects done yesterday, so not waiting to do a ton of prep works well for me.  

Here’s my homemade

Chalky Paint recipe:

One gallon of paint-and-primer-in-one

1.5 cups water

3 cups plaster of Paris

Directions:  mix well in a large bucket with an old mixer.  Add water if too thick.

Apply two coats to clean wood, and seal with clear wax of your choice. Then, step back, admire your creation, and clap for yourself. See? It wasn’t that hard.

Slipcovering dated furniture with dropcloth is an easy way to change its look. I covered an old wingback chair with a $9 painter’s dropcloth from Wal-Mart. It went from dated to chic! You can even paint upholstery with chalky paint (but be sure to thin it out, otherwise it might feel like sitting on sandpaper). Sandpaper cushions could work well, however, if you are multitasking and wish to exfoliate your legs while you are sitting on your couch, watching TV.

My preference for changing the look of furniture is definitely with slipcovers. You can buy ready-made ones from Sure Fit if you’re not up to the task of making slipcovers yourself.

3. If you DO need to buy décor: don’t go broke decorating. Check out First Monday for great deals! I got a vintage wrought iron chandelier for $25 there. My favorite local thrift store is Salvation Army in Ripley. I can’t tell you how many unique décor items I’ve found there. Another great source for vintage secondhand decor is Second Time Around in Ripley. I am in there at least once a week. Facebook Marketplace is a great source for reasonably priced furniture and décor, both reproduction and antique.

Mix high-end antiques with low-end reproductions to create a pleasing tension in your decor. Decor items and furniture don’t have to be authentically antique to appear old and add charm to your space. There are vintage-looking signs and reproduction pieces at Hobby Lobby, Tractor Supply Co., Overstock, Amazon, and Etsy that are fun and can add personality to your space.

4.     Consult Pinterest.  Even if you’re not creative or crafty, someone else on Pinterest is, and you can learn everything from easily repainting furniture to making no-sew furniture slipcovers using drop cloth and duct tape.  Be sure to follow me while you’re there!  @LittleMrsFGG

5.     Unify a mix of styles with color. Your color pallet will create visual calm amongst the mix.  I discovered delightful pink and green vintage chinoiserie fabric in a storage area in the house. It wasn’t my usual rustic industrial design aesthetic, but I trusted that happy feeling the fabric gave me and ended up creating a pink and green music room. Stick to two or three main colors throughout a room to keep it from feeling too busy.  Keep walls neutral to let your furnishings take center stage.  

We painted our entire downstairs Benjamin Moore Revere Pewter.  It makes the pink and green pop in our foyer and music room, and looks equally fantastic with the blue and white schemes in the dining room and family room.  If you can’t paint because you’re a renter, then there are a multitude of peel and stick wallpaper options available in neutral colors online at Home Depot, Amazon, and Etsy.

  Repurpose and reimagine. I’m all about using old pieces in new ways.  China cabinets seem to be a dime a dozen on Facebook marketplace because many people don’t have China to display anymore,  and, due to changes in how families live, many might not even have a dedicated dining room anymore.  China cabinets take up a lot of “real estate” in a room, so they’re often deemed undesirable.

We had a nice Chippendale China cabinet that my mother-in-love sold us with our Ripley house, but I already have two antique China cabinets.  I didn’t need a third, but I DID need storage. Most come apart in two pieces.  Hope, my assistant, and I removed the top of the cabinet and turned it upside-down to make a bathroom storage cabinet, because it looked cooler upside-down. We then lugged the base of that cabinet from upstairs all the way downstairs into the kitchen, and it is our coffee bar now.

We often do all this rearranging while my husband (FGG) is out of town. Hope and I say we have an HGTV reality show without the cameras, and the clock is ticking on the time we have left before time is up and FGG walks through the door. Our weekly goal is to surprise him with a “big reveal”! My mother warned him that life with me would never be boring. I am not sure if this exactly what he had in mind when she told him that!

Textiles can be repurposed, also.  We had a pair of antique parlor chairs.  We also had an old, damaged, white chenille family bedspread. I had the chairs upholstered in the bedspread fabric to add some texture and interest.  

Look around you. What could you repurpose? Use an old ladder in the kitchen to display a collection of vintage dish towels. Do you have old books? I decorate using old books in almost every room of my house. I stack them and place candlesticks on top of them, fill baskets with them, and use the yellowed pages to decoupage.

If you aren’t finding a lot of items to repurpose around your house, walk the neighborhood on trash day or at the end of the month, when tenants are moving out of their homes. You can’t believe how many treasures I have found on the curb. I could write an entire column just about this topic! I carry gloves and tools and an old towel and sheet in my vehicle just in case I see a “curb alert”!

A broken antique wooden clock I repainted that came out of a trash pile in front of someone’s house was one of my favorite finds. I ended up altering it, adding a pair of metal wings, a metal heart, and a crown, and I won a National Art Show with that piece of trash! Remember: there’s no shame in the decorating game.

I’m a former veteran English teacher, so I’ve always loved a good story.  Our house has character, and a story and the mix of furniture and accessories helps us tell the story.  Hopefully, you’ve picked up a few tips from this column that you can use to tell your own family’s story through design. Think of your interior as an opportunity to create an artistic statement that’s curated and one of a kind.  Go beyond trying to match everything.  Be a trendsetter, not just a trend follower!  Allow creativity to flow in your space and, by proxy, into your life, by mixing it up!

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