How to bring thrift store finds together for a cohesive look

One of the biggest challenges in creating your cottage style (or any style!) with thrift store finds is achieving a cohesive result in your actual decorating. Acquiring items over time and from different sources probably means that nothing matches – and it seems that we are often led to believe that matching = successful decorating!

But quite honestly, “not matching” is a cornerstone of cottage style! When we look at our attempt to create a cottage-style room and we feel like it misses the mark, chances are what we’re really missing is cohesion – a sense that  everything belongs together despite being mis-matched.

I recently moved the furniture around in my tiny bedroom based on an inspiration picture I found online. I lost a couple inches of nightstand space on either side, but as a trade-off it created more space between the foot of the bed and the wall. I found I could pull my small bookcase out of its awkward corner and place it along the wall between my bedroom door and closet.

Thrift store finds | Vintage Floral Cottage

With the furniture switched around, I set about designing a wall grouping using some of my favorite thrift store finds: “Sunday paintings,” which is the old-fashioned name for pictures created by people who took up painting as a hobby or weekend pursuit. In acquiring Sunday paintings, I gravitate toward floral arrangements and landscapes featuring old barns, houses, and other structures. I’ve been collecting them for a long time, so I had plenty of choices on-hand.

Thrift store finds | Vintage Floral Cottage

This whole wall between my bedroom door and the bi-fold closet door was pulled together just by shopping my house – one of the five best ways to decorate on a budget! I’m loving how cohesive it looks, even though all the items are thrift store finds, purchased over time and from lots of different secondhand sources.

Let’s take a closer look. This is the first Sunday painting I ever picked up – I found it at an antique mall about 25 years ago for around $5.

Sunday paintings | Vintage Floral Cottage

This is the first Sunday painting I bought that was not a floral arrangement; it was $2.99 at the Goodwill. It has different subject matter, but the gold in the frame ties it to the other painting.

Sunday paintings | Vintage Floral Cottage

And this one is also a favorite – I love the house itself, as well as the unusual angle. This was also a Goodwill find at $5.99. This one has the same subject matter as the previous picture, but no gold in the frame. It does have some purple flowers, which also appear in the first picture.

Sunday paintings | Vintage Floral Cottage

In general, I love combining floral and rustic elements – that combination is kind of a given here in my “vintage floral cottage.” I think these all work together well because they each use some of the same elements:
Picture #1: Gold frame, purple flowers, blue flowers
Picture #2: Gold-edged frame, blue sky, green grass, and a building
Picture #3: Blue sky, green grass, purple flowers, and a building.

I wanted a couple other elements in my grouping for texture and lovely visuals: plates and silk flowers. The two plates each reflect one of the two motifs: house and flowers.

Plate with manor house | Vintage Floral CottageFaux Limoges Plate | Vintage Floral cottage
Next I needed to tie the top shelf of the bookcase into the grouping. The flowers in the vase are tall to bridge the height gap from the top of the bookshelf to the bottom of the painting, and also to carry through the use of flowers as an accent motif. But this left a small open space that seemed “off” somehow. So I hung my rusty letter “J” to fill the space while carrying through the rustic element of the picture frame.

Flowers in bedroom group | Vintage Floral Cottage

The other element I’ve used here is books. I’ve spent the past year being very particular about collecting some old books. I look for gold lettering, and/or titles that are befitting of my vintage floral cottage. Until my bedroom re-do, my little collection was tossed haphazardly on the bookcase. But now that the shelving unit is more visible, I decided to create a little display of them along the top of it. The gold lettering on some of the books helps to carry the gold accent color through the entire vignette.

Bookcase top shelf | Vintage Floral Cottage

I anchored the display on top of the bookshelf with a curtain panel that matches the valance on one of the windows. (Shhh… don’t tell anyone, but my two bedroom windows have mis-matched valances… and I love it that way!)

Bookcase top shelf | Vintage Floral Cottage

And speaking of rustic elements, the candle base is someone’s discarded pottery project – I have a collection of those too!

Pillar Candle holder | Vintage Floral Cottage

The rest of my bookcase is still a work in progress, design-wise. It contains a selection of design, garden, reference, and homemaking books as well as all my genealogy notebooks. (Fun side note: the little painting tucked in here is one that I personally did – on a Sunday – about 10 years ago.)

Bookshelf design | Vintage Floral Cottage

Bookshelf design | Vintage Floral Cottage

I like this arrangement because it brings together a whole bunch of disparate thrift store finds – books, paintings, plates, and flowers – that I’ve collected over time but that work together because of their colors, motifs, and details.

I think the secret to achieving a cohesive look with thrift store finds is to establish a few elements that will tie all the pieces in a grouping together. In this case, the pictures and their frames related to each other in a couple of ways and the gold edging or detailing in several of the elements was a key accent.

Thrift store finds | Vintage Floral Cottage

Another tip is to keep your overall look in mind whenever – and wherever – you are shopping. This might be the look you’ve already established, or a look that’s still in progress. And ask yourself the tough question when you see something you want to purchase:  will this contribute to the look I’m going for? If it does, easy decision! If it doesn’t, you might consider whether altering it in some way might improve its odds… or whether it might still look great as “odd man out” in the design of a room or vignette.

But now, do you want to know a secret? In preparing this blog post I thought maybe the rusty J looked a little lost in its space. So I swapped its position with the floral plate and added one more element. Now there are three paintings and three plates, plus the J for an odd number of elements.

Bedroom wall grouping | Vintage Floral Cottage

 

Here’s a pinnable image for this post!

Create a cohesive look for your gallery wall with thrift store finds and flea market style | Vintage Floral Cottage

 

 

 

Posted in Adding Cottage Charm, Decorating | 2 Comments

Small house living: furniture placement challenges

Living in a small house (625 square feet on the main floor) can be a challenge for a gal like me who loves to collect vintage and antique everything. Therefore, I am constantly looking for ways to make the most of the available space. The fact that my rental house has an open floorplan is a big plus: when you walk in, the combined kitchen/dining/living room doesn’t feel as small as it really is (312 square feet).

In today’s post I really only set out to share my dining room table… I love setting it with pretty dishes, but I also really like the way it looks on a typical day. I also enjoy my collection of dining chairs – more on all of this in a moment!

Small house dining space | Vintage Floral Cottage

As I was taking pictures, it occurred to me that the placement of the table has helped to create two distinct spaces out of one larger one while still keeping that feeling of openness. So I want to talk about that too in case it’s helpful for others!

When placing the living room furniture, we started with the biggest piece – the sofa. We put it across the width of the room for a couple of reasons: one, it allowed for watching television while laying down. And two, it established the boundary of the living room in relation to the eat-in kitchen without creating an actual wall of any kind. This was essential – the space is small enough without being “cut up” visually by tall objects! Here’s the room in April of this year:

Small house furniture placement | Vintage Floral Cottage

With the dinner table placed directly behind the couch, it defines the dining space within the eat-in kitchen without blocking the view into the living room. And placing it here allows me to have a much bigger table than I could have if I had opted for a drop-leaf style over by the window.

Small house furniture placement | Vintage Floral Cottage

Now back to the actual table and chairs… they have evolved over the few years I’ve lived here! We started out like this, having found the whole set for free just prior to moving. This photo was taken right after I recovered a couple of the chairs. The table sat four, but the top was only 30 inches by 40 inches – barely room for TWO people to eat, let alone four!

Dining table curb find | Vintage Floral Cottage

So when I asked Greg to make me a harvest-style top for the existing base, he made it much bigger: 36 x 60 inches. It now seats six people.

Small house furniture placement | Vintage Floral Cottage

My “inspiration chair” is this one from my great-aunt Hazel’s home – she painted it in this crazy color scheme decades ago, and I don’t have the heart to repaint it! I love its shape and style, and so I keep an eye out for these everywhere.

Farmhouse dining chair | Vintage Floral Cottage

I have found three others that I use inside, and two others that I have outside in the garden. The red one is the newest acquisition – both it and the green one are curb picks. The taupe one was a flea market find.

Farmhouse dining chair | Vintage Floral Cottage

Farmhouse dining chair | Vintage Floral Cottage

I don’t know if this exact style has a name – it may be a variation of the Windsor style – but I just call them Hazel chairs! I think they have a lot of cottage charm, especially in their different colors, and their smaller scale makes them perfect for a small house.

The other two chairs are a different style altogether with cane seats and pretty detailing across the backs. I found these on Facebook Marketplace and repainted them, plus painted and aged the detailing. I call these my storybook chairs because the detailing now looks like an illustration you might find in a fairytale book.

Cottage dining chairs | Vintage Floral Cottage

Overall I like the way the specific furniture pieces have evolved, and I think their placement contributes to (rather than hinders) the open feel of the room.

Small house dining space | Vintage Floral Cottage

What are your thoughts? What’s your biggest furniture placement issue at home? If you are also living in a small house, how do you make the most of the available space?

Pin this post for future inspiration!

Small house furniture placement | Vintage Floral Cottage

 

 

Posted in Decorating | 4 Comments

Vintage dinnerware summer garden tablescape

If you have a thing for vintage dinnerware like I do, you know exactly what I mean when I say the last thing I need is more dishes. But you also know what I mean when I say there’s no such thing as too many dishes! So that’s essentially the battle taking place in my mind whenever I come upon a stack of, say, twelve pretty somethings marked $3.99 at Goodwill. What’s a tablescape-loving girl to do?

If you said, “buy the dishes,” you are invited to lunch at my pretty “Summer Garden” tablescape!

Vintage dinnerware summer tablescape | Vintage Floral Cottage

Vintage dinnerware summer tablescape | Vintage Floral Cottage

Vintage dinnerware summer tablescape | Vintage Floral Cottage

I knew it had been awhile since I had set and posted a pretty table – but I didn’t realize until I looked it up that it was actually in April! I was still hobbling around on my broken foot at that point!

Anyway, we’ve had some very hot weather so far this summer but for the past several days we’ve had a bit of a reprieve. So I’ve been outside as much as possible, enjoying the cooler temperatures before August rolls around. (It is an Iowa law that it has to be in the 90’s during the State Fair, which takes place in August.)

This table is all about the summer garden!  Our place setting includes three beautiful vintage plates:

Vintage dinnerware summer tablescape | Vintage Floral Cottage

The smallest plate is hand-painted Bavarian china by Heinrich & Company. I found just a few of these about a week ago for 99 cents each, then over the weekend I found quite a few more. Same price, same maker and pattern, but a different Goodwill store! Because these are hand-painted, each one is just a little bit different.

Vintage Dinnerware summer tablescape | Vintage Floral Cottage

The vintage dinnerware also includes this beautiful salad plate by Edwin Knowles. These were the “stack of twelve” I mentioned earlier for $3.99. They are not marked with a pattern name, but the backstamp does note that the specific shape (smooth unsculpted edge, size of shoulder) was called “Hostess.”

Vintage Dinnerware summer tablescape | Vintage Floral Cottage

And our luncheon plate is by Baum Brothers. The series is called “Formalities” and the pattern is Bernadotte.

Vintage Dinnerware summer tablescape | Vintage Floral Cottage

Oooo those edges…

Vintage Dinnerware summer tablescape | Vintage Floral Cottage

Vintage dinnerware often has that pretty gold rim – and I wanted more than a little bit of gold on this table to represent that summer sun! So I’m using my American Golden Heritage flatware set by International Silver. I first used this set for my Golden Glow of Christmas table last December. It was an antique store find, service for four plus a few serving pieces at just $12.

Vintage Dinnerware summer tablescape | Vintage Floral Cottage

Our tablecloth is a beautiful lined drapery panel by Pottery Barn Kids, in a soft green and white stripe. This was also a Goodwill find.

Vintage dinnerware summer table | Vintage Floral Cottage

The taper holders were thrift-store finds in the softest green with sculpted roses, and our napkins are in a deep botanical green by Pier 1. I believe the gold napkin rings (there’s more of that summer sparkle!) are also by Pier 1.

Vintage dinnerware summer garden table | Vintage Floral Cottage

Vintage dinnerware summer garden table | Vintage Floral Cottage

Vintage dinnerware summer table | Vintage Floral Cottage

Glassware is all from Dollar Tree – they have so many lovely colors in stemware, but availability varies by location. These are two different shades of green, but the short brighter one seems to tone down a bit sitting next to the taller one.

Vintage dinnerware summer table | Vintage Floral Cottage

The centerpiece is a beautiful handpainted Lefton pitcher I’ve used as a vase. I’ve simply set the salt and pepper shakers on one side, but on the other… I placed a bit of summer reading material: my antique field guide to wildflowers, which belonged to my great-aunt.

Vintage dinnerware summer table | Vintage Floral Cottage

Vintage dinnerware summer table | Vintage Floral Cottage

You are welcome to pick up the field guide and take a look – it’s organized by flower color!

Vintage dinnerware summer table | Vintage Floral Cottage

I love the way this table looks with two distinct kinds of chairs: the “storybook chairs” I made over last year…

Vintage dinnerware summer garden table | Vintage Floral Cottage

… and my casual painted cottage kitchen chairs (remember Elinor?).

Vintage dinnerware summer garden table | Vintage Floral Cottage

Since my tiny “dollhouse” has only an eat-in kitchen (no dining room), all pretty tables take center stage in the open-concept main living area. (My OCD friends will please ignore the thing that will drive them nuts in this picture.)

Vintage dinnerware summer garden table | Vintage Floral Cottage

Vintage dinnerware summer garden table | Vintage Floral Cottage

Here are a few more views around the table –

Vintage dinnerware summer garden table | Vintage Floral Cottage

Vintage dinnerware summer garden table | Vintage Floral Cottage

Vintage dinnerware summer garden table | Vintage Floral Cottage

Vintage dinnerware summer garden table | Vintage Floral Cottage

Vintage dinnerware summer garden table | Vintage Floral Cottage

Vintage dinnerware summer garden table | Vintage Floral Cottage

Vintage dinnerware summer garden table | Vintage Floral Cottage

And by now you know that one of my favorite pictures of any tablescape is the “put-away shot.” This is where everything is just gathered together, waiting to go back into the cupboards!

Vintage dinnerware summer garden table | Vintage Floral Cottage

Are you ready to go sit on the patio with a glass of lemonade? We can watch the Eastern Goldfinches and the hummingbirds enjoy their treats! Plus, the sunflowers are just about to burst open!

Here’s an image to Pin if you would like!

 

Vintage Edwin Knowles, Baum Brothers, and hand-painted Bavarian china combine to make this lovely garden-themed tablescape! Blog post by Vintage Floral Cottage. #tablescapeideas #prettytableideas #gardenthemetable #vintagechina #baumbrothers #edwinknowles #bavariachina #goldflatware #dollartree

I’m sharing my Vintage Dinnerware Summer Garden Tablescape for Tablescape Thursday over at Between Naps on the Porch! I’m also linking to Dishing It and Digging it at Rustic & Refined. Be sure to visit these wonderful blogs for much more table inspiration! 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Dishes, Tablescapes | 11 Comments

Five things you should never buy from a thrift store

Never buy these from a thrift store | Vintage Floral Cottage

I know you can find lots of advice out there about what items to avoid when shopping in a thrift store – one article I read listed sixteen different things! (I mean, what could be left at that point? Certainly not my wonderful upholstered – used – sofa, shown above!)

But I’ve been a thrift store shopper for over 30 years – my success in shopping at these venues has been the single biggest factor in being able to create the cozy cottage style I enjoy in my home! Now maybe I’ve been lucky but I’ve never encountered any of the hazards listed in these articles. For example –

  • I’ve never brought home bed bugs, mold, or other pests.
  • I’ve never gotten lead poisoning from eating off vintage dinnerware, hanging around architectural salvage, or using old hardware.
  • I’ve never found my body suddenly out of alignment from wearing used shoes.

My secret weapon? Common sense. Yep. I don’t just grab – I inspect. (Well, except for vintage dishes. Those I just grab.)

If the shoes are obviously mis-shapen from someone else’s feet, I won’t buy them. If the non-stick coating is flaking off the skillet, I won’t buy it.

So because I’ve had literally zero problems buying used items, my list of “what you should never buy from a thrift store” is pretty short. Here it is:

Underwear/swimwear – Because of the body parts that touch it, I always buy these items new. Including bras.

Mattresses – Even if there are no bed bugs, there’s still “other peoples’ gunk” (OPG) like body dirt, dead skin, hair oil, etc. I prefer to start fresh with mattresses and add my own gunk.

Bed pillows – See OPG above. I’m specifically talking about the pillow you lay your head on here. If I found a great bolster or other decorative bed pillow in a thrift store, I wouldn’t have the same hesitation. I purchase throw pillows for my sofa (also secondhand) from thrift stores all the time.

“Expired”, damaged, or old safety equipment – Bicycle and motorcycle helmets and children’s car seats contain energy-absorbing foam that is considered “spent” if it becomes too aged or absorbs an impact. So with no way to know if the protective foam is any good in these items, I would always buy new. And I didn’t know this until recently, but apparently car seats actually have expiration dates due to potential deterioration of inner materials.

Vintage baby cribs – Drop-sided cribs and those with slats spaced more than 2-3/8 inches apart present suffocation and entrapment hazards for Baby.

What are your thoughts? What would you never buy from a thrift store?

Posted in Thrift Store Maven | 2 Comments

Grab my e-book and have your best yard sale ever!

Friends, I’m happy and excited to announce the release of my latest e-book, “How to Have an Epic Yard Sale“!

How to Have an Epic Yard Sale E-book | Vintage Floral Cottage

I’ve taken all my best tips from 30+ years of attending and hosting sales, and compiled them into a fun little volume that will help you earn some extra cash and clear the clutter from your home. The book includes:

  • My four simple keys to having a successful yard sale, and how to implement them
  • Information to help you plan the layout of your sale to it’s appealing, fun, and safe to shop
  • Pricing tips to ensure brisk sales, great bargains, and money in your pocket
  • Tips for creating and placing effective signage – and when NOT to place signage
  • My exact plan for setting up a yard sale – what goes where for easy shopping
  • Hints on dealing with difficult customers – because there are always a few stinkers out there!

… and a lot more, all for just $2.99 – that’s less than a Starbucks, y’all!

You can get the book in PDF or Amazon Kindle formats. (No Kindle? Just download the Kindle Reader App for any smartphone!) To grab  your copy of “How to Have An Epic Yard Sale,” just choose a link:

 

or

It’s only late July as I write this, so that means there’s still plenty of time left this year to host a great sale. And don’t let anyone tell you it isn’t fun… because it is! Let my book show you how to have fun, make money, and reduce clutter! Grab “How to Have an Epic Yard Sale” now!

Please help me promote the book – click this instant Tweet to share on Twitter!
Let my yard sale e-book show you how to have fun, make money, and reduce clutter! Click To Tweet

 

 

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