So I have been following this online conversation in a social media group I belong to. Someone posted that they were looking to start getting art on their walls. They said:
Hi everyone…..have been thinking about trying to find some real affordable artwork to hang in our house. Does anyone have any suggestions on any show rooms or places to go in the area to purchase?
A lot of the answers came back suggesting local artists. But then there were a bunch which came back were along the lines of go to a craft store buy canvases and paint and let your kids play Picasso.
Ok look, nice idea for a playroom or a kid’s bedroom but that is a made for HGTV idea that makes me crazy. People trying to find affordable art aren’t necessarily wanting to do the art themselves or have a house full of finger paintings on canvas. I am not anti-child art , I just think inexpensive doesn’t need to always mean loving hands at home.
We live in an area that is rich in artistic talent. All you have to do is go to fairs, festivals, local art shows. Sometimes at the shows the artist prices are higher so take their business card and contact them after the show. Events like Clover Market have tons of local and beautiful vintage art.
For years I was the publicist and photographer for a small arts-based nonprofit called First Friday Main Line (The photo at the bottom of this post is actually one that was taken during the First Friday Main Line of my framed photography on exhibit in a shop in Ardmore called past *present* future and some of my work is still for sale there). Anyway, one of the things about Friday Friday was “art in unexpected places.” Because there were not art galleries in Ardmore, the local artists would exhibit out of stores and restaurants. And it gave people the opportunity every month to buy reasonably priced art at one of these events.
So art is truly all around us. And you can also find terrific art at barn sales, at garage sales, in consignment shops , grift shops, and even the local yard sale groups on Facebook.
The thing about art is it should speak to you. It doesn’t necessarily have to be expensive or well-known or even highly collectible. It is simply that you have to like it because it’s going to be hanging on your walls. Not all of us are born with the bank account and can afford an art consultant or trips to upscale galleries. So seriously? Look for your art in unexpected places.
I love the Yellow Springs Art Show. This year it starts April 25th. this is a show that gives you a really good look at a lot of amazing local artists, and a lot of what I would term the modern Chester County School. It is not a show I buy from a great deal to be honest because the prices can be very high. But if you really like a piece of the show it never hurts to ask the artist if that is their best price.
I also really love my friend Sherry’s store in Ardmore called Past*Present*Future. Sherry is an artist by training so her store is a fabulous mix of all types of art including wearable art and beautiful handmade jewelry.
Now some of my other go to places for seeking out art include Smithfield Barn, estate sales, holiday church sales, fall festivals and some local Chester County favorites. Resellers Consignment in Frazer and Frazer Antiques and Consign-It Furniture in Kennett Square. Chester county is also loaded with artisans who repurpose old and vintage items into new pieces of art. So you have a lot of choices out there. And eBay and Etsy are other places to discover inexpensive art.
Another way to acquire art is when you travel. Going through New England? Or through New York State? Or down south? Out west? There are artist colonies everywhere you go and often you can pick up something lovely that you might have to frame when you get home for pennies on the dollar.
Don’t be intimidated by buying art. Go out and see what you like and experiment. It doesn’t have to cost a lot to get things you like on your walls.
Chair $40 at Eclectic Market in Malvern, floral needlepoint pillow $8 at St. David’s Church Fair a few years ago, and chicken pillow $4 at St. Paul’s in Exton during AngelFest
Truly, you can hire that interior designer if you want to but you don’t have to. You don’t have to be design challenged and you can find the time. I get inspiration from all over. People like Lara Spencer and Cari Cucksy inspire me. Not Martha Stewart any longer. Besides her issue with bloggers she is way too comfy with pastel paints and washes and she is enough to make you dream in crème de menthe which is too close to Kmart green and similarly pastel nightmares, but I digress.
Lara Spencer used to be a host on Antiques Roadshow. A lot of people know her from being an anchor of ABC’s Good Morning America, and from Flea Market Flip. Now she has a book I Brake For Yard Sales and a series by the same name that made what appears to be a limited debut on HGTV. I say limited because HGTV is a little hard to figure these days. They replay a lot of home crashing series but no real gardening shows any longer and don’t have a lot of air time (in my opinion) on some of these fun shows like I Brake For Yard Sales or Cash & Cari.
Chair one of a pair $18 for both Smithfield Barn. Sampler pillow embroidered by me and other pillow a gift
Why I love watching ladies like Lara Spencer and Cari Cuksey is because they show you it is not a beige, beige world and not everything has to be all matchy-matchy. They give you great re-purposing ideas too.
I have never needed to hire an interior designer or decorator. And I know a few who are amazing. But in this economy, why not train your own eye and save some money? At least do some of the leg work if not the whole thing?
I did our new house by myself with my sweet man (and a terrific carpenter who built us amazing bookcases and storage benches). Fortunately our tastes are compatible. Or should I say he is a man who will actually communicate about house stuff?
unknown watercolor – approximately $20 from Smithfield Barn in Downingtown.
I guess I am kind of sort of quasi-traditional with a dash of quirky . I like vintage and I like the lines of a lot of older furniture. I like a more country or should I say less formal kind of look as in what some would call “farmhouse chic”, but if you are expecting mad for plaid with ruffles, gag me with gingham, so notmy style. Yet I am not so casual as in Cindy Crawford icky denim love seats or lots of plastic things. Comfortable and pretty works but not a frilly gilded lily. And also a component of my home to be considered are things from my childhood home I liked and wanted to emulate.
And interestingly enough, my sweet man and I both had mothers who loved to check out estate sales, so you could say we sort of inherited this treasure-seeking meets bargain hunting fun.
I do think my style is uniquely my own and can’t be pigeonholed as one particular category because to me what I have done is a little bit of this a little bit of that. I have put what I love into my home and it is a house where every room is used. No, the living room is not for teenagers to play video games in, but neither is it some shrine to formal living and roped off with a velvet rope except for special occasions and sherry by the fire.
I like pops of color and am not afraid of color. I don’t like wallpaper. I can admire it in other people’s houses in small doses, but would rather look at a colorfully painted wall than wallpaper. I remember once being in a house in Massachusetts near where the Brimfield Antiques show is held. You would have thought they house would have been New England fabulous, right? It was instead a study of contradicting and competing wallpaper. Every room was papered and even the halls. And nothing complimented or flowed. The house literally gave me a pattern headache. And the owner was so house proud too. But they loved their house, so that was what mattered.
I have a glass bowl my sister gave me one year for Christmas about ten years ago. It was inadvertently color inspiration for a lot of my current living room. The bowl is a beautiful almost cranberry crossed with raspberry kind of color. With it in mind I found a traditional Chippendale hump back sofa of similarly colored damask circa late 1950s or early 1960s at Reseller’s in Frazer for $125. Yes, really. It was a lucky find that had sat on the sales floor until it was reduced, reduced, reduced. It was in pristine condition and the only thing it needed was the legs dusted.
At the Eclectic Market on King Street in Malvern one Saturday last fall I found a vintage wing chair in a pattern that was palatable, and compatible to my sofa. Yet it isn’t nauseating matching like furniture garanimals. And this sturdy chair was…wait for it…forty dollars. Yes $40.00.
It is that easy. A little time and effort and it actually comes together. Not all on one day, but it does come together.
You all know by now that I love barn picking. And yes, the Smithfield Barn in Downingtown is that awesome. Kristin has a fabulous eye and thanks to her I can actually identify some country antiques now that might impress an actual farmer or if not that an antiques dealer or two.
I also will check out yard sales and estate sales and church sales and country auctions and resale shops and flea markets.
I love Frazer Antiques and the dealers who work there are so incredibly nice and patient with my 10,000 questions. They are helpful too.
Resellers Consignment in Frazer is also a favorite haunt and they get fabulous stuff all the time – even vintage table linens, crystal, lighting fixtures, garden ornaments, artwork and china. Not just furniture. But the trick to them is if you like it, buy it because much like the Smithfield Barn, stock move quickly because the pricing is reasonable.
And I can’t forget Garage Sale Chic Chester County. Now there is a woman with a terrific eye! And without her I would not have my pot rack for $60 in my kitchen and the only floor lamp I have ever liked in my life.
I bought the furniture pieces mentioned because among other things they are sturdy, classic pieces I can reupholster some day and still love them. And that is part of developing your eye: imagine what something might look like stained differently, or painted, or reupholstered.
I love going to places like Clover Market (Ardmore, Chestnut Hill, and Philadelphia in the winter at the Armory) because I might spy something fun and quirky. The true kings and queens of repurposing are vendors there like Nanny Goat Antiques, Chairloom, and Brandywine View Antiques (who should also be visited and often in Chadds Ford), so I also always leave with great ideas.
I go to high-end antiques and craft shows to educate my eye as much as anything else. I don’t really buy at those shows, I am not in the demographic they shoot for – I am just average. But you need to educate your eye, because that is how you learn. And trust me, I have seen and be able to recognize some pretty amazing things in thrift shops and picking barns as a result.
I eBay too for small stuff like vintage table linens and locating the vintage plates and even cookware I like to use. I also will swap things with friends and so on. I am an insatiable bargain hunter with a knack for barter (I am told another word for it is “hondle”.) It’s fun.
At the end of the day, I want my home to reflect me, not someone else who doesn’t live there. I want it to be homey and personal. And what I hang on my walls isn’t running away from the Philadelphia Museum of Art or something. I prefer things I see by more local artists and unknowns altogether. One of my most favorite things is a watercolor in a simple wood frame I bought for $20 at the Smithfield Barn. It’s no Wyeth and never will be, but it makes me happy. I buy what I like. It doesn’t have to impress anyone, I just have to like it.
little table from Berwyn estate sale a few years ago – about $15. Candlestick and dish $5 from Harriton Fair at Historic Harriton House ten years ago. Print on the table of Chester County Farmhouse a gift
Another example is the little painting my sweet man found for me recently. Nothing fancy, but some unknown artist did a print of a farmhouse I love to photograph and have photographed in West Nantmeal Township. To me I would rather see things like that on someone’s walls than framed posters of art reproduction. Do you have a First Friday celebration in your community or near by? You might pick up a cool piece of art at a First Friday. Or check out local art shows. The art show prices are generally high, but if you like the artist, take down their information and contact them after the show. (For fun and funky art and high end crafts try Past*Present*Future in Ardmore )
Home is where your heart is, so to me that makes decorating where you hang your proverbial hat easy. Assemble your home to make yourself happy. I like looking at Architectural Digest, but I don’t want to live in Architectural Digest. I would rather live in something most probably found in Country Living Magazine, truthfully.
My photo of the same farmhouse in the print above!
I do Pinterest. It to me is like a giant cork-board. I will pin rooms that inspire me, things I might want to try, recipes, and so on. I will also ask my friends how and what they did if I like what I see. I am not dumb, I will not do work a professional should do so you won’t see me putting up dry wall and slathering mud on, but I can do basic painting if I have to and goofy things like sponge painting stair risers.
I do have a pretty good eye for color and special relationships and I can hawk a bargain. And most of all I still like looking even when there is nothing I need to buy. Window shopping is fun and inspirational.
So while you might find some in the Exton or King of Prussia Malls, chances are you will find me in a consignment shop , yard sale, or barn hunting for treasures.
My late father always said if you can read, you can learn to cook and I think a similar vein can be applied to decorating your home. And taste evolves, so what you like today could be completely different from ten years ago and twenty years in the future might be different again.
All I am saying is start small and just try. Then if you really don’t have a Designing Women gene, find someone to help you. But they should understand that you are the boss and listen and have a compatible personality.
I don’t know if I am doing it right or wrong. I just know what I like (and I know my limits.) It has been a process of trial and error over time. Kind of like when I experimented years and years ago with purple eye shadow. Some ideas work better than others. After all if you hate the color the walls are painted, you can always paint them a different color.
And oh by the way, this coming weekend is an OPEN barn weekend at Smithfield Barn.
It’s so funny. I have never intentionally set out to collect anything, I have just found things I like I want in my home. Yes for me, collecting is pretty much that simple.
This year I have purged a lot of stuff that no longer interests me. For example when I was barely out of my teens I had a fascination with certain kinds of old glasses – sherry and cordial sized. But realistically, I am not the generation who sips sherry by the fire, so I jettisoned them. They were pretty, I loved them once upon a time, but now I want things I can also use.
To an extent I like a LITTLE BIT of what would be classified as “country things”. I am not however the gal with Holly Hobby Country wallpaper borders complete with hex signs and sun bonnets. Nor will you find little gingham anything around my home.
The things I like are to an extent things of my childhood that I grew up around or admired in the homes of others. I love gorgeous period antiques but for me to live with furniture pieces, I need things I can use, and use every day if I so choose. So I love things like furniture with simple and elegant lines – I love wood. Not deep heavy burdensome Victorian finishes but beautiful woods with simple, clean lines, and their more natural hues and stains.
I abhor the current trends with regard to painting furniture because I feel good antique and vintage pieces are being ruined and sent to chalkboard and pastel paint furniture purgatory. I am also sick of people calling themselves vintage and antiques dealers because they cover rickety furniture that is not necessarily worth saving with pastel paints and chalkboard paint.
Some people I know who are real dealers do a little of this with style, but not every piece in their inventory looks like it vomited pastel paint or *must* have a chalkboard. I am a grown up I don’t personally want to live with little girl doll house furniture or people to mistake my furniture for particle board garbage from WalMart and Ikea. Sorry to sound snobby but, I like the real wood. Let that oak, cherry, poplar, walnut, whatever shine through. Love the natural beauty. Besides, wood pieces with normal wood finishes shining through will transition with you through whatever personal style evolution. Chalkboard paint and too much pastel paint is as bad as houses that are so beige nothing stands out. And when you are tired of that stuff, you will find yourself leaving half of it on the curb for trash day.
I like a mix of old and new, and I have learned to trust my eye. And I look at stuff – antiques stores, thrift shops, consignment stores, picking barns, garage sales – even if I am not buying I look. I look at how professional stylists are putting together rooms in magazine layouts. You never know where a good idea might come from. But at the end of the day, what I do reflects my personal style and what makes a house a home to me.
I want every room to be able to be used. Now granted I prefer to keep the teenagers out of my living room, but that is self-preservation as much as anything else LOL!
Since moving out to Chester County I have become fascinated once again with some primitives. Candlesticks in particular. (Yes I know some of you are wondering if I have fallen out of love with plain milk glass nesting chickens, and the answer is no of course not. But everything in moderation and my better half already thinks I have chicken issues….)
So anyway, for years I have had a black tin painted Toleware chamber candlestick that I picked up many years ago for $5 or $10 at the white elephant tables at Historic Harriton House on their annual September fair day, and between there and at St. David’s Fair and thrift shops for equally low sums over the years a few other chamber candle sticks. They are just a little touch I like. They look friendly and homey to me.
Recently out at Smithfield Barn I have come across a few primitive cast iron candlesticks. They are very Pennsylvania and New England. I thought they were fun so I bought them. All were $10 or less each, incidentally. I just liked their look.
So now I have researched them, and one is a primitive chamber stick (it has a finger or thumb hold and looks like it is in a little bowl), one is a “courting” candlestick (it looks like it is a spring in shape with a little wooden knob that can move the candle up as it burns), and one is a “hog scraper” “wedding band” candlestick ( it has a little screw to push up the candle like a lot of the cast iron ones do and it has a little metal band, maybe of brass that looks like a “wedding band”.)
Now I know mine aren’t fine antiques, they were used in a house in the country somewhere but I like them. If these were the fine antique versions of themselves, they would be hundreds of dollars each. Mine will be used and enjoyed. As a matter of fact you will still see cast iron candlesticks even in modern decor – Pottery Barn, Anthropologie, and other places. And they are found a lot in European countries as well. But for my taste, nothing beats the American primitive form of cast iron and tin candlesticks. Some are painted, some are not.
Cast Iron Vintage Shave Ice Tool – found for $2. Just a random display piece but is in full working order that I actually could use it!
If candlesticks like this interest you, check your more country antiques and vintage shops and picking barns- I saw a few at Frazer Antiques last week, but they were a tad tasty in price for me – I admit it I am a bargain hunter. You will also find country primitives like this throughout New England in places like Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine, and Vermont. I think some of the most fine antique and vintage shopping you can do is in Maine and Vermont in particular.
Anyway, what bargains and cool vintage things have you found recently that you love?
In the Sandra Lee-ification of America we can no longer just set the table for anything, let alone a holiday. It is a “tablescape” or worse yet a “holiday tablescape”.
It is a phrase to me that is like nails on a chalkboard. It brings up visions of outfits that match kitchen decor that matches seasons and unless you are Sandra Lee or Barbie who the heck does that???
It also reminds me of a Christmas party we went to every year as a kid. The entire family had matching/coordinated outfits and the wife always had them all lined up at the staircase by the front hall door when you entered – like they were the Patridge Family or something. My old, old friends will know exactly what party I am referring to. We. All. Went. Every. Year. Mind you the wife in this equation has long since remarried and we think she just settles now for matching her and hubby #2 to decor. Does white marble come in pants I wonder? She’s a tablescape kind of gal.
I am sorry, I know I am being supremely irreverent. The phrase tablescape just does it to me…like when people say too often that is how they “roll” (I wonder, are they a wheel of cheese or something?)
I am all for dressing up the table and having fun but we call it setting the table in my neighborhood. Sometimes with a centerpiece, sometimes just a collection of fun candlesticks or oil lamps. And I don’t need Martha Stewart to tell me how to set my table, either. Lordy women of America! It’s not rocket science, just have fun. As long as the cutlery and glasses aren’t plastic and the plates paper, it’s all good. That is the stuff picnics and cook outs are made of.
So anyway, my table was looking for some vintage Thanksgiving fun, so I stopped into a new favorite local haunt, Frazer Antiques.
I found the cutest vintage turkeys – they are salt and pepper shakers only I am just using them on my table as a decorative touch. I also wanted inexpensive vintage dishes for dinner. Found those too – Steubanville Adam Antique.
And best of all, I finally found a turkey platter I couldn’t kill.
And speaking of Frazer Antiques, they have a holiday sale starting November 23rd which runs through December 31st!
They have a special Holiday Open House on November 30th from 3 pm to 8 pm.
Frazer Antiques is located at 351 Lancaster Avenue, Frazer, PA 19355 –
(610)-651-8299 and they are open daily (except holidays) 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Check them out. They are loaded with all sorts of fun stuff! And as one of the most frugal women in captivity when it comes to antiques and vintage collectibles I can honestly tell you the pricing is pretty darn good and a lot of stuff has wiggle room. And they must be a go to place for holiday table accessories because while I was there this afternoon a couple of husbands were sent in by their wives to hunt for extra serving pieces and other table accessories.
A while ago I met this delightful older lady named Molly who is an antiques dealer. She told me she was also one of the dealers in Frazer Antiques. At the time I remarked I had always wanted to stop into Frazer Antiques but just never had.
Well today I did. And I will be back.
Frazer Antiques is a bunch of dealers. It is larger inside than it appears from its Lincoln Highway/Lancaster Avenue exterior. For the most part, items are fairly priced. And the condition of most items for sale is very good to excellent. There are a lot of “smalls” and even larger furniture pieces. There is a painted chest in there I am drooling over in the furniture of it all.
It is quite simply an old school antiques store that isn’t too full of itself – you know how some antiques stores are? I get turned off by the antiques stores that either have personnel who size you up when you walk in the door and sniff disdainfully, are over priced, or then there are the dealers who just plain ignore you (like the woman who has the antique shop in the historic Sugartown Village building on Sugartown Road.)
The people at Frazer Antiques could not have been nicer and I had ADD by old stuff as soon as I walked in the door. Things that I love to look at were there a plenty. The things that make my sweet man laugh at me: tole trays, white milk glass chickens, flow through blue and transferware, silver, depression glass of all hues, oil lamps, and fabulous old porcelain. There were also dealers who had some cool textiles like Victorian crazy quilts, and interesting bits of jewelry here and there. And cool bits of framed art and terrific mirrors.