Friday, May 12, 2017

From Shabby to Chic - Making it Homey

Above: a florist bouquet from Pinterest. I always go first to the floral department when visiting the grocery store, because the colors and nature gives me such a good feeling.  However my little granddaughter brought me a bouquet from the lawn just before Papa cut the grass. She also brought flowering plants considered weeds, and I must tell you how nice they looked in her little clenched fingers. Vases do not do such offerings justice!
 I have a fond recollection of my own little boy with a bunch of wildflowers from a Texas field, and thought how pretty they looked in his hand as he walked toward me, swinging the trailing stems and roots of Texas Evening Primrose:

These little picks are one of the things that make the house homey. Besides that, they look nice in a tin or jar or small container of any kind. You don't need fillers or a special way of arranging them because they are just fine looking wild and askew without proper balance and color combos.

This week the white lilac bloomed and I was looking for fabric with a white lilac print. This one is from Liberty of London, but we don't have those fabrics here, and I won't be ordering it on the web. It would be nice if the background were blue or green, as that seems more in keeping with its natural setting.

Sometimes I wash a blanket that looks pretty outside on the line and let it stay there when I am expecting visitors. It is a nice thing to see from the dining window. My truck is still there and this year I am putting a homemade canopy on the back to create an interesting picnic spot. The view from the truck bed is very nice too, should anyone with an artist palette wish to record it whilst sitting under the canopy

The shabby furnishings do not matter as much as the acceptance the family members feel in the home. I have seen many shabby homes where the parents seem under less stress and are kinder to their children and to each other.  In one house the quilts on the beds were so worn, the cotton batting was showing, but the blanket was clean and smelling of fresh air and sun from being dried on the line. Made by a loved one, there is no way anyone would discard it. It was spread without wrinkles, proudly displayed with favorite cushions and dolls.

Those of you who have been here know my home is quite shabby but I have overcome some of it with paint and various embellishments to cover flaws. However, even without that, the way something is displayed or arranged can take the attention off the imperfect walls, windows and floors.

Below, you see removable wall stickers used to cover the area around the kitchen door handles. This area gets soiled the most, and the stickers can be removed.

After covering Grandmother's chair with a quilted blanket, I did not  want to remove it for a "shabby" before picture so you will have to believe the chair upholstery is worn, and it has to have an extra cushion on the seat.  

I found that a heavy cotton quilt with a little stiffness in it is a lot easier to keep its shape on a chair without having to straighten it out every time you get up or sit down. A commercial quilt stays tucked in better. I got this at Walmart years ago when it still had the lay-away program.

You remember when Mary Crowley, the sister of Mary Kay, created the Home Interiors and gift party selling company. The products were quite expensive back then, but recently are surfacing in the thrift stores and Goodwill stores. While these wrought iron candelabras used to be over $20.00 in the Home Interiors catalog,  they are now sometimes about $2.00. I have painted this one with a spray paint that is combined with a primer, and collected the stemmed glass votive holders from various yard sales or thrift stores.

Painting old baskets give them a fresh new look,  and if they have memories connected to activites you have had with your loved ones, it is just fine to keep them the way they are.

A lady I know showed me how she has a tea time travel kit she keeps in her car. She uses fabric and bubble wrap under it to cushion her tea cups, allowing the cushy materials to fold around the cups and make indentations to protect them.  She adds a layer of bubble wrap on top of the dishes and then pulls some of the fabric over the top.
That's a little tea bag holder, called a tea wallet, someone made for me.
While the picnic basket above looks charming, you can't carry it by the handle because the tea cups and pot should not change positions and should be laying flat, so I actually found a regular basket with an upright handle works better. Just put it in the back seat with the seat belt around it.
Now here are some more things you can do to shabby furniture. I won't be able to show you what the old couch looks like because it is too much trouble to tuck in the quilt and get it all smooth again, but the couch is an old wicker piece with a foam seat. Underneath the blanket on the back of the couch  are two cheap bed pillows to give the back some softness. You can get these new at reject stores and they are quite good. However, what I would suggest you do, is use the old worn out pillows for the couches (put them under the blanket coverings to boost the seating area and backs of chairs and couches)  and buy new pillows for your bedroom.

That is Grandma's crochet covering she used on the head area of her chair, to protect it from stains. It has two matching arm chair pieces for the arms of the chair.  I put a thin piece of clear shiny plastic covering purchased at the  fabric store. That way I can just wipe the dust with a damp cloth.

The piece of furniture below really needs to be painted but it is such an involved project I will not be doing it yet. In the meantime, I place a tin flower vase with colorful umbrellas next to it to brighten the corner.

Below: another shabby chair covered with a commercial quilt. The other side of the quilt is a lot more worn out and This side is arranged in a way that none of the shabby areas show because I draped them around the back of the chair.

Someone made this cotton dish towel for me and insisted it was for me to use every day in the kitchen. There is no way I am going to use this yet. The last time I got a set of hand embroidered  towels was way back in my youth. These are newly made but they are still a rare treasure and they look great on the back of this wicker chair.
Above and below: cushions made from decorator fabric at Walmart.  In showing this, I am by no means assuming to be any kind of decorating expert. I have instead, discovered some things about being comfortable at home while living with worn furniture. 
 One other way to make it homey is to use things your children made or used.

It is important not to be distracted by things that are being commercially promoted. There was a time when people viewed everything that was promoted, with attitude of skepticism. Myself and others lived before furniture stores for common folk. We had things handed down or hand made. It was rough but we covered the seating areas with quilts and blankets over pillows, and the tables and end tables with squares of cloth, and we hung pictures made with pages of scenery from magazines. I think one of the problems of being content with the shabby things is seeing the trendy things being promoted. 

That being said, if you can afford it, new things are not fixer uppers and will be easier to look after. My problem was being able to afford one piece, and it was worn out by the time I could afford a matching piece. Eventually I settled for the shabby chic style, which is what we did back in the 1950's when we gave furniture a fresh coat of paint or crocheted a new blanket for the old couch. Our first couch was the back seat taken out of an old car but we were awfully glad to have it since it was a lot more comfortable than sitting on a wood box!

Another settee padded with pillows and draped with a woven blanket. Many a child has stretched out in this wicker settee to read a book. I use it outside in good weather. Queen size blankets cover everything on normal size couches. You might need a king size or oversize blanket for an extra long couch. 

Gather things that clutter and place them in containers for color and freshness. 
Now the question comes to getting the feeling you want in your house. Just observe mentally what you tend to notice the most and what gives you a feeling of well being. Sometimes you may just need to clean house and then you don't mind the shabby furniture, especially if you add simple bright spots here and there.

I read in Helen Andelin's book in her homemaking chapter, to make your dreams portable. She explained that if you got stuck with an unmoveable idea of the perfect house, you would never be able  to find contentment. One way to make your ideas and preferences portable is to have furnishings you can use in any room. You can move a dresser to the living room, a chair to a bedroom, and you can even trade rooms, by switching the living room to the dining room.  

 Rearranging things and cleaning things can remove the feeling that you are "stuck" in a house that is not your dream house. As you know I wanted a Victorian House. I found ways to add hand made things, the way our grandmothers did. The only frustrating thing to me was the modern Windows that have no sentimental charm. I solved that with curtains that kind of make a shape over the big windows and frame the view in a soft way.

There is someone who lives not far from me whose house seems to be in shambles all the time but her children love the place for the belonging and comfort they felt while growing up there. They care not how shabby everything is, and the family never stresses over it nor attempts to re-do or paint. Family members like to be there at meal times because it is their family. If you will reassure your people regularly of how special they are to you and what a miracle it is to have a family, they will feel the same and will think there is something homey about the house.

The best things are the words that are spoken to encourage each other and build one another up.


Laura Jeanne said...

Thank you so much for this helpful post, Lydia! I really appreciate your willingness to share the corners of your own home with us, along with your sage advice. Let me tell you I hung on every word as this is an area I've always struggled with. I especially appreciate the message at the end of your post about love being what really makes a house a home. I think I will be bookmarking this post so I can come back and review it a few times. :)

Unknown said...

I agree with Laura Jeanne. I too was hanging on every word. I even took a wee break in the middle to make it last longer!
I agree with all of this. Yes, paint and rearranging can really make things feel spruced up!
God bless

Unknown said...

Thanks for sharing good ideas and photos of your home. Our couch and chair are starting to look quite worn and I am thinking of making slipcovers using painters drop cloths. I have seen several blogs about how to do this. I love your soft floral look - very inviting to sit down with a cup of tea!

Paulina Marie said...

I love your style! It is so homey and welcoming. The flowers add such a perfect feminine touch. I would feel quite comfortable in a home such as yours :)

Mrs. J

Unknown said...

A lovely letter to us all.🌸🍃🌸

anonymous said...

Oh I almost cried when you were describing your first house. Mine was similar. We had no furniture and had to rent a converted garage for our first home. The garage was built into a bank and the bedroom window was eye level to the ground.

Our first bed had a six inch deep hole in the center and it was hard to sleep without falling into it at night. We had linens from our wedding gifts and I usually pulled the sheets tight to cover the hole.

One morning I got up late and had to hurry to get to work and didn't make the bed. The blankets and quilt draped the floor and when I got home that evening I pulled them back to pull them tight and there was a deep red, 9 inch centipede in the bed. It reared up at me when I pulled the blankets back. I nearly fainted at the sight of it and after getting rid of it, wasn't sure I wanted to sleep in the bed anymore.

Ah those first homes! Thank you for sharing how you made do. I too did lots of the same and those were fun times because we were content with such as we had.


living from glory to glory said...

Good Morning Lydia, I read this post a few days ago, but had no energy or words to comment. But I had to come back and leave a comment to tell you how much I enjoyed this post! You have a lovely living room and using the quilts as covers is really charming! Being at home and enjoying ourselves in every room is a must! As I have said I am the queen of spray paint and using whatever I find that is pretty for my home!
Thank YOU!
Roxy xo

Cresthaven said...

I also enjoyed this post. You work well with the things you have to make beauty.It is so encouraging in the area of contentment and stewardship. I like the idea of investing in portable pieces to use in different ways in different rooms.

Dianne said...

I love all your posts so much. Thank you for the sweetness and charm you have shared from your home. I, too, have had to 'make do' and found many creative ways to make our home warm and inviting, without costing more than pennies. Bless you.