Let’s say you found the most fabulous lamp at the thrift store, but its cord is a mangled mess destined to set your home on fire. You might pass right on by thinking you don’t have the skills to do it or the big dollars to hire someone to do it for you. Well, I am here to tell you that you CAN do it yourself and for $2 (or less!).
Read on to find out how . . .
I wouldn’t classify myself as a collector, but I do have a collection or two of vintage treasures I fancy. Most recently, I started a sentimental little collection of silverware from the Horn and Hardart automats from the early and mid-century. Although I never went to a Horn and Hardart restaurant, the name reminds me of my family and their stories of dining and working there. I would love collect a full set to replace my Ikea silverware.
My great-grandmother (born 1899) loved regaling me with stories about her life and the history she lived through. Not many topics fascinated me more than the crazy automat restaurants at which she dined (side note: I know that many grammarians say it’s okay to end a sentence with a preposition, but it feels wrong to rebel against Mrs. Bosworth, my junior high grammar teacher.). I was obsessed with the idea of a restaurant filled wall to wall with vending machines from which you could procure hot food items for just a nickel a piece. That sounded like heaven to my seven year old brain.
Vintage Horn and Hardart Automat Postcard from Wikipedia. (I would love a set of those chairs.)
My grandmother was not my only source for Horn and Hardart stories. In the early 1950s my mom worked there, which meant I could interrogate her about all aspects about how this system of little windows and doors worked.
I love these photos of my mom and her Horn and Hardart automat co-workers posing on the roof.
My Horn and Hardart fascination only deepened when I discovered that my great-grandfather also worked there while conducting some family history research. Here’s a close-up of his death certificate naming Horn and Hardart as his employer. Also, if you look closely at the address at the bottom, you’ll see it says 3 Eva Court. This is the address where my great-grandparents lived and where I came up with the name for my blog.
Do you have any collections, sentimental or otherwise?
Decorating your walls inexpensively doesn’t have to mean boring or mass marketed. Read on for ten unique and inexpensive art ideas!
Left: Prom dress illustration from my mom’s yearbook Middle: Grammar letterpress card from Sapling Press Right: Beauty Queens photo from Found Retail
1. Letterpress Cards
More commonly used for wedding invitations and such, letterpress cards make excellent artwork for your tabletops and walls! Not your standard sappy greeting cards, they are hand printed with all manner of clever sayings or themed with your favorite pop culture references. Since the text and images are actually pressed into the paper, you get a depth of texture that you can’t get from your home printer.
Etsy is my favorite source for inexpensive letterpress cards, which usually run about $4 to $5 each. Check out Etsy sellers Sapling Press for their “not a slut” grammar card (in picture above, center) and Chasing Type for a Dr. Who, “Fezzes are Cool” card. The card sizes vary and are often not standard frame sizes, so you simply trim to size and frame! Cheap and easy!
2. Raid Your Parents’ Old Stuff
You can find free art for your home just by raiding your dad and mom’s stuff! From my mom’s yearbook, I scanned a prom dress illustration and printed it out at home (top photo, left).
Digging through my dad’s junk, I found this interesting schematic in a machine manual he was going to throw out. I love the color, typography and graphics, even though I have no idea what a hydraulic machine does!
3. Vintage Photos
Vintage photos are another unique and inexpensive art option for your home! You can find them at yard sales, thrift stores, antique stores, Etsy, Ebay. I purchased the trio of New York beauty queens from Found Retail (top picture, right).
Old family photos make a more sentimental option that is also free. The older and wackier the better! Check out this photo of my great grandmother and her sister from the 1960s. I’m not sure whose birthday was being celebrated, but I’m thankful this moment was captured on film so it can decorate my apartment.
4. Artwork by Kids
I sincerely hope you know a kid or two, as they are excellent purveyors of free art for your walls. If not, you must befriend one immediately. Kids tend to either overwhelm you with their artistic offerings or they can be temperamental artists. For your less prolific child artists, you may need to be persistent about your need for art. This effort will pay off, and I present to you, “Day at the Carpet Store” by Jackie (age 9), as an example:
Shorpy is one of the most fabulous websites ever. It’s a vintage photo blog featuring tons of images from the 1850s to the 1950s. You can browse by decade, subject, and location. The variety is enormous and you can order high quality prints for as low as $15 for an 8″ X 10″. The people who run Shorpy carefully restore each image so you get high quality prints.
Check out this department store photo from 1941:
Flickr is more than just a place to upload your photos! It’s a great source for free art for your home. Use Flickr’s advanced search to find photos that are shared with a Creative Commons license, which allows you download the photos for printing without any copyright issues.
Also, be sure to check out Flickr’s “The Commons“, which is a collection of copyright free images shared by public photography archives. You can download and print at home.
I love this weird beach scene from 1955, from Margaret Barr’s ballet “Strange Children”.
I ordered this fabric swatch from Tonic Living for $1.50 as a possible option for a sewing project. While it didn’t work for the purpose I needed, it will make a great framed piece of art. Now, I just need to get to Ikea to get one of their square frames.
Another framable fabric swatch idea, Gray Line Linen sells swatch cards for their various lines of linen. This is their Warsa collection and the swatch card is $9.75:
8. Vintage Advertising
Vintage advertising images look splendid on your walls. You can purchase vintage magazines and cut out individual images or shop for individual advertisement images at antique stores, Etsy or Ebay. You can find advertising for pretty much any category you want, such as cars, decor, fashion, travel and so much more. I love vintage fashion and lingerie ads:
Also check out Plan 59 for midcentury advertising that you can order online. My personal favorite is this Magnavox ad.
9. Sewing Patterns
You can find sewing patterns at thrift stores, antique stores and online inexpensively. I found these at an antique store in Los Angeles. It was my best negotiation ever, particularly since I’m terrible at negotiating. I would almost rather give the person more money than they originally asked rather than negotiate.
The patterns were priced at $5 each, but I guess the guy at the antique store REALLY wanted to get rid of them. While I was looking at them he started lowering the price, and somehow, without any hard bargaining on my end, they ended up at $0.25 each! Score! I bought a bazillion. I framed the best using some basic frames from Aaron Brothers.
10. Google Images
I loved the Dr. Who Dalek Victory poster, but since I’m not 12 years old, I didn’t need a 24 X 36 inch poster size! I simply used the Google search to find the same image, which I printed out on 5″ X 7″ photo paper at home.
In case you’ve never done it, It’s super easy to search using Google Images:
- Enter your search terms.
- Make sure you select Image search.
- Click on “Search Tools” to open more search options.
- Under the size drop down menu, select “Large” to ensure the image resolution will be sufficient for printing.
May you cover your walls with unique and inexpensive art! Do you have any inexpensive inexpensive art ideas to share?
I love curtains! They can transform a room by adding texture and color while softening the hard angles of windows. And curtains are the ultimate DIY project because they are fast and simple to make! Best of all, buying fabric and making your own allows you to create a custom look at a much better price than going retail for pre-made curtains.
Oodles of Fabric Options!
There have got to be a least ten billion different fabric options on this planet, but if you aren’t a lucky duck living in Los Angeles or New York with literally blocks and blocks of garment district fabric shops, it can be depressing shopping the limited selection at places like Joann’s. Luckily, we live in the 21st century, which means we can shop online! Two of my absolute favorite online fabric shops are Fabric.com and Tonic Living. You can purchase swatches inexpensively to be sure of your choice, which makes it foolproof ordering fabric online.
I love Fabric.com for their enormous selection and typically lower prices, plus lots of sale and clearance options that are not hideously ugly. Be sure to check out their Deal of the Day. Here are some fabulous fabrics at under $10 per yard that would make smashing curtains.
1. Premier Prints – Sticks, Citrus Yellow $8.98/yard 2. Modern Meadow – Herringbone, Pond $7.82/yard 3. Premier Prints – Aruba, Grey $8.98/yard 4. Michael Miller – Technicolor Leaf, Candy Pink $9.20/yard
Tonic Living tends to be more expensive, but their selection is perfectly curated with vintage inspired prints you often can’t find elsewhere. I would love to make curtains with all of these prints, but I am especially dying to do something with that Dwell Studio print.
1. Robert Allen – Cats Cradle, Sunshine $21.95/yard 2. Chelsea, Kelp $13.95/yard 3. Willow, Storm $11.95/yard 4. Dwell Studio – Futura, Dandelion $20.95/yard
I pretty much obsessed over every possible fabric option 87 times until I finally settled on this beauty, Klee in Jade by Richloom. Turquoise is one of my favorite colors and I loved this bright and graphic print. And at only $6.29 a yard at Fabric.com, I could guiltlessly order the 7 yards needed to create my curtains. This color is sold-out now, but they have the same print in Baltic Blue and Sandstone (a nice neutral).
I’ve sewn my fair share of projects over the years, but somehow have never tackled curtains. I checked out a couple of tutorials online to figure out my approach before diving in. I sort of winged it a little, while studying up on curtain tutorials from Design*Sponge (such a cute fabric choice!), House of Hepworths and my 1961 Better Homes and Gardens Sewing Book.
And then I went to town on these puppies! With only four straight seams to sew on each curtain, I had three of them completed in just one evening. Making your own curtains has to be one of the most efficient DIY projects you can find.
To hang my newly finished curtains, I used simple tension rods that fit inside the window so I could show off the original 1890s moulding. Tension rods are a great solution for this type of window and they can be picked up very inexpensively. Since the tension rod is not on display, like with a regular curtain rod set-up, you don’t need to worry about how pretty the rod is. I picked up tension rods at Lowe’s for about $3.00 each. Since tension rods are not screwed in, just be sure your fabric is not too heavy and you don’t have people yanking on your curtains.
Before and After
I just love the pop of color and pattern added to my otherwise boring windows! The tension rod works even with the blinds in the window. Next I want to make some pretty tie-backs for the curtains!
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Paint-by-Number: “Every Man a Rembrandt!”
I love the kitschy appeal of vintage paint-by-numbers, the midcentury hobby that attempted to make painting accessible to the masses. While Abstract Expressionists like Jackson Pollock ruled the art world, Craft Master, the original 1950s line of paint-by-number kits, optimistically declared, “Every man a Rembrandt!” This midcentury fad took the world by storm, encouraging everyone — including actress Ethel Merman and most of the Eisenhower White House, including FBI director J Edgar Hoover — to take up painting by numbers.
Charmed by this low-brow art form, I slowly curated my own paint-by-number collection, never actually thinking that completing one could be considered a proud accomplishment . . . until I tried to paint my own.
My Paint-by-Number Collection
1. Landscapes picked up for $0.25 each! 2. A gift 3. Poodles found at an antique store in Southern Illinois for $12 4. Pair of ladies purchased for $30 on Etsy.
The pièce de résistance of my collection is Blue Boy by “artist” Anna S., shown in comparison to the original artwork housed at the Huntington Library and Gardens. It’s so bad it’s good.
1. Blue Boy by Anna S. – $13 (c 1950s) 2. Blue Boy by Thomas Gainsborough – $728,800 (c1770)
I Am a Paint-By-Number Failure
Somewhere along the line, I figured if I collect paint-by-numbers I ought to at least paint one, I mean how long could it take? I picked up a “Chicadee Perch” kit from Michael’s shortly before I left for New York. One afternoon turned into two and three, where I cussed and fussed over mixing colors and painting precisely. It’s been months, and as you can see, my progress has stalled.
I am a reluctant disgrace to the paint-by-number hobbyists masters who came before me, as I am unable to muster the required endurance to complete even one painting. I stand in strong opposition to The Smithsonian National Museum of American History’s claim that everyday people could discover, “the liberating pleasures of creativity” by completing a paint-by-number kit. On the contrary, this seemingly simple act of painting by the numbers could not be more gruesomely tedious. No longer will I smugly and ironically collect paint-by-numbers. Au contraire, my failure has given me a respect for those who possess the art of persistence in completing their paint-by-numbers.
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