Antique Signs for The Kitchen

antiquesigncollageKitchens are funny rooms. They’re designed for utility, but they’re also given a special place as the “heart” of the home. They’re hospitable spaces, so it makes sense that even modern kitchens benefit from a lived-in element. Decorators have been injecting rustic details like corbels and chalk boards into kitchen design for a while, but I think one of the most interesting objects you can add to your kitchen is an antique or vintage sign.

The best old signs to use in the kitchen relate directly to food. It’s a little on the nose but it works! Consider a painted wood sign. Collectivator seller Colin Paul Antiques has hand painted signs from a farmer’s fruit stand. One that sold quickly simply said “Delicious” – referring to the type of apple – but what a perfectly suited word for the kitchen!

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Signs saying “Carrots” and “Sauerkraut” are still available.

Also for sale are a series of handmade cursive script signs from a 1960s era grocery store. The font is mid century vintage, and with an assortment of words you can find something that really suits your taste (see what I did there?). Depending on your style you can find wood signs that work in vintage, country, or rustic “shabby chic” styled kitchens.

While wood signs have always been popular, they were not very durable for outdoor use. By the end of the 19th century, signs started being mass produced in full colour porcelain and tin. Porcelain and tin signs are associated with national brands but they were also produced for smaller, local companies. Bisback Antiques, for instance, is offering a great 1950s ROE Feeds tin sign. Tin signs often have vibrant graphics that really stand out on a wall, not to mention their nostalgic appeal.dscn1058

 

One thing to note with wood and tin signs is the proliferation of reproductions. Homey “family” messages on faux aged wood and reprinted tin signs are in decor shops everywhere. In general, these signs are sold as new and I don’t really have a problem with them, but they usually strike me as a poor imitation. I still think it’s worth the effort and money to buy the real thing. Old signs have a story. They are cultural and commercial artifacts. I also find the chips in the paint, the dents in the tin, and even the marks from where the sign was mounted add to the visual appeal.

Now say you want to have an authentic sign, but you want to start at a lower price point. In this case, a great thing to look for is antique and vintage shipping crate labels. Sometimes they will be framed, but often they will not. Unlike the unique painted wood signs, shipping labels were mass printed. The extras you find still have vibrant images of landscapes and appetizing produce that work beautifully in a kitchen. They are a fairly common item and usually cost only between $10 – $100.daisymills

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Daisy Mills” and “Surety Apples” labels for sale.

I bought a “Zenith” shipping label at the Pickering Markets for $20. I love the apple and how it represents a Canadian company. My friend found framed shipping labels at a local group shop for similar prices. There are so many labels out there that can really add interest to your kitchen without breaking the bank. zenithapples

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Whether the sign is on wood, tin or paper, as with any collectible there is room to grow in rarity and price. Signs can truly be works of art. They can be one of a kind. In the upper end, antique signs can easily cost thousands of dollars. Take a look at this gorgeous 1920s general store sign from J.C. Miller Antiques . It ticks all the boxes – colour, content, and beautifully weathered age. gstoreantiquesignVintage and antique signs are sought after by decorators looking for that one amazing piece, or collectors who have a space on the wall (and isn’t there always room for just one more?). With a little effort, you can find an a sign that speaks to you. Whatever your style or budget, old signs and kitchens are a match made in heaven.

The Changing Face of Antiques in Restaurant Decor

This week I read a well researched, compelling article in Collector’s Weekly called “The Death of Flair: As Friday’s Goes Minimalist, What Happens to the Antiques?“. I highly recommend you follow that link and read the article yourself. It follows the history of the “casual theme restaurant” like T.G.I Fridays from hot 1970s singles bar to cliché family establishment. The decor in these restaurants has always relied on huge collections of nostalgia and antiques. Now that the designs are changing to be more minimalist (and apparently, Millennial approved), the old stuff is coming off the walls.

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The old T.G.I Fridays on left, new design on right. Images via Collector’s Weekly.

I found it very interesting to learn about the networks of antique pickers and dealers who make restaurant decor their business. Throughout the years, the market went through trends that affected what antiques were in demand. When the restaurant chains started in the 1970s, they wanted bang for their buck. Whatever was abundant and affordable made the cut, and that’s why items like porcelain signs, stained glass windows and Tiffany style lamps became standard. As these same categories of antiques became harder to find, and more expensive, reproduction or “fantasy antiques” (I love that term) were added to the mix.

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Antiques for use in restaurant decor via Cracker Barrel Old Country Store

My favourite part of the article includes a short video on the massive Tennessee warehouse that still holds all the 90,000 individual antiques used in Cracker Barrel restaurants (unlike the other chains, Cracker Barrel is expected to keep with their antique tradition). This family business grew with the popularity of the restaurant; from local antique dealers to networked provider for a large national chain. It’s pretty amazing to see what is essentially a library filled with categories of antiques instead of books. Each and every Cracker Barrel restaurant uses approximately 1,000 antiques in their dining rooms and 99% of their decor is authentic.

Doesn’t that warehouse look like a fascinating place to visit? A few years ago on a trip to Nashville, we made it a point to visit the local Cracker Barrel. It was my first time encountering this temple of Southern Americana. Everything from the rocking chairs on the front porch to the shotgun mounted on the wall added to the impact. There were large advertising signs mounted with old musical instruments, photographs, clocks and farm tools. It was kitsch but it was also interesting. I could see that some items were worth more than others but they were all mixed together into a cohesive whole. In this way, Cracker Barrels are like Tiki bars – they represent a getaway into an idealized version of the past. The nostalgia is real because the items are real. They also serve huge breakfasts for very reasonable prices (go for the antiques and stay for the grits).

I came away from this article with a new appreciation for the business of American restaurant decor, and the use of antiques in that industry. I hope restaurants don’t get overly “tasteful” and boring in their desire to appeal to the younger generation. On one hand, yes, Millennials don’t like tons of stuff on the walls, but on the other hand they value the idea of authenticity. You can’t throw a rock in a hip restaurant these days without hitting an Edison bulb or rusty industrial relic. Times change and what is cool now will seem outdated soon. I might be a dying breed but I don’t go out to stare at my phone. Let’s keep something interesting on the walls. If it can be something antique all the better.

My top 3 Most Versatile Antique & Vintage Items

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I love a versatile item, don’t you? In modern homes it’s a real bonus if an item can look good, add character and serve a function. Some collectibles can only really be used for one purpose, but others can be repurposed into a variety of uses that suit your particular needs. Here are my top three versatile, charming, and often inexpensive items that can be used in creative and fun ways throughout your home. I’ve found all these items at antique shows, flea markets and shops over the years and I’m still discovering new uses for them.


Jars – Ah the humble, hard working jar. New jars are nice, but real vintage jars are still an easy find. I love them for their imperfections and old fashioned marks. My favourite has a soft blue colour that is timeless and pretty. Old jars just say “country home” and fit in many relaxed styles.

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Jars for sale at the Aberfoyle Antique Market

What can you do with an antique jar? Almost anything! You can paint them, etch words into them, switch up the lids (find new lids at kitchen supply stores) and even add knobs to the tops. Here are some of my favourite old jar uses:

  • Bathroom Storage – Q-tips, cotton balls and bath salts look lovely and stay protected.
  • Succulent Terrariums –  Small trees and fake snow make fun holiday decorations as well.
  • Vases – An old fashioned way to display your fresh cut flowers.
  • Lights – On the easy end, you can put a candle or string lights in a jar to great effect, or if you feel crafty, there are great directions out there for turning jars into table lamps and even chandeliers.
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Vintage “GEM” jar with garden peonies. A dollar store grid top made this jar a vase.


Tins – Graphic, fun, functional tins. Keep your eyes peeled and you’re sure to find something you like at a wide variety of markets. Collectors prize certain brands (and clean condition), so price will vary.

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One of the most common problems with old tins is that they can warp, rust and become difficult to close. Don’t let that stop you, however, if you fall in love with a great image. You can still use tins in the following ways:

  • Desk & Kitchen Organizers – One of the easiest ways to enjoy a tin is simply take the top off and fill it with something you need to have out on a surface, like pens or cooking utensils. Big tins can hold bags of flour or pet food. Glue magnets to small tins and you can use them on your fridge.
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Vintage “Girl Scout” tin. Purchased at the Nashville Flea Market, this tin is both a great souvenir and a handy way to corral my pens. I love the badges!

  • Planters – Fill a tin with dirt and plant something that won’t require much water, like a succulent. Easy to grow and display.
  • Candles – Wax, wick, you’re good to go!
  • Jewelry – Difficult for beginners but if you know how to work with metal, small pieces of cut antique tin can inspire wonderful designs. Also a great use of otherwise very damaged and inexpensive tins.
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Large Potato Chip tin used to store bags of flour in my parent’s kitchen

  • Caddies – With a little effort, you can turn multiple tins into a tiered caddie for your office or craft room.
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Caddie (and instructions) via Better Homes and Gardens


Corbels and Trim – A corbel (also sometimes called a bracket) is the piece of wood, usually carved in a  decorative pattern, that sticks out and holds up the structure above it. Trim is simply any piece of wood that was once used to outline a piece of furniture or structure.

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Antique corbels used as book ends and mounted in the entrance-way of a kitchen. Images via HGTV

Trim is quite cheap but delicate antique corbels can be expensive. Reproductions are an option, but keep your eyes open and you may get lucky. Real old wood has a wonderful worn aesthetic that adds so much warmth to your space. This type of architectural detail is found at salvage shops and antique shows. As you can imagine, decorative pieces of wood are pretty all-purpose. Some popular ideas for antique corbels and trim include:

  • Shelves
  • Book Ends
  • Kitchen Counters & Cabinets – Mounted underneath counters and cabinets, corbels can add texture and nostalgia to modern kitchens.
  • Shelf Brackets – Either paired with antique trim or new wood, corbels likewise compliment shelves
  • Coat Hooks
Coat Hooks

My DIY antique trim coat hook. Still holding up our coats in style!

Architectural salvage has experienced a resurgence in popularity, so it’s a good idea to buy great pieces when you see them. I found the two vintage corbels below for only $60. I think I’m going to simply nail them to the wall and use them as shelves as is. Luckily I always have a few smalls that need displaying 😉

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I hope this encourages you to find spots for these charming old items in your home. Do you have any more ideas for using jars, tins or trim? Please share in the comments below!

The Ups and Downs of Buying Antiques

I am a big believer in everyone buying antiques and vintage, but sometimes I forget how intimidating it can be to make a purchase when you’re out of your comfort zone. I have my background growing up in the business, but that doesn’t mean I’m immune to uncertainty and faults in my own judgement. It can be scary so I thought it might help other new collectors if I shared a recent buying story. It turned out great in the end, but I went a little wacky before I found my happy place.

A few weeks ago Anson (my husband) and I went to the Sunday Antique Market in Toronto. It’s a large market with dealers set up inside and out. The packed area offers a great assortment of decorative and housewares items, jewelery, collectibles, art and small antique furniture. Anson and I had each happily bought small items and we were getting ready to leave when I spied a round bamboo shelf near the doors. My first reaction was to smile because the shelf looked to me like pure vintage Tiki. Round with asymmetrical platforms, sitting around 3 feet tall and 3 feet wide, it felt like something out of the 1960s or 70s. I could see it gracing a rec room along with a couch in a tropical print and a hifi stereo. This is what happens when you buy old stuff, by the way, your imagination takes over. Removed from a defined setting, antiques become curiosities in themselves, and you fill in the blanks (right or wrong) of the item’s story.

Anyway, to my surprise Anson was not opposed to checking out the shelf in more detail. So we went up and took a closer look. The price was $125. Hmm. Not an easy bit of cash to drop on something I wasn’t sure about. A man approached us and began to tell us about the piece. He told us the shelf was not from the mid 20th century, but much earlier. He though it was Victorian (late 1800s) and he made reference to the burnt finish as proof. He said the shelf was all notched construction without the use of nails. Finally, he lowered the price to $110. Now, all of a sudden, it was exciting to think we could own this marvelous piece. Victorian bamboo! Isn’t that really collectible? The rush of emotion was saying “I must have this” and it felt good. Looking at Anson, I could see he felt the same way. We paid the man, shook his hand, and carried the shelf to our car.

In the ten minutes it took to carry the shelf to the car I experienced my first taste of bitter suspicion. The shelf was solid, yes, but some of the bamboo was cracked. Why hadn’t I seen that? There were not nails but large screws helping hold the bottom construction together. And what about the style? I knew this looked a lot more 1960s than Victorian. Or did I know that? My mood crashed as I tried to reconcile what I was now suspecting with what I had believed only moments earlier. Was it even old? I did a Google search on my phone and found a warning about fake and newly made bamboo being sold as Victorian.

Had I been bamboozled?!

Even thinking of that pun could not lift my spirits! The money wasn’t even the point – my pride was hurt. I was certain the man who sold me the shelf thought he was telling us the truth. But was it the truth? The whole ride home I was voicing my concerns and bouncing between opinions. I decided the shelf was not new – it was too well made and the finish looked old. But questions remained. After much comforting Anson finally asked “do you still like it?”. Yes, I answered. “Then it’s worth it!” he said. Anson had a clarity I lacked. Yes, I did like it. Yes, I liked it even if it wasn’t Victorian. Yes. Okay.

When I got home I took a few photos and phoned my parents for some quick feedback. They liked the shelf although it was not really to their taste. They thought it probably wasn’t Victorian but maybe from the 1940s to coincide with that time’s heightened interest in “Oriental” design. I confirmed it was solid and not missing any pieces that I could see. Finally we agreed it was just my style and really, what can you buy nowadays with $100? They thought it was a good buy, Anson thought it was a good buy, and now I did too.

I put the shelf on an antique cupboard in our dining room and put some of my McCoy pottery on it. I had bought the piece specifically to display the pottery and I was happy to see it suited my vintage planters nicely. So in the space of a few hours the saga of the bamboo shelf had finally come to an end. In that time I had gone from the rush of love at first sight, to the lows of suspicion and fear, and then back up to contentment. Kind of a crazy amount of emotion for a shopping trip, but also probably normal for a less experienced buyer like me. I still don’t know for sure when the shelf was made, but that’s sometimes the reality of buying antiques. I know it’s well made, and most importantly I know I like it. Every buyer has to take a leap of faith sometimes (no one – buyer or seller – can be an expert on everything), but if you buy what you love you will not regret it.

Now to see what all the fuss was about! Here’s the shelf:

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Vintage McCoy – Yellow Planters

Happy Easter and Happy Spring! I love this time of year so I thought I’d share some of my cheerful Spring coloured vintage McCoy pottery. You may recall I already enthralled you with tales of my green planters and jardiniere. Well, now it’s time to introduce the yellow planters. Let’s get crazy with some vintage cuteness shall we? Check out this little guy:

McCoy Duck PlanterI originally intended to write this post with an Easter theme, and I think this adorable duck would have fit the bill perfectly (Oh that’s right. Pun intended). He’s not a bunny, but this duck’s baby animal quality, mixed with the egg and jaunty “Sunday best” ribbon just seem Easter themed to me. This planter was produced by McCoy in many colours over the 1940s. Many of the varieties had painted details on the face and ribbon, but I think my version was always just in one solid paint. It’s a charming little piece (around 7″ long) and still easily found in the $10 – $25 dollar range depending on condition.

On my birthday last week I was also the happy recipient of two more lovely yellow pieces. Here they are artistically photographed with a tulip:

Yellow McCoy PlantersThese beauties are classic planters in what is often referred to as the “tufted” or “quilt” pattern. They are from the 1940s / 1950s. I love these planters not only because they are attractive, but because they have attached bottoms for easy use (I promise I’ll put plants in them one day). One is two thirds the size of the other and I really like how the different sizes display as well.

I must mention that I had every intention of photographing my McCoy pottery out in the garden for a seasonal motif, but apparently Toronto weather did not get the memo about Spring. It’s literally below freezing and snowing today. Another photo shoot on the kitchen table it is then! At least I have a beautiful assortment of tulips to brighten a dreary day:

Tulips

Pretty. If you live in a place where Spring exists I envy you. For now I will just have to enjoy my sunny yellow planters and pretend. If you’re looking for more general information regarding McCoy Pottery, check out my earlier posts and another resource I found at VintageMcCoyPottery.com. There are so many types of McCoy pottery planters, and at so many prices, that they really are a fantastic way to bring vintage cheer into any home.

Yellow McCoy Planters

Repurposed Antique Trim Coat Hooks

This winter has been a long one in my neck of the woods. In an effort to use my free time for things other than watching TV in sweatpants, I’ve completed some good indoor home improvement projects. First, my amazing dad helped me paint the living room and hallway. We went with a lovely greyish green by Benjamin Moore – HC116 Guilford Green.  Then, in an effort to decorate the newly painted walls and add usefulness to the space, we built some nice coat hooks. Coat hooks you say? Yes, coat hooks!

Feel the excitement! On this, the first day of Spring, I thought I’d look back at a nifty little project the whole family helped complete. My mom and I started the design, my husband and dad did the heavy construction. Take a look at the result:

Coat Hooks

Now a closer look:

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And then, just to be crazy, an even closer look:

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I spent some time googling coat hooks in the days before we painted (truly, this is why the internet was invented). I wanted something vintage or antique – something unique. Antique coat racks were often too large or expensive. The solution? Make our own with salvaged wood! The piece of wood we used is roughly 100-year-old moulding – the type of trim that might have originally been found around a door frame. My dad sometimes comes across architectural details that he keeps to be repurposed when the need arises (for instance as garden decoration). Dad came to our house with a few choices, and we went with this one because of its greyish patina and graceful lines. Old wood can be found anywhere from sources on the internet (try googling “reclaimed wood”), to curb side garbage, thrift stores, lumber yards, and even Habitat for Humanity’s Restores. We cut the wood to size, then waxed it with regular Minwax paste finishing wax.

Once we had our piece of wood we had to find the perfect hooks. We needed strong, double hooks capable of holding up parkas. We found them at Anthropologie. Anthropologie is like Zooey Deschanel’s version of Restoration Hardware, if that makes any sense. It’s pricey, but you can find lovely unusual and vintage styled items. They have a great selection of knobs, hooks and door knockers. These hooks cost $12 each and I really liked their porcelain tops and slightly distressed metal.

Once the wood and hooks were found, it was a simple matter of putting it all together. We measured the hook placement, screwed the hooks into the wood (we used drywall screws because they were the only black screws we could find), and then screwed the wood into studs in our wall. Ta da! A super simple project with beautiful results.

We also put my grandmother’s vintage mirror up in our hallway, so now you can put your coat on and see what you look like before you leave the door:

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If you are looking to add style to your coat hooks, I highly recommend repurposing some antique wood. If you’re going for a rustic look this could include trim, barn boards, even drift wood. Reclaimed doors or window frames can be really nice too. Be creative – your hooks can match or be completely different for an eclectic style. The two most important considerations will be strength of the wood and strength of the hooks. Really old wood might be too brittle to secure your screws, and really thin wood will not support much weight. Take a careful look at the piece of wood and figure out what shape of hooks you will need and where you can place them. Our hooks, for instance, had to be horizontally secured to the wood and needed enough space to clear the shape of the ledge on top.

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In the end, it’s not rocket science but it can be very rewarding to give the humble coat hook an upgrade with reclaimed lumber. You will be recycling a piece of wood (and maybe hooks), giving your home character, and making something unique. All that and it keeps your coats off the floor?! Winner all around.

Looking for more coat hooks? These creative people have some wonderful DIY ideas:
Grandma’s Headboard Shelf
Chalkboard Half Door with Hooks
Scrap Wood Wall Hooks

Vintage “Easy Steps To Successful Decorating” Book

Yesterday I visited a favorite nearby thrift store. Past trips have yielded a lovely French vintage tea towel and a nice green McCoy pottery planter. This time my eye spied a decorating book with a tattered but intriguing cover. For a laugh I picked it up. After one minute of flipping pages I went from “this is a crazy thing” to “I MUST OWN THIS”.

The book is “Easy Steps to Successful Decorating” by Barbara Taylor Bradford. Yes, the best selling novelist Barbara Taylor Bradford, of A Woman of Substance fame. Before she wrote The Emma Harte Saga she was apparently an expert on interior design. She is quite lovely and well composed on the cover as you can see:

"Easy Steps to Successful Decorating" book cover (1971)

Nothing says “trust me to drape your room in fabric” like the old hand on chin pose. The book was published in 1971 and while that misses the clean looks of mid century modern, it does fit exactly into the swinging, psychedelic remnants of the late 1960s. There was just so much going on in design during this time. Nothing was too much and everything could be paisley.

If you dream of living like Austin Powers I cannot express how much you need to own this book. It is full of  practical advice on everything from choosing floor coverings, to wallpapers, to room plans that help you place your glass coffee tables and giant wicker chairs. There are numerous black and white, as well as full (and I mean FULL) colour photographs. Ms Bradford writes well (as you would expect from her success) and true to the book’s byline she explains all the details to achieve similar looks.

Let’s take a gander at some of the photographs shall we? If you feel like tripping out at any point just look away from your monitor until you calm down.

Yellow and White wallpapered Bedroom 1971

This is a bedroom. For sleeping. If you manage to even find your bed you will be in a position to stare up at the odd concentric rectangles. Sweet dreams!

White carpeted 1971 Kitchen

This is how I know people did drugs in the 60s – they put carpeting in the kitchen. Carpeting that looked like ferns. Grab a bowl of fruit from your tiny round island that features and even tinier round sink. Water your many plants. Can you possibly fit more lattice work into your ceiling?

Groovy Living Room with stripes (1971)

The sofa in this photograph is easy prey for stronger furniture. It must blend into its surroundings to survive. It distracts you from itself with zebra print pillows and short tables that are hard to reach from a seated position.

Green and Orange Retro Living Room (1971)

I think this is a living room but it also has a dining room feel. Lots of seating options (none of them comfortable). I am actually quite enamored with that cheetah statue, and the combination of green, gold and brown reminds me of my Vernonware dishes.

Far out Vintage Living room with tented ceiling (1971)

I get a Roman Emporer by way of Liberace vibe from this room and it is MAGNIFICENT. Everything in this room is crazy. There is no sane. Sanity cannot exist in the space that uses tenting as wall cover.

By this point I hope some of you are saying  “but what about the children?” Oh don’t worry. The kids were not left out of the design ideas. They have their own section of the book which features amazing examples like this:

1971 Child's bedroom

Imagine if your child was hyperactive before they went into their room to play.

"Teenage Haven" Bedroom from 1971

This is described as a “teenage haven”. It is not an adult film set. Do not be fooled by the sunken living room area or the fake chinchilla bed spreads. Is that an ash tray on the table? Yeah. Nothing inappropriate will happen here.

So there is a lot more to this book but you get the idea. It’s choke full of the crazy, or the retro vintage goodness (depending on your tastes). While I may not typically go for the geometric, eye confusing prints of 40 years ago, I will say that some of them beat the heck out of beige. And I will be keeping an eye out for one of those large plaster cheetahs. That cat would look so groovy in my living room.

Antiques in the Garden – Part 2

Wow. Over three weeks have gone by since my last post! One of the reasons I haven’t posted about antiques in the garden is because I’ve been too busy spending time planting in my garden. That’s ironic or something. Check out my first peony of the season. This was taken a week ago and the whole plant is flowering now:

Peony in bloom

Between the garden, working, spring cleaning and a super fun cracked molar incident, I haven’t been blogging nearly as much as I should. I’ll try to turn that around with this installment of Antiques in the Garden. If you haven’t already, you might want to check out Part 1 for more ideas on how to use antiques & vintage items in your outdoor space.

First upon our return to my parents’ garden is this lovely large stone bowl. This is actually a crucible used for melting glass. It was the years of use that gave the inside of this object its complex blend of colour. It’s hard to see here but the bottom of the crucible has layers of dark green and brown glass. My mom usually keeps some water in the crucible and uses it to house a few floating plants and flowers:

Crucible for Glass

Near the crucible are these two giant iron wrenches (you can see how tall they are compared to the normal shovel leaning next to them). These are a bit of a mystery, but the most popular idea is that they were used on steam locomotives. I guess the wheels on those giant trains required some pretty serious torque!

Big Wrenches

The next object is near and dear to my heart because it reminds me of trips to Biarritz France, near where my mother grew up. It is a segment of antique concrete fence in the form of branches. This object was actually made by the same artisan who crafted some of the similar fence work still found on the beachfront in Biarritz. It was made by a process called sand casting. The process began by first creating the shapes by pressing real branches into sand. Then the wood was removed, wires were added for stability, and concrete was poured into the sand molds. Texture details were added before the concrete hardened. Sand casting is often used in foundries for metal but it also has a long history with concrete. Here is the fence in my parents’ garden:

Concrete Fence

And just to compare here’s a photo I took of the fence in Biarritz. This particular section of fence is probably quite recent, as they replace segments as needed, but many parts are still vintage to at least the 1950s:

Fence in Biarritz, France

What an elegant and whimsical way to add texture to your garden, don’t you think? Here are a few more nice antique and vintage pieces I found around the grounds:

Tin Star

Iron Finial

Iron Post

Now, for the big exciting finale, I’m going to show you the famous President Taft doors:

Shuttered Doors

I love the little duck silhouettes!

Please don’t crowd – there’s room for everyone. Okay, so the story is these green shuttered beauties were once part of a cabin nestled into the scenic countryside of rural Quebec. The cabin was a summer-house for none other than 27th President of the United States William Howard Taft. In the 1990s the cabin was renovated or torn down, and my parents were able to buy these doors on one of their many picking trips to Quebec. They now mark the entry to the compost pile which is admittedly not the most noble of places but makes them very useful nonetheless.

Almost too much excitement for one garden tour right? Oh but there’s more. Not only did my parents get the doors, they also bought an entire small shed from the Taft property. EDIT: Turns out I was wrong! My dad left a comment to explain the origins of the shed. Here is his quote: “I have to clarify that the small Taft “shed” you  illustrate is actually something I made from four Taft shutters (presumable from the same guest house as same color and construction) and a tin shingled top of some birdhouse or something,  Bought on a different trip to Quebec.  I noticed one day that the shutters where the same width as the top sides, and I had a screw gun in my hands so I put it together.  People have had many interesting theories about its use. Ventilated out house, smoke house, threshold to another dimension. It’s good to have theories.” Thanks dad! That’s actually a much more interesting origin story for this unusual piece:

Shed

How about them apples? How bout them somewhat historically interesting apples? And yes, while there is no official certification to prove the President Taft story, my dad says it’s true so that’s good enough for me. Even if it wasn’t true and those Quebec dealers used the pure unadulterated excitement of President Taft to sell these things, they would still be worth the purchase. They are lovely antique objects that are durable, decorative, and still very useful in the garden.

You may now return from the edge of your seats. The garden tour is over! Thanks for coming along and I hope you enjoyed it!

Antiques in the Garden – Part 1

The weather is warming up and that means I’m starting to think about the garden. Even though we have a small space I find it very satisfying to dig in the dirt. I’m a pretty easy-going gardener. If something works, great. If not, oh well. Dig it out and try something else. I educate myself through the internet and books here and there, but my most important go-to expert is my mother. She’s an amazing gardener and with the help of my dad she cultivates a number of vegetable and flower gardens. My mom’s advice for the novice gardener is pretty straight forward: It takes five years to establish a perennial garden, so patience is key. Plant a mix of foliage, colours and heights to create interest. Most of all, enjoy the process and understand that gardens change so trying to create a static “perfect” garden is silly and frustrating. It’s one of those journey and not the destination things.

Gardening is quite the popular hobby these days, and along with it the desire to create outdoor “rooms”. Gliding chairs, sectional sofas, fire pits, elegant lighting and even rugs are now common elements in the outdoor living space. As we attempt to include more decoration in our outdoors, antiques find a new home. Many antiques are durable enough to grace the outdoors year round, especially industrial or architectural pieces. I looked around my parent’s garden and found many antiques that work perfectly amidst the flowers. I took a lot of pictures so I’m going to break it up into two blog posts.

The first item I noticed in the garden was this vintage plant stand made out of chain. The paint is wearing off, which I quite like, but you could easily spray paint a metal object like this if you wanted. I love the idea of using a plant stand for a birdhouse too. This stand creates a nice tall focal point in the middle of the yard:

Near the plant stand are two large concrete urns or planters. These are from the Victorian period, and I love the classic shape and weathering on them.  They look softer because of their age. A nice thing about planters is that you can change the plants inside them whenever you wish to suit the season.

Another item in the antique concrete category are the two balls that sit near the entrance of the garden. I think the moss and speckled surface of the concrete is quite lovely. These may have perched on the top of a stone fence at one time, perhaps flanking the gate to a grand estate.

These items are wonderful but they take up ground space. What if you are like me and have to make every inch count? Well, you can still use antique items on the walls of your outdoor space. Check out what I found on the back fence:

It’s a piece of gingerbread trim from a house. When old houses are renovated or torn down, architectural elements like this are sometimes thrown out. Thankfully there are many people who salvage these items and repurpose them. In this case, trim that decorated a house for a hundred years finds an excellent second life as a backdrop in the garden.

Along another section of the fence, I found these two antique grates. These durable cast iron beauties were probably used over heating vents.

Finally, this selection of interesting shapes were mounted on the storage shed. The wooden rectangular piece is another architectural remnant, perhaps from a house but I’m not sure. The wooden “X’s are even more mysterious! I had to ask my dad what they were. Any guesses? They’re used in fishing to wind up the nets. I think originally there were rods in each arm (you can see the little holes), connecting two “X” pieces together, and the net would wind up between them. I searched for more information or images of these things but without luck. If you know anything please share because I’m curious!

So that does it for part one! I love my parent’s garden and there’s so much to see. The next part of the tour will feature giant locomotive wrenches and a set of doors that may have once belonged to former US President Taft. I’ll post that soon. Until then, I have some weeding to do 🙂 Enjoy the weather!