I’ve decided to make this a Thing, a Thrifting Thing. So this will be an ongoing post.
Background:I’m determined to replace the builder grade nipple lights that the rehabbers stuck into this 1947 cottage. I love getting a good deal, appreciate a little sparkle, and think great lighting is necessary. Can the cottage be brightened and lightened with seriously cheap thrifted lights?
I hope so. Now the hunt is on to do exactly that. $10 for light fixtures seems like a good, reach number. Not easy, but with luck and persistence, doable.
Two main challenges:
Flush mount is just about all that works. This Minnipin house has low (about 7.5′) ceilings. Anything that goes up can’t be too big.
Score two: Vintage welcoming pineapple-look light for front entryway, $10, plant and moving sale. Just short enough for the door to clear it. Just.
Score three: Outdoor wrought-iron chandelier, $10, garage sale. $2 for hanging links. So this one went over budget if you count the chain needed to hang it from the branch. While I don’t use candles on it to light the table too often (it gets dark late here), I love the sense of presence it gives the dining area. Also, it sort of bounces with the branch in a high wind. In everyday life, now I get to see my beloved little quartz eggs whenever I go outside.
At the holiday my dear Diane gave me Natural Curiosities, a 12 poster 2015 calendar of prints by Ernst Haeckel. She knows I love those Victorian era biological illustrations. They’re so passionate and meticulous at the same time. This set was particularly nice, published on card stock by the Library of Congress. Beautiful jellyfish, octopi and more.
My intentions started out with self discipline. I would patiently wait each month for the new illustration. At the end of this year, I’d do something beautiful with the illustrations. Didn’t make it. These babies were just too tempting and I was feeling project twitch mightily. I told myself it made sense to do something with them now, to avoid them getting dinged, as things always seem to, by the Mints. Respect, Diane. That’s what I was feeling for you!
From last year’s holiday project of jewelry organizers, I had a bunch of picture frame backs. Varying sizes. Perfect!
For my gallery wall, I had six matching ones so I positioned six of the prints on each backer board. A box knife made a nice clean cut against the backer board. Next it was simply a matter of spray adhesive and I had wall art ready to go.
I was able to keep the titles of these six favorites, discarding the calendar part. That was ideal because the Latin / German titles are almost as interesting as the prints. My guest room gallery wall:
Another reason I love this wall is I stenciled it, Country Cotton white over the a creamy / tan color from some found-in-the-basement paint (No Spend Spring hard at work). It’s a imprecise stencil over fairly rough walls. I wanted a subtle, pretty look.
Now I love it even more. There’s something so delicious about the delicacy of the Haeckel prints against the traditional damask shape from the stencil. Maybe it’s that thing about the echoing of nature in all art shapes.
I also mounted the rest of the prints on smaller backer boards. These are strewn about the house more informally, kind of a nice little surprise around every corner. I can’t stop looking at them. So glad I get to enjoy them far beyond a simple month’s display!
What do you think? Have you turned a calendar into more permanent art? Success or failure?
Not ornate, this is one of my few brand new purchases. The need was for a tiny, functional entryway mirror. 2.50 at Michael’s with coupon.
Got this at an estate sale. Beat up wood. Silver spray paint adds a little light and fun for the guest room. $5.
Garage sale find. Was thinking of painting over the 90s maple veneer but I’m thinking it’s got a nice, light warmth to it that’s right to help warm up the basement bedroom. This might be one where my only upgrade was to clean it. Note the little built in shelf, which I think can be a good charging station for guests. $5.
What are your rules for buying mirrors? Should I paint up this last one?
Last year I found a couple of coffee sack banners at a garage sale, two for $5. This was a better deal than the $15 you usually see and I liked the colors. I also liked the text on the sacks: Costa Rica for one and a portion of my name on the other.
I thought of using them for a rustic roman shade but that didn’t really work for the pretty little egg house. The burlap was too rough for indoor pillows so outdoor pillows it would be, ideally something flat for the outdoor bench.
No Spend Spring came around and with it, that twitch to get the outdoor living spaces in shape. I had the material for the covers, but nothing for the guts.
One day I was cursing myself for dropping $20 on an ugly lounge chair cushion. At the time it was “good enough” and $20 didn’t seem that much. Now I was stuck with the cushion and would rather have had the $20 back. (Yup, there’s yet another lesson in wise spending.) I’d tried painting it with some latex and fabric medium but it just stayed ugly. Its two virtues were its waterproofness and relatively flat shape.
Lightbulb moment! Could it be reused to serve as the guts for one of the coffee sack pillows? I tried stuffing one with it and it was just too long. Hmm. Back to hating it unless . . . hacking it in two at one of the seams would right size it and give me two cushions. The cut would compromise the waterproof aspect, but not too much. Plus I’d never have to look at the hideous old cushion again.
Found the scissors, hauled out the sewing machine. Fifteen minutes and two seams later . . .
But now there’s this question: should I leave the bench in natural pine and just seal it? Or SharkSkin it black or blue?
And back on topic, what have you done with coffee sacks?
I’m learning to thrift. That means evolving the way I think about value and need. It also means honing the ability to see good bones in pieces.
There’s a basement in this silly little egg house. It’s not naturally pretty so I’m on a mission to make it a warmer, more inviting space to be in. One item on my shopping list was inexpensive small mirrors with a little character. The goal: add interest, warmth, light.
I spotted this mirror at the same estate sale where I scored my barn door pulleys. Marked at $10, it just wasn’t the amazing find that the pulleys were so I reluctantly put it back.
It did have a 70s vibe I didn’t love with rustic wood and a primitive etched wood design. I did love the pretty edges, and was intrigued by the cutout that could be used as a candle holder.
Many estate sales here do a half-off final day of sale and this one was no exception. I trotted back on the Sunday to see if the black hose I wanted was still there (nope), and saw that the mirror still was.
At $5 now, it was right priced for a little project.
This little guy sits on the wall between the basement guest room and the cat room. My hope is that the scented candle in my favorite scent (Volcano), will help manage the occasional cat odor that gets past the closed door. It’s a spark of cheery red against the pale yellow of the basement walls.
What do you think? What’s the right price for a thrifted mirror? What would you do differently?
On my wish list was a better chair for my front door landing strip. I love the chair my grandfather made but it has arms. That means that whenever I’d sit in that spot to put on shoes, I’d bang my elbows. Plus it’s old and creaky, not as sturdy as one would like for regular use. So on my wish list has been the right chair to put in the landing strip, one that could also be pulled to the dining table when extra seating was needed.
No Spend Spring meant that this item would probably be on the wish list for awhile until . . . my friend Johanna moved gave me her old sewing chair!
It was pretty for where she had it but not right for my use.
I’ve got pink accents in my living room, anchored by a grey sofa and white chairs. There’s other color as well so I try to restrict the palette on the furniture. My ideal makeover would be to paint this new chair white and upholster it with this fun fabric from Waverly called Lotus Lake Blossom
I love the grumpy looking koi.
Fabric.com discounts the SRP of $23.99 a yard to $17.99 plus shipping. I really only needed 1/2-3/4 yard but No Spend Spring means even that was out of reach.
I rummaged in the leftover fabric stash and pulled out a remnant from my ottoman slipcover. Went into the paint pile and found a quart of muddy grey sample paint. Pulled out the calcium carbonate and mixed up a small batch of chalk paint. Sanded, painted, waxed, stapled and ended up with this.
All done! The gray, which makes the chair disappear against the sofa was the paint color on hand that worked best with this fabric remnant.
There’s a part of me that’s still yearning to do something great with that wonderful Waverly Lotus Lake Blossom fabric. I console myself by remembering that the Mints eventually ruin all upholstery. Someday I’ll have the excuse to cover it anew with Lotus Lake.
What do you think? Does it generally works okay where it is? Should I save my pennies for Lotus Lake Blossom and/or go creamy white on the chair? Or is that too much contrast? Is it necessary to get the giant potato dog in every picture?
As always, thanks for taking a look. And thanks Johanna!
Phase One: The builder’s grade nipple light needed to go. It would be fine in many settings but in this house, with such low ceilings, the dark light just drew attention to the lowness of the ceiling and smallness of the room. Brightness wasn’t the first priority since the room also has table lamps for task lighting. But I wanted just a little prettiness, a little bling.
One habit I’m trying to form is to duck into the ReStore every time I hit the library since they’re in the same strip mall. And it paid off!
I found this pretty little crystal chandelier for $10!
What do you think? I love its prettiness and the spears of light that it throws when on. Have you ever had a great thrift lighting find?
Black or dark grey garden hoses: I want them to disappear against the house but this house did come with a couple ugly bright green ones. Note: have tried spray painting one, we’ll see if it makes it through a whole season . . .
Barn door wheels, or barn door kit. Update: Found it!!!! $20 for two 1915 pulleys at an estate sale. Now it’s time to get that door hung: DIY Sliding Barn Door Hardware.
Folding luggage rack for guests: got cats, guest suitcases need to be off the ground. Amazon has one new for $20-$25. Update: Found it at the Youth Ranch thrift store for $4.
Gentleman’s Butler: I want a place to toss my clothes that I’ll probably wear again tomorrow. Don’t want it in the closet with the truly clean clothes. For now, maybe forever I’ll use the rickety but pretty chair Grandpa built. Love the valet idea but the chair is probably more functional. Will use that until . . .
Outdoor rocker: want, not a need, already have seating, this is to charm up the yard
Better lighting for guest room. Currently a builder grade nipple light, which makes the ceiling look lower. Found at the ReStore for $10! Vintage chandelier
One nice thing about this 1947 cottage is the garage has two entrances, one of which was a cool looking — and working — sliding barn door. But the other door? A beat up old steel door that couldn’t actually close — and, because it was steel, couldn’t be trimmed to properly close. It also didn’t take paint too well.
Because the back of the house faces the detached garage, I look at those two doors ALL the time. I tried sprucing up the view with outdoor furnishings and the like but since the bad door had to be propped open, you basically could always see inside the garage. Just not pretty.
One day I decided to poke around in the garage rafters in a hunt for some free lumber (I dwell in hope). Many cobwebs and displaced spiders later I discovered a door that matched my existing slider! Eureka! This beauty had obviously once possessed the exact hardware the existing door has but the old kit was nowhere to be found. And so the plot hatched: restore the dual sliders.
In my naivete, I assumed that sliding door hardware would be slightly more pricey than regular door mounting hardware. Oops.
Reality set in: sliding door kits that would allow me to remount the old door and sorta match the current one were not cheap. The stuff from various vendors was pretty. Yet everything I could find was totally out of my $50 allocated for this project, around $150-$350 for a quality outdoor slider kit.
Next step: read a bunch of DIY posts. There were many where folks bought full kits and installed those. These were fun to see yet mostly for inside sliders and out of my want-not-need budget.
Mostly the posts were about building custom or refreshing vintage doors. Great ideas but already I had the door. I needed to get that bad boy up without spending more than $50. Also, this project required outdoor quality hardware whereas a lot of the pretty hardware kits were for inside use. The most useful two posts from searching on “DIY barn door hardware” were:
Addicted 2 Decorating had a GREAT parts list and picture to go with it, which got me looking at plumbing materials and brought the project in around an impressive $60. For my outdoor use though, bottom-mount wheels weren’t going to work on my bumpy, often cluttered surface. I needed a top hanging solution. But I would totally use their plans inside.
Design the Life You Want to Liveuses pretty custom made wood wheels, which they also sell. More than I wanted to spend with this project but if I were doing an inside project, would be worth considering.
Fast forward five months, which means about 60+ yard and estate sales visited with my dream finds list hovering in the back of my mind. And then, at this one estate sale in the garden tools pile, I looked over and saw:
For $20, my wheel problem might be solved. With the rustic look, I thought they’d go okay with the cottage exterior, even though my two doors would not be matchy matchy. And I loved that they came from an old local home.
Next it was time to assemble the the rest of the hanging kit. Top of the list would be to find some kind of plate I could add to the door that could handle the fat hooks and be tough enough.
For once I did what you’re always supposed to do and rummaged around my nearby ReStore for something that might work. In the framing hardware area, I stumbled on two long, sturdy metal slats(?) with big holes punched in them. They’re used for something in construction – another customer in the checkout line said they’d be priced at $45 each new. So big, they were definitely overkill for my project but I couldn’t beat the price: $5 for two. And I just loved that feeling of thrifty re-purposing.
Next, it was time to paint the new old door using leftover accent paint from my DIY house painting job.
And once that was done, it was time to measure the door, the opening and the wall space I had to work with. Next I went to see the knowledgeable guys at the nearby True Value. I had the shopping list from Addicted 2 Decorating and walked out of there with:
Two galvanized iron floor flanges (1/2″),
Two four-inch nipples (1/2″)
Two elbows (1/2″)
One 8′ conduit pipe (1/2″), custom cut and threaded (I learned that means they put the little grooves in the ends).
Now it was time to measure, measure and remeasure. It turned out I made the pipe too long so I had to trek back to the store and get it cut and re-threaded. This added another $1.30 to the project, a super bargain. (Yes, I was ready to buy a whole new conduit pipe. I am that ignorant.) Then, I had to make sure that the rail mounting height would be high enough to handle my pulleys, the door hardware and the door itself.
Next I mounted the pipe/rail, which was the trickiest part of the project after all the measuring. Here’s why: 1) I wanted to do the whole thing all by myself. Having a second person would have made it easier since there was a lot of weight to balance during the install but this adventure is mostly about doing stuff on my own. So I used my painting ladder to prop up the rail wherever I needed a second pair of hands. 2) The guys at the store told me to expect the rail to bow a little. If my pulleys/wheels were normal weight, it would not be a problem but the vintage pulleys were really heavy — about 20-30lbs each. So no matter how level I managed to make it, it wouldn’t look perfect. (The guys at the store nixed my brilliant idea of strengthening the conduit by inserting some rebar: said it wouldn’t help with the sag.) Still, I told myself, one step at a time and all that.
After that, I screwed in the second elbow. Next, I installed the second flange. While I’d marked it off at 7′, I had to be prepared to adjust the length slightly because the elbows, nipples and conduit screwed in altogether ended up with a slightly different length. Once elbow #2 was in, I could tell where the second flange should go. Last, I screwed the second nipple into the flange and elbow at the same time. I wasn’t really sure how or if that would work but somehow it did.
Now it was time to test the mystery door hanger part on the pulleys. As you can see, once there’s weight on the hook, it flips the pulley so it rides on top of the conduit.
After that, I propped the door up under the pulleys to make sure the measurements still worked and the door would hang level.
I attached the door in place. This is probably not the best way to do it however, I was working solo and it was all getting very, very heavy. I just didn’t trust my back to hold up to trying to raise up and hang the door on the hooks the door once the hanging hardware was mounted. Guess this is another spot where a second pair of hands could have helped. Still, according to my level, that door got installed level. Still, you’ll see from the conduit sag that it’s not perfectly level. Most important: finally it was in!
I was pretty excited and relieved at this point. I took a big step back and . . .
It did not look fabulous. The functionality, yes, it worked. But my cool vintage pulleys seemed lost next to the too shiny silver hanging slats. I’m not a fan of painting hardware but in this case . . . my friend Kate agreed. I thought about just scuffing the slats to take out the shine but they’d still be vast. Time to whip out the spray paint.
So that’s it!
I love it! It hides the ugly stuff inside the garage, opens easily, stays where ever I put it and is fun to look at. Also in this last photo, I’ve added a door pull (for convenience, looks) and a stay roller on the bottom (for stability, to keep the bottom of the door against the garage).
Looking back/better next time:
The main three things I did right were:
rummage in the rafters to find a free door
look for online advice
stayed open to alternatives for conventional sliding door wheels
If I had the scratch — and someday I might — the one thing I’d do differently is talk to a metal fabricator (or blacksmith?) about getting a sturdy replacement for the conduit, which does sag under the weight of the heavy pulleys. Maybe over time it will bother me that the two doors don’t have matching hardware and I’ll redo the whole thing with a pre-made kit. But right now I’m really happy with it. I got the functionality I want and the whole thing was really pretty fun.
I did overspend against the $50 budget. Percentage-wise, by a lot, 22%. In dollars, less than $15.
Project costs summary:
Door: $0, found in garage rafters
Paint: $0, leftover from house painting
Wood screws for hardware mounting: $0, leftover
Two vintage roller/pulleys: $20, ($10 each), estate sale
Two 4″ nipples: $3.18, ($1.59 each), True Value Hardware
Two elbows: $1.98, ($0.99 each), True Value Hardware
Two floor flanges: $4.98 ($2.49 each), True Value Hardware
1/2″ conduit plumbing pipe cut to 8′ length: $13.75
Re-cut and re-thread pipe to 7′ length: $1.30
Two re-purposed door hanging hardware metal things: $5 ($2.50 each), ReStore/Habitat for Humanity
Stay roller, $7.99, Mintcraft through Amazon
6.5″ door pull, $6.17, National Hardware through Amazon
Black spray paint, $0, leftover from another project
Total project cash outlay: $64.35
So, I went $14.35 over my project goal — more than 22%, urg. With better measuring I could have saved $1.30. Also, I could have skipped the door pull ($6.17) –or gotten a smaller one– and not bothered with a stay roller ($7.99). All of that would have brought the project in at $48.89. Yet still, in real dollars, that $64 is not a lot.
Would you ever try this project this way? I get that my vintage pulleys at $10 each were a real find but a quick search on eBay for pulley shows that they are out there and available (I’ve seen several that could be used the same way listed at $9.99).
One note: if you’re thinking of sliders outside, know generally these aren’t going to be tight fitting the way a normal door would be. That works for me because I wanted doors that would hide the garage mess and block things blowing in when closed. But in the high desert, dry climate here, air tight isn’t a necessity. For locking, you can add a simple latch and use a lock as shown on my pre-existing slider.
Feedback? What would you have done differently? Have you done a DIY barn door? Outside or in? Regrets or gloats? I’d love to hear it all.