Decorating home, one element at a time.

Category Archives: Quick Cobbles

Mein Gott! How long has it been?

No, Rachel and I did not pass away. And no, we haven’t stopped decorating. What has happened, you ask?

Well: after 9 months as a SAHM, I, Jackie, needed to get back to the workforce. So I got a job and I’ve been work-forcin’ since mid September doing that other thing I love: writing.

And Rachel…well, I’ll let Rachel tell you for herself here what’s been consuming all of her energy. I’ve got to say that I understand completely, as just over a year ago I scribed this piece about my own experience.

But all that aside because now it’s time to freaking decorate something. Or at least talk about a means of decorating that is often overlooked by the novice (or even experienced) decorator: the thrift store.

I think my favorite thing about Goodwill and the Salvation Army is, if I ever see any knick-knacky thing that strikes my fancy, I snatch it up and buy it without more than half a second’s thought because it’s THAT CHEAP. So I’ll often buy random object I’m simply drawn to, even if I don’t have a particular plan in mind for them. This is half of the fun of being a thrift store shopper, and half the reward, too. While the ‘impulse buy’ certainly exists within the walls of the thrift store, it hardly carries half of the weight it does in other locations. So after completely avoiding Black Friday Madness (ew), I hit the thrift on Saturday to see if I could make my own marvelous retail adventure.

Here are the results!

Picked this baby up for $2.99. Initially I was thinking, oh man, sweet place for a plant. Or maybe a chic garbage can? Oh the possibilities.

And then…

Check this baby out! The moment I saw it, I was entranced. And for a cool $20, I decided this one was worth jumping on–I’m always on the lookout for distinctive pieces.

The specs: the shelf/cabinet is solid wood, and it has a label on the back that indicates it was made in Franklin, IN. As a resident of Indiana, I love me a made-in-Indiana piece. I figure the shelf is 50+ years old, making it awesome.

What next for this piece? Probably a coat of paint. When I asked my husband what color, he said, “Paint that s*@% gold!”

You got it, honey. I’m scouting some vintagey hued gold tones to freshen this baby up. Updates soon!

And while you wait for me, hit the thrift stores near you and tell us all about your cheap, unique finds. I can’t wait.


Aw. That’s such a Pollyanna post title. Doesn’t sound much like everyday-Jackie, but there’s something about decorating that makes me wax optimistic. Maybe it’s because I get so darn attached to every decor purchase I make or project I complete. Or maybe it’s because I’m so dang CHEAP I can’t stand the heartbreak that comes when something I’ve put money into doesn’t work out. Or is destroyed, at least in part, as is the case in the two examples I offer here.

Exhibit A, Before: A salvaged window that I painted yellow and green for hanging in my living room.

Exhibit A, After: Sigh. Gravity. Perhaps an ill-timed rumble of an 18-wheeler down Indianapolis’ US-40. We’ll never know for sure.

Exhibit B, Before: A lovely red lamp my mum bought for me at Midland Arts and Antiques downtown.

Exhibit B, After: Sadly, there is no photo of what happened when my son knocked the lamp on the floor and shattered the shade, because I was too busy weeping in the chair to take one, and my husband was too concerned with making sure no feet-shredding glass remained on the floor to create a photo-journalistic record of the event.

So, here we have two decor items very much liked but no longer usable in their original conditions. The window’s glass is all gone. The red lamp’s lovely shade is smashed to bits. Time to chuck the items and move on, right?


So my husband and I stashed the shadeless lamp and the glassless window in the basement until such time as they would be needed to decorate again. And that time DID come, rather recently in fact, and here are our two repurposed disasters today:

The salvaged window, along with the [somehow also glassless] transom window we removed from our kitchen during its remodel now provide a geometric visual over our dining room desk area. And the lamp (on the right and in closeup) is completely revitalized with a coat of gray spray paint and a new shade I picked up for $5 at Midland. All that I needed to do to find the perfect new shade was 1) measure the diameter of the opening where the shade sits and 2) keep my eyes open each time I was in an antique/thrift/etc. establishment.

Lesson: Broken doesn’t have to mean over. (Thank goodness, or I’d still be crying over that lamp.) If you’ve got the room and love the item that’s damaged, hang on to it and see if you can’t bring it back to life in a new way. I might even like our second-time-around versions of each of these items a bit more than the first!

Jackie here. Although it’s only just 50 degrees here in Indy today, spring has come to us over the past couple of weeks, and my perennials are out in full force. Every time I walk up to my house, or drive through my neighborhood, I’m blow away by how marvelous plants and flowers look: they’re always coordinated, no matter the plants; and even the overgrown or slightly ramshackle have qualities of free-spirited loveliness.

I have a bit of a crush on plants and flowers.

What can the natural world teach us about decorating? Probably everything, but today’s thought regards color (I know, I know, we talk about color a lot, but much decorating is made or broken on the color-front, so I feel the time is warranted).

One quick thought: flowers tend to be bright, but I often notice people decorating in more muted palettes, and I wonder about this. If we love bright flowers, shouldn’t we make room in our decorating palettes for a bright color or two? Note the marvelous way brights can play off of more muted plant greens and dirt browns and mulch tans and gray rocks.

And speaking of all those plants and woods and rocks…natural elements make great decorating accessories. Rachel and I are both fond of a well-chosen rock or stick brought indoors…I have two sticks in pots in my house and always musing how I might get my husband to let me bring more in. (More on decorating with the aesthetic of a three-year-old boy later.)

Time to shut up and take note of nature. Here are a few shots from around my house and neighborhood. If you hold your cursor over each pic, I’ve ‘labeled’ the colors I see in the picture. Pay attention to not only obvious colors—flowers and plants—but also to ‘background’ colors like rocks, sidewalks, branches, etc. Click to enlarge shots!

It’s remarkable to me, Jackie, how much money plain/ugly/boring/ill-fitting window treatments can cost. Not that there aren’t fantastic curtains available on the mass market, but those generally cost a stack o’ skrilla too. Or they’re hard to find, and hard to find takes time, and we don’t have time cuz this is a Quick Cobble. So let’s get to it.

For kitchens and bathrooms (err…gauge privacy concerns before making final window treatment decisions in bathrooms), I can’t recommend the cafe curtain more highly than I am about to. Hurrah for the cafe curtain! Most times, our windows don’t need a ton fabric/privacy/jazzing up to be awesome, so a half-window worth of covering will address both needs of practicality and style.

And one fantastic way to make cafe curtains is to seek out an already-made, already-fabulous hunk of  fabric: a cloth napkin, particularly vintage cloth napkins. Why cloth napkins? They’re the right size, they’re interesting, they’re cheap, they’re easily acquirable, shall I go on raving all day…. I’ve seen bunches of fantastic cloth napkins for very little cash at such places as Midland Arts and Antiques here in Indy, or online at Etsy. Places like Goodwill or the Salvation Army, or antiques stores as yet unplumbed could also be excellent places to look for vintage napkins in your area.

Once you’ve got a set of cloth napkins you love that’ll work in your room, here’s the how-to on the transformation:

1. Acquire, for several dollars, two sets of curtain rings.

2. Acquire, for several dollars, a cafe curtain rod (I’d recommend matching your curtain rod to your curtain rings.) This does not have to be fancy to look nice—we have a slightly fancier one in our kitchen only because it was on sale. In other rooms where I’ve used cafe curtains, I’ve opted for a plain silver rod.

3. Once home, clip the curtain rings onto the top of the napkins and slid on to the curtain rod.

4. Hold up to the window-in-question and figure out where you need to place the brackets for your curtain rod to have your cafe curtains brush the top of the sill.

5. Hang curtain rod in place determined by step 4.

6. Hang curtains.

7. Revel in how chic, unique and thrifty you are. Tell no one of the ease.

Okay, I fail at step 7, but I did the rest all right, to this result:

If you’re slightly more ambitious/handy with a sewing machine, you could stitch together a couple of cloth napkins to make a longer/wider/both curtain, or a curtain containing a couple of colors/patterns. I’ve considered doing this for the larger window in my kitchen, and if I do, I’ll let you know how it turns out. And you let me know how your cloth napkins-to-curtains turn out, too.

(Quick Cobble: Slightly Redundant Title [if we are considering a slightly different shade of cobble’s several shades of meaning—the linguist in me needs to clarify] for a Post Where You Can Learn One Key Idea for Moving Your Decor/Design Thinking Forward In an Easy and Positive Way)

Guten Nachmittag, it’s Jackie. Besides being One Of Your Cobbler Guides, another hat I wear is Mom To Oliver, my sweet, rather silly and springy three-year-old boy. Like nearly every three-year-old in existence, Oliver has his fair share of toys, and those toys, of course, find their way into all of the spaces in our house (whether invited or not).

So what’s a decorating-conscious person to do? We can’t very well throw out our children’s toys (hmm…), nor can we throw out our children, so…? Are we relegated to looking at a chaos of primary colors, stepping on block corners and castle turrets, sliding across our floors on the tops of cars and trucks?

Heck no. Nor are we stuck corralling toys into quote/unquote children’s furniture, which leaves our rooms looking a bit like we run a part-time daycare.

So where does that leave us? That leaves us where we already were: in the realm of grown-up furniture.

A Jackie Case Study

Problem: Oliver’s toys have overtaken the living room!

Other Living Room Furniture Needs/Considerations: The husband and I have wanted a table/dresser/cabinet of some kind for the space by our front door. I’ve wanted to have somewhere to throw keys, or place a plant, or catch mail. Could we find a piece of furniture that would fill both this need/desire AND our need to have a place to stuff O’s toys?

Shopping: I love old furniture (and find it more affordable, and more interesting), so we hit Gilley’s Antique Mall in Plainfield on Saturday in search of something fantastic, and we didn’t leave disappointed. We considered several pieces, some with drawers, some with doors, and we ended up going home with the cabinet pictured here. It’s a pretty straightforward little number: the door on the front swings open to the left, and the inside is entirely open.

Resolution: After getting our new piece of furniture home, the husband and I started mulling over how to properly prepare it to be stuffed with O’s toys. We ended up in Meijer that night and bought two purple bins sized about 13″ by 15″, but we discovered (to my chagrin—I thought I remembered the width of the cabinet) that the bins were too wide to fit when placed side-by-side. Alas. O and I took the bins back this morning and then hit up Target in search of more storage options, as Meijer didn’t have much else besides the ill-fitting purple bins. We ended up finding a smaller green bin of the same style as the purple bins (though about 11″ by 13″ this time) and—the bonus of not having your first plan work out—I decided it’d be even better to get some clear plastic tubs with lids for the other side of the cabinet. O and I brought everything home, started organizing, and the rest is harmony and bliss. For today, at least. =)

Overall: Think outside the kid’s furniture. Kids grow up and kid furniture doesn’t. The cabinet we found will always look good and will always be able to fill a need, even when Oliver’s done using it for toy storage.

ANDDD, for those of you who DON’T have children, try applying this thinking to any instance you need to store something that Big Box Decorating would have you think can only be done with X piece of furniture made specifically for X item. Media furniture springs most readily to mind…but I’ll grind that ax another time.