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I am an avid consignment and antique shopper.  For me there is nothing like finding that uniquely perfect treasure for the perfect spot in my home.  Its like a treasure hunt.  I love the idea that I’m also giving an old piece a new lease on life, thus recycling it and helping to keep it out of the landfill.

Recycling high quality older pieces is a fantastic way to low cost decorate, to give a great piece a new life and to add unique and one of a kind pieces to your home décor.  However, there are some simple strategies to effectively maneuvering the consignment shops so that you are getting the most for you money and time.

*When it comes to consignment shopping, not all shops are created equal.  Look for shops that discriminate.  Good consignment shops will only accept pieces that are in good shape and that have good potential for someone else.  Ask the store owner what their policy is for accepting consignment items.

* Keep an open mind. When shopping a consignment  shop, try to think beyond what a piece is to what it could be.   An old lamp can be given new life with a new shade.  Curtain panels could be converted to valances or accent pillows.  Focus on the potential of a piece versus its current state.  Can it use some paint, a new shade, a light sanding?  How can you transform that piece into something spectacular?

Believe it or not, this is an antique sewer grate mold that we found in the basement of Fairmont Avenue Antiques in West Virginia. I think it will make incredible wall art.

The lamp was purchased at Stuff Consignments in Gainesville. The shade was purchased at http://www.lampsplus.com. The sculpture on the table is actually a pair of wall sconces standing upside down. They were purchased at The Very Thing in Haymarket.

My daughter's night stand lamps were purchased with different shades at The Very Thing for about $12 each. I changed the shades to add a pop of pattern against pattern.

*Let your creative juices flow and don’t be afraid to try something new.  Consignment shopping provides an opportunity for trying out new decorating techniques and ideas.  Since you are typically paying lower prices for these pieces, it would not be so painful if something went wrong with your creative project.

Wall cabinet purchased at The Very Thing in Haymarket. I added the fabric panels using a tension rod and some hot glue, to hide the "not so nice" bathroom necessities.

Dresser with distressed paint finish found at antique shop in West Virginia. We use it to store our dining linens in our dining room.

*Look for quality. Just because the piece is being consigned doesn’t mean it should be sturdy, of good quality and safe. Be cautious of peeling paint or rusting nails and screws.  Just like if you were shopping for new items, consider the quality of piece being purchased.

*Don’t be afraid to negotiate.  Some consignment shops will keep items for only thirty days.  After fifteen days, the price is usually dropped and the consignment shops and consigners are typically more willing to negotiate the price of an item.  I always say, if you don’t ask you won’t know.  See if the shop would be willing to reduce the price or sell a combination of items for lower price.

*Get to know the shop owners or staff.  Getting to know the store staff will allow them to get to know you and your tastes.  Perhaps the next time something that would appeal to you comes in, they will contact you directly to let you have first dibs.  Or perhaps you are looking for something specific, if you know the staff you can ask them to keep an eye out for this item on your behalf.

*Drop by your favorite shops often.  As I mentioned before, good consignment shops will keep items on display for about thirty days, which means there will be a lot of rotation and fresh items coming into the shop weekly.    By stopping by often you reduce the risk of missing out on that perfect items you’ve been looking for.

*Consider consigning your older, good quality pieces.  You can make some money towards your your items and will give someone an opportunity to give your great piece a new life.  Be sure to think about the minimum you are willing to accept for the item and speak with the shop owner or staff to make sure you can get that for your item.  Also, if you want your items returned if they do not sell, you must make arrangements to return and pick them up at the end of our consigning period.  Make sure they make a note of it and make sure you keep track or your consignment timeline.

Consignment shopping is a fantastic way to add unique, one of a kind pieces to your home décor.  I hope you find these tips useful for effectively shopping your local consignment shops.  Good luck and happy hunting!

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I often have clients ask me for creative solutions for storage in smaller bathrooms and powder rooms.  It seems that more and more builders and homeowners are moving away from under sink storage, particularly in smaller bathroom and powder rooms.  So what then do you do with all the necessary “bathroom” stuff that needs to be stored and that you may not want everyone looking at.  Here are few creative solutions.

From my own home:

For my powder room I found a cute, funky open wall cabinet at one of my favorite places in the whole world, “The Very Thing” in Haymarket.  The cabinet had no enclosed storage so I got creative with a glue gun and some striped cotton fabric and created a small curtain to hide the not so pretty bathroom necessities like toilet paper.  The open shelves serve to display nice objects (yes, you can and should decorate your bathroom spaces too).  I have placed a Moroccan vase that matches the other colors in the space.  The idea is to one day paint the cabinet a fun color but these days I don’t have much time for painting.  I may even wallpaper the back of the cabinet with some fun wallpaper to coordinate with the colors and fabrics.  Take a look:

Small cabinet purchased at The Very Thing, a local consignment shop in Haymarket. I made a small curtain with some fabric, fabric glue and a tension rod to hide all of the not so pretty bathroom stuff.

Another creative solution is to add a decorative skirt to your pedestal sink.  This is particularly useful in really tight spaces where storage in general is limited.  You can use baskets or small shelves to hidden underneath the curtain.  You don’t even need to sew.  Use fabric glue and velcro to create a custom look.

Open shelving can also be useful, even for the not so pretty bathroom necessities.  Use baskets and containers to hide the not so pretty and use the open shelving and hanging racks for the pretty stuff.

Baskets and bins can serve to hold toilet paper, towels, magazines, etc.  Tuck them in a corner or under the sink to keep them out of the way.  Be sure to place the items inside neatly so that they look decorative.

Floor cabinets can also be useful if you have the space.  There are some beautiful, off the rack floor cabinets that can serve to hide the clutter.  Check out this one from Bed, Bath and Beyond: http://www.bedbathandbeyond.com/product.asp?sku=16643980

Use old barn ladders and plant trellises to hang things like towels, and to sit a roll of toilet paper and decorative soaps.  This can be a creative and fun way to create storage.  You can nail hooks into them and hang them from the wall or simply sit them on the floor and lean them against the wall.  One piece of advice, tie the ladder into the wall so that it doesn’t fall on people as they are trying to remove towels or other items.

Check out more creative bathroom storage photos at http://www.hgtv.com/bathrooms/10-stylish-bathroom-storage-solutions/pictures/index.html

I’ve been very busy these days putting together my son’s birthday party and working so I haven’t had too much opportunity to work on my own place.  I did finalize the family room and still want to share how my living room has ended up.  I also chose the wallpaper that I’m going to be installing in my dining room tray ceiling.  I have also decided on window treatments for my master bedroom and bathroom which I haven’t even touched yet as a discussion topic.  I will regroup and share more of the work done on my home in my next post but for now I did want to share some great information about theme decorating.

You may think its cool to have a room that looks like you stepped off the plane and into a Hawaiian lu au or like a bomb of West Virginia football parafanilia exploded in your man cave but the reality is, hardcore theme decorating is simply outdated (sorry honey, I know you love your WVU football).  The new face of theme decorating requires much more restraint, a bit of creativity and leaving something to the imagination.  If you want to have a beach themed home (like my client in the photos in this post) you can do so without making everyone who enters there feel like they should put on sun block.  Here are five simple rules to follow when you want to have a themed decor in your home, without over doing it:

1.  Leave a little to the imagination – a themed room is a little like good abstract art.  You want people to contemplate it without its meaning being slam blam in their face.  For example, in my client’s living room we used an accent table made of carved wood.  This table serves the function of an accent table where a lamp can sit but it also is reminiscent of a piece of driftwood washed up on the shore.  The sofa is the color of sand.  The artwork could be waves, or maybe not.  Depends on who’s looking at it.  The lamp is made of turquoise, it acts like artwork without screaming beach.

Subtle touches of the beach make this city row house feel like a comfy vacation at home.

If you are doing a man cave, perhaps some abstract photos of the stadium nicely framed and hung in a collage could provide interesting artwork and a conversation piece.  If your theme is Asian, simple using grasscloth wallpaper on a couple of walls for texture and adding a red accent wall with black and red accessories can get the point across.  You get the idea.  Subtle and abstract is much more powerful than in your face and obvious.

2.  Don’t over do the accessories – a few themed pieces can be thrown in to the accessories, such as the black and white photos of the beach we put on my client’s walls.  We mixed that in with some simple white vases and some white accent pillows with what appears to be pussy willow on them.  Some stones simply placed on a turquoise plate offer a bit of texture and interest.  No where do you see a bunch of sea shells or sand or seaweed.  Go subtle with your accessories, but try to use things considered reminiscent of your theme.

Subtle accessories get the point across without overdoing it.

3.  Paint can go a long way – that man cave can represent WVU, or North Carolina or whatever your flavor is, with its paint colors.  You don’t need to actually paint the big WVU logo on the wall, use the blue as your wall color and use the yellow as your accent color in fabrics, or artwork, or other accessories.

The yellow of the dining room pops against the blue and white stripes.

The moral of the story is that themed rooms can be fun and interesting if they are done with care.  Gone are the days of the basement tikki bar.  Today’s themed rooms are much more subtle and abstract than ever.  So enjoy your theme room decorating but do so with caution and restraint.

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I love accent chairs.  If it were up to me, the whole house would be full of beautiful accent chairs in all sorts of fun and funky fabrics.  I guess it is up to me, however, having a home full of fun and funky accent chairs would not be very practical for my growing family.  So I’ve settled a few beautiful accent chairs in interesting design styles and textures to finish off my living room and family room and am excited because I have found the perfect fabric for some accent chairs that I will one day have in my master bedroom.  Accent chairs are a great way to add additional, movable seating to a space and to add pops of color, texture and/or interest to as space.  Because they are usually a bit smaller, they can easily withstand a bolder fabric that really reflects you style.  Because they are smaller they are also easier and less expensive to reupholster if you happen to get sick of that bolder fabric. There are many incredibly beautiful chair design styles you can use in your decor.  The slipper chair has become quite popular in recent years as a great accent chair choice.  Here is a picture of a pair of slipper chairs I have used in my family room.  If you read my blog this is not the first time you’ve seen these.  Recently we purchased the second chair to match and finish off the seating in the living room.  It is the Bassett Furniture Chandler Chair in Raffia. You’ve also seen the beautiful, t-back exposed wood chairs upholstered in a blue knit fabric.  These finish off my family room so nicely.  The fabric is actually quite soft and the chairs are really comfortable.   Yes, I said I was done in there but honestly, my work is never done.  We switched the wood coffee table we had in the family room to the living room and bought the Peekaboo Coffee Table (www.cb2.com) CB2 last week.  We love how it opens up the space and allows a full, clear view to the fireplace. Here are other beautiful accent chairs from other projects we’ve worked on:

5248 Chair from DR Kincaid for a client in Alexandria.  The black chair in the
background is the 8196 Chair also by DR Kincaid.
Traditional wing-back chair in office of client in Alexandria.
Flychair from BoConcepts for bachelor pad in Arlington, VA.

As I said in my last post, reupholstering old pieces is a great way to give them new life and to recycle.  It can save the piece from being tossed and in some cases can save you money from having to buy a new piece all together (depending on the fabric you choose, if you embellish, etc.)  So how do you know if a piece is worthy or reupholstery?  There are few tips that I can provide to help you decide.

*How is it holding up?  Are the cushions deflated, flattened or lumpy?  Has it basically retained its shape over the years?  How are the cushions constructed?  There are many materials from which your cushions could be constructed, including: down (most expensive), down lined with Decron Polyester fibers or Blendown (still expensive), and polyurethane wrapped in cotton or other fibers (most reasonable) are among the most common fillings.  If your cushions are made of high density, good quality foam they will not have broken down (or would have broken down less) over time.  Even your cushions are not holding up, however, there are other factors to consider in the construction of your sofa so don’t let this be the only deciding factor.  A good upholsterer can always provide you with new cushions to replace poor quality ones (of course, this will add to your overall price).

Client's reupholstered antique settee.

Here is another picture of the 50’s sleeper sofa I purchased and had reupholstered in a linen blend fabric…

1950's Sleeper Sofa reupholstered in linen blend. It was in excellent condition and is an incredible quality piece. The cushions needed to be remade and we replaced the mattress. We are very happy with it.

*Does it have good, solid bones?  If the piece is sturdy, strong and well constructed, you should definitely consider giving it a facelift. One of the tell tales signs of a quality piece of furniture is the joint system.  Good quality pieces have mitered joint systems or are dovetailed or tongue and grooved, and the frames are often glued and screwed together.  If the piece is made of particle board or plywood and the frame is held together with staples, it is probably not worth investing in reupholstery for the piece.

*Quality of exposed wood – if your piece has any exposed wood (dining chairs, sofas with wood legs, etc.) what kind of shape is the wood in?  If it has a few knicks and scratches it can probably be repaired fairly easily or these can add to the charm of the piece.  If the wood is rotted or broken or falling apart, you may want to reconsider as it may be costly to repair the piece.  Painting or restaining exposed wood is also an option but you may have to do some heavy sanding to remove any top coat that has been added so that the piece will take new paint or stain.  Here are pictures, before and after of my breakfast room chairs which I got from an old neighbor when I fell in love with the back design and I repainted and reupholstered them to be more interesting and updated.

Unpainted, pre-reupholstered dining room chairs I got from a neighbor. They are over 30 years old and were in great shape except for some scrapes and scratches. I had reupholstered them when I first got them in a paisley fabric.

My chairs now, painted in a blue metallic paint and reupholstered in brown polka-dotted fabric.

*Does it, or can it work with your existing or new decor?  It is important to consider if refacing a piece will allow it to fit more nicely into your decor.  There are some very creative things that can be done with old pieces to bring them up to date and give them updated style.  You can get creative with your fabric choice.  I love seeing traditional wingback chairs in very contemporary or graphic fabric patterns and colors, for example.  Don’t discount a piece because it simply looks dated.  Think about how you could make it into a contemporary piece that is perhaps fun and funky, or unique, or almost art like.  Paint can take furniture a long way these days.  Take a look at these pictures…

Traditional chairs in contemporary silk fabric from a project I completed in Alexandria.

I am sometimes overwhelmed at the thought of going green.  I know I have to do it, I know how important it is but I also know that it can be challenging.  There is so much to think about, and research and learn and do to go green.  I often find myself frustrated that I am not doing more.  Then I take a step back and realize that every little bit that I do helps and that it is becoming much easier to do more and more, its becoming a lifestyle, a gradual change that, because it is important to me, is naturally occurring in my life.  I wanted to break down a few simple steps that I have taken to be more green in my own personal decorating.  I hope that you can take a few these ideas and incorporate them into your lifestyle so that you too can contribute to preserving mother nature.

*Recycle – don’t just throw out that old piece of furniture or accent pillow or accessory – think about a new way that you could reuse it in your design.  Perhaps reupholster it (in an organic fabric would be best, or in a great remnant that you find at your local fabric store).  Perhaps just moving to another room can give it a new life.  Maybe it needs refinishing, at the same time helping a small local business by providing them work.  Try to think outside of the box and give the old piece new life.

If it simply won’t work with your decor, think about consigning it.  You can make a little money while letting someone else give the old piece a new life.  Check out this sofa that I purchased at an estate sale and had reupholstered and some other treasures found at antique shops…

Reupholstered sofa bed from mid-century modern estate sale. It currently resides in our office space for additional guest sleeping.

Old wagon wheel found at antique shop in West Virginia. It will be hung on the wall as cool modern art piece.

Antique mold also found at antique shop in west Virginia. It will either become a table or a wall mounted art piece.

*Buy from local consignment stores and antique shops – give those old pieces a new lease on life.  I am a consignment store junkie.  If you read my blog you know how often I find fantastic treasures at STUFF and The Very Thing in Haymarket.  I love treasure hunting and finding unique pieces that you won’t fine anywhere else.  Paint, reupholstery, refinishing can all go a long way and can bring out your creativity.  Craigslist is also a good place to find quality home furnishings and other items at great prices.  I have found the most amazing chairs on Craigslist.  Check them out…

Aren't they amazing? I got so lucky with these. The seller had just purchased them and then changed her decor. There were many people after these...

*Buy local – find furniture and other household items that are made locally.  I am a Bassett Furniture dealer partly because Bassett manufactures much of it furniture right here in Virginia.  I give local, small companies business as often as I can and I try to make sure my fabrics and furnishings are made in the USA as much as possible.  We live in a global economy where its often hard to tell where things are coming from.  Simply asking the question and doing a little research can go a long way.  Check out my Bassett Furniture chairs and dining table…

Chandler chairs upholstered in Raffia with Chocolate accent pillows from Bassett Furniture. The lamp base without a shade is STUFF find. I am waiting on the new shade.

Louis Phillipe pedestal dining table from Bassett Furniture. The chairs came with the other two blue chairs as a package from a Craigslist seller. Aren't they gorgeous?

*Using Low and No VOC Paints – We hear a lot about VOCs these days.  VOCs are volatile organic compounds and they are hazardous to the environment and to our health.  Luckily, most paint manufacturers are responding to the demand for more environmental and health conscious products by creating paints that have low and no VOCs.  Not all are successful at making a product that is still of quality and easy to handle.  Some, however, have the technology down to a science.  I am a huge fan of Benjamin Moore paints.  I have used both the Aura and the Natura paints and love, love, love the way they paint.  They are more expensive than big box store brand paints but I feel its worth the extra cost in the health of my family and the health of the environment.  Plus, I have found that both of these paints go on easier than most other paints that I have tried.   My entire house so far has been painted in either Aura or Natura paints from Ben Moore.  Aura is a low VOC paint and Natura is a no VOC paint.  Check out a few pictures…

The only finished room in my house so far. The color is Ivoire from Sherwin Williams color-matched by Vienna Paint of Gainesville in Aura paint.

Another view of the finished family room in Ivoire. It really gives it a nice brightness without being in your face. The finish is Matte.

A recent view of the dining room which is coming along. Its painted in Ben Moore's Annapolis Green in Aura with a matte finish. I still haven't painted or done anything with the tray. There should be more hours in the day!

Decorating green does not have to be overwhelming or difficult.  Try out a few of these tips and ideas and you will be on your way to helping the environment and your family breathe a little easier.

Check out our interior decorating and design articles published at www.Ezine.com

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