Anger Management Tree Stump

I'm not quite sure what purpose this tree stump once held. Hundreds of nails have been hammered into its top. They are so far down in the stump they form a top that's as smooth as satin.

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The little stump's final resting place is now our corporate museum, which means it originally resided on a girls' college campus. I can only imagine how it came to be: were the girls so angry about something that they took turns hammering nails into the stump? Boys, grades, professors?

Was the project part of an old-school P.E. class? Perhaps would-be suitors drove the nails into the tree while taking out their frustrations on an unrequited love or disdainful house marm.

I suppose we may never know. Until then I think I'll sit here a while and read my anger management book.

Before & After

You don't have to spend a lot of money to transform a piece of furniture. All you need is a willingness to dig around in antique stores or flea markets and a little elbow grease.

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I purchased this loveseat (I say "loveseat," you say "settee") at an antique store for about $60. The woven cane back was a shabby tan before but I spray painted it gold. Spray paint can be used for so many projects and comes in great colors! I've used it to paint our outdoor wrought iron railing, our mailbox, wicker outdoor furniture and more. You can even get chalkboard paint that you can spray right onto your wall!

I also gave the arms and legs a lift by first painting them gold with a brush, after lightly sanding. Over top of that I painted everything a dark umber color. In between those two steps I rubbed certain areas with wax, areas where wear and tear is likely to occur and where I wanted the gold to pop. After the top coat of paint, I then lightly sanded the waxed areas and ta-da! The gold glittered through the brown. To finish I put a sealer on the wood.

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A few yards of relatively inexpensive fabric took the bench from blah to wow, with the help of two pillows in a coordinating fabric and fringe trim.

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This loveseat cost about $40 at a second-hand store and it simply needed a few yards of fabric to make it spiffy.

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Just about right for two lovebirds.

Antique Roadshow's Ken Farmer

Exciting happenings for me last Thursday...I met Ken Farmer from PBS' Antiques Roadshow! Not only that but I had a one-on-one chat with him and asked him to look at an interesting artifact from our corporate museum.

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My hometown's library, the Bristol Public Library, brought Mr. Farmer here as part of its 2009 Discovery Series and I was fortunate enough to be invited to a wine and cheese reception at a friend's house prior to the public gathering. Later that evening, the library was hosting Mr. Farmer (who hails from Radford, Virginia, where my grandmother graduated from college...an anomaly for a woman born in 1914, but I digress...) and anyone could come and bring one item that they wanted him to look at and give a quick appraisal. Knowing that I couldn't attend that event I decided to be rather bold and seize the moment during the wine and cheese. Of course, my husband tried to talk me out of taking anything into this private reception, and of course, I didn't listen.

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I did sort of hate to impose, but...Mr. Farmer (is it ok if I call you Ken?) was so cordial and approachable that it seemed perfectly fine. Plus the other guests were interested in what he had to say, and after all, it was a private "showing!"

The item I brought was one ledger of a set of several from the early 19th century. Our company inherited the ledgers from a company we had purchased back in the 1980s that was located in Orange, Virginia, about 25 miles from Charlottesville.

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The set of ledgers itself is extraordinary, and details the accounts of customers who traded with the company almost 200 years ago. The covers of the ledgers practically turn to dust if you simply look at them; they are so fragile. One particular ledger itemizes the account of Thomas Jefferson from 1823. It shows various "merchandise" and "sundries" he purchased for the sum of $114.38 (the account on the following page, for the Porte Republic Store, shows purchases of $9092.79, an astronomical amount for the era).

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At first there was some question among our group as to whether Thomas Jefferson was still alive in 1823 (so we're not history experts, or even novices, it appears!). Was this even the same Thomas Jefferson? It was the same time frame and geographic area. Through modern technology Mr. Farmer was able to surf the internet with his Blackberry and discover that Jefferson was in fact alive and well in 1823 and did not pass away until 1826. The ledger with President Jefferson's account has quite a bit of value, according to the Antiques Roadshow guru, although the value would have skyrocketed with T.J.'s signature.

That's one John Hancock we don't have.

Vintage Theatre Curtains

We stumbled upon a great find for our corporate museum. On the college campus where our offices are located, there was a theatre (circa 1972) that was used for community productions. Sadly, it had fallen into disrepair over the years and despite our asking around, even the city couldn't take it over, due to high maintencance costs. Alas, we had to tear it down. So we set about salvaging every last item from the theatre that we possibly could. What a fun project (at least I thought so!)!

I have to say I was the only one of our "salvage group" who thought twice about saving the stage curtains. "Too musty," "too dirty," everyone said. Nonsense! They were beautiful velvet and simply could not be thrown away for such trivial reasons! There were two layers of curtains: red velvet and royal blue velvet. The red curtains were in much better shape; while I desperately wanted to save the blue, it just wasn't possible.

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We took the curtains down on a sunny day and spread them out on one of the long driveways on campus. We had decided that they would serve as valances on some of our larger museum windows, and they needed to be cut to size. Astonishingly, the curtains had seams in the exact spot where we needed to trim, which made our job infinitely easier. They did not even need to be hemmed! We laid them out, sprinkled carpet cleaner and Febreze on them, and spent an entire Saturday vacuuming them.

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The uses for the curtains proved to be much more abundant than we had first predicted. Not only did they yield wonderful valances for all of the major museum rooms, they also produced skirts for underneath the bathroom sinks, a tree skirt for our annual Christmas tree and long curtains for other rooms. We even tacked fabric on the ends of the curtains for makeshift trim (the fabric was pinned on...see this post for another idea using crazy quilts).

Next time you're not sure if you can salvage something, just remember it's never too late for another curtain call.

Rugs on Ebay

I think you might be surprised to learn how inexpensively you can purchase rugs on ebay. And I'm talking about really good rugs. Authentic antique oriental rugs that you'd think would cost thousands.

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For our corporate museum project, we purchased 22 oriental rugs, all on ebay, ranging in size from runners all the way up to 10' x 13'. They are all exquisite and authentic.

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Now here's the amazing part: the most we paid for any single rug was $424. That's four hundred and twenty-four dollars. The total bill for all 22 rugs came to a whopping $5,274.10, which included shipping.

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Of course it helps to know what search terms to use and to buy only from reputable dealers who have extremely positive ebay feedback.

Some good search terms include: Malayer Persian, Persian Caucasian, Kashan Persian, Tabriz Persian, Meshkin Travel Persian and Isfehan Persian. You can try including the word "antique" with any of those to narrow your search a bit. For an oversized rug, try including "palace size" in your search.

Happy rug shopping! Drop me a line about any great rugs (or other items) you find on ebay!

Crazy for Quilts

I'm crazy for crazy quilts. The crazy-quilting fad began in the United States in the 1880s. My great-grandmother, Annie Louise Jackson McGlothlin, made the crazy quilt in the photo below around 1890, when she was about 19, at her home on Garden Creek in Buchanan County, Virginia. The time she must have devoted to this beautiful creation is phenomenal. It was made of wool and cotton flannel and measured about 72" x 61". Her quilt is now hanging in the Fields-Penn 1860 House Museum in Abingdon, Virginia, as part of the permanent collection of the William King Regional Arts Center (WKRAC).

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In her book Great Road Style, my friend and long-time director of WKRAC Betsy White describes the quilt as an "organized crazy pattern." I love that description and am sure my great-granny and I would have had a lot in common had we had the good fortune to meet!

Crazy quilts can be found in antique stores if you're lucky; really nice ones fetch over $200. That's not so bad when you consider the many projects you can make with just one quilt, if you're willing to cut it up, that is! The first two projects below were made with one crazy quilt, and the other two with another one (with some left over).

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For our corporate museum I had two square pillows covered with part of a crazy quilt. The color pops when placed on the dark green velvet sofa.

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Also in the museum, I used a small section of crazy quilt to trim the hem of a red velvet valance. The quilt isn't actually sewn on there; it's just pinned and has stayed put for over 4 years! The valance itself was part of a theatre curtain in a former life (more on that in another post).

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From the second crazy quilt, I made this purse (along with another, mentioned in a separate post) and attached leopard ribbon handles and a vintage orange rhinestone circle brooch.

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These are my dining room chair cushions. They are a colorful lot! I purchased the chairs and cushions at Crate & Barrel and then had the cushions covered with the crazy quilt.

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Each part of the quilt truly tells a story. These are just some of the fascinating squares from the quilt that my family sits on daily! First we have someone's initials, perhaps a new bride. Then an American flag, a peacock-like fan of colors and finally an artist's palette. I imagine the women telling stories as they made this, much like my great-grandmother would have done.

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To secure the cushion to the seat, I had two narrow pieces of lime green fabric attached to the back of each cushion so they can be tied around the chair legs. The great thing about the crazy quilt is that it will match any color!

I applied one of the quilt scraps to a lampshade, as shown in another post.

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I even have a modern take on a crazy quilt in our guest room, this one purchased a few years ago at Pottery Barn.

Maybe I have gone a little over the top, er, crazy, for these quilts but enjoying their history and versatility is worth a little insanity on my part.

I Scream for Eames

Eames chairs are synonymous with modern style. Charles and Ray Eames adapted molding techniques developed during World War II to mass produce this classic design. The fiberglass stacking shell chairs were particularly popular.

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The Eames fiberglass shell chair was really the first affordable plastic chair. Conceived in the late 1940s this chair design has endured to remain very popular today. Originally offered with a range of bases, including basic tubular legs, trussed Eiffel tower legs, low lounge bases, as well as rockers, the variety trailed off during the middle years with Herman Miller only offering the basic tubular steel legs. As a result the original chairs with the alternate legs became very valuable collectors' items.

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We have about 100 fiberglass Eames chairs in our corporate museum, as seen in the photo above. The chairs had been used by Sullins College and we inherited them when we purchased the campus of the bankrupt school and moved our headquarters there in the late '70s. The beauty is in the stacking feature, so they take up considerably less room.

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We use them for meetings and parties. They are surprisingly comfortable. Ours are "Red Orange" (we also have a few in "Greige"), as seen in this color swatch from a 1962 Herman Miller illustrated price list) and tentatively date from the 1960s, although they could have been produced a little later.

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Eames stacking fiberglass shell chairs can be found on ebay in a variety of colors and would be great for a desk chair in your home office. Or buy a few and stack them in your garage to use for your next party!

Coat of Many Buttons

Another inauguration has come and gone and I'm paying for the snacks I ate while planted in front of the tv watching it. I don't know about you, but when I weigh myself I don't exactly want to be wearing my heaviest coat. I mean, those extra 2 pounds would just put me over the top! Wear this politically correct jacket and you really would have an excuse for tipping the scales. It weighs about 50 pounds.

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Sporting every Republican political campaign button from Nixon to Jack Kemp to Reagan, this jacket belonged to Robert "Yogi" Price and he wore it when he was a delegate at the Republican National Convention years ago. I'm not sure but I think he had to be helped up a time or two due to the sheer weight of the thing.

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Covered in buttons both front and back, this jacket is a collector's dream. It would take months if not years of searching to find even some of the buttons in antique stores or on ebay. We were lucky enough to have it donated to our corporate museum by Yogi's wife. Yogi was a long-time friend and employee who passed away several years ago. At top you can see him in the photo in the background, wearing his prized jacket. He had a cowboy hat with buttons too (also in the photo), but his wife couldn't find it.


Who knows, maybe he's wearing it with hopes of converting a Democrat or two up there.

Bowling, Anyone?

A few years ago I headed up a project at my dad's business to do a corporate museum chronicling the company's 30+ year storied history. The company headquarters are located on the former campus of an all-girls college that closed in the '70s and the grounds are quite beautiful. We used the second floor of the main building on campus to house the museum. It was a labor of love that my friend and co-worker Julie and I undertook over the course of about 2 years (along with lots of help). We had to be very cost-conscious and come up with inventive ways to decorate the space. We also wanted to utilize all of the historical items we found as much as possible.

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Another building on campus had to be demolished so we salvaged materials from it. I spotted a door from a girls' bathroom that had lots of graffiti etched into it. I found some old bowling pins on ebay and had them attached upside-down to the door to make a coffee table for the game room in the museum. I left the door stopper and latch on the table just for kicks. Girls' musings from years gone by scribbled on a bathroom stall door provide a conversation piece for anyone who comes along to sit on the sofa and perch their drink on the table.