Design Dictators overuse the phrase "mid-century" or "Vintage" in order to sell tired-ass furniture from twenty years ago. I say let's "recycle" at a fraction of the cost!

Everyone has family stuff thrust upon them when they get their first apartment or get married. Often it's not great looking stuff... usually crap. But, there's many pieces that are cool except they have a bad association to the way mom, or Aunt Bessie used them; the colonial wing-back chair with amber plaid Herculon, or the French breakfast room chairs with the cutesy baby-blue gingham upholstery with tassels.  

I'm going to show you how these can become some of your most cherished pieces!  I'm also going to show you how to "thrift" for cool things in this missive too!


Kate and Andy Spade's eponymous bags and accessories made them world famous.  However, at home they chose to use well-proportioned vintage (recycled) pieces - and tweaked it a bit to create a fun, sexy space.  All items in this room are vintage 60's and 70's probably bought at resale shops or were hand-me-downs, but painted and recovered to look cool and fresh. of course the awesome art helps too.


Here's a totally recycled room; using the old Ziegler Sultanabad carpet as their color palette they painted the mahogany Chippendale bed and French chair frames white; painted the bedside table purple and mixed it all up with bright textiles and it works great - in a very funky undecorated way.

This screened in porch doesn't have the ubiquitous and pricey Brown-Jordon suite of matchy-poo outdoor furniture. They used old, super-comfortable upholstery from thrift stores -  upholstered it all in the same vinyl which ties it together. Now their porch has a very unique, comfy and unpretentious look.

(Source: Unknown)
In the 1970's this headboard and bed-frame were a huge hit. The funky bedside sections had pull-down fronts which became the table - when closed it concealed all your junk.  The headboard was a continuation of the same with even more storage. At the time it was revolutionary...then it was kicked to the curb for the "Park Avenue" upholstered headboard...  I think it looks great here. Now, probably $150 at a resale shop for the entire thing...

(Designer: Tobi Fairley)
This awesome room remains traditional - but by painting their late 1980's "English country" style furniture a modern/retro color palette, the room has a whole new, groovier look.

(Designer: Tobi Fairley)
This teen's room is made more feminine and funky with the use of the old club chair from Aunt Myrtle's attic now covered in pink toile. Mixed with other inexpensive finds this eclectic mix grasps the current gotta-have look.

This apartment is filled with grandma Sylvia's old stuff from New York and  her condo in Florida! The Adam style buffet - once a gleaming mahogany showpiece is now painted bright Prussian blue with her old boudoir lamps - and looks funkalicious!  Her NY dining table was left mahogany and surrounded with the chairs from the Boca del Mar condo.
Cheap and chic...with memories to boot!

(Source: Coastal Living)
This old oak dining table from the early 20th century is from an attic or thrift; it was lacquered white and mixes well with Philippe Starck's "ghost" chairs. It's solid and durable with leaves to extend - perfect!

(Designer: Celerie Kemble)
Ms. Kemble is known for "vintage" finds, and using them well!  An ugly-ass  1970's burl-wood "Mediterranean" style cocktail table works in this space as do the recycled 50's chairs and 70's sofa. Those jumbo alabaster lamps are a tad too much for me, but they work in a kinda-sorta way.

(Designer: Ann Miller)
This 80's repro Chippendale style mahogany "tea table" I'm sure was once used as a "lamp table" in some DC lawyers living room or foyer... now it sports an antiqued white finish, and is the perfect height as a bedside table.

(Source: Miss Mustard Seed)
These classic 1950's chairs are covered in crazy fabrics instead of the dreary solid-color originals. They're wacky, fun and can snap up any room.  Just not too many of these type pieces or you'll  get that Gloria Vanderbilt patchwork look of the 80's....

Who doesn't have a wing chair that you're just plain tired of?
And who says it's gotta be in a traditional fabric??? Snap out of it!!!
Get jiggy wit-it, have's not worth anything, so why not go crazy?

Don't have enough of one chair to feed everyone? Mix it up!

(Source: Miss Mustard Seed)
Found some old chairs that are so comfortable you can't resist, but the upholstery looks like its from Norman Bates' moms bedroom? Take it to a respectable upholsterer - get a yardage estimate, then go to a local decorator fabric outlet and find something fun. Don't try to replicate what the chair originally had on it - it wont work - it's not 1955!  Period pieces in period fabrics are BORING!

(Source: Coastal Living)
This breakfast table and seating perfectly demonstrate the "recycling" idea!  The old American pine farm table with all its paint knocked off mixes well with the painted Victorian sidechair and the English garden bench. Cozy!

Need a great mirror for that certain spot? I bet grandma Sylvia had a bunch of them, right?  Helloooo  spray paint - duh?!?!

Kirstie Alley's home in Maine has recycled French-style armchairs on her porch, they give it an extra bit of swank and they're not bulky - like her. You can use a lot of interior furniture outside - as long as it's covered and not left in the elements, and stored inside during winter months.

Two old tired desks; one Queen Anne, one Louie XV. 
When in doubt - don't throw out - PAINT IT!

This contemporary living room utilizes an old Shaker-style chest to add patina and color to a hard-edged room. Check the basement or shed for one of these....

(Designer: Tobi Fairley)
Aunt Bertha musta had some old Henredon dressers she wanted you to have, right?  
And you said:  riiiight...we're good Aunt Bertha, thanks anyhow...
Here's whatcha coulda done... if you weren't so uppity.

Oh! And what about the estate sale at Gussie and Irving Zhuzh's - that flashy old couple who died?  Bet you went eeeewww at the thought of their estate sale....  However, French chairs are always classic and easy to restyle. You can paint or distress the frames with white, or lacquer them a fun color and replace their shiny leopard-print silk with your matte-finish zebra cotton and... Bam! dare it is!

What's more expensive than buying a set of 6 -12 dining chairs? Retailers charge $350 - 1,500 each!  Uncle Herman's old dining chairs would do just fine! You can lacquer them, paint them or drop a slipcover over them. Fine, done!

Remember going to Aunt Ethelene's and having to sit on that old uncomfortable sofa?  Well, it actually has good lines!  You could recover it and use it in your foyer, master-bedroom, upper hall or dining room. Use it someplace you don't sit and it can visually soften your room and add some patina.


These two consoles were at my local Goodwill Industries, each cost $29.

These two chests were also from the Goodwill, they were $19.ea. that's right, NINETEEN dollars!!!
Yeah,  I know,  right?!

If you have some artistic ability - or a friend does, decorative painting or decoupaging are cool options. When an old piece is less than $20 you have room to spend for a faux painter to make it more interesting. If you want more flash for less cash, just paint it.  It's more important that the carcass is "well proportioned" with good details than what the finish is.

These two pieces above were recycled. Now freshly painted and reused in bedrooms they're perfect with no huge outlay of cash.

(Source: Miss Mustard Seed)
Almost everyone's family has one of these American Empire dressers somewhere - they're so freekin' ugly. But hey, it's paid for!  Why not try a distressed finish on it? Easy to do and you've kept an heirloom from the trash pile.
 Click here for: How to Faux Paint Furniture

(Source: Miss Mustard Seed)
This hideous piece of crap wouldn't have made it inside my house! But, that's short sighted as I love what they did!!  An old dresser found new purpose as a storage cabinet - great for a casual cottage.

I love this chandeliers rope-wrapped frame and starfish drops. It's a refurbished piece,  they took an ordinary chandelier and made it extraordinary! 
Hmm, lemme see... 
4 rolls thin rope from Home Depot.....$12.  
3 hours of my time.....Free 
8 starfish at shell shop.....$8.

These six tacky Ultrasuede dining chairs (#1) were priced at $75 at Goodwill.  I showed them to a few people who said "nuh'uh way"   But, with a $35 mail-order slip-cover (#2) these could be great dining chairs for a beach house or starter home. They can also have $35 waterproof slip-covers from Frontgate (#3) and be used on a porch or loggia.

(Source: Miss Mustard Seed)
Musically inclined?
Why not take an old chest from the flea market or Nana's attic - paint the frame and decoupage the exterior with old sheet music. 
To get the sheet music (or nautical chart, comic strip, etc) to look stained and old:  Make a very strong batch of tea (like Lipton's). When the tea is room temperature gently sponge it over the papers until the desired effect is achieved. Flatten and dry thoroughly. Then apply to the chest.

Goodwill Hunting can be productive!
Two brand-new cottage style tables with beautiful distressed white finishes were $100 for both!!! GTFO!

This kitchen island was a goofy old chest-of-drawers, but after being painted, and decorated on the back it's now a utilitarian piece which gives character to this otherwise boring kitchen.

Attic full of old, ugly-ass suitcases you wouldnt dare be seen with??  Stack them bitches up!  Make a fun, old-fashioned bedside table or conversation piece whilst providing extra storage.

All y'all thrift store naysayers need to lighten up...
This custom built English pine wall-unit was originally about $8-12,000 retail.  However, it's entering its second life for $450 at the Goodwill.  
I knooooww!
It has retractable doors, adjustable shelves and tons of storage. 
Find that at IKEA, bitches....

Redecorating and have a bunch of furniture you don't know what to do with? Consoles for bathrooms are cozier and less "off-the-shelf" looking.

This is a must-do project! That TV-cum-kittycave rocks! 
OMG, how hard is that to do???

Check your local listings for "resale" and "thrift stores" for the best stuff!

Washington, DC
 Miss Pixie's Furnishings and Whatnot 
A  MUST  visit resource for vintage fun, funky and useful items for the home with amazing prices! You have to go Thursday mornings when the new merch is put out. Keep in mind 50% of the inventory turns over each week, don't hesitate!
1626 14th Street NW,  Washington, DC 20009

Keep in mind the chain resale stores in the better neighborhoods have been sent the better merchandise to sell!

These are always fruitful stores:

 US Veterans Resale Stores
Hadassah, Jewish Alliance or Temple Resale Stores
Episcopalian Thrift Stores
Junior League Thrift Stores
Goodwill Stores
Salvation Army Stores

You can do it, I'm here to help!