You’ve Gotta Be Crewel to Be Kind

When I am thrift shopping I always look for antique and vintage things that are handmade.  Generally, the quality and materials are better than anything you can buy new.  Knit sweaters and mittens, embroidered pillows, crocheted afghans, needlepoint and crewel work and more.  When I was growing up my mom was always working on some such project, in between making clothes, and I know the tremendous amount of time that is involved in each creation.  It is more time than I am willing to put into any one craft but I truly appreciate every one-of-a-kind work-of-art I find.

The other day I found two pieces of groovy 70s Crewel work, which is embroidery with a wool yarn.  They looked very sad lying there along among the teddy bear posters and framed country scenes, they had to be saved.  I am sure both pieces were made by the same person because of the colors and the very unconventional way they were mounted and framed.

image crewel work picture mushroomsThe first one, seen on the left here, is a small piece with mushrooms, a bee and a snail = 1970s cute.  It cost 49 cents.

Once I got it out of the “frame” and removed the layers of ancient tape and staples, I plunged it into cold water to clean off decades of dust.  Then all it needed with a good pressing with some steam to look super crisp and like new.

A simple white frame was the perfect way to keep it looking modern.  I got an IKEA frame from my stash (I always grab imperfect frames at IKEA from their “seconds” area) and it looks great, as you can see below.  It will be a great addition to the playroom walls.

image crewel work picture mushrooms

The second piece will take a lot more work to get it rehabilitated, more on that soon.



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The Bungalow We Used to Call Home – Before & After

We were thrilled to find our first house in Berwyn, Illinois, 10 miles from downtown Chicago and on the commuter train line.  After looking for an entire year (thanks to our patient realtor Chris) we found a gem – a Chicago Bungalow with all of its original woodwork and character.  We were only the third owners of this 100-year-old home. It needed a lot of work: repair on the stucco exterior, electrical rewiring, insulation, window restoration, storms and screens, a new chimney, a roof, as well as cosmetic work throughout.  Over the seven years we lived there, we attacked all of those updates as well as remodeling the bathroom, updating the kitchen, adding a fence and designing gardens around the entire property.

(Please excuse the not-so-good quality of the photos) 

Front Porch


image bungalow chicago front porch

The house was painted white with wedgewood blue trim.  I really wanted to embrace the natural, neutral colors that were popular in the Arts and Crafts movement.  Painting windows a dark color on a light colored house always gives it a real punch.  For the trim I chose an earthy khaki color.  We replaced the house numbers with ceramic tiles from Rejuvenation Hardware.

The porch swing belonged to my grandparents. I remember my grandpa taking it off of its frame in the yard and putting in the garage when it rained.  I would always ask him why he didn’t just leave it out in the rain and he would say that you need to take care of things if you want them to last.  I staked a claim on that swing long ago.


chicago bungalow front porch

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The F Mugs

image mug monogram

If you haven’t learned already, I am a huge fan of thrift store shopping.  A couple of weeks ago I was at a local Salvation Army store with Harper looking for goodies.  I was excited when I stumbled upon 3 mugs with my initial on it – WAIT, that’s not my initial, mine is an E not an F.  Hmmm, what to do.  They weren’t free, at 25 cents each I figured I could take the plunge and see what I could do with them because I really wanted to sip some French Roast out of those babies.

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The Old House We Love to Live In – Before & After

As soon as I saw this 150-year-old house in Charleston Illinois I knew that we could make it our own.  It was dirty, dark and unloved but had so much potential to be a happy and bright family home.  You can read more about what brought us to Charleston in my interview with Design Mom.

Don’t forget to see the posts of our home tour and our house decked out for the holidays.



image old house before

The house was white with decorative green shutters for at least 100 years.  After living here for 2 years I decided that we needed to go dark.  I love the monochromatic Colonial homes in New England, especially Massachusetts homes like The House of Seven Gables and The Orchard House that were built in the late 1600s.

In 1864 our house was originally built in the Carpenter Gothic style.  Then in 1920 the second owners added a Georgian Colonial Revival style by changing the facade. The gingerbread trim and the porch were removed and a portico with columns was added.  The bay windows in the front of the house were replaced with french doors.

I found the combination of styles confusing and think that the monochromatic, dark paint job solidified the look.  We chose Sherwin Williams color Dark Knight for the exterior with Nervy Hue for a pop of color on the door.


image, old house after

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An Old Clock Repurposed – Before & After

image clock with wood grain face

It was a sad day when this clock broke.  It was just an office clock from Target, but I loved the fake wood and the minimal  font.  Oh well.  Months ago our kittens somehow knocked it off the wall and it couldn’t be repaired.  Steve wanted to chuck it, but I wanted to save it (imagine that!).

I figured that some day, I would have something round that I would want to frame.

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Chest for the Mudroom – Before & After

In our old house we made a great little mudroom.  Last week I showed you the before and after of the bookcase I used for shoe storage.  Well, across from the shoe shelf there was room for another storage piece.  This time I went rummaging in my basement and found this old chest.

image chest unpainted

It was from my grandparents’ bedroom.  When my mom and I were cleaning their house out I was working in their bedroom and right inside the door there was a pile of laundry.  There was always a pile of laundry there.  I never really thought about it because I knew it was clean, folded laundry.  I guess I assumed that the pile was sitting on a table, but it wasn’t.  It was set on top of a chest and the chest was covered with a small blanket.  Total mystery piece.  My mom had never noticed it before either so we have no idea where it came from.  I am not a fan of its style, which I call “pirate-ship chic,” but I guess it’s really “Early American,” I decided I would put it into my storage space with all of the rest of the furniture and “treasures” I found.  Finally it came in handy.

Sanding, primer, red glossy paint did the trick, just like with the bookcase.  I had some Marimekko fabric leftover from working on a girls’ 1980s bedroom for the John Cusack movie “High Fidelity” (I save everything cute!).  I added some poly fiber fill from old pillows and stretched the fabric over the top and the back piece.  Now it’s a colorful and comfy place to sit, perfect for a mudroom.

image painted chest

Hold on to those old, good quality pieces and repurpose them!



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Bookcase for the Mudroom – Before & After

Our former house had a small breezeway/entrance that was created when the back porch was removed to allow for a rear deck.  I knew right away that it was the perfect size for a mini-mudroom.  The previous owner had covered the walls with sheets of “wood” bead board.  Some paint cheered it right up!

I was excited to use some cool vintage hooks I had, but needed some shoe storage.  A quick trip to my mom’s basement brought me to a very dirty old book shelf that had been used to store paint.  It wasn’t pretty – yet!

image unpainted bookshelf

All it needed was a sanding, a coat of primer and a few coats of glossy red.  I really love what a little paint will do to brighten up your world.

image red painted bookcase mudroom

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