The Swaps of Summer: Outdoor Decor Swap

You could say it’s because we see our surroundings as art. Or it’s a reaction to a depressing global situation. Or even a mild version of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. But it seems that gals who like a vintage mix-and-match style tend to decorate EVERYTHING, inside and out.

I mean, if you’re visiting and you stay too long, be wary-- you might just get decorated yourself.

We compulsive vintage decorators might also extend this philsophy to scrapbooking. Or making our own notecards. And even the dishes in our kitchens probably have character. Because, hey, you have to eat, but doesn’t food TASTE better when it’s on pretty china? It’s all in the details.

So after the success of the first swap organized by the members of the Cottage Living decorating forum (you can read about that one here), it’s not much of a surprise that we decided to tackle our outdoors next.

Yup, Cottage Girls can’t be stopped.

The rules were as follows: each person would have a swap partner for whom a goody package would be chosen. We were to spend no more than $10 total, not counting shipping. One item had to be something organic-- seeds. bulbs, etc. And the other item needed to be for outdoor decorating or entertaining in some way. The rest was up for grabs.

Each person listed preferences that might help their swap partner-- such as favorite colors, flowers, and style of current outdoor decor. Then we were off and running.

And it absolutely felt like Christmas when my package arrived from my swap partner, Gigi! It was remarkable how she picked up on my taste-- cottage with a Victorian twist.

Just take a look at the lovely pink cloth napkins, tole-painted planter, candles, and sweet vintage candlestick-- all perfect for an evening of sitting out on the porch admiring “The Back Four.”

Gigi additionally added a few bars of her amazing creamy homemade soap and a jar of her bath salts-- a soothing way to end a day of working in the garden. (You can visit her web site, Under the Willow Gifts to learn more about her soap kitchen. Click here.)

And she also made me a cute pink tote-bag which I think will be really handy for flea-marketing.

Now Gigi, I knew, liked reds, blues, greens and pinks. Also, having seen some photos of her vacation cottage, I got the sense her decor had a bit of a country-Victorian feel. She’d mentioned she had yet to get herself a set of windchimes. And that she had a little frog pond, with frog statuary around it-- and had room for a few more frogs.

So this is what I pulled together for Gigi:

  • Some cottagey wrought iron candle sconces which could be hung outdoors.
  • A metal frog prince to keep the other froggies in line.
  • Some froggy napkin holders because they made me laugh (wasn’t trying to over-frog her, but sometimes you’ve got to go for the humor value.)
  • A cheerful “gardening angel” window valence (she said she might use this on the door to her soap kitchen-- how cool!)
  • And then the challenging craft project-- a painted birdhouse with silverware windchimes.

The painting of the house itself was easy enough. I selected the color scheme based on the happy red door that leads to her soap kitchen, and a blue-gray with a cottage feel to it. Getting the silverware chimes affixed to the birdhouse, though-- that ended up being the tricky bit. They’re attached via five eye-hooks in the base of the birdhouse. From there heavy-duty nylon jewelry thread was attached and beaded.

Then the issues happened. For the silverware with holes already in the handles, threading was simple. But for the hole-free handles... oh dear....

I had HEARD that drilling through stainless steel was not easy.

I had NOT heard, though, that a metal drill bit to stainless steel is like bullets to Superman.

I swear, that spoon just sat there giggling while I applied the drill bit to it, indicating it “tickled a bit.”

So, after a few minutes of this and some very choice words, I decided glue would be the way to go. I had what I thought was heavy duty marine glue, which I applied to the handles and the thread. And after I let it dry for a day, I hung up the windchimes, hearing for the first time a very happy, satisfying chime...

And then a clunk and a clatter as one of the spoons hit my hard wood floor.

So back to the drawing board! For, a gift is not a gift if it falls apart.

I tackled it with some serious outdoors epoxy I’d used on my mosaic stepping stones. This baby should be together and chiming for a good long time! (I pity any baby birds who decide to move into the birdhouse, though... Nice neighborhood, but the noise would have to seriously devalue the property.)

So that’s the story of the Cottage Living outdoor decorating swap. You can see here how nicely the wonderful items I received work for a happy dinner on the porch. Care to take a seat? I set the table just for you!

Oh, you can’t stay long? Well, I am sorry to hear it, but that’s quite all right-- I’ll see you next week, then!