Making a Period Kitchen Really Cook

For those of us with period homes, the kitchen can be among the most challenging to decorate. Our kitchens are often the heart of the house, the place where some serious work is done, where guests linger, and where families spend much of their time. So for folks with older homes, we realize our kitchens need to be functional. But they also need to fit within the flow of the rest of the house. They need to feel a part of things, not just a separate add-on to the overall atmosphere.

And walking that line between functionality and style can seem a little overwhelming!

Like how much period accuracy do you need? Well, would you trade your refrigerator for an old-fashioned ice box, just for the sake of historical correctness? Um... no, me neither. So that's why I thought today it might be helpful to talk about the period kitchen, and how vintage elements can be used to create a kitchen that has an old-fashioned vibe, without losing modern-day conveniences.

In the book "Period Kitchens," by Judith Miller, I uncovered a number of clever inspiration photos. Like the photo below...

Note the painted beadboard walls, and the use of mismatched plaids to create a comfortable, soft, lived-in feel. Also notice the way plaid tiles were used behind the vintage refurbished stove. Furniture here is the same sort of furniture this home might include in its livingroom or on a covered porch. This helps connect the kitchen to the rest of the home, and encourages visitors to pull up a chair and spend some time.

Here once more, tile becomes a central feature of the kitchen. See how the patterned feature wall in blue and white echo the china on the plate rail above, making the wall and accessories become one unified eye-catcher...

Cabinets are a combination of built-ins and free-standing pieces. This evokes the feeling that pieces were moved in over time.

This kitchen uses some antique seating and 18th century tavern tables to create a unique breakfast nook.

The china-filled cabinet displays pieces that are both usable and decorative. You'll probably notice many of these period-influenced kitchens have open shelving, which hearkens back to earlier times-- and gives a decorator the great chance of showing off some favorite collectibles.

This collection of china really appealed to me, with its different patterns yet cohesive coloring...

You'll certainly never go without a cup or bowl in this house, yet the abundant look displays a really pretty, welcoming collection.

I also thought you might enjoy seeing the way something as simple as a collection of different-shaped cornbread molds could become a pleasant wall display...

You're so busy looking at them hanging there, you really never notice the stove is a modern one. And because the molds are metal, they hold up well to any cooking oils that might splash up from the stove below.

I also drooled a bit over these terrific cabinets with gothic arch windows...

If it were me, I'd remove that distracting navy blue tea towel off that gorgeous cream period stove, but otherwise, the soft distressed blue cabinetry says "old world" while clearly this sort of cabinetry and styling never made its appearance as a part of earlier kitchens.

Here is another way to display a china collection, tying it directly to the colored wallpaper behind...

Now, many of these general ideas I used in my own kitchen. These are not the best photos, and for that I apologize. But this should give you a good idea of how I've been tying in modern conveniences, like my beloved coffeemaker with vintage collections...

A free-hanging stained glass window helps add a period feel to the window over the sink (and means I don't need to look at the big gray wall of my neighbor's house!). I added molding to the plan upper and lower cabinets, painting the upper cabinets white and staining the lower cabinets a dark shade that matched the woodwork around the rest of my home.

All white, and I think it wouldn't have looked as cohesive with the livingroom, from which it extends. And all dark, and I think with the giant upper cabinets, it would have been too dark, and not very fresh-looking. This was a strange, but helpful compromise.

I removed the doors off one cabinet on each side of the sink to create balance and to showcase my green and pink depression glass collections. This way I can reach them easily.

The bright green coffeemaker and toaster match the green depression glass quite well. Here is a little window display of some of my old and new accessories...

And here's the very-modern but plain stove. Nothing special about it, so it doesn't draw attention to itself!

Same with the refrigerator! Simple, and nicely boring!

More Victorian transferware plates and Jadite are displayed on the far wall, on plate rails...

Do you have a period-influenced kitchen you wouldn't mind sharing here? I'd love to hear from you. Kitchens are such a tricky room to decorate, I think we could all learn a lot from each other. Just email me at thriftshopromantic @ mac . com (except with no spaces) if you have anything you'd like to share.

Did you miss last Treasure Box Wednesday when we met the silent butler? Click here.

Happy Labor Day weekend everyone. Don't labor too much now!

Treasure Box Wednesday: Silent Butlers, Crisp Waffles and Vintage Dominoes

Tired of all those noisy butlers, yak, yak, yakking away all the time, telling you their ailments in detail and missing all the crumbs on the breakfast table? Well, this charming Silent Butler might be just what you need!

Also called a "crumber," I believe, these decorative items were used by Victorians and Edwardian folks to tidy up their dining tables. Occasionally I'll see them in antique malls, but it's a rare find indeed at the thrift store, particularly to find both pieces-- the tray and the crumb sweeper. This one came from the Salvation Army.

Judging from its art nouveau styling, and the fact that it seems to be made of spelter, that would date this piece to somewhere in the early 1900s...

Most enjoyable is that it seems to have been a souvenir item, from Atlantic City, to "Mother." Ah, those wacky Victorians-- they sure did like their travel memorabilia.

It cost me a whopping $0.99.

Other finds these week included a surprising amount of Anchor Hocking Waffle/Waterford depression glass. I was missing both coffee cups and tumblers in my set, but this week the Waffle just seemed to be waiting.

At a Goodwill on Route 30 in North Versailles, I got four coffee cups, for $0.25 a piece...

And then at the Salvation Army on the South Side I uncovered six tumblers for $0.79 a piece.

Just look at those babies sparkle!

My last rather unusual find of the week was this bag of vintage wooden dominoes for $0.99...

I was thinking they might be nice as a part of some shadowbox projects. Just look at the interesting detail on them. They remind me of the dominoes I played with my Grandpa a millennium or so ago.

And because this was such a short Treasure Box Wednesday, I thought you might enjoy seeing what's become of a previously-thrifted lamp. I think I shared this crazy crystal green lamp from the 60s with you before...

But it was shadeless. The shade, I found on Ebay. It just seemed to me that any lamp as over-the-top as this one, needed an over-the-top Victorian shade.

It's essentially my version of the Leg Lamp from "A Christmas Story" and its tacky madness makes me smile when I go in that room.

And isn't that what treasure hunting is all about?

If not- perhaps I shall see you on Sunday, for our next post? I certainly hope I will.

Take care of yourselves, my friends!

Creating Great Gift Baskets from Thrift Store Goodies

You might think gifts courtesy of your local thrift store sound like a poor-- and even tacky-- solution to gift-giving occasions. But in fact, with a bit of planning ahead, some well-chosen items, and knowing your recipient's interests, it's possible to pull together lovely, unique gifts that are as meaningful as they are economical.

Like this housewarming gift.

Shirley, a fellow blogger (you can visit her blog, Proof Positivity here), recently had the good news that Habitat for Humanity would be constructing her a home of her very own, removing her family from the challenging and unsafe conditions they're currently living in. Shirley has always managed to look on the bright side of things, in spite of the significant obstacles put in her path. And it's the overall good nature and stick-with-itness she displays every day that inspired me to send her a little token of support and encouragement.

It all started by knowing Shirley's favorite color was blue-- and this cheery bluebird plate, found at the Salvation Army thrift store.

I liked the idea of a blue-bird of happiness theme-- something to signify this being the start to better days ahead for Shirley and her children. And the rest of the items seemed to fall into line from there. Like these happy bluebird drinking glasses...

A glass "art" bluebird to catch the sun... Some new, incredibly-soft dishtowels and dishcloths... A teacup, printed with delicate blue flowers... And all of it, to fit in a large blue vintage-style mixing bowl.

The real trick of assembling the basket was in not expecting to find all the right items in one day of thrifting. But for regular thrifters, making this sort of time is not only easy, it's a joy!

I've spoken in the past about the pieces of grape-patterned milk glass I've been accumulating for a family friend who'd wanted to supplement her collection.

I started early this year, thrifting interesting and useful pieces as I spied them at appropriate prices. In the end, I'll likely place them in colorful tissue paper within a large Rubbermaid tub, so the packaging will be just as functional as the dishes inside.

I'm making a list of the pieces I've found, so by the time Christmas rolls around, there will be a full set for at least 4. You can see here, I'm well on the way-- with four goblets, four snack sets with cups, a platter, two centerpiece bowls, a vase, candlesticks, cream and sugar servers, several saucers and sundae dishes and a few other odd pieces.

Another little gift collection is being assembled following the theme of author Frances Hodgson Burnett. The recipient collects dolls, and this little porcelain lady from the Red White and Blue thrift store looked very much like the character Mary from The Secret Garden. Assembled with a copy of the films "The Secret Garden" and "A Little Princess" and a book featuring the same tales, this-- and with, perhaps, some seeds, garden gloves and a trowel, will make a nice basket.

Another friend has, for some reason, become enamored with the character Hello Kitty. And given Kitty's recent big resurgence, this has empowered some very good Kitty-related gifting.

These post-Christmas sale Christmas ornaments were snapped up and put away for future gifting...

And this whimsical Hello Kitty printed purse will not only act as great built-in packaging for the ornament gift, but will likely give my friend a laugh.

For baby showers, there are a number of clever containers you can find at thrift stores and fill with brand new baby items. For a friend who was planning a Peter Rabbit theme for her child's room, I had fun repurposing Easter items into funny bunny decor...

I filled a metal basket made of bright orange "carrots" with fresh new cotton swabs. And the little ceramic rabbit below is a clever cotton ball dispenser!

The items were delivered to my friend in a small pine toy chest, which I woodburnt and painted with the Peter Rabbit theme. (You can read all about how that was done here.)

Lastly, the thrift store is ideal for delicate, one-of-a-kind vintage items.

The two pretty rhinestone covered boxes below contain vintage clip earrings in pink and blue. The luster cup reads "To a Friend," And the blue Rachel Ashwell Shabby Chic book is a photo album that came from Goodwill. Even the packing material is a pretty vintage sheet, washed and cut to line the box. (You can read about that basket here.)

So whether you have sports nuts on your list, friends who adore vintage, fans of a particular cartoon character, or just someone you want to send some well-wishes, thrift stores can be terrific ways of pulling together smart, useful and even stylish gift baskets.

The only limit, really, is your imagination and a little time.

  • Missed last Wednesday's post on Crazy Hats, Cool Grapes and Crystal Settings? click here.
  • Missed Sunday's post where we went antiquing north of Pittsburgh? Join us here!

Treasure Box Wednesday: Crazy Hats, Cool Grapes and Crystal Settings

If you put the Mad Hatter in a room with Bob Mackie and Queen Victoria, that chapeau is possibly what you might get for your efforts. Insane, isn't it? That French lady bust will never forgive me for messing up her coiffure with such a feather-and-felt monstrosity, but it made such a humorous and lovely display.

It was found a few weeks ago at the Red, White and Blue at Bellevue (no, not the mental hospital-- different Bellevue) and it was also half-off. The lady at the register relayed this good news to me and then followed it up with, "So, what are you going to do with it?"

I mentioned displaying it, but I didn't think describing tormenting a very proper-looking art nouveau bust with it would really make my case for sanity.

Further in the thrifted world of vintage accessories, I'd found this deco-styled monogram handbag at the Salvation Army...

I will actually use this-- I don't care whether it's my initials or not. I think this will work well with a little black dress for an evening out. Now all I have to do is thrift the right guy, right?

Also in recent thrifting is this shell pink grape-patterned glass from the Indiana Glass Company. This was made around the 50s for Napco...

I liked the delicate pink shade of the glass. And in other grape-patterned glassware news, I found two parfait dishes for my friend's mother's milkglass gift basket. (Which is getting bigger by the week!)

According to the cashier at the Salvation Army Superstore, she remembers either peanut butter or jelly being a purchase with this giveaway item. Anyone else recall that as well, or is this urban thrift legend?

Lastly in the world of thrifty goodness is this thrifted still-life painting... I might just hang it in my office at work.

But wait-- don't go yet! Since I've been working on it, I thought you might also like to see my late-summer table setting...

The placemats are capice Shabby Chic mats I got a year or so ago. The plates are all my crystal Waffle/Waterford Anchor Hocking depression glass, and the candles and candlestick holders were all thrifted many moons ago from stores lost to time and memory...

I like the little fairy figures in particular because they have a bit of an art deco hood ornament thing going on in their styling...

And here you can see the mantle in the same room, with the marcasite-styled frames. They carry over the same feel as the crystal depression glass plates, I thought.

And there you can see my new-old yellow-green art deco clock discovered for $15 a week or so ago...

I thought that worked well with the yellow-green tablecloth and placemats!

Well, that's it for this Treasure Box. If you have a moment and want to check out Sunday's post on some antiquing spots to Pittsburgh's north, click here.

Can you all believe the Back To School season is right around the corner? I suspect for those of us without the wee ones, it would be wise to avoid all shopping malls unless absolutely necessary. It's looking a bit scary out there. Hope everyone is enjoying the last hurrahs of Summer!

Antiquing Adventures North of Pittsburgh

A little over a week ago, I received an email telling me about an antique mall just north of Pittsburgh, which I'd never heard of before-- the Wexford General Store Antique Center. With two floors and a number of dealers, it seemed a worthwhile little day trip. And honestly, given it's "Construction Season" here in Pittsburgh, there seemed very few places BUT north I would be able to reach without becoming ensnared in four-hour bumper-to-bumper backups. So a quick visit to RandMcNally and some driving directions from there to another antique mall I already knew of north of the city, and the adventure had begun.

It turns out, the Wexford General Store contains a rather delightful collection of dealers' wares. Strolling around the former general store's rooms ended up being a pleasant, relaxing visit. Many of the dealers had their items arranged with a real eye for presentation.

I became merrily waylayed in a series of rooms filled with new and antique books, for instance, entranced by art nouveau book covers and leather spines... Children's cheery picture books and thick historical tomes... I liked the little book-related vignettes, too, that had been crafted and displayed here and there. Like the Scrabble tiles below with their message about education...

There was a room entirely devoted to vintage clothing, and it felt like stepping straight into the past...

And there were antique and collectible items for essentially any interest, all showcased with the attention and care you don't always see in resale establishments.

I didn't buy much during my visit, only because there really isn't much I need these days. Just a Patricia Cornwell book analyzing the "Jack the Ripper" case (historically, that case and the mystery of the Richard III and the princes in the tower are the two that always seem to intrigue me). I also found some lovely early 1900s postcards of actresses I plan to research and share with you all at some future date...

Next on the agenda was a twenty minute drive to Wagon Wheel Antiques in Valencia, PA. A detour due to, yes, road construction, led me somewhat astray from my driving directions. But with a bit of reorientation and some luck, I managed to arrive at the Wagon Wheel without much added trouble.

The Wagon Wheel consists of a main house and number of outbuildings containing booths. The prices are good and the people who work there are quite nice.

I've gotten a few portrait plates here in the past, and my friend Josette had found a Staffordshire-like cat for her collection.

As a part of a long-time running joke with my friend Scoobie, I felt compelled to take a picture of the giant Blueboy statue in one of the outbuildings...

I think I might threaten to make a Christmas gift of it to her, to go along with the needlepoint Blueboy, porcelain Blueboy plaque, art deco Blueboy, and other Blueboy items that have already been forced on her for the collection she never really planned to have. (Insert maniacal laughter here... ) (Hey, if you can't give your friends a hard time, who can you torment?)

But I found a few non-Blueboy goodies at the Wagon Wheel, actually-- some early 1900s lusterware kitchen canisters very similar to a few I picked up a few years ago. I understand from the dealer that these canisters were a part of a much larger set that got badly damaged when some of the store's guests mistreated it and scarpered. He just came to find a number of the pieces destroyed.

At least now the remaining canisters have gone to a good home!

In another building, I found a World War II souvenir pillow cover for $3. This one is for the Navy and reads:

Remember Me
It is sweet to be remembered
When you're feeling sad and blue
It sets the pulse a throbbing
And it cheers the heart up, too
It makes the world worth living
To be remembered just by you.

The vendor I bought this from was asking what I planned to do with it, and I'd explained how these resided in my Shabby Chic/Cottagey guest room.

I think I perplexed her a bit when I relayed how entertained I always was by the strange combination of delicate pink roses and heavy weaponry on them.

With a full turn around the Wagon Wheel, it was time to get in the car and head another ten miles or so further north to Butler. There are a number of antique shops on and just off Main Street in Butler, so it seemed worthwhile to play them a visit.

I stopped at a St. Vincent dePaul along the way, and would have bought a piece of milkglass, but the cashier was nowhere to be found, so I ended up just putting it back and going...

And then it was on to downtown Butler. Folks considering doing this run, will want to keep in mind that many of the Butler shops close early on Saturdays-- usually around 3pm. So by the time I got there, two shops had already closed.

I did get an excellent old Spry cookbook for $1 which I think you'll get a kick out of in future posts. Aunt Jenny of Spry has lots of old timey wisdom -- in cartoon form, no less-- to share with us.

Well, that about wraps up our trip for today. For those interested, the addresses of the Wexford General Store and the Wagon Wheel in Valencia can be found here:

Wexford General Store Antique Center
150 Church Road
Wexford, Pennyslvania 15090
(724) 935-9959

Wagon Wheel Antiques
1399 Pittsburgh Rd (Route 8)
Valencia, PA
(724) 898-9974

  • For folks who missed Wednesday post where a meme asked "What's on YOUR walls?", click here to see.
Hope to see you for Treasure Box Wednesday of this week! Have a good one.