Pageturning for Inspiration: Inspiring Decorating Magazines

It's one of my favorite moments of a day... Where, coffee in hand, I perch myself in my cheerful vintage-French-style sitting room on a smushy sofa and leaf through a decorating magazine, waiting to see what fragrant, time-past worlds we'll find ourselves in this time.

To be honest, I don't have much more I can decorate here at Waterhouse. But going through the pages of places I haven't been and homes I won't get a chance to infiltrate in person, I savor other folks' visions and get ideas for a hundred houses more.

So I was wondering, what brings you all inspiration?

Romantic Country, Victorian Country Decorating, Old Home Interiors, Flea Market Style, Country Living, Cottage Living and a number of others have given me ideas that led to the rooms that make my own home.
I still read, and leaf, and wonder at wallpapers... and marvel at mantles...
I still hoard these ideas in little cubbyholes, wondering whether someday, these ideas will see the light of day for me in some unexpected way.
And I find myself wondering, do we ever stop decorating the homes in our mind? Planning the rooms that aren't ours, but could be... could be someone's... somewhere... someday?

My friend Scoobie laughs, because as I thrift, I spy things that aren't for me, but which I hope will find a happy home with someone else... A fine place on the wall. A noble nod above the newell post. I don't need them. But I can't help but think: someone, somewhere does.
All of those marvelous "Wouldn't it be beautiful if's?" out there. If you had a theme...? If you tried this or that...? If you only could afford...? If you happened to find...?

All the many, many combinations of what makes our worlds homey, or happy, or just simply "ours."

All of them came from that first spark of decorative inspiration.

So tell me-- what sparks your decorative imagination?

Treasure Box Wednesday: Pastels, Prints and Posies

A quick trip through one of my favorite local thrifting routes brought a few nice vintage surprises I wanted to share with you.

It was an early start, and one of the places closest to home wasn't going to be open yet. So I popped by Rossi's Pop-up Flea Market in North Versailles. Which presented a purchase of such pleasing proportions I could not pass...

I'm guessing the courting couple there in this 30s romantic print may be Romeo and Juliet-- before the downer ending. The landscape has a bit of Italian flair to me. What do you think?

At the L&L Fleatique, I got this pretty but watermarked print by Annie Benson Miller...
It was framed and extremely inexpensive because of the damage. Yet, I know I can either add a little bit of matte, or hang it with a vintage scarf dangling off one side, and the soft aesthetics of the piece won't be ruined a bit!

I just thought the imagery was charming, and the size of the piece is quite large.
Folks who read Sunday's post know I got a little haul on Hull pottery... With the two pieces on the left...
And lastly, the day was sweetened by an iridized pink candy dish. I love the creamy color to the pink. And as fall sets in, and gloom overcomes the Pittsburgh region, I tell you, I can use all the sparkle I can get.
Wishing you a week that is easy on the eyes, the nerves and the wallet, as we wave a fond farewell to the summer season.

When All Hull Breaks Loose: Collecting Hull Pottery

My first piece of Hull Pottery was a thrift store find that had some structural issues. I loved the style of it-- the matte finish, the soft pastels, the art deco/art nouveau styling-- but chips kept it from being drooled over by serious collectors.

It was a little number in the Wildflower pattern, from about 1946...
And in spite of its chips, its cheerful palette and overall look encouraged me to bring it home.

This last weekend I uncovered two more Hull Pottery pieces, and now the trio stands proudly on top of my china cabinet...
The haul of Hull inspired me to do a little digging in my Collectors Encyclopedia of Hull Pottery, by Brenda Roberts...
...And I thought I'd share with you what I learned.

While Hull Pottery began in 1905 as the A.E. Hull Pottery Company of China Street, Crooksville, Ohio, it had a convoluted history involving acquisitions-- like the Acme Pottery Company-- tiling manufacturing throughout the 20s, and even the management of the Shawnee Pottery Company in the 1937, before it evolved into the company we think of today.

It was the late 1930s and into the 1940s, where Hull began vases in the Iris, Potty, Tulip and Wildflower shapes, in the soft colors and gentle detailing so recognizable as Hull. (They're also known for those Red Ridinghood Cookie Jars and other novelty pieces you may see at antique malls and yard sales!).

The pottery continued through a flood in the 50s which caused a kiln to explode and the factory to catch fire. Then with rebuilding and restructuring, the company continued in various iterations during the 1950s, with serving ware and florist ware well into the 1970s. According to Wikipedia, it was in March, 1986 the Hull Pottery company ceased operations and closed the plant.

This is the small Iris patterned vase I picked up this weekend.
This was my particular favorite, a 1940s Tulip patterned Hull vase
The mark below, on the small vase says it's "Hull Fine Pottery" but I didn't find that mark in my book. Could it be knock-off Hull?...

I don't know the answer. I know there are supposed to be many Hull imitators out there-- particularly in the Red Riding Hood theme. But, honestly, even if it isn't original Hull, I still like the shape of the vase.
And if you like the look of Hull pieces, I suggest you be sure to shop around. Many pieces I see in my travels are in the $40 and up range (mostly UP), but it is possible to find nice pieces under $20-- though it takes time and patience. Unlike McCoy, Hull typically can't be found for thrifty prices!

All hail Hull! (And I'll see you Wednesday, for this coming week's Treasure Box post.)

Treasure Box Wednesday: Art Nouveau Niceties

It's been a good long time since I had such luck on my thrifty adventuring. Some of it has been because of me; I just don't need a lot of stuff, so the things I come across need to really catch the eye and be for a great price.

Such was this weekend, though, as my friend Scoobie and I antiqued our way through Eastern Ohio. We hit the Fiesta Outlet in Newell, Ohio and learned that the Saturday flea market we'd stumbled upon once before, in the parking lot in front of the Homer Laughlin outlet is actually a weekly endeavor running through September.

Scoobie got a nice elaborate corner shelf for two or three bucks. I didn't find anything, but loved the hunt.

Then we crossed the river to East Liverpool, Ohio, and hit Pottery City, a multi-floor treasure hunting mecca. There I got... well... pottery. In the form of this Victorian vase turned into a lamp...
It's transformation seemed to have been long ago, given the lamp part has pull-chain capabilities and has fittings that have seen some age. I had been giving this lamp the eye for many months now-- possibly more. But this week the lamp was down to $30 with 10% off...

I couldn't resist.

I also picked up two bisque spill vases, similar to the one that was my Grandmother's which had initially sparked my interest in this style of bisque piece...
This one here isn't marked, but stylistically, seems to be made by the same folks who did my Grandmother's vase.
It's got a real art nouveau feel.

A couple of decorative books called to me along the way. Bright, vivid chromolithograph illustrations line the pages of this "Boys King Arthur" and this "Joan of Arc"...
And last, a side trip to Columbiana, Ohio turned up this turn-of-the-1900s Warwick pottery vase. It has some cracks, but it's still as beautiful as ever. And you will never believe the price...
Okay, it's a little blurry. But I think you can still make it out.
Yup, $3.00.

But hey, that's the beauty of treasure hunting. You never know what's out there until you begin the search.

Have a great week, folks!

Go West, Young Collector: Collecting Cowboy and Western-themed Bourbon Bottles

My good buddy, Scoobie, is a vista chick. She loves the idea of a bright orange Western mesa, a handsome cowboy, and a beautiful sunset.

The budding decor in her new home reflects this. So it stands on the precipice of Victoriana, arts and crafts, and merry Western kitsch. She is still finding her way. But one collection she has continued via the power of thrifting and antiquing is her Western-themed decanter collection...

Something fans of the unique, inexpensive and fun, will recognize as easy-to-find vintage collectibles at thrift stores, flea markets, antique malls, and yard sales!

Scoobie has kindly let me showcase her collection-to-date for you today-- for which I'd like to thank her. (She's very kind about letting me take photos of whatever she's up to for the ol' blog. Hugs to her!) I know The Thrift Shop Romantic does have some indulgent male readers, and this might just pique the interest. Think of the rugged pulp fiction of Louis L'Amour... And Zane Gray... And the artist Remington...

And bourbon! Oh, lots of bourbon! Like these fun, in-the-box bottles of Jim Beam Kentucky Bourbon, flocked in blue velvet and flecked in gold...

They're covered in Remington prints and generally quite inexpensive in both antique malls and thrift stores, if you're willing to shop around. I understand, the trick is remembering which ones you already have.

Scoobie has also gotten for just a few dollars a piece, a couple of bottles that reflect the retro travel souvenir style that was popular in the 50s and 60s. Like this fun Yosemite map bottle she uncovered.

Others, take on the shape of a real item... Like this stagecoach Kentucky bourbon bottle. Or an Arizona bottle shaped like a mesa I believe (if my memory serves me correctly, because I was there at the time of purchase) she bought for only $3 or so at the Pottery City Antique Mall in, Ohio...
(Correct me if I'm wrong, Scoobie!)

Also, Jim Beam came out with a brown-bottled wildlife series. I got her the chipmunk bottle at the Salvation Army on the South Side of Pittsburgh last year, but she found the other two herself.
As for value, on the whole, don't expect to make a mint off your decorative bottles, but there are collectors' societies who do specialize in certain types of decanters.

I enjoyed perusing the following decanter-related sites (click the links to learn more):

Check out the bottle pictures here!:

And don't forget:
Me, I have to go. I need to round-up some dinner. Can I get a "yeeeee-hawwwww"?" :)

Silver Eye Center Goes Down the Rabbit Hole with Maggie Taylor

Here in Pittsburgh, the Silver Eye Center for Photography has been showing a collection of works from artist Maggie Taylor, along a theme near and dear to my heart. It's These Strange Adventures, a surreal trip through Wonderland and other remote areas of imagination.
What I found most intriguing-- and I thought you folks might, too-- is that her work is done by layering Victorian engravings, photographs and objects into Photoshop, and creating an illustrative scene from them. So what were once ancestors being sold on Ebay suddenly transform into a serious-faced Alice carrying a Cheshire cat on a moody landscape. Or the King and Queen of Hearts posing, both realistic and cartoonish, for posterity.

This work illustrated a fascinating book of Alice in Wonderland, where the Alice here is portrayed by many different "Alice's" of different ages, in different antique photographs to complete a single story...
Perhaps that Drink Me bottle did more extensive personal alterations than height!

Another interesting thing about the work is its use of vivid vintage colors... shades that make the photos look hand-tinted, the way old lithographs or portraiture would have been during the day.
One of my favorites is Alice here with the dodo and other creatures in the Pool of Tears. Look how seamlessly these individual images were combined to create one full scene...
For my good readers in the Pittsburgh area, there's still time to see this show at the Silver Eye Center. It runs through August 21, 2010, and it's located right on Carson Street on the South Side.

The address is:

1015 East Carson Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15203
(412) 431-1810

Oh, and before we go today, because I thought this would make you all laugh...
Do you think my cat, Alice, is trying to tell me something? It doesn't seem.... subtle.

Have a Wonder-ful rest of your week!

Bargains and Beauty at the First Annual Bellevue Neighborhood Yard Sale

It might just have been the birth of an annual tradition!

I'm talking about the First Annual Bellevue Neighborhood Yard Sale, here in the Pittsburgh, PA region.

Much like the Regent Square neighborhood sale, Bellevue promised the joy and anticipation of serendipitous secondhand. But where Regent Square is a fairly condensed area, and the sale has been going on for several years in a row, Bellevue's participating Victorian homes were spread out over the northern slopes, making for some fascinating items and a lot of really good exercise.

I was hoping for some shots with condensed yard saling activity in them, but topography just wouldn't permit! One of my favorite locations had tons of fabric remnants... virtually anything you might need, right down to a disassembled, hand-embroidered vintage quilt with squares just waiting to be pieced together once more.

I didn't buy anything there, as my sewing skills don't in any way equal my ambition, but I really enjoyed walking around, seeing the homes and the various items for sale, and thinking about how these things might find new owners who would truly appreciate them.

My buddy Scoobie did find an antique level, as a future Christmas present for her dad...

From a distance, it may not look like much, but this old tool still has a few tricks up its sleeve... or, from the looks of the metal plaque embedded deeply into it-- its toga.
Initials and a maiden (Columbia? Liberty?) tell a tale of days where detail mattered. I think Scoobie's dad is going to be thrilled. He collects old tools and cherishes them for both their form and function.

I also had a blast taking photos of local architecture, flora and fauna. This stained glass window, in what I believe is a chrysanthemum pattern, caught the eye...
The shingles need work, but the window continues to brighten the way.

I also loved these hydrangeas, where many different colors inhabited just one bush...
Some on their way out, some are still shouting of summer days!

And a butterfly bush drew in some friendly swallowtails who didn't mind posing for a brief fashion shoot...

I flapped on out of there myself feeling relaxed, entertained and glad for such a beautiful day. Here's looking forward to next year.

Treasure Box Wednesday: What's in YOUR Treasure Box?

I went antiquing over the weekend with my buddy Scoobie, and unfortunately, I have nothing really I can share with you right now because what I bought was a gift for someone.

Rather than totally ruin the surprise for the recipient, who probably would prefer to see her gift in a box at her birthday rather than spread all over the pages of this blog, I'll wait to share with you folks later.

Anyway, lately, I've been in the mode where I'm happy with my decor and so I really don't feel I NEED much myself. But there are a couple of things I look for when I go out thrifting just the same...

Y'know, those Holy Grail items that would be great to find, if I happened to run across them. Like unusual Victorian postcards... or more pieces of my Anchor Hocking moonstone dishes... or an enticing example of McCoy or Hull... well, that would be a pot of a different color.

I already had one such moment a few months ago when I found my red velvet sofa at the Salvation Army Superstore in West Mifflin.

So I open it up to you good folks...

If you could find your dream item at a thrift store, yard sale, flea market or whathaveyou... what would it be?

(Note: Treasure Boxes Filled with Unclaimed Cash are a given, and therefore not worth mentioning. :) )

Oh, and while I remember, if you didn't get to see Sunday's post where a 1960s photo shoot for fabric takes an odd turn around the bases at the ballpark, well, you can click here.

Having a Ball with Vintage Fabric Ads

Ah, baseball... America's favorite past-time! And what says outdoor warm-weather sporting more than great heaping yards of non-breathable polyester fabric?

Join me today as we step into the stands and cheer on our favorite 60s fashion with Kodel Polyester Fiber.

Here we have the new uniforms for the Pittsburgh Pirates...
What do you mean, "that's not regulation"? See, it's gold, and she's got her catcher's glove there in her right hand!

Okay, sure, it's going to be hard to run in those shoes. And sliding could shift that shift, leaving her on third base but her dress back at second. Still, the Pirates haven't done well for a long time. Think about it: this really could only help their record.

Want some cotton candy? This lady seems to have found a vendor selling it...
Unfortunately, no one told her you were supposed to eat it.

Here Britney Spears prepares to sing the National Anthem...

"Oh, say, can you... Do that to me one more time!" she sings.

Nice wholesome fun, that!

This batter is ready to go-go...
No, seriously, lady, go!... go!... You need every second you have to run around the bases in those completely impractical flip-flops.

These girls are practicing their run...

The heels are hell in the dirt, but the pleats just look so flirty as she spits her tobacco.

And some slow-mo styled running virtually assures their team will win...

Anyone who's ever seen a film where characters walk out to do battle in slo-mo knows those folks are always on the winning side.

These two will be sent down to the farm team for paying more attention to those guys in the stands wearing the body paint, than the actual game...

And Marlo Thomas here is saved from serious injury simply because she remembered to wear her helmet...It would have been a high ball, if she hadn't been crouching at the time.

Here we see the team's inclusive nature. Why, not only do they look fabulous in their wallpaper pattern evening clothes...
But the team has included its very first female impersonator!

Who knew polyester fashion was so ahead of its time?

And what's that? Could it be?!

It's true! The Pirates have just won the game!...

No... really!...
I'm as surprised as you are, lady.

Thanks for stopping by, everyone. I hope you knock this coming week out of the park.