Thursday, July 05, 2007

Finders Keepers

Attention, shoppers! Warm weather means that flea markets and yard sales are bursting at the seams with hidden treasures. Here’s how to score your own diamonds in the rough.

By Amy Palanjian
Photographs by Scott Gibbons
Originally published in Hallmark Magazine

Toss your plan to loaf your way through the lazy summer days and start bargain hunting instead. Andy Newcom, Hallmark’s intrepid style guru, is here to show you how easy it is to transform someone else’s trash into your very own treasure—while he teaches you to get the biggest bang for your buck and have some fun in the process. From a three-step makeover of a detailed dining chair to a genius “Why didn’t I think of that?” use for old glass chandelier shades, Andy’s expertise opens up a world of decorating ideas. While working as a stylist over the past eight years, he has learned a thing or two about scoring big-style successes: “Pick exactly what you like, don’t be afraid to play around with a project until you get it just right and never doubt how much simple embellishments enhance even the plainest piece,” he says. Still in doubt? Read on and you’ll discover Andy’s time-tested (and cheap!) tricks for customizing some curbside steals.

Scene Setter Andy Newcom is a Missouri-based stylist who develops decorating and craft projects for this magazine and for Hallmark.

Chair Apparent When Andy found this Regency-style chair at an antique store, it was painted in a faux gold-leaf finish. To enhance the chair’s elegance—rather than compete with it—he did a makeunder, giving it a clean and simple transformation. He started by sanding down the paint with a fine-grit sandpaper. (Painting over previously applied glossy paint can result in an uneven coating.) Then he applied a bright white, perfect-for-summer, semigloss latex paint and gave a cotton tablecloth a new life by using it to cover the old seat cushion. (Simply cut the fabric to fit over the removable cushion, allowing at least three extra inches on all sides to fold under the bottom. Tuck in the corners as if you were wrapping a package and use a staple gun to secure the fabric tautly to the seat.) Finally, Andy gave a traditional armless Queen Anne–style chair the same treatment, bringing together two very different pieces of furniture with just a can of paint and a few yards of fabric.

Play Dress-Up The charm of this aged dresser is its patina, so Andy focused on adding a few decorative elements. He started by painting the drawers (which were a different color from the dresser’s frame and not original to the piece) a crisp cream and replaced the missing pulls with fresh, white ceramic ones (easy to find at hardware stores). Then he primed, painted and attached an ornate wooden embellishment to the middle drawer, using small finishing nails that he sank completely with a nail punch and caulked over. He balanced that adornment with two simpler ones on the top and bottom drawers and a medallion on each of the sides.How to decide when enough is enough? “It’s trial and error,” says Andy. “It’s definitely easy to go too far—but the embellishments aren’t expensive, so pick up a few, play with them, and if you don’t end up using them all, just save them for another project.” Then, line the inside of each drawer with pretty wrapping paper or contact paper. Top the dresser off by laying a favorite fabric remnant under a piece of glass cut to fit the dresser’s dimensions—an inexpensive service that’s available at most hardware stores.

Go with the Glow Turn-of-the-century sconces and chandeliers often had opaque glass shades (like the assortment pictured here) that cast a soft, candlelit glow over Victorian parlors and ballrooms. Today it takes virtually no effort (and we mean none) to transform these fixtures into decorative votive candles. As Andy says, “All you have to do is stick a tea light or small votive under the shades and you are done!” Many vintage stores and flea markets (especially those specializing in lighting or in the Victorian era) have a wide range of styles and colors, so it’s easy to mix and match whatever shades you are drawn to. Just choose one unifying theme, such as color, size or a specific style of decorative embossing. Andy chose to display a collection of textured white shades: “With no distracting color, the beautiful, embossed patterns really attract the eye when the shades are lit and glowing from within.” He likes to assemble his finds in clusters of three or four and set them out on a patio or an outdoor dining table. You can also use them to line a walkway, railing or fence—which is an easy, elegant and inviting way to welcome evening guests.

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