Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Covert Operations


They say confession is good for the soul, but myself, I find that playing dumb goes a lot farther….

I’ve mentioned before, my crippling inability to leave a “treasure” behind, a problem which has only been magnified over the years.  So, as a result, I’ve had to get creative with ways in which to sneak incorporate these pieces into my home. 

I have found that the best course of action is to wait until everyone else has left the house and then stealthily retrieve said items from their safe haven under the jackets and beach towels in the back of my oh-so-roomy car. (Which, may I say, I can pack 4 dining room chairs into, when the rear seats are down--reason #1 why I bought her!)

The next step in the mission is to quickly consolidate these finds into the decor before anyone has returned home.   This part can sometimes prove tricky, because I do what I tell others not to do--that is, to purchase items without a plan.  I know better, but I’m afraid that knowing better sometimes isn’t enough. 

I would like to add, however, that in the end, because I love them so much, I can always find a way to make these treasured finds work. 



Take for instance, “Pablo” here (my 8 year old finally named him--don’t ask)….  I lugged him home from the local flea market one day this spring.  The entire LONG walk out to where I was parked, I had him hoisted over my shoulder like I was burping a forty-pound newborn (really, it was ridiculous--children pointing and giggling.)   At the time, I  had no idea where I wanted to put him, I just knew that I had to have him.



After much rearranging and head scratching, he has finally landed a home in my dining room/soon-to-be-library on a console in front of the window between two large wheat-sheath Italian tole lamps (also rescue-pieces.)

Often, actually almost always, new finds must spend some time being triaged in my dining room--aka “Design Purgatory,” before transitioning into their semi-permanent home (because you know, nothing is ever permanent-permanent.)  



When the items are large, like say, a 7’ antique COLUMN, the whole operation must be taken to a higher level.  (This baby took lots of jackets and beach towels.)  Like all the other impulse purchases, it is now serving it’s time in design purgatory.  I have a few ideas for where to put it, but haven’t had the “aha, I’ve got it!” moment yet.




I nearly wrecked my car when I first spotted this darling chair.   Running late to get child #2 to baseball photos, I was trying to save time by taking a shortcut when… Rrrrrrh! Hit the brakes.  There she was, sitting on a driveway full of junk at a neighborhood yard sale.  What to do?!  Risk missing pictures altogether, or go inquire about the chair?  Well, let’s just say, it was like garage sale-ing on crack…

I run across the street, phone to my ear, telling the team mom that I’m “…in the car RIGHT NOW,  just around the corner. Hold the pictures, we’re almost there!”  

Me, to the nice man at the sale (wondering how much cash I have in my wallet):  “How much are you asking on the chair?”

Nice Man: “I’m asking $20, but I’d take less.”

Me:  “Would you take $15?” (Seriously, could I be more of a cheapskate?!”)

Really Nice Man:  “Sure, can I help you load it?”


(BTW, we made it to pictures by the skin of our teeth--no one the wiser.)

I don’t think I can make the pink velvet work in my home (love it, though).  So, I’m thinking I’ll reupholster it in a light oatmeal colored linen.  The cushion is down filled--I couldn’t have even bought the feathers for $15, let alone the frame, which is in perfect condition.



I kind of hesitate to post this picture, because it’s such an ugly duckling at this point, and I haven’t done anything yet to make it a swan--so you’ll have to use your imagination.   Think Swedish country. 

I came upon this cute little roll-top desk some time ago and again, with no plan in mind, I just couldn’t bear to leave it behind.  So, into the dining room it went. (I have very large double doors that swing into the dining room which, when opened,  create perfect corners in there in which to “store” things temporarily.)

Several months later, I caught my husband searching Craig’s List for “roll-top desks.”  When I asked him why in the world he was looking at those, (believe me, it’s totally out of character for him to look at anything remotely design related) he said that he wanted somewhere to set up his fly-tying (fishing) stuff.    Currently, the bits and pieces are in a big plastic tub that he drags out periodically to the kitchen table and it’s a big messy production whenever he decides to create some bugs. 

“Well” I say, “It just so happens….”

So I show him the desk I bought that’s now been sitting behind the doors for a couple of months. 

“That’s exactly what I need.” says Mr. Bass-Pro  “When did you get that?”

Me:  “Oh gosh, I bought that ages ago….”

Him:  “That will work out perfect!”

See, I told you playing dumb goes a long way. I managed to kill two birds with one stone--I got to save a cute little desk and he’ll have somewhere to keep his hobby stuff that won’t be an eyesore and drive me crazy.

These are just a few of the larger pieces that I’ve brought home without any idea in the world where they were going to go.  There are many, many more small accessory items that have been dug out of the dark corners of antique stores and estate sales.  They are much more quickly and easily absorbed into the decoration than some of the big pieces.

I am so not an “off the rack” kind of girl.  Consequently, when I find something I like at a great price, I grab it.  Certainly not a process that works if you want the instant gratification of a completed room, but I much prefer a space that looks as though it has been curated over time.

I am comfortable waiting for pieces to find me, big and small.  But if you’re not willing to wait, I suggest purchasing the large items, like sofas, beds, etc. from the design center and let the accessories and artwork evolve over time.  The result will be a space that is truly reflective of your own taste and that your friends and neighbors will envy (and will never be able to knock-off, because it was created with one-of-a-kind items.)


  1. That is totally me! I love chairs and will buy them (a lot of them) without a place for them.. I also sneak a little.. It is harder now though..


  2. wonderful, wonderful piece, S. I could make that pink velvet chair work for me in a heartbeat if you ever decide against recovering it. and those tole lamps? awesome. we are totally alike in this regard...I have four pairs of 8 feet tall antique screens that I have schlepped from room to room for a while now. Hmmm, now that I think about it...maybe they will be my new headboard...? (thanks for your suggestions on my dilemma of the day...)

    enjoyed this piece very much.

  3. A Perfect Gray--Thanks so much! Oooh, I'd love to have some screens. Sounds like they'd be a great headboard. You see why the idea of having a second home is so appealing to me? I certainly have enough furniture to fill two homes!

    Christina--It seems the chair thing is a common problem for us design afficionados. My husband(not quite affectionately) calls our house the "home for lost and abandoned chairs." Oh well, I guess it's a cross we have to bear....


  4. I just loved reading this!! I came over from A Perfect Gray where I enjoyed reading your remarks about needing two houses. Isn't that the truth!

    I have the same problem you have although the things I bring home are smaller (do I really need a 7th glass hurricane? - but this one has a great shape!). I try to be so conscious about what I buy as we have a small house (2000 ft2) and I like so many different styles that I lug home stuff that doesn't work. So I am trying to be more thoughtful when I buy, more slow...but it is HARD.

    I love your blog - the things you are bringing home are wonderful - i LOVE neoclassical looking things the best, so that bust and column had me drooling...gorgeous.

    Will go now and peruse your blog for more!! So nice to find you!

    xo Terri

  5. Terri-- I just have no willpower--nope, none, whatsoever. I am actually starting to work on opening a local shop as part of my design business as an outlet for some of the items that I just can't stand to leave behind. I need to, before my house actually does burst apart at the seams!

  6. I have to say that this sounds all too familiar. Unfortunately my husband is on to me and is now reading my blog!! So for now I can't even post about all of my finds!

  7. Thanks for making me feel normal. I've done all the same. I have garage filled with projects that I think are adorable. We have three cars and only one can now barely fit into the garage. It is surrounded on both sides -- resting precariously between fabulous vintage shutters and some old glass-mullioned french doors that need a "little work."

  8. Oh yes! The chair is so beautiful!

  9. You are too funny- i can so relate- but Matt gave up a while back- he just joins in now- and helps buy or sort or build. I love the statue- I want one-
    Are you two at the Rosville (antique trove) I tell ya, i saw so many booths, the other day -and i kept telling Matt-oh this is Suzanne's booth- oh no wait this has to be it.. So many with your style...
    no more hours in day- less sleep-


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