Thrifty Decorating

Now, I promised a decorating post this week, but I don't want you to get your hopes up. My decorating talent does not lie in the realm of Whipping Up Fabulously Crafty Home Decorator Items Out of Everyday Household Objects. It is more along the lines of finding things in the shed that I bought ten years ago from a garage sale, and putting them on a shelf somewhere. Just so as you are warned. Ok? Here we go then.

So last November I accidentally had some ugly shelves built in the study downstairs. First I despaired, then I painted them all white, which is my standard response to anything challenging in the DIY department. Then I went up to the shed and pulled out all the cardboard boxes that are labelled 'Jo's Special Things'. This is where, at the beginning of our renovation, I stashed all my inherited and thrifted treasures (and bits of seaweed I found on the beach. And special stones and shells and interesting shaped pieces of wood. I never actually outgrew that particular phase..).

The shelves were much improved when I decanted all of these treasures onto them (as you all assured me they would. You are always, always right, my lovely readers). Here it is. I did not buy anything at the time, as I have been collecting all those white filing boxes at sales over the years, and storing them in inconvenient places for The Man to trip over. Now that he has moved out, the tripping hazard has been neatly filed away. Hilarious, right?

My Grandma's tea cannister:

An excellent sentiment in the room where I pay the bills. Look, the bill spike next to it is empty. I wonder how that happened?

Now for this week's decorating project. First, the set of wooden shelves I bought in a junk shop some years ago. I always knew I would use this in the study, but wasn't clear how, because all the shelves are quite shallow. I think they were originally used to store envelopes or something - maybe pigeon holes for an office? I don't process many envelopes, but I do collect vintage household tat, because it is hilarious, so that is what is in the shelves now. A large number of items in this collection belonged to a very old lady, the mother of one of my mum's friends. When she died, and my mum helped clear out her house, Mum rescued a lot of unwanted vintage sewing notions for me. She is a star!

This op-shopped tin is covered in anenomes. It is my very favourite tin in the whole world.


Up the top is a collection of bottles I have dug up out of my garden over the years, and an iodine bottle from under the floor. My favourite bottle advertises cheerfully, 'Pink Pills for Pale People'.

Then there are a collection of boxes of pins - still full! 'Dandy Steel Household Pins Are Manufactured In Australia From the Finest Australian Material, the Quality of Which Cannot Be Surpassed'. How absolutely delicious that the manufacturers of these pins were so passionate about, well, steel pins. I do feel that such patriotic enthusiasm is hard to come by in the household products of today.

These Kodak film cannisters must have been immensely useful for storing any number of household items in.

On the top shelf here is a tin inherited from a grandmother, great aunt? Someone in the family. Guess what it was for? A slice of wedding cake was popped into it and posted to any guests unable to make it to the wedding. Adorable! (and incidentally, the method used to poison a victim in one of Agatha Christie's novels) Those pegs I found under the laundry floor, along with some newspapers from the 1930s.

Last of all, a collection of sewing notions. An ingenious needle threader, a tiny Singer sewing machine box, a needle book, and that red box with the spools of thread? That is thread for mending stockings, and the sentiment on the lid - 'Another hole? Darn it.' Sewing was once so much more hilarious. Even trouser patches stood proud. Look at this:

Self-supporting trousers? Who knew?

Well, that was my decorating effort for this week. I warned you. Putting things on shelves is about as clever and crafty as I get. But, better out than in, right? Plus, now I know I have a lifetime's supply of pins, a fact which I had forgotten. Thrifty!

I would still love to see all your thrifty decorating projects. Give me a shout out if you post one, and I will link to it. Love to see what you are all doing without spending to make your homes more homey and pleasant to be in.


Judy said…
Surely they can't be the same ugly shelves? They look somehow smaller and less prominent.

I just love your stuff Jo. Even better that is has so much feeling attached to it. I also love that you have a space (a very neat and tidy space too) which you can fill with all the things you love. It gives you some practical space to work, but more than that you have made it a place to enjoy and look at all the beautiful meaningful things :-)
Jo said…
White paint Judy! White paint makes ugly go away. That is my only useful decorating tip. White paint and Very Large decorating items. I think they distract your eyes from the space around them. I hunted all over the house for the biggest things I could find that were all in the same colour group, and up they went. I was SO relieved when it all came together:) I love my 'things'. Hardly any of them cost much. And I am a bower bird and say 'Yes' to every intriguing thing offered to me. Which is why I mustn't ever buy anything again:)
Unknown said…
Can I have some pink pills please? I'm very pale. Love the white.
Bek said…
Jo, this is all fabulous. The shelves look great and I love the clever use of small shelves. It looks like it should be in a magazine. But most of all I loved the tales to tell about how you aquired these items. So special.
Jo said…
Lynda, I would absolutely share the pink pills with you.. I'm quite pale too, still with mystery anemia. Sigh.
Bek, thankyou so much, you are a sweetheart. I love possessions with a story. Which is why I am not very sad to not be shopping in big box stores any more. If there is any 'soul' in things at all, it is in things that have been used and loved, or in things that have been crafted with love. I want to surround myself with those things, if anything. Although I am still a little bit in love with minimalism. I like my white, but also love a spare space, like Van Gogh's bedroom - a bed, a chair, a table, and the only decorative element is vivid colour. Oh decisions, decisions..
Kristen Johns said…
I love this, Jo! So great, and inspiring too. Tomorrow I will look through my cupboards of things I've collected over the years and place something on a shelf just for you!
Jo said…
Oh, Kristen, I am thrilled! I know that anything you place on a shelf will be beautiful and artfully arranged. Do let me know if you post a photo:)
Anonymous said…
Love both sets of shelves and your household items. Isn't there something that just tugs at the heartstrings about how sincere old product slogans and ad copy sounded? Not like now when all the sincerity is driven out by "irony."
Jo said…
Oh Dar, absolutely. Although I'm sure it was just the manners of another era, and advertisers were just as cynical about foisting unnecessary products on the public - for an inside look at the advertising industry in the 1930s do read 'Murder Must Advertise' by Dorothy Sayer. It is quite magnificent:)
Hi Jo, Love the shelves, but what about the newspapers surely you can find somewhere to display one or two of the articles, a frame of random 1930's articles would look great alongside your shelves. I think this weeks poem is going to be about shelves and pins, we'll see. Keep writing. love your blog. x
Hi Jo, I hope you don't mind but I have reproduced your photos on my blog along with a lovely poem I found that really seems to capture the spirit of your shelves. Siwzy x
Jo said…
Oh Siwzy, thankyou for such a kind comment, and a beautiful poem about the books of childhood. Is there anything more evocative than unexpectedly finding an old pressed flower or ticket or pressed Easter egg wrapper in a childhood book? I love it!
Jen's Busy Days said…
I had forgotten about keeping old easter egg foils in books. ;-) Jo, I decorate with old things too. My favourite is a square sauce bottle from the company that later became Fountain. All my little old bits were found in the backyard of our house in NSW? The house was getting close to 100 years old and there were such lovely goodies in the backyard. I too love white as a background. I use Napkin White by Dulux. Lovely shelves!

Best wishes
Jen in Qld
Amber said…
So much simple beauty! I love your grandma's tea canister!

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