Faded Faux Finery - Vintage Artificial Flowers

I've always been enchanted by vintage artificial flowers. They have a subtle, faded beauty to them that has a very nostalgic quality.
These beautiful roses are made of cotton tinted pink. They have fuzzy chenille stems! These and the other that I have are called millinery flowers. They're made of paper or fabric, have flexible stems that were wire or bias tubing and were sold in dime stores for use in hat making and other crafts.

I was very lucky to run across a large stash of them years ago at a thrift shop. I snatched them up and stored them away for future use and we found the perfect opportunity for them in the Shower episode of my show.
We used them to create a charming party room for the fictional guest of honor for our shower.
The art department created a nosegays like these... use for trimming the banquet table and decorating gifts.
They also trimmed up some darling decorative umbrella frames I had found at a thrift shop as well to use as a centerpiece.

These lovely little decorative objects can be found on eBay and Etsy. Search for "millinery flowers" and all sorts of options come up. Right after the war they were made in occupied Japan and some of the ones I have still bear that label. They're not outrageously expensive and are perfect for little accents in your craft projects. You can even find them new at floral supply houses, though I don't think they're quite as charming. Do you use artificial flowers in your crafting? If so, how do you use them? I'd love to see some pictures!


Put a Little Spring in your Sleep - Restoring a Sofa Bed

Don't get me wrong, I love my new vintage sofa bed. The problem with buying a used sleeper sofa is that the bed is frequently pretty uncomfortable. This was the case with mine. The middle of the bed sagged horribly - so much so that I had to be creative about sleeping positions, lest the bar in my back cut me in half. I've started to take steps to rectify that, however. The first one is to replace the springs that hold the mattress deck taut.
The spring on the right is one of the old ones. You can see how stretched out it is. On the left is a new spring, all shiny and ready for service. I found the new springs at Planet Bed. Count the turns in your springs and then find the match in their catalog. Over the years these springs can become sprung, allowing the deck to sag in all the wrong places. Replacing them isn't a complicated procedure. It does take a bit of muscle and some ingenuity, however.
I had intended to use pliers to pull the springs into position. The tension is too much for the pliers, however, and they kept slipping from the grips. I ended up using the sturdy hook on a good quality wooden hanger to pull them tight. The first hanger broke after I was about half done, but the second one survived to finish the job.

So did it help? Yes, indeed! It's revived the bed beautifully, actually. The deck doesn't sag anymore and sleeping in it is much more pleasant. Taking the time and effort to revitalize something old instead of throwing it out and buying something new is a good step to take to combat the disposable nature of our consumer economy. My reasons for doing it really had to do with how the sofa looked, but it's been a lesson in sustainability as well. Why not try and upgrade something you've been thinking of replacing? If you do, I'd love to hear about it.


$25 and a Dream - My New Credenza

Hi people! I've just added a new credenza to my furniture collection. I was very luck to find this for the amazing low, low price of $25 on Craigslist.
Here it is surrounded by yet to be unpacked boxes and furniture that I still need to get rid of. It's lacquered and probably dates back to somewhere between 1975 - 1981, which is perfect for the decorating scheme I'm going for.
I love the drawer handles...
...and door handles. They're rounded rectangles and are beveled in, then lined with a brass plate. Some of the plates have a bit of corrosion on them, but replating them won't be a difficulty if I decide to do it. They're small and shouldn't cost that much.
The base is interesting too. It features an inner block and an outer leg structure that sits below the body of the piece, which gives it the effect of floating above the legs - a lot going on there.

All in all, I'm very pleased with it. There's a boat load of storage in it and it has just the right look to it - modern with just a slight touch of Chinoiserie. So the moral of the story is if you live in a big city and are willing to travel to the hinterlands of it, you can take advantage of some remarkable bargains on Craigslist. I spent a month or so going through the listings for credenzas before I found this one, so it takes patience, but it can pay off. This is also how I found my sofa earlier this year.

What have you found on Craigslist? What are you going to start looking for?


Feminine Hygene & Fabulous Fashion - The Kotex Box of the (Past) Future

While I was rooting around in storage a few days ago, I ran across this delightful little item.
It was a gift from a friend - Cator Sparks. He found it in a general store out in the country somewhere. It had been on the shelf since 1969 when it was new and he just had to have it. I don't blame him, it's quite the deadstock item.

I'm really enamored of the graphics on the box and it's contents just make it all that much better. That the Kimberly Clark corporation thought using space age imagery and avant garde fashion to sell feminine hygene products was a good idea is a real testament to the time. There's so much to talk about here.
This is the main face of the box. The windblown model is wearing such a festive cape. I love the double zipper that allows you to zip it open up to the collar. What makes it absurd, however is the space helmet in the lower right hand corner. I suppose even fashionable lady astronauts need protection at that time of the month.
This is the box top, and I'm loving the sequined hood. Just look at that eye makeup too.
The last image resides on the sides of the box and it's probably my favorite. I love the Whiting and Davis metal mesh dress and head piece and the head set with the antenna on it. Again, the makeup is truly remarkable.

Collecting vintage packaging is quite an interesting hobby. There are so many different styles, periods and eras to collect, and finding an unopened box of something consumable is always such a delight. Things like these can be found on eBay and occasionally at yard sales, and they make such a delightful addition to a retro home.

While you're shopping, check out the Brini Maxwell auctions on eBay. There are lots of fun things up this week.


Puff Pastry and Poetry - The ABC of Canapes

Hi people! I love party food. So when I received a gift from a fan at my weekly film series I was delighted to find that it was a small vintage cookbook devoted to just that! It's the ABC of Canapes.
It's by Edna Beilenson and features the most delightful illustrations by Ruth McCrea. The artwork accompanies some delightfully silly poems:

Inflate it with air,
Or explode like a bomb;
Add a few fish-eggs
And serve with aplomb!

Exactly what she suggests you inflate with air is never specified.

Join us in the parlor,
To talk or sing or dance;
Lucky is the hostess
Who hustles in advance!

It's funny how meanings change over the years, isn't it?

Here's one of the illustrations with a more reasonable sentiment.
The recipes aren't exactly rocket science, but some of them look tasty. This one for Butterfly Shrimp looks simple and delicious:

You'll need:

1lb fresh shrimp
2 eggs
1/2 cup corn starch
1/2 tsp salt

Clean shrimp and slice them halfway down the back, so when laid flat they resemble butterflies. Beat the eggs, salt and corn starch into a smooth batter and dip the shrimp into the batter. Deep fry in fat at 370 degrees until golden brown - about two minutes. Served piping hot on gaily colored toothpicks, they make a stunning hors d'oeuvre.


Paintings Before Painting - Artistic Motivation For My Renovation

I've needed a pick-me-up for the apartment, what with all the boxes and unfinished renovation projects staring me in the face lately, so I decided to unpack some of my artwork. I didn't realize how much I missed it! It's so nice to see it on the walls, even though nothings finished yet. I thought I'd share the pieces I hung with you.
This is one of the first ones I put up. It's one that was featured on my television show and belonged to my grandparents. It's a Katz acrylic and is a loose representation of a clown. Normally I run screaming from clown paintings, but this one is so abstracted that I really kind of like it.
This is another interesting painting. It's by an artist named Sonnenberg. I've done some research, but have only been able to find one Sonnenberg painter. Her work is different from this piece, but it dates back to 1963, so she could have been doing quite different paintings back then. I like the dark whorling quality of the piece. It sucks you in.
I like this one for it's somewhat morbid, pensive quality. the features of the man are so nicely rendered and the use of color is so beautifully applied - the hint of green reflecting up into the man's face. I love the angular, 1950's quality of the style. There is no signature, so it can't be traced.
This piece is interesting in its use of a heavy impasto texture. The bright red cape of the bull fighter is almost three dimensional. Bull fighting was a somewhat cliche subject for painters in the 60's, but this one has a very nice style to it. It's more unique than most of them. Avery Penn is another artist I haven't been able to find online.
The last one is a print. This also belonged to my grandparents. It's a Camille Graeser. He was a Swiss artist and had a very modernist sensibility. I really like mathematical precision of this piece.

Hanging these pictures has helped me to get motivated to do some of the preparatory work for the contractors. I think it's because of the change of scenery. If you have some projects you've been putting off, why not try shaking things up in your visual world? Hang some pictures, re-arrange some furniture. It can help give you the momentum to make the changes you want to make!