From Fugly Duckling to 1920s Wrought Iron Patio Furniture Swan on a Shoestring Budget

Two skills that I find to be essential as an old house fan are frugality and creativity. I consider it a badge of honor to be steward of my little piece of history, to shepherd it into the next generation. But it isn't an inexpensive calling. 

I am feeling particularly clever right now. I took a problem, which is my EBTH.com addiction and turned it into a win for restoration and preservation.  

I was recently surfing the estate sale site, when I found a sad, forlorn and downright fugly set of 1920s wrought iron patio furniture. 


Long ago, my dad and mom had purchased a wrought iron lounge chair set at an auction when we lived in Virginia. My mother had re-covered it and it sat on the porch of our 1910 Victorian (now the Kings Victorian Inn). I read away many great afternoons of childhood on that porch. And that same set is still sitting on my dad's back porch in Charleston today. The stuff lasts forever. 


Needless to say, I was getting nostalgic. They honestly don't make wrought iron pieces anymore. So I pulled the trigger and bid on this fugly white and yellow set. There were pictures of rust even. What was I thinking. I hoped that I would get outbid.


That was not to be the case. Of course I won the set for $54 and now it was the week of Christmas, I had to rent a truck from Lowes to get it home.Perfect. It filled the garage in the coldest season of the year. But looking closely at it. Truly it is a work of craftsmanship with lovely scrolls and delicate touches. 
 After the holidays, I sprang to work. There's a fantastic material store in Waynesville, Ohio called the Fabric Shack Home Decor. My friends Janice and Alex are always sport for a trip to the store. I found a whimsical outdoor fabric for under $10 per yard. 

While I could have sewn slip covers, I instead prototyped simply wrapping the fabric and stapling it underneath. It looked just as good as the slip covers would have and so my daughter and I set to work stapling the new covers. 

Four cans of Rustoleum later, the set is now a beautiful swan that looks period appropriate for an Old House. 

Quick Holiday Budget Decor Tip: Or How I Transformed My Front Porch for the Price of a Can of Paint


Easy Holiday Decor with Rustoleum


Here's an easy way to "spruce" up your holiday decor in three easy steps and for only the price of a can of Rustoleum.


Easy Holiday Decor Evergreens


Step 1: Gather a lot of evergreens from your yard. Use a box or a tarp so you can do all your pots at once. Cut the shrubs back in places where they can't be seen or go to town and get out your big Black+Decker and do the shaping that you probably never got to in spring like you were supposed to.

Easy Holiday Decor Rustoleum


Step 2: Gather twigs from your yard or from a walk around town. Look for long branches that will be able to stick up above the evergreens. Spray them red with a can of Rustoleum. This makes them look like Red Dogwood.


Easy Budget Holiday Decor Rustoleum


Step 3: Take your tallest evergreen pieces and stick the sharp end into the middle of the pot. Angle additional evergreen pieces out from the middle by also stuffing their sharp ends into the dirt. Keep adding evergreens until the pot is full. Stick 3 pieces of red-sprayed twigs into the center of the pot as if they fan from the middle.

Voila! Your pots are ready to get you through the season. And they never need watering which is my big downfall. Just toss them into the mulch pile in the spring when you plant your pansies.

Also for fun, if you have red sports balls in your garage, try nesting those in the pots as they can look like Christmas balls from far away. The jury is still out on this. Let me know what you think.


What I Learned about the Secret Sauce of Event Marketing from the Cincinnati Music Hall Surplus Tag Sale

Last week, I joined about 300 other antique and Cincinnati Music Hall fans to check out the beautiful artifacts that were now surplus from the Music Hall Restoration. One of our great local antique shops, the Wooden Nickel, was given the role of putting these treasures into the hands of new owners who will love them.


I’d talked to the several of the Wooden Nickel people in advance, both the owners Mike and Patty, to know what a tag sale means. Prices are on the items. You go in knowing your desired item’s number so you can walk in, find it and find a cashier. We had previewed the items online and knew we wanted one of the moderately priced and mid-sized chandeliers.


Friday afternoon, I left work early to take my place in the line that was forming outside of the Wooden Nickel warehouse where the sale would be. About 9 other people were already there, making me #10. The sun was shining. It was 70 degrees, a gorgeous November day. I had two folding chairs in my trunk for the occasion so I shared one with the man in line in front of me (#9). He was a retired conductor and had taken violin lessons at Music Hall. He wanted one of the bamboo chairs that he had sat upon for those lessons. I shared my own memories of watching my daughter and son fall under the spell of magic at their first Nutcracker ballet, years ago.

The lady in front of him (#8) was there for one of the BIG chandeliers, the eight foot diameter ones. She was getting it for her mom’s house in, you guessed it, Indian Hill. The two of them talked about music and the arts.

The ladies who joined the line behind me (#11, 12) were there just to see the event. Every person in line was making a $25 donation in the form of a ticket purchase to the Music Hall Restoration. Pretty cool way to give, eh?

Cincinnati Music Hall Chandelier
Cincinnati Music Hall Chandelier the big ones

Being a work day, I did have some calls to make. The ladies behind me we kind enough to hold my place in line and I took them from my car. Talk about multi-tasking. Around 4:00 the Wooden Nickel team came out and gave everyone numbers to hold their place in line. We were then free to leave and come back at 5:30 before entering at 6:00. But many people stayed in the outdoor waiting area lined with chairs. It was a beautiful day and excitement was in the air.

My husband met me in the warehouse lot by then and we stepped over to Washington Park to have a drink at one of our favorite bars, Sundry and Vine.


At 5:30, back at the Wooden Nickel Warehouse, there were now about 300 people meandering in the parking lot and talking about their coveted items.


Most interesting of all, we had a conversation with Mike, the owner. We’ve always felt an affinity for Mr. Hoffman, the man who restored our 1870s Italianate home, though we never knew him. We were telling Mike about the chandelier we wanted and that we lived in Wyoming, Ohio. He said they had once done an auction at a brick house with a broad lawn. I said “That’s the place.” He knew Mr. Hoffman well. He shared that Mr. Hoffman had paid his way through law school by buying up stained glass windows in houses that were about to be torn down. He would sell them off but keep one from each sale for himself. After Mr. Hoffman passed away, they had helped Ms. Hoffman find new homes for the collection. It was fascinating to get a window into Mr. Hoffman’s life.

Cincinnati Music Hall Chandeliers on sale


Back in the line, we waited for the doors to open at 6:00. People told stories about events they had seen at Music Hall and also a TV show they’d watched on Music Hall ghosts. Everyone was sharing stories. The line felt like a party.  

At 6:00 the doors opened, people helped each other find their items. I cheered when one of the first dudes in line (#3) got the Rocco mirror he wanted. The items were easy to find and most everyone got what they came for.

Cincinnati Music Hall Chandeliers at Wooden Nickel Warehouse


And here’s the secret sauce of Event Marketing, we all shared an experience, a fleeting moment of time. By creating the event, publicizing it and organizing it, the Music Hall Restoration team and the Wooden Nickel fed all of our needs to celebrate the past. We briefly connected with others who felt the same, who wanted to share in a part of our city’s history. In a way the surplus sale was magic. I’ll always have a gaudy, ornate chandeliers to honor our city past and my own memories of seeing the Nutcracker with my wide eyed kids at Music Hall.

Cincinnati Music Hall Chandeliers still for sale


Some event marketing basics that were excellently executed at this event:

1.      Create the landing page and promote the event well in advance.
2.      Invest time in courting the media. On a side note, I once heard the executive team at Tom+Chee speak and they shared that they spent an entire year courting Shark Tank, which still yields huge returns every time it re-runs. So spend time on the media.
3.      Make directions clear to reduce questions. Making things easy allows people to focus on anticipating the event itself.
4.      At the event, create a way to connect with each other such as a line or an area for people to gather in advance of the opening.
5.      Have staff on hand to socialize and answer questions.

6.      Make it memorable. The team at the Wooden Nickel hung chandeliers and sconces at the entry way under a big tent. This set the scene. 

Need a Rococo Gilt Mirror? Well Now You Can Take One Home from Music Hall

Last week, Cincinnati.com shared the news that the long anticipated sale of several artifacts from Music Hall will star on November 11, 2016 at 6:00 p.m. We are huge fans of the Wooden Nickel shop and regularly love to browse their architectural antiques. Here's the inside scoop on how to get your own piece of HISTORY!


For starters, the sale will be similar to a tag sale. The doors will open at the appointed time. And it works on a first come, first serve basis. The items will be tagged with a price. If see an item you want (and can handle the prices, OUCH) you purchase the item.



The guys at the Wooden Nickel recommended getting in line at 5:00 for the ticketed early-bird pre-sale. And NO, you can't get a free ticket by being a good customer...or a highly-persuasive person...the ticket sales go to benefit the restoration as the proceeds from the sale do too.

Here's what you can do though...for the first time ever, you can walk up to the ticket window at the Aronoff Center and purchase tickets to go into the Wooden Nickel warehouse.

The guys at the Wooden Nickel got a kick out of that.




Here are all the goodies on sale from Music Hall on the Wooden Nickel site for preview only. 

Need a large Rococo Gilt Mirror? This is your chance to take one home.

From Cincinnati.Com: Music Hall Contents to Go On Sale

Now you can take home a piece of Music Hall. Theater seats, chandeliers, mirrors, a wooden bar with brass railings and even a pair of large wooden double doors that once led into Springer Auditorium – all part of Music Hall's former decor – are being offered to the public for purchase.

The sale, Nov. 11-20, will be coordinated by Wooden Nickel Antiques, a store specializing in architectural recycling in Over-the-Rhine. An inventory of items and other sale details will be available at woodennickelantiques.net/music-hall beginning Friday, Oct. 28.

A ticketed “early-bird” pre-sale event is scheduled for 6-9 p.m. on Nov. 11 at the Wooden Nickel Antiques’ warehouse,1515 Central Parkway. Tickets, $25, go on sale at 10 a.m. Oct. 28 at www.CincinnatiArts.org, by calling 513-621-2787 and at the Aronoff Center Ticket Office. Tickets will also be available at the door. A free public sale is scheduled for Nov. 12 through Nov. 20. The times are 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Nov. 12; 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Nov. 13; 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Nov. 14 through Nov. 18; 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Nov. 19; and 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Nov. 20.

Pump-kin Up the Volume: Quick Halloween Home Decor Tip

Here's a quick and easy Halloween home decor tip. Most grocery stores like Kroger and Trader Joe's have affordable fall mums. I know I regularly throw one into the cart.

Halloween Home Decor Tip

Next time you are at the store, also pick up one of the $.99 plastic pumpkins. My daughter hates these things. (I believe it's because they don't hold enough candy.) 

Anyway, I love them. They are so nostalgic to me. I have old photos where my brother Jim and I are running through our lawn in Massachusetts with pumpkins in hand. I believe we played with these pumpkins for months around Halloween time. 
  
Here's the easy way to combine these two fall favorites. 
Halloween Home Decor TIp
  1. Slip your mum out of its floral wrapper. 
  2. Remove the pot and throw it away. 
  3. Place the mum back into its floral wrapper. This is very important so you don't water your counter when you water. 
  4. Slide the mum in its floral wrapper into the pumpkin. 
  5. Done! 
The pumpkin looks a little like its wearing a punk rocker (or Pumpkin Rocker) costume for the season. Remember to water your new dude. 


Halloween Fall Decor Tip Plastic Pumpkin

From Williamsburg to Gettysburg and Why You Can Never Go Home Again



There’s an old saying that “you can't go home again.” It comes from a Thomas Wolfe novel. And though I’m a fan of Southern literature, I found the book to be perfectly unreadable. So the phrase’s meaning has never been clear. For our recent vacation, we combined a trip to Williamsburg and Gettysburg with a visit to my old home in rural Virginia. I think I now understand the meaning of that phrase. Here’s my story of our old fashioned road-trip.


Beautiful murals of the Homestead Hotel in the Homestead Hotel in Hot Springs, Virginia. A must-see sight. 

Our first stop, once we entered Virginia, was my hometown of Hot Springs. Though my family has long since moved away, the 1899 Victorian where I grew up has become the King Family Victorian Inn. Our hosts and everything was elegant, right down to the breakfast served with crystal and china. But, more about going home later. Down the road, we toured our town’s resort, the Homestead. Part of the National Trust’s Historic Hotels group, it is a beautiful sprawling place, steeped in history. As part of our visit, we also swam in the 250-year-old Jefferson Springs and visited my old BFF Nancy.


The water at the Jefferson Springs really is this crystal clear and beautiful.

Next, we drove to see Yorktown, site of the last major battle of the American Revolution. It was hot as Hades that day. We drove the historic driving route in our air conditioned car and got out to walk quickly around the sites before running back to our car. The funniest thing of all was an entry in the Visitor’s Center registry where guests share comments. One person had written, “It is so hot I could cry.” That was it. Nothing about history or the park. We cracked up.  




Our trip went next to Williamsburg where we stayed in a Colonial Lodge right beside the historic area. The best part of all was walking the deserted streets at night. Looking through a Tavern window (tip: make dinner reservations in advance), we saw women wearing colonial caps and a man played the fiddle. It felt like a hundred years ago. It was eerie and thrilling.

By day, Williamsburg is a must-see site. It was preserved in time because of a passionate history buff with a big idea and a Rockefeller with loads of money. There are blocks and blocks preserved in the colonial period and reenactors. We were pleased to get our walking tour guide all to ourselves. We strolled at our leisure and learned all the great stories. Did you know Martha Washington was probably a babe? And a rich babe at that. It turns out that many scenes from the AMC series Turn on Washington’s spies are filmed there. And like proper parents, we endeavored to show greater excitement for the real historic sites than the filming sites. I think we pulled that off pretty well.



Gettysburg was our last stop and well worth a full day. We took a bus tour, but walking the hallowed grounds would have been even better. Many Americans died there and fought for their beliefs during the Civil War. The Gettysburg Address was of course delivered there too. The kids will hopefully remember that or at least the apples they fed to the re-enactor’s horses. We can only hope.



With this trip back through the past, I find myself thinking more about home. The house where I grew up was restored by my dad and mom. As kids, we spent our weekends helping sand floors, sheet-rock walls, paint, wallpaper and garden. 

As I walked around the old place, I found myself looking for traces of my family. I snapped a picture of an old bathroom heater switch my dad installed to show it to him. 

All touches of my late mother’s wallpaper are gone. But she would be pleased at that. Ever a woman of class and style, she would eschew wallpaper now too. She would certainly be proud of the elegance too. I told our host Mrs. King that. 

As I toured my mom’s old room though, I found myself whispering her name, “Mom.” Really. I did. I'm not kidding. I guess I was missing her. But she’s not there. She’s elsewhere, someplace better. But not there. My siblings, aren’t there either. They are all well and living elsewhere from California to New York to Georgia. But my mom, it has been a long time.


So from this trek through the past, I think I finally understand the bittersweet truth of why “you can't go home again.” 

It's because truly, home is only a memory. 

It really never was just a place. 





Margee Moore is a marketing professional and mother of two. She is author of the book, Sleeping with the Laundry and you can follow her on the Facebook of the same name.  


How I Almost Threw Out the Most Beautiful Part of My Kitchen

When we purchased our 1870s home, it came with several pieces that were very appropriate to the period of the home. The previous owner Mr. Hoffman who had restored it was a collector and a fan of period pieces. One very distinctive and lovely piece was this Reliable, American Made Stove. This thing is lovely. 

However, it was restored to the original condition meaning open flames that were constantly on like a pilot light. 

Old House Diary Reliable American Made Antique Stove

When we were first in the house, we tried to work with it. One Sunday, my daughter and I were cooking up our meals for the week, when I turned my back to it. It went Vroof. I looked back at my daughter. 

"Are you alright Mom?" She asked looking at me with large eyes and blinking.

"Yes," I said. "What happened?"

"The flames shot out from the stove but seemed to part away from you." 

Well chalk that up to the Old House Diary ghost or my guardian angel I was fine. But the stove had to go. 
Old House Diary Reliable Antique StoveI did some research on the web and found a place in Michigan that specialized in old stoves. (AntiqueStoves.com) The owner was fantastic. He could date my stove to the 1920s and said some of its parts were from Germany and had the original "swastika" on them which was a symbol that meant love and peace before Hitler took over the symbol. 
He valued it at about a couple grand. It would be $3,000 to bring up to current standards, but when that was done its value would be about $18,000. 
Sounds nice, but who has $3,000 sitting around. So I was going to sell it.

But after looking around the kitchen, I realized the previous owners had designed the entire kitchen to match this stove. I needed to get clever. 
Old House Diary Reliable Stove Close Up

So what we did was we searched for a "drop in" range like the kind you would drop into a counter top. We needed the exact dimensions to fit. 

We got pretty close. Our plumber Phil then shut off the gas to all the ovens and units, essentially making it into a counter top. 
Old House Diary: How to Retrofit an Antique Stove
 Phil cut a piece of laminate to fill in the space that didn't fit to the right. He dropped in the range top and it works great. It's now more safe for an active family.

When people stop in to visit, the kitchen always gets a complement for the stove.

Margee Moore is a marketing professional and mother of two. She blogs about family and restoring her 1870s home for Old House Diary and Moxiemom. She is author of the book, Sleeping with the Laundry: Notes from the Mommy Track.