Friday, August 21, 2009

The Gift of Thrift: Repurposed Pop!

A while back, I met Amy of WhisperWood Cottage and Junkologie as I marveled over her imaginative methods for bringing old vinyl records back to life. She also made a reference to Dolly Parton, so when that happens, you know I'm all eyes and ears!

Amy, who goes by ALVN on her blog, is a health educator who lives in Northern Minnesota, near the banks of Lake Superior. And as you'll see, her eye is a
refined one, and her clever solutions for turning other people's castoffs into treasures sare inspiring. A few weeks ago I sat down (at the computer!) with Amy to learn a little more about
her passion for vintage, and her latest JunkMarketStyle Challenge

I am enchanted by your Linda Rondstadt album package challenge. You know, it always breaks my heart to see all these vinyl records for pennies on the dollar, and I love it that you've given new life to these relics from the past.

The challenge: Is that something that you and Sue do often?

As a contributor on the JunkMarket site, I participate in regular "Contributor Challenges" in which Sue challenges us with a junk item. The Linda Ronstadt challenge was all about vinyl records. We have done a challenge with vintage player piano rolls. Right now, the contributors are conducting an Editor's Challenge in which we each send Sue an item that she needs to transform.

I am a huge Doly Parton fan, so seeing the "Trio" album there warms my heart. What was the first step in creating your tabletop around the vinyl theme?

I love Dolly Parton, too! It is impossible to play "9-to-5" without being completely energized! When I think of vinyl records, my initial thought is all about the "Happy Days" know...diners, sock hops, etc. I thought about what I have that is related to that era: a huge vintage metal sign that reads "Cold Pop," a chrome finish radio, a vintage drive-in theater speaker. That determined my direction and color scheme. From there, it all focused around a table setting in a 1950s diner.

Do you entertain often at home?

We have been renovating our house from the first day we moved in. Now that we are finally getting our home in order, my plan is to fill up the seats at our 9 -foot by 3-foot Amish harvest table. It seats 12, so we are ready to host a fabulous dinner party!

What is the most unusual thing you've incorporated into a tablescape?

Well, that's a loaded question! I like to incorporate all kinds of things. Some of my favorites have actually been pulled from the garage. Examples include house jacks and car jacks to create lifts and levels, a vintage Christmas tree stand as a champagne bottle holder and an industrial beauty salon cart as a beverage server.

Do you have any entertaining tips for people who find the task frustrating?

Find a source of inspiration and go with a central theme. I often choose a color or a metal finish. For example, I did several holiday tablescapes last year. One focused on silver finishes with with accents of white, glass and crystal. The other focused on traditional reds and greens. Once you have a direction, simply shop your house, basement, attic and garage for anything that might work. The way to have fun with it is to think outside the box. Imagine the surprise on your guests' faces when you serve up the main course on a vintage scale or pass the gravy around atop a vintage clipboard turned hotpad!

What is would you say is the best treasure you've ever found?

Another loaded question. Treasure can be defined many different ways! There's the "Just-Love-It, Gotta-Have-It" Treasure, the "I've-Been-Looking-for-This-Forever" Treasure, the "Best-Bargain-Deal-of-the-Century" Treasure, the "I-Can't-Believe-I Got-This-for-Free" Treasure, the "Sentimental" Treasure and the "Love-to-Collect-These" Treasure.

Here are some of my favorites:

Just-Love-It, Gotta-Have-It: Vintage white medical cabinet (used as storage in the master bath), Amish harvest table (found on eBay!), industrial fan blad (just got this!!)

I've-Been-Looking-for-This-Forever: Chippy white square pillar (just got this, too!)

Best-Bargain-Deal-of-the-Century: Waterford crystal pieces (found at Goodwill), Gorham sterling silver set (from an auction.)

I-Can't-Believe-I Got This-for-Free: Vintage metal glider sofa (found on the side of the road.)

Sentimental: A cabinet found for free in the basement of a rental. (My parents helped me refinish it.)

Love-to-Collect-These: My mixed collection of vintage iron, brass, and copper pieces.

Where is your favorite place to shop for vintage or thrift? (I adore a good garage sale!! or MANY so-so ones!)

Anywhere and everywhere! I love garage sales, thrift stores, antique stores, flea markets, occasional sales, auctions, estate sales, Craig's List, ebay, blogs, etsy. I also never hesitate to ask friends, family, and strangers about the pile of junk or debris in their attic, basement, or yard. Some of the best things are found in unexpected places. One lesson I've learned..."If you don't ask, you don't get." Or atleast you don't have a chance to get! So ask away!! If it isn't for sale or for free now, that person knows that you are interested and can let you know when it is.

I can see that you are passionate about thrifting and decorating. How do you think you developed those hobbies?

I'm sure part of it was learned from my parents and grandparents. My grandfather is a collector. My parents are thrifty. Combine the two and you get me! I simply love the quality that vintage pieces have, especially furniture. There are very few pieces in my house that were purchased new. Vintage and antique items just have a special feel and uniqueness about them. They bring warmth and history into a room. The fact that you can get great vintage items at low prices makes it even better! I also love the creativity involved in decorating with thrifted and vintage items. You develop a space over time. You wait until you find the "right" pieces. You use pieces in new ways. Love, love, love it! There is also something to be said about the benefits of keeping vintage or junk items from the landfill. We each need to do what we can to help the environment!

Thanks to Amy for spending time with me, and make sure to visit her at WhisperWood Cottage to see all kinds of novel repurposed decorating and entertaining ideas.

For more ideas to turn others' castoffs into treasures, pick up The Find: The Housing Works Book of Decorating with Thrift Shop Treasures, Flea Market Objects, and Vintage Details at Borders, Barnes & Noble, Amazon or Powell's.

The Elegant Thrifter

Always Frugal, Always Fabulous!


  1. I appreciate all the kind words, Stan!! You are such an inspiration to others! Absolutely frugal and fabulous!!


  2. Enjoyed your post about Amy!!! Isn't she fabulous----she is also (if you don't already know) an extremely gifted photographer!!!! Amy has provided so much inspiration to me through the junkmarket site, and now her blogs. Thanks for featuring her Stan (and I am really enjoying your book).

  3. Wonderful interview! She is so great! Kelly



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