Browsing Tag


decorating, furnishing, furniture, secondhand stories

The Cabinet That Used to Be a Clock (We Think)



One of the best things about furnishing the Dream House with secondhand goods is coming across things like this cabinet. We were browsing around an antique mall in a nearby town and came across the old wood cabinet with glass door. The little tag on it said something simple like homemade cabinet. How charming, right?

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before & after, DIY, secondhand stories, small town life

The Totally Free, All-Natural DIY Window Covering


012314-window-film-01I’ve been struggling a bit with how to cover the windows in the Dream House. Because the windows are so beautiful and since they’re such an integral part of the house’s design, I want to keep them as exposed as possible. However, we also want some privacy. Here in the entryway, for instance, there’s a window by the front door that faces the street. I love the light but I don’t like feeling like my house is wide open for all to see. I came up with a solution that honors the window, still allows in plenty of light and gives us privacy. Oh, and I did it all for free.

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dream house, furnishing, secondhand stories

She Was There for the Last Operator Dialed Phone Call



When we signed up for internet for the dream house, we were informed that we’d also have to have a land line. How quaint, right? Mind you, we haven’t have a land line in almost seven years. If we’re going to have telephone service in the house, we may as well have some fun phones! We already have a vintage rotary phone but, of course, we’ll need more modern touch tone phones as well.

We came across this Michael Graves-designed phone in the same thrift store where we found our glassware. (Only $2!) As I helped an older patron carry her purchases out to her car, Mr. Blandings had this conversation with the cashier.

“Oh! What a fun phone!” she said.

“Yeah, I couldn’t resist,” Mr. Blandings said. “It’s so fun.”

“You know, I use to be the one who said “number please,” she said as she looked at the phone.

Mr. Blandings asked, “Oh, so did you work for the phone company?”

“Yes,” she proudly said, “for $1.50 an hour — and that was big money back in 1967 — people would pick up their phones and say, “Give me such and such number” and I would connect them. Sometimes I would tease people, because I knew who it was, and when they’d ask if it was me I’d say, “Oh, I’m sorry, I can only give out my operator number!””

“So,” Mr. Blandings asked, “did you continue working for the phone company after they started direct dial calls?”

“Well, no! Once everyone could dial directly, there was no need for us anymore!”

We’ll think of you every time we place a direct dialed call, thrift store lady.

— Mr. and Mr. Blandings

Image: Mr. and Mr. Blandings

dream house, furnishing, secondhand stories

Thrift Store Score: Complete Libbey Glass Set for $5



We’ve been in the house for less than a week and we’ve already started scoping out the best secondhand and thrift stores. I stopped into this little thrift shop in a nearby town last week but it was five minutes shy of closing time. From even the quickest perusal, I could tell that this store might be a secondhand goldmine. I couldn’t wait to get back and dig in a little deeper.

Mr. Blandings and I stopped by the store yesterday but, alas, they were closed for the holiday. (I love the anti-Black Friday notion of that.) We made our way back there again this morning and they were finally open. As I suspected, this is indeed secondhand gold. Exhibit A: This complete set of Libbey glassware, in their original box, all 24 of them in perfect condition for just $5. Sold!

I mentioned in a previous post that we plan to decorate and stock the dream house on a budget and this is exactly how we’re going to do it. I’m sure we’ll end up an interesting hodge podge of household goods when all is said and done, but every item in the house will have an interesting story.

What story will l tell when I use these glasses? Probably the one about how we waited in line to buy our box of glasses and listened to the locals and regulars talk about their holiday. And I’ll share the story of helping an older lady carry her purchases out to her car and how she was so delighted when I offered in the first place. I’ll mention how we talked about the weather and how her car seats were lined with bed sheets covered in dog hair.

That’s the kind of story I want to tell about the stuff that fills the dream house.

— J. Blandings

Image: Mr and Mr Blandings

dream house, furnishing, Our Story

How We Plan to Furnish Our Dream House on a Budget


twin beds

Cary Grant’s Mr. Blandings apparently had some pretty deep pockets when he was building his dream house back in 1947. Still, he spent every nickel he had and put his family into hawk to put together his house. Constructing and decorating it had nearly torn apart his family and driven Mr. Blandings into the poor house. And then, at the last minute, he was saved by a catchphrase supplied by his maid. His advertising career was rescued, he had the money he needed to pay off his lenders and they all lived happily ever after. Ah, a Hollywood happy ending!

Unlike the fictional Mr. Blandings, we are on a very tight budget for buying and decorating our dream house. If we could scoop up all the money we have right now and time warp back to 1947, we’d be rich. By 2013 standards, however, we’re just getting by. We certainly don’t have a lot of money throw around in furnishing the house. Nor do we want to go into debt to achieve the dream home. And you know what? We’re totally fine with that. In fact, we’re going to love the challenge.

We’ve got a plan, you see. We have a plan to outfit the dream house on a small budget while still looking like we spent a million bucks. It’s probably going to require a lot patience and there will definitely be plenty of elbow grease involved, but we’re up for the challenge. So what’s the plan? It’s simple:

Almost every piece of furniture we bring into the house is going to be used. We’re shopping Craigslist, thrift stores, flea markets and estate sales to furnish the home with vintage pieces. Save for a few items (mattresses, perhaps a sofa) we want every piece of furniture in the house to be unique. And you know who makes the most unique furnishings? The people of yesteryear. They also made high quality furniture that can be scooped up pretty cheaply.

Now that we have the actual dream house in our sights (rumor has it we may be ready to make an announcement soon) we’ve started shopping for furnishings for it. My first purchase was two mission style armchairs that I found on Craigslist. They required a one hour drive outside the city but they’re damned nice chairs. They’re big, solid and well made with a nice dark finish and brown leather cushions. If I had bought them new they would have easily been $500 apiece. I scored two chairs for $225. 

But wait – it gets better. Our plan for furnishing the dream house is two-pronged. While we’re buying and collecting used furnishings to put in the new house, we’re also selling off some of what we already have sitting around.

A couple of days after I bought the chairs, I sold a bed that had been collecting dust in our storage unit for sale. I set a price of $300 on Craigslist, assuming that the buyer would negotiate. Three days later, a young couple handed over fifteen $20 bills and carried off the bed.

If you’re keeping track, that means I not only recouped the $225 I spent on the chairs, I had gained $75 more!

Armed with $300, my next mission was to find two matching twin beds. I’ve been hunting for weeks actually. I’ve gotten up at 5AM to hit estate sales and I’ve trolled Craigslist and ebay. And then yesterday, thanks to friends who are super vintage scouts, I scored the twin beds in the photo at the top of this post. They’re definitely vintage, although I’m not quite sure how old. I was immediately drawn to their French Provincial styling and by the fact that they have wood side rails with original hardware. But the best part was the price. I got both beds for $175.

I’ve already spent the other $125 – and then about $100 more. I also bought a pine full-size sleigh bed, a drop leaf table, a small bench, one giant basket and a few odds and ends at the same thrift store.

Still keeping score? OK here’s the breakdown.

Originally spent $225 on chairs –

Sold a bed for $300 +

Bought two beds and assorted other furniture for $400 =

Have practically furnished a house and have only spent a few hundred bucks.

Now that I’ve gotten started, I’m really loving the challenge! It’s so easy to sit down and buy new furniture out of catalogs. That’s never how I’ve wanted to decorate a home. Hunting out quality vintage goods takes patience and a willingness to be resourceful. I wouldn’t want it any other way.

Image: Mr and Mr Blandings