Quick Halloween to Thanksgiving Decor Transition

Good morning friends, and Happy November!

I hope you all had a blast trick or treating with the littles yesterday. You’re probably not quite ready to dive in to updating your decor today, but that’s ok–I’ve been getting ahead of things all fall, so I might as well share my decor experiments with you, right?

Halloween Display

This is kind of a spin-off of my post last month about the early fall to Halloween transition. I was working on those photos feverishly for a few hours that day because I had planned the post but then the buffet in this photo sold a lot more quickly than I had expected it to, and so I had to rush to finish everything before the customer came to pick it up, because I didn’t have another piece that I could use as a backdrop.

Then a day or two later, I found a new buffet and painted that so that I could get a quick Thanksgiving post done that used a similar piece as the base. I was trying to get some Christmas ones done, too, but I wasn’t satisfied with what I was coming up with, so I’ll just share the Thanksgiving one for today.

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Again, this is something super simple that I put together in about a half an hour. When I’m putting together something like this for a post, a show, or for my house, I think about the season, the pieces that I already have and how I can use them in a new way, and about the materials that the pieces are made of (for example I have some real naturals, some fake naturals, some paper, some wood, some glass…I like a nice mix of materials to give some depth and texture to the look).

The only pieces that I used throughout the season were the grass vases on either side–I really like the movement and interest that they add. Everything else was moved around or switched out at some point or another.

I moved from the fabric pumpkin banner to a paper “Give Thanks” banner that I made with my Cricut 2 or 3 years ago, even though the pumpkin banner would still technically have worked. Confession: I was cleaning out my basement and got totally distracted as soon as I found the “Give Thanks” banner–I had to drop everything that I was doing and take my Thanksgiving photos right then. This is part of the reason why my list never gets done. I’m trying to work on staying focused.

I don’t love paper banners as much as fabric ones, but I don’t have a huge inspiration for a fabric Thanksgiving banner right now, so oh well. This one still looks nice.

I also knew I wanted to go the crate, bushel, ladder section route, too–all of those things tie in nicely with the season of gathering and harvesting and giving thanks, and the mini white pumpkins spilling out were also a good transition from Halloween to a neutral Thanksgiving, echoing a horn of plenty type image.

If you’re not a neutral person like I am, you could easily add some great color here with a couple of Mason jars with bold fall color bouquets on either side in place of the grass vases, some bright orange mini or pie pumpkins, and a colorful banner. I go through neutral seasons and color seasons, so it’s only a matter of time before I’m back to doing something super colorful.

Would you be interested in seeing a more behind-the-scenes look at how I got to this point with the display? I know I said I put this together in about a half an hour, but that was with switching things in and out and back and forth, debating with myself about what looked good and what had to go. Anyway, I think I might try that when we get to the Christmas decorating post.


Share your Thanksgiving space by giving me a shout out on Instagram @itsjessforton! I’d love to see what you’re doing to usher in the next phase of fall!

Talk soon,

Jessie

Five Ways To Decorate With Vintage Crates

The easiest way to dip your toe into farmhouse style is with an antique wooden crate or two. These boxes add instant interest and dimension to any room with the added benefit of giving you extra storage for those things that never seem to have a place of their own. I’m all about the one-two punch when it comes to decorating my under 1,400 square foot home, and this is probably the biggest reason that I love these crates so much!

I’ve used crates in a variety of ways over the past few years, and I’m excited to share some ideas with you today. I think what makes it so simple to start your farmhouse decorating with these is that they are relatively easy to find (of course, once you start finding them, you’ll see them everywhere, which might lead to a little bit of a crate overload. If you happen to scroll through my Instagram, you’ll probably come across the photo of the wedding prep for Christina’s wedding last year. That’s just the tip of the iceberg, friends).

Another reason I love them is that each one is so unique–whether it has a partial label describing what it was used for, some writing from the previous owner, or some great paint or patina that’s been wearing away for twenty or thirty years, I love all of it. Some of the manufactured-to-look vintage pieces that they sell at Hobby Lobby and Target are cute, but I just can’t see myself ever wanting to decorate with them–they feel a little soulless to me. I like something that’s done a little bit of life already.

If you’re wondering about how to find them, here’s my best tip: I regularly check this website using my zip code to find great estate sales in my area. When I’m looking for something specific, I try to find a sale that has a lot of that item, in this case, crates. When you see one or two, that tends to drive the price up, no matter what the item is, but if you see that there are ten or twenty, odds are that you’ll be able to get a pretty good deal ($5-$15 usually) on a great vintage crate. I’ve picked them up for as little as $2 at garage sales, and I’ve even found a few of them on the curb!

Anyway, here are five great ideas for styling your perfect vintage crate, once you find it:

Pretty Bathroom Storage:

vintage crate bathroom storage

I love fluffy white towels and my linen closet is laughably small. However, even in my dream bathroom (which has ample storage, let me tell you right now) I’m storing towels in a big vintage crate because I just like looking at them.

I don’t know about you, but this little setup just makes me want to run a bath, grab a book and some tea, and settle in for an hour or two of relaxation. Having towels and soap on display in the bathroom creates a visual invitation to just stop and spend a little time on myself, and I’ll take as much of that as I can get!

I love this asparagus crate because it also doubles as a tote (which means multiple uses for one piece, which is amazing) and makes it super easy to roll and display up to four towels, plus soap, bath bombs, hand towels, and wash cloths. This one is for sale in my Etsy shop if you want to skip the long hours of hunting and get straight to styling!

Photo Shoot Backdrop:

crate photo background

Here’s our family photo shoot from 2017, done by the amazing Anna Dwyer. I love being able to take great photos right in the backyard, as we are practically living in a forest. Since there are no fences or anything to worry about, we can take photos back there anytime and basically feel like we’re at a park or way out in nature somewhere, which is amazing, but I still like to jazz it up sometimes (ok, fine, all the time) with a great vintage piece or two.

In this case, I used about fifteen crates of various shapes and sizes to create a little backdrop behind us. All the different tones of wood and various degrees of aging and wear work together really well to add height and visual interest behind us. We tend to do our family photos in the fall, since it’s my favorite season and I’m the one that schedules these things, and the crates also work really well with that time of year–the worn wood really echoes orchard and farm crates and barrels and makes me think of harvesting and apple-picking and all that good fall stuff. Looking at this is really making me think about what I want to do for this fall. Decisions, decisions…

Unique Centerpieces:

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I love wooden boxes in all shapes and sizes–this one is technically a cheese box, rather than a true crate, but I’m counting it because it’s so pretty. I’ve used these for all kinds of events–Bible studies, showers, backyard parties, weddings–and they are always unique and interesting additions to the table.

When I see these at a flea market or garage sale, I almost always pick them up (I wouldn’t pay more than $10, and I’ve found them for $2-$7). I love that they are all different, whether it’s a different cheese company, a different design or color of the lettering, or a different level of wear and patina. I found one not too long ago that had been gnawed a bit on two of the corners, and I picked that one up immediately. What’s better than a vintage cheese box with a few little mouse bites on it?

When I’m putting the centerpiece together, I line the boxes with 2.5″ votive holders filled halfway with water and then almost always start with a ton of filler, like the gypsum in these photos. I want it to look like the flowers are just filled up inside the box and  for the little glasses to be hidden, so I really pile in the filler. One box usually has at least 4-5 stems before the bigger flowers go in.

I actually like how the boxes look just with the gypsum, but I almost always layer in another color or at least a larger flower in white to fill it out a bit more. The box with the roses is one that I did for Christina’s wedding last year. It’s fun to have some contrast between the vintage colors on the boxes and the flowers themselves, which is another reason why I pick up every box that I can–that way I have more options when I’m mixing and matching.

This is a tiny bit off topic but I’ll throw in a little bonus idea here: I’ve often used vintage wooden crates upside down or stacked sideways to add height to a different centerpiece or to a variation of something like this (the sweets table at Christina’s barn wedding–before the sweets, of course):

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I’ll do this kind of stacking at a craft show or vintage market, too, to show off the smaller pieces that I have and add a little height to my display. It’s nice, whatever you’re doing to add height and texture wherever you can so that the eye has plenty of places to bounce around.

Unique Occasional Table/Bookshelf:

crate side table

I have a real lack of entryway space in my house. The front door opens right into the living room, and the back door right into the kitchen. I’ve kind of given up on trying to create an entryway space in the living room–we almost always have people come in the back door anyway–but the kitchen is a different story. I need something in there to help me corral all the stuff that accumulates on my kitchen table.

I found the large crate pictured here at a flea market last spring. I originally bought it for my Etsy shop, but I loved it so much that I stuck it in the corner of my kitchen and it hasn’t moved since. It was a crazy good deal (I want to say it was $20, but it could have been $30…either way, it was too good to pass up), and in really good condition for being WWII-era. I like having it by the back door because it’s a great place to stash my book bag and purse when I come home, and I can toss mail or keys on the top to help myself keep track of them better.

Seasonal Front Porch Display

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I found the old deck rails on the curb a few weeks ago, and I cut them down to fit on either side of my front door–they give me a little porch feeling without the actual porch (someday, friends). I added in some apple crates (this one is a curb find and I can’t remember where the other one came from. A lot of times you can buy them at orchards, though, so keep an eye out while you’re out pumpkin and apple picking!) and some white pumpkins from Meijer. At $5.49 each, they aren’t super cheap, but they were reasonable enough. I love using the squashy, “fantasy” pumpkins, but I’m essentially just buying squirrel food, no matter what I put out there, so paying much more than $5 apiece starts to drive me a little nuts when those guys start chewing on them.

White mums are my favorite (surprise, surprise), but I had to hunt around a little to find some that weren’t already done for the most part. Meijer for the win again, there. And how cute is this little sign from Marshall’s Home Goods? I think this is probably my biggest porch display ever–usually I worry that, because my porch isn’t covered, everything will kind of quickly get ruined or soggy, but hey, if something gets ruined this year, I’ll just replace it, right? It’s worth it to have a cute front porch for the fall, especially since it’s my favorite season. I already have plans for my Christmas porch…these deck rails are going to come in handy for that season, too, I think. Can’t wait to share it!!


So there are my tips on using vintage crates. It’s the perfect time to snag one or two of these. I’d love to see your finds–tag @itsjessforton on Instagram to share!!

What are your favorite ways to use vintage crates? Do you prefer the old, slightly dirty ones, or are you just as likely to pull one off the shelf at Hobby Lobby and throw it in the mix with your vintage pieces? Either way, let’s talk about it!

Jessie

 

 

 

Goal update!

Good morning!

I have to say that our whole “word of the year” (mortgage) thing is already way more effective than any resolution that I’ve ever made. I won’t say that it’s been smooth sailing during this first quarter of the year, but it has definitely helped us stay on track and say “no” to things that don’t move us towards our goals.

The biggest roadblock we hit was a medical thing that came up in February. Charlotte had had recurring ear infections since last December, and the pediatrician finally decided that it was time to send her to the ENT after they’d tried several rounds of antibiotics. Sadface. That lead to her having to get tubes put in her ears. Double sadface.

They did the surgery in early March and everything went great. We put our goal on hold and saved everything we could to try and avoid dipping into our emergency fund to cover our portion of the expenses. When I got the bill in the mail I was a little nervous to open it just in case we hadn’t saved enough, but we had saved almost exactly what we needed! We ended up having $100 left over to throw on the mortgage in April. I was so thankful that we were able to cash flow this “emergency” (which never felt like an emergency because we had a plan and we worked it) in one month, plus celebrate Charlotte’s birthday and prepare for Easter. It’s one of the most amazing feelings that we’ve ever had.

So here’s a recap of my first quarter goals, how they went, and how I’m moving forward into next quarter.

Goal #1: No spend January (I did this again in April–for the most part)

Recap of January:

I made it my goal not to shop for the business at all, and it yielded some decent returns.

You might remember my heart banners:

 

heart banner

These did pretty well at shows and in my shop. I kept on experimenting and looking forward, and created a bunny version for Easter that did even better. It is still selling for baby showers and nurseries! This was one of the things that I really wanted to come out of my no spend month–expanding my vision and therefore my product line.

Another side effect of not shopping in January was that I scoured the garage and the basement for vintage pieces that I had never cleaned, photographed, finished listing, etc., and actually sold a lot of pieces that I had previously been reluctant to list. This was super exciting as well–I have a tendency to buy something in the moment, decide it isn’t right for my shop, think about getting rid of it, and then ultimately hold onto it because I might “need it someday.” My no spend month helped me get over that a little bit.

For April:

I shopped a little bit, but mostly for new inventory. I found an amazing estate sale at the end of the month right in Rochester, and got some great pieces for my Etsy shop. My struggle last month was definitely the weather–by mid-April last year I had a huge pile of stuff going in the garage already for my late April shows, but no such luck this year. It was STILL snowing here in the middle of the month and I was stacking pieces all over the house in an attempt to still get work done and keep from freezing to death out in the garage.

I did get one or two warm days where I was able to get a new display piece finished using a bunch of stuff that I had laying around, so that was good.

Goal #2: Stock up my shop.

My goal was 200 listings by February 15–I didn’t actually keep track of when I met it, but I know it was later than that. The good news is that I’m there now, right?

I’m around 220 listings now and listing consistently really brought up my sales in March, which was officially my best month ever! I hit 900 sales and was able to save almost everything we needed for the tubes, which was super amazing.

For April:

Obviously my next goal is to make it to 300, but I don’t know if that will happen for this quarter. My more realistic goal is about 260, but we’ll see how it goes. I think one of the biggest things that has come out of my devotion to consistently posting new listings has been a big increase in sales.

The increase in activity in my shop has led to me making my biggest sales goal yet for my business in April (factoring in two shows, Facebook sales and Etsy sales), and the Richmond show put me beyond my target for the month, which was really exciting. The business part of things used to be really frustrating and time consuming for me because all I wanted to do was create things, but over the past few months I’ve actually begun to enjoy it a lot more, and I think it’s because I’m setting hard targets and then watching as I get really close or even beyond them each month.

Goal #3: Find new things to try.

I haven’t decided on the co-op yet. We tried a spring Junior League show at the Palazzo Grande in Shelby Township at the beginning of March, and it was really disappointing for a lot of reasons, none of which I want to get into right now. Maybe I’ll do a post on it if I can figure out whether it would be worth it or not.

It’s been awhile since I’ve listened to newer Goal Digger podcast episodes though I still refer back to a lot of her early ones. I’m still loving Allie Casazza’s “The Purpose Show“–there was an amazing episode about perfectionism a few weeks ago that I’ve already listened to about 3 times. I’ve also started listening to Christy Wright’s “Business Boutique” podcast, after attending a one-day event in Grand Rapids two weeks ago. I want to do a quick post about that as soon as I’m done digesting all the great information I got.

So far, my favorite books have been Fervent and Missional Motherhood…both focused, obviously, more on faith and family than on business, but it’s all connected, right?

I’ve still been getting most of my planning, writing, and Rochester College work done in the mornings or while Charlotte is at preschool, though I’ve been sprinkling in walks with my dog and a little bit of working out, too. Starting off my day with nothing but a cup of coffee hasn’t been super effective with helping me maintain energy throughout the day (go figure, right?) so adding some physical activity has been super helpful with that. Plus, I’m super unlikely to fit that in at the end of the day…


How are your 2018 goals going? I’d love to hear about them!

 

Announcing My 100 Day Project 2018

I know this is a pretty late announcement, but oh well.

In a nutshell, I’m starting #100daysofsendingcards, in which I make a card every day for 100 days and send them out to people I know. I’m not putting any other limits on it–just one handmade card every day for 100 days.

So you might get a handmade card from me at some point between April 3, 2018 and July 11th, 2018. Chances are that if I know your first and last name, address, and have ever talked to you in person, you will. I have 100 of these to do, after all.

I learned about this project for the first time last year, when I started listening to the Elise Gets Crafty podcast. I was reminded about it on Instagram a few weeks ago, and I’ve been thinking about whether I want to participate and what I would want to do.

Reading more about the challenge helped me. I especially liked the list of questions posed on The Great Discontent website.

1. What are you passionate about? Is there something you used to do that you gave up, something you’d like to explore, something that intrigues you?

The first part of that question is pretty overwhelming to me because I am passionate about a lot of things. It’s way too broad, and I get intimidated trying to narrow it down. But the second part of the question really got me going. There are a couple of things that I used to do all the time that I don’t do now and would love to start doing again.

I used to spend hours on my bed in my room drawing/painting and listening to music. That was me in high school and to some extent in college, though I was more into writing in college. I wanted to spend most of my alone time recharging in that way–I liked to be with my friends and out doing stuff, but when I was alone, I just wanted to be creative.

Another thing I really liked to do was send (and get) letters and notes in the mail. I wrote back and forth with several people when I was in middle and high school–my grandmother in Alpena, my friend Jessica, this young couple from my church that moved away, a friend that had to go to rehab, a soldier that I’d never met–I loved writing and connecting with people in that way, and I did it practically every day for a long time.

I didn’t always make my own cards–at that point in my life it felt childish, I think–I couldn’t get past the construction paper Mother’s Day cards that we used to make–but for my 100 day project I’m going to do it–make a card every day and then every week or so, mail out a pile of them to my friends and family.

2. Pick an object or objects. What do you already have in your possession that could be used to facilitate the project?

This question really spoke to me–I have so many markers, stickers, card stock pieces, actual blank cards, envelopes, rubber stamps and other odds and ends for paper crafting that it actually sometimes makes my head swim. I’m the person that complains about how much clutter there is in the house and then goes off to Hobby Lobby because they are getting rid of two aisles of paper crafting and are having a huge clearance sale.

I’m also always psyched to have a reason to use my Cricut, so there’s that, too. Plus, if I get tired of doing one card style, I can always switch over to watercolor, drawing, or lettering.

3. Consider your location. Will you be home, traveling, or a combination? Pick something that is feasible to complete.

This was a good one to consider, too, since we go up to Bellaire so often, especially in the summertime, when the bulk of this project will be taking place. I couldn’t pick a big project that would be hard to complete on the go–one of my first (insane) thoughts was to paint a piece of furniture every day for 100 days–glad I talked myself down from that nonsense.

I also backed off of the idea to create and send a card every day–I’ll be creating one card a day and then sending them off once a week or so. I think that will make it a little more manageable (though I’m back and forth to the post office several times a week for my Etsy shop, so it probably will be oftener than once a week anyway).

4. Choose your action. What’s your verb?

They give a whole list on the website, but as soon as I read the question I knew. Connect. I’m not going to claim that I’ll be creating 100 cards that are perfectly personalized to 100 people that I know for the express purpose of connecting myself to that person on a deeper level in which we’ve never been connected before.

What I will say is that I’ll try to create cards that will speak to people, on one level or another. I’ll try to use what I know about a person, or what I know is going on in their life, to inspire or encourage or comfort or cheer them. I’ll be praying over every card and every brush stroke, praying for these people as the cards go out each week. I’ll be working through my own moments of insincerity and discomfort and unwillingness.

I’m trying to think back to all those notes and letters I wrote in high school. It was probably a lot of just what was going on with me. I doubt it was anything substantive. Still, the people I was writing to were going through big things. Infertility, divorcing parents, active duty, separation from family and friends. There were smaller things, too–bad grades, acne, embarrassing things done in front of crushes. I don’t remember where my head was at when I was writing all those old letters, but I do remember one specific night when one of my friends was at a dance with the boy I had a crush on at the time.

I was in a funk, right? I just wanted to be sad and grumpy and eat pizza and go to bed, but I remember pulling myself out of it to write a note to my friend in rehab. I remember wanting to turn the night around, to put something into someone else rather than to continue to think about myself and my problems all night. That’s the moment that I want to distill and keep with me throughout this challenge.


There’s obviously the creative portion, too.

I don’t know exactly what I’m hoping to get out of this challenge. I know when I started thinking about this my first thought was “what am I going to do with 100 little projects after this is over?” I have pack rat tendencies, though I try to purge every few months or so. Usually that starts with big dreams of getting rid of everything that I haven’t used in the last five minutes, and ends with me taking two tiny boxes to the thrift store because I “might use that stuff someday.” I need Marie Kondo up in here stat.

So I’m happy to have come up with a project that I can immediately release into the world.

I’m also hoping to get past some creative blocks that I’ve been struggling with. I’ve always been great at reproducing ideas–drawings, Pinterest projects, paint techniques–and I’m getting really good at coming up with variations on ideas that I’ve seen. What I feel like I struggle with is originality. This paragraph could be an entire blog post, complete with example after example, so I’ll just leave it there. I’m excited to come up with some original designs.

I’ve always struggled with perfectionism, which is probably why I didn’t just jump at the thought of doing this and run off into the sunset immediately with it. “Done is better than perfect” just never really works for me. If I don’t think I can do something perfectly, chances are I won’t do it until I think I can. I’m trying to work on that. The first week of the challenge went ok. I’m trying not to plan too far ahead (factoring in birthdays that I know are coming up, holidays, milestones, etc.), although ideas just pop into my head all the time and I have to write them down or else they will keep me up all night. Am I doing this right? Oh yeah, perfectionism. Working on it.

Are you doing the challenge? Comment with your hashtag so I can follow you! And it isn’t too late to start–you can do it anytime!!

 

 

 

Not 2 Shabby Red Barn Furniture Flipping Contest

Hello friends and happy Wednesday!

Today I’m sharing a really cool project that I finished earlier this month for a contest that Kelly held up at the Not 2 Shabby Red Barn in Flint. I wasn’t able to do the September Shabby Sunday show because I was in Richmond that whole weekend, so when I saw on Facebook last month that Kelly was having a $5 and $10 sale and running a furniture flipping contest in conjunction with the sale, I knew I had to do it. Not only would it be a fun project to share on the blog, but it would be an interesting challenge and a good way to stock up on some project pieces for the fall.

I promised myself that I wouldn’t buy anything that was too similar to something I’d done lately—no headboards, for example—but I also didn’t want to go for something that I really hated, like a country crafts piece that had heart cutouts all over it. I was hoping to get a few really good pieces that I could spend some time on in September and have ready for Hocus Pocus (which is now only two weekends away!!).

Since the sale started on a Thursday morning, Charlotte had to come along, and my mom was off, so we made (most) of a day of it. We got there pretty much right at 10, and there were already pieces that were in piles all over the porch—the photos online had been pretty interesting, and there were about 5 or 6 people there ahead of us. We’d passed several garage sales on the way there as well, so I wasn’t too disappointed that there were only two pieces left that I was really interested in:

I picked the chair because it was really solid and had arms, and I love doing side chairs with arms. The veneer on the back of the chair was a little warped (I forgot to take a photo before I peeled it all off), but other than that it was perfect. All it needed was a fresh coat of paint and to have the seat recovered in coordinating fabric:

gray accent chair with arms

That was too easy to be my piece for the flipping contest, though, so I also grabbed the bench. It was falling apart and missing the seat, but I knew that I could do something cool with it. My first thought was to spray paint it black and use it as a fall planter for some mums for the deck. Since it was missing a seat anyway, I thought why not leave it mostly as it is and make it an outdoor piece?

Then I started randomly browsing Pinterest, just in case my first inspiration could be topped somehow, and I started seeing all of these benches with fluffy faux fur over the top, and my mind grabbed onto that idea for a minute. It would be super simple to cut a piece of board, screw it into the top, cover that with a thick piece of foam, and bring the faux fur down over the edges of the unfinished top of the bench—plus, it was super chic, really different than anything I’ve done before, and something that would totally fit in Charlotte’s bedroom (or mine, for that matter).

Before I made any decisions, I had to address the fact that this bench was totally falling apart.

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I got out my wood glue and applied a little to all of the insides of the joints wherever it was coming apart, and the next day it was as good as new. Well, not really, but it wasn’t falling apart anymore. To make it even sturdier, and to make the bench part possible, I cut a piece of board and screwed it into the top of the bench. I guess that gives away the project I decided to go with, huh? SHHH!! I still want it to be (kind of) a surprise. Just don’t think about it.

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I didn’t worry about the screws in the top because this bench had enough room around the edge that I decided to just carry the faux fur around the sides and ends of the bench to make it extra cozy. But first, I had to paint the legs, which was a bit of a dilemma…I just couldn’t decide what color to use on the bottom. I knew I wanted white faux fur for the top, but then white legs seemed too bland. But gray or pink didn’t seem right, either, and I was afraid black would be too much of a stark difference against the white top, for some reason (I feel like, in reality, any of these options would have been fine, but I was genuinely paralyzed about this choice for a few days. Once again Jessie, this isn’t brain surgery. It’s just a paint color).

Naturally, I just avoided the problem for a while, and worked on other things. Here’s a whole chair I finished during this dilemma:

coco chair

I picked this one up for $5 and painted it in Annie Sloan’s Coco. The fabric is from a piece that I picked up at the Shed 5 show from 1011 Fabric’s booth—if you have time for a little road trip, you absolutely need to check out their store in Fenton—they carry so many amazing fabrics and antiques, and it’s super fun to shop around in there, even if you’re just looking for inspiration!

Ok, back to my flip piece. Seriously, it took me over a week to decide on a color. I pushed this bench around the garage while I worked on chairs, a custom sign for an Etsy customer, and prep for the Finder’s Keepers show.

Does this happen to anyone else? I have no idea why I got so hung up on this color issue. I finally decided on French Linen, because I was driving myself a little bit crazy. I started off by washing the legs, and that became a bigger process than I’d originally thought, too—there was so much gunk on the wood that I didn’t think I could ever get it fully clean.

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I ended up washing it twice and then spraying it with Shellac just to be safe. I didn’t want any dirt or old stain to come through the paint once it was done. I also didn’t wax it right away, just in case I have to go over any spots later.

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I did two coats of the French Linen as well—I really can’t explain the color decision other than it also happened to work out that I was painting this bookshelf at the same time and I was certain that I wanted that piece in French Linen, so the bench just followed suit.

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When does gray not look good with white? At this point in the process, it seemed like a no-brainer.

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I don’t know if I’ll keep this bench in my room or not. I have another little chair that I painted a few years ago, and it’s been working out fine. The bench looks nice here, but I use this sewing machine in the winter when I’m working on tea wallets and burp cloths, and sitting for long periods on a bench with no back wouldn’t really work out. I might move it over under the other window once it’s cool enough for Dan to put the air conditioner away.

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Did you participate in the furniture flip contest? How did your piece turn out? I had a great time with this little bench, despite the fact that I had the hardest time making a choice about the color. Head over to the Not 2 Shabby Red Barn’s Facebook page to check out the other flip projects and get some ideas of your own! Have a great week, everyone!

Talk soon,

Jessie

DIY Vintage Suitcase Craft Show Display Piece

Hey friends! I’ve had so much fun with this series, and I want to shift just a little today to talk about a recent display piece that I finished for my craft show booths, upcycled from a vintage suitcase. Still in the vein of craft show how-to’s, but a little more specific, I suppose. Booth design seems like it should be a huge thing for me, but I struggle with it, especially with all of my big pieces. I just want to paint furniture and throw it in the booth (and then carry it back out)–and I don’t always think carefully about my booth or table design. I’m always trying to get better, though, and designing small elements like this suitcase display is one of them.

I’ve talked a lot about how I hate having little pieces scattered all over my furniture, and this summer I’ve been trying hard to come up with unique ways to display my smaller items so that the furniture in my booth doesn’t have to serve as a prop for my other pieces.

I really like the way that this piece helped to showcase some of my smaller items, and I’ve been positioning it right at the back of my tent in an effort to draw customers into my booth and get a conversation going. People almost always ask about the journal covers once they’ve noticed them, and it’s fun to talk about how much I love books and creating art out of old, forgotten ones. It’s rare for me to pass up a bookshelf at an estate sale without at least looking it over, and I’m a huge sucker for antique books.

It’s been a while since I’ve created a piece specifically for display—in fact I want to say that the last one I designed was almost four years ago, when I first started doing shows. I didn’t build that one—my brother did—but it was a tall lattice frame that we used to hang wreaths and signs on. I can’t remember when we stopped using it, but it might be time to figure out how to get that piece back in the rotation. I’d love to be able to display my MI signs more effectively.

Anyway, on to the DIY vintage suitcase display:

 

I picked up this handmade wooden suitcase at a killer estate sale in my mom’s neighborhood earlier this summer, and I had it for sale at a couple of vintage markets before I decided that I was going to keep it and use it for something awesome. The display I created with it worked out really well at Sterlingfest, and I was super excited for how I’d be able to use it for the rest of the year’s events, as well.

There are several small items that I make using upcycled vintage books, and I’ve been wanting to showcase them somehow for a while now, so I went in that direction with this display piece. I wanted to try and get my keychains, necklaces, journal covers, and coasters all in one spot.

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This suitcase looked like it was made in shop class or something, by M. W. H. in 1977. I was going to paint the whole thing, but I didn’t really want to cover this up, because it feels kind of special to me, and no one is really going to see this side of the display anyway. So I left the outside as is. The inside still needed to be painted eventually—I wanted it to be bright and clean so that my items would really stand out against a neutral backdrop.

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The first thing I did was attach some hooks to the top of the skinny side and to the top of an old chalkboard sign I had left over from a baby shower I styled last year. I would have just painted a chalkboard section on the inside of the suitcase lid, but it wouldn’t have been smooth enough, because the top and bottom of the suitcase was made from an old piece of paneling or something, and it has these deep grooves in it:

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I almost rethought this project when I realized that my original vision for the chalkboard section wouldn’t work, but I actually really like the fact that the chalkboard sign is a separate thing. I think it adds a little more dimension to the piece, and it’s a lot easier to change the wording of the sign mid-show if I never need to if I can just unhook the sign and leave the rest of the display set up. If the chalkboard was painted on the back of the actual suitcase, it would be a lot more awkward to try and change it (with any kind of legible writing) without laying the whole thing down flat and totally disrupting the booth.

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I put another row of hooks in a line under the chalkboard sign for the key chains and necklaces. The paneling was pretty thin, so I just screwed them in by hand. The first few poked through the front of the suitcase, so I had to feel out how far to put them in without pushing through to the other side every time. I didn’t use a ruler or anything to make the line of hooks perfectly straight, which I probably should have done, but hey, nothing’s perfect, right?

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On the deeper side, I knew I wanted to do a shelf for some of the coasters at the top, and then leave the bottom for the journal covers. I didn’t buy anything special to make the shelf—I just used a scrap piece of molding that I had sitting around on my workbench. I put a couple of screws in from the sides for that, and then I was pretty much done with putting it together the way I wanted it.

The inside needed a few coats of Old White in order to be fully covered, so that took a couple of days to dry. My garage was so full of furniture ready for Sterlingfest that I couldn’t really work on big pieces anyway, so I had to spend my time getting little things ready. I was also working like crazy on my fairy wands, if you remember.

Here’s the photo of my completed and stocked DIY Vintage Suitcase Display:

upcycled suitcase boutique display

During shows, I also prop a second chalkboard under the key chains with the individual prices of these pieces, since I don’t usually bother to tag all of my smaller items, and I add two more hooks on either edge of the inside lid for the necklaces, since the chains for those are too long to hang on the same hooks as the key rings.

I love making the vintage dictionary coasters using the large engravings of insects, flowers, and plants, but I never sell as many of those as I do the Michigan map coasters—I don’t think I’ve ever done an event where I haven’t sold out of those. I’m always on the lookout for vintage and MI maps when I go to estate sales—just another one of my obsessions, I guess.

This piece is ideal for almost everything except the coasters–that top shelf is just too small to hold anything other than two sets, so I still end up having to pile the coasters around the bottom and to the side of the display, which is mostly fine. I’m almost to the bottom of my current box of tiles, so maybe once my current inventory runs out, I’ll take a break from making them for a while so that I can figure out a better display.

Thanks for reading, friends! Have a great weekend!

Talk soon,

Jessie

 

Four Tips for Selling Furniture At A Craft Show

Good morning friends! I’m super excited to start a new series of craft show tips and advice for the month of September! The Meet Your Maker series will be back later this fall, don’t you worry, but for now, I’m so excited to talk to you about some of my favorite insights into doing shows as a furniture vendor in the next few weeks. Over the course of the month, I want to talk about specific tips for selling furniture, how to deal when an event doesn’t go as planned, a little bit about booth design, and at the end of the month I’m going to go over this past year and talk about overall strategies for picking when and where to do a show. Thanks for joining me today as I share my top four tips for selling furniture at a craft show or vintage market!

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Selling furniture at a craft show presents some different challenges than selling smaller items or artwork, and I’ve learned some valuable tips over the past four years that I’m really excited to share with you today. I wish I’d thought of some of these when I first started, and I’m sure that you ladies have some tips to share with me that I haven’t thought of yet. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below—I’m sure there are furniture vendors out there who would love to hear from you!

Offer Delivery

I offer free, same-day local delivery whenever I can—customers often don’t expect to find large pieces at a traditional art/craft show, and they can be caught off guard without a vehicle large enough to transport their new piece. I always come prepared to offer delivery at the craft shows I do in the areas near where I live, where I know that finding the addresses won’t be an issue and won’t be far out of my way. Offering delivery also works better if you have a partner there at the show with you–often, my husband will come by during show hours and do the local deliveries for me before the show is over, so that I can come right home after. That doesn’t always work out, but I can always make the deliveries once the show is over, too.

Customers take advantage of this about half the time, and if I can offer a small bonus to help move the furniture out of the booth, I’ll do it every time. I’ll be moving it either way at the end of the day, and I’d rather move it to its new home than put it back in my garage.

Delivery orders often work out surprisingly well. This past year at Sterlingfest, I had two furniture customers who asked for delivery on Friday evening, and they ended up being in the same neighborhood, only one street over from each other.

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I come prepared with these furniture delivery slips (my custom order form is also there) so that I can have the customer fill out their information, any notes that they have as far as where to leave pieces in the event that they aren’t home, and the time of delivery. I punch a hole in the slip once it’s filled out, and tie it right to the piece I’m delivering so I don’t get the deliveries mixed up.

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I don’t do this as much at vintage markets—I think people come to those expecting that they might find larger pieces, and they seem to be more prepared. If I’m outside of a 15-20 mile radius of Rochester Hills, I’ll still offer delivery, but I start to charge for those, especially if I have to come back the next day with the piece.

I’ve actually come to really look forward to deliveries, especially during longer events—it’s a good time to decompress and relax after a long day of selling, and it’s really nice to get some time alone before going straight home. I usually crank up the tunes on my iPod and listen to all the music that I loved in high school. It reminds me of when I first started driving and all I wanted to do was just listen to one more song, just driving around town.

Be Prepared for Custom Orders

I bring custom order forms with me to every show as well, and I usually take deposits on a few custom orders per show. Mostly, it ends up being pieces that people have that they want to have redone. I used to have people fill out their information without a deposit, but I got a lot of information for people who weren’t really serious about it, and it ended up being a waste of time to try and get in touch with them just to find out that they had changed their mind.

It can be hard to do a quote on the spot for a piece you haven’t seen yet, but I try to give a range. I’m working on a cheat sheet now that gives a list of pieces and prices so that I can reference it quickly at a show if I need to, and so that customers can see a base price that’s going to be the same for everyone. For example, a tallboy dresser is going to start at around $125, but depending on color(s), actual size, number of drawers, and whether the customer needs pickup/delivery, it might fluctuate quite a bit from that initial quote.

It’s really helpful to have signage that tells your customers that you offer custom work (if that applies to your particular business). It’s one of the most common questions I get at a show, so if I can answer it with a simple sign (or two), I can move that conversation forward before it really even begins.

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Build an Email List

This is something that I never thought much about until I started listening to Jenna Kutcher’s Goal Digger podcast. I know, I talk about it a lot. It’s a gold mine of information, girls. Do yourself a favor and check out my favorite episodes, or just go listen to the whole thing. You will learn something. I promise.

It makes total sense to me now, and I don’t understand why I never did this before. I bring a sheet with me to every show, and when people tell me that they love my pieces, or that they’re buying a new home soon, or that they’re getting married next year, I point out my email list as a way of staying in touch to make sure that when they’re at the point when they need something, they still have a connection with me.

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Business cards are important, but the number of times I’ve had someone contact me because they took my business card is practically zero, even though I’ll often write down the piece they were looking at, my personal phone number, or the question they had to remind them of why they picked up the card in the first place. I’ll admit, I usually throw business cards away myself—it’s just one more thing to clutter up my purse, right?

But if I can get people to sign up for my email list, I can get into their inbox every month and stay in front of them in a much more meaningful way. I use MailChimp to create a monthly newsletter that includes my upcoming shows, pieces that I’m currently working on, recent custom orders, and links to my social, email, and blog. It’s much easier to click a link and like my Facebook page than it is to take my business card, go to Facebook, look up the page, and then like it. Jenna talks about eliminating the steps that people have to take to find you—how better to do that than to send an email perfectly tailored to speak to those customers who loved your pieces enough to sign up for your email list?

Tell People About Your Pieces

I always ask people how they’re doing when they first stop at the booth, and sometimes that’s all I say. But if they stop long enough to touch or pick something up, I start talking about that piece. One of the things that caught people’s eye a lot at Sterlingfest this year was this little sewing chair:

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They’d look at it and even touch it or sit down to test it out (which I always encourage when people are seriously looking at my chairs or benches), but they’d rarely lift the seat to see the storage underneath. It’s important to me to let my customers know why my pieces are special, where they came from, their approximate age, and whether they were built from upcycled pieces (like my headboard benches). I like pieces that have a story behind them—it’s part of my brand, so it’s important for me to tell that story.

What’s important to you? Is it the paint that you use? The specific pieces that you create or curate? The memories attached to a certain style or technique? Something someone taught you? I don’t sell a ton of dishes in my Etsy shop—it’s basically limited to ironstone, which I love, and a specific set of Pyrex bowls—the primary colors one. Why? Because I have this memory of my grandma Charlotte teaching me to make chocolate chip cookies in that big yellow bowl. I can’t resist a set of reasonably prices primary color Pyrex at a garage or estate sale. And I like to tell people why.

Again, the longer someone stays in your booth, the more likely they are to buy something. It was the end of the night on Friday at Sterlingfest this year and I was about to start closing when a lady stopped and started talking to me about the kind of paint that I used. We talked about Annie Sloan for a bit, which thrift stores were our favorites, what kinds of pieces we loved to do, and how much furniture we had sitting around in our garages. She came into the booth because she loved a Chateau Gray piano bench that I had sitting outside, and by the end of the conversation, she purchased it. It doesn’t always happen that way, but if she had just admired it as she walked by, it might be sitting in my garage right now rather than in her house.


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And here is one of the pitfalls of selling furniture at a craft show–people sometimes assume that it’s cool to just hang out for a bit–with no intention of buying anything. You just have to laugh about it, right?!?

So those of my tips for selling furniture! Do you have anything to add? Have you tried these things with any success (or had anything backfire on you)? Let me know in the comments! I’d love to hear from you!

Talk soon,

Jessie