Thursday, February 23, 2017

Project Planning: Vintage Finds for Your Outdoor Living Space

By Gretchen Sawatzki

With the winter thaw fast-approaching and spring on its way it's time to change gears from indoor hibernation to outdoor relaxation. There's no better time than the present to start planning your outdoor spring projects, so why not include your outdoor living space in your project plans?

Mixing contemporary decor with antique and vintage items is a great way to add unique flare to your favorite outdoor living space. With many antique and vintage shops looking to clear their shelves for the new year, you can often find great deals on beautiful furnishings just before spring. Here are a few great antique and vintage items we found that are perfect for outdoor living.

Vintage outdoor garden bench. Photo by Hannah Manning
for Materials Unlimited
Outdoor Bench

It may seem obvious to include a bench in your outdoor living space, but it really is the perfect seating option. A stone garden style bench can hang out in the elements of all four seasons only needing a tarp to cover it in the winter months, this is the quintessential seating option. Worried about comfort? Add a couple of cushions with outdoor fabric for added touch of comfort.

Outdoor Table and Chairs

Again, this seems like another obvious pick for an outdoor living space, however table and chairs come in many forms to suit many needs. An antique or vintage cafe style table and chairs is a great outdoor option. Not only can eat your breakfast daydreaming that you're in a cafe in Paris, but you also get the vintage charm of a beloved classic design.

Antique cafe style table and chairs. Photo by Hannah Manning for Materials Unlimited

Antique Fence or Gate

Antique wrought iron fence. Photo by Hannah Manning for
Materials Unlimited
Nothing adds more charm to an outdoor garden than an antique wrought iron fence or gate. Available in many sizes and designs, you often find enough antique fence sections or a functioning gate to create the perfect partition for your outdoor oasis. When considering antique wrought iron, be sure to check for rust and properly seal the metal with a clear coat paint to protect it from water and ice.

Antique Wheel Barrow

Want something unique in your outdoor space that offers charm and an industrial element? Try displaying an antique wheel barrow in your outdoor space. They are a great conversation starter, can be repurposed into a flower pot or herb garden, or could serve as your outdoor bar cart. It's easy to locate old wheel barrows. If you can't find one at your local antiques store check flea markets or yard sales.

Antique primitive style wheel barrow. Photo by Hannah Manning for
Materials Unlimited
Found Objects

Want to add finishing touches on your outdoor space? Using found objects like architectural fragments, old stone statuary, and other metal objects. They are strictly decorative but all a nice touch where finishing touches are often left out.

Antique building fragment. Photo by Hannah Manning for Materials Unlimited

Thursday, February 16, 2017

When to Buy an Antique vs. a Reproduction

By Gretchen Sawatzki

Top: New clawfoot tub; Below: Antique tub
Restoring a historic bathroom or kitchen in an old home can be a challenge. Finding period appropriate fixtures from antiques and vintage stores can also be difficult to find. And, when you do find the right antique fixture it sometimes doesn't fit, so what can you do? You can stick with the antiques or try new reproduction products that might solve the problem.

Reproduction products come in all types of finishes and period designs. They may look identical to the "real" thing, however they are manufactured with different methods and materials, making them less durable than their vintage counterparts. There are however great reproductions available when you can't find the perfect antique.

Antique clawfoot tubs are a dream and they are coveted finds. When you can find an antique clawfoot tub in good condition, it's worth the investment, however today's reproductions by Sign of the Crab offer the same luxury and beauty as the antique tubs and can be in ordered in a number of sizes.

Antique lighting is another great place to spend some money if you're looking for something unique or made of a particular material. Industrial style lighting is often easy to find at local antique shops and with a quick re-wiring kit from B&P Lamp Supply you can make your slick vintage find into a safe and functional fixture. If you aren't that handy however there are great reproduction light fixtures available through online retailers like Rejuvenation.

Left: reproduction light fixture; Right: restored antique light fixture

Antique hardware is always a great find that is often easy to repurpose for a modern application. The challenge with hardware is finding multiples of the same drawer pulls, knobs, or keyhole covers. When you can find a vintage set of hardware, it's good advice to take it home. If you aren't so lucky with locating a set however there are a number of online companies that offer worthy reproductions including Rejuvenation and WSI Distributors.

Above: Set of vintage drawer pulls; Below: reproduction drawer pull

When you're working on a restoration project it's best to use antique and vintage fixture whenever possible - they look great, age gracefully, were crafted to last, and are eco-friendly. But, if you can't find the right antique or vintage fixture, you can always opt for the reproductions.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Photo Friday: Antique Barber Shop Cabinet

By Gretchen Sawatzki

Unusual antique barber shop cabinet,
photo by Hannah Manning for Materials Unlimited.

This antique barber shop cabinet has all the doors and drawers a barber could ever need. Made of mahogany, this unusual cabinet features an inlaid top, a backsplash that opens for additional storage, and Bakelite hardware. A gem from the 1930's and completely unique this piece of furniture makes a great storage piece for any home.

Flip top backsplash for extra storage,
photo by Hannah Manning for Materials Unlimited

Friday, January 27, 2017

5 Dining Room Antiques to Splurge On

By Gretchen Sawatzki

Dining rooms are places designed for eating and entertaining. They have been called the nucleus of the home, and are a place for guests, friends, and family to gather. Because the dining room is a space dedicated to hospitality, this room became a place to show off one's status, wealth, and design sensibility.

Charming German chandelier, circa 1950.
Photo by Hannah Manning for
Materials Unlimited
Today, dining room antiques are some of the most desirable for their elaborately carved tables, throne-like chairs, and massive serving pieces. Decorating with dining room antiques can be a fun and unique way to add personality and charm to this special room, but where should you splurge when curating your dining room antiques?

Here's five antiques to splurge on in your dining room.


Have you ever eaten dinner at a really nice restaurant and noticed that not only was the food delicious, but the ambience set the tone for the whole meal as well? Lighting is where you can make a statement or create a specific atmosphere. A chandelier can add chic design, sparkle, and a warm, inviting glow, and for about as much as a brand new light fixture, you can have a stunning piece of well-crafted history.

Dining Table

This seems like an obvious pick for investing your money, but in all honesty, antique dining room tables really are a great investment. Not only is the dining room table used for dining, but today's modern family uses the dining room table for a desk, game table, and artist's studio, among other things - which means it will always be used for something. Spend your money where you know it will last by purchasing a solid wood antique dining table.

Walnut and maple dining table circa 1920. Photo by
Hannah Manning for Materials Unlimited.

Not only will the investment pay for itself, but with an array of sizes and shapes out there, you're bound to find the table that fits your needs.  The possibilities are almost endless and prices can be all over the place.

Dining Chairs

Another obvious pick for splurging - dining chairs. Not only are comfortable chairs nice to have, but they are also critical for being a good host. Nobody wants to sit in uncomfortable or questionably stable chairs.

Upholstered antique dining chairs. Photo by Hannah Manning for
Materials Unlimited.
Look for solid wood antique dining chairs that have no signs of cracks in the legs or seat. Try to find upholstered antique dining chairs as your chances are good that the chairs will have all of the proper springs and cushioning. If you don't like the fabric, no worries, you can always take the chairs to an upholsterer to get the level of comfort and design that you want. Plus, solid wood chairs can handle the wear and tear of everyday use.


Victorian Era sideboard. Photo by
Hannah Manning for Materials Unlimited.
An antique sideboard may seem a bit antiquated (pun intended) by today's standard, but an antique sideboard can not only make a dining room more functional, but it can also serve as a visual focal point and work of art worthy of dinner party conversation.

Historically, sideboards were used to keep food, extra dishes, and even alcohol at-hand during a meal. Their long, wide surface can hold items of all sizes, making hosting large dinners a snap. They are also used for used to lock away valuable silverware and crystal stemware. If you like to entertain for holidays, a sideboard can be your most-trusted friend, and if you have the space, they are worth the investment.

Dishes and Table Settings

The Victorians dined like no other with silverware and pieces used for all types of dining needs. Seafood forks, salt wells, cruet sets, and muffineers are a few table items used for a Victorian dinner; not to mention all of the tea accoutrements...

With antique dishes and table wares you can really get creative. Mix and match your favorite plate patterns, purchase strange Victorian implements, and buy those strange napkin rings. This is the place to really show your eclectic side. You can also find antique dishes and table items in just about every antique store out there, so you're bound to find something you like for a price you can likely negotiate.
Antique cruet set. Photo by Hannah Manning for Materials Unlimited.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

3 Light Bulb Options for Antique Light Fixtures

By Gretchen Sawatzki

Light bulbs - sounds boring, but with all of the different bulb options available these days, you can really tailor a custom lighting look for any space in your home...which I find to be quite interesting. With online retailers like and, you're bound to find exactly what you want.

But, what if you own antique or vintage light fixtures and you want great light without distraction from the beautiful fixture? This "problem" can be a huge deterrent for lovers of antique light fixtures, who enjoy the classic look, but hate the problems of finding the right light bulb.

There are great bulb options out there, and to help you with your bulb whoas, I have compiled a few images of antique light fixtures with appropriate, readily available bulbs to inspire you.

Photo by Hannah Manning for Materials Unlimited

The Victorian Edison Bulb
- classic in design with its round glass casing, and available in 25, 40, and 60 watt options.

Pros: warm glow; works with almost any bare bulb fixture; classic design with historic accuracy
Cons: lower lumens = dim light

Photo by Hannah Manning for Materials Unlimited

Candelabra Bulb - sometimes referred to as "chandelier bulbs," these bulbs have a tapered design with flame-like tip, and come in an array of clear, frosted, or even filament bulbs

Pros: available from warm to cool light; easy to find with a "candle base" or "chandelier base"
Cons: can be hard to find with a "standard base"

Photo by Hannah Manning for Materials Unlimited

Frosted Bulb - round and frosted to diffuse light, great for bare bulb fixtures

Pros: soft light, low wattage
Cons: soft light can also mean dim light, hard to find with higher lumens

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Salvaged Sunday: Antique Tile

By Gretchen Sawatzki

Saving wood floors, trim, doors, windows, and light fixtures may seem like the most obvious of choice when salvaging historic house parts from a historic home, but what most fail to remember are the decorative items that are worth salvaging including antique tile.

Antique Minton, Hollins, and Co. fireplace tile, circa 1880.
Photo by Hannah Manning for Materials Unlimited.

The most decorative antique tile in an old home can be found as a part of the fireplace surround. For homeowners who could afford the luxury of tile, the most decorative would have been displayed in the area of the home where visitors would be entertained. In the Victorian Era and into the period leading up to WWII, this room would have been the parlor.
Backside of Minton, Hollins, and Co. fireplace tile. P
hoto by Hannah Manning for Materials Unlimited.

Tiles for the surround had a number of designs and motifs. Floral designs, animals, hunting scenes and nautical imagery were some of the most preferred. For the wealthy, uncommon designs would include handmade tiles from famous domestic studios including Rookwood, Pewabic, and Batchelder, to name a few. For those with an more worldly taste, Dutch Delft tiles, Majolica tiles from Spain, and Minton tiles of England were the preference.