new life for old things, home furnishings edition.

April 20, 2021

Our landlord came by yesterday with his van full of hand planes and chisels and other things he figured we might need in order to hang the antique door I came into last week. The door ended up being slightly warped and the doorframe turned out to be anything but square, and I was very grateful to have the good natured help of a person who’s hung a few doors in his day. (Thankfully, our landlord also seems to have nearly as big a penchant for old things as I do.) He chiseled and planed and puzzled over door stops and I removed hardware from the door and paint from the hardware and then put everything back together again. Today, there’s a new (old) door up and swinging and a crystal doorknob that turns.

In the spirit of Earth Week, here’s a roundup of posts I’ve written about fixing up and improving something that already exists, especially when it comes to furniture and home goods. Most all of the furniture in our apartment is vintage or secondhand or something that otherwise belonged to someone else before belonging to us. We’ve found some of it on sidewalks and some of it at stoop sales. We’ve sometimes had luck in thrift stores or antique shops and sometimes had better luck on Craigslist or through our neighborhood Buy Nothing Project. Some of these finds didn’t require anything more than a good vacuuming and a wipe down and some of them required a whole lot of imagination and even more elbow grease. In either case, here’s to the deep satisfaction of taking good care.

In case they provide some inspiration or guidance for any of you, here’s more…

On painting our furniture

And changing a changing table, slowly.

On making my own drawer pulls

And lining old dresser drawers.

On transforming a sidewalk-find china cabinet into a chifferobe

And doing nothing at all to a very vintage cupboard.

On reupholstering a couch…

And cleaning upholstery

And wondering, briefly, what amount of DIY is worth it…

On adding new seats to old dining chairs

…weaving a new seat for a side chair

And turning a folding chair into the monochromatic chair of my dreams.

On buying nothing new for a new baby

…welcoming a new-to-us bunk bed

And rescuing an old school desk.

On settling on shoe storage

And winging it with shoe storage.

On unconventional dining tables and using a cot for a couch.

On fixing old doorknobs.

And just in case you’ve missed it, I wrote a lot about furnishing and decorating a home with secondhand furniture and vintage treasures in my book, Simple Matters.

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9 Comments

  • Reply NICOLE April 20, 2021 at 4:50 pm

    Thank you for this fantastic post and roundup of past project posts and well all of your work really. Every January I reread your book as a reset and reminder to live simply since it seems to go astray at times. I find myself flipping through it more so now as we’ve moved our family of four to a new home but are embracing decorating slowly and trying to avoid unnamed big box stores.

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  • Reply Jenna April 20, 2021 at 8:04 pm

    I 100% had the before version of that white dresser, in all it’s yellowing varathaned pine glory, in my 80s childhood bedroom. Those small rails, while they may have been a changing table for your babes, also work well to prevent toppling of stacks of 90s CDs in a teenaged bedroom. It definitely came with me to my first (and second) college apartment. It lives back at my parents’ place now, but if I ever need another dresser, I’ll know what a layer of paint and new nobs can do for the old friend.

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  • Reply Julie April 21, 2021 at 7:36 am

    This post is everything I love about your blog. Thank you for your encouragement and inspiration to make, thrift, and mend. I’m grateful for the spirit of creating beauty from what already exists. Happy Earth Day!

  • Reply MC April 21, 2021 at 11:53 am

    Seems like you really found a good match with your landlord! Responsive, careful and well-equipped. I’m happy for you!

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  • Reply Tulsi April 22, 2021 at 10:27 pm

    The best post to read on Earth Day. I love seeing how people add used items into their home- good for the planet AND soul 🙂 So happy to see your new home is turning out!

    ~Tulsi

  • Reply tara May 4, 2021 at 3:30 pm

    oh we could also use an old door in our new apartment. any chance the person still has one available? we just moved in and there’s ONE hollow core door but all of the rest are full wood with gorgeous glass knobs! please email me if you think it’s a possibility!
    and thank you for all of this inspiration. i’m so excited to care for this new apartment and the possibilities of restoration seem endless at the moment! all old fashioned lighting fixtures + no boob lights in the entire place!

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE May 4, 2021 at 4:57 pm

      i think everything was spoken for, but if you’re local, check out Big Reuse on 12th Street in Brooklyn!

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  • Reply Kim May 9, 2021 at 9:44 pm

    Love your posts—even though my days of active mothering are long ago! Could you please share your source for the canvas(?) baskets in your chifferobe? Thank you!

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE May 10, 2021 at 9:35 am

      Sure thing! They’re from Uashmama. There’s a direct link and more information in the post about the chifferobe!

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