Suzi’s decorating a new one-bedroom home and has been sharing her ideas & inspirations (& many fails… ahem) throughout the process. Read her blog posts on this: Suzi’s House Project.

I feel old and stuffy when I say I’m shopping for furniture for a new home, but it’s not really any different from getting furniture for an apartment. So I think I’ll just have to get over it. On Sunday, Chops and I took a jaunt to a small town near us, Brunswick, Md, which is known to have some fun antique shops. Most importantly these shops are actually somewhat affordable for us. Miss Pixies and Good Wood are really fantastic independent dealers but unless Uncle Sam pays me more anytime soon, I will have to limit my pickings from those stores to only the very treasured pieces that we decide we can’t live without.

Brunswick’s two main antique shops are Antiques n’ Ole Stuff and Past and Present Antiques. To my delight, only one of these had a proper website when we tried to do some recon ahead of time, and the other’s website was kinda bad… and I mean that as a great thing. It meant these two shops were most likely ancient, small town, old-fashioned and unpretentious — perfect for the kinds of things we were looking for.

While we did come home with two things that were on our checklist, we also couldn’t resist this impulse buy, to the right. A little strange but admittedly very charming, no? It was labeled as an “Iron Stand With a Hook” typically used for wreathes and tulle. I could picture it being used for a wreath in the front yard at Christmas time, which would be really pretty! But my initial thought was to use it to hang an umbrella by the door. Umbrellas are one thing I always forget when I need it, and when I do remember it’s when I’m already halfway out the front door and am too lazy to remove my shoes and go back in. So there you have it… an iron stand for $7.80. There’s a stupid whimsical side of me that wishes there was a formal old-American frontier name for this object just so I could call it that. Lame, I know.

One of the items that was actually on our checklist and equally peculiar as the iron stand was … yes, a barrel. So… I think this calls for an explanation. For the main area, which includes the kitchen/dining and living space, we’re trying to create a very raw, very whitely painted, shabby country aesthetic. So hopefully most of the things in it would tend to be either made of old wood or some kind of ancient metal/iron. While discussing this the other day, Charlie remarked offhand that a wooden barrel, for instance, would fit perfectly. And I looked at him for a puzzled second, then nodded and shrugged in agreement, neither of us addressing the clear absurdity of it. There is little space in the house as it is, and yet somehow a wooden barrel, and all the rustic charm it would exude just sittin’ there in a corner, picked up its skirts and sort of trotted past any such concerns. So yes a barrel — more specifically an 1800’s BUTTER CHURNER!!! — has found its way into the house.

We acquired it for $35 at Past & Present Antiques. It was listed at $50 but maybe the friendly old man gave us a deal on it because he thought we were suckers for taking it home and felt sorry for us haha. Now the question is whether to clean it up and use it as an end table next to an armchair. Or whether to place it as a purely decorative item, really high up on top of the kitchen cabinets. Stay tuned on this barrel.

Our next acquisition was also on our checklist. Given the limitations in storage and closet space, Charlie decided that I could have most of the closet space where you can actually hang clothes on a rack (even so I will have to downsize my wardrobe by one-third or so I think!). However there is a portion of the closet that isn’t deep enough to hang clothes on hangers. So instead, we would place a dresser in there for him to keep all his clothes. Luckily he recently went on a “streamlining” kick and pretty much only wears literally a handful of shirts made by Icebreaker, T-shirts screenprinted by friends and a few pairs of pants.

And this. Is what we came up with for this “dresser.”

I feel like all of these items start with a moment of awkward silence, like you don’t quite know right away how to respond and so any immediate reaction of liking or loving it would have to be feigned. But let me lead you into the fun little details!

While the main living space is bright and white with a good amount of sunlight, the bedroom has a very different feel. It’s darker, a little more mysterious and enclosed, partly because of a fireplace in one corner that is framed by a dark wood frame and mantle. Prior to finding this ornate “ancient Chinese chest” above (spoken in the proud, authoritative voice of a Chinese man), we had already planned to have an authentic Japanese shiki futon as a bed, instead of a traditional bed with a heavy immovable frame, as well as a curious type of Japanese-style chest of drawers called a “tansu” dresser for storage. More on these two items down the road, but point is that the bedroom has an older more refined feel than the main space, and together with other Asian-inspired items, we thought the Chinese chest would be… well let’s just be frank…frickin lethal. Especially as an item that’s tucked away in the closet, its ornateness, which I otherwise find to be gaudy, gets muted and softened. I think it’ll look like a piece of black shiny elegance hiding in the closet! :)

Above you can see the dresser detail in the pull knobs. It’s a piece of metal in the shape of that gourd which the Chinese love to use as a symbol of many things. I have small jewelry charms of these kinds of gourds from when I visited Taiwan as a kid. I was told that the gourd carried evil inside so that it couldn’t get out. Based on a web search, though, it looks like the gourd is an actual species in Asia called the “calabash” or bottle-gourd. It can be hollowed out and used for many things, like storage, warding off evil and smallpox, prosperity, fertility and even as a flotation device! Go figure…

When I look at this thing, I think of two things. A sumptuous shiny black revolver and the thickly-Chinese-accented phrase “AYNE-CHUNT CHY-NEE SEE-CRETS……..” Let me translate: Totally awesome. (All of this babbled, the thing is probably worth $2.50 in Chinese labor. There was an original price tag with Chinese characters that read “Beijing” and a price of 800.00, so it does appear to have originated in China. But don’t all things these days? 😉 ).

Written by devotchkaa

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