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Decorate with Old Windows and Doors and Embrace the Shabby Chic!

Updated on August 14, 2014

The days of following the crowd are over!

I can remember as a young boy, my grandmother, known to be a pretty good decorator in her day had some very nice reproduction prints of "Pinkie" by Thomas Lawrence and "Blue Boy" by Thomas Gainsborough hung above her sofa. I am sure they were probably fairly expensive, she was that sort of old gal after all, but to me they always looked like they belonged in some stuffy, stodgy old art gallery in England somewhere.

Over the years in as I have traveled about working and socializing I have viewed many works of art in both the offices of colleagues and the homes of friends and while some of what I have seen was very beautiful, much of it was cookie cutter, carbon copy, expensively framed and even more expensively priced reruns of what I had seen many, many times before.

For example if you were an attorney in the deep south from the mid 1960s until the late 1990s and your office was void of Fox Hunt prints of some description I think you ran the risk of being disbarred. For doctors it was landscapes and seascapes just as certainly as there were copies of highlights magazine and later of course People.

Homes across the south were decorated with the works of various artists many of them quite similar in nature. Pictures of ramshackle barns, cotton fields and a lone majestic oak away in the distance beckoned us back to a different place and time as the cash registers in art galleries hummed and limited addition, numbered prints rolled off the presses in record numbers.

The end result was a large contingency of successful men and women who, cocktail in hand, stood and viewed there collection of works apparently either oblivious to the fact or simply unconcerned that they were among hundreds and hundreds who were doing the same thing at the same time and viewing either exactly or essentially the same print.

Of course there were those who had outside influences an brought in "Warholesque" pieces with something of a flair but they were either mocked if they were disliked or thought to be quirky if they were liked. Many of them being the topic of conversation at the Junior League or Garden Club meetings.

Even still the trend continued with what appeared to be a contest to see who could "out similar" the other while at the same time feeling good about themselves, their families and of course how well decorated their homes were.

I presume that this might have gone on forever and maybe still does in some places but on a glorious day someone, somewhere quite probably unaware of what they were doing decided to drag an old piece of furniture out of an attic or barn somewhere and choosing to use the piece as it was, crackled and ragged, made a statement that spawned what is today know as the Shabby Chic look.

Little did they know that they were on the fringe of a period of self expression that would catch on like wildfire and in doing so change not only the face but the entire premise of decorating forever.

The days of pristine finishes and matching ensembles as a requirement were coming to an end

Pieces no longer had to be perfect
Pieces no longer had to be perfect
In some cases the rougher and more beaten up or "broken in" as I like to call it, the better!
In some cases the rougher and more beaten up or "broken in" as I like to call it, the better!

Ushering in a "New Era" in Decorating.

As the movement began to take hold it was fueled by three basic things. Number one, it was based completely on self expression and the likes and dislikes of the person involved. Number two, there were no rights or wrongs and number three, it could be inexpensive as in effect the world was your store and if you could see it and envision it, it could be done.

The movement grew to encompass furniture in every room of the home, and little by little, Ethan Allen was replaced by aunt Sallies out building. What had once been a well coordinated arrangement of tables and chairs suddenly became a hodgepodge of eclectic pieces that might to some look a little thrown together but to others however, the true believers, looked like home and the more cozy and comfortable the better.

Shiny, dark stained, dining rooms gave way to farm tables and mismatched chairs and tall washed pine entertainment centers were replaced with antique, claw foot, dressers that having been painted and distressed became the new home for the needed electronics.

Nowhere was the movement more active and open to self expression however than in the area of artwork and wall décor. The notion that anything could be used to decorate from old washboards and ironing boards to rusty plow disks recovered from the farm. That is what we will address in detail for the remainder of this article.

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Old windows, shutters and doors make great wall pieces

The growth of the movement has literally sparked a marked revival in the salvage business, with young housewives now scouring the internet, yellow pages and classified ads in hope of stumbling onto that place where old pieces can be found and re-purposed into stunning, one of a kind, art work.

What once was hauled away to the landfill or thrown in the pile for a bonfire is now pulled aside, cleaned up and marketed as a rare commodity. Old barn and carriage house doors, weathered window frames, shutters, moldings, glass and weathered metal door knobs, even old bicycles and tricycles have gotten into the act.

The movement has spawned TV shows about "pickers" who scour the country side looking for old signs, railroad memorabilia, and industrial pieces that can be used as part of and arrangement.

If you can see it in your mind, you can have it in your home.

It takes a minimal effort to create a classic corner self from an old weathered door
It takes a minimal effort to create a classic corner self from an old weathered door
Old doors are also used as table to tops as shown here
Old doors are also used as table to tops as shown here
Aunt Myra's old fireplace mantle becomes a queen headboard!
Aunt Myra's old fireplace mantle becomes a queen headboard!

Put together a grouping that suits you and your space.

Arrangements or groupings as they are sometimes referred to are the most common from of Shabby Chic wall décor especially for use in large spaces. There are a couple of reasons for this. Number one with the acquisition of the center or focal piece, they can be easily expanded or contracted to fill a particular space simply by adding to, taking away or relocating placement of the pieces in the group.

We like windows as a focal point, thus the reason for this article. Primarily because they are a great place to start. Once you have the window frame then your area of endeavor or theme if you will is pretty much unlimited. Don't let the word theme throw you. I know that we cracked on it pretty good earlier in this writing but it is used here in a much broader sense.

For example let's say you were working on a grouping for your kitchen. With the widow in place you could go in 15 different directions while still remaining inside a broad. For example, your grouping could include old utensils to include flatware, old mismatched dishes, frame food magazine covers, wine labels, even Grandma's old cross stitched piece.

On the other hand if you were doing your sons room and wanted to stay with a broad sports theme, old ball gloves, caps, pennants, hockey pucks or sticks, programs even old trophies, though a little hard to affix, could be used. I could go on and on, but I think you get the picture.

The possibilities are literally endless

If you can think it you can create it
If you can think it you can create it
Strong theme beautiful example of self expression
Strong theme beautiful example of self expression
It is hard to get more personalized than this
It is hard to get more personalized than this
Don't limit your thinking to inside
Don't limit your thinking to inside

Tips to get it done

1. Don't rule out anything. If a piece grabs your attention, look at it from every angle before passing it up.

2. Don't rule out anywhere are far as looking. Old barns, attics, storage sheds, even junkyards have been known to be the source of some unique items.

3. Start with a focal piece and build from there an old door or old window will work really well.

4. Stay within a broad theme if you choose, if not, make your grouping a hodgepodge of eclecticism . Remember nothing is wrong if it makes you smile!

Now get out there and express yourself

Hopefully by now you have either seen or read something that sparked your interest. I genuinely hope so. If not perhaps Shabby Chic just isn't your thing and if it's not that is certainly OK. If it is however, get out there and get going, give it a try.

One of my favorite things about groupings is this. They can forever be work in progress. Nothing says you can't add to or take away from the arrangement should you find an article more appropriate, more suited to the space or simply prettier and more to your taste.

What you start with today might be something totally different by this time next year and that is totally OK because it is after all your thing.

Feel free to visit our Facebook page Middle Georgia Furniture Brokers, Macon, Ga. and feel free to leave questions, comments or post pictures of your personalized pieces. We would love to see them and will do our best to get back to you quickly.

The final photo below is a grouping that adorns the wall of my dining room. My girlfriend and I did it last Christmas and I have enjoyed it since. My favorite part however is that all in all it probably cost me a total of less than $25. Good luck and Happy Decorating!

My personal dining room

Less than $25 all in!
Less than $25 all in!


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    • klw1157 profile image

      Kevin Washburn 3 years ago from Macon, GA

      Jean, That is what I love about it too. It keeps pieces that still have a lot of good years left in them instead of ending up in a landfill somewhere. Thanks for reading and commenting! Kevin

    • Jean Bakula profile image

      Jean Bakula 3 years ago from New Jersey

      One thing I like about the look is that nothing is thrown out or wasted, it gets repurposed. My favorite piece of furniture is a coffee table my husband and I made in the first years of our marriage. We were on a vacation, driving up the coast of Northern California, through the redwood forests. We found a beautiful, oddly rectangular shaped piece of redwood, and shipped it back to NJ UPS. When we got home, we put some kind of clear coating on it (can't recall the name, but it was equal to about 50 coats of polyurethane, for shine) and turned a big, wooden flowerpot upside down to attach the table top on it. That was about 32 years ago, and I still love that table, getting lots of compliments on it.

    • mactavers profile image

      mactavers 3 years ago

      Good ideas, wonderful photos