More in my mini-series, Decorating on a Flea Market Budget. Today, we’re visiting the studio.
I call this space a studio, but it’s not like the studios you generally see out there. I suppose I could call it my sewing niche, or the place where I have a lot of pretty (to me) things, or the upstairs hallway. Because that’s what it is.
Life here in our cottage is lovely, but there are only two bedrooms. One is ours. The other is a guest room/office/place for Don to write his music and play his guitar. Not long after we moved here, I despaired of having a little space to call my own ever again. One day, Don and I realized that my sewing table would fit in the little niche at the top of the stairs. It was the lightbulb moment that started the ball rolling. Since then, I’ve had a great time fixing up my little space.
Would I like a door? Yes, yes and yes. But this will do.
I’ve written lots about this space in the past and it’s been featured in a magazine. So today, I will focus on putting things together on a flea market budget. Here we go.
Here’s what it looks like as you come to the top of the stairs. I didn’t stage anything – what you see is what you get. The sewing table fits right into that handy niche (where we used to keep my grandmother’s trunk, which is now in the guest room.) There’s a skylight overhead. Perfect for sewing. I bought the sewing table online when we first moved out east and were renting a house in another county. I can’t remember the cost, but it was about $150.00. Well worth it, as I was able to get a cut-out specifically designed for my sewing machine, which is an Elna. I used to have a cute skirt on this table but it kept getting in the way, so I took it off. Note: Sometimes we make things pretty for photo ops, but find out they are just not practical. Go with practical.
The chair was a birthday gift from my husband. Cost to me: $0. The white table to the left was a prop from the prop room at Boston University. I commandeered it for my office when I taught there. Then it somehow made it’s way to my apartment. Over twenty years later, it’s still with me. I slapped a coat of paint on it a couple of years ago. Cost: $0.
The blue mantel that I use as a shelf was $30 in a local antique shop. I had it hanging around here for a few years before I realized it would work in the studio. I’ve added hooks to it and I use them to hang strips of fabric.
Mabel, my Featherweight, was my birthday gift last year. I had long wanted a Featherweight. Don and I saw it in a local antique store and, though it was a couple of months early, decided it would be my birthday gift. (I try to do this with things I really want – if there’s a way to use birthday or Christmas money toward the item, that’s what I will do. That way, I don’t have to put out money that is meant for bills and other expenses.) Piece of cheery oilcloth under Mabel – from Elyse.
The most expensive items in the studio are the sewing machines. The Elna was purchased many years ago when we were living in San Diego. It was a big expense for me and I paid it off over a year’s time. You can often do that sort of thing with sewing machines.
Vintage Pansy Print: found in an antique store in Owensboro, KY. Cost – about $20. I would have bought it for the frame alone, but I love, love the print.
Little vintage spice shelf to the right of the print – found in an antique store for $12.
Sewing machine cover: A doily roll that I found in an antique shop for about $20. It’s not meant to be a cover and I bought it because I loved the embroidery, but I soon discovered that it could be reinvented as a cover. Now it’s not only pretty, but useful.
Pottery: Collected over time.
Shelf: A piece I found years ago for next to nothing- maybe $10? It was originally in a dark wood finish. I forgot about it for a long time and then re-discovered it in our shed. It’s a bit rickety, so I wouldn’t put anything heavy on it, but it works here. It has wonderful scroll work on the sides. A coat of paint and it’s perfect.
Lamp: IKEA for about $15.00.
The re-purposed bulletin board which I now call my Pretty Board, cost me $0. I already had the bulletin board stashed in a closet. I had the appliques. I had the paint and the sheet music. I simply had fun transforming it into something I truly love.
Next to the sewing area is a bookcase that I found at The Christmas Tree Shops. $30. There’s a post somewhere here on the blog about the day I put it together. It was late in the day on the day before Thanksgiving when I discovered that it came with two left sides. I wasn’t about to drive back to the store. I was determined to find a way to make it work. After a lot of struggle and more than a few curses, I put it together. I love it’s cottagey look.
Sewing Basket: Found in Wisconsin in perfect condition – $25.
Lamb Chop (my muse) – found at a Cracker Barrel in Florida. My sister, upon hearing my squeals of delight when I discovered her, bought her for me. Cost – $0.
Lamp: Target. It’s due to be replaced when I find something I like more. But it will do. And it was extremely inexpensive on sale.
The child’s piano was a gift from Don for one of my birthdays. The china pieces and glass were collected over time.
The skylight is wonderful, but the sunlight streaming through it can be very strong. One day, I grabbed some net curtains from IKEA that I had used in a temporary living space in San Diego. I cut them to fit the opening, thumbtacked them to the ceiling and then tied them with some ribbon I had on hand. Cost – $0. The thumbtacks were supposed to be temporary, but they’re still going strong.
This window is to the left as you come up the stairs. I used a dresser scarf that I already had on hand to make a valence. I also had the curtain rod on hand. The only cost was a few dollars for the curtain clips.
As you round the corner, you come upon this wall, which stretches between the bedrooms. For a long while, it was a design wall (more on that later) and I also had a folding cutting table there. I eventually sold the cutting table through Craig’s List. I figured I could use the kitchen table or the kitchen island for cutting and by getting rid of the table, I could gain some desperately needed space for a storage/display cabinet. After searching for a while, I found this cabinet on Craig’s List. It’s solidly built. Cost – $75. Totally worth it. It has transformed the space. I just re-painted it about a week ago and I love it even more. It gives me lots of display space and storage. And it’s always a good idea to have something taller and more substantial in a space. It actually makes the space seem bigger.
Next to the cabinet is what’s left of the original design wall. By the way, it was so easy to make. I went to Lowe’s, bought some insulation panels, covered them in white flannel, and tacked them to the wall. Cost: about $30 for all the panels and flannel. But, I don’t quilt all that often and I needed the space. So, I left one panel up and I use it to for its original intention as well as a place to display things. Embroidery: done by me. Those are photos of Don and me at the age of 6.
Hanging on the right side of the cabinet is my mother’s dress. My grandmother made it for her when she was a little girl. I bought the hanger for a few dollars.
This set of Chinese nesting baskets came from our San Diego house. I’ve had them a long time. At the time, I probably paid $30 for them at a local antique store. Once I decided to use them in the studio, I spray painted them white and they now hold all sorts of fat quarters and trims.
The chalkboard hangs on the door to the guest bedroom. When I was creating the chalkboard for the kitchen, I originally used this piece of plywood. But I wanted something smoother, so I ended up going with another piece of wood. I don’t like to waste anything, so the plywood chalkboard was put into use here. I had that trim already (it was purchased with the dollhouse in mind.) I painted and antiqued it with paint I already had on hand, glued it to the board, drilled two holes and used a ribbon to hang it. Cost: $0.
Letitia, my vintage dress form, was the end result of a many months long search. I regularly searched on eBay and Craig’s List for one. I finally found her on eBay for $75 and since she came from our neighboring state of New Jersey, the shipping cost was minimal.
Again, a birthday gift. My parents sent me a birthday check and I used it for Letitia. Cost – $0.
She has an impossibly small waist and she’s wearing bloomers that I wore in a grad school production. The costume designer was a friend of mine and he gave them to me. (I was much thinner in those days and I wore a corset in that production. Corsets under hot stage lights = sweating off several pounds.)
The Victorian angel print – found at auction for $20. It reminds me of one that hung in my grandmother’s home.
The vintage advertising sign – found in an antique shop for $10.
Green Bauer pot – found for a few dollars in California.
Most everything else – the framed items, pottery, tchotchkes – are either things I gathered over time or gifts from friends. All of them mean a great deal to me and give the studio a shot of my quirky personality.
It’s a cheerful creative space. Except for the sewing machines, which are an investment that will last for years, everything else was purchased on a flea market budget. Some things were gathered from elsewhere in the house and repurposed. It’s the way I love to decorate. And it’s recycling at its best.
There you go! More will be coming in the series; the den and the bedroom (now that I’ve tweaked it.)