In Praise of Old Stuff

Previously published in the Hughson Chronicle-Denair Dispatch.


Vintage at the Yard is on September 16th. I look forward to this event all month. Let me tell you why.

I love old stuff.

  1. Old stuff is cheap: look for something a little worn, a little dented, and you can get it cheap. Get it from someone who does not know its value or does not value it, and you can get it cheap. Do not buy anything wobbly. I learned from experience. The time and effort it will take to correct it might make it no longer affordable. Do avoid typical antique stores whose antiques are in pristine condition with certificates. Do look for antique stores in smaller towns to find the deals.
  2. Old stuff is kid friendly: generally made of real wood all the way through, “gently distressed.” The extra distressing my kids give to it will not be noticed. The additional damage becomes part of the piece’s story.
  3. Old Stuff incorporates color: I bought a lithograph from a booth run by one of the friends of the Four Friends Market. Her booth was a delight to the eyes with its 1950’s prints, dishes, and handkerchiefs. In the last Crate and Barrel catalog, I could not find one color, except perhaps navy blue (less colorful than its equally popular buddy, indigo blue). The movies may have been in black and white, but the wallpaper and bathrooms were not!
  4. Old stuff is generally a thing of craftsmanship: this depends on the era. Midcentury pieces will not hold up as well as early 20th century Amish furniture. Still, their factory lines were better done than many of ours, which have learned how to maximize the look while minimizing the cost. I want a thing made of real wood, not particle board, with real screws or dovetail joints, not bitty dowels and a dab of glue. I want to know a maker sat on it before sending it out into the world to be trampled by my children. I can know this when I know it survives more than 40 years before it came to me.
  5. Old stuff are things of beauty: minimalism is great and nothing beats modern drawer mechanisms, but the carved details in old wood make for stunning texture as you look across the room. They add depth to the visual space, give the eye a place to rest as it travels around its view. Midcentury furniture has this too, even though it is more modern in style. The look is interesting. That matters more than if it is French, Art Déco or modern. Someone put thought into how this thing would look. I cannot always say that with the mass-produced decor.
  6. Old stuff has a soul: not a literal, vegetative or rational soul, but there is a warmth and heart because this old thing existed around people who lived their lives around it. It has a story and the story of those who owned it and parted with it live on in the life/existence of this old thing. That is why antiques give warmth to décor not found with the all-new, store-bought furniture.

I try not to go too far in one direction. My goal is to create a mix in whatever area I am decorating. That mix becomes visual interest and makes a space work. It does not matter whether I have carpet, hardwood, laminate or tile floors. Antiques can work in any space.

If I owned an older home, the house itself is an antique. I would use antiques from a different era or use fewer antiques in general and let the house speak for itself. Putting all 1950’s antiques in an unrenovated 1950’s home will look like a time capsule.

My 2006 home pairs well with almost any era of antique because its factory standard build is a blank slate. I try to stick with a general time period/style in a room to make more visual sense. If design tells a story, it has got to make sense.

In old stuff, you can find the romance or the whimsy we are sorely lacking in this serious, information soaked world. My home is my refuge. I want to invite these antiques to be part of our story.


For further reading on the idea of things with a soul, take a look at this beautiful story about a woman, a boy, and a piano. And check out the blog, Miss Mustard Seed, as she tackles a new home with a new style, still uniquely hers.

A reading of Inspired You by Marian Parsons, aka Miss Mustard Seed

I admit I found this review in my draft folder. I read Inspired You last year as my son was in the hospital.

Inspired You.jpg

Freeing my mind from the digital world of too much information and attempting to rest all at the same time, I picked up a copy of Inspired You by Marian Parsons, aka Miss Mustard Seed.

I do not remember how I came across Miss Mustard Seed. It may be when I wandered into Vintage Market, a lovely shop in downtown Turlock and learned about Chalk Paint and milk paint. Or I may have known about milk paint first. Somehow, someway, I came across the blog Miss Mustard Seed.

There are few blogs I follow regularly. There are even fewer I enjoy consistently. I avidly read anything Al Kresta posts, Catholic news commentator, or Elizabeth Scalia, and I bought book by both of them. If I found a blog by George Weigel I read it as well. These three have in common their Catholic faith, their insightful observations and wit to boot. Miss Mustard Seed is the first and only decorating blog I thoroughly enjoy.

What is it about Mrs. Marian Parsons?

To review why I have become attached to her blog and follow her consistently is also a way to review her book because her book naturally reflects many of the same messages as her blog.

Marian Parsons reveals her authentic self in her writing. Her writing style is good. Her photography is a peaceful feast for the eyes. The combination of the two is not always guaranteed in the blogosphere. She does it beautifully every time. In her tutorials, her stories, she somehow makes it all accessible by sharing her fears, her “just-winging-it,” and her faith in God. She never preaches, simply shares her experience. She is the only blogger I have read who emphasizes that the photograph you see online is not what it looks like in real life or on a normal basis. In her book, she includes photographs showing her home, unedited, and another as it really is day to day. She wants readers to know this is all obtainable. It is one thing to say it does not have to be perfect, and then every photograph is perfect so you walk away, possibly inspired, but not so encouraged. It is another thing to be vulnerable and say, “here is reality.”

While she expressed a difficulty in staying balanced, she expresses some key aspects of balance required when one loves to decorate. She does not hold back sharing the importance of decorating for your family instead of in spite of your family. As a Catholic wife and mother, I have seen my love of decorating and creative projects as a way to make a beautiful space for my family. I would have made different choices or used different styles if it were only about me, but I see this gift and these skills as part of my vocation to be used for my vocation, my call to love and serve the people I live with. Mrs. Parsons views it the same way. She refers to decorating as her love language for her family. What a beautiful concept!

Because it is tied into our vocation, I believe we should always make some effort. That effort does not have to be perfect. It will wax and wane.

I identify with her and I am learning from her. Over 6 years ago I began re-upholstering pieces but never dared venture towards zipper foots, zippers, piping, or slipcovers. One day, I plan on changing that largely in part because of her encouragement and the clarity of her instruction.

So thank you, Miss Mustard Seed!

Review of The Home Design Doodle Book

As an avid reader of the blog, Miss Mustard Seed was excited to explore her latest creation, The Home Design Doodle Book. I was not disappointed. The artist in me delighted in the look and design of it. The friend in me delighted in the gift potential, already thinking of several friends who would enjoy this book. The fan of me happily supported a woman who inspires me.

First, this is a book by a creative, crafty artist…and this book is beautiful. It is filled with heart, joy, and inspiration.

Second, this book contains the most sensible, five steps for discovering your style.

  1. Observe and collect items//swatches/images that speak to you
  2. Filter what you love vs. what you love for your home
  3. Recognize patterns in the images/items you love for your home
  4. Unearth your style based on the patterns observed
  5. Transition your style: after noting what fits and does not fit your style in your home, gradually transition your home to fit the style you identified.

After this, she encourages a room reset, the creation of mood boards, organized and planned shopping with a budget in mind, and offers her tips. Pages are frequently inserted for your expression/reflections like, “I think that is stupid!” or “seriously need a new stove.”

Third, a warning: this is not a reading book. This is a workbook. As Mrs. Parsons says, it is a conversation. But as any great designer, she offers only prompts and expects you to do the talking and discovering. She can give tips, but it is up to you to seek the information.

I can see how this book could be an excellent guide for those who are a) to intimated to make design choices, b) cannot focus their many projects or desires, or c) feel their home is too far from what they would like it to be. The format is open enough to allow you your own mode of operation, style, and pace, but tight enough to maintain concrete steps in your creation. When a home feelings overwhelming, the latter can be invaluable.

I would highly recommend this book. I plan on keeping a copy in my home to give as a gift whenever the opportunity arises.


If you seeking information and guides on how to do in more detail, you will not find it here. It is what it says, a doodle book. This is the tactile version of creating a Pinterest board. It is an advanced form of a bulletin board (well, many bulletin boards). If you want to learn how to do these things, I recommend Mrs. Parson’s video tutorials and her many other digital offerings through

Happy decorating!