Using Old Window Frames

Old window frames have become the popular subject of a huge variety of DIY projects; a quick search on Pinterest will prove just how much DIYers love to incorporate old windows into their various up-cycling ventures. Originating in old houses, churches, and barns, antique window frames come in a huge variety of different shapes and sizes. This is what makes them such an intriguing item to work with: variety means versatility! You can find beautiful DIY projects– anything from a rustic family photo frame to a unique garden trellis–all over Pinterest and other DIY sites and magazines.

We have been working with old window frames at CBH for a long time, and their recent burst in popularity has challenged us to come up with original ways to find new purpose for these old pieces. We try to go above and beyond what we see online, and we want to share certain projects that we’ve noticed have emerged as customer favourites. Depending on your project, antique frames can mean a lot of work. Sanding off who knows how many layers of exterior paint, safely removing the often shattered glass, and scraping off messy caulking from the backs of window frames can certainly be tedious and time consuming, but we think it’s worth it for these awesome projects:

1) Window mirrors are one of our most popular uses for antique window frames by far! Replacing glass window panes with mirror makes the perfect one-of-a-kind, conversation starter for any room. This is a classic look, and very popular among DIYers, so we like to do a few things to change up the project and make it our own. Filling the panes with antique tin in addition to mirror can really change the look of the piece, adding texture to make it a little more interesting!

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For this frame, we replaced the top two panes of an eight pane window with antique tin that has been painted a chic grey to modernize the look.

Seeking out really unusual frames is another great way to change things up. Window frames that come out of churches or barns especially are often unusual shapes and sizes; this makes for a really special statement piece!

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This arched frame likely comes from an old church, and adds an elegant touch to any space!

2) Chalkboards are always a fun and functional project! Larger window frames are perfect making stylish, but useful chalkboards; the mullions provide a natural division–great for to-do lists and chore calendars or menus!

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We used this window frame as a sign and message board in our store; what a fun way to list our services and contact info!

We love to leave the original hardware, latches and hinges, on these pieces to give them even more character! This can be especially useful for chalkboards because the latches can act as hooks, perfect for hanging keys on a message board!

3) Using old windows to build a partial wall or room divider is the perfect way to add character and charm to your space! This is a really great option for a smaller space; if you leave the glass in tact, it creates a division but still allows light through to keep the space feeling bright and spacious, and you can always frost the glass for privacy.

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We built this divider in our store to create a distinct “workshop” area using old windows from a local Cornwall home and an antique footboard–how cool is that?!

4) Sometimes we feature antique windows by framing them up as cupboard doors! We’ll build a custom cupboard around the window frame and, depending on the function of the cupboard, fill the panels with glass, mirror or antique tin. This really highlights the frame as the focal point of the piece!

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This medicine cabinet is made from a smaller window in its original casing! In this case, we opted not to remove the glass which is original to the piece, and instead frosted the panels to hide the clutter inside. Adding a modern silver-striped knob contrasts the rustic look of the piece and adds even more visual interest.

5) A large window hanging over a bed is a great option either as artwork to hang over a headboard, or in a tight space can even replace the headboard altogether! You can really achieve a variety of different looks with this project, depending on how you choose to fill the window panes. For a luxurious look, you can cover foam padding with fabric to achieve something like ‘tufting’, or cover flat panels with patterned fabric or wallpaper for a more sleek effect.

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We chose a black and white floral patterned wallpaper for this window frame, to contrast the geometric pattern of the cushions!

It’s amazing how many different projects can come from one piece! This is just a sampling of some of our favourite things to make with antique window frames; comment below to share some of yours!

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Up-Cycling Antique Tin

Anyone who has visited our store in Cornwall knows just how much we love unique pieces— especially when it comes to antiques and one-of-a-kind, up-cycling projects! One of our very favourite items to work with falls into both of these categories:framed green tin .jpg antique tin ceiling tiles!

In the 1800s, most popularly in the 1850s, beautifully patterned tin tiles were often used to adorn the ceilings of old farm houses. These tin tiles served not only as
a decorative element in these homes, adding interesting texture and charm, but also performed the practical function of reflecting heat downwards to more efficiently heat the main levels of these houses. Over the years, as the houses have been renovated or torn down, the tin ceilings have rarely been preserved as part of the house. Tiles are often missing or damaged and the cost to replace or restore them is just too high, especially since a tin ceiling in a new, or newly renovated house would generally be far more decorative than practical.

Luckily, the tin is often salvaged in good enough condition for antique-lovers like us to use it for some of our favourite up-cycling projects! It’s amazing how many different ways we can use these tin tiles to preserve the history of the old homes they came out of, while adding some antique character, charm and visual interest to new houses!

Here are some of our favourite ways to revitalize and showcase antique tin:

  1. Frame it! A single tile in a simple frame can be a work of art all on its own. Depending on the individual tile, we sometimes choose to simply clean and seal the tin to showcase the metal and rust, and other times we paint the tin to add a pop of colour and highlight its pattern.
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The unpainted tin has a chic industrial look, while the painted tin really highlights the ornate pattern in these tiles!
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We love pairing tin with a simple barn wood frame to complement its farmhouse history!
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A larger piece of framed tin can make for an awesome, unique headboard! This works especially well in a tight space where a headboard and footboard might take up too much space in the room. (I love this idea so much that I used it myself!) 

 

2. Incorporate it into panelled doors! Tin is a great fit for the doors of small cupboards and medicine cabinets— it hides the mess inside the cupboards (which is definitely an important feature in my house!) and adds elements of texture and visual interest that you don’t get with a solid wood panel or mirror.

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Painting the tin the same colour as the rest of the cabinet showcases the intricacies of the tin’s pattern, without making the whole piece look too busy!

 

3. Frame it up and make a clock! Some tiles feature more simple patterns than others. These pieces can be great for making clocks because the simple pattern doesn’t interfere with the mechanism or clock hands, and allows us to paint the numbers on clearly!

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This tin tile is particularly perfect for making a clock because the flat centre is practical for the clock face, and the patterned border keeps things interesting!

4.  Make a tin crown shelf! The flat tin tiles were often accompanied by beautiful crown moulding; both of these styles are great for making up-cycled tin shelves. We love to showcase heavily patterned tin in pine shelves; the simple design and clean lines of these shelves really features the tin nicely, and makes it the focal point of the piece!

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This shelf is doubly special! The antique tin is housed in an old window frame, which makes the backsplash of the shelf!

5. Use it as a canvas! Antique ceiling tin provides a unique surface to paint on and makes for really interesting artwork; this way not only is your artwork one-of-a-kind, but your canvas is too!

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This painting, by Deirdre Cuggy, features the history of the tin by complementing the original chipped paint on the borders of the tile!

We absolutely LOVE antique tin for its decorative texture, its history, and its versatility. With materials this great, it’s hard not to be inspired! Keep an eye on our store and website for more projects featuring antique tin ceiling tiles.

Transforming an Antique Buffet

Cottage Blue Home has always specialized in up-cycled and refinished antiques. A new finish, whether it is painting out the wood to brighten up a dresser, or darkening a table top to modernize it, makes a HUGE difference in the value and appeal of antique furniture. A piece that may have otherwise only held value for antique dealers, or maybe your grandparents–or their grandparents– can appeal to a whole new generation and style with a little TLC and a lot of hard work; it is very rewarding to give new life and purpose to old pieces that have otherwise been dubbed junky or outdated. Over the last twenty odd years, and countless experiments with various products and techniques, we have developed our own particular methods to produce a lasting finish that can withstand the test of time, and a “look” that has now become synonymous with the Cottage Blue.IMG_1579

In the last few years with the rise of Pinterest and DIY projects, more and more people have shown interest in the process of refinishing, and customers frequently ask us how we achieve our “Cottage Blue look.” It’s so exciting to see so many people sharing in our passion, and we’d love to encourage this so we thought we’d give you a sneak
peek at what we do. This blog post will take you through each step of our process as we refinish this antique buffet.

Step 1: First off, we always start with a plan. Decide how you want your piece to look at the end of the process, and take the appropriate steps to get there. For this project, we want to paint the base of the buffet black and darken the wood top.

Step 2: Now, it’s time to check for repairs. Are all the drawers solid and working well? Do the doors open and close easily? Are the legs sturdy? Are there any dents or holes to be filled? Luckily for us, this buffet was in good shape and we didn’t have many repairs to do. Once you have addressed these issues, you’re ready to start working on the finish of your piece!

Step 3: Next we remove the hardware from the drawers and doors. Usually, we only remove the handles and knobs and leave the doors hinged; it tends to be easier to work on the doors while they’re still attached than it is to grapple with the antique hinges! It’s a good idea to take the drawers out of the piece at this point, so they don’t get stuck once you’ve taken the handles off (it sounds like common sense, but it’s easy to forget these little details that will make your life a lot easier!). At this point, we decide whether or not we want to keep the originals handles and knobs for the piece, or switch them out. In this case, the original knobs and drop pulls on the buffet are quite classic, and will work nicely with the new finish so we have to be very careful not to damage them or lose them while we’re taking them off of the buffet.

Step 4: Finally, it’s time to get messy—start sanding! We want the base of the buffet to be black, so we have to prep it for painting. To do this, we use 120 grit sand paper on the palm sander, and sand the piece until all of the shine from the previous finish is gone. Paint will not stick to gloss, so it is very important that all of the shine is removed or the paint will just peel off. We have to pay special attention to the tricky areas. On this piece, “tricky areas” include the mouldings on the doors, and the turned legs. We often need to sand these areas by hand (without the palm sander) to make sure you get into all the nooks and crannies.

Step 5: Now that we’ve prepped the base for painting, we have to strip the top down to the original wood so that we can stain it a darker colour (we aren’t huge fans of the original red wood!). To do this, we start with 80 grit paper on the belt sander.

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This part can be particularly difficult; it is important to hold the belt sander even and level or you will make unwanted dents and grooves in the wood. This requires a fair amount of strength (in terms of your upper body strength as well as your patience!). The 80 grit paper on the belt sander removes most of the red varnish from the top of the piece, but the heavy grit leaves lines in the wood. So we have to follow up with lighter grits until the top is smooth. First with 120 grit on the belt sander to take away any grooves or lines that you made in the first round. Then you follow with 80 grit on the palm sander to smooth the wood, and finally 120 to open the grain of the wood so that it will absorb stain nicely.

Step 6: Stain takes a lot longer to dry than paint does, so we put the stain on next. We chose Jacobean stain to give the dark wood a nice, warm tone (seen below).

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First we apply the stain with a brush, evenly with the grain. It’s best to reach from one end to the other in one stroke so that we don’t leave marks in the middle where the brush ran out of stain. Once we have brushed the stain onto the top of the buffet, we take a clean rag and wipe of the excess; if there is too much stain left on the wood it won’t try properly and instead will become gummy and sticky.

Step 7: While the stain dries, we will prime the bottom of the piece. Because we are painting the buffet a dark colour, we will use a primer from Home Hardware that we had tinted a dark grey. The primer ensures that none of the red tones from the wood bleed through the paint, and gives the paint a little extra hold so that we can be 100% sure that it won’t peel or scratch off. We tape off the top of the piece to make sure we don’t get any primer or paint on the top that we just painstakingly sanded down to wood, and then use a brush and small roller to prime the rest of the piece. It is important to use a light touch when priming; any lines we make with the prim
er will show in the paint as well.

Step 8: Once the primer isIMG_1617 completely dry (to be safe, we will give it at least an hour to dry) we can start painting! Using a brush for the edging and details, and a roller to create a smooth finish we will apply Latex eggshell paint to the bottom of the buffet. This will take at least two coats, sometimes three to get a perfectly even finish. We have to keep our eyes open for drips, especially on the turned legs and details of the mouldings, they’re easy to miss but look awful if we don’t catch them and take a long time to sand down once they’ve dried.

Step 9: We have to let the paint dry completely, or it will start to peel before long. Once it has dried, we take 220 grit sand paper and use it to distress the edges of the piece. This means we sand back some of the paint and let the wood show through. This might seem counterproductive, but distressing the edges highlights the intricate details of the piece and gives the buffet a little more character! For this piece we will keep the distressing minimal, we’ll only sand down to wood a little bit on the edges and mouldings where the piece would be most likely to naturally experience wear and tear. This maintains the “antique” look of the piece in a natural way.

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Step 10: Once we are satisfied with the look of the distressing, we take 220 grit sand paper and a sanding sponge and lightly sand the whole bottom of the buffet (everything we painted). We want to remove an burrs or bumps in the paint, and make it as smooth to touch as possible. It is very important to sand the entire piece evenly, or it will look patchy when it is finished. Don’t sand too hard; the goal is not to take any more paint off, but rather to make it smooth and even. This will turn the black paint grey, but don’t worry! We then dust the piece off to get ready for waxing.

Step 11: Next we apply furniture wax to the now painted base of the buffet with a clean rag. This buffet is black, so we choose a darker wax to bring a warm tone to the wood that shows through in the distressing. We have to apply the wax very evenly (this is especially important over black paint) or it will come out patchy.

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The wax provides a bit of a shine, and protects the paint so we really want it to be evenly coated everywhere. We have to be very careful around the mouldings so as not to leave any unwanted chunks of wax. Not only to those look awful, but they won’t fully dry so your clothes will forever be at risk! The wax hardens as it dries (this will take roughly 30min), then we can polish it. With a clean rag we buff the piece vigorously until we achieve an even shine over the whole piece.

Step 12: By now, hopefully the stain is dry on the top of the buffet (sometimes the piece will have to rest overnight before the stain is completely try to touch). If it is, we can clear coat the top. In this case, we chose use Minwax Polyacrylic clear coat (satin finish) on the top of the buffet for two reasons. Firstly, the top of a buffet is likely to get a lot of use in a dining room or kitchen, and the clear coat creates a hard protective finish. Secondly, it creates more shine than the wax does, producing a more modern look; this helps to update the antique buffet. Alternatively, we could have chosen to wax the top the same way we did with the bottom. With a foam brush, we apply at least three coats even across the top of the piece (letting it dry fully between each coat). We typically have to examine the top from several different angles to make sure that we have evenly coated the entire top, creating a uniform sheen everywhere. Then we take 220 grit sand paper and a sanding sponge and lightly sand the whole top to remove any burrs or imperfections, leaving it smooth, dust it off and carefully apply one last coat of polyacrylic with the foam brush.

Step 13: Now it’s just time for the finishing touches! We reapply all the hardware (being very careful not to chip or scratch the paint, as it takes roughly 30 days for paint to cure entirely), put the drawers back in, and attach closures to the doors.

And for the fourteenth, and final step: Step back, and admire your work!

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As you can tell, finishing furniture can be a time consuming and meticulous process; but the results make it worthwhile! This buffet was relatively straight forward to refinish, but each antique is a unique piece, with unique challenges and that’s what makes it fun. It’s amazing what a little TLC and a lot of elbow grease can do!

At long last!

At long last, Cottage Blue Home has a proper blog up and running! About a year ago, we opened up our little shop in downtown Cornwall, featuring home decor items, original art, refinished antiques, pine furniture, and unique up-cycled projects. Now, we are so excited to have this new forum to reach out to our customers, and fellow home decor enthusiasts! Our goal in starting this blog is not only to share our own insight into the decorating world and ideas for up-cycling projects, but also to hear what you have to say.

We are so lucky to have an amazing group of customers who share in our passion for decorating. People come into our store everyday to tell us all about their own projects at home, looking to share their excitement and asking for advice and guidance; without a doubt, this is the best part of the job! These conversations are always so much fun– whether we are debating how to mix patterns and textiles, how to choose your potential paint colours, or how to update your grandmother’s antique buffet!

Since we’ve been having so much fun in the store, we couldn’t resist the opportunity to reach out to a broader audience and expand the discussion. We would love for you to comment on our posts with all of your ideas and questions! So in this post we’re asking: what do you want to talk about? What topics would you like to see come up in our blog posts? We can’t wait to hear what you have to say!