If you’ve read the previous posts in this series, you know that I am making an effort to inspire myself and others to “shop your own stuff” instead of always thinking that buying is the solution. It is a challenge to improvise and think outside the box a bit. In this post I’m really talking about thinking outside – as in going outdoors to “shop” for things. :-)
Of course, fresh garden flowers, fruit and vegetables are obvious ways to “decorate” by bringing the outside in.
My sister-in-law made an interesting bookend out of a piece of limestone she found. She intends to find another one so she can have two “matching” limestone bookends. :-) (We have lots of limestone on our property here in central Texas!) To do this it’s recommended to clean off excess dirt, bake the stone to kill any critters and, if you’re placing it directly on a wood surface, you may want to place a piece of felt or thick cloth under it or attach self-sticking felt pieces on the bottom. As you can see in the photo, my sister-in-law tacked a throw to the wall behind the books and rock, folded it down to protect the top of the bookshelf, then ran it behind the shelves to protect the wall as well.
Rocks also make great door stops. An addition of felt may again be needed to protect you floor. If you want something colorful, paint it with an interesting design. Use your God-given creativity.
More ideas for shopping the outdoors –
Use larger shallow seashells for soap or candy dishes.
A piece of drift wood becomes a coat and hat rack when attached to the wall and with hooks added. My dad went to a sawmill once and got a number of the outside cuts of wood – the pieces with the bark still on them. I don’t recall what they charged him, but it was scrap, so it wasn’t much. He selected trees that didn’t have extremely rough bark. He used these to cover the open area by a stairway to make it safe for small children. He screwed the pieces on with the bark side out toward the lower hall and the cut side in towards the stairs. Then he screwed hooks into each piece on the bark side to make a long row of coat hooks (something very useful in northern climates, especially if you have large groups in your home regularly). I wish I had a picture of it; it was a very unique and interesting solution to two needs.
You can make all kinds of art out of driftwood as well.
If you need bookshelves and you have a pile of old bricks or cinder blocks (see number 2 on this page), you may be able to work them into something useful with some leftover shelves or wood planks. It’s important in this project to use wood that is sturdy enough to bear the weight of books, and also that it not be cut in long pieces, unless you add extra supports in the middle. Paint, contact paper, leftover wall paper, and even fabric “skirts” can dress these shelves (and bricks) up and make them more presentable if you don’t like the “rustic” look. :-)
For décor, don’t forget the flowers. There are a number of flowers that can be dried to make attractive floral displays, making your flower garden do double duty for you. They can make a nice alternative to buying artificial flowers. There are several ways to dry them, including pressing them for various flat art. I’ve even spray painted the centers of Echinacea (purple cone flowers). I used them once in the rich brown they were to start with (petals removed), and then later when they got kind of dusty, I cleaned them off (use a soft, dry paint brush), spray painted them gold and used them again. :-) I had a friend who collected and dried pepper grass from near their house, painted it with red, white and blue spray paints, and made some really pretty little arrangements for her country style kitchen. Hydrangeas make an interesting and somewhat impressive dried flowers. Strawflowers (pictured above) are, in my opinion, one of the easiest flowers to grow for dried flowers, and they are so colorful both in the garden and dried.
Of course, autumn foliage can make lovely decorations too in areas that have the vibrant color changes. Two comments regarding this link: 1. Be sure to put water in the vase when using cut fall foliage otherwise it will wilt or shrivel. 2. Dream catchers are an instrument of American Indian spiritism and we do not recommend using them in any shape or form.
There are many ways to use pressed leaves, pinecones, seed pods and acorns. For using acorns or other nuts for décor, I recommend baking them at a low temperature (150F) for 45 minutes to kill critters inside. Just don’t let them burn. If you don’t do this those critters may eventually decide to come out and your décor may be ruined or marred.
I had a friend whose family had lived in the same area where she lived for many years. She found the old spot where they had dumped their trash and garbage years and years ago. She rescued some brightly colored old glass bottles and possibly some other artifacts to use in her décor. It added some nostalgia along with it in that case. :-)
What other ideas can you come up with? Challenge yourself to think of ways to “shop” outside. You might be surprised at what you find. (Note: Do make sure you’re allowed to carry things away from the area where you’re “shopping” if it’s not your own property. For example: National Parks and historic areas may not allow you to carry things away – even rocks.)