Making a Little Money Go a Long Way

by Ekin Wallick

The following article is interesting for several reasons. It potentially explains those odd pieces of furniture that seem almost right, but not quite. And it shows again how thrift was integral to middle class life in the early 20th century when revamping furniture and clothing was a means of extending the usefulness of an item. Ekin Wallick was a popular writer of home improvement articles and books from about 1905 to 1920. Ed.

The Morris chair shown on the left seemed a hopeless proposition until I commenced to experiment. By sawing all the curved edges to a straight line, and substituting three little slats at each side, instead of the ugly spindles, I produced the rather pleasing result shown on the right. I then removed the varnish and restained the chair brown. I also had the cushions recovered in a brown printed linen with gray-greens and dull yellows in the pattern.

I had my livingroom center table made from a white pine kitchen table. One 4 1/2 feet by 2 3/4 feet costs four dollars and a half. As sold for the kitchen it is too low for the livingroom, so I raised it five inches by a rail and wood blocks underneath. The three shaped slats at the ends made an attractive design. The carpenter's charges were five dollars. I restained the table myself.

How I utilized two odd doors is shown in the illustrations above. They were quite useless, having been removed from some part of the house as unnecessary. I used four panels of one to face the wall above the fireplace in the livingroom. This saved quite a bit of money and made a very attractive finish above the mantelshelf. The other I had made into a quaint sideboard which suited my dining-room, in which I was carrying out the simple English feeling. The sideboard, as shown, cost exactly four dollars, paid to the carpenter to furnish the top, back board and four posts, and restain the whole a deep golden-brown. The end panels were hinged, so that I had two cupboards for silver and china.

The ugly chair shown above was made into a simple overstuffed chair by sawing off some of the ornaments, building up the arms with wood cut to fit, and paying an upholsterer six dollars and a half for retufting the arms and finishing the chair as shown. Thus I saved the greater part of what I would have had to spend for a new chair. The covering is a striped linen jute in two shades of green.

This ugly second-hand bureau cost six dollars and a half. I removed the top, retaining only the mirror. I also removed the base rail and brackets. I bought eight simple drop-handles and adjusted these. I had a carpenter add the four legs and the rails at the bottom, as shown on the opposite side of the page; and finally painted the whole thing, including the mirror frame and the other furniture, dark green.

Here is an instance where I made a good looking desk out of an ugly one. I took off all the objectionable ornamentation, and by refinishing the marred surfaces, restaining the desk, and substituting neat brass drawer handles for the cheap ornate ones, I have a desk which is at least simple and unostentatious. This desk I bought in a second-hand store for four dollars and a half.

Source: Wallick, Ekin. "Making a Little Money Go a Long Way", Ladies Home Journal, Vol. XXVIII No. 4, (Feb. 15, 1911) 27.


The following books might help you with your A&C interior decorating projects.

Bungalow Style: Creating Classic Interiors in Your Arts and Crafts Home
Inside the Bungalow: America's Arts and Crafts Interior
Bungalow Basics: Living Rooms

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