By Marlie Bilbruck-Boerger

The moans from the backseat are loud, eyes are rolling and heads flop lifelessly forward.  My children are protesting my need to visit some random free pile on the side of the road.  They have grown tired of my countless stops at these subtle prize heaps.  They don’t see the appeal of another man’s junk and how it can become my treasure.

They are generational products of a society that values bright, new, shiny, technological, cutting-edge, and flashy.  They have grown-up with messages that tell them they must buy the ‘next generation’ before the current one is out of the box.  They just don’t see the beauty in old things as I do.  They certainly don’t see the potential in them and they will probably never understand my drive to pay homage to the history of our society by keeping the utilitarian items it once used out of the dump.

It makes me feel mushy and sad when I see a sweet-old rocking chair, an old side table or a headboard discarded and on its way to a refuse center just because no one sees the value in it anymore.  The history that these pieces have witnessed is in danger of being lost with them.  What about all of the love the rocking chair witnessed of mommies rocking their babies or all of the coffee visits that side table had been a part of?  I just wish I could save them all.

The history is only part of it though, there is also the fact that our landfills are becoming too massive for our planet to accommodate.  Shouldn’t we want to reduce the amount of garbage we produce? Keeping furniture items out of the mix will help immensely!

Then there’s the whole idea that some items are just too dated to be fashionable.  We’ve all heard someone say it before (we might have even said it ourselves), “That piece just screams 70’s.” or “Yuck! The 80’s called they want their couch back.”  It’s my strong belief that for the most part furniture cannot be too much of any one decade that it can’t be updated and used in our modern homes.  A new upholstery job, a coat of paint, the addition of updated embellishments or hardware and you’ve got a new in-style piece.

The best part about using second hand décor is threefold.  One, you generally can find the pieces for a lot less money (often for FREE) than if you were to go out and buy a brand-new piece; two, older furniture is frequently better made and comprised of more quality materials; and three, it keeps it out of the landfills.

On a recent stop to a free pile (much to my children’s’ chagrin) I found this adorable, sturdy, albeit beat-up, plant stand.  It was with a pile of other items that looked like they might have come from an old barn.  I was drawn to it for no specific reason, but I did see some great potential in it and thought, with a little elbow grease and a new coat of paint, it might be a keeper.

So I took it home and started to work.  I used chalk paint on it (which I had not used before, but had been dying for something to paint so I could).  The paint boasted a one-step application process with no sanding needed.  I thought “Hotdog! That’s my kind of paint”.

Here’s a quick breakdown of my experience with this product.

  1. Overall, I liked it. It was easy to apply and quick drying.
  2. I would suggest you skip the expensive brush they sell for applying it. Yes, I bought one of them and no, I don’t think it made much of a difference—I think any short bristled natural brush would have done the job at a fraction of the cost as the expensive brush they suggest.
  3. One coat might cover, but not without streaking and some show-through. I used two coats and the coverage was great. If a real deadpan flat finish is the effect you are wanting, stopping here is exactly what you should do.
  4. If you want a more finished look then I would suggest you use one of the waxes they sell to finish your piece. There is a clear wax that provides no additional color just a nice sheen (I used this to finish the plant stand) or there is the antique wax which adds a dark patinaed look through which the paint shows. My only side note to the wax is that it takes a lot of ‘elbow grease’ to apply and I thought my arm might actually fall off by the time I was finished.
  5. As far as the ‘no sanding’ goes. Yes, the paint adheres great with no additional sanding, but if you have an older piece that has some dings in the old finish, globs of dried paint on it or other issues impacting it’s smoothness you may want to do a little sanding or other prep work before you start.
  6. I felt the paint was fairly expensive, but that said, even with two full coats it did not use much and I have plenty left to paint a couple more pieces.

I wanted the piece to be unexpected, so after I painted the whole thing and before I applied the clear wax I hand drew and painted a design on the back of each shelf area that is reminiscent of a 1960’s linoleum and then applied silver leaf in a large sweeping pattern over that to add some depth to the design. The result is perfect!  I love it!

I enjoy redoing furniture and helping others with their furniture design dilemmas too.  But what I really garner the most satisfaction from in doing it is just knowing that I am helping to reduce waste and cost while giving new life to old pieces.

I encourage all of you to look at old/dated furniture with a new eye.  Is there something that can be done to bring it more modern?  You can save yourself a lot of change and the planet a little more space if you can use the furniture that already exists instead of buying new.

chalk paint 1Chalk paint


By Marlie Bilbruck-Boerger

Upon returning from dropping my children off at school today I was struck by the wonderful warm, undeniable smell of waffles and maple syrup that wafted through our home.  An unmistakable remnant of my children’s busy active morning and the breakfast they had consumed.  I felt an instant bolt of love surge through me.  I felt like no matter what else was going on today (and I have a very full and busy schedule ahead of me) it was all going to be okay because my children are healthy and happy and well fed.

Even as I walked down the hall past their rooms, the odds and ends they had left lying around (which would normally wear somewhat on my psyche) didn’t seem nearly as big as they would other days.  That’s when the inspiration for this blog struck me.  I spend a lot of time sharing with friends, family, clients, readers, etc. how to use interior design to improve their homes/offices and why it’s important, but I have never stopped to share the very most fundamental point of interior design: Interior design is secondary to living! It should enhance and compliment your life.  That’s right!  Your life is what’s in charge of your home. Your home should never be in charge of your life.

We only concern ourselves with what our homes look like and how they function so we can LIVE in them.  Our homes are for living in not for worshiping.  We should always focus on function over form and recognize that our time on this planet is limited and that in the end those Chippendale chairs are no more important to our family’s happiness than the IKEA ones.

I am so guilty of getting hung up on all the details and expecting others to too.  If I see a wall with a chip in its paint I make a mental note that I need to get it touched up.  If a throw pillow is out of place I fluff it and karate chop it back into submission.   I straighten pictures, wipe off smears and smooth wrinkled bedspreads throughout my day.   I know it wears on my family.  My husband frequently asks me when he catches me staring off into space or examining some room of our home, “Oh, oh!  What are you designing now?”

The waffle scent this morning shocked me out of my OCD mode (I hope for a long time, but I know from experience that it won’t last as long as all that) for a moment of clarity.  A moment that said life happens here and you need to live in the here and now and worry less about wall treatments and properly fluffed pillows.  I need those moments to remind me that my children are growing up every moment of every day and that I am missing it because the centerpiece is off by a few inches.  I know in the long run it will be the laughter, support and love that they experienced here that they will remember not if the couch matched the chairs or if the bathroom hand-towels were hung up correctly.

I am a designer at heart.  It adds to my happiness and it is my art.  It’s how I express myself and how I can share my gift with the rest of the world.  It should not be my family’s cross to bear though.  I need to back it up and give them room to live in our home.  I need to just learn to be and know that it’s okay that some aspect of the design is slightly off.

I need to breathe.  Smell the waffles.  Hear the laughter. Know the love.  Absorb the here and now.

And I encourage all of you to do the same.

(Inhaling) In with the good air!  (Exhaling) Out with the Bad!

Happy day to you all!

What's important


Gardens Need Makeovers too!

April 21, 2015

By Marlie Bilbruck-Boerger Mary, Mary, quite contrary, How does your garden grow? With silver bells, and cockle shells, And pretty maids all in a row. We all remember this rhyme from our childhood.  It was usually chanted while holding hands with our little friends and dancing around in a circle under the warm spring smile […]

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Ahhhhhh Spring! Ehhhhhhh the Patio!

April 7, 2015

By Marlie Bilbruck-Boerger The twittering birds are here again, the sun is up earlier and setting later, the days are warmer and the flowers are blooming: It must be spring! If you are anything like me this time of year energizes you.  I start to feel excited to do some cleaning and decorating and refreshing […]

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Wine with Everything!

March 24, 2015

By Marlie Bilbruck-Boerger As you have probably already heard, or at least read in a not too distant blog post of mine, Marsala is the Pantone 2015 color of the year.  This color is rich, deep and warm and was a fabulous choice by Pantone, but it got me thinking about all of the ‘wine’ […]

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7 Quick Tips for Decorating Any Room

March 10, 2015

By Marlie Bilbruck-Boerger Good design, as with most things, is made harder by what we don’t know and instantly easier once we gain more knowledge. It makes no difference if you are a free-spirited bohemian, a more traditional-classic soul or a straight-laced contemporary up-and-coming; there are several design ‘rules’ that can help you put a […]

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5 Guest Room Essentials Every Good Hostess Needs to Know

February 24, 2015

By Marlie Bilbruck-Boerger We’ve all been there:  You go to visit friends or family and end up feeling like you were an afterthought on their agenda, your bed some cot in an otherwise storage-room and you conclude your visit suspecting they are breathing a sigh of relief to see you go. Of all the things […]

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Do Paws Give You Pause When Decorating?

February 10, 2015

By Marlie Bilbruck-Boerger Cats and dogs are our four-legged extended-family members.  We want what is best for them and we love them like they were our own blood-kin.  That said, they can prove as challenging to live with as any toddler of the human-form and decorating around them just might be even more discouraging. As […]

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Are you ready to hire a designer?

February 2, 2015

As designers it is our honor and privilege to be invited into your home/office to help you interpret your unique style.  We are hired to help define a design for your home that will reflect you.  We strive to listen to your individual story and to come up with a plan that you will love. […]

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Marsala–Pantone’s 2015 Color of the Year

January 27, 2015

Submitted by Marlie Bilbruck-Boerger We were not only wrong, but way wrong. You may remember that, in October, Kelly and I made our color predictions for the 2015 Pantone color of the year picking such colors as frothy greens, deep blues and intrinsic blushes.  We had spent lots of time researching, gathering information and observing […]

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