It’s no secret that I have a special place in my heart for the everyday items of yesteryear.
For all things vintage
and just really plain old.
Items that are no longer needed for their primary purpose and can be re-imagined into something new. My two-paned window is the perfect example. It came into my life about 2 years ago. I discovered the window at one of those chain thrift stores for $6.99. (Back when prices at thrift stores were actually thrifty.) It was apparent that it was quite old from the style of the wood frame. And it had been painted and repainted repeatedly, as evident by the peeling layers of paint.
Quick disclaimer, I made sure to test the window for lead paint using the various swabs from Check4Lead before starting on this project. I’ve also included a longer section on why that’s important towards the bottom of the post. However, if you’re just interested in the DIY re-purposing, I will not keep the suspense up any longer.
Now this window wasn’t just your run of the mill vintage variety. It was unique. Some creative soul in the year of 1982 had the brilliant idea of preserving wildflowers behind the panes. (And I can just imagine the excitement as the person thought, “Now this is going to look classy hanging next to my collection of goose figurines!”) The owner definitely was serious about the wildflowers though, because the job was professionally done. In addition to the framing store tag on the back, that window had been matted, stapled, glued (and whatever secret thing framing stores do to make your matted item crazily expensive.)
The wildflowers may have looked country fresh back in the day, but by the time the window had crossed my path, the flowers had denigrated into a brown, crispy, potential fire hazard. And it definitely took some time and quite the effort to free the brittle mess from it’s vintage window prison, as the framing company had been quite good at their job.
After the window was all cleaned up, I displayed it behind my DIY Pink Ornament Wreath
And most recently, I decided to back the window with an old map I found at an antiques mall. The map was so delicate that it just kept ripping apart in my hands as I was trying to attach it to the window frame.
I’m not sure of the age of the map but it stopped documenting events in 1962.
Okay, so please read this next bit of info with an open (and frugal) mind.
The next part of my vintage window project followed the reuse and recycle mantra. I bought a new brand of “unmentionables” for my daughter and when we later opened the package at home, we determined that the “delicates” weren’t going to be practical if she planned on actually moving while wearing them. But instead of getting rid of the ill-fitting garments, my crafty mind noticed the fun colors and thought, “Do I dare recycle underwear into my next project?” And of course, I did.
I decided to make a little pennant garland to hang in front of the map window. I made a pattern triangle out of a foam egg carton and traced it on the folded edge of the fabric. I then used pinking shears to cut out each triangle.
I folded the triangles over a length of baker’s twine and secured each one with a piece of tape.
So here is the next phase in the life cycle of an old window. A little vintage, mappy, garland fun!
And what about you? Do you enjoy repurposing 80’s decor? Or have you recycled something that just may be unmentionable?
Having worked on various projects similar to this, and by educating myself on the topic, I have come to find out that there are certain things that you really ought to think about before starting a DIY project on an old window frame like the one that was featured in this article.
Remember how I previously chose to link to a business, Check4Lead, in this article? Well, it just so turns out that when you're picking up one of these old window frames, there is a certain risk that it's not telling you the entire story, unless you make sure to take the necessary safety precautions.
While we all know the feeling when we're getting really excited for a project we had in mind, there is a very specific reason why you may not just want to go about this very project without making sure you have tested and checked the window frame first.
Are you 100% certain when the frame was in fact manufactured, and perhaps sure of which country it was manufactured in? Even if there are many times where you may be able to come about this information, chances are if you're simply picking up an old frame at a yard sale, that you don't exactly know when it was made, why you don't know whether or not it is safe to just start sanding it either.
It just so happens that there were a lot of nasty chemicals and building materials that were used in the past, so whenever you are picking something up from a yard sale, and especially if you are picking something up that you have an intention of giving some new life, you will want to make sure that you are doing it in the right manner, in order to avoid potentially breathing in millions of small dangerous particles.
In this case, it really is old lead paint that we're concerned with, and for more reasons than one. Honestly, it even applies to more things than simply window frames, however, these are commonly some of the objects that are salvaged from old homes rather than just throwing them out.
The result? Well, they may end up at a yard sale or somewhere else where you might find a keen eye to the item.
What happens when you sand something that has lead paint on it? Wasn't this an issue that we really have dealt with in the past, and something that I shouldn't concern myself with now?
Too many of us have really good intentions when it comes to making cool DIY projects where we end up repurposing and giving new life to something that once served a purpose in another home. Perhaps you are even bringing your kids in on the project, and giving them the option to go wild with all the colorful paints that you went out and bought before starting the project.
And while your intentions were good, you didn't realize that your actions in fact ended up meaning that your kids would be exposed to, and end up consuming some of those dangerous lead flakes that would cause elevated blood lead levels, and bring with them a range of different side effects, including the potential for a reduced mental capacity, problems learning among other things.
Don't have kids? While children are the ones that are the most exposed when it comes to lead, it doesn't mean that you're automatically in the clear, as there are also serious potential side effects you could yourself be experiencing from digesting these dangerous particles.
In larger quantities, the exposure to lead dust can lead to a range of different things including organ failure, or even death in the most extreme situations.
So, if that's the case, what should be your course of action going forward? The good thing to know is that lead paint can in fact be entirely harmless, however, whether or not that's the case, is really dependent on the condition that the paint is in.
Is your paint in spectacular condition? Great! You have no need to worry because you aren't currently being exposed to the dangerous particles that exist when the condition of the paint starts deteriorating.
Has the window frame been taken from an old home where moisture was an issue, and you can see the paint coming off various sides of the frame?
Are you even considering sanding down the frame for the project you're considering using it for without having made sure that it doesn't contain any of these dangerous materials? The bad news is that sanding is the last thing that you will want to do when you're dealing with lead paint, whereas there are other options that are significantly safer to do; especially than dry sanding which will simply release all those problematic particles into the air.
There really is a solution that you ought to consider if you find out you're dealing with a window frame that has lead in it, and that is to discard it rather than starting to deal with it. While you might want to work on it, an old frame that has the contaminated type of paint on it will eventually start throwing the dangerous dust around your house, which isn't a situation you will want.
With the tests being so cheap, it is not worth the risk to your own health, nor worth the risk to your children if you start working on building materials that are dangerous. Also, make sure that you check with your local disposal site so that you're disposing of it the right way.
If, for whatever reason, you're finding yourself with a couple of different window frames that you don't know what to do with, and you have already made sure that they are in fact safe to start working on, there were at least a couple of other ideas that I considered with mine and ultimately didn't end up pursuing. Perhaps I will get around to making some of these ideas in the future.
I considered creating a rustic towel holder by adding some hooks to the frame and hanging it in the bathroom. Perhaps adding a wreath or something else to it, like I had seen in a tutorial. Ultimately I decided against it because the condition of the paint wasn't impressive and I was afraid that the high humidity of the bathroom was going to get the better of it.
I've always been fascinated by big cities as well, and it was perhaps by sheer coincidence that I never managed to become a dreamer in a romantic city like Paris. However, that doesn't mean that I can't on occasion dream about waking up in this beautiful city just to look out through the window and see the Eiffel tower.
Yes, perhaps the biggest alternative I was otherwise considering for this project was to add a black and white photo to the background of it so that it would resemble a gloomy night of looking out of the window. You know, some of that food for your imagination that you may occasionally need when things don't seem to be going your way. Perhaps that was my reasoning, or perhaps it was simply a cheap excuse for me to justify opening a good bottle of French wine. Regardless, that is quite likely the next project on my to-do list.
I also thought about whether I should add a little bit of charm to my vegetable gardening projects by creating a rustic mini greenhouse that could house my plants. I did find another DIY project that involved the use of several old window frames in order to build a structure resembling that of a normal house, while making its intention to house the various plants I have accumulated. It would surely be a nice rustic touch to the house, yet I didn't have several window frames to build this structure, nor did I have the intention of going out and finding additional ones. The project I did decide on served the purpose beautifully that I ended up going for. In addition, if I would have wanted to create the green house, it would also have necessitated that I ensured that each of the frames didn't contain lead in them, as I wasn't about to feed my vegetable garden a good dose of heavy metals for my family to consume - no thank you.