Locating Gems at Chain Stores

So many people love to shop! Whether it's window shopping for inspiration, stepping inside your favorite boutique to browse for ideas, or you're on a mission to find that certain something, shopping in its many forms can be lots of fun. Especially when you challenge yourself a little. Whenever I find something that catches my eye, I take a moment to imagine it used in a different way or altered somehow (color, new legs, different hardware, etc.). It makes shopping more of a creative exercise and helps me not to overlook something that has a great deal of potential. Let me give you an example of this.

Let's shop together at a chain store here in America called Pier 1 Imports, which specializes in imported goods from all over the world that fall into what I'd consider a reasonable price bracket. They have lots of good pieces hitting stores for Spring with good lines and details but as is, not all of them are really my taste. With a dash of creativity and in most cases, a can of paint, each can be customized to fit your style. Let's get those creative ideas spinning... Come shipping with me!

Spring is coming so let's look at a few inexpensive ideas for the patio and the entryway since most like to freshen up these areas first for the season. All items shown above from Pier 1 are perfect as is, or you can alter them by adding new hardware, paint, or cushions.

If you have a covered porch or patio, try this painted wood table ($299) with coordinating bench seats ($99 each) and add a 5 x 8 braided jute rug ($129) beneath it. String paper lanterns from Asian Ideas over the table (I'd use three max in all one color or pattern, like freckle (my favorite), white eyelet, peonies, provence, or marigold). Add a coordinating fabric runner down the center of the table and use vintage glass bottles or milk glass vases with fresh cut blooms (try daffodils) in each and run about 6 down the center as well. Tie each with a pretty grosgrain ribbon in a solid color. Simple but sweet. Or use potted plants. Dress up the bench if you're the crafty type by sewing a box cushion with ties on the sides so that you can secure it or use heavy duty velcro strips and place them on the bench and on the bottom of the cushion. Look for indoor/outdoor fabrics, I like the variety over at Calico Corners. The metal chair (sorry no link but available in stores) can be used at the head of the table or you can place it off to the side with a large plant on the seat. Not shown is the outdoor wicker stackable dining chair for $59, another great seating option. Top it with a pretty cushion.

For the entry, the birds and blooms painted chest ($299) OR the beach house bookcase ($179) would be perfect in the entryway for a bright splash of Spring-y color and for a place to rest your keys and store books. I see the bookcase in a guest bedroom also, a great spot for adding reading materials that will make your friends feel right at home.

Now let's look at a few pieces that could use a little changin' because as is, I'm not that keen on them.

The Patola Palace Cabinet ($499) - This could use a little age appeal in my opinion. Try sanding it in places to remove some of the paint, then add 3/4 clear glaze and 1/2 teal (to match the base coat on the cabinet) mix the solution and "wash" it over with a sponge to give it an aged, more sun-bleached bohemian look.

Ming Chow bamboo bench ($229) - Lacquer the base in red, black, or white. Top with a patterned cushion. Try a white base with Virginia Johnson fabric or a black base with something by Florence Broadhurt.

The Belclaire Hutch + Wine Cabinet ($349) - It's cute, but I'd like to give it a different take so I don't have the same one that everyone else has in their home. Dare to be different, right? Okay so did you happen to see the cover of the March issue of Country Living magazine? There's a blue and yellow bedroom on it and I just loved their DIY idea for the dresser. They repainted in a sunny yellow. I would like to try their idea only on this Pier 1 cabinet. They used Pratt & Lambert Cherish #11-7 for the base and trimmed out the wood accents in a slightly brighter yellow using Patent Yellow #12-10. You can use your favorite wallpaper pattern and with decoupage medium, add some pattern to our pier 1 cabinet on the doors and side inserts, or you can simply paint the doors, legs, and top in Patent Yellow and paint the rest in Cherish and then wallpaper the inside. Add your favorite hardware from Anthropologie. (For a dresser much like the one in the cover of Country Home, try the 3-drawer Simple Shabby Chic chest on sale now at Target for $187)

Hana ($279) + Kiona ($179) floor screens - These have so many different uses other than the obvious, of course there's nothing wrong with using them as actual dividers but I'm thinking that they need some paint. Okay first idea: measure your window. If it fits, remove one panel, use only two. Remove all hinges. Paint white. Window shutters indoors! Or flip on its side, remove feet (saw off, sand, paint), paint the screen in your favorite color, line with solid fabric pulled tightly across the back. Fasten to wall and use as a headboard. Or stand upright, paint in your favorite color, flatten against wall and screw in to secure, and use it behind your bed to make a statement. See also the plantation shutter screen ($279).

These pieces are fine as is, but you can always paint the farmhouse table ($299) white or pale grey after you've hammered, sanded, and using a chain, take out your anger on it in a few places to add some age. :) I prefer it in natural though. That little stool has a very industrial look to it, I like it as is. Stools can be used all over the house and are great as tables too. The Pier 1 iron tulip end table ($129) is more rustic than your average white one, another good piece as is. You don't have to alter everything.

I'd like to try my hand at painting these pieces, they all would look great in so many different colors.

First up, the Beckley Bay rattan bed ($399-599) -- I really like this for a guest bedroom in white, but also imagine it lacquered in black, yellow, or kelly green. In white, it would be nice dressed with bedding sporting a bold cane motif, like Lulu DK's Madison bedding. I can see it with the Miranda duvet and bedskirt, or in anything from John Robshaw.

Try making your own drapes and duvets with fabric from Calico Corners, their new Boca Raton collection (shown above) for Spring would go nicely with the rattan bed in white.

The butterfly writing desk ($229) would be perfect for a bedroom, bold red makes this a great accent piece. I may paint it a solid color though, I'm sure she what I think of the butterfly motif. I like the idea of doing something fun with the legs, painting rings of white or yellow against the red. It would also look nice in black and on top, display vintage photos and have a piece of glass cut to fit. I can't tell whether the top opens or not so I'd have to see it in person to decide on the glass or not.

The decorative boxes ($99) would be fun at the foot of the bed or use as side or coffee tables. The Pagoda 4-tier shelf ($98) is perfect for the bathroom for storage (towels, soaps), in the living room (books, ceramics), kitchen (nesting bowls, cookbooks), or in the bedroom (flanking a bed or desk). Paint it in any color you like, it's a very versatile piece that never seems to go out of style.

I hope you had fun shopping Pier 1 with me and that this post inspired you to shop with a more creative eye if you already don't. Thank you for hanging out with me, do you have any favorite pieces from those shown above? I really like the table with matching benches the best, I'd love to use this on a porch - except I don't have one so the Ming Chow bamboo bench would be my second choice.

(images from pier 1 imports)