Unique, Meaningful, Inspirational Home Decor

Tips for accessorizing your homes by shopping close to home and on a budget

When decorating a home, the essential pieces like couches, dining sets, and bedroom furniture are often the basis for the style of the room, but the accessories are what gives it personality. Shoppers in the Haymarket area will be pleased to discover some unique shops and advice to find that perfect element to bring a room together.

Antique, Repurposed, Unique

Sandra Courtney is co-owner of Black Sheep Collectibles, where the focus is on antique, primitive, and collectible but affordable pieces that can’t be found just anywhere. But what is most unique about buying items at this type of store is that each one tells a story. “The more rust, the more scratches, the more it is for me,” says Courtney. “There is also a benefit of being able to tell the history of a piece to guests when they see the item displayed in a home, usually when it’s something they haven’t seen before.” Another benefit to the shopper is the ability to customize pieces to fit a theme or color palette, which can be achieved with the use of chalk paint for that rustic touch. This can be especially important to those who may have inherited a sentimental piece of furniture that may not fit their aesthetic decor until transformed by paint.

Courtney has a eye for thinking outside of the box when it comes to using items in non-traditional ways. For example, an old vintage metal truck makes an adorable planter on a front porch. Funnels become hanging planters. She will take an item and flip it upside down and sideways until the light bulb goes off and another purpose is born. Cast iron kettles, now becoming hard-to-find items, can be used to hold wood next to a fireplace or house blankets in a cozy living room. One current trend is to take old wooden doors and use them as headboards or even replace the pantry door with a vintage one, sometimes on sliders to make it a barn door feature. A tobacco leaf measure is the perfect item to use as a shelf on the wall to display keepsakes. Even dresser drawers can become shelves that have more character and charm.

Custom, Personal, Meaningful

Colleen Madigan, owner of Pieces with a Past, knows that “decorating a home can seem like a daunting task.” Her retirement from nursing allowed her to discover a painting talent that, combined with a love for vintage decor, led to her specializing in hand-painted signs. This type of decor, she says, can be the perfect way to reflect personal style and make a home more unique and inviting. Each sign can be customized and unique in color, font, and size, but also in design. For that farmhouse look, signs can be whitewashed or sanded to achieve that antique feel.

Modern homes can include a sign with a beautiful rich wood frame. Most importantly, these design elements can be more meaningful when the saying or words reflect something deeply connected to the family. A particular saying passed down from past generations can add a personal touch to a wall. “Whether you choose your family name, a phrase that has special meaning, the lyrics to a favorite song, or a bible verse, a custom hand-painted sign can help you turn your house into a home.”

Change is Easy

Meighan O’Toole, owner of Stuff! Consignments, says that now more than ever, turning your house into a home has never been easier, a concept she credits to HGTV, Pinterest, Facebook, and DIY blogs. However, O’Toole points out a common problem with many who are looking to redo space in their home: the budget. “That’s where a local consignment shop can be your best friend!” She urges shoppers not to panic when they decided to change styles. Consignment can help in two ways—getting some money back from your old stuff and helping you to purchase the new items in a more affordable way.

“That is the beauty of a consignment shop—the ever changing ebb and flow of stuff! Also, when you consign your items, not only are you cleaning out and making room for new stuff, but you are also making money.”

Some advice from O’Toole:

  • Start with one room and assess the situation: what pieces have to go, what can stay with a little makeover, and what can you incorporate into your new style.
  • Consider consigning the items you will no longer need. You might be done with an Asian inspired living room and are moving on to farmhouse chic, but someone else might be gearing up for the Asian theme.
  • Most shops offer store credit or payment after the items have sold. So … now that you know—and have consigned—what you don’t want, it’s time to find some new pieces and transition into your new style.
  • Let your local consignment shops know what you are looking for. Stuff! Consignments has a waiting list of people who have furniture and home decor to consign. If we know someone is looking for a china cabinet to repurpose, we will get that item into the shop first. It pays to ask and let shops know what you are looking for.
  • Don’t be overwhelmed by high prices as you scroll through the Pottery Barn and Restoration Hardware sites, pining away for that farmhouse table or windowpane mirror. With a little bit of paint and maybe some new hardware and a dash of elbow grease, you could transform a consignment shop find into a treasure.

Even if you’re not sure which direction you are headed, O’Toole recommends walking through your local consignment stores for inspiration. “Sometimes it’s a funky pillow, the vibrant pattern of a pair of curtains, a set of botanical prints or a mission style end table—inspiration is everywhere!”

But the store shelves aren’t the only place to find inspiration—other customers can be of help. “It is amazing how different people see the same item,” she says. She tells the story of a customer who had fallen in love with a particular mirror for her wall but she knew it wasn’t large enough to adequately fill the space. Another customer helped her gather unique mirrors from all over the shop to create a wall of mirrors with the large one as the centerpiece. O’Toole says the customer brought in a picture once she finished the wall and the result was stunning. The lesson here: “Approach your redesign with an open mind and a flexible spirit. And when you’re done with your newest style and want to change it up again you can start all over again. Consignment shops are a great way to move out your old and bring in some new (to you)!”

Choose Carefully

At The Copper Cricket Consignment Shop, Pam Swinford and Brenda Solomon also see items come and go with the changing of styles. They say what’s really hot right now at this little store in the heart of Haymarket is accessorizing with a few vintage pieces as accents. “A few carefully chosen pieces give a home a warm, lived-in feel,” they explain.

Some other ideas:

  • Old fencing can display jewelry, photos, or artwork.
  • Sewing machine cabinets—with or without the sewing machine—make great bases with a mirror or reclaimed boards as the table top.
  • Old wooden boxes or vintage wire baskets can help organize or store items.
  • Dividers/screens dress up an ordinary corner of a room and create or differentiate spaces in an open concept space.
  • Stools/plant stands will create visual interest and different levels of display, which is great for unused corners and tablescapes.
  • Use a really large, interesting frame to frame smaller collections or works of art.

One really great tip for shoppers is something they call the easiest trick in the book: “Changing pillows and artwork out for the season can change the whole look of a room easily and on a budget.”

Light and Inspiration

When thinking about home decor and accessories, windows may not immediately come to mind. But their role can be crucial. Window treatments are often that difficult-to-find perfect element to finish a space, but can be a focal point of modern architecture and design, says Nelida Janiga of Drapes & More in Haymarket. She explains that “windows have been a source of inspiration, as well as light, ventilation, and inspiration, to all cultures.”

“Sunshine and natural light are welcome and warming to us, and often we plan and cover them so that we can work and live in harmony with the seasons. Now, appropriately selected treatments that are well designed, planned, and proportioned give comfort, security, and privacy to the occupants of a home, public or work space.”

Janiga says the task of choosing a window treatment is both challenging and enjoyable. The challenge part comes from many facets that factor into the decision: “light, view, ventilation, safety, wall space, solar gain, energy conservation, as well as climate orientation and location.” However, the enjoyment comes when the window treatment is installed after all requirements are met and factors taken into consideration. Then, “the window can truly be used to the best advantage, and the result produces great satisfaction,” she says.

Here is some advice of what to consider when choosing a window treatment.

  • Privacy: The lovely view you have out of your windows during the day can become someone else’s clear view at night.
  • Sound absorption: Fabric treatments muffle outside noise, especially when lined and interlined or hung in layers. Fabric also can absorb indoor noises from appliances, stereos, televisions, and loud conversation.
  • Comfort: A draped window, like a draped bed, can provide a feeling of security and comfort. Textiles in a friendly color and pattern will establish a warm and comforting interior.
  • Energy Conservation: Window coverings can and do increase energy efficiency. Do you know that fabric absorbs heat ten times more effectively than bare glass? The cost of running a house can be significantly reduced in terms of heating and cooling costs when there has been a careful evaluation of the need to conserve energy.
  • Aesthetics: Many residential homes are built in very close proximity with each other, near an alleyway, or even a brick wall. Camouflaging these views can be accomplished with beautiful results. Shutters, blinds, and shades with beautiful patterns, textures, and colors will always increase the aesthetics of the interior. Window treatments can add character, charm, and interest indoors.

Black Sheep Collectibles

16351 Lee Highway in Gainesville




Pieces with a Past

Facebook: Pieces with a Past

Email: colleen_madigan@comcast.net

Stuff! Consignments

7482 Limestone Drive in Gainesville



The Copper Cricket Consignment Shop

15026 Washington Street in Haymarket



Drapes & More




Christine Craddock
About Christine Craddock 127 Articles
Christine Craddock is a writer, editor, photographer, wife, and mother of two adorable children. She is a faithful contributing writer for Haymarket Lifestyle magazine and has resided in Haymarket since 2006.

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