I was Primitive, before Primitive was cool

Many folks are following the primitive decorating trend now.  It’s all about using antiques and rustic-looking objects to decorate your home.  It’s also about recycling and repurposing objects that you may already have or that you can buy cheaper than new.  Younger decorators may think that they initiated this trend.  I say… nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah.   I have been doing this since 1971.   Back then it was called “I just got married and I can’t afford to buy new stuff for my house”.  I have used the word eclectic (albeit rather loosely) to describe my decorating style for over 40 years.

I was lucky to marry the son of a farmer/antique lover/real estate agent who traveled to flea markets and estate sales to find old cool stuff.  My in-laws really weren’t being “savvy decorators” … they just liked old stuff because it reminded them of the good old days.  When my husband and I moved to the family farm 6 weeks after our wedding, my in-laws  moved from the farm to town and left a lot of stuff behind.   To me it was a treasure hunt everyday!

The first spring on the farm I found several old teakettles in the garage and used them as planters.   Mind you, they only held marigolds because that’s the only flower I could keep alive.  I was just looking for some cheap containers for flowers!  Any good farm wife from that era had a milk can or two that she had painted and placed near the back door .  Decals were used to decorate them or if you were really crafty you painted your family name on the can for all to see and admire.

Decoupage was the rage.  I decoupaged my wedding invitation for posterity by burning the edges and covering it with layer upon layer of decoupaging liquid.  The decoupage yellowed the page and made it look antique-ish… little did I know that if I waited long enough, it would look old all by itself.  Like it did yesterday.

wedding invitation 002

Boy this looks old!

If you had something you wanted to decorate with and it didn’t look old enough, (not likely at  my house) you cheated and made it look older by distressing it.  (Yeah you sweet youngsters think you thought of that too, didn’t you?)

I decorated my flower beds with split rail fences and old gears from farm machinery long deceased.  I could just rummage around in some of the old storage buildings and find the junk at the end of the rainbow.

Above our fireplace, which was added in 1979, we have an old ox yoke that belonged to my husband’s great grandfather.   I still remember the day my father-in-law hung it there.  He had been waiting for a place to display it for so many years and finally found the perfect spot.  That will not come down in my lifetime.

oxyoke 001

Glad you can’t see all the dust in the picture!

I saved a few windows from my parent’s hog house before we tore it down.  We also salvaged the red barn door from the building and I have used it for landscape architecture. (Did I just type landscape architecture?)

Two weeks before we got married, my mother-in-law took me yard sailing saling.  She bought me a metal strainer for pasta which I still use, a cut glass bowl, and several large utensils for cooking.   Total cost : one dollar.  The cut glass bowl is beautiful and I often get compliments on it.   Pretty good investment.  Recycle and reuse.

We didn’t buy much when we first got married.  A new refrigerator and stove, both Harvest Gold, and a lime green recliner.  Everything else was hand me downs…. The kitchen table and chairs, my old bedroom suite, which just happened to be the one my parents started up with, the tv set, and an old radio.  We didn’t have much, but we had enough.

When the first baby arrived, we used the “family crib”  which had cuddled a couple of generations of family babies.  The collapsible side didn’t latch any more but it worked.  Two of my children slept in the same bassinet that their father slept in 30 years earlier.

baby crib

plaster walls

Sure I want my walls to look like this! NOT!

Last week I was perusing an issue of a country decorating magazine.  A young couple had started to tear off the plaster in their kitchen to do some remodeling and had decided to not finish it… just leave the holes and wooden slats showing… so it looked more primitive.

That’s more primitive than I have ever been.   I’ve seen enough cracked, crumbling plaster in my day.  But it does prove that old saying….

“Everything old is new again.”

About Life in the 50's and beyond...

Welcome to Life in the 50's and 60's and beyond .... where I write about my childhood memories, music of the 60's and about life in the country. I am a mother, grandmother, farmer's wife, business owner, and retired teacher.
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15 Responses to I was Primitive, before Primitive was cool

  1. diannegray says:

    I’m exactly the same with the old Queenslander I’m doing up at the moment, Ruth. It has so much character and I love recycling 😀


  2. I remember at one point (early-mid 70’s?) my mother getting hold of some gold paint and painting an old coal iron and using it to put dry flowers in it. She got a bit carried away with that paint and for a while we had quite a few golden ornaments 🙂


  3. I can definitely relate to this. My daughter is now 33, but when she brought her first boyfriend to the house, he couldn’t believe our furniture didn’t match. We also live on my family’s farm. The house dates back to 1912. If tearing out and not refinishing is the new trend, then we are ahead of the game.


  4. OMG: we had the exact same crib (right down to the bunny rabbit decal on the end) when I was little; my boys slept in it at my mom’s during the 80s. Before we were big enough for the crib, we were put to bed in a wicker bassinet (which I also used for my boys); it’s in my basement with several of my baby dolls in it. Without ‘hand me downs’ and ‘flea market finds’ I wouldn’t have been much in the way of furniture or ‘decor’ items in my first house, either. I find it fascinating that so many of ‘trends’ being ‘discovered’ today are actually things we did just to manage (let’s just hope decoupage doesn’t come back – I didn’t do my wedding invitation but I did do several ‘cute’ cards and other things I thought family and friends would like as [cheap] gifts one Christmas). Thanks for this wonderful memory-stirring post.


  5. Maxi says:

    I had no idea that primitive decorating was all the rage. I do remember when decoupage was popular and we decorated the house with everyday “stuff.”
    blessings ~ maxi


  6. That ox yoke looks great on your fireplace, Ruth, and your family crib looks just like the one that was cycled through our family. Our house is still full of hand-me-downs. I’ve never longed for new things, and I’ve been grateful to have the old. It all just adds to the character of our house.


    • I agree. Character is what it’s all about….last weekend the grandkids came and saw that we had started remodeling our old kitchen …. they wanted Grandma’s ‘Old” kitchen back! They are afraid it will be too fancy…. lol


      • Oooh! I understand this. Grandma’s kitchen was someplace special. Magical things happened there. If either of my grandparent’s had modernized their kitchens, I would have been upset. 😉 You will have to make new magic happen in your new kitchen.


  7. lucewriter says:

    I can’t believe this. I received THREE decoupage wedding invitations as gifts when I got married! 1975


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