Thursday 24 August 2017

What sparked my love for old things?

As a little girl, I often accompanied my mother and aunts to visit their great-aunt and great-uncle. The couple, who lived on a charming little farm with enormous old oak trees and bordered by a rambling river, fascinated me and left a lasting impression. Their house was filled with old, interesting and strange looking bits and pieces and gently worn antiques. To this day, whenever I catch the faint mouldy whiff of an old book, I am transported straight back to those visits.

He was a retired school teacher who, in his day, would drive his car, wearing a dust coat and gloves. It was never said, but I have always imagined there were some goggles and a cap to complete the outfit and, in my mind's eye, I've always seen him speeding down dusty lanes just like Toad from Toad Hall in The Wind in the Willows

Great-great-uncle Alec is pictured above in his teacher's attire.

They never had any children of their own and somewhat doted on my mother and her sisters. I was still very young when they both passed away, but I was fortunate to inherit a few trinkets and pieces of furniture. Among these were some of their cherished memories in the form of old postcards. And so it was that I started collecting nostalgic postcards.

As the years went by, my collection grew but I never had a way to display it effectively where I could see it all the time. Then, a while ago, my aunt who shares my passion for old things, gave me a small poster that advertised a Paris to London trip by train and boat. This set me wondering about how these postcards would originally have been displayed at train stations and ports like Dieppe where they were sold to tourists. And so the idea for a postcard stand started to form.

Most of my postcards are from the early 1900's. Travel at that time must have been very exotic and much more of an adventure than it is today. Trips were slow and expensive and often took months to complete. It is difficult to imagine today in our always-connected era, how cut off one would have felt. I recently read that back then, men often joined the army because it was an opportunity to travel and see the world.

Slowly a design for the postcard stand started to emerge in my head. I decided to create a space behind a little glass fronted door for posters to give the stand a focal point.


It dawned on me that a basic hollow core door with no trimmings would create the perfect structure to start with. These doors are sturdy, not too heavy and inexpensive. And best of all, I already had one that was just taking up space and collecting dust.

{See MATERIAL LIST towards the bottom of this page}

I quickly drew up a rough sketch of what I wanted it to look like, incorporating an old picture frame I had, and added the measurements. The door was 40mm in depth. I decided to add a frame around the outside of the door to create a recess of 30mm deep. This called for 16mm MDF board strips of 70mm wide. I calculated the measurements for each of the 4 pieces that would make up the outer frame. Next, I measured for the narrow shelves running inside the recess. Again, the same 16mm MDF would do the trick, but the width would have to equal that of the depth of the recess, ie. 30mm.

Once I had all the measurements, I had my strips of wood cut by my timber supplier. I also got a few lengths of wooden moulding from them that I would add to the front of the outer frame just to round it off nicely.

Back home, I assembled the whole thing using wood glue, clamps, small nails and a hammer. First, the outer frame followed by the old frame and the narrow strips to form the shelves. Next, I sanded down the sharp edges a little to get rid of that newly-cut-wood look.

With all the woodwork done, it was time to start painting. The wood needed to be stained first with my homemade stain for it to appear like old wood when distressed. I love using this stain because it is so easy to mix and apply, it's odourless and it costs next to nothing.

My next step was to mix casein paint in several colours of my choice. Because I make my own paints, I always mix colours in small quantities in order to have no or very little wastage. I applied a coat of very light grey paint, followed by what I like to call a 30's green. If this was really an old piece it probably saw several layers of paint in different colours during the course of its life so I painted it another two different shades of teal.

I thought it needed some definition so I painted all the front edges and the outside of the main frame black, followed by a dark grey and was now ready to start with the distressing of the piece.

Next, I found a font that I felt matched the 1920's-30's era and printed out the "Carte-Postale" sign. After transferring the outlines of the lettering onto the paintwork, I was ready to paint the letters a charcoal colour and distress that too.

All that remained to be done was to seal everything and drill small holes through which I threaded fishing line. This line will keep my postcards in place and stop them from falling off the narrow shelves.

So, to sum up ...


1. hollow core door
2. 16mm MDF board
3. mouldings
4. old picture frame
5. tape measure
6. wood glue
7. clamps
8. small nails
9. hammer
10. sandpaper
11. primer ~ recipe from FARRAGOZ Online Courses
12. casein paint ~ recipe from FARRAGOZ Online Courses
13. paintbrushes
14. polish
15. electric drill
16. fishing line


1. draw design
2. measure and cut MDF and moulding strips
3. glue and clamp MDF and moulding strips
4. secure MDF and moulding strips with nails
5. sand
6. prime
7. paint grey
8. paint green
9. paint first shade teal
10. paint second shade teal
11. paint edges black
12. paint edges dark grey
13. distress ~ methods from FARRAGOZ Online Courses
14. transfer letter outlines
15. paint letters
16. distress letters
17. drill holes
18. thread fishing line through holes
19. seal

I am as pleased as Punch with my postcard stand and I love the fact that I can so easily change the look of it by adding or replacing postcards.

And I am sure Uncle Alec would have been pleased to know he had such a profound effect on a little girl. I think of the postcard stand as a monument to him.

Happy Painting!



P.S. I am going to print and paste this post on the back of the stand. Maybe in 100 years, when we are all long gone, someone will find this stand in a junk shop and decide to start collecting old postcards!

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