I recently wallpapered my closet.
As frivolous as that may sound, it was a wonderfully therapeutic experience. It brought me back to the days of living as a very young child in my grandma’s apartment house.
The sprawling three-story old-style home was old – just like my grandma. (When you’re five years old, most things in life are over-the-hill).
Just What is the Magic of a Vintage Item?
Yet, as the decades march by, it’s those old things – sprinkled with loving, nostalgic memories – that bring great comfort in our lives. All the items she had – now vintage, even antique – bring me such comfort and peace when I think about them.
She had the most wonderful thick and fluffy vintage chenille bedspreads on each bed. Her furniture was a mixture of Empire sofas and Depression era tables. The ceilings boasted Art Deco lamp fixtures and much to my delight, her refrigerator was round, not like the modern square cornered ones today.
There wasn’t any central heat, but a bulky radiator was tucked into the corner of the living room, where of course, her beloved rocking chair was placed. She wore old and worn calico full-size aprons each and every day over floral cotton dresses and her hair was always neatly pinned in a bun.
She was a fairy tale grandma. A gentle soul.
I never heard her yell or argue. Her gentle presence and energy filled her apartment – which was later my parent’s – after grandma moved downstairs. I loved her and everything about her big, old house.
Indeed, it was old, built before the turn of the century, before practical floor plans were given much consideration. Houses were built for families – oftentimes very large families – and closets were simply squeezed in where there was any leftover space, if at all.
The Magic & Memories of Vintage Wallpaper…
I remember my mom and dad’s bedroom – a small, wallpapered square room, only able to fit a bed and a small dresser. There was no walk-in closet, but a tiny space off the bedroom that you had to bend your head before you crept in. I can still here my dad’s raucous cursing as he would hit his head most every time he tried to walk in the pint-sized room.
Why did I love that little closet so much?
Because grandma didn’t have a door on it. The room was too small for a door to open, and the wall height wouldn’t allow for any standard door.
Grandma did what most did during her era: she improvised. She hung a floral barkcloth curtain. It hid the clutter of the closet and set it apart, albeit just a wee bit.
And to my delight, the little closet was wallpapered with big, old-fashioned roses. It made it all the more cozier to me.
Maybe because of its wallpaper, or beautiful barkcloth curtain, or maybe because every other room had a door, but I fell in love with grandma’s closet. I’d crawl in there to hide from my pesky brother or sneak inside to watch a little slide viewer that I had gotten as a Christmas present. The curtain held out the light and was perfect for my cartoon movie slides.
Who Wallpapers a Closet?! I do.
But it was more than that.
I didn’t realize it at the time. As I grew older, I was drawn to vintage chenille bedspreads, barkcloth curtains, old chenille rugs, vintage floral wallpapers, vintage calico dresses – even old worn leather clasp-top purses just like grandma had.
So when I wallpapered a bedroom recently – then a small hallway – with a wonderfully romantic vintage wallpaper – my eyes wandered to a little closet, hid by a wooden folding door. I laughed to myself: wallpaper a closet? Who sees inside it anyway?
And when I took all the linens out and saw how 40+ years had flown by and the closet showed every bit of those years, I decided to honor it with wallpaper to match the hallway.
All the pleasant memories of grandma and her little closet came flooding back. I felt like I was in her apartment again, over 50 years ago. Had the years really flown by that fast?
The coziness. The comfort. And that vintage floral wallpaper…
I remembered the coziness of her tiny closet, the comfort it gave me in escaping my brother’s endless taunts. And I remembered the floral wallpaper inside.
And that unsightly louvered wood folding door on my closet? It had to go. I never liked that door because of all the slats – no matter how many times you dusted, you could always see the layers of dust, especially in the bright sunlight.
It was then that grandma’s closet – and her curtain door – came to mind.
I was aiming for the nostalgic look. The vintage wallpaper was a soft gray with white roses and butterflies. It is ethereal.
Vintage wallpaper + distressed crackle paint = shabby chic!
When I had finished wallpapering the bedroom and painted the trim a warm white, I went all out and gave the doors a shabby chic look, distressing them and making paint crackles to look just like the 170-year-old home that it is.
Out came that ugly, dust collecting door. It actually felt good putting it out for trash pickup, you know, getting rid of something that has long outlived its use and in fact, was downright ugly.
I chose a thick white vintage chenille bedspread, adorned with rich pink roses and greenery. Simply cutting off a few inches of the top, I made a rod pocket. I used the bottom of the spread as a natural hem.
My dull, drab closet was repurposed into an old-time, cottage dream. My linens are surrounded in ethereal white roses. No more ugly, dusty wooden slats. An old English vintage chenille bedspread – one that I can simply remove and wash when the dust collects – stands majestically as entrance to my little linen closet.
My dreamy, old-fashioned cottage chic wallpapered closet…
Yes, it’s my old-fashioned closet.
Tucked inside are more than just sheets and pillowcases, there’s an essence of my grandma. Her love, her gentleness, her kindness.
When I reach inside for fresh linens, I am reminded of her. And just as the thick vintage chenille bedspread hugs the front of the old closet, I’m reminded of the hugs my grandma always had for me.
And that’s the miracle of vintage items, whether it’s vintage chenille bedspreads or rugs, barkcloth curtains, vintage dresses, or a thousand other items from another era. They’re not just items – they are filled with the love we remember of them.
And in a world that is too much with us, that little bit of nostalgia is a soothing balm for our souls.