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Art Barn Quilt Update – MY GOODNESS I’M EXCITED

Do you remember when I was going to design this space for my kids to enjoy? LOL. Elliot did say at one point “Wait, why do we (as in four kids) have to hang out here in the small room this summer while you get the whole house? Why don’t we switch?”. I laughed it off, but it did make me think that should this maybe just be my summer and after-school office? I love working in the sunroom but I try to not take calls after 3 pm because the kids can be so disruptive. That’s all to say that the more I design this space the more I want it for myself which I think is a VERY good sign.

Three Months Ago…

A few months ago it looked like this – pretty rustic, cold, and dirty (with many spiders). We cleaned it out, cladded the walls in basic pine, and came up with a super fast, dirty, and relatively affordable plan to make it usable by summer.

We would have two pendants, some outlets and it already had one cadet heater. The only major framing change was reframing the window to make it bigger (and we bought a readymade vinyl window since you can’t see it from the house so it’s ok that it doesn’t match). I sourced the dining chairs, dining table, storage cart, and benches from AllModern, Wayfair, and Lumens (some pieces I bought, some were traded for PR). The dining chairs might be too tall and I didn’t end up ordering those lights, but it’s coming along and the more I design it the more I’m absolutely in love.

Ok so I ordered the benches before the paneling was up but I knew that it wasn’t going to be a perfect fit and that we’d have to troubleshoot the gap, but it’s pretty darn close. I bought two sets of benches in hopes that they would look built-in but cost way less (they were on sale when I bought them for $425 each which isn’t nothing, but it was fast and far more affordable than custom). I intentionally wanted them to be pine so that they “go away” visually because I knew that I had an idea for the cushions that would be the star. I love that they have storage (costumes, art supplies, and a sewing machine/supplies will go inside). But yes, we have to figure out how to make them look more perfectly built-in (it’s working!).

I also bought these two pendants off Amazon for $100 for both so we had light while I figured out exactly what I wanted, but then a week later I found two farmhouse white pendants from Aurora Mills that I think I might buy. I also might DIY some banged-up IKEA ones that were original in here (stripes? high gloss color?) so stay tuned on that. I like these Amazon ones, they just could be bigger and more interesting since this space can be a real creative studio.

Vintage Quilts FTW!!!

I’ve really stopped hoarding most things EXCEPT vintage fabrics, (boro, quilts, lace, tea towels, plaids, swiss dots, florals) and all good art (when you see a piece of art you love that you can afford YOU BUY IT). Those things make a space go from boring and basic to next level, without spending a ton. Were these quilts cheap? NOPE. But I love them so much and that kind of craftsmanship shouldn’t be cheap. I’ve been buying vintage quilts and quilt toppers for a couple of years now and it’s finally making sense why.

I reached out to Anne Williams of ADF upholstery who I commissioned my quilted mushroom stool from last year to see if she could bring her talents to this project (shout out to Annie from Shop Wilma who found me that awesome quilt). I specifically hired Anne because she has a real artful eye and could help me figure out which quilts go where to make them perfectly balanced and yet random. I wanted another creative’s eye (and taste) on this since I knew it would end up being quite the investment. And I don’t know who loves quilts more, me or her 🙂

Quilt Show-And-Tell… (Peak Quilt Nerd)

This is a real Ariel “look at this stuff isn’t it neat” moment, where I show you all my pretty things and you ooh and ahh and tell me what a good hoarder I am. I sourced these all over Portland (shout out to Aurora for the best quilts in town) and some were pricier ($200 for the red Irish chain) but some were really affordable ($20 for some of the quilt tops that weren’t made into quilts yet).

I love the balance of the more formal quilt like the Irish chain and the salvaged fabric of the postage stamp quilt. All have incredible energy, tell a story, and will breathe so much life into this room.

Fun fact, I grew up quilting for 4-H and still have mine from when I was 10 (…that I wish I loved more, but it was the 80s so let’s just say calico fabrics were very in). It’s not dissimilar to the one on the left, but I love those stripes and plaids so much more than what my 10-year-old taste chose (not quilt-shaming myself, just my current opinion).

I have a type, kinda. For this, I love mostly primary colors (i.e. nothing too muted) and they all needed to work in here as well as work with each other (but in a random way). This method of design can be hard and doesn’t always work – sometimes you have to sacrifice something that you love for something that “works better” but in here it’s meant to look super collected, and random, yet I want each one to make me smile. The only one that I purposefully bought that I might not have otherwise was the green star (from Etsy) and that’s because we are putting this green sectional in here and I wanted to make sure that some of the quilts had green in them. (I tried to find a vintage loveseat for months and have given up which I think is fine since the quilts are so vibrant and quirky).

I bought that flower petal one because I thought it would be cute to put on the top of the mushrooms but we actually have other ideas for it. And the one on the right is my least favorite (and was super cheap from a thrift store) but I liked how it worked with everything else.

If you are curious about what we are doing with the floor – I have an idea that I’m excited by, but I want to execute the quilts first as they are the star of the show. I’m DRIPPING with excitement for this space. I haven’t been this free and loose, creatively, in so long. I put so much pressure on myself to make everything perfectly timeless, functional, practical, etc. in our home, and at times it limits my off-the-cuff creativity for fear of expensive regrets or playing too hard into trends. Am I so glad that our house is extremely livable and works so well for our family? YES. I love it so much. Do I think I’m going to ever get sick of most hard design elements in our house? NO. I truly don’t. But designing a space that is less used and doesn’t need to work as hard for our everyday life, a space meant to be enjoyed just for creativity has been so fun and energizing. No deadlines. No product priorities to feature. Just a fun space for me to do some good old vintage sourcing and styling. Stay tuned…

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13 days ago

Oh man, my adrenaline shot up when I realised that you’re going to cut up those beautiful, beautiful quilts.
It’s your house and stuff, and I know it’s better for them to be used rather than sit in a trunk, but I want to leap through the screen and grab some of them!

I’m pleased that you’re feeling freer in your creativity though.

13 days ago
Reply to  Victoria

Me, too. And $200 for a hand-sewn, twin size quilt is not expensive when you think about the time of the creator and the time of the person who sourced it.

13 days ago

THOSE QUILTS!!! Oh this is a favorite post for sure 😍

13 days ago

The quilts are gorgeous. I wonder/worry about durability if you are using them for seating. Especially the older ones that may already be worn.

12 days ago
Reply to  Ali

Yes, sounds like the end product will be beautiful and I love the spirit of repurposing, but using for seating in an area intended for messy art projects is confusing to me. Also won’t the cubby lids be difficult to lift for storage with cushions on top? I’m eager to see how it all comes together.

13 days ago

I LOVE those quilts and am excited to see the final result of using them! And FYI, as a longtime quilter and collector of quilts, $200 for a vintage quilt is NOT a lot of money. That is a great price on a beautiful quilt.

Elizabeth Sims @calafiahomedesign
13 days ago

Emily, I can feel your unbridled excitement through the screen and I can’t wait to watch this space progress!

Lisa Smith
13 days ago

This is such a fun idea! Did you consider sourcing damaged quilts? It’s so sad to see 10 antique quilts cut up, plus I worry that fabric will not hold up well to kids and art in a barn!

12 days ago
Reply to  Lisa Smith

This is a great idea!

13 days ago

I love that there’s a little bit of Mormon somewhere in there still, Emily. I can so related. 😆 All those quilts are a little flashback to my childhood. I’m excited to see what you do with the space!

emily jane
12 days ago

Your excitement is tangible -and contagious : )
Also, I just pulled out of storage a quilt I bought over 30 years ago with my per diem (daily cash allowance -for food!) while on tour with North Carolina Dance Theatre in the Appalachian Mountains and casually draped it across my sofa -whereupon every existing actor in the room previously living on the edge of ‘seemingly disparate choices’ practically sang out in chorus “Yay! we are finally living our best life!” (thrillingly, it is in need of major repair which means I get to play with MY stash of vintage fabrics : ).

12 days ago

Echoing some of the other comments that durability would be my concern. Cutting up old quilts doesn’t bother me– it’s honestly appropriate to the history and tradition of quilting to repurpose old quilts. I probably wouldn’t choose an older quilt for this project just because I’d be worry about the seams wearing, but I wonder if that can be remedied with a sturdy backing? Would love to see if others have ideas about how to make this type or project more durable. This post has gotten the cogs turning in my head for some of my own personal quilt surplus. Excited to see how this project turns out.

12 days ago

Wow, love the excitement.
two other things-
i am way sensitive and think best in a ‘sensory deprivation zone.’ My own space and uninterrupted. I would want this..

second, this is going to be way less memorable for the kids and effective keeping them off devices. I have a 14 and 17 yo. It is so hard.

Ps opal app is awesome when they have phones..

12 days ago

NSFW quilt porn alert! I’m a quilter and have zero problem with you using vintage quilts in this manner. They’re getting love and appreciation with a new life. If they were so important to the OG quilter or their family, the quilts wouldn’t have ended up in a thrift store to begin with. Strict use as a blanket is not the only way to appreciate these works of art, and preservation sometimes needs to include creative reuse.
This space is going to be so fun and it’s awesome to see a creative, funky lil outpost of the main house.

Heather Amsden
12 days ago

My 4-H sewing project, which I got to choose myself, was a red velour sweatsuit. That’s right, I insisted my mother buy me yards of this fabric so I could sew myself this sweatsuit. Then I modeled it in the 4-H fashion show. So yeah, you’re not the only one with a 4-H project that doesn’t reflect our adult tastes. LOL

12 days ago

I know there are purists who wouldn’t want to see these cut up, but unused quilts are so sad to me. I love this idea and am really excited to see the finished product!

12 days ago


12 days ago

Love the quilts!
I have a wood paneled porch on my home. It’s very cozy but one thing I’ve noticed is that we need a lot more lamps than I originally thought. If feels like the wood absorbs the light in our space. Might be something to think about if you’re planning on using the space in the darker months.

9 days ago

Absolutely in love! Feel the magic of the space all the way through the internet! Deep cut … but I want to say that there was a time you talked about dying your 4H quilt—curious if you ever chose to!

8 days ago

Thinking you should clad the ready made benches in the same wood pine on the walls. That would look so sharp, plus you could mind that gap with the wood to make them look more custom.