Leather, Velvet, and Fur, Oh My!

We are gearing up for our busy fall season of pop up shops, and are bringing a special event to downtown Leesburg, VA! We have teamed up with a friend who lives in a wonderful historic home downtown in the commercial district to co-host a pop up shop on October 6th featuring amazing vintage and handmade finds. Our cute little town has been bustling lately with many new restaurants, breweries, and shops, especially during the monthly First Friday events. Our goal is to create a theme of warmth as we move into fall, and to design cozy spaces that you would want to hang out in. So if you’re out and about checking out the new eateries, come by and see us.

I’ll be adding more pics closer to the event, but here’s a little sneak peak.

Vintage leather tufted sofa
Fabulous green mohair sofa

Collect-orate, or something like that.

Like most people, our style has evolved over the years. What was once filled with furniture and decor from large chain furniture stores, is now a home mostly made up of pieces that we have found or made. I know it sounds corny, but the term I may have just coined, “collectorate”, is a great way to describe decorating with items that you collect. The term curate is a little overused these days, but still useful in characterizing the process of selecting special pieces for your home that create interest, tell a story, or have a special meaning.

Vintage Pipe Collection

I am always fascinated by what people collect. At a recent auction I came across this awesome pipe collection. The box I came away with was only about a quarter of the whole collection. Ben could not believe I did not grab them all. Along with pipes, the owner of the estate had also collected miniature Liberty Bells and decades worth of Pez dispensers. Random, I know. But it struck me that anything of similarity that can be displayed in groups or large quantities can be kind of cool. And then it struck me that we already do this in many of our rooms.

18 vintage German aluminum keys

When Ben built picture frame moldings for our master bedroom, we had a narrow space between 2 windows. He decided that instead of trying to find one picture or object of the right size to fill the space, we could make a display of these 1940’s keys we found at The Old Lucketts Store. The keys are made of lightweight aluminum during this era because Germany reserved the heavier metals for the war effort.


Another one of our favorite collections is of old panoramic military photos. This is just one wall representing some of our collection, including photos from various eras – and even a non-military one from the Texas A & M Firefighter school graduation.

Militaria wall

I love these colorful vintage Boy Scout arrows below that we currently have in our shop at Sweet Clover Barn. They would be awesome displayed on a wall or in a large vase.

Vintage Boy Scout Arrows

Other collections prominently featured in our home include skulls, bugs & butterflies, vintage sports photos, globes and maps, old books, rocks & fossils, and other nature “artifacts” gathered by our kids. Designing with these collected items have the side effect of teaching our kids to be curious about the world around them and respectful of history.


As you can see, collections do not have to be limited to fine china or milk glass (although those are great!), but can reflect anything that you find interesting, fun, or beautiful in their own way.

If only I could find a way to decorate with piles of laundry or dirty dishes — the most commonly found items of similarity around our house!

Hibernation Ends!


We have been woefully lax on our blog updates this winter, but I assure you that we have been very busy making, collecting, and selling! In December we started opening up our shop one weekend/month at Sweet Clover Barn in Frederick, MD, and each month since our crowds have been bigger and better! It has been great to get to know the other shop owners and to be part of a team effort pulling off a barn sale. In March we had the chance to stage the Cottage, a cool space behind the main barn building that was probably once a guest house for the working farm where Sweet Clover is located. It is wonderful to see families roaming the grounds to say hello to the ducks, horses, donkeys, chickens, and dogs while visiting us to find unique treasures. IMG_3838

Our friend the kudu made an appearance at our March sale in the Cottage, gracing the room with his presence, but not available for purchase at this event. Our goal was to create a vintage library vibe, featuring velvet sofas, biology and patent prints, barrister cabinets, vintage books, framed butterflies, and other cool items that you might find in such a space many years ago.


In addition to our monthly sales at Sweet Clover, we have been very busy filling customs orders for lamps, butterflies, arrows, and other handmade items with a story.


We filled many orders for Christmas and Valentines gifts for families looking for a special gifts. Above is a custom order for a family with four children, with each butterfly representing the personality of a different child. Most of our custom butterflies are large and exotic butterflies from around the world, but a customer asked us to create a framed Monarch because it was special to his wife. We happened to have another butterfly in the same genus in stock and added it to the frame because they looked so beautiful together.

When we began this journey and decided to offer framed butterflies for sale, we loved that we could combine nature and our passion for handcrafted items, and we think they add a cool edge to a room. However, we underestimated the special place that butterflies hold in the hearts of so many — holding significance as a symbol of love, beauty, freedom, and adaptability to change.


So, you see, although we may have been hibernating from the cold and MIA from the blog, we have not been sleeping. More to come soon on exciting developments!

Fall Colors & Lights

Rice paper butterfly in handmade walnut frame.
Rice paper butterfly in handmade walnut frame.

When my brother was in town last week, he could hardly believe the incredible colors of Fall in Virginia. Of course, it was not all sight seeing and leisure – we had to put him to work. Here he is modeling this gorgeous rice paper butterfly. This beauty was one of the first to sell at our market last weekend, so his hard work paid off.

Watching paint dry.

We have also been hard at work this fall designing new lighting, including this hourglass-inspired number. I got to get in on the modeling action this time, prompting Ben to say and then retract, something like, “Dang, it must be strong”.

IMG_3246 IMG_3238

Collect it. Make it. Love it. Sell it.

Our pop-up shop at Lucketts Holiday Market, November 2015

It’s a fairly simple concept. When we started our little company earlier this year, we did not want to pigeon-hole our aesthetic (or products) into one defining category – antiques, handmade, reclaimed, industrial, decor, furniture, lighting, etc. Although we have made or sold pieces that fit into at least one of those groups, we instead wanted to focus on curating or creating items that we love and would want in our own house. We like things with a story behind them, either because they have a history, or because of the care and quality with which they were made.

Our garage workshop is busting at the seams, so we end up storing many of our finished products in our house, which creates quite a dilemma because I usually want to keep them! This past weekend we had the pleasure of setting up our pop-up shop at Lucketts Holiday Market, where our goal was to make our small space feel like a cozy living room filled with cool things. Ben finished up another awesome cart table in time for the market, and we filled the space with drafting tables & stools, a cute little red velvet vintage sofa, a sweet antique bench, cool old pulleys & other primitive pieces, and, of course, our handmade butterflies and lamps. We started off the weekend wondering how we would fit all of our treasures into such a limited space, and by Sunday, we were challenged with keeping our space from looking empty!

Training them up early to appreciate vintage treasures.
Training them up early to appreciate vintage treasures.

I always want my house to have candles and fresh flowers – so, since we wanted our shop to reflect things we would want to feel like home, we searched for a while for a candle maker whose aesthetic was a fit with ours. Brian at Hawk & Hatchet hand pours delicious flavors like Campfire (really smells like a campfire!), Uncle Lloyd’s Pipe, Christmas Eve, and Vanilla & Oak, just to name a few. Check out his etsy site to order direct and check out other scents, or catch us at our next pop up! As for the flower requirement, we did not have a florist on call, so some holly branches from my backyard had to do.


Vintage Market Success!


We had a great time at the Chartreuse Barn Spring Market Days last weekend. The beautiful weather brought out a ton of buyers and treasure hunters. We were so busy with our own shop that I did not get much of a chance to explore everything on the grounds — but from what I saw, those looking for treasures were surely not disappointed. Chartreuse features 6 historic barns/buildings filled to the brim with unique and vintage goods, and last weekend the grounds were full of even more goodies than usual (like ours!). It was a great experience for our first foray into staging and designing our space for retail, and we had a blast talking with customers about our process, our projects, and custom order requests. Here are some pics from our shop and a few from around the barns and grounds. You can check out more about Chartreuse at http://www.chartreuseandco.com.

Close up of our awesome white metal cabinet stocked with butterflies. Take a look at the before and after - can you believe how far this cabinet has come?
Close up of our awesome white metal cabinet stocked with butterflies. Take a look at the before and after pic below – can you believe how far this cabinet has come?


We love vintage Americana — basically anything with a flag or an eagle is pretty rad.
The beautiful main barn, stuffed with vintage shops
This giant barn is full of furniture -- many of which is unfinished or needs fixin' up -- awesome!
This giant barn is overflowing with vintage furniture — many of which is unfinished or needs fixin’ up — awesome!
This old cottage has been converted to a shop featuring mid-century modern finds.
photo(20) Barns, barns, and more barns
One of the best things about the market was getting our kids involved in building the tent and setting up the shop! Great practice for when we have our own place one day…

Wood. Metal. Glass. Yep.

We have many furniture projects in the works for an upcoming market in May, but I thought I would highlight a couple. Our gallery includes this photo of an old industrial cart that Ben revived with metal and glass — and a little sweat.

Another shot of the cart table. This thing is a beast.
Another shot of the cart table. This thing is a beast.

Well, we were able to get two more very similar wooden cards with giant steel wheels. We think these are all from the same early 20th century paint factory due to the very thick blue and yellow paint on all of them. Unfortunately, they have been sitting outside in the rain and snow for over a year, so the wood on top could not be “reclaimed”.

Got our hands on two more giant industrial carts -- the demo begins.
Got our hands on two more giant industrial carts — the demo begins.

Luckily the wood frame and axle assembly are in great shape. This one is a little different than our previous project because it has this cool hand-hewn cross bar in the middle. A glass top will dress the table up a little and also showcase that feature.

Cart after rotted wood was removed, frame shortened, power-washed and sanded. I love the hand-hewn cross beam in the middle.
Cart after rotted wood was removed, frame shortened, power-washed and sanded. I love the hand-hewn cross beam in the middle.

We also came across a set of 3 metal barrister cabinets this week that we are fired up about.

We picked up these beauties this week - 3 sets of metal barrister cabinets. Can't wait to see what Ben comes up with to do with them...
We picked up these beauties this week – 3 sets of metal barrister cabinets. Can’t wait to see what Ben comes up with to do with them…

Ben has created some cool pieces out of these types of military and medical cabinets before, sanding the heavy gray-green paint to reveal a shiny silver surface, or sometimes even painting them.


Stay tuned for pics of the finished products and more pieces in progress.

Nature is cool.

The kids call it our “museum”, and they love to show and tell all about its inhabitants when their friends come over. For years Ben has been collecting exotic bugs on his travels. A few framed butterflies has grown into a rather large collection — butterflies, large moths, a bird-eating spider, scorpion, stick bug, and multiple giant and colorful beetles. We also have our own “private collection” of flying and crawling things that we have found around our home and community — you might be surprised how large and beautiful some of those are! We believe that teaching our kids about nature is a hands-on endeavor, so it’s not uncommon to hear someone opening up the cabinet where we keep some of the bugs to add a found specimen to the collection.

Besides being educational, these creations can add unique interest and color to a space. Although not everyone wants a tarantula or Goliath beetle staring out at them, most people would agree that there are few things prettier than a Blue Morpho butterfly or more amazing than a giant Atlas moth. We found a great source for these and other cool species and have begun making our own wood and glass picture-box frames for them. We plan to offer a couple of sizes and a variety of colors and stains in our shop. Stay tuned for pics of the latest additions to the collection.

Goliath beetle, native to Africa. In captivity they are actually fed commercial cat and dog food!
Goliath beetle, native to Africa. In captivity they are actually fed commercial cat and dog food!
The butterfly drying and spreading process
And the result...a beautifully preserved Birdwing butterfly on one of our handmade floating glass frames.
And the result…a beautifully preserved Birdwing butterfly on one of our handmade floating glass frames.

By the way, we also collect skulls…but no plans to offer those for sale – at least for now:).

This guy is always staring at me while I am at my desk
This guy is always staring at me while I am at my desk


I am excited to write about a project that I have been working on in my mind for many years. While my husband Ben and I work on creating some pieces and building inventory, I thought I would start sharing some of the ideas and inspiration behind Story Design House. As long as I can remember I have loved to learn about the story behind things – songs, photographs, old houses, furniture. I hunt for unique items and Ben uses his creative skills to build and/or repurpose the cool stuff I find. Fun right?
A couple of years ago we relocated our family of six from our home state of Texas to Northern Virginia. We are situated between the bustle of the DC scene and the gateway to the Blue Ridge Mountains and Virginia Wine Country – and in the middle of the backdrop for much of our nation’s early history. We love the notion that things were made to last and created with quality craftsmanship and we hope to honor that tradition. Even though I grew up around antique collecting and selling, and making things has always been a part of my life, the cultural and natural beauty of our new home prompted me to merge my passions and share some of our finds and creations with you. Our aesthetic is eclectic, but leans toward industrial-classic-rustic. We like old wood, metal, typography, symbolism, and nature. If you’re interested, stay tuned for posts about my conquests of local barn sales, estate sales, and flea markets, and pics of some of the pieces in progress. We will also feature other independent makers and sellers whose stuff we think is cool – because there is just too much talent out there not to. Thanks for checking us out and following our Story.