Flea Market Christmas

Put your collectibles and flea market finds to work during the holidays with fresh ideas for creative "repurposing" of objects.


Decorating with vintage treasures and collectibles discovered at flea markets, antiques shops, and yard sales gives your home distinctive personal style year-round. During the holidays, highlight your favorite prizes by using them as focal points for holiday decorations. Using the ideas on these pages for inspiration, take a fresh look at your own collectibles and their possibilities for creative new uses.

Syrup-bucket Wall Vases

Painted Canadian maple syrup buckets have become so popular that manufacturers are producing new ones in a similar style. Whether you have rusted and worn vintage ones or newer reproductions, consider displaying them on the wall like three-dimensional art. If you want the bucket to hug the wall, simply slip the hole in the rim over a nail. To let the buckets hang forward slightly, thread picture-hanging wire through the hole and twist it into a loop, then hang the loop over a picture hanger. For a temporary display, simply fill the buckets with branches of greenery-- don't worry about water. To keep the greens fresh for several weeks, place the stems in a plastic container filled with water, and set the container in the bucket. Older buckets are likely to have rusted at the seams and may not be watertight.

Cast-iron Candleholders

These miniature cast-iron stars are actually new, treated to an acid bath to make them rust. They're tiny versions of the star-shaped bolts that were used to secure the ends of tie-rods in 19th-century buildings. Stack them and insert a small candle to decorate each place setting at your holiday table.

Organizer Tray

Thanks to the popularity of the rusted look, a rusty baking pan that might otherwise have found its way to a landfill now serves a new purpose as a letter tray, a toiletries organizer, or as a container for displaying special holiday ornaments. To enjoy the color and texture of the rusted look without the mess, brush loose rust and dirt off the piece with a stiff bristle brush. Using a soft, clean cotton cloth, apply a coat of boiled linseed oil (from a hardware store) to the entire surface of the piece, rubbing in the oil well. Let the piece sit for 24 hours, then wipe off any excess oil with a clean, lint-free cloth. This treatment enriches the color of the surface and slows the rusting process so you can handle the pan without getting rust on your hands or clothing.

Candle Pedestal

An old kitchen grater with curved ends (reminiscent of a sled runner) makes an unusual stand for a pillar candle or a potted poinsettia. If the grater is rusty and you prefer a clean metal look, restore the metal by applying a commercial rust remover, available at a hardware store. Follow the manufacturer¿s instructions to brush on a coat of the liquid rust remover; let it sit (depending on the brand, about 10 minutes), then wash off the chemical. Dry the grater well and apply a coat of paste wax to retard new rust. If using the grater as a candlestand, choose a fat pillar that burns only in the center to avoid problems with dripping wax.

Card Display

An old garden gate serves as an inventive bulletin board for displaying Christmas cards and photos. Simply tuck the cards among the wires in the gate.

Dresser-scarf Place Mats

Vintage dresser scarves from the 1930s and 1940s easily adapt to tabletop use as place mats or table runners. You can find scarves trimmed with crochet or decorated with embroidery at antiques shops, or keep an eye out for them at estate sales. Set the table with clear glass or plain white dinnerware to focus attention on the linens, or select dresser scarves whose colors coordinate with your china.

Wreath Frames

Show off your collectible plates by framing them with fresh wreaths to hang indoors. Secure each plate snugly in a plate hanger (available at variety stores, hardware stores, and large discount stores). Then wire the wreath to the hanger at the top and bottom. Wrap grosgrain ribbon around the top of the wreath and knot the ribbon at the desired height to hang over a window or door. To decorate the wreaths, pick up a color from the plates. On the wreaths shown, pepperberries accent the red in the Royal Doulton china. Brown transferware plates would be pretty embellished with both natural and gold-sprayed pinecones and gilded leaves. Blue-and-white plates could be accented with red holly berries, white tallow-tree berries, or orange kumquats.

Tartlet-tin Twinkle Lights

Old tartlet tins, often still found packaged by the dozen, are perfect as twinkle-light reflectors. Use a 3/8-inch cold chisel and hammer to punch an X through the center of each tin (rest the tin on a block of wood). Working from the back of the tin, push up the sections to make a hole to fit over the miniature bulb.


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