A Way With Windows: How to turn old windows into mirrors, chalkboards, and frames

For Susan's at Between Naps on the Porch Monday Metamorphosis, I have 4 ways to make over old windows.
Our old windows....a stack of possibilities.  And yes, that is a giant pink flamingo you see reflected in the glass.

I'm a scavenger.   Always have been.  Maybe it's because I grew up on a farm in the middle of nowhere, which means you had to learn to make do, adapt, and figure out ways to substitute and reuse.  This is crucial because if it was  a Sat. night after 8:00, there was no nearby store open to make a quick run to for whatever supply you ran out of it.  You learn to adjust:  need more lining for the curtains you're making...use that old sheet with the worn spot in the middle.  Forgot to buy the can of cream of mushroom soup you needed for your casserole (I swear to God, if you stacked all the cans of Campbell's condensed cream of mushroom soup that my mother used, it would reach to the moon and back)...make a white sauce with the milk, butter, and flour that you do have.  Not to mention that there is also the fact that raising a family on the combined salary of a country school teacher and a small acreage farmer meant that there were two places to put every dollar.  In any case, this early experience honed my ability to spot the potential in almost anything.
Is it wrong to love chipped and peeling paint so much?

Case in point:  When we renovated the house, Thomas felt strongly about trying to make the 1930's structure more energy efficient, including adding blown insulation to the attic and replacing the windows.  We tried to donate them to a local architectural salvage yard, but at that time, with the amount of rebuilding following Katrina, they were a glut on the market.  We did give some to friends, and I used some in a staging job, but we were left with a stack of them.  And I let my imagination run wild.

As Wall Art

Here, I used an unaltered window to feel the space behind a large lamp.  I needed the white of the frame plus the sparkle of the glass to balance art on the other side of the sofa.  (of course, by now both window and other art has been shifted.)
You can actually used the windows as is (with a good cleaning of course) to add interest and dimension to the wall.  There are great behind lamps or other accessories where you may need a little something, but don't want to block a piece a mirror, or don't want the visual clutter of a piece of art.
Is there anything better than chippy wood and antique mirror.  Maybe, but that combo is pretty sweet.  I took two of the windows, cleaned them well to remove the loosest paint (note:  be aware when doing this with old windows that they might contain lead paint.  Take the necessary precautions for safety), and sprayed the back with Krylon's looking glass paint  (Here.  I bought mine at Michael's, but it's available on line)  Now I have to be honest and tell  you that I've only used this to mimic antique mirror---i.e. cloudy, dull, with an abscured reflection---I don't know that if you use enough of the spray if it can turn glass into a true mirror.  Use thin layers, but honestly, the thing about an application like this is that imperfections (drips, heavy areas, etc.) actually add to the look.

I love the look of unframed canvas art, but sometimes it needs a frame...either for more presence, a more finished look or because you have an unstretched piece of art.  In any case, I had one window that had had the glass broken.  I also had a piece of artwork on burlap that needed a frame.  I cleaned the frame and polyureathaned it to stabilize the chipping (if you want to do this, but don't want the telltale shine of poly, be aware that it comes in matte and satin finishes, and that polyacrilyc which is waterbased won't tint the piece slightly yellow as oil based poly will).  I then simply stapled the art to the back of the frame and screwed in d-ring hangers (available at Home Depot.)  It would be a quick, simple way to add character to a mass produced giclee or art work printed on canvas.  If the giclee is stretched, just remove the staples or use a razor blade to cut free.
An old window frame, including hardware, perfectly suits one of my own paintings.

Let me start off by saying that this is probably not a project that you want for a house where small children, teens, or careless adults will be using the chalkboard.  Carelessness + glass = emergency room visit.  However, in my case,  I live in an adult household (we may not be fully mature, but we are fully grown), and I don't plan to use the chalkboard very often...In fact, I really plan to only use it for party and holiday messages.  Even though I don't plan to use it that often, I still wanted one...I guess Pottery Barn's marketing team can chalk up another victory for making all of America yearn for their own chalkboard.
I left on the sash strings for interest, making it look like it is hung by the top string.  I used part of the window latch as a decorative hook.  However, the window is actually mounted on the wall....the sting loop is just for show.  And in case you're wondering, "What the hell the message means...It's french for "long live Villa Vortex."  I thought our house should have a name, and Thomas suggested Vortex because so many funny things (both the "ha ha" and weird variety occur at house place) and I added the Villa for maximum pretentiousness.  We even have customized cocktail napkins and matchbooks printed with our house name on them.

If you look close, you can see the crackle finish on the chalkboard.

I found a window with one large pane, making sure the glass was well caulked and sturdily in place.  I coated the glass with a layer of an adhesive primer (x-i-m) tinted dark gray.  Now this is a case where serendipity occurred.  I was so anxious to have my chalkboard that I applied the chalkboard paint before the primer was fully dry...it shrank, giving the chalkboard a crackled effect that matched the chippy frame.  Once I determined that I could still right on the chalkboard, I was thrilled.  My impatience usually does not bring positive results.

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Marlo said...

You are so creative and inspiring!

You gave me an idea for my family room reno. I recently installed a cast stone fireplace and have been thinking about flanking it with mirrors but haven't found anything I like that suits the cast stone. All the mirrors look too new or have heavy looking frames and just feel wrong for the space. I think old windows with glass paint might just work out perfectly. :)

beki said...

I love old windows. Years ago when I was in college I used to buy them cheap from a local building supply store to use on my less than shoestring decorating budget. I still have a few lying around that need a little tlc. I think one might be the perfect addition to my 'nursery corner'.