interior designInteriorssneak peeks

sneak peek: shona cowart of LALA dex press

by anne

shona cowart fell into letterpress and book arts by chance while studying art education in college, and upon graduating started LALA dex press. lucky for her, her husband tom (the patient one) found most of her equipment to open her own studio and a good deal of the furniture for their 1,190 sf cottage outside of nashville, tennessee. ebay, craigslist, back roads flea markets, neighborhood yard sales, curbs and the tennessee leg of the annual the world’s longest yard sale have all been part of the adventure, as well as an exercise in thriftiness and bargain hunting to furnish their wonderful home. click here for the rest of the post as well as additional images. thanks so much, shona! p.s. i’m totally loving her gnome print. –anne

[above: I stripped and refinished this child’s chest of drawers, found at a thrift shop in Ventura, CA. Tom found the Eames Wire Chair at a yard sale, paid less than the price of a latte for it, and the woman felt the need to convince him it was comfortable. The Alto children’s chair was found at a shop in Nashville, marked down because they were no longer carrying that model. The lamp was one of my favorite finds from the Nashville Flea Market. The jewelry is a collection of vintage pieces, mostly belonging to Tom’s grandmother, and pieces by crafts show friends Brianna Rockstaad-Kincaid and Asia Mathis.]

The vintage Linoleum table is Nashville Flea Market find and the chairs came from a restaurant supply salvage company in Nashville. I had looked at them for years in catalogs and on websites, but could not afford them. All four chairs ended up costing less than the price of one from a catalog. The rocket ship lamp is by the late Daniel Sadler, a gift from Tom, bought at a gallery in Redondo Beach, CA. We love Peter Sellers and to be honest, I don’t remember where we got this movie poster, but it always makes me laugh.

Tom found the sofa on eBay (also on out reupholster list), which we picked up in St. Louis after attending a family wedding. It took me about a month to talk a co-worker into giving me the lamp. It needed to be re-wired and he hated it, but was reluctant to give it to me because he did not think I was serious (I will definitely send him a link to this post). The woodblock print is from a  show at LACMA, which has been in storage for about 25 years. It’s been fun looking at the posters we have had in storage.

The LALA dex press studio was formerly the second bedroom in the house. We ripped out the carpet and replaced it with plywood squares because studio space and carpet do not mix well. The chalk deer head is another Nashville flea market find and the letterpress calendar was a gift from my good friend and fellow printer Beth Howard-Snyder. All the string and the letterpress furniture are things I need to have at my fingertips when I work.

CLICK HERE for the rest of Shona’s peek (and additional, full-sized images) after the jump!


This is my favorite view in our house. Tom found the display cabinet on eBay and gave it to me for my birthday. The chair was a curb-side find from the neighborhood which will be reupholstered (it’s on our list of things to do). One thing that has been very important to is is collecting artwork from friends and people we meet at crafts shows. We hope to one day have a house filled with pieces collected from the crafts shows and studio tours I do throughout the years. On the mantel are a few pieces by Claudia Lee, Holden McCurry, and Howard Finster. Painting is by me.


This desk is Tom’s pride and joy and his work space. It is actually an examining table found in a scrap heap when the county was gutting the old health department building. It was a rusty mess which he had powder coated. The chairs were found at The Goodwill Outlet in downtown Nashville. I had a problem with buying chairs and was given strict orders not to bring any more into the house, but I absolutely could not pass up these two chairs for $3.00 apiece. At that point we really had to look at our collection and kept only the chairs we really loved. One of our favorite bands is Big Star, Tom bought this lithograph years ago and as a birthday gift I decided to take it out of storage and frame it.


Above: I generally scare people with stories of how we acquired pieces for the studio, but Tom found my 1890 6 X 10 Platen press on eBay, which required a pick-up in Baltimore. I always say that the moon and the stars aligned and somehow I won the bid for under $100.00. We also turned this pick-up into a camping trip, this time in Shenandoah National Park, a quick drive through D.C. and after we picked up the press, dinner in the Italian district in Baltimore, and back to the camp ground. In the background are two cabinets of type.
Below: My 10-drawer wooden flat file cabinet. Tom’s dad found a room full of these at the corporate office of his work, they were all empty. He bough several of them, rented a trailer and hauled them from Houston to Memphis and gave me two on the condition that I pick them up in Memphis. Not a bad deal.


On the other side of the living room fireplace is this one (both are non-working). More of my collection of pieces by friends, etsy purchases, and blog swaps. The framed print is by Camilla Engman. In front of the fire place is a small proof press, which required a pick-up in Indiana we turned into a camping trip.

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  • Blimey, what a wonderful house, and I love all the stories behind their furniture and finds. How I wish we had craigslist and goodwill and yard sales here in England. And not for the first time…

  • When I saw the rocket ship lamp, I swooned! When I read that Danny Sadler made it, I got chills. I had the pleasure of working with Danny many years ago. He was a very sweet guy and amazingly talented.

  • whoa…..time warp. I actually HAD the lamp from the first picture in our first apartment, and the cart in the second picture looks like a display of my wedding presents (1975) right down to the hot air popper, and pyrex mixing bowls. In all honesty I dont miss these things AT ALL. Once was enough!…I must confess though, I love my moms (now mine) set of primary color pyrex mixing bowls that SHE got as a wedding present.

  • OOOoops correction: I had the silver floor lamp from the the third picture, and the stuff on the cart from the fourth picture. dont know how I missed the first two.

  • I love the blue of the dresser and the knobs that you chose to go with it. It’s perfect! Also, I really like your fireplace and how you styled the mantle.

  • Even though people know about eBay and Craigslist I feel like they are my secret shopping spots. There’s so much out there for finding. Great collection of goodies!

  • Where did you find the green cross messenger bag in the first picture? I adore your whole house, and that letterpress was a STEAL!

  • Ha ha ha! I’m laughing at how you turn every equipment pickup into a trip. I’m opening a small restaurant, and as I travel the country picking up Ebay and Craigslist finds (that I can afford), I do exactly the same thing! Glad to know I’m not insane.

  • Fabulous interior! I was amazed to see the exact same vintage stool/table in the third picture, as I got from an old people’s home in Scotland via the Freecycle network. What a coincidence…would love to hear where they found it…!

  • I’ve been around for a while now but I have to say something about this place, I love it!!! I’m amazed at your good luck finding stuff on craigslist/ebay/thrift stores, maybe I don’t spend enough time there… Your husbands desk is my favorite, I want it!! :-)

  • I can’t believe how happy it made me to read this — I’ve been going back to it again and again all day. Your life and home seem amazing and that Big Star poster is the bomb. Thank you so much for sharing!!

  • Thank you all!
    Alex: the silver lamp was given to me by a co-worker (after much convincing)
    Enhabiten: so do I [love Sneak Peeks more than chocolate!]
    Tina: thank you, we loved his work so much and it was really hard to decide on just one lamp.
    Jen: “A Lovely Little House” is the only painting I did not destroy from college painting classes.
    Bernie: i’m revisiting my childhood + feel as you do, about the 80’s.
    Beth: come back to tn. + visit!
    Tommy: no, you are insane, as are we. all our crazy pick-up stories would make this post too long.
    Lottie: we keep collecting more + more furniture that needs to be reupholstered.

  • The Eames chair story is amazing! i wish i was going to this type of yardsales! Here in NYC everything is too “well-known” to even consider a bargain on such pieces. Good for you! Your Home feels “happy”.

  • love it, love how it seems we all have a story to go along with the objects that make our house a home…I would also like to know the colour of paint you used on the wall behind your fab Pyrex collection – thanx

  • Shona, any chance I can get the name of that restaurant supply salvage company you mentioned? I’ve always loved those chairs, too!! I am from Nashville, and I’m headed there in a few weeks. I’d love to check out the salvage place. Thank you!

  • Shona! I’m so glad to see all these photos of your lovely place and your amazing finds all in one spot. Your home (your first home!) looks wonderful and is so very you. Just perfect.

  • I love the “lovely little house” too! Because I definitely live in a lovely little house on a block of mcmansions! Love your home-sweet stuff! THANKS!

  • Again, thank you all so very much! Tom + I have enjoyed reading your comments
    Susan Gish Taylor: the messenger bag is by Freeset.
    Jennifer: Tom was so jazzed that someone commented about the Big Star poster. we really love them!
    Anne-Claire: we have a very “happy” home, thank you for your comment!
    Graham: don’t remember the name, but it’s on Charlotte Ave near Sylvan Park, the BIG brick warehouse looking building.
    Jamie, Susan, Carolyn, KAT + Mariss: thank you for everything, I truly appreciate you guys!
    And as for the paint: the blue is Great Blue Heron by: Duron + the living room is a sage green called Martinique Dawn by: Valspar. The chest of drawers in the first photo is Lambs Ears by: Martha Stewart.

  • Looks great, love all the individual objects. I used to live in Nashvegas and found sooooo many great things at the flea market there. I miss that flea a lot!

  • I had the pleasure of meeting Shona about a year and a half ago- she’s such a sweetheart! I wish I could have stayed longer.

    Shona- your house looks FABULOUS! So many great finds! You always make me want to go thrifting. Maybe I will do that today!

  • Miss Shona, your place looks lovely.
    I love how all of your found and carefully planned items are an eclectic family, happily co-existing. Plus I just love you and your home is a beautiful reflection of who you are.

  • Wow. All that here in Nashville. I occasionally find you through Beth Howard’s blog, but didn’t know you’d made it to design*sponge. Now you are my hero! :)

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