dear d*sweddings

dear d*s: wedding to home decor + chrome restoration

by Grace Bonney


question: dear design*sponge, i’m currently planning a budget wedding, so my fiance and i don’t currently have much (ok, any) extra cash with which to feather our nest. i’m wondering if you have any ideas for wedding decor that could transition into adornment for our sparse apartment once our country chic-themed fall 2010 wedding is over? there’s so much that I love about this concept- decorating our home with fond memories, being green and frugal- but I have to admit that i’m design-challenged. help! -sarah

answer: thanks for your question sarah! for your answer i went straight to one of my favorite wedding sources- abby larson of stylemepretty. her expert wedding advice is spot on. so i’ll let her take it from here…

This is a great question. One that every bride should ask themselves! Making your dollars really count when planning your wedding is much easier to digest when you know that the materials you buy will go to good use in making your home a more beautiful place. Here are some creative ways to stretch your dollar…

1. Your Linens. Collecting vintage, elegantly mismatched linens is such a great way to add a bit of depth to your wedding decor. Plus, you’ll always have them as a keepsake to enjoy when entertaining guests. Or you can go one step further and sew them into a gorgeous quilt that you can use when you snuggle up with your new hubby. [image above by sedona bride]

2. Your Dessert Plates. For my own wedding, we scoured ebay for pale pink cut glass dessert plates. We ended up with around 200, so I packaged them up in groups of 6-8 and gave them as housewarming gifts for the first year we were married. I kept quite a few, as well, which have been perfect for cocktail parties as well as pretty little dessert plates. They would also look pretty stunning arranged creatively on an accent wall.

3. Your Guestbook. Use a vintage postcards rather than a traditional guest book to have your friends and family write well wishes. After the wedding, tuck them in and around a vintage mirror or make an amazing collage for your walls that is as whimsical as it is meaningful. Great impromptu art. [image above by sedona bride]

4. Your Centerpieces. Whoever said centerpieces HAD to be fresh flowers was flat out wrong. Bowls or vintage trays filled with peaches, cherries or mandarin oranges would be gorgeous. Potted herbs, small topiaries or vintage lanterns would also be stunning and perfect for recycling into home decor.

5. Your Decor. Handmade throw pillows are a gorgeous accent to any seating area, particularly with weddings. They bring a sense of intimacy and warmth to any space. A collection of framed photographs, a chalkboard with your menu handwritten on it, beat-up wooden signage…all would make for pretty incredible wall decor in your home.

We have some really great budget-happy, DIY inspired weddings on SMP that you will definitely love…our real weddings are filled to the brim with gorgeous ideas and practical, swoon-worthy inspirations. -Abby

[have a design question you’d like answered? just shoot us an email right here with the title “dear d*s”. if you’re asking a specific interior design question please include a picture of the space in question and your budget for any new projects.]

CLICK HERE for the second question about restoring a vintage chrome oven hood after the jump!

question: i have a question for the DIY crew out there. i purchased a 1953 ranch house with a killer NuTone exhaust fan in the kitchen. the issues are (1) the previous owner painted over the original interior chrome with a thick white paint and (2) the exterior has a fantastic little door you prop open to allow the exhaust outside and it is rusting. i’d like to remove the inside paint as much as possible and restore the original metal/chrome and also restore the rusting door. advice? -kristin

answer: first off, congrats on the vintage nutone score- those exhaust fans are seriously adorable. when it comes to removing paint and restoring chrome- it’s going to get a little smelly, but it’s possible. i’ve been asking around and searching for details advice and found this fantastic set of paint removal steps at e-how. i would start with these for removing the paint, since you’re dealing with the same sort of chrome underneath as a bike or car. the instructions involve wrapping things in a bag so if you can’t remove your oven hood my handyman suggested using a plastic tarp that you can tape around your hood. obviously, you won’t be cooking or lighting any flames anywhere near this- you don’t want to mess with the chemical process happening inside. so perhaps this is a great excuse to eat out for a night or two ;)

for restoring chrome, the jury seems to be divided on a few different methods. so i’m going to lay them all out here so you can try each one to see which works best for you:

  • vinegar method: just dip a clean cloth in undiluted vinegar and wipe over chrome to clean
  • soapy water, silver polish + toothbrush: this less abrasive method was favored by a number of the designers and reno-experts i polled. most of them were against the idea of using anything like aluminum foil (which i heard a lot about) to remove stains. they suggested starting with soapy water and a tooth brush to move grease, oil and stains. if that doesn’t work they suggested silver polish to follow up on tough spots.
  • baby oil: baby oil was commonly mentioned by designers to use on tough spots. apply a thin coat, let it sit for an hour, then go back in with a cloth or soft toothbrush to remove tough stains
  • mother’s chrome polish: a decorator favorite for getting tough stains off chrome and restoring shine

for the rust, everyone suggested using a crumpled piece of aluminum foil to get tough rust spots off- but to be careful not to scratch the newly cleaned chrome. a few designers suggested dipping the foil in coca-cola first. i’ve never tried that but 3 of them swear but it, so i’d give it a try. best of luck with your restoration!

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  • To follow up on the chrome question. How do you protect the Chrome from further rust after you clean it off? I have found that in time, the rust comes back.
    Thanks for the great tips!

  • Fantastic ideas! Gifting your plates after the event is really a fantastic idea. It keeps the memories alive and you get to save a lot of $ on presents.

    We have reused our hurricane lanterns from our event for several dinner parties. It adds a heightened touch of glam on a regular Saturday night.

  • WOW! Thanks so much! The fan is actually in the wall next to the back door, so I won’t have to worry about the oven/stove issue. A great project for a chilly weekend–thanks so much. This was worth the wait for sure and I am so glad it seems like an inexpensive project.

  • I love the idea of collecting items to be used, then giving them as housewarming gifts. On a similar note – you could consider making your napkins (look for fabrics that compliment each other on sale or available in bulk) or have a crafty friend make them (simple sewing but it would take awhile) and then after the wedding save some for yourselves, and use others to make quilts or wrap baked goods for future presents. I’m sure there would be many other uses as well!

  • These are fab ideas from Abby. Vintage always transitions well from wedding to home. I also like the idea of choosing a ring bearer pillow to match your bedroom decor then snipping the ribbons afterward and using as a throw pillow. I am using a 1920s feather fan instead of a bouquet and plan to hang it in a shadow box afterward. Work backwards: instead of the wedding, start with your home: What would I like to see here, and then, how can I incorporate that into my wedding (instead of starting with the wedding and working toward the home). Weddings are wonderful, but your home decor will be around much longer than one day.

  • Last winter, I used peel-away 7 to remove a horrible paint job from some vintage metal Simmons furniture with lots of rust and concealed chrome detailing. At first I was afraid I might damage the chrome, but my fears were baseless — the chrome turned out better than anything else. It was so easy and non-toxic compared to other paint strippers. I didn’t even bother using the paper, as the paint started bubbling off within minutes: I pulled the messy goop off with a PLASTIC putty knife and did a few rounds of cleanup by wiping off any residue with mineral spirits. For rust, I gently polished with superfine scotchbrite pads (works like steel wool or aluminum foil, but lasts longer) and lots of polishing compound or chrome polish (from any automotive shop). I kept the pad supersaturated to prevent scratching or dulling the finish. You can also buy a buffing wheel for your drill if you really want to polish it up nicely but have a shortage of elbow grease. In the future, occasional polishing will keep rust at bay.

  • I used peel-away 7 to remove a horrible paint job from some rusty metal furniture with chrome detailing. It was so easy and non-toxic compared to other paint strippers. I didn’t bother using the paper, as the paint started bubbling off within minutes. I pulled the messy goop off with a PLASTIC putty knife and did a few rounds of cleanup with mineral spirits. For rust, I gently polished with superfine steel wool super-saturated with chrome polish (to prevent dulling the finish). You can also buy a buffing wheel for your drill if you want to polish it up nicely but have a shortage of elbow grease. In the future, occasional polishing will keep rust at bay.

  • Love all the wedding tips! We were able to reuse so many things from our ceremony at home. And those vintage linens are adorable!

  • Love the wedding ideas. We had our DIY wedding reception at our home, and recycled lots of elements from the day into our interiors. For example, I bought material to make table runners for the wedding that I later turned into cushions, I bought a beautiful photo frame for the seating plan, which now lives on our bedroom wall (and holds our favourite wedding photo, natch), and I found an old mirror and wrote our wedding menu on it using a gold pen – it now lives outside on our deck and looks lovely reflecting the sunlight and the surrounding plants. I bought four olive trees, which we planted in lovely pots and used to frame our ceremony – of course these are now in the garden. You can also buy things like vases for table centres, and a cake stand, that could be easily recycled into your married life.

  • We used the post card guest book idea and our guests had fun choosing just the right post card to write a note to us. We also “curated” our table decorations, by creating unique centerpieces for each table out of vintage objects & books. What we didn’t re-gift (who doesn’t like a first edition of an HG Wells novel!) now lives on our bookshelves & mantle. One of the best things about using decorations that can be repurposed for home decoration is you have little happy reminders of your wedding day where ever you look.

  • We had an out of towners party the night before our wedding at a rustic locale. I gave my husband the task of picking out inexpensive centerpieces. He went to a farmers market and bought some sunflowers and apricots and arranged them on the tables. So simple! The the colors looked so pretty together.

  • I don’t know if these would be good for the home later, but I made paper flowers and put them at each person’s place and they were a huge hit (for all of $40 worth of materials). Another idea is to look for white milkglass containers, which are all over fleamarkets/garage sales/craigslist/ebay, which would work for either country chic or mod apartment.

  • Hello Budget Bride!

    I was one too, in 2007. We had around 85 guests and I had six bridesmaids! My best advice is that you don’t need as much stuff as you think you need.

    We had one venue where we had the ceremony and sit down dinner reception. Our decorations were minimal.

    I bought seven vases, I think about $1 each, and placed them around the reception room. When the ceremony was finished the bridesmaids bouquets went into the vases and mine went on the cake table. I gave my bouquet to my mother to say thank you.

    Centerpieces were one $5 flowering plant in a $2 pot on a $.50 cent circle placemat in the centre of each round table with three tea lights. The placemats were reused in our own home. The plants were given away. We had eight people per table.

    For a bit of colour I put an orange at each place setting (my friend used pears last fall for her wedding). I think I spent $40 for a box of 100 oranges. And the guests really liked the way it looked when they entered the reception!

    Our wedding favours were homemade cookbooks with family recipes that I made with MSWord, printed at home on my colour copier, and bound in one corner with a binder ring wrapped in ribbon, I made one per household, with a thank you note attached to the ribbon.

    I also printed my own place cards and mini table menus. I had bridesmaids seat people so that there was no need for a big seating chart, also, as there were place cards, some people preferred to find their own seat.

    I brought my laptop with songs on it to hook up to the venue speakers (if you plan to do this make sure ahead of time that it will work) and created my own playlists, though people could also play DJ and choose songs. The ceremony music was a burned CD played on a portable stereo, which I had a friend pause and play at the right moments.

    Anyway – could go on and on (I already am) – so I hope this helps!

  • great ideas! one suggestion: if you purchase things for your wedding that you want to be sure to find at home once the honeymoon is over, be sure to enlist a couple of friends ahead of time who understand your intentions for those items. i still have no idea where some of the items from my wedding ended up because i was too busy being a bride to keep track of them! that day will probably be a blur for you, and rightly so. you should be able to relax and enjoy your guests instead of worrying about where your “stuff” ends up. and i agree with the comment about starting with what you’d like to see in your home and working back from there. enjoy!

  • I used mason jars for rustic centerpieces out in the cocktail hour area outdoors, had them scattered around the perimeter with tea lights, etc. And I am KICKING myself now for recycling these. I am finally, finally building out my pantry, and don’t have any containers for rice, beans, pasta, etc. I wish so very much that I had kept my mason jars. They would make such a nice, stackable, vintage-chic pantry. Sad face!

    Also, we bought alphabet letters in our initials from a craft store and painting them in our wedding colors. After the wedding, I re-spray painted them black and now they hang in our home.