By LESLIE LINSLEY Special to The Citizen
Ihave always been a lover of hardware stores. Small, independently owned stores are the best because of their character stemming from quaintness, but alas they are becoming extinct.
Every now and then one comes across a really wonderful and fully packed hardware store. There is one on Charles Street in Boston. It has survived for more than a hundred years and you can get just about anything you need, including lumber and cut glass in the basement. Another store down the street carries only hardware and even more specialized, doorknobs and hinges and such. Just a peek inside makes you want to replace all the knobs in your home. These are not new accessories, or necessities, but the real deal from centuries ago! I guess Strunk Ace Hardware here in Key West comes pretty close to that hardware more than home center description, but it's not like an old fashioned hardware store by any stretch of the imagination.
Like so many other things, our children will not know the word "hardware" in the future. For the most part, hardware stores as our parents and grandparents knew them have evolved into the home center such as The Home Depot. We count on these purveyors of home goods and necessary doodads to be ubiquitous in our lives. They are there when we need them, which is usually on a daily basis. My friend Mary Ann says her car automatically turns into The Home Depot whenever she passes by.
A trip through a home center is all I need for a creative boost. Here's how I approach a home center when I have the time and am not in need of a particular item -- and time is the operative word. Go when you aren't seeking anything in particular. Start in one department and go down every single aisle with an open mind. Many things you didn't think you needed or wanted will jump out at you. If you're in the mood to be creative -- last week's AIDS Help Art Auction was inspiring -- a hardware store has all the fixings for a project. Eventually you'll have selected some items to put together for just the right tweaking to your home. Or perhaps you'll suddenly be struck with an idea for painting your outdoor furniture that you weren't even thinking about just because you discovered a new product for an easy finish, or a new spray paint color. Or maybe it's a good time to power wash and water seal or re-stain your deck.
Yard sales present another great way to pick up some items for redoing, such as kitchen chairs to paint in bright colors. Every time I'm at Fort Zachary Taylor, I want to spray paint the picnic benches in a variety of bright colors. Yellow is coming out strong this season and appearing in all the interior design catalogs. Using different shades of green on the deck, along with white, is a refreshing way to make a change.
Recover outdoor pillows with Sunbrella¬Æ fabric in a bold print. I just did my weekly survey of Pier 1 Imports and their yellow and white outdoor pillows are refreshingly bright. For $20, a pillow can change the look of your outdoors.
Large planters also make a statement around the deck or pool and they have very full, almost-in-bloom hibiscus plants on sale at The Home Depot right now. Don't forget to pick up a plant pot in the right size while you are there. The plain, inexpensive, oversized, molded styrene planters can be spray painted in bright colors to go with the new cushions. It's so easy and inexpensive to create a change of environment instantly. Two or three orchid plants around the base of the umbrella on a table look especially lovely as a permanent centerpiece. I prefer white, but the purple and lilac colors are just as nice, and I can imagine this as the beginning of a color scheme on the furniture.
Another idea that I gleaned from some of my Key West friends is using small table lamps on the deck. Where there is an overhang or some protection from the elements, a small lamp on a table creates low lighting to supplement candlelight and makes the deck feel more like a room. An outdoor area rug can also add to this ambience.
While I love being in Key West for the winter, and I especially love the colorful ways the homes are decorated, I am anxious to get back up North to apply some of these ideas to my own home. Spring is a whole new reason to spruce up and make changes -- that is, of course, after we do all the repairs that the winter weather has surely inflicted on my home. Once all of the repairs are finished, I'll look forward to the fun of redecorating for our very short season of warm weather and outdoor living.
But for now, I'm off to The Home Depot before all the good plants are gone.
At first I was thinking of painting my deck with Thompson's Nantucket gray opaque stain, like the one in this year's Key West vacation home. But having surveyed the new spring home furnishing catalogs, the outdoor rugs are quite appealing, especially for creating an area that could be an extension of your home.
Leslie Linsley has written more than 50 books on crafts, decorating and home style. She resides on Nantucket with her husband, photographer Jon Aron, and has a store on the island that specializes in her one-of-a-kind creations. Her latest book is "Key West, a Tropical Lifestyle" (Monacelli Press), with photos by Terry Pommett.