Designer for Hire

Something Vintage

-- Download Something Vintage as PDF --

Metals can shine even more when they’re paired with others. Francine Smith of Hot Cool Vintage explains how. Photos courtesy of Francine Smith/Hot Cool Vintage.

One of my favorite ways to add a bit of vintage style to my home decor is by layering in metals. Brass is my favorite but I have a fair amount of silver and some copper sprinkled in as well. There is a lot of vintage brass out there and a lot of it is not very good. Just because it’s vintage does not mean it’s not cheaply made or mass produced. Be patient and be picky. Good vintage brass is worth the wait.

Silver and brass


Candle holders are a great way to add a bit of interest to a table. Brass adds a bit of the warmth silver adds the sparkle. It’s also handy when the candle holder doubles as a flower vase. These holders are different in metals and form but I think the general Scandinavian design aesthetic is what makes these two – the silver and the brass – work well together.

Bronze and brass


Snakes and saguaros just go together. A part of me thinks this shouldn’t work – brass/glass, high/low – but I like it. This grouping of a bronze Baccarat snake and a pair of vintage Saguaro sculptures reminds me of our local flora and fauna but not in the typical southwest fashion. The snake is a bit glam but the brass keeps it real.

Copper and brass



It’s kind of ridiculous how excited I get when I find small vintage items that I can re-purpose for air plants. These vintage enamel and copper salt cellars fall into that category. They can also be used as ring/jewelry holders. The oh-so-happy jumping-for-joy elephant adds a nice touch of drama and movement to a space. The lamp (one of a pair) is a favorite find and will have to be pried from my cold dead hands.

What about upkeep?

Polishing metals can be a chore. Each piece is different and some brass has a varnish on it, which makes cleaning it even more difficult. My go-to cleaner is Bar Keepers Friend. I prefer the liquid over the powder but both work well. When polishing, be careful not to take away all of the patina. In my opinion, some pieces should not be cleaned too deeply. The patina gives the piece age and dimension and once it’s stripped it can change the look of the piece. When cleaning, go light and proceed only as much as needed. Polishing (and repolishing) is not fun but the results are well worth the effort.

* You can find more of Francine’s collected items for sale at the Hot Cool Vintage Etsy store.

* Click here for more vintage stories and to sign up to our Vintage Friday newsletter.

Something Vintage

-- Download Something Vintage as PDF --

There’s a (very) fine line between collecting and hoarding, says Francine Smith of Hot Cool Vintage. She shares some of her collections, and tips on how she does it. Photos courtesy of Francine Smith.


Usually it starts with one. One item that creates the desire for another, then another….. Collecting is a pastime that has no bounds. It can be high, record-setting millions for a piece of art or very, very low (think hoarders). Most of us may not have the financial ability to purchase rare and expensive art and hopefully we have the presence of mind not to keep every mail flyer we ever receive, but we can all collect something, if we so desire.

Collecting vintage decor is a way to add your own distinct style to your home and can be the beginning of a life-long learning journey. Collecting often inspires the collector to learn more about the object, the designer, or the period. No matter what calls you – pottery, ephemera or glass – whatever you gather will always be unique to you.

Pottery Collection


This collection started when I found a vase like the one my mother had in our living room when I was growing up. After my parents divorced and moved houses a few times, that vase was lost. Though originally part of my past, I’ve found other shapes, colors and sizes and have made it part of my unique home decor. On the practical side, this collection also helps to hide some of the unsightly mess of TV cords.  See, collecting can be useful!

Black and white (and orange)


Collections can be based on anything: patterns, textures, colors, designers, etc. This collection of vintage bisque porcelain and vintage enamelware is usually in flux. I add a piece every now and then and sell others. This grouping is another handy collection to have since the bowls can be used for serving and the vases are often put into use as well.

Blue glass
francinecollectionpic2 Another collection that is in flux, this one includes a mistake and a re-purposed piece of cased glass. The first bottle is a knock-off, although unfortunately I didn’t buy it as a knock-off (all part of the learning process). The tall vase is for sale. The short cased glass “planter” should have a top. It was too pretty to be discarded and too easy to re-purpose for another use.

Francine’s four tips on collecting

1. This is probably obvious but … collect what you love. Collections take time to build – that’s part of the fun of collecting. Getting dirty in a dusty antique store or finding a hidden gem online can be time-consuming, so be sure whatever it is that you are searching for excites you.

2. Collections take up space in your home, so if it is not something you enjoy looking at then it will most definitely not be something you enjoy dusting. Which you will have to do – often.

3. There is a (very) fine line between collecting and hoarding. Every collection needs to be re-evaluated and thinned out every now and then. It should never become a burden.

4. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. If you love it and can afford it, buy it. The regret of not buying often stings more than the regret of buying. Re-gift or donate the mistakes and chalk it up to the learning process.

* You can find more of Francine’s collected items for sale on the Hot Cool Vintage Etsy store. 

* Find lots more stories about vintage, mid-century and mid-century modern here. Sign up for our Vintage Friday newsletter. It’s free!