Pixie Windsor on decorating with vintage furniture | Home Front

Mar 29, 2012

Pixie Windsor, who owns the landmark vintage furniture shop Miss Pixies on 14th Street, joins Jura Koncius and Terri Sapienza on the weekly Home Front chat. Together, they give advice about decorating with vintage furniture.

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We are excited to have Pixie Windsor with us today. Pixie owns Miss Pixie's shop of vintage treasures  at 1626 14th St. NW. She is one of the anchors of that cool neighborhood that just keeps getting better. Ask her about what's hot right now in the world of previously owned furniture and where are her favorite places to hunt for it. And read Megan Buerger's fun Living Well column about her.  Let's chat.

Very happy to be chatting with you all this morning! Thanks to everyone for supporting Miss Pixie's! Hope I can help answer your questions...

All this time I loved your store -- brought everyone who ever came to DC from out of town there -- and never knew that it was actually named after it's owner. What a surprise! Looking forward to coming into the store soon, the last time I was there I picked up three or four ceramic pots with tiny birds and they're the first thing people compliment when they come into my home. -- Debbie, Bethesda.

Yep, Pixie is my real name! My parents were a bit nutty....but I think it made me who I am! Thanks for coming in all these years...see you soon!

Painting your storefront gray is CRIMINAL. They can't do it! Miss Pixies has always been pink and must stay pink. I really hope they change their mind on that....

Haha! Let's take an online poll!

Hi Pixie, Just want to start by saying I love your store - I have some great cordial glasses from your shop that always get compliments! My husband and I are moving into a larger apartment after two years of sharing a kennel-sized one-bedroom. This is great, but it means taking his couch and loveseat set out of storage. The set is beige, overstuffed, nubby, and, to my eyes, impossibly frumpy and blah. (We've been using my more modern and comfy sectional with a chaise, which will move into the den in the new place.) But my husband loves these sofas beyond all reason and won't part with them. Can you please suggest a way to make these couches seem less frumpy? A funky coffee table? Pillows? Setting them on fire when no one is looking? Our overall style is eclectic and a bit bohemian, which is part of why I simply don't understand these couches. PS - it's not in the budget to reupholster them. And hubby LOVES the nubbiness, anyway.

Men! Pillows are a great way to spice up/cover up a couch - especially bright ones if the couch is blah and beige. A throw or a quilt would do the same trick...

We love buying vintage mirrors because they add such character to a home. Lately, though, I have often found that it is incredibly hard to find BIG vintage mirrors. Stores seem full of small ones in interesting shapes and sizes but what if we're looking for a mammoth mirror to fill a large wall? I suppose we could do a cluster of smaller mirrors, but that just isn't really our style. Help! Any retail, auction or market suggestions are welcome!

Another option: expand your search to include large vintage frames and have the mirror installed.

Eastern Market can be so hit or miss. Sometimes, I walk away with a statement piece that I absolutely love. Other times, I'll spend hours there hunting for anything that catches my eye. Surely this can't be the only good regularly-scheduled flea market in the DC area... what am I missing? I'm not afraid to travel, but we must have other options.

I'm going to throw this one out to all you chatters today that are furniture fiends.. I have always loved Ruff & Ready which just moved up 14th St. a bit north. The Georgetown Flea Market and going out to Sperryville, Leesburg, Middleburg and Orange. The Georgia Ave. Thrift Shop is a great secret place to hunt. And Goodwill stores all over. What else can you guys share?

How can I incorporate a piecrust table painted bright pink into a decor of white, green and blue?

Sounds like it might work as is and provide a burst of bright color in your room. I would try it out in different spots in your space, leaving it for a few days each time to see how it feels.

Hi Pixie! Thanks for taking my question. I am interested in decorating a baby nursery with a few vintage pieces, maybe a chest of drawers that can double as a changing table or something similar to base the decorating around. Any ideas on where I can find things that would look good in a nursery?

There are lots of great stores on the 14th street corridor - from late eighteenth century to mid-century modern. Don't be afraid to use something (be it a dresser, table, desk etc.) that was not originally intended as a changing table. As for children's dressers, I would suggest something that you are not afraid to paint in a fun color and that fits the scale of the room.

I'm a big thrift shopper and I love going shopping for vintage and consignment furniture. I never know quite how to factor in the costs for what it would be if I wanted to reupholster a piece, though. Does Miss Pixie's only sell stuff that is home-ready? Or do you pick items that you think have great potential but just need some work?

We like to sell upholstered pieces "as is" - in other words, requiring no cleaning, repairs, etc. However, many customers come in and find a piece that they love structurally, but opt to change the fabric. We are happy to suggest upholsters. The cost will be determined by the fabric you choose, the yardage you need and labor costs....it could range from $200 to thousands of dollars. Hope that helps!

What would a good starter project be if I'm brand new at refurnishing old pieces?

Have you considered Annie Sloan Chalk Paint? We ran an article about it recently.

What color do you recommend painting my home office? I heard recently that certain colors are good for concentration and creativity. (I'm a freelance business writer, for what it's worth.) The space is fairly small and will be dominated by an ample wooden desk that's a deep brown. A tall window will provide natural light. My house is about 90 years old, and a picture rail that's a foot or two from the ceiling could perhaps be painted an accent color.

I find gray to be very smoothing....there are a wide range of lovely grays. It sounds boring, but it provides a calm work environment and you can always punch it up with colorful artwork and accessories. Great blank slate that lets other things pop.

Yay or nay? Right now we have an amateur-looking tile floor done by previous homeowners. We're looking at doing the rest of the house in wood floors (except the basement). Significant other and I disagree.

I think wood floors are great in the kitchen - comfy on the feet and easy to clean and if you drop things they are less likely to break - softer than tile! An inexpensive option while you cosider is lineleum. I personally have black and white checkered linoleum squares in my apartment and I love it.

The industrial vintage look is hot-hot now and featured in the home decor magazines... metal, somewhat rustic pipes, wheels,  signs, buckets, etc. Please offer suggestion/s for a lover of color, flowers, pillows and nice fabrics who might appreciate one or two pieces of metals that will blend in -- and not overpower an elegant but casual living space. Thanks! V

I think adding a small dose of metal, to what otherwsie sounds like a very traditional look, is a great idea. My suggestions would be to start small and with something you like. Maybe it's a few accessories or an occasional table that you add in to see how they look. If you like it, try something a little bigger, maybe a coffee table, and maybe move the smaller piece to another room.

Hey Pixie - I love your store. I'm looking to buy a queen sized bed for my first home... Would love to find a great vintage piece, but beds seem hard to come by in vintage furniture stores. Thoughts or suggestions?

You are right - my understanding is that standard size queen beds were not mass produced until the late 50's, making vintage ones hard to come by. There are great new "vintage look" bed frames or you can do "alternative" headboards, a la folding screens, garden gates, old shutters or doors, or upholstering a panel in a beautiful fabric. A friend of mine used a mirrored mantle as a headboard and it looks fabulous. Get creative!

I have to say, of all the vintage-y and consignment stores in the area, you seem to have the most reasonable prices. I don't have a very well-trained eye for determining when I'm over or underpaying though. Are there any signs we shoppers should be looking for to figure out whether something is appropriately priced? Half the time I go into thrift stores, I fee like I'm getting a deal, and half the time, I wonder if I'm getting ripped off. Thanks so much.

Things are often priced based on what was paid for the item at auction. Accordingly, you might see some fluctuation. Also, the scarcity of the item will dictate the price point. If you really love it and can afford it, get it, as you never know when you'll see it again. There probably are times where you are getting a deal, and other times where items may be over-priced - I'd like to think it all balances out in the end, especially if you do lots of shopping!

Hi there. I know paint was last week, but my question didn't come to me in time. I'd like to paint the kitchen to match the countertops, which are a concrete riverstone (so a mottled matted brownish). So I was thinking a nice light brown. But I want it different enough from the off-white in the family room it abuts. Suggestions? Thanks!

Is there a particular reason you want the walls to match the countertop? If brown is your favorite color and it will make you happy to have your kitchen that color, go for it, otherwise, I would consider something different for the walls. You dont mention the color of your cabinets, but because your counters are brown and the adjacent room if off-white, sounds to me like you could pick just about any color you want for the kitchen.

I agree. They simply cannot paint the storefront gray.... then it wouldn't be Miss Pixies! You should start a petition or something.

There seems to be a great concern about this!

I've loved estate sales & auctions since I was a kid, but I have to say that the creeping epidemic of bed bugs has cooled my enthusiasm. Do you have standard precautionary methods for assessing purchases for safety and (or) treating them once you get them home?

This is common fear. We have regular inspections by a pest control company to check for bed bugs. Gives us and our customers peace of mind, and we've never had an issue in 14 years of business!

The Eersterivier Empowerment Centre, a safe house for children who have been abused at home, will be the first recipient of the completed product. The flooring will be installed in an area of 24 square metres that will be the children's playroom. Amorim Corks South Africa is the company in charge of the cork recycling.

Thanks.

Good morning: Over the years I have acquired several pieces of vintage Danish modern furniture, and I'm looking to sell a few items. I've contacted several local vintage furniture shops, but unfortunately the prices they offered where way below what I would accept. Any suggestions for selling online? thanks.

Have you tried listing your pieces on Craigslist? It's very simple to do, and you set the price.

Hi all. This might be a strange question but are you on Twitter? I was thinking the other day that it would be fun to follow your auctions and store-stocking days but I couldn't locate a Twitter account... Thanks!

We have a twitter account and are in the process of stepping up our PR efforts :) It should be live shortly! In the meantime, we post all of our new items on our website (www.misspixies.com), which we update every Wednesday evening. We also have an account on Facebook under our name and post new items there as well. I'm slow technologically, but have a great staff that is working on that!

Hi Pixie! When can we anticipate watching your own HGTV show?

Feel free to write into HGTV! I've written in once and don't want to be too pushy...I was delighted to meet Robert and Courtney Novogratz from Nine by Design- definitely a highlight in my career! We have had multiple Top Design and other HGTV stars shop at Miss Pixie's, which is always a delight!

Good morning! You all are so familiar with paint colors, I hope you can help me before I make a huge mistake! I want to paint my cottage yellow, and you know how difficult yellows are! There are some ugly yellow houses out there. I brought home some paint chips, but...I really need your suggestions. Thanks, I so enjoy these sessions---always learn something.

Thanks for your kind words! Yellow is such a nice, cheerful color to paint a cottage. And very cottagey I might add! I am loving Ralph Lauren's COLLECTOR yellow. And also Behr's Pale Honey.

I am house-hunting and spotted an adorable house with a vintage feel - everything inside screams 1959. However, all my furniture is from IKEA. If I bought an older home, would I have to swap out my furniture? To further define this vintage-y home, picture pale pink cabinets, floral tiles, light wood everywhere, carpeted floors, and old-fashioned hardware and door/cabinet/whatever pulls.

No, I think you can integrate those easily! Eclectic is all the rage, and IKEA has pieces with nice clean lines that would compliment a mid-century or older home. Don't be afraid to mix styles.

Nope, no reason! So what other color? Cabinets are white. I like the idea of an all-white kitchen, but with the off-white walls on the adjacent family room, would that be weird?

If you like the idea of an all-white kitchen, then you should definitely try it out and see how it actually looks.  If you love it, great, If you ultimately decide there is too much white, you can repaint using a color.  Because it sounds like everything in your kitchen is neutral in color, you could probably go with any shade you like and it would work.  Narrow your paint color choices by thinking about colors you like. What colors make you happy? Start there.

Trash cans... Wine Bar.... "Wasted." What a brilliant idea for a store. But please open it here in DC, not New Orleans.... we need more funky shops like that! Any chance you could expand to occupy more of the building you're in now?

I'm happy to say that we just signed a five year lease to stay where we are. We will be doing renovations this summer to open up the space and make it easier to navigate. Don't worry, the wine bar idea is still alive and well, and I'm not moving to New Orleans any time soon! But, on that note, don't be afraid to have at least one fabulous trash can in every room!

4 years ago I had the slate flooring removed from my entrance foyer, kitchen and dining room and replaced with wood flooring to match the rest of the main level. It's easy on the feet, simple to clean, and looks great. It also flows into the other rooms and keeps the eye moving, creating the illusion of a bigger space. Worth every penny!

Good for you. Sounds like you made the right decision and are loving it.

 

My 3 year old daughter announced to me out of the blue this morning: "gray is not pretty, pink and purple are the best colors." I wasn't sure where this came from but now I know. She heard about Miss Pixie's upcoming color change and wanted to protest!

Ha! Love it.

What a brilliant idea. You know, I always wondered if you baked them every single night? I think one time a friend and I even got into a debate about why you made the cookies and if you brought them in every day. Now we know! In the article it mentions that you spend summers in Rehoboth. My family has a house there as well. Where do you shop in that area? Any good retail recommendations? The Post should do a summer shopping vacation guide and list all the good secret furniture boutiques in weekend vacation destinations around Washington! Just an idea!

That is a great idea! I would just google local thrift stores and consignment shops in the Rehoboth/Bethany/Lewes area - there are so many great stores for furniture and clothing. All small and independently owned. A cloudy day on the beach is a great day for shopping!

And yes I do bake the cookies every night! Glad you and your friend like them - they keep a lot of people coming back every week...

Last week I wrote in about wanting to paint my craigslist-antique buffet teal. Vern Yip steered me towards purple and he was so right! We chose Behr Deep Smoke Signals and it looks so fun and funky in our mostly red and brown room!

So happy to hear that! We'll tell Vern.

Not sure if this is in your wheelhouse, but I'm thinking about buying a home in DC that needs some upgrades. Would it make sense to bring a contractor through the home so that he/she could give me an idea how much those jobs would cost before I move forward? Or are people not willing to put in the time for a job that may not come through?

Sounds like a sensible plan to me. What you're asking for from the contractor is an estimate for the work his/her company will be providing if you choose their bid. They do estimates all the time. 

Hi Pixie! Thanks so much for chatting with us today. Absolutely LOVED the article -- I haven't been into your store since the fall and now I'm dying to come back. Question: Where do you go hunting for furniture? Is it local or do you have pieces shipped in? Can people bring in their furniture and you'll decide if you want it, like vintage clothing stores?

I'm glad you asked!  Our process is pretty straightforward - we only buy items at local auctions. It is time efficient and helps keep our costs low, while remaining "green" - no shipping, no packaging, and minimal travel and gas costs. We get new stuff every Tuesday and Wednesday, so Thursday is the best day to stop in! Come back and visit us soon.

We don't have a second hand dealers license, so we don't purchase directly from individuals. We are happy to recommend local furniture and consignment stores.

Can I listen as well to this LIVE Q&A. Do you have audio with this?

No, this is an online discussion only. We are typing our answers, not answering them live. Sorry!

Just a word of caution for the person looking for vintage furniture: Lots of vintage/antique furniture has lead paint or glaze, if not on top then a layer or two down. It can be stripped, but is that a project you want to undertake while pregnant or with a newborn?

This is true, and it's important to be cautious. You can purchase lead paint tester kits at your local hardware store. Most items from the 70's to today will likely be safe.

I've been using SWP pewter gray. Metalica looking.

Thanks.

...I should have been clearer...when I scour the countryside for vintage finds, do you have tips for selecting or treating purchases? Thanks

If you are unsure or wary, I would stay away from textiles and upholstered pieces. If you are really concerned, buying new is the only way to be sure.

Every time I see a stylish white room in a magazine, I check out the specific color and try to get a swatch. Inevitably, it looks horrific in my house! What's the deal? I know it's professional photography and all, but sheesh...

i recently picked up a color card from C2 Paint called "Intricate Whites". There are actualy paint samples of  20 of their luminous whites - check it out. I think they are pretty true to form.

Great article today Pixie. So interesting -- lots of things I didn't know :-) One thing I am curious about is deliveries? Do you deliver items or do we have to bring a car? I live in Columbia Heights and am car-less but I could ask a friend if necessary.

We do deliver! We have deliveries on Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays. Most deliveries in the district are $35, more or less depending on your exact location. No extra charge for multiple items! We have a great delivery staff - they are punctual, efficient and friendly.  Alternatively, you have seven days to pick up your items directly from the store.

Jura you need to put Frederick Md. in the mix of great places to hunt. If people havent visited lately the downtown area is full of great shops with new and old finds. Goodwill is on the edge of town. The frederick fair grounds on the edge of town also has estate auctions several time a month. Auction.zip is the best place to find dates and times.

I'm coming!!!

I can't believe the Landlord would want you to go with a gray exterior. My first job was cleaning a small dress shop in Falls Church called "The Pink House.' The exterior was pink and the owner had a matching pink VW bug, her residence was also painted pink. It was a nice looking place.

Love it!

We want to repaint our living room a stormy gray. We have white trim and some bright accessories, so we feel like this would give the room some sophistication and dramatic depth. What do you guys think? Any suggestions for a bold, pretty gray?

Pavilion Gray ot Lamp Room Gray by Farrow & Ball are beautiful grays. I also  like Argos by Sherwin Williams and Coventry Gray, Stonington Gray and Wickham Gray by Benjamin Moore.

My husband and I have bought several sets of patio furniture at this point but -- remarkably -- none of them seem to be able to withstand weather. They rust, fade, or completely change color. Where can we look for durable and cheap patio furniture that isn't anything fancy but can at least stand up to weather? What materials should we be looking for? I have a weird feeling we're going about this all wrong... haha!

Go with wrought iron! It is durable, for the most part inexpensive, easy to paint and meant to be outside. I always suggest Rustoleum (which has a wide range of colors) - it is an enamel based spray paint that is very durable. If you like the finish as is, they have a clear coat that you can apply to prevent further decay. Wooden outdoor furniture requires a lot more care and does not always do as well with the fluctuation in temperature, unless you purchase teak furniture which can be more expensive.

Local vintage stores are full of great garden and outdoor furniture right now!

Hi Pixie! Thanks so much for chatting. Love the shop. Am always dragging my husband there and yes -- the cookies are what keep him quiet! Just curious, do you ever do interior design professionally? On the side? You definitely have an eye for interiors and I know designers love your store. ~ Marsha J., Alexandria VA

My work keeps me too busy to do anything on the side, but if you invite me over for a cocktail I'd be happy to make suggestions :)

I have two staff members who are starting a fledgling design service - feel free to contact me and I will give you their information!

I recently bought a home with a kitchen with white cabinets and busy brown-ish granite counters. The previous homeowner had picked an unfortunate color out of the granite to paint the kitchen (a salmon color) -- I redid it by putting up white subway tile backsplashes (cheap and makes so much of it white) and went with a dark chocolate brown color on the walls. I had put testers up with medium browns or taupes and they didn't work anywhere near as well as the dark brown. If you put up a white backsplash with white cabinets, so much is white and there's very little to paint out every time you want a change.

Yes,  good tip. Thanks for writing.

Good Morning ladies! Thanks for joining us Pixie. Great article. I have to say I thought the idea of a bar-and-vintage-furniture-boutique sounds totally awesome. Why didn't you go through with it? Would you consider opening something like that in the future? I've never heard of that being done before, but count me in!

Send me your info! Who knows, we may be business partners one day!

This will be hard to find. We had a queen sized mattress set on top of an antique double frame--seemed to work ok for us.

Thanks.

I searched for ages for a corner cabinet and finally found one at Miss Pixie's when it was in Adams Morgan. We loved that it could be delivered. We have moved, and it looks just as great in our colonial as it did in our row house. Thank you Miss Pixie!

Yay!

Hi Jura. I had to laugh at the Mad Men decorating chat last week because I grew up with mid-century modern furniture (my parents bought all their stuff from Scan, if anyone remembers that store--all Danish rosewood) and I absolutely can't stand that period. I have a house filled with various antiques, mostly Eastlake style. So funny to see how we stray from our roots. Also, my parents' house is in Holmes Run Acres in Falls Church, a National Heritage site because it's one of the first mid-century modern developments in the DC area. Worth checking out if folks are trying to find mid-century modern houses--a great area.

Scan was a huge source of furniture for so many DC homes. There is a ton of it floating around! You can find it at yard sales and Goodwill sometimes. So if you are into that, you're in luck. Will have to check out that area of Falls Church. Thanks for writing in.

Hi everyone! I love poking around thrift stores and farmers markets but I've never actually repainted an old piece. I think I want to start repainting pieces this summer, though. It sounds like a fun and rewarding project. Are there specific kinds of paints I need to be looking for? Any warnings for why I shouldn't do this or quirky tricks I should know about? THanks!

For me, daydreaming about refinishing pieces was always more fun than actually doing it! But, if you are willing to put in the work, it is a great way to save money on the front end and make a used piece your own! Check with a paint savvy friend or local hardware store for paint recommendations - it will depend on the surface being painted. No quirky tricks up my sleeve, unfortunately...

The National Gallery has old-fashioned but elegant wrought-iron garden lounge chairs and tables in a seating area around its fountain on the west side of the main hall. Can you help me find a source for this furniture? It would be wonderful on my (or anyone else's )small front porch in Woodley Park. Thanks for any leads you can give me. Elaine

I don't know where they found that furniture, but you should try calling them directly and asking.  Or look for inquire about it the next time you are visiting. 

I love vintage furniture, and I have a few pieces from my family and a couple of others that I have gotten at estate sales. I also like Oriental area rugs, and the result is that I'm fighting against my living spaces looking too much like granny's attic. Do you have any suggestions for freshening things up a bit? Should I give in to my impulses to paint some of the dark vintage pieces or does this ruin them?

Don't be afraid to paint or refinish the items unless they are priceless antiques. A pop of color can snap you out of Granny's attic quickly! Remember to mix and match styles and decades to keep it fresh.

When is the best day to come in to shop? I used to live in Manhattan and vintage/consignment stores always had days where they'd be fully stocked and days when they'd be down to almost nothing. What's your schedule?

We get new items on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, so Thursday is the best day! For the hardcore, come in after 5pm on Wednesday, but be ready for the chaos! In the Washington area, the industry auctions run early in the week, so Thursdays and Fridays are generally the best days to get first dibs.

Also, we do 10% off every Monday if you're looking for a better bargain, though something you spied earlier in the week may be gone!

Thanks to Pixie Windsor for joining us. We had a lively discussion today about a lot of fun topics - including pink paint! Thanks to Megan for the wonderful article. Hope you all have a terrific weekend. I'm going to try to get to Frederick soon!

In This Chat
Jura Koncius
Jura Koncius is a Washington Post staff writer who specializes in home and design. Read her daily twitter feed @jurakoncius for the latest in decorating trends, shopping, decluttering, organizing and DC retail.

Home Q&A archive
Terri Sapienza
Terri Sapienza is a staff writer for The Washington Post's Local Living section.
Pixie Windsor
Pixie Windsor owns the vintage furniture shop Miss Pixie's. The store, a staple in Washington's design and retail scenes, first opened in 1997 in Adams Morgan before settling on 14th Street in 2005. Pixie is originally from Cambridge, Md., and lives in Adams Morgan.
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