Inspiration thrives amid the rusty relics and creative repurposing at Barbara and Brent Hochstetler’s mercantile, Sister’s Garden & Bloom, located between Iowa City and Kalona, Iowa. Their greatest reclamation project? The glass house Barbara’s brother-in-law Tom Hathaway puzzled together using frameworks, painted floorboards, and a corrugated tin roof.
The architectural wonder rises as additional retail space for the vintage home and garden decor shop. “We like to show people what they can do with the things we sell,” Barbara says. “We also love to share ideas for making new things from natural finds and old stuff.”
Visitors find ideas aplenty. Colorful watering cans spill from a flowerpot and words chalked on shingles make whimsical signs. Chandeliers crafted from birdcages shine a bright light. Grain elevator pockets cut into manageable lengths convert to singular storage.
“Customers love to visit the glass house,” says Barbara. “It’s been a great addition to our grounds and shop.”
“That front entry door was laying around for 20 years,” Barbara says. “We finally decided it would be cool to build a shed around it using old windows we’d collected.” Today, the structure houses an ever-evolving inventory of seasonal and remade treasures.
Wavy-glass windows inset into a custom-built framework reflect the store’s pastoral surroundings and its renew-and-redo philosophy.
Artistic vignettes share similar forms, finishes, and/or functions. Here, an iron tractor piece partners with a chipped metal garden chair and a vintage cement birdbath.
A timeless door-side tableau created from an early 1900s urn, a vintage concrete statue, and flower-filled wire container preview the treasures found inside the structure.
Tree-trunk rounds double as steppingstones in front of the glass house and as tabletop chargers on this picnic setting. The vintage urn would make a character-rich wine cooler.
Antique furnishings, including a display case store counter, and kitchen table support an engaging array of potting-shed and natural-world references.
Flower frogs mass for impact near a farmyard vessel turned planter, a vintage birdcage, and a baking pan serving up reindeer moss, faux fruit, and more flower frogs.
A garden girl statue, wearing its original paint, presides over the interior.
Children’s tin watering cans, piled in a terracotta pot, are highly collectible and create a charming display.
A plant-holding birdcage chandelier and potted foliage signal that spring has sprung in the glass house.
Grain elevator pockets show off highly collectible periodicals—which cleverly plays off the theme of nearby displays.
Sweet seats await those with weary feet. A new birdcage-printed pillow cushions a gold velvet chair that invites shoppers to linger.
A damaged birdcage becomes a unique and intriguing wall sconce. The glass house offers ideas for unique and varied lighting options. Rewired old pendant lights and chandeliers, along with rope and twinkle lights illuminate this space.
Don’t overlook the beauty of old tools. Paired with a pastoral print, these brushes take on a sculptural quality. In outdoor rooms, create timeless tableaux comprised of vintage statuary, old implements, and flower-filled repurposed vessels. Vary heights of items and layer for visual appeal.
Before being sold for use as a kitchen island, this counter anchored an outdoorsy exhibit illuminated by a chandelier made from light cords, thick rope, and tin lampshades.
Sharing a planting purpose and aged patinas, garden tools, limed flowerpots, and a vintage seed box align for a springtime tableau atop a weathered shop counter.
Freed from kitchen duty, a vintage kitchen scale becomes a plant pedestal. Paired with the scale for visual appeal and utility, this small watering can stands ready to do its duty.
Its original purpose unknown, a corroded iron element performs beautifully as a holdback for rough-woven burlap curtains.
Collecting Metal Treasures
Metal remnants, readily available at flea markets, farm auctions, and even as refuse (free for the taking!), boast a variety of unique and visually appealing forms and patinas. Here’s what to look for:
Plant stands come in various sizes and shapes. Seek out tall, multi-platform stands to group containers among your beds and outdoor rooms, and short wire baskets for your porch and patio tabletops.
Furniture, including benches, tables, and chairs, is easy to find. Be sure to test how comfortable they are if you expect them to be functional as well as decorative.
Wire baskets in almost any shape or size can be repurposed as hanging shades and end tables; fill baskets with treasured collections of weathered garden tools or other items.
Signage, fencing, shepherd’s hooks, planters, and frames to hang on walls, old bicycles, pieces from farm equipment, and stakes all have a place in your outdoor decor.
© Caruth Studio