About this blog


This blog is created and maintained by AJ Finsand; formerly of Folk Art Originals by AJ and Sophie’s Cottage.  Currently of ReVamped Vintage Booth at Stars Antiques in Portland, Oregon.

AJ was the designer and shopkeeper of Sophie’s Cottage (home goods & gifts)  in Hillsboro, Oregon for five years; which was  owned by  Michael Larson.  The shop closed due to the economy in September 2009.

For medical and health reasons I have had to retire from participating in  Every Husband’s Nightmare Bazaar at the Washington County Fairgrounds in the spring and fall.

* My etsy shop,  Sophie’s Cottage:  sells many of my how to ‘e-books’ and  now that I am retired from doing shows; an increasing selection of vintage and hand crafted items. 

AJ and Michael share a love of TRASH, and turning trash into treasure.  Together they design and create wonderful and imaginative home decor and furnishings.   Where others see something that is a ‘discard’ they see ‘possibilities’ and set to work saving these doomed items from the landfill; creating new treasures to last for generations to come.

“Our hope is that by sharing our creations and the creative process in this blog, we will encourage others to re-use, repair, re-purpose and recycle items they may have otherwise tossed away.”

AJ & Michael

Published on February 18, 2007 at 2:07 am  Comments (56)  

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56 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I Want this free book! 🙂

  2. I have been asked to create a storefront window display for a local restaurant which has old world charm. In return, I will be displaying my framed art on the back wall of the window. I plan to change the window seasonally, so this design is for summertime. The front of the window is stacked with old wine boxes/crates with faded black lettering. I would like to use some of these crates in the design. They have requested I incorporate their logo somewhere so I am going to paint it on one of the crates. Any suggestions for the wine crates? I was thinking of painting various colors but I want it to look vintage.

  3. I found your blog today, and LOVE it!! I want to open my own shabby store next year. I was intending on opening it this year, but because of the economy I’m a little scared to invest all my money in to it.

    I LOVE what you’ve done to Sophies Cottage! Your displays are gorgeous!

  4. I found your site today. I love making stuff out of junk and your blog is inspirational.

  5. I am a crafter and junker who lives in Central Oregon. I discovered your website when you were doing primarily primitives. I love your style and I hope to be able to visit your store this summer. Your blog is packed with wonderful information and ideas and I look forward to receiving your updates every month. Thanks!

  6. I love combing garage sales and junk heaps to find forgotten things that can be turned into something interesting. I absolutely love your website and what you’ve done with Sophie’s Cottage. Your knack for repurposing things is inspirational and is giving me all sorts of fun ideas! Thanks!!

  7. I’ve been following your blog about the parking ticket….If the towing company is insisting on “Cash”, that is something I would report to the IRS….
    Many times when cash is paid…..it never gets reported as “income”. I never give anyone cash.
    Gold Bar, WA

  8. Hi: I love your website…I check it daily to see what’s new in your shop. Do you sell the things seen on your site?…I’m interested in your furkins and also your treasure chests, unfinished.

    Look forward to hearing from you soon.

    Thank you,

    Donna Tingle

  9. I just found your blog, are you still in business and blogging? Seems most entries are from 2008…love the inspiration I get here and sure hope you’re still keeping up with it.

  10. Trying to find an e to be able to contact you, because of the style with the primitive folk art. Would love to be able to reach you privately to discuss a product line that would be totally awesome with what you are doing. If you are interested please contact me at
    artistryinfaux (at) gmail (dot) com.

    I love your blog and your ideas. Glad that I came across it today.

  11. Hello there. I have an exact cabinet like you do in the Abernathy Vanity in White. Does anyone know how much it is worth? Can’t find anything on it.

    Thanks so much,

    • Sorry, I have NO IDEA. We really don’t hunt for the monetary worth of the items we buy. We buy them for their ‘character’ and price them to sell according to what we paid for it, not what it might be worth as a collectible or antique. Asside from taking it to an antique appraiser, I don’t know how you might appraise it. So many factors are involved in an appraisal.

  12. About your ugly frosted window….if it is in your kitchen, you could paint it with blackboard paint and use it as a menu board:)

  13. Hi – Browsing and saw your site and thought someone could give me suggestions – I’m providing the candle table display for a Scout Silver Ceremony. I’ve searched the web and can’t find pics of ideas or similar. I’m crafty but haven’t done this kind of designing.

    Need FAST – it’s this week and need to shop for inexpensive supplies today – yeah Christmas sales.

    Oblong table -white cloth – will hold two different recognitions. Very diff colors too. One side is 10yr award – dont’ want it to dwarf the other side Silver award. One girl/same girl receiving both.

    For the 10 yr I thought of 9 small votives stairstepping up in a circle to a tall pillar, the 10th. Can’t think of a quick easy support and think that will overshadow the other award. So, the 10yrs covers 4 levels, so thinking 4 votives with a pillar. How should I decorate the votives – clear glass with colored sand per the levels? ribbon? what about the pillar? There could be a runner of kelly green.

    Silver – special award, 2nd highest they can earn. Other half of the table could be a runner of silver fabric? or dark velvet to make it really stand out??? Should be an elevated pillar? The shiny wedding silver pillars? Add anything? a sticker on the candle saying “Silver Award”??? a ribbon? wrap it with silver star garland? Tall candle holder, silver too? Friend said there should be same # candles to light on this side as the other side? Would that be votives lit as the presenter is highlighting points? It’s at a combo Holiday Party. Would it be goofy to use Christmas silver balls, or silver bell ring, or silver sprays??? As mom I want to give her some flowers too – would that be too much for the table – between the two displays. Roses with silver accents? tall or short?

    I know someone out there could really make this lovely – I keep thinking my thoughts will look over the top if I use all silver, when to stop. Really want the two themes to look nice on the same table.

    Please help fast. Thank you!

    • Janet, that sounds like a BIG project and I can’t quite visualize how the whole thing would look from just your description. I’m a ‘visual person’ and have a hard time making suggestions without seeing some kind of picture as a starting point. But here are a few suggestions that will hopefully be helpful.

      Look at the dollar store FIRST. Get as much of what you need as you can there.

      Keep it SIMPLE, and elegant; let the awards themselves be the highlight of the table.

      Consider using BATTERY OPERATED TEA LIGHTS instead of lighted candles (for safety reasons, + they are cheaper!) If you MUST use real candles, DO put them ALL in some sort of a container, for safety reasons.

      Consider keeping the whole table white with a touch of silver, this way the awards will really stand out. (( was never a girl scout so I have NO IDEA what you are taking about, but I’m guessing the awards are a big deal)

      If you give her flowers, I’d NOT include those in the table presentation; rather, hand her the bouquet at the appropriate time.

      Maybe gather some fresh grennery from the woods (if there are any near you) to use on the tables.

      Bottom line, SIMPLE is always best. And if you have a space at home that you can do a ‘test set up’ on before the real thing, that always helps. Stand back and look at it. Take a picutre and look at it to see if it looks too cluttered.

      Best of luck! And congrats to your scout!


  14. Hi,

    I’m looking for a few vintage wooden children’s chairs. Are there any you may be selling that I can view online….and do you ship out of state? Please let me know.



    • I do happen to have a couple of vintage children’s chairs on hand right now, and I am WILLING to ship out of state IF you are willing to pay the PACKING and SHIPPING without a cost quote. Here’s the thing. We do not have the supplies to PACK large items, therefore we have to rely on UPS to PACK and SHIP the items, and there is no way of knowing ahead of time how much that will cost. And it’s not worth the hour+ round trip for me to drive out to the nearest UPS store ‘just to get a price quote’. I only charge exactly what they charge us for shipping, but on larger items it can be cost prohibitive.


  15. I just found your blog through craigslist- love your stuff!! It’s my birthday on the 18th… hey I just might have to drag my husband to go shopping at your place! 🙂

  16. AJ & Michael,
    I discovered your blog sometime last year and have been visiting ever since. I have a booth here in Maine at the “Fairfield Antiques Mall”…. I love to turn trash into treasure…. your space at the Stars Antique Mall looks so inviting….. you inspire me..thank you!!

  17. Hi Aj,

    I have met you a couple of times at your cottage when it was open. I love the wood weathering product that you make! I am out of it, and need to know how I can get some more. I would love to come and buy some from you if I could.

    Thanks, Barb

    • Hi Barb,
      I have three small bottles of ‘concentrate’ to mix your own. The tin paint cans went up so much in price that it was not cost effective for me to buy them anymore. THEN I have no longer been able to find the ‘base colorant’ that I use to make the wash. I’ve tried to order it from the manufacturer several times and they are always OUT of stock! 😦 I ‘might’ have a can or two left boxed up to go to the spring show for Every Husband’s Nightmare at the Washington County Fairgrounds next month. Can’t be positive of that though and can’t go look through 50 bins to check.

      Because of these difficulties, I’ve gone to using Ralph Laurne brand ‘tobacco glaze’; which is VERY close to the same color, BUT can be used on a larger variety of surfaces as it is a GALZE and not just a WASH, like my product. If you’re interested in the bottle of my concentrate, it is $3.00 + shipping.

  18. I was wondering if Sophies Cottage is a place for consigning items? I’m a glass painter (on recycled glass only) and I’m trying to find a place to sell some of my items. I paint on candle holders, vases, wine glasses – and anything else interesting that I find.

    Look forward to hearing back from you.


    • We closed our retail store in September 2009, and now sell via a couple of local antique malls. No we don’t take consignment.


  19. I’m wanting to paint some old furniture like I see on this website. I’m wondering what kind (latex, enamel etc) of paint you use and do you finish it with something or is a piece fine with just the paint?? Can I use regular spray paint or regular house paint?

    • Without knowing what you are refinisheng and what kind of finish it already has on it, I can’t make any specific recommendations. IN GENERAL, oil and water don’t mix, so you should not use water based paint on top of oil based, and vice versa. But, even that can depend upon how you PREP your piece before you paint it. We do not use chemical strippers nor oil based paints; just as a point of personal preference. We DO most of the time, SAND our pieces to prep them for painting, thereby removing the old paint and finish. Sometimes we use KILZ primer befgore we paint. It just depends.

      Spray paint usually works just fine on nearly any surface and it sprobably the EASIEST way to paint for a beginner. It can get to be expensive though on a large piece. And you don’t have a lot of color choices with spray paint. Regular ‘house’ paint? Interior latex or acrylic are fine. I don’t recommend OUTDOOR grade oil paint for furniture though. Depending upon the use of the piece, we sometimes add varnish for durability; mostly to things like table tops and dresser tops.

      Good luck! A lot of it is just ‘learning as you go’! Get some small CHEAP pieces from thrift stores adn garage sales to practice on before you tackle something big and expensive.


      • Wow, thank you. That is very helpful and I just love this website!!

  20. Hi.
    Just found your website LOVE it.
    Great ideas! Who does your website? I have been looking for one and I think yours perfect and easy to use. Thank You, Keep crafting.
    T Carter

    • Technically, this is a BLOG, not a website. I do all the writing and photos on the blog. The layout and format are one of the many that WordPress offers fro free. I ‘test used’ several other blogs hosting sites before settling on using WordPress for our permanent blog home. It works best for what we want to do, AND it’s FREE!!!

      There are MANY MORE ‘bells and whistles’ (internet gadgets/tools) that they have available for thosw who know HOW to use them. I and NOT one of those who is tech savy enough to use more than just the basics.


  21. I’m wondering if you ever had any luck with the predatory towing situation….any advice as I launch my own campaign would be greatly appreciated.


  22. I love, love, love, the big striped clock you made out of the old fence boards. Perfect beachy colors! I am so sad because I am a long way from Oregon (in Florida)so I can’t see your stuff in person. Any chance that is something I could purchase directly from you?


  23. Hello, trash-to-treasure marvels! I hated to leave this in the comments, but I could not find any other contact info for you. I am the Budget Decorating Guide at About.com, and I’d love to feature you as an upcoming “Blog of the Week” on my guide site. Would you please contact me via email? Thanks!

  24. Love your style. I just spent too much buying 4 bun feet and 6 wood knobs to dress up and old wood 3 drawer chest that I’ve had since 1970. It was old then, but taken care of. $39 later I’m not sorry I did it. One day I will redo the paint (flat black in mind with the natural wood parts). I live in Bartlett IL and will share your projects with my daughter. Her house looks like your shop. Thanks to both of you.

    • Nikki, Have you seen the ‘faux bun feet’ I devised a while back? Probably DON’T want to know after what you’ve already paid for real ones! But for future reference, do a search on my blog for ‘bun feet’.

  25. While I was preparing my own website I came across your blog. I really like your set-up and I love seeing all the pics of your booths and projects. My daughter and I are starting our own business and definitely used your blog as inspiration. We would love for you to take a look at our work (www.orionstale.com) and blog. We wish you the very best and will keep coming back to see what’s new kudos on a job well done. We would love to have a link exchange with your blog so we could share ideas and styles with our readers and yours. Thanks for your time and good crafting !! Kelly

  26. OMG!!! I discovered your blog and fell in love with it. All the ideas are just amazing and an inspiration to all of us who love the old and worn trash that we always want to make into a treasure. I have been inspired…to the point that i went back to your first entry and read each one from there! Please keep up the great work and don’t stop posting on your blog….you are awesome!!

  27. I am a huge fan – haven’t made it to your shops as I live in Eastern Oregon, but hope to…I am so loving some things in your 50% off sale at Camas…might buzz down this weekend. Are you willing to ship anything?? Thanks and good luck with your other sales.

    • Hi Tara, Right now the only items we offer shipping on are the things we have for sale in our etsy shop. Adding more and more new product to that all the time.

  28. I have an old entertainment center that I would like to convert into something useful to use in a baby’s room. Any suggestions?

    • The only SPECIFIC suggestion that I can SHOW you is this: https://trash2treasure.wordpress.com/?s=entertainment+center&submit=Search
      But that’s really for an older child to play with. Really hard to say anything specific without seeihg the item; but I would think it could fairly easily be made into an armoir (perhaps just by adding doors to the front?) . Look for baskets or drawers to fit into cubby openings (if ther are any) to store toys or clothes in . . . It’s probably too tall to use as a changing table; but it might be possible to cut it down to make a changing table AND a toy storage bench.


  29. I just discovered your blog and LOVE IT! I’ll be up in Oregon next month and hope to find Stars! Can’t wait!

  30. I am writing an article for HGTV.com and wondering if you can help. The article is on trash to treasure ideas you can use in the garage for storage/organization. I was wondering if your craftiness reached into that area. If you have anything I could use in the article, the story would credit you, use your instructions and photos, and have a hotlink back to your blog or site.

    Do you have anything that would work and if so, would you be willing to participate?

    -Sharon Merritt

  31. Have any ideas for making a outdoor garden birder from repurposed books ( I know that the books would have to be waterproofed_?

    • Sorry, I don’t. Waterproofing the books alone would be a HUGE task!

  32. I absolutely love your blog and the items you have re-purposed, you are very talented! My Dad years ago would take me fishing at the lake and we would sometimes stop and go on shore hunting driftwood, He was so creative he made picture frames, birds, signs etc. I see so many things now and think WOW he was way before his time. He is 81 now and has lost his interest in making things but he still has his tools, I’m hoping he can teach me some things. I’ve decided to re-purpose pieces from Thrift Stores etc. because the prices you see in boutiques and online are just CRAZY expensive and we can’t afford that, my favorite looks have always been rustic & beachy. I absolutely LOVE the colors on some of your pieces and it’s the color I’ve been looking for to go on my walls and some furniture pieces, could you please tell me the name and manufacturer? It’s hard to tell in your photos but it appears to be an Aqua Green?? Every time I think I’ve found the right color at one of our local stores when I put it on the wall it is brighter than what I want, I really would a soothing, sea glass.aqua green color. I’ve joined your blog and thank you so much for all you do, you are definitely an inspiration to me!! I really hope I can find some pieces to re-purpose for my home and make my Dad proud!

  33. HI! I’ve been viewing your sight for as long as I can remember and I thought it was time to let you know…You are an inspiration! I visit your website at least several times a week (usually more) and it gives me a lift every time. I also have an antique/collectibles booth (if I ever remember to take a photo I’ll share) and you give me ideas to help perk mine up. Thanks for all the fun!!

  34. WOW!!!! You & I could definitely be friends!!! I love EVERYTHING on your blog. I love birds & my daughter (8 years) loves all things beachy. We have both been oohing & ahhing over your pages this morning. Love it all!! =)

  35. Hi Guys, you are so talented! Your blog is a wealth of wonderful ideas and projects- thanks for sharing all this!

  36. Do you know Lisa from Pretty Old Things (formerly A Thing For Roses) She also has a booth at Stars. Now when I get over to say hey to you I can look her up also!

  37. Thank you for the information in your blog
    I’ve been making signs for the last few years probably about 10 total as a small hobby …your information was helpful !

  38. Hello! Love your ‘special’ color! I know you posted before about the type of paint gun you use for painting large items, but I can’t seem to find it. Wondered if you could share again. Thanks!

  39. Hi Pam,

    I did buy a ‘power painter’ a while back. Used it ONCE and it broke. (I had to return it and get my money back) Sooooo, I am back to brushes and rollers for my big pieces now!


  40. I’m looking to purchase a Formica drop leaf table. I saw the picture of the yellow one in your blog. Is it for sale? how much and where is it located? Thank you so much !! My email is Myra.leber@colusadhhs.org or text me at. 530-617-2631

    • I only sell locally in Portland, Oregon;a and that table has sold. That blog post was from 2011.


  41. Hi, are you able to provide measurements for two tables you have in your booth at Stars Antiques?


    • Not immediately, and not unless I know which tables you are asking about. I’m only at Stars for a few hours a week, usually Monday mornings; so I’d need to know which ones you want measurements on before I go. Get them, them come home and send them to you. aj

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