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Solutions: Add vintage delights to your outdoor spaces

Jeanine Matlow
Special to The Detroit News

While vintage and antique pieces have been known to lend visual interest and a sense of history to your home, they can have the same effect outside. For creative ways to add a little charm to your garden, Mary Lindsay, co-manager of Oddfellows Antiques in Berkley, offers some tips on the topic.

These intriguing pieces have the ability to adapt to any type of environment. “When people start to think about their garden areas, they’re either on one end of the spectrum or the other,” says Lindsay. “They either want something elegant and chic or quaint and cottagey. That’s where vintage fits in.”

For an elegant aesthetic, she says you can add concrete garden statues and urns or a Victorian plant stand.

Those who lean toward a less formal look might try mid-century McCoy planters, an old bicycle with a basket for flowers or an old tool carrier for potted plants.

Outdoor furniture from the past remains popular, such as vintage wicker. As Lindsay explains, these pieces may do better in garden rooms or covered areas if they’re already weathered from years of use.

Older finds like iron bistro sets and garden benches often blend well with newer items, and many can be reinvented like a tiered plant stand that becomes a bar area or a buffet for outdoor entertaining.

Vintage tea carts made from metal and glass can also provide a quaint bar area for al fresco gatherings. Some come with wheels that make them easy to take inside.

Decorative elements include cement pedestals that can elevate statues and other unique objects like vintage sundials. “Some can even be used as side tables if they’re big enough,” Lindsay says.

Other ornamental objects from the past, such as wall planters, can be hung on the exterior of the home. “You don’t have to put plants in them. You can fill them with flags for the holidays,” she says.

Architectural corbels can spruce up your outdoor space and there’s nothing like the authentic wear found on older varieties.

Quirky planters shaped like creatures such as alligators are among the fun mid-century finds that remain popular today.

This time around, they could be repurposed as a candy dish or a place to keep paper clips.

For a focal point, an old bicycle can be partially embedded in the ground with clematis or morning glories around it for a vine-like effect. A frog statue makes a cute sidekick.

Many relics can be garden containers like an old red Craftsman nail carrier with separate sections that Lindsay plans to fill with potted plants.

In addition, she says vintage milk or beer crates make great planters when lined with plastic.

For outdoor entertaining, old souvenir trays from different states make for great table talk while a copper boiler becomes the perfect ice bucket for any occasion.

Lastly, colorful aluminum cups from the ’50s and ’60s and Lucite glasses from the ’70s with lively designs like polka dots add personality to any outdoor setting. All you need are a few vintage finds in your garden to lure you and your guests outdoors.

For information, call Oddfellows Antiques at (248) 399-6098.

Jeanine Matlow is a Metro Detroit interior decorator turned freelance writer specializing in stories about interior design. You can reach her at