On the Skids in Sicily

March 9, 2012

Near the end of my house renovation in Sicily, I was so broke that I begged chairs that friends and acquaintances were tossing out and shopped the Modica flea market (the last Sunday morning of every month on Corso Umberto I) for doorknobs, lamps, and dishes. Even my garbage men knew to sift through their trash for the American lady.

I furnished the salone last. Its centerpiece is a skid. As in Skid Row.

Shamelessly scavenged from la strada.

(Brutta figura, Sicilians would say.)

I lugged it down to Giuseppe, my neighborhood carpenter, and asked him to give it a real good sanding. He did, and it shines.

Then I threw down a couple o’ cushions, filled up a bowl with oranges, added two found objects (Grim Reaper scythes), a pile of books, et voilà.

A bona-fide living room.


At night I light swarms of candles, and the skid looks like a million bucks.

Do you decorate with found objects?

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Read more about my life on a shoestring in Sicily here.

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Giuseppe

Giuseppe, a fine Sicilian carpenter

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40 comments to On the Skids in Sicily

  • Callie

    About the smell in the dump…actually, there was never food waste in the dumps we went to – they weren’t the same dumps that the garbage companies used – it was just house stuff kinda stuff…maybe they put their food waste in a different dump? Again, I would ask the garbage men. I bet they know where the locals take the house-type stuff!!

  • John Schinina

    Ciao Jann, Your photo is perfect and your imagination is genius, love your talent.

  • Callie

    Very nice use of skids for an attractive table! And I’m so glad you still have access to a carpenter!! Have you thought about the dumps? When I was in the Navy in Sicily we had other Navy friends who went to the local dump weekly. I started going, too, and in the dump I found antique chairs, tiles, textiles, even marble and cement figurines from graves (the living like to redecorate the homes of the dead every once in awhile). My friend specialized in rescuing mosaics. He had four that he re-constructed. All of them had mythical themes. They were insanely beautiful. I didn’t bring everything back to the U.S. with me, but I do still have a cement lion with a shield and some terra cotta tiles covered in blue glazes. I will send an email w/a picture of the tiles. Granted, this was many years ago that I was rummaging around in the dumps around Motta, but, if you haven’t already, I highly recommend you ask around for any local places people take their cast-offs!

    • Jann

      Wow, Callie, this is funny. I hadn’t thought about going to the dump, but given the antiques that my garbage men have found in the trash, there’s probably some good stuff there. :) Will I be able to stand the smell, though???

  • cemal karahan

    What you have done and your creativity is wonderful, Jann.. A big bravo to you…! People ( most people indeed )have already got used to spending more and more on furniture as well and I understand this from the ‘ old ‘ furniture
    thrown away on one side from time to time..! We need a carpenter here like Guiseppe. There have been giant shopping centers in Ankara and one of them is that Swedish Ik…. which supplies anything you imagine with reasonable prices and this means ; why we bother…! Let me finish this with a funny remark! The Japanese and the Turks; Japanese:If someone could do it ,I can do it ,too.If noone can do it, I should do it…. Turks: If someone is able to do it, why should I do it? If noone can do it, how can I do it…?

    • Jann

      Funny about the Turkish vs Japanese attitudes toward innovation, Cemal. Though Turkey is becoming much more entrepreneurial these days, no??

  • Anitre

    Brava Jann! Scavaging? I call it recycling! You’re so lucky to have Guiseppe. He is the official patron saint of carpenters.

  • Yes we often find treasures to bring home and fix up. My first flat was totally made up of furniture donated to me.
    It’s amazing what you can find if you really look and have a good eye. It’s always a great idea to give the neighbors something to talk about Lol. After many renovations ours usually just throw up their hands and shake their heads!
    ciao lisa

    • Jann

      Yes, Lisa, foreigners are given quite a bit of leeway do do weird things. People may talk, but they “understand.”

  • sandee wheeler

    I love your “found” table and I agree that your tiles steal the show! Not only that, your wonderful Italian bowl makes it all cooler yet!

  • The furniture is actually looking good…:)

  • Mark Sammons

    I utterly sympathize. My ex and I restored four houses in ten years. The light at the end of the tunnel was a bare light bulb in an empty room. So we learned what can be done with an old door and a couple yards of new textiles, and a big tin can for a light shade. Now we’re glad to have moved into a place that needed only fresh paint inside (though it needed hundreds of hours of back-breaking work to make a neglected, anvil-hard desert courtyard into a garden). Onward and upward, and best wishes! — Mark

    • Jann

      Hi Mark, welcome to the blog & thanks so much for commenting. That’s a lot of houses to renovate–4 in ten years! I will do two in my lifetime, and that seems like plenty.

  • I say Giuseppe did a fine job on this piece, which in my humble opinion looks quite rustic and full of character! Although I have to say your tiles took my breath away! And by the way, I would gladly rummage through dumpsters if it meant finding a makeshift table like this skid. Just charming! :)

  • —-Such Style & Character.

    I Love it, Jann.

    & Your carpenter is sooo adorable.

    Xxx

    • Jann

      Thanks, Kim–yes “my” Giuseppe is a love. You would not believe his little hole-in-the-wall shop. So cute.

  • Cathy

    I LOVE old furniture and finding a new purpose for something discarded… much to Himself’s dismay I might add. What I find ‘being ingenious’ he sees as my “packrat-i-ness” and cannot understand why I am loathe to discard ANYTHING that could be useful… Makes for some extremely animated conversations around here :) But oh Jann, those tiles, the color… they are gorgeous! I’m sure your ‘new’ table is absolutley lovely in your salone!

    • Jann

      You’re a sweetheart, Cathy! Glad you like my floor. You just tell Himself that he’s lucky to be married to a thrifty, clever gal like Yourself.

  • Wayne

    I love adopting discarded objets

    • Jann

      Good word, adopting! NYC is a fabulous place for dumpster diving & finding treasures. (I did a lot of that when I lived there.)

  • anastasia

    I’M SURE I WILL BE DOING THE SAME WITH MY PLACE IN
    CIANCIANA. I WILL DEFINITELY NEED TO USE MY
    IMAGINATION AS THE MONEY RUNS OUT FAST. WISH I WERE
    GOING TO BE THERE THIS MONTH BUT MAY IS THE SOONEST
    I CAN BE THERE. AM SO ANXIOUS TO SEE WHAT THE WORKERS
    HAVE GOTTEN DONE.THE ELECTRIC,PLASTERING AND
    PLUMBING ARE DONE.THEY PROMISED I WILL HAVE A
    FINISHED BATHROOM AND KITCHEN MINUS APPLIANCES WHEN
    I GET THERE. I AM SO EXCITED! HOPE MY PLACE ENDS UP
    LOOKING AS GOOD AS YOURS!

    • Jann

      Anastasia, it sounds like you are having much better luck with long-distance renovation than I did. Though I was in Rome when it was supposed to happen (really not that far away), nothing got done unless I was boots-on-the-ground.

  • Jill

    Used treasures are always wonderful!!! Can’t wait to start my own decorating in my OWN house in Sicily – if the building permit is ever issued lol – its been 14 months now that we have been waiting lol!

    • Jann

      Ouch, 14 months? Buona fortuna, Jill. It will happen piano piano as Sicilians like to say. Ogni cosa ha il suo tempo, everything in good time.

  • louciao

    jann, it is probably ill-advised to use the words “spanking” and “bed” in the same sentence.

  • I love finding things that people have thrown out. I have a pair of beautiful old shutters hanging on my wall that I saw tossed in the grass on the side of the road. They are painted and worn beautifully and to me they are precious!

    • Jann

      What a cute idea, Janie, to hang old shutters on a wall. Like creating an extra window, and anything sun-distressed is so beautiful. Thanks for commenting!

  • Your design eye at work again Jann! I didn’t know quite what a skid was but this one looks great! I love the accessories too! I can just imagine the looks you would have got lugging that to dear Giuseppe!!!!! I had an enormous raw timber palette as we call them (rather like a skid) in the living room in a flat in London years ago. Cheap and chic!!! Brava!

    • Jann

      Thanks, Janine. And we looked pretty weird bringing the skid-palette back to my house. Giuseppe slung it onto the roof of his old Fiat 500 and we both held onto it (no ropes or anything) as he sputtered up the hill. The neighbors must still be talking.

  • Having a gorgeously coloured tile floor like that could make anything look good, I think. I saw similar furnishings in a swank store recently, minus the scythes, so you’re definitely onto something. All my furniture is second hand through yard or moving sales, the Salvation Army, or made out of something else (eg. a door for a coffee table), or at best, bought slightly damaged from a wicker store (ie. cheap). The only new piece of furniture I bought was my bed. And everybody that visits loves it. I mean the eclectic furniture, not my bed.

    • Jann

      :) I remember seeing the photo you posted of your kitchen, louciao, and it was adorable! Yes, worn & used are beautiful. Though it’s mighty nice to have a spanking new bed (or mattress at least)!

  • “Found Object” decorating is the most satisfying…Count down to my Sicily visit: 11 days. Thank you for inspiring me with your stories and pictures to come south. I can’t wait.

    • Jann

      Oh my, Bonnie! 11 days!! I hope you get perfect weather and meet great people! Buon viaggio!!!

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