putting furniture pieces together

by | Jun 23, 2021 | All Things Home, Decorating, Furniture Makeovers | 16 comments

The piece of furniture I’m asked about most is the large antique cabinet in my studio.  I totally understand why.  It’s an impressive piece and one I would ask about if I saw it!  If you read this blog regularly, you know its secret.  It’s not one piece, but two.  Not only is it two pieces married together, but two pieces that were found 1,000 miles and about three years apart.  The bottom piece is a storage counter out of an old hardware store in Maryland. The top is a bookcase from the Wilder School in Minnesota.  I bought it from a former student of the school who attended when it was just a one-room schoolhouse.  I assured him it was going to someone who appreciated that.

antique furniture | art studio | miss mustard seed

The idea to put the two pieces together came out of practicality.  I saw I wasn’t getting the most out of either piece.  The hardware cabinet had a lot of empty and unused space above it.  For a piece that takes up that much floor space in a hard-working room, it had to do more.

antique furniture | art studio | miss mustard seed

In the same way, the bookcase took up the largest wall in my home office but left about 4 1/2′ of empty wall above it.  It could do better.

antique furniture | art studio | miss mustard seed

After a lot of measuring and even sketching it out, I thought it could work.  I asked Jeff to help me move it, making it very clear that it might not work and we might end up moving everything back.  But it did work.  When we put the top of the hutch on (and screwed the pieces together with some metal straps), I could almost hear an angel choir.

antique furniture | art studio | miss mustard seed

Not only did it work great, but both pieces were living up to their storage potential.  Together, they filled the wall and maximized the use of the floor space.  Sometimes customizing furniture isn’t about painting and refinishing.  It isn’t about upholstering or slipcovers.  It’s about using the pieces in a smarter way, in a more impactful way.

While the cabinet pairing in my studio is my favorite, it’s not the first time I’ve done that.

I used to marry pieces quite frequently when a constant parade of furniture came in and out of my possession.  I often looked for underpriced pieces that could be something more when paired with something else.  One of my other favorite pairings was a similar story – a base cabinet and a hutch top that needed each other.

antique furniture | miss mustard seed

The base cabinet was rough and a part of me still can’t believe I bought it.  But, you have to be a hopeful person when you rehab old pieces of furniture for a living.  The doors were beyond saving, so I removed those, and my dad I worked together to rebuild the cabinet.  (You can read more detail about the makeover of this piece HERE.)  It actually cleaned up very nicely!

antique furniture | miss mustard seed

My friend Emily from Penny & Ivy was visiting me at the time to help out in the studio and she painted the piece in Miss Mustard Seed’s Milk Paint in the color Grain Sack.  It was the perfect grey-ish off-white to make the two pieces look cohesive together.  (As a side note, you can now order MMS Milk Paint and finishes directly on their website.)

They were a beast to paint, I know, but paint really did the trick when it came to making them look like they belonged together.

antique furniture | miss mustard seed

I loved that piece.  It was a tough one to sell, but it went to a young woman who was furnishing her new home.  She came to the Lucketts Spring Market with a list of things she was looking for, a measuring tape, and a budget.  This hutch ended up being the perfect size and price for her dining room.

antique furniture | milk paint farmhouse hutch | miss mustard seed

I hope this inspires you to look at pieces in your home in a new way.  Do you have any pieces you can combine to maximize visual impact, improve functionality, or increase storage space?

antique furniture | milk paint farmhouse hutch | miss mustard seed

Think beyond just putting one piece on top of the other.  What about putting one piece inside another?  What about putting a piece in a closet or on top of a counter?  Or perhaps you’ll get more function out of a piece by dismantling it…take a mirror off a dresser to make it more versatile or remove the doors from a cabinet to provide open storage for a collection.

Customizing things comes naturally to me.  I’ve been making things and tinkering since I was little.  But, if anyone needs to hear this – You don’t have to keep things as they are or use them as intended.  Make them work for you.  Make each piece earn its keep.

antique furniture | milk paint farmhouse hutch | miss mustard seed

And embrace the possibilities that open up when you think outside of the box.


  1. Karon

    Wow! What great ideas. You could do another book just on furniture mixing, matching etc. I love your blog and have been a fan for several years. You inspire me to try new ways of looking at furniture, paint colors and art. Thank, thank you. I look forward to your blog every day. I have retired and this give me ideas how to look at my furnishings in a new way and maybe refresh our home in a way I had not even thought of before. Blessings to you Marian for such inspiration to all of us.

  2. Angie Guymon

    I absolutely love the uniqueness of vintage furniture! I’ve mixed up quite a few pieces and used furniture in different parts of my house (a pie safe in my bedroom) for different reasons and functionalities. You bookcase is swoon worthy! It catches my eye all the time!!!

  3. Emily Cleverly

    I love your studio cabinet, it makes me happy to see pictures. And what a nice walk down memory lane, working in that studio space with your creative energy was a great privilege.

  4. Terry

    Wow I think you were talking directly to me when you said “if anyone needs to hear this”. I have always been so bad about changing any furniture except finish. In recent years I have intentionally bought items I didn’t LOVE just so I could make myself adjust them. I am getting better. Thank you for the encouragement by showing us such beautiful examples.

    • Marian Parsons

      Oh, I’m so glad! 🙂

  5. Katherine

    Marian –
    still looking for a source for that rabbit pillow on the bench you have on your front porch. Can you help with this?

    • Marian Parsons

      I bought that 2-3 years ago from Target and it seemed to be a one-season item, sadly. I think it’s cute, too!

      • Lisa P

        Your boldness is always encouraging. Thank you!

  6. Susan Cecere

    I am even more impressed that the now top was a stand-alone piece from The Wilder School. I have a similar cabinet that is very old, it belonged to my grandmother who was an artist. I painted it a blue for my kitchen in our previous home. It stored my Polish stoneware. We downsized and moved to a smaller ranch home, it is now in the living room, holding table wear I don’t use a regular basis.

  7. Michele M.

    I honestly think this is one of your very best posts. Bravo – talk about inspiring!

    And every time I see the combo in your studio I audibly sigh. It is beyond awesome.

  8. Pam Gaspard

    I love the idea of mixing things up and improvising! Recently we moved into a new home which will most likely be my forever home. Sadly, I have always wanted a window seat and this home does not have one. But, I sat and thought and decided our old 3 piece entertainment center could be my answer! We put the two outer cabinets on each side if a window with an old wooden army truck between them. Add a pillow top to the trunk turned bench with some decorative pillows – perfect! I even found an old shutter that fit perfectly across the space between the top of the cabinets giving my window seat more coziness and adds additional storage on top. Since this is in my craft room, it is the perfect spot to sit and go through books stored in the cabinets on either side. My fav spot!

    • Donna

      Pam, that’s brilliant! I’d love to see a picture!

  9. Barbara H.

    Yes, I love it when inspiration strikes and things become much more useful either together or in a new position or place. This last year I have been adding wheels to my bookcases and cabinets – those white put-together pieces that are inexpensive but can solve a lot of storage problems. I had to get creative to make it work on some of the pieces but it is so nice to be able to easily move them fully loaded for cleaning or changing their place in the room. You are a master at re-imagining furniture and I am so grateful for how much you share.

  10. Grace

    Just love that your pieces go together so well! I have done the same with some pieces I bought separately.
    And Wilder MN is just 15-20 miles north of where I live. Glad people treasure the old pieces.

  11. Lynnett Ratchford

    I love this post, Marian! I, too, have been changing the original function of furniture for years, mostly out of necessity. When you live in a small home you learn all sorts of tricks to stretch the versatility. My favorite is my personal desk. It originally was an unfinished wooden contemporary style purchased for my son for his small bedroom. We painted it white, but when he left his room became my office and was transformed to a frilly, girly wallpapered garden of roses. We repainted the desk in an off-white, my go-to neutral originally named “camellia” and changed the hardware to brass forks and spoons designed for this purpose and purchased at Pier One. Picture a tea party.

    The best part was the bookcase hutch. I had held on to a three shelved bookcase built by my late grandfather. Picture it in orangey plywood with scallops. Fortunately it fit on top of the desk, and when painted in the same off-white, tied in beautifully and stretched the storage and usable space immensely. The top shelf contains a collection of vintage sewing baskets in a fine wicker weave, all in pastel colors. Keep sharing your ideas. I love them.

  12. June

    Where do you find the small crocks with the writing on them?


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Marian Parsons - Miss Mustard Seed

I’m Marian, aka Miss Mustard Seed, a wife, mother, paint enthusiast, lover of all things home and an entrepreneur, author, artist, designer, freelance writer & photographer.  READ MORE to learn more about me, my blog and my business…


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