Patrick Blake grew up in a house in southeastern Virginia, where his mother devoted one room, the living room, to antiques.
“I always loved walking around in that room, gazing at her bed warmer hanging on the wall, the old spinning wheel in the corner, the iron and corn popper leaning against the fireplace,” he says.
Now 43 and living and working as a freelance visual merchan-diser and designer in the same area, Blake still loves those items and shares that passion nationwide with more than 7,500 fans of primitives through his Facebook page — Primitive Lane. People from Ohio, New York, Florida, Utah and Maine, as well as Virginia, have already joined Blake in primitive conversation.
“I love that this group has members from all the country,” says Tammy Zuch, a “Primitive Lane resident” from Pennsylvania.
Other members echo those sentiments and find the online fellowship refreshing and invigorating — a club where everyone shares their fabulous finds and fond memories. The posts are often nostalgic, a way of looking back and reflecting on the good times they had as children.
Making home inviting
“I love Primitive Lane because it takes me back to being a kid and going to my Aunt Maggi’s house,” says Lisa Marie Case of Windsor, Va.
“Primitive Lane also shows how you can take a yard sale find and make it a new treasure; these items make a house go from a cold room to very warm and inviting home.”
Others like Martha Middleton Simpson finds Primitive Lane helps her realize the value and beauty of items like the bobbins, spools and printer’s tray she recently purchased at a nearby quilters’ festival.
“I show pictures of my purchases on Primitive Lane,” says the Eastern Shore Virginia resident.
“It’s fun to see the bargains everyone gets.”
In Newcastle, Wy., Crystal Soares posts photos of snow outside her home and her “primitive snowman” hanging on a wall indoors.
For some like Rebecca Gingo Kosierowski in northeast Pennsylvania, primitives make practical-sense living.
“After getting married and having children and pets, I love the no-fragile aspect of primitive antiques. I never mind if things have chips or scratches because after all children do that to your stuff,” she says.
“And, I love the purpose of primitive items — buckets for holding sugar, crocks for canning. I also love the quality of these items that have existed for over 100 years.”
What is a primitive and where do you best find them?
“Primitive is a style of living,” says Blake.
“It takes you back to Colonial times when things were simple and flaws were welcomed. The word primitive is today’s name for what was once considered Colonial in the 1950 and 1960s, Early American in the 1970s, Country in the 1980s and Americana in the 1990s. It seems as if each decade has a new name for this decorating style.
“An antique is an item that is over 100 years old. So a vase from 1900 is an antique but not necessarily a primitive item. I always like to say primitive is “Little House on the Prairie” meets “The Waltons.” Look at the sets and props used on these shows. That is primitive.”
Thrift stores are the best affordable places to find primitive pieces because antiques shops tend to want higher prices. Blake also searches eBay, Etsy Facebook, CraigsList and yard sales.
Favorite primitives among his collection include a spinning wheel, wooden mashers, canning jars with zinc lids, rolling pins, crocks, Hoosier cabinet and old milk bottles — as well as an old radio that his grandfather used to listen to baseball games and a bench his dad made.
“He’s now gone so this simple piece of furniture is worth millions to me,” says Blake.
When Blake wants to perk up a primitive piece, he employs a painting technique he’s nicknamed the PPPP — Patrick’s Primitive Painting Process, which he says is a simple technique: sand, paint black, paint desired color, sand, stain and apply paste wax.
“This process creates a wonderful aged patina to any item,” he says.
If you want to read up on primitives and how to achieve the look you want, Blake suggests reading:
-- “Seasons at Seven Gates Farm” by Country Living.
-- “Hearts” by Mary Emmerling.
-- “Early Country Look, Making-Do” by Barb Rice and Debra Williams.
-- “For the Love of Old” by Mary Randolph Carter.
-- “Back to Basics” by Reader’s Digest
-- “Early American Primitives” by Conover Hill.
In addition, you can glean the latest in primitive looks from The Olden Days magazine, a publication that has just added Blake as its stylist and contributor. The fall issue includes Blake’s PPPP recipe in detail and before-and-after photos of how to create primitive vignettes.
While some enthusiasts may confine the look of yesteryear to one room of the house, Blake devotes every corner to primitives — even the bathrooms, he says.
“In the bathroom, use a set of old ice tongs (like the ones the ice man used to pick up blocks of ice) as a toilet paper holder,” he says.
“Use an old Mason jar to hold tooth brushes, old crates on the wall to hold toiletries, an old basket for rolled-up bath towels.
“Primitives give your home that feeling of warmth and a lived-in, comfortable feeling,” he says.