It’s officially back-to-school time, and we’re inundated with TV ads and flyers in the Sunday paper. While many of us may be busy picking up school supplies and getting used to the new schedule, it’s a great time to look at the charm that schoolhouse style can bring to your home. Classic vintage classroom graphics, furniture and accessories can add touches of charming nostalgia to just about any interior.
1. Card catalogs. Those of you born after the Internet was invented may not have ever seen one of these, but in the 1990s after the Dewey Decimal System went digital, antiques stores were full of vintage card catalogs. In different sizes, they’ve turned up as cabinets and coffee tables. A card catalog adds a wonderful dash of “something old” to this modern space; this one is from the 1910s. I wonder who was tall enough to look up anything in that top row of drawers?
2. Schoolhouse-style clocks. Looking at these reminds us of watching that second hand go around ever so slowly right before the bell rang. They make me glad I no longer have to do that, and their crisp black and white palette and numbers in classic fonts never go out of style.
3. Schoolhouse tables. This 1920s schoolhouse table adds patina to this transitional East Hampton, New York, beach house. Old scribbles inside the drawers are part of the table’s charm.
4. Chic beakers and other chem-lab glassware. These familiar vessels, complete with their interesting shapes and graphics, make eye-catching vases and containers for cotton swabs, cotton balls and soaps.
5. Laboratory tables. Speaking of chemistry class, this unique kitchen island is an antique school lab table-cabinet. It has plenty of space for storing utensils, dish towels, cookbooks, toys and kitchen gizmos.
6. Vintage blackboards. Whether you want a fun spot for the kids to play school, to scribble your grocery list or to write a menu or a funny quote about drinking whiskey from a teacup, a vintage blackboard can be an ever-changing framed piece that works in any room.
7. Antique charts. The graphics on these scrolls are fantastic. If skeletons hanging on your wall aren’t your bag, look into antique maps or animal or botanical illustrations.
8. Lockers. There’s no combination lock required at home, where lockers make great slim closets in mudrooms, kitchens, playrooms and kids’ rooms.
9. Globes. As the world is always changing, older globes are not the most accurate learning tools, but their colors and history make them interesting interactive accessories.
10. Pencil sharpeners. Before No. 2 pencils went all mechanical and sharpeners got power from batteries, a pencil sharpener was an important element in every classroom.
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They were also present in most households — I actually grew up with this one in my great-aunt and -uncle’s cottage in Maine. My grandparents had one in their kitchen right next to the back door as well.
11. Apples. This colorful fruit recalls the time when people would leave one for the teacher on his or her desk. It reminds me of the first and only computer in our entire school in the 1980s, where we would play a game about a lemonade stand whenever we could score a chance to use it.
12. Tartan. Take a note from school uniforms — those crisp white button-down shirts, pleated skirts and saddle shoes — when decorating a room.