Spring is around the corner, and that means yard sale season.
Linda Crain will be busy browsing those yard sales looking for that unique, unusual or charming item. Her Long Lake home is full of interesting finds.
The island in her kitchen is an old newspaper printing cabinet fitted with a marble top.
“The typesetter’s letters were stored in the drawers,” Crain said. “It’s great for making homemade candy.”
A grocery cart filled with bottled water greets thirsty guests to her kitchen, which is outfitted with seating in the form of old pew Crain salvaged from a church. A hatchery box imprinted with the name of a chicken farm serves as a table.
“There is nothing new,” said Crain. “I’m a garage sale nut.”
Some of her treasures are from places she traveled to as a flight attendant in the 1970s. Crain points to a stack of tin suitcases she found in New Zealand.
“I love the decals from where they’ve been,” she said.
Perhaps her largest find is a 1930s grand piano. Crain doesn’t play, but her Newfoundland dog Lennie likes to bang up and down the keyboard with his nose.
“He only does that for guests,” she said.
Crain doesn’t mind if something shows a little wear and tear.
“I like dinged-up stuff,” she said.
Crain recalled the best compliment she ever received—from a little boy who said her home is like the Fourth of July, Halloween and Christmas all rolled into one.
Like she did with the little boy, Crain encourages her guests to take their time looking at things.
“I say, ‘Go ahead and pick it up, touch it.' I’ve raised kids in this home, so I don't worry about breakage,” she said.
Like more and more baby boomers are starting to do as they near and enter retirement, Crain has made a business out of her passion. Her Maple Plain store, Web of Charlotte, is full of cast-off items that have been given new life.
A blue window shutter was turned into a towel rack by adding a few hooks. A window pane is now a picture frame. Old canning jars are candle holders.
“Linda’s style is eclectic in a vintage sense,” said business associate Heidi Denneson. “I’m inspired by her because I love being able to take a piece of old, unused furniture and make it functional again with a little creativity.”
The most asked-about item in the store?
“The blood bank,” Crain said, referring to a metal refrigerator used to store blood plasma in a hospital.
It still works and can be had for $250.
Crain and her husband have three grown daughters who attended Orono schools. Now the couple shares their home with a pot-bellied pig named Wilbur, five dogs and several chickens. Her favorite guest is her 2-year-old granddaughter.
"She is 2 going on 22," Crain laughed.
Crain’s husband doesn’t share her passion for collecting things. He calls it "her crap,” she said.
Television producers took notice of Crain's decorating in 1997 when the home was featured on the HGTV show Decorating Cents.
“They wanted to know how I made a new house look old on the inside through decorating,” she said.
Crain says her flair for the unique is inspired by her grandmother.
“Grandma had things that were special, and when I came over, she would let me touch and hold them,” Crain said. “We’d share toast and tea on her jadeite cup and plate. She only had one.”
Inspired by her grandmother, Crain now collects jadeite dishes. The pale green cup and plates are prominently displayed in a dining room cabinet with glass doors.
“My house makes me smile,” Crain said. “All the things in it remind me of my childhood and my grandmother.”
Crain grew up on a farm in Oregon. She didn’t go to college because her family didn’t have the money. As a young adult, she moved to Hawaii where she sold and modeled clothes and coordinated luaus.
A job as a flight attendant for Northwest Airlines introduced her to Minnesota in 1977.
“I took that first breath and my nose stuck together,” she recalled. “I thought it was odd that it could be sunny and cold.”
Now Minnesota is home.
With spring coming, Crain is getting ready to move the furniture and décor around in her house, which she does three times a year: spring, fall and Christmas.
Her decorating mantra? “Everything can go together.”