One Person’s Junk is Another’s TreasureJul 01, 2022 10:47AM ● By Lisa Lukecart
Photos by Bill Sitzmann and Sarah Lemke
It’s the thrill of the hunt and the exhilaration of the find. It’s the connecting to the past. It’s part of the reason why Dr. Jill McTaggart woke up one weekend in late April with serious business on her mind. She’d bought an early-bird ticket to Junkstock, paying extra to bypass the crowds. After arriving, the pursuit for treasures commenced.
Among her finds—a beaten-up tin mints box, a chipped green toy truck, a mustard-colored candy scale. Vintage items like these have transformed her home into an idyllic, eclectic montage.
She added beautiful blue and yellow hydrangeas to the beast-like rusty tin. She transformed the toy truck into a kitchen centerpiece, with yellow blooms riding in the cargo bed for a pop of color. Silver-lined white china dishes and vases spiced up the scene. The scale might take center stage, the petunia inside a snowy cup weighed on the ledge. Purple and rose-colored floral designs on the plates complement the yellow hues.
“This is for me...Anytime I can play with my china, crystal, and silver, I’m like a kid in a candy store,” McTaggart posted on Instagram.
Toile. Trucks. Words. Scales. Numbers. McTaggart, with two friends, searched the packed showing at Junkstock for more treasures like these at Sycamore Farms. Her Land Cruiser soon became filled with her pickings.
“I played with dolls when I was a little girl, and now, I play with trucks,” McTaggart said jokingly.
Despite owning a busy practice in obstetrics and gynecology, the doctor makes time for “junking.” Sometimes she will shop with friends, other times with her daughter, Carly. Visits to Michigan, Maine, and Illinois veered into stops at cute boutiques or antique shops. Finds on Etsy and other online sites supplement her eye-drawing collections. An English-style typewriter, sitting in a prominent spot in the dining room, had to be ordered via mail. Along with the whimsical toile wallpaper, the room almost feels like one stepped into a time machine.
Other times, vendors do the “picking” and alert shoppers to potential steals. Joyce Workman, owner of Vintage Green Antiques in Michigan, has spotted pitchers, platters, and thermoses for McTaggart. A creamy gray 1960s handmade cubby would have cost a fortune to ship, so the two met in Chicago. A fast friendship formed, resulting in a weekend adventure hitting up little shops around Illinois.
“I love her style. It just feels good,” Workman said of her friend from Omaha. “And she has a good eye for how she displays it.”
McTaggart decorates her Loveland home in a functional way without cluttering the space. Rooms look like antique shops without the dust and disuse. She often reorganizes and recycles items to fit her latest design scheme. A warm, comfortable atmosphere beckons despite all these little fragile pieces spread throughout.
Her two Goldendoodles, Teddy and Cookie Dough, don’t pay too much attention to the white vases, as both wiggle their tails nearby in the kitchen. Mismatched chairs sit around the bleached oak table. McTaggart believes matching equals boring, so a hodgepodge of modern mingles with traditional.
A flatscreen television appears a bit out of place sitting on top of outmoded shelving labeled Dolly Madison Cakes. Boxes beneath with red and white lettering add dashes of color. A jade-hued locker from a Michigan trip provides more storage space. An ancient-looking bright red Coca-Cola cooler sits off to the side, the metal casement ready to keep drinks cold for guests if needed. It’s a charming and entertaining spot for wine-tasting parties and book clubs.
“I can’t get people to leave my kitchen,” McTaggart declared.
A find at Junk Jubilee in Des Moines outshines the impressive contemporary subzero fridge gleaming in the corner. It’s a table transformed into an island, where guests can mingle with beverages while waiting for food. The top, a bowling alley floor, complements the charcoal-painted industrial metal on the bottom. Wicker-bottomed bar stools provide seating at the corner.
Rather than the standard paper towel holder, McTaggart utilizes a vintage box. Throughout the household, she integrates design with functionality. McTaggart started repurposing her décor when her children, Carly, Colin, and Cole, were babies. She filled a toolbox with diapers, lotion, and wipes. It’s now a perfect spot for utensils like an ice cream scooper.
Her living room features the glass pharmaceutical cabinets from HomeGrown Junk that nod to the bygone eras of medicine. The cool blue and lime vases, boxes, and thermoses stand out next to the bright white vibe of the sofa, rug, and walls. Quilts, pieced together by McTaggart, drape through rooms for a cottage ambiance. A toile-covered chair featuring a dancing couple and a dog against a sky-colored backdrop deepen the contrast. A weather-beaten gray chest replaces the typical contemporary coffee table.
Pillows on the sofa proclaim “Purina Milk Chow” and “Certified Ranger Alfalfa Seed” in an old-style font, adding some country flair. The hand-sewn seed sack pillow covers spread throughout her house are the brainchild of Shannon Hanna of HomeGrown Junk in Missouri Valley, Iowa. Hanna talked her mother and her sole employee, Janelle Kilbane, into creating outdoor pillows from vintage cloth sacks and they became an instant hit. HomeGrown started small in her front yard, and soon drew in collectors like McTaggart. It has since blossomed into a full-time business, operating in a 42 foot by 70 foot farm shed.
“You don’t have to buy everything from IKEA. Junk is near and dear to hearts,” Hanna said.
Of course, McTaggart has a few vintage medicine bags upstairs in her guest room. She said all her treasure hunting has lent soul to her home...A home she hopes to enjoy for life.
“I’ll leave this house with a toe tag,” she proclaimed.
To see more of McTaggarts’s repurposed finds, follow her on Instagram @shesa1926brickhouse. To learn more about vintage junking events, visit junkstock.com, homegrownjunk.com, and vintagegreenantiques.com.
This article originally appeared in the July/August 2022 issue of Omaha Home. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.