A Genius Way to Upcycle All Those Coffee-Table Books Collecting Dust

Anthony D’Argenzio went with 1920s artwork.

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Restoring, repurposing, restyling. There’s a lot that goes into sprucing up a historic home, and no one knows that better than Zio and Sons’ Anthony D’Argenzio. In our bimonthly column, he takes us through every design detail in This Old Hudson Maison, his latest passion project in upstate New York. 

The dining room was the next space we tackled after the kitchen, and it felt bland in comparison. I added a pair of vintage black chairs and upcycled a table I found on Facebook Marketplace with Annie Sloan chalk paint—but even after that, it didn’t look quite right. I decided to look for a vintage component to bring in texture, and that’s when I remembered a set of antique windows I’d had stored in my basement for the last year. 

The windows are probably six feet tall, and come from a 1920s-era property here in Hudson. One side is white, and the other is green—but not just any green: It’s Eau de Nil, a specific shade that was very popular at the turn of the century. It felt necessary to keep the color to pay homage to that time period. I also had a collection of original paintings done by a French costume designer that I picked up at a flea market in Amsterdam. It has over 150 characters and I spent way too much money on it, but I knew it was special: Each little figurine is hand-painted and looks so unique. I’d been holding onto it for two years, and decided to use the characters in this space, as part of an installation with the salvaged windows. I call them “les actors.” 

window panes filled with art pieces behind dining nook
Photography by Zio & Sons Creative

First, I had to do a lot of restoring to clean all the window panes and sand down some of the chipping paint. Then I tackled the paintings. I decided to scan the originals rather than use them, so I could play around with them and not risk ruining 100-year-old artwork. My biggest tip is to make sure you keep the scale of the art to the panes in mind. They should fill out each square but not overcrowd it. 

Doing the layout was the trickiest part. Each of these frames has 25 boxes (I kept some empty to break up the design), so I printed out the whole collection and laid them out in a grid on the floor, sorting through my favorites and shuffling them around so I could see exactly how they’d appear on the wall. I used a chemical-free duct tape to stick each piece onto the siding of the individual panes, but there are so many ways to apply your art onto glass: Buy mats and adhere the prints onto the paper, or, if you’re using photography, stick them directly onto the pane. Then all you have to do is hang up your windows—mine are super heavy, so make sure you have people helping you or even hire a contractor if you’re worried about damaging anything during the install. 

The main idea is to create a story, so try to keep everything within a theme. For example, if you’re doing photography, you might want to stick to black and white. But other than that, there are no rules: Fill your frame with photos of your family or your travels, collage typeface from a magazine, or cut up old art books. (You can also buy these exact art prints from my art shop—I’ll be adding them to the store soon, so keep an eye out.)

I suggest carving out a good 36 hours for this DIY, because between refinishing the window frames and laying out the final design, it’s actually quite a lengthy process. It definitely requires patience (there was a lot of figurine rearranging), but I had so much fun: It’s such a visually stimulating project, especially gratifying because I’d had these prints forever. Turning them into one-of-a-kind artwork was so rewarding. 

Check back in two weeks for the next story in our series, in which D’Argenzio shares how he created a multifunctional bunk room-slash-laundry space. 

As told to Elly Leavitt.