29 June 2010

The Art of Making Do

Ever since I began my fascination with decorating, I have been using hand-me-downs, thrift stores finds, and estate sale bargains to complete my space.  I am no victim, I assure you.  I have more than I could ever need or want and I am grateful. (Thank you, universe) Instead, I am convinced that not much will change as both my design prowess and my bank account expand.  I will always be attracted to things that come with their own story and are, often times, older than me!  For example...
(DISCLAIMER: All of the pictures contained below may be considered "Before" photos, as many of them were taken months ago AND my home is still very much a work in progress and will not be ready to be viewed as finished  for months, maybe years!)

My headboard came from my aunt's neighbors in Cincinnati, Ohio.  That's right.  All the way from a damp Cincinnati basement where it had been left to mold and die.  When I rescued it, it was dark wood veneer and free of mold.  I sanded it down, repainted and then sanded again to make it look old and weathered.  It has been my faithful sleeping companion for almost five years now and I plan on having it for another 50!  

Our dining room server and matching china cabinet traveled roughly 500 miles from Yuma Street in Washington, D.C.  It was used by Tommy's three great aunts who lived in a home that had previously belonged to their parents along with all of its contents.  The lovely mid-century cocktail glasses on top of the server belonged to Tommy's grandfather - an architect for the Navy - he used to drink Manhattans out of these tasty little vessels. 

The sofa is a hand me down from a person who will remain unnamed.  The poor thing has seen her fair share and is nearing retirement, but I had her recovered one last time in something sassy to celebrate her golden years.  The lamps in this room (two of my favorites) were thrift store and yard sale finds.  The loveseat was "overstock" from my mom's house - I graciously accepted. 

My french style desk chair was a Goodwill treasure for less than 40 bucks.  She was stained very dark and covered with damaged green silk.  Although I'm sure she was fabulous in her prime, she was in need of love when I found her, but I never turn away a stray - especially one with this much potential! I am in the process of painting and recovering - I just haven't found the right fabric.  The desk is a MALM occasional table from IKEA. 

The "console" in our entry way is a dresser I found at Wilderness Way Girls Camp Thrift Shop in Seneca, SC.   The drawers don't quite work right, there are cracks throughout and parts of the pulls are missing, but every dog should have a few fleas and I think she's as perfect as could be!  But for real, this little lassy is as old as the hills.  I know that 'cause the engraving on the bottom drawer says 1893.  I bet she could tell a story or two.  The mirror I found at a yard sale for 10 bucks and spray painted gold and the two small oil paintings were buried in the corner of a shop in Montmartre. They too were a steal and I think they're just precious.

I love all of my formerly owned, gently used and much loved pieces.  For me, it is like filling my home with characters and memories and I don't plan on stopping!  Even when I can afford to outfit my space in Horchow and design originals, I will still hunt for bargains at my local Salvation Army. 

Here are some of my favorite ways to find bargains and undiscovered treasures:

  • Scour your local second hand stores.  A quick search on Google will reveal all the thrift and consignment shops in your area.

  • If you are lucky enough to have a flea market in your area, go!  Arrive early for a better selection.

  • Check out eBay and Craigslist for specifics and hard to find objects.  I recently got a patio set circa 1960 on my local Craigslist for only 50 bucks!

  • A recent favorite of mine is shopgoodwill.com.  It is set up similar to eBay, but uber cheap.

  • IKEA.  'Nuff said.

  • Check out children's furniture stores, like Pottery Barn Kids.  Often they carry the same items and styles, but have lower prices. 

  • Estate sales, garage sales, and yard sales are a great place to find treasures at dirt cheap prices.  You can search and sign up for updates on estatesales.net

  • Department stores like JCPenney's and Sears are a surprising and affordable place to find home accessories.

  • Don't be intimidated by "Antique" Shops.  Often times they offer lower prices and are willing to negotiate. 

  • If you are looking for something specific, but insist on buying it new, use sites like TheFind.com, which compile items from different retail stores and manufacturers and allow you to compare prices before leaving your home.
Happy hunting!


  1. I've heard about the estatesale.net before. I'll go sign up. Oh, and hello! ha. I have a lot of catching up to do on your blog. How do you find the time? There is so much here! It's fantastic and I know what I'm doing on my lunch break today- reading more.

    I totally agree about the found/old objects theory. There was a time when every major piece of furniture in my house had been donated, found on the street and refurbished, or came from a thrift/antique store. I get a real warmth from the patinas and the dings and the stories that I make up in my head about these old pieces.

  2. I have found wonderful things on Craigslist....

  3. Love your pieces Whitney,can't wait til we see the babies room!

  4. Thanks for reading! I'm sure as I learn more and more, my taste might become a little more discerning, forcing me to expand my horizons and buy some new furniture, but I will always make sure that I'm mixing old with new because I just love all of my "characters."
    Kim- I will let you know of the next estate sale in this area- there was one in Heathwood last weekend and the man said there would be atleast two more in the next month, so I'll keep you posted.
    Thanks again!

  5. Whitney, your blog is written beautifully; it's SO interesting and fun to read. Carolyn and Kim have told me how talented you are and now, I'm a believer! I also love scrounging around for hidden treasures but haven't done so in awhile. I need to get back at it! Keep on writing and I'll keep on reading.