Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Thrift SCORE!

So I know we've discussed thrifting a little bit before. Thrift stores are a passion of mine. They have their own category in our checkbook balancing program, if that tells you anything. I have a more-than-passing-interest in interior design, and a less-than-well-heeled bank account, and thrift stores are, for me, the only way to pull together looks I love without the moolah to back it up.
Thrifting takes some real imagination, the ability to unclutter your field of vision, but most importantly, practice. I've heard people say "I never have luck in thrift stores." Here's a little secret: it ain't about luck, chickies. It's about working on it-- daily, if you can. Kinda like running. Nobody's going to run a marathon their first time out. And you aren't going to be able to see past the decorative toilet-paper holders, macrame wall-hangings and discarded florist vases if you don't practice. There. Lecture over.

I have a few rules, if you will, for thrift scoring.
Rule #1--Rolling up your sleeves.
A good thrift store is going to be at least a little bit dirty, and will probably be filled with a mix of folks you might or might not encounter in your everyday life. You've got to get over this. Bring some hand sanitizer in your pocketbook if it makes you feel better. It will also be poorly merchandised, if at all. Put on your x-ray vision goggles before entering.

Rule #2--Location, location, location.
The best thrift stores probably aren't in the best parts of town, although if you're looking to score name brand clothing, choose the store closest to the ritziest part of your town. I keep it a secret, but there's a place in Greensboro where I regularly find primo (and I mean $100 a pop and up) unworn shoes, belts, tops, you name it, by following Rule #2. For my best houseware scores, I always frequent a different store. Mirrors (and I have a whole collection of these I need to show you) at another one. Rule #3-- Checking out figures and lookin' at bums
Because it's very easy to get totally overwhelmed in a thrift store, I try to focus on silhouettes. I look at the shape of things first-- does that horrible, fake-wormhole painted 1970's chair have beautiful, ornate carving that would look absolutely fab with a coat of paint? Is that neon-green lamp with gold flowers actually the uber-cool double gourd silhouette you'll pay top dollar for somewhere else? I often put lots of stuff in my cart, only to go stand in a corner and analyze it before checking out. I look at each piece for it's overall silhouette, color (if I can't change it with paint) condition and any identifying markings. After a while you'll begin to be able to tell by looking if something is "good goods," as my grandmother said. The lines will be more graceful, the color more expensive-looking, the overall shape just more pleasing to the eye. And ALWAYS look at the bottom of things-- much of the good stuff is marked, and you can learn brands that are valuable by checking out places like Ebay.

Rule #4-- There's not much you can't change (and chump-change is often the best change of all)
Translation-- most ugly things can be made beautiful with a little elbow grease--AND-- don't pay too much. I pretty much have a $10 cap, max, on everything I buy, except furniture. I'll go up to around $20 for a really great something--but it has to be REALLY great.Like this chair. I dithered and dithered on it for weeks (luckily nobody bought it.) Then I saw these here and woke my kids up from a nap to rush back over and fork over my $25 bucks before somebody else did. It's still seriously ugly (as my husband reminds me every day) but with some paint and fresh upholstery-- love-lee!

Rule #5-- Look both ways before crossing the street (or learning to be aware of your surroundings)
Make sure you're well-read. I'm going to update my blog roll soon and post about some of my favorite folks who know their stuff, but I find just looking at pictures of what a lot of money can buy you helps to train your eye to see what your $8 and a little hard work can become for you. The king (queen?) of this is the divine Eddie Ross.
And also, kind of literally, make sure you keep your eyes and ears open when you are thrifting. I go to some stores that are in REALLY not-great parts of town. Some where I don't even take my kids with me. Head's up, ladies.
And since I'm sure you're wondering why I keep posting pictures of this thing-- case in point. It's a lovely bottle I spied behind several rolls of contact paper this morning. It had one of those wick thingies in it that you stick in a bottle filled with oil to make an oil-burning lamp. But the shape is amazing-- way too many curves and included bubbles to be mass-produced in China-- the color is the loveliest shade of turquoise, and it just looked like something that had to come home with me. I paid my .50 cents for it, promptly threw the wick thing out, did the teeny-tiniest bit of research on the internet and found this. Not too shabby, eh?

1 comment:

Gremlina said...

MAN! I ALSO wrote a thrift store shopping guide a few months ago http://gremlinavintage.blogspot.com/2009/08/vintage-finds-around-town.html . & I thoroughly enjoyed your most recent stay-at-home mom post. We are kindred spirits. Oh, and have you seen my yesterdays post?