If you're on a budget and hunting for particular items to furnish your house, it helps to have patience and persistence. And to know when they put the new stuff out.
Take our local village junk shop. They bring in treasures from their offsite warehouse each Friday morning, so the best time to visit is Friday around mid-day, when all the new goodies have been set up.
At larger stores, like my local Goodwill, they do enough business that every day new stuff is being put out on the floor. That means if you're on the hunt for something specific, you may have to drop by every day or two. A quick pass through is all it takes to see if anything new is available.
I'm not above dumpster diving and trolling the alleyways of my neighborhood for treasures. All it takes is a quick pass by in a car, on a bike, or on foot to see if anybody has set out new "treasures." It helps to know when trash day is, and it's invaluable to get friendly with the construction boss on a neighborhood remodel.
And never underestimate your "gut feeling" that tells you to stop, turn around, and investigate a yard sale you just drove by.
I had the chance to see these all tips in action the last couple of months.
Thrift Shop Finds
If you've been reading along with me for a while, you know we're furnishing the Funny-Looking House for Lovely Daughters #1 and #2 on a shoestring budget. The FLH has a formal dining room, but the LD's own no dining-room furniture at all. (Most young 20-somethings don't, I find.) So I've been on the hunt for a table, 6 to 10 chairs, a sideboard, and maybe a fantastic piece of art for the largest wall.
Several weeks ago I found this fantastic, Mission-style oak dining table that--with its insert--can seat 10 people. It's from our local Goodwill. Here it is before the handyman refinished it, and sans insert. Now it glows with subtle warmth, and the top of it is silky to the touch.
Then a long dry spell happened, and even though I returned again and again to my favorite haunts--the junk shops, thrift shops, the garage sales and even the alleys in my neighborhood--it seemed like the pipeline on dining-room chairs had dried up.
But Friday, as I was leaving Goodwill after an unsuccessful chair search, I walked past the shoe racks and saw these, lined up for folks who were trying on shoes:
Six identical, tomato-red chairs. (Only five shown here, but trust me, there are six.)
I flipped one over to see they were from IKEA and sell for #20 each, unassembled. Goodwill was asking $9.99 each, assembled, and I rocked my over-55-years discount for another $6 off.
Now, they aren't elegant, and they aren't heirlooms-in-the-making. They're cheap pine chairs painted a cheerful color, but they are going to look terrific with the dining room table. And at $54 for a set of six, they are the right price for the Lovely Daughters. So I nabbed them.
Somebody really went nuts with the sales-sticker gizmo. Each chair had at least five stickers on it. I hate these stickers. They are designed to disintegrate the moment you try to peel one off. And they leave a sticky residue.
Time to try some goo-removers. I swear by "Goo Gone," which is available at most hardware, home stores, and even bed-and-bath stores. Lovely Daughter #2 told me peanut butter is good for removing sticker traces, too.
Both removed the leftover goo, but Goo Gone did a quicker job of it. And it smelled like citrus, which I think is preferable to peanut butter.
But in a pinch, peanut butter would do. (I suspect other oils, like canola, or baby oil, would do the job as well.)
We can't store much in the FLH because every room is still covered in construction dust, broken-up plaster, and empty cartons. So for now, the red chairs will rub shoulders in my living room with my cream-colored things. I like how the red plays off the blue accents, and how nicely it goes with the antique Japanese lap desk (on the coffee table) and the Chinese enamel bowl (also on the coffee table). It's no wonder; this shade of red shows up a lot in Asian interior design, often in the form of beautiful, high-end lacquered items.
Junk Shop Find
While I was driving with Lovely Daughter #2 Saturday to Lowes to buy some humdrum hardware for the Funny-Looking House, I saw one of our odder neighborhood junk stores had stuff out on the yard for display.
I did a u-turn (to the LD's annoyance, I suspect) because this little place is only open when the moon is on the wane on odd-numbered days and the guy who runs it doesn't have anything else to do.
But he has an unerring eye for good lines, and he frequently paints his furniture finds a palette of colors I love--eggshell white, pale turquoise, and dusty pink. Shabby chic colors.
And we found this beauty. (I had to photograph it in the back of my mini-SUV because it takes two strong men to lift it.)
Lovely Daughter #2 and I had been searching for a highboy dresser for her room. This one is perfect. It is hardwood, with dovetail joints, easy-gliding drawers, and a wonderfully funky look. We especially love the swirly details along the bottom:
I like how the top three drawers are a slightly smaller size than the bottom two. It gives it architectural interest. I also like how we bargained the price down from $160 to $100. That doesn't make it the Deal of the Century, but I don't mind because, over all, we've rocked some seriously great buys on furniture for the house so far (like the oak dining table that seats 10, above, which I got for an astonishing $55).
Often when you find an old piece like this, you have to replace the knobs because some are missing or they are just plain ugly. But these fat, slightly cartoonish knobs are perfect:
Here is LD #2 in what will be her bedroom of the Funny-Looking House, back when it was furnished by the previous occupants. She'll be keeping almost precisely the same furniture arrangement, with her bed where this one is. Her new/vintage bureau will go exactly where they placed theirs. She will probably place a very modern white leatherette chair in the corner where she's standing. She got the chair for free by "liberating" it from a compliant boyfriend:
On the highboy, she plans to place one of two mirrors, leaning casually (but actually firmly anchored to the wall--this is earthquake country, after all).
LD #2 has two mirrors to choose from. Either this one, which I snagged for $60 at a local going-out-of-business sale:
I love the massive size of it, the ornate scrollwork (slightly dirty now but that is fixable), and the beveled edge on the mirror. A beveled edge costs more than a straight sheet of mirror but adds a quiet note of refinement:
Yard Sale Find
Or if things are too white-on-white over on that wall, she can have this one:
I think I overpaid a bit--$60 for a much more rustic frame, slightly smaller over all, and no beveled mirror. But I got it at a year ago at a yard sale held by the television show "Clean House," hosted by Niecy Nash. All the proceeds from the sale go toward refurbishing the house of the family that's getting the makeover, so I was happy to pay a bit more--a charitable cause, so to speak.
And seeing La Nash in action was delicious.
Lastly, I have a wonderful....
I found this big beauty tossed into a dumpster by a renovation crew in my neighborhood. It's a leaded-glass window, about six feet tall by two and a half feet wide. It is probably 60 years old, because the house it's from had been in continuous occupancy for six decades when it sold last spring. The new owners of the house didn't want it, and I asked the construction boss if I could "rescue" it. He not only said sure, he very kindly put it in the back of his pickup truck and moved it around the corner to my back yard. I plan to sand it down a bit to remove the leftover caulking, paint it a beautiful shade, and hang it horizontally above a credenza (still to be found) in the dining room of the Funny-Looking House.
It will be an arresting and unique piece, and it cost me nothing whatsoever. The best price of all!