Thursday, June 2, 2011

Thrifting Thursdays: Purchase or Pass?

Because most "real blogs" have special features like Tuesday's Twenty or Wednesday Wonders or some other awesome alliteration like that, I now bring you "Thrifting Thursdays." I'm sure this one is already taken as it's not very original but hey, it's a step in the right direction. :)

Yesterday at the thrift store (I wish I had taken a picture) I came across a set of 4 solid windsor chairs for only $10 for the whole set! It was such a steal that I was going to buy them whether I needed them or not. But then, I remembered that my sister needed some dining room furniture and called her up. Sure enough it was just what they needed. They are blonde wood, and need to be painted, but still such a bargain. I found a great example of how great windsor chairs can look (I especially like how they're paired with a rustic farm table):

From Traditional Home
I think all too often when people go thrifting or garage sale hunting, they only see the item as is, and not as the finished product. If you can see the finished product, instead of the current state the item is in, you will be able to see it's value. Potential is everything when it comes to buying second hand.

Here's another example of a less than happy item I found in pretty bad shape:

I sanded it down, tightened the screws and sprayed it with a fresh coat of white paint, and POOF* a beautiful accent chair is born that only cost me $5:

I know seeing the potential in an old, dirty and discarded item is hard to do. Perusing the thrift store no doubt you are constantly asking yourself "to buy or not to buy?" Here are some tips I have learned when it comes to thrifting for home decor and potential DIY projects:
  1. Assess the damage (if any) on the item. Can it be sanded out? Painted over? Or easily repaired? I.e. getting new glass for an antique frame, or reupholstering torn fabric, etc. If yes, then continue on.
  2. Is it made of solid wood or other sturdy construction? If yes, continue on.
  3. If it's glass, ceramic or other breakable material does it have any chips or cracks in it? If so, does it impair it's function? Is it fragile? Is the damage visible? If you answered yes to any, put it back. 
  4. This refers to furniture and clothing, does it have an unpleasant odor? (Sorry but you wanna check, trust me.)
  5. Is it a classic piece? Is it substantially discounted? (Some thrift stores are getting smart and charging near retail for antiques and collectibles.) If the answer is yes to both questions, grab it and don't look back. You won't regret it. If you can't use it, you can sell it for substantially more once it's polished up and pretty. Trust me, I have several regrets with beauties I left behind. I actually turned down a pair of two blue and white floral pattern garden stools in mint condition for $20 each! I still regret that one. Oh well, lesson learned, don't pass up the classics!
  6. Don't be afraid of dust, dirt, even a bad paint job. It can all be fixed!
  7. When it comes to furniture, look for clean classic lines or ornate, distinct design. If it's got great design, if the "bones" are good, you can paint it any color you want to suit your tastes.
  8. Stick to your style. If something isn't your style, you don't have any room for it, or you can't picture it in your home, then don't get it. (That is, unless it's a classic piece that you intend to resell or gift.) 
  9. Don't just get something because it's cheap. I made this mistake a lot when I first started thrifting. I have since become more "picky" and I wait for truly special pieces to buy. I remember when I was looking for a new light fixture for my dining room, I settled for the first cheap chandelier I found (it was only $4) but it wasn't THE ONE. Needless to say, I've never been satisfied with it and I am still on the lookout for the perfect light fixture.
  10. Having said that, it leads to the last tip. Go to the thrift store with something in mind. Search out for that perfect accent chair, chandelier, or painting. Don't settle and have patience. The perfect item (or something even better) will show up eventually. The art above the bed in my master bedroom is the perfect example. It was a serendipitous find. I wasn't looking for it, but when I saw it, I knew it was perfect for my room, and the whole room was styled around that one piece. Not only that, but I only paid $12 for it. It's the prime example of how you can score with second hand shopping and how patience pays off.

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