Digging for Treasures


When it comes to retail shopping, I'm a digger. I think if I won the lotto and someone told me to spend $1,000,000 on whatever I wanted I'd still find myself in the sale section at the back of some store digging through bins of 70% off stuff. It's just who I am and I've accepted it. Walking into a high-end retail store and paying full price for something without google shopping it (do people do this!?)) just goes against every cell in my body. Plus, there's just something victorious about finding that perfect whatever with a red sticker on it, or better yet, several stickers, all with slashed off prices.

When I lived in New York, it was all about the sample sale. You never really knew when it was coming and it usually landed on your lap in the form of some flyer with a map that directed you to a warehouse filled with 80% off designer clothes and very aggressive New Yorkers willing to throw elbows and try things on in the open aisles while holding piles and piles of clothes. Some of my best clothes I own even still are from those days. Pieces I never could have afforded at full price. Catharine Malandrino, YSL, Calypso St. Barth, Prada - good stuff. 

Digging at its finest. Be sure to eat and hydrate before a New York sample sale. And wear good base layers if you need to try on (not kidding).

Digging at its finest. Be sure to eat and hydrate before a New York sample sale. And wear good base layers if you need to try on (not kidding).

When it comes to items for the home, I feel the same way. Paying high-end full retail has just never been a real possibility for me. The other day I was in a nice furniture store and a woman was ordering a whole custom bedroom set, picking out the fabrics, etc. and I just thought to myself, "Wow, wonder what that feels like." I've never personally ordered a room like that for my own home. It's always come together over time with a piece from my in-laws, one from Ikea, something found at an estate sale and then maybe a splurge on some random item. It's taught me to be creative and think outside of the (overly-priced) box. Plus, I kind of enjoy the rush of driving to Home Goods thinking they MIGHT have a Stanley piece today and if so I'm going to find this diamond in the rough.

What I've discovered when it comes to furniture in particular, is that when on a budget, it's better to go second hand (or third or fourth) than low-end. This takes some patience and time, but the trade-off is you end up with pieces made of real wood and lasting materials that can be cleaned up, refinished and last you a lifetime as opposed to particle board or cheap finishes that show wear and tear after a year.

Case in point, my $800 Crate & Barrel dining table, which I wouldn't even classify as low-end but wish I had never bought. (Sorry, C&B, I DO love some things of yours.)


It's a "mango wood" with a finish that shows every ding and scratch. It's just not that special. The thing about quality wood is that when scratched, it shows the natural grain of the woodgiving it a beautifully rustic appearance over time. Ever since that table, which I bought when I didn't really know too much about quality, I vowed to do estate sale pieces or high-end (ish) or nothing.

The other day I went to a local antique store to look for art for a client and in just about an hour or so found some great treasures. If you can get past the dust factor and be willing to do some lifting and cleaning, this option can be SO worth your time. Most vendors will negotiate on their price so don't take the suggested price at face value. 

This pine console piece would be beautiful behind a sofa or in a foyer. Great storage and beautiful, original hardware. It will last 100 more years. You will NOT find this at any mid-level furniture retailer. I think she was asking about $340! 

This old metal storage cabinet is a total find. Great for a boy's room, office or den. I would line the drawers with something nice so as to not have things sliding on metal. Also, if using for supplies or tools, I'd label the outside for better usability. Again, you have to see past all the clutter and knick-knacks. They are a'plenty here.

Talk about Affordable Art, this large-scale, vintage European map on canvas would be so amazing in an entry way or living room.

And here is an iconic fiberglass Eames chair for Herman Miller ($140!). SO cute for a child's desk or just a statement chair placed in any area of the house. AND it's in white!

I would buy this vintage Persian rug in a hot second, take it right to Chet's for a professional cleaning (the absolute best), buy a thick rug pad for underneath and put it in kitchen. Love the colors.

This antique bench is in great shape and would be so pretty as a mixed-in piece with more modern furnishings. I would recover the bench in an updated print to contrast with the traditional look of the wood and use it in an entry way or as a banquette for seating at a dining table.

I kind of fell in love with this adorably weird cat and since my five-year old found this pic on my phone and started hysterically laughing, I *might* need to go back and buy it for his room for $65. I think art work in kids' rooms should be silly and sweet.


So if the idea of buying second hand still creeps you out, think of this. You are doing good for the planet. The size of carbon footprint to manufacture, pack, ship, store and sell a piece of furniture that you will throw out in 3-4 years is enormous. Recycling home goods just makes sense. My rule of thumb is I first dump it straight in the garage to let it air out, then I spend a good amount of time meticulously cleaning, repairing and refinishing if needed. I'm no expert. I just use the product Restore A Finish.  For instance, if I go back and buy this cat paining, I might repaint the wood frame black and if I mess it up, SO WHAT, it cost me $65. And it's a cute cat.