Monday, August 31, 2009

The Object of My Desire: Summer Fun

When I saw this old croquet set decorating my pal Deb Kelt's yard a few weeks ago, I was once again reminded of all the summer fun my sister and I used to have at my Grandma Churchill's deep down in the Missouri Ozarks. And yes, we did play croquet.

However, the British imagery that you might associate with croquet may not describe the sort of matches we played on my grandma's farm just a few yards away from a droopy clothes line and a silvery propane tank on one side and a gooseberry bush and a meadow of mooing cows on the other. We loved taking a mallet and whacking the ball all over the yard, even though I never remember following any official rules.

Another British lawn game we loved was badminton. It never failed that our nets were tangled and torn or our birdies looked like they had been chewed by a dog or quite often lost their rubber nub when struck by a racket.

As for the birdies' official name, we would never have used the British term -- shuttlecock -- to describe these badminton essentials. Can you imagine? A kid deep in the Ozarks talking about serving a shuttlecock.

Grandma Churchill would have probably thought I was talking about lunch time or threatened to wash my mouth out with soap!

Noticing the changing colors of the treetops from my window....

The Elegant Thrifter

Always Frugal, Always Fabulous!

For more vintage memories, pick up The Find: The Housing Works Book of Decorating with Thrift Shop Treasures, Flea Market Objects, and Vintage Details at Borders, Barnes & Noble, Amazon or

Friday, August 28, 2009

The Gift of Thrift: A Thank-You Note

A mysterious manila envelope arrived at my door with an unfamiliar return address in Sioux City, Iowa. What in the world could this be? I shook it and nothing moved. I squeezed it, but it made no noise. I was speechlessly stumped!

But having always loved opening a surprise, I threw caution to the wind only to find a vintage-paper wrapped parcel inside -- no markings, no note. Hmmm, someone was up to something and the Sioux City address was starting to sink in. Why if it wasn't a package from that clever Sonya over at Dime Store Thrift ....yep, the one who tricked me into giving her my pineapple upside-down cake recipe a while back. Just look at what what she sent me!

I immediately wrote Sonya:

Dear Rich Maid,

Thank you for my relish fork AND petite tongs. I will be easily picking up my olives, onions, pickles, cherries, ice cubes, relishes, anchovies and canapes thanks to this 49-cent combo offer! I have always hated sticking my fingers into a jar to fish out a slippery olive resulting in a spurt of expletives when the pimento wriggles free. I'll spear those olives with my relish fork and then nab those pesky pimentos swimming out of my reach with those oh-so-petite tongs!

Trying to spear a chunk of butter for my morning oatmeal.....

The Elegant Thrifter

Always Frugal, Always Fabulous!

Pick up The Find: The Housing Works Book of Decorating with Thrift Shop Treasures, Flea Market Objects, and Vintage Details at Borders, Barnes & Noble, Amazon or Powell's.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Reuse & Repurpose: Paper Trail

I feel the sensation of traveling back through time when I flip through the tattered pages of an old book filled with engraved images, romantic type or frilly, foreign words. Even though I love spending time with a treasured tome, it's most often placed back on the bookshelf (or in my instance, I'd have to include the back of the closet, the bottom of a drawer, the stacks on the windowsill or the pile in the floor!) where it will probably collect dust for days, or years, to come.

That's why I'm so attracted to the elegant creations of Honeysuckle Lane's Simple Joy's Lana Manis, which lucky for us, are for sale at her Etsy shop, SimpleJoysPaperie. By refashioning vintage books into wreaths for all occasions, Lana has not only saved them the recycling bin, butshe's also charged them with a novel decorative sensibility and a whimsical sense of humor.

Those of you who have followed me know that I love anything that reminds me of my favorite place on earth -- Paris. The foreign phrases in her "French Text," wreath remind me of my beloved high school French classes and my days as a flâneur roaming the streets of Paris and Bordeaux.

And then, of course, you know that I adore anything tinged with even the faintest whiff of Dolly Parton. Hence, my choice of the "9-to-5" wreath harvested from an old short-hand text

For a look at what collage artist John Derian and Coastal Living's Heather Chadduck have done with the pages of various books, pick up The Find: The Housing Works Book of Decorating with Thrift Shop Treasures, Flea Market Objects, and Vintage Details at Borders, Barnes & Noble, Amazon or Powell's.

Imagining what my book might look like if turned into a wreath....

The Elegant Thrifter

Always Frugal, Always Fabulous!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Fabulous & Fun: Off to Brooklyn!

While certainly not the prettiest of my posts, I hope you enjoy the video I made of a recent trip to Brooklyn to discover what kinds of treasures Williamsburg might offer. I had already planned on seeing my pal Liz Teich of ETC Modern Vintage at the Artists and Fleas Market, but as for the rest of the day, it was a bit of an adventure.

I hope you enjoy!

For more unexpected discoveries, pick up The Find: The Housing Works Book of Decorating with Thrift Shop Treasures, Flea Market Objects, and Vintage Details at Borders, Barnes & Noble, Amazon or Powell's.

The Elegant Thrifter

Always Frugal, Always Fabulous!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Find: Whispered Words

Amy over at Whisper Wood Cottage has made my day in two ways:

First of all, I am truly humbled that she so prominently featured me yesterday on her beautiful blog. But secondly, she provides me with an excellent opportunity to post her generous interview again today.

Always Frugal, Always Fabulous: An Interview with The Elegant Thrifter


ny thrifters out there? Just kidding! I know you are there because I read your posts at linky parties all week long!! Well, dear thrifters, I introduce you to Stan Williams, known as "The Elegant Thrifter" and author of "The Find." Stan recently emailed me about my JunkMarketContributor Challenge in which I used a vinyl record as a silverware holder in a place setting. He asked to interview me and then posted the interview responses in a wonderful post called, "The Gift of Thrift: Repurposed Pop!"

Well, turnaround is fair play, so I asked Stan a few questions myself! I was curious about Stan, his book, and his perspective on thrifting. Without further ado, heeeeeeere's Stan!...

1. What does it mean to be an "elegant thrifter?"
I came up with that brand just before my book The Find: The Housing Works Book of Decorating With Thrift Shop Treasures, Flea Market Objects, and Vintage Details came out. I had a blog called "The Object of My Desire," but it just didn't really fit the message I was trying to convey, which is "Always Frugal, Always Fabulous." Even though the economy is difficult and we're saving money and cutting back doesn't mean we can't have a fabulous moment in the way we entertain or the way we decorate our homes. Vintage and thrift objects go a long way in conveying that message. Even mixed into a new decor, they add instant heritage and charm for pennies on the dollar. I always like to say that we might not be sipping $100 bottles of champagne these days, but a $5 bottle of prosecco is quite delicious!

I also wanted to create an inviting concept. You know how people are so afraid of making a mistake in decorating their home that they never even try? A lot of people have misconceptions about shopping in a thrift store or flea market, so I wanted thrifting to sound fun, rewarding, and chic. And I believe it's all three, dont you?

2. How did you develop your thrifting skills?
My family has always been quite frugal. My parents didn't make a lot of money as educators, so we had to be careful with out budgets. And even though we loved shopping the garage sales in Independence, Mo., to save money, it was more of an adventure, because you never knew what you would find. I would say that my skills happened naturally. I've always loved cooking, crafting, decorating, and fashion, so it just came naturally. I always point out that I am not a decorator, but a home maker. I know that sounds funny for a guy, but I am passionate about everything that relates to the home. If I don't know how to do something, I will figure it out and go for it with gusto. I'm about to embark on a "Transforming My Ugly Bathroom" project. Never done it before, but I'll document it, mistakes and all!

Also, I'm a journalist, so I am a trained observer and curious question asker! For many years, I worked as a fashion journalist, most recently a nine-year stint as editorial fashion director of Maxim magazine. I know what you might be thinking, but I was in charge of all the men's fashion in the magazine, which was much more sophisticated than the rest of the publication. I left that job in May 2007 to create The Find. So, I've always been around style and fashion.

3. What is your favorite part about thrifting?
The stories. Even if I don't buy a thing, it's the stories that people tell and the memories their items evoke.

4. Is thrifting different in New York than in other parts of the country?
Oh yes. We don't have garage sales here, which makes me jealous of all the people who write all these glorious pieces they find at garage sales. We have fantastic benefit thrift shops that are beautifully merchandised. This kind of thrift shop exists in larger cities, but not so much in smaller ones. The prices in these shops are a bit higher, but we also have Goodwill shops all over, and you'd be surprised at all the goodies for sale there.

Our flea market scene has died down, and I have to admit, since the death of the big flea markets on Sixth Avenue that were replaced by hideous high rises, I haven't been in years, even though they've moved. We have to rely on public transportation here, so it's not so easy to hop out to Brimfield or jaunt over to Jersey for garage sales.

But here's the best news. You can find FABULOUS things sitting right there on the street -- free! Because we live in such small spaces, and moving is such a hassle, sometimes, at the last minute, someone just doesn't have room any more or can't get rid of something, and they'll set it right out on the street. Believe me, a great find doesn't sit outside for too long!

5. What are your favorite thrifting sources?
LA and Kansas City garage sales. Just the thought of it gives me a frisson. The assortment of merchandise is so broad, and the people so interesting, that those garage sales top my list. And because there are regional taste differences, you'll find stuff you'd never find in New York in LA, and stuff in Kansas City that would cost a fortune in LA!

In New York: Housing Works Thrift Shops (, where all the proceeds go to eradicating the dual dilemma of HIV/AIDS and homelessness. With nine locations, this shop gets the crème de la crème of donations. Each shop turns over merchandise at lightening speed, and the brand is a favorite of celebrities and fashion types. Sarah Jessica Parker and Susan Sarandon have been known to both donate and shop there!

My newest find in New York: Cure Thrift Shop ( It's another benefit thrift shop where proceeds go to diabetes research. GORGEOUS!! Great donations. Merchandised incredibly. And (shhhhh, don't tell anyone), they will bargain within reason.

I like the Brooklyn Flea here in New York, but I also love the regional flea markets and "antique malls" wherever I may be. In Kansas City, the River Market Antique Mall (www.rivermarketantiquemall) is a day of delight! And then there's always Goodwill. When I see a Goodwill, I go in and do a breeze-through. If I don't see anything in 10 minutes, I leave. I don't want to feel the pressure to buy something just because it's cheap. If something leaps out at me, I'll linger, but after 10 minutes, I skeedaddle.

And then any European flea market, from Paris to's truly otherworldly what you'll find.

6. What are the top 5 thrifted items you own?
A vintage jewelry encrusted Christmas tree, with working lights, mounted in a gold frame found at a flea market at the Santa Monica airport. I love it so much I keep it up all year round.

A promotional still from the movie cast of "9-to-5," signed by all the cast members, found at a thrift shop in Waxhaw, N.C. I love Dolly Parton, and find her rags-to-riches story a true inspiration.

Two wrought iron garden chairs probably from the 1950s found on the street in Brooklyn. My mom made green velvet seat covers for them, and I love them so much use them indoors.

A Mid-Century wooden server I bought for $100 on the street almost 20 years ago from a crusty old woman who used to bring finds in from New Jersey and sell them on the street on Sixth Avenue.

A Betty Crocker cookbook from 1950. My dad bought it for me at an estate sale. I have tons of vintage cookbooks because I love the crazy recipes and the attempt at food styling. But this one is special because my dad bought it, packed it into a box, and mailed it to me!

7. What recommendations do you have for other thrifters?
Like I say in my book The Find, go in with an open mind but only buy what you truly love. I say that when thrifting, don't worry so much about provenance if you've spied an item that truly speaks to your heart. Certainly, if you are a dealer of serious collector, then brands matter, but I don't really care so much. I choose quality and appeal factor above anything. And then....don't be greedy. Leave a little something for the next person. I believe that thrift karma can be kind or come back to bite you in the behind. I cannot tell you the number of times I witness situations and hear stories about someone buying a single item (a lamp, an accessory, a pillow), and then its mate appears across the country or even the world. It happens all the time.

Most of all, control the compelling urge to buy. I thrift all the time without buying a thing. For me, just as it is in my book The Find, it's about the journey and the experience more than the actual acquisition.

Thanks, Stan for the great responses! I've learned a lot!! No garage sales? I can't imagine Minnesota without them! But the FREE stuff on the side of the road and the thrift shops sound fabulous!! I know where I'll be stopping when I make it to New York someday!

Thank you, Amy!

Pick up your own copy of The Find: The Housing Works Book of Decorating with Thrift Shop Treasures, Flea Market Objects, and Vintage Details at Borders, Barnes & Noble, Amazon or Powell's.

The Elegant Thrifter

Always Frugal, Always Fabulous!

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Object of My Desire: Maybe Two

We all know deep-down that "things" don't make us happy. I realize, like most people, that my attachment to certain objects is based on the warm memories they evoke or the sentiments they stir -- not their designer labels, their lofty pedigrees or their rich price tags. Here are two things that make me happy -- not so much that they are a couple of objects among the many that fill my Manhattan apartment, but because these two pieces offer a slice of my own history and a nudge of inspiration each time I gaze upon them.

Obviously, there's the image of me with Dolly Parton, taken several years ago when she was on her "Halos and Horns" tour. I'm painfully reminded of the amount of hair I once had on my head and the wrinkles that have appeared on my brow and around my eyes, especially next to Dolly whose skin is smooth as a baby's behind! But that's a story for another day.

I always get a kick out of this photo because I was so nervous at the time that I didn't realize that Dolly was touching my arm. She had probably just responded to my silly remark," I feel like a five-year old meeting Santa Claus for the first time," to which Dolly responded, "Why, I'm just Granny Claus!" I'm always encouraged by Dolly's rags-to-riches story, think of all the good she's done for others and applaud her moxie for taking what she truly loves and turning it into a gazillion-dollar business.

I place my treasured photo atop this silver fork easel made by the fabulous Sharleen Reeder of Luticia Clementine's in my hometown of Independence, Mo. Every time I look at this fork, I'm reminded of my childhood shopping for back-to-school clothes on the historic Independence Square with my mom and sister. In those days, it was the hub of the Kansas City suburb, with major department stores and specialty shops encircling an old white court house where Harry Truman once worked.

Sharleen has a shop just steps away from the court house, and is known for taking odd pieces of silver, sugar bowls missing their lids, and even the lone lid itself and refashioning them all into decorative items packed with with and whimsy. Sharleen's creativity and skill alone makes you want to get out the hot glue gun and the sewing kit and jump head-first into a project!

Here's hoping your week is filled with people who inspire and memories that warm your heart.

For more vintage memories, pick up The Find: The Housing Works Book of Decorating with Thrift Shop Treasures, Flea Market Objects, and Vintage Details at Borders, Barnes & Noble, Amazon or Powell's.

The Elegant Thrifter

Always Frugal, Always Fabulous!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Editors Note: Whisper me some tips

I want to apologize for the format of the last post. I have toiled over the spacing and such, and it just doesn't look that fabulous. I spent three hours trying to get this format correct, to no avail. Each time it's published, it gets all wacky. Any tips you might offer?

I hope you enjoy the post anyway, and do visit ALVN at WhisperWood Cottage. She's a delight!


The Gift of Thrift: Repurposed Pop!

A while back, I met Amy of WhisperWood Cottage and Junkologie as I marveled over her imaginative methods for bringing old vinyl records back to life. She also made a reference to Dolly Parton, so when that happens, you know I'm all eyes and ears!

Amy, who goes by ALVN on her blog, is a health educator who lives in Northern Minnesota, near the banks of Lake Superior. And as you'll see, her eye is a
refined one, and her clever solutions for turning other people's castoffs into treasures sare inspiring. A few weeks ago I sat down (at the computer!) with Amy to learn a little more about
her passion for vintage, and her latest JunkMarketStyle Challenge

I am enchanted by your Linda Rondstadt album package challenge. You know, it always breaks my heart to see all these vinyl records for pennies on the dollar, and I love it that you've given new life to these relics from the past.

The challenge: Is that something that you and Sue do often?

As a contributor on the JunkMarket site, I participate in regular "Contributor Challenges" in which Sue challenges us with a junk item. The Linda Ronstadt challenge was all about vinyl records. We have done a challenge with vintage player piano rolls. Right now, the contributors are conducting an Editor's Challenge in which we each send Sue an item that she needs to transform.

I am a huge Doly Parton fan, so seeing the "Trio" album there warms my heart. What was the first step in creating your tabletop around the vinyl theme?

I love Dolly Parton, too! It is impossible to play "9-to-5" without being completely energized! When I think of vinyl records, my initial thought is all about the "Happy Days" know...diners, sock hops, etc. I thought about what I have that is related to that era: a huge vintage metal sign that reads "Cold Pop," a chrome finish radio, a vintage drive-in theater speaker. That determined my direction and color scheme. From there, it all focused around a table setting in a 1950s diner.

Do you entertain often at home?

We have been renovating our house from the first day we moved in. Now that we are finally getting our home in order, my plan is to fill up the seats at our 9 -foot by 3-foot Amish harvest table. It seats 12, so we are ready to host a fabulous dinner party!

What is the most unusual thing you've incorporated into a tablescape?

Well, that's a loaded question! I like to incorporate all kinds of things. Some of my favorites have actually been pulled from the garage. Examples include house jacks and car jacks to create lifts and levels, a vintage Christmas tree stand as a champagne bottle holder and an industrial beauty salon cart as a beverage server.

Do you have any entertaining tips for people who find the task frustrating?

Find a source of inspiration and go with a central theme. I often choose a color or a metal finish. For example, I did several holiday tablescapes last year. One focused on silver finishes with with accents of white, glass and crystal. The other focused on traditional reds and greens. Once you have a direction, simply shop your house, basement, attic and garage for anything that might work. The way to have fun with it is to think outside the box. Imagine the surprise on your guests' faces when you serve up the main course on a vintage scale or pass the gravy around atop a vintage clipboard turned hotpad!

What is would you say is the best treasure you've ever found?

Another loaded question. Treasure can be defined many different ways! There's the "Just-Love-It, Gotta-Have-It" Treasure, the "I've-Been-Looking-for-This-Forever" Treasure, the "Best-Bargain-Deal-of-the-Century" Treasure, the "I-Can't-Believe-I Got-This-for-Free" Treasure, the "Sentimental" Treasure and the "Love-to-Collect-These" Treasure.

Here are some of my favorites:

Just-Love-It, Gotta-Have-It: Vintage white medical cabinet (used as storage in the master bath), Amish harvest table (found on eBay!), industrial fan blad (just got this!!)

I've-Been-Looking-for-This-Forever: Chippy white square pillar (just got this, too!)

Best-Bargain-Deal-of-the-Century: Waterford crystal pieces (found at Goodwill), Gorham sterling silver set (from an auction.)

I-Can't-Believe-I Got This-for-Free: Vintage metal glider sofa (found on the side of the road.)

Sentimental: A cabinet found for free in the basement of a rental. (My parents helped me refinish it.)

Love-to-Collect-These: My mixed collection of vintage iron, brass, and copper pieces.

Where is your favorite place to shop for vintage or thrift? (I adore a good garage sale!! or MANY so-so ones!)

Anywhere and everywhere! I love garage sales, thrift stores, antique stores, flea markets, occasional sales, auctions, estate sales, Craig's List, ebay, blogs, etsy. I also never hesitate to ask friends, family, and strangers about the pile of junk or debris in their attic, basement, or yard. Some of the best things are found in unexpected places. One lesson I've learned..."If you don't ask, you don't get." Or atleast you don't have a chance to get! So ask away!! If it isn't for sale or for free now, that person knows that you are interested and can let you know when it is.

I can see that you are passionate about thrifting and decorating. How do you think you developed those hobbies?

I'm sure part of it was learned from my parents and grandparents. My grandfather is a collector. My parents are thrifty. Combine the two and you get me! I simply love the quality that vintage pieces have, especially furniture. There are very few pieces in my house that were purchased new. Vintage and antique items just have a special feel and uniqueness about them. They bring warmth and history into a room. The fact that you can get great vintage items at low prices makes it even better! I also love the creativity involved in decorating with thrifted and vintage items. You develop a space over time. You wait until you find the "right" pieces. You use pieces in new ways. Love, love, love it! There is also something to be said about the benefits of keeping vintage or junk items from the landfill. We each need to do what we can to help the environment!

Thanks to Amy for spending time with me, and make sure to visit her at WhisperWood Cottage to see all kinds of novel repurposed decorating and entertaining ideas.

For more ideas to turn others' castoffs into treasures, pick up The Find: The Housing Works Book of Decorating with Thrift Shop Treasures, Flea Market Objects, and Vintage Details at Borders, Barnes & Noble, Amazon or Powell's.

The Elegant Thrifter

Always Frugal, Always Fabulous!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Reuse & Repurpose: Bottled Up

Have you got a bunch of hot water bottles lying around that you just don't know what to do with? Maybe they just happen to be color coordinated and look pretty together but, blast it, you've just got too many of them?

If you're the display folks at the Italian jean maker Energie , you just slice an opening in the side of the bottle, pour in a little water and group it together with all your others on a wall as hanging vases for assorted wildflowers!

For more ideas on reusing everyday objects, pick up The Find: The Housing Works Book of Decorating with Thrift Shop Treasures, Flea Market Objects, and Vintage Details at Borders, Barnes & Noble, Amazon or Powell's.

The Elegant Thrifter

Always Frugal, Always Fabulous!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Fabulous & Frugal Fun: By The Book

I can never pass up an old craft book. But Don't Throw it Away! by Vivian Abell, published in 1973, was way ahead of the times with it's popular-today theme of reuse and repurpose. This was the 10-cent part of the $5.25 take from my sister's and my three-hour garage sale spree back in June.

Before we start into the magnificent creations featured on the cover (There are hundreds more inside, all with easy-to-follow instructions!), a word about Vivian Abell. In 1973, she was a 25-year devotee of crafting and the owner of Craft Town in Verona, N.J. where 20 different craft classes were taught each week. She co-hosted a TV show called "All About Crafts," and in 1972 judged the national decoupage and egg decorating contests. Repurposing Goddess!

Just what did Vivian create? Let's start with the tall-backed chair in the middle of the page. Why that's a hall coat rack and bench, made out of two washboards, a wooden ironing board and scrap lumber. And then just to its left is a an old military boot turned into a dainty pink lamp that she suggests as a whimsical accent to a child's room

And what to do with that old meat grinder? For some reason, meat grinders must have been a prevalent find back in 1973 since Vivian demonstrates several ideas to spruce them up, one being the bright yellow confection of a lamp just below the pink boot. Don't you love the pink ball fringe for a touch of added oomph!?! Let your eye wonder on down to a jaunty pink pin cushion fashioned out of a tin can, peruse over to a bleach bottle snowman and then head right up to the left-hand corner of the book where there's a delightful bird feeder fashioned out of two salad bowls.

The ideas go on and on for using things like kitchen graters, peach and olive pits, panty hose, or even flashlight lens! I'll leave you with a few words from Vivian: "People are doubly pleased when they can make an exciting new possession from what would have been a discard," she wrote from her home in Upper Montclair, N.J. " There's a special satisfaction from almost nothing or turning an old eyesore into a useful, attractive object."

I couldn't agree more!

For more current ideas on breathing new life into old objects, pick up The Find: The Housing Works Book of Decorating with Thrift Shop Treasures, Flea Market Objects, and Vintage Details at Borders, Barnes & Noble, Amazon or Powell's.

The Elegant Thrifter

Always Frugal, Always Fabulous!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Find: Glass from the Past

Glass jars, like the beautiful apothecary variety that Jen over at at Pear Street Studios showed off yesterday, provide the perfect vessel to display almost any treasured collection. The trick is to gather similar objects -- either of shape, color, nomenclature or size -- and isolate them in the confines of a glass structure.

Et vôilà! Instant collection.

Two of my favorite examples of glassed-in collections were photographed by Jim Franco for my book The Find: The Housing Works Book of Decorating With Thrift Shop Treasures, Flea Market Objects, and Vintage Details.

This whimsical example above was discovered on the Fire Island getaway of Saltaire. Tall beer glasses, easily found at thrift shops or discount stores, are filled with multi-colored sea glass where their hues and translucence capture the eye from their perch on a screened-in back porch. You could even use dissimilar shaped glasses to create a collection, provided they don't have distracting, inharmonious embellishments.

I also adore the way that Yasmine McGrane, owner and founder of Maison Rěve in Mill Valley, California, gathered clothespins and Scrabble tiles in apothecary jars for a thoughtful display. For further appeal, she separated the French wooden clothespins from the American variety.

Just last month while visiting Yasmine at Maison Rěve in Mill Valley and celebrating the launch of The Find, I rummaged around in her workroom and snapped a photo of these wooden Lego blocks, grouped together and plopped inside what looks to me like an over sized pickle or mayonnaise jar.

For more ideas for creating eye-catching collections, pick up The Find: The Housing Works Book of Decorating with Thrift Shop Treasures, Flea Market Objects, and Vintage Details at Borders, Barnes & Noble, Amazon or Powell's.

Collecting my own thoughts on a beach getaway myself!

The Elegant Thrifter

Always Frugal, Always Fabulous!

Monday, August 17, 2009

The Object of My Desire: Udder Delight

It's been several years since I've visited my Grandma Churchill's old home and dairy farm just outside of Mansfield, Mo., but it's about this time of summer that always look back at the lazy days of spending time with her and my sister there. For Grandma, it was anything but lazy, as she rose at 5:30, cooked a full breakfast complete with biscuits, gravy, eggs and bacon, and then headed out to the dairy barn to start milking the cows. While Grandma was at the barn, my sister and I would wash the dishes, listen to Captain & Tennille records on the phonograph and then head up the hill on a rocky path, pass the cob-webby cellar and climb over a barbed wire fence to visit her and my two uncles who helped her earn a meager living.

The barnyard was full of cows and a bull, stray guinea fowl and white chickens. Cats milled around the milking room covered with white lime waiting for a squirt of warm milk that Grandma would aim in their direction, and get tickled at her own actions. Sometimes, we were allowed to drop grain from a coffee can into the troughs that distracted the cows as machines dangled and chugged. As soon as the milk was rendered and stored in a cooler for safe keeping, we would helpGrandma clean up the milking paraphernalia. We always got a kick out of washing the gigantic bottles used to feed the calves who were kept safely away from the rest of the herd.

The barn is still there, but in a bit of disrepair. You can see the old troughs in the milking room, and the wooden slats that kept the cows in place during their twice-daily ritual. Around the side, near the feed room where all the cats had their kittens (and I'm sure where more than a few mice daringly called home), you can see through the broken glass the milk cooler in front of the old sink where we used to sing songs and tell stories with Grandma as we "helped" her get her work done.

After days of romping in the creek that was called Flat Rocks, picking tomatoes in Grandmas rag-tag garden, playing with puppies and kittens all day long, and pretty much coming and going as we pleased, Mom and Dad would soon return to fetch us and take us back to Independence, where we would soon start yet another school year. I'm certain my mom and dad loved the break, and so did we. And the carefree days of being a city kid on a farm in the Ozarks linger to this day.

For more vintage memories, pick up The Find: The Housing Works Book of Decorating with Thrift Shop Treasures, Flea Market Objects, and Vintage Details atBorders, Barnes & Noble, Amazon orPowell's.

The Elegant Thrifter

Always Frugal, Always Fabulous!

Friday, August 14, 2009

The Gift of Thrift: Snack Time

When a box from Independence, Mo., arrives, you can bet that the contents will be intriguing. In the past, my mom and dad have sent through the mail things like Rice Krispie Treats and a vintage bean pot, as well as forgotten phone chargers and computer cables. Now I was forewarned of this arriving package that contained a sampling of an estate sale Mom and Dad recently attended, and just look what was inside.

A gorgeous Betty Crocker's Picture Cook Book!

Printed in 1950, the recipes eschew butter in most instances, and lean toward "salad oil" or shortening. Some of the cooking tips are quite rib-tickling. Worried about how to increase the size of a dish ? "Use exactly twice the amount of each ingredient." Making a smaller portion? You guessed it! "Use exactly one-half the amount of each ingredient." I also adore the Dutch floral motif printed on the cover of the cookbook so much that I'm going to try to incorporate it into a re-do of my hideously ugly kitchen. (More on that later!)

Then there is the box labeled "Small Fork." Yes, in quotation marks. My dad specifically picked these pastel-hued, Japan-made, mini-forks. I imagine these cute forks are from the 1960s and are perfect for spearing an hors d'oeuvre, such as one listed in my new, old cookbook. Take a stab at a cucumber-anchovy canapé or chili-sardine snack.

And I've got the perfect recipe!

For more entertaining ideas, pick up The Find: The Housing Works Book of Decorating with Thrift Shop Treasures, Flea Market Objects, and Vintage Details at Borders, Barnes & Noble, Amazon orPowell's.

The Elegant Thrifter

Always Frugal, Always Fabulous!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Reuse & Repurpose: Music to my Eyes

Reading by the light of the there's a far-flung concept that the creator of this lamp realized by illuminating an old horn.

My decorator friends swear that you can turn anything into a lamp, and this find at the Allemany Flea Market in San Francisco demonstrates just that.

What have you turned into a lamp?

For more ideas to repurpose everyday objects, pick up The Find: The Housing Works Book of Decorating with Thrift Shop Treasures, Flea Market Objects, and Vintage Details at Borders, Barnes & Noble, Amazon orPowell's.

The Elegant Thrifter

Always Frugal, Always Fabulous!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Fabulous & Frugal Fun: Call Me Invincible

Serendipity strikes when you least expect it, such as it did when I was lunching with my pal Deb Kelt and her family at a Mexican restaurant in Austin a few weeks ago. As we were waiting for our table, I noticed this poster, and was disappointed that the concert date for the "Call Me Invincible" tour -- one that features both Blondie and Pat Benatar --was more than a month after my departure from Texas.

You might not realize it, but I've lived many lives and have mingled in all sorts of social scenarios. And while I adore Dolly Parton and my tame thrifting and quaint crafting. I have a nip of rocker blood in me.

When I saw the poster in Austin, I was immediately reminded of the first Pat Benatar concert I went to back in 1981. It was the "Precious Time" tour, and I'm sure that I was standing on my seat in the lower level of Kansas City's Kemper Arena yelling out the songs just like the rest of the crowd. I treasure the baseball T-shirt that I bought on that September evening so long ago, and on very special occasions, I'll wear it out on the town. (Always, I'm asked where I got it, and I respond," At the concert, of course," thus dating me back to the Dark Ages! )

So imagine the thrill I got when I found out that the tour is coming to New York -- totally free and in the retro-tastic Coney Island. I'll be there tomorrow, sporting my T-shirt, a little less hair on my head and a little more creaky in the back, rocking out and reliving my teens for a brief moment. As the song says," Life is too short, so why waste precious time."

For more vintage memories, pick up The Find: The Housing Works Book of Decorating withThrift Shop Treasures, Flea Market Objects, and Vintage Detailsat Borders,Barnes & Noble, Amazon or Powell's.

Programing Note: If you missed me on the New York edition of Open House,on August 9, watch it by clicking the following link:
LXTV - Great Finds That Will Spruce Up Your Space

The Elegant Thrifter

Always Frugal, Always Fabulous!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Find: Two Times Two

Today's entry looks a little different today because I'm reposting a guest blog I did for Kim over at Twice Remembered. Her blog is full of inspirational ideas and written with a genuine sentiment. If you haven't met her, go introduce yourself!

Guest Blogger: Author of "The Find", Stan Williams

{Please help welcome today's guest blogger Stan Williams, author of the book The Find: The Housing Works Book of Decorating with Thrift Shop Treasures, Flea Market Objects, and Vintage Details . Thanks for sharing, Stan!}

ello to all the talented followers of Twice Remembered. I’m honored to contribute a guest blog, especially since Kim’s work embodies exactly the kind of innovative talent that’s featured in my book, The Find: The Housing Works Book of Decorating With Thrift Shop Treasures, Flea Market Objects, and Vintage Details. I wrote The Find to inspire people to try their hand at decorating with vintage and thrift finds. And the most common question I get is “How do I know what to buy?”

Now I know that for the most part, Kim’s followers KNOW what to buy, because I see it in your own blogs, but here are a few ideas for those who might need a little jumpstart.

1. Set a budget. Going into debt buying vintage and thrift items defeats your thrifty fun. I always say pay with cash if you can. It gives you great negotiating power, and when it’s gone, well, you stop shopping.

2. Try to buy your vintage and thrift treasures in the condition you’ll use them, or in a state that you can easily clean or repair. I avoid items that are going to turn into messy projects or that I don’t know how to refurbish.

{New York decoupage artist John Derian bought this crusty metal chair and welcomed its weathered patina into his home. Photo from The Find by Jim Franco.}

3. Buy quality over provenance. I never worry about a brand or a label that’s attached to a potential piece that attracts me. Instead, I am a stickler for quality. Watch for thin laminates, drawers that don’t open easily, and furniture that’s over wobbly or warped. Now there is NOTHING wrong with collecting specific brands and marks, especially if it’s your passion. It’s just not mine.

{Hallmark VP and design whiz David Jimenez took this common Thomasville server and with a coat of black paint turned it into a focal point in his Kansas City dining room. Photo from The Find by Bob Greenspan.}

4. Paint is your friend! A shabby desk or a distraught table might gain a fresh new lease on life with a fresh coat of paint and new hardware.

{Jimenz found this chair at a yard sale and with a fresh coat of paint he turned it into a bedroom treasure. Photo from The Find by Bob Greenspan.}

5. Color is a great unifier. Dissimilar pieces all of a sudden appear as old friends with a consistent color story. This is especially useful when putting together a mix-and-match collection of china.

{Prop stylist Joe Maer used blue and white hues to unify his mix-and-match china. Photo from The Find by Jim Franco.}

6. And finally, only buy what you love. If you are just so-so about a piece, well just leave it for the next shopper. Thrift karma rewards those who are not greedy and leave a little something for someone else. Also, if you are truly drawn to an item, then if you buy it, it should be easier to to incorporate it into your décor, even if you have to get rid of something else.

{From the Birmingham, Alabama home of Coastal Living's Heather Chadduck. She loves decorating with numerals and everything French. Photo from The Find by Jim Franco.}

If you’d like your own copy of The Find, it’s available at Barnes and Noble, Borders and on Amazon. Being The Elegant Thrifter, it’s my frugal duty to inform you that the best price is at Amazon! Come visit me I look forward to meeting you.

Always Frugal, Always Fabulous!

Stan Williams
The Elegant Thrifter


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