Friday, October 29, 2010

The Gift of Thrift: Goodwill to the Rescue

When I was preparing to bake a pineapple upside-down cake for a friend's birthday last week, I decided to let the Goodwill thrift gods decide what shape I would make. You see, I quite enjoy making heart-shaped cakes, but often, the thrifted platters I save for such occasions aren't big enough for those romantic shapes. So off to Goodwill I headed with an open mind to whatever round, square, oblong or novelty shape I might pop up.

And pop up, quite literally, it did! I breezed through the front door and immediately headed to the housewares section (30 seconds) where I looked down and saw this heart-shaped platter for $2 (one minute). I then walked to the counter (30 seconds), and paid for it (two minutes), and was out the door, with p-l-e-n-t-y of time to bake!

Always Frugal, Always Fabulous,

The Elegant Thrifter

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Reuse & Repurpose: Nicely Worded

After perusing my Twitter feed the other day I ran into this hanging art made out of humble materials that some people might not have bothered to give a second glance.

Thankfully, not the artists at Coulson Macleod, a U.K.-based design duo known for making stunning statements with typography. From The Rust collection, these pieces are fashioned out of steel sheets left out in the elements to naturally develop their warm, rusty hue. Once they achieves the perfect patina, the metal is then over-printed with relief-printed typography and then mounted into handmade, reclaimed wood frames salvaged from timbers used on Victorian roofs.

Even though they look like they could have been made from materials found in a junk shop, these modern masterpieces belong in a place of honor.

Always Frugal, Always Fabulous,

The Elegant Thrifter

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Frugal Fun: Hard Wired

Even though it may be completely outdated and in many cases non-functional, old technology still seems to carry a warmth that today's counterparts just don't hold. It was a sad day recently when I learned that my parents tossed out one of the very last televisions made in the U.S. -- an old Zenith console that was made in Springfield, Missouri just before the plant closed. I understand their getting rid of it: they simply had accumulated too many old TVs in their basement. And I appreciate their efforts to get it recycled, even though it meant hauling the hulking piece of furniture all the way over to downtown Kansas City.

I took this photo a while back. (It must have been at least three years because it's part of an old promotion for Nike footwear!) I like the way the wooden turntable is placed upon the 1970s and 1980s TV sets with simulated wood grain, right next to a silver boom box exactly like the one I had in high school. Oh yes...exactly...Montgomery Ward Signature brand. Not only did it have a cassette deck, but it was also equipped with an eight-track tape player -- the peak of audio in the day!

Always Frugal, Always Fabulous!

The Elegant Thrifter

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Find: Playing With Color

When grouping dissimilar shapes of objects, creating a color story can help create unity. Here, chairs of different shapes and sizes become made for each other, thanks to an established color theme of red, white and green. Photographed on Saltaire, one of the islands among Fire Island, by Jim Franco for The Find: The Housing Works Book of Decorating With Thrift Shop Treasures, Flea Market Objects, and Vintage Details, these chairs also reflect the green in the chair rail and the colors in the original artwork hanging above it.

Always Frugal, Always Fabulous,

The Elegant Thrifter

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Object of My Desire: Working Girl

Dolly Parton is one of those people who, for me, never fails to inspire. Whether it's her rags-to-riches story or a certain happiness that beams from within, I've been a fan of hers since I was a child.

I always use Dolly as an example of how someone has created a brand image that she continues to nurture and preserve throughout the years. For her fans, Dolly sees it as her job to always be Dolly. In fact, I've heard her say that she sleeps in full makeup and keeps a wig and heels by her bed so that in case there's a fire when she's on the road, she can always run out of a burning building while remaining in character. I can't imagine seeing Dolly boarding a plane without a pile of hair on her head, her signature long acrylic nails or false eye lashes while wearing a track suit and sneakers.

That is not Dolly! And Dolly says she'd never want her fans to see her that way.

A few years back while thrift shopping in Waxhaw, North Carolina, I can't believe I had my peripheral vision turned off and didn't spy this behind-the-scenes print from the movie classic, "9 to 5." All youthful and starry eyed, Dolly is surrounded by her co-stars Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda. What's more, it's signed! Thanks to my eagle-eyed shopping partner who bought it for a couple of bucks, sneaked it back to New York and offered it as a Christmas gift, this treasure now hangs in a place of honor on the step leading to my living room.

It's Monday, so back to work!

Always Frugal, Always Fabulous,

The Elegant Thrifter

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Gift of Thrift: A Wedding to Remember

A couple of weeks ago I headed out to Napa Valley for the wedding of two dear friends who married at a gorgeous vineyard near Callistoga, California. Robyn and Larry are unique souls who have dated since high school and finally decided to tie the knot among a few friends and family at a personalized ceremony that was one of the most beautiful gatherings I've ever witnessed. It was a personal and warm affair that cleverly showed off the personalities of the bride and the groom, both of whom are avid fans of vintage and thrift.

When I heard a year ago that Robyn and Larry had engaged, I started collecting thrifty finds that I thought would make a special offering for their wedding day. Would you like to see what is inside this package wrapped in pretty paper that cost more than the entire gift itself and tied up in a ribbon that came from a Kansas City estate sale?

Since both are Chicago natives, I bought this 1960s ashtray at the Texas Antique Weekend so they could always remember their hometown of Chicago. I located the funny wooden salad set at a flea market in New Jersey, and the still-in-the-box Irish linens at a garage sale in Independence, Missouri.

It took about a year to gather these goodies, but I always kept Robyn and Larry in the back of my mind when I was out thrifting, and eventually, like all good things in life, everything finally came together at just the right time!

Always Frugal, Always Fabulous,

The Elegant Thrifter

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Reuse & Repurpose: Windows With A Twist

Almost every day, I walk by the windows of Selima Optique on Bond Street and am always impressed with the shop's innovative window displays that either make clever use of vintage and thrift, or like these, refashion cast-offs into eye-popping visual presentations.

This porcupine looks as if he's constructed out of little more than strands of metal wire, old springs and maybe a couple pieces of an egg carton for eyes.

And then there's this cute ladybug that appears to have been formed out of an old bike helmet and then perched upon some cubes of reclaimed wood.

Don't these repurposed critters look awfully cheerful?

Always Frugal, Always Fabulous,

The Elegant Thrifter

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Frugal Fun: Florals on the Fly

A while back, my good friend Bevy Smith asked me to create floral arrangements for an event celebrating Nike's World Basketball Festival. Being that I'm not the kind of guy to shy away from a creative challenge, even if it's a project not in my typical comfort zone, I happily agreed. My design cues included little more than masculine extravagance and orange tablecloths, and here are the results!

Always Frugal, Always Fabulous,

The Elegant Thrifter

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Find: Simple Thrift Shopping Tips

I always appreciate being reminded of thrift shopping tips, and here are a few that I offer in my book The Find: The Housing Works Book of Decorating With Thrift Shop Treasures, Flea Market Objects and Vintage Details:

• Define your shopping budget. Spending more than you have takes all the joy out of thrift shopping.

• Make a thrift shopping kit that includes your thrift wish list, color tiles, fabric swatches, design inspiration from books and magazines, a tape measure and room and door measurements.

• Know how you’ll get your purchase home. Can you call a friend? Rely on a man with a van? Drag it into your car or a taxi? And once you get it home, will it fit into your space? Refer to measurements in your thrift shopping kit.

• Set your peripheral vision to see the beauty in the unexpected. A coat of cruddy paint might be hiding a lovely dresser or a rejected, printed cape might be transformed into a glamorous pillow.

• Buy only what you love. Just because a piece of furniture you spy might have a designer’s name that makes it valuable, if it’s ugly, then leave it alone.

• Check for quality. Drawers should open smoothly, legs and cases be sturdy, and upholstery free of odor and stains.

• Always carry cash. It’s a great negotiator in many places and helps you stay on budget.

Always Frugal, Always Fabulous!

The Elegant Thrifter

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Object of My Desire: A Day at the Zoo

A while back, I shared some old photographs of my sister and me in the children's area at the Kansas City Zoo. I still remember the squishy, carpeted tongue of a whale that you had to walk upon to enter its white ribbed interior. (The one in the picture above is a smaller version.) And I can also recall climbing the ladder up into this old yellow show to take a ride down what seemed at the time the longest slide in the world.

Recently, I went back to the zoo with my family much like we did many years ago, except this time with my little nephew Grayson in tow. We watched the zebras plucking leaves from a tree branch, a show-off polar bear doing back flips, and elephants, well, as Grayson put it... making a great big potty!

While many of the attractions have been modernized and some completely removed like the playground pieces I shared above, I did find a photograph of them, which, in turn, I photographed!

There were a few things that still looked like they did decades ago, such as the sea lion area, where they've been giving pretty much the same fun-filled show for decades!

Always Frugal, Always Fabulous,

The Elegant Thrifter

Friday, October 15, 2010

Found Friday: Dumpster Art

A quick eye, a bit of imagination and a dose of luck is sometimes all you need to discover art lying right in the garbage. That's exactly where this geometric metal piece derived -- a dumpster at a construction site in Miami where my pal Robert Elliott and I salvaged it. Robert now lives in Queens and has used this tossed-out piece of building material and created a backdrop for this illuminating vignette.

Always Frugal, Always Fabulous,

The Elegant Thrifter

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Reuse & Repurpose: Postcard Perfect

Among my favorite thrifty finds are unused postcards of places I've visited or of locales where my friends live. The first card of Los Angeles Farmer's Market fit the bill on both counts. It appears to have been from the 1960s, but remains on the top of my must-do list when visiting LA.

I made an exception, however, on these two cards from Disneyland because, believe it or not, I've never been there! I did, however, visit Walt Disney World in Orlando when I was in grade school, and remember the thrill of "The Hall of Presidents" and "It's a Small World" attractions.

I found these cards on a recent thrifting trip to the Jersey Shore where I also picked up these gold-glittered plastic trays that were 25 cents a dozen at a church rummage sale!

Always Frugal, Always Fabulous,

The Elegant Thrifter

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Frugal Fun: Batty Party Planning

Even though this little boy's birthday party based on a bat theme took place during the dead of summer, it could very well have taken place as a spooky-ooky Halloween celebration.

Thrown by the creative trio of Heather Kerr, Michael Quinn and Ron Rangel -- collectively known as The Fringe Benefit -- the making of a book telling the tale of a frolicking bat was the cornerstone of the celebration.
Just like any red carpet affair, guests were photographed in front of a step and repeat featuring motifs from the book, all carved from a potato and then stamped upon a long roll of white paper.
Bat-shaped cookie cutters stamped out the familiar winged shape on rye bread, which was then toasted. The tiny, photocopied boots attached to picks of melon and tomatoes reinforce another motif from the book.
A big bowl of colorful punch accented with Twizzler swizzle sticks raises the fun factor.
Displaying objects found around the house that fit the party theme, such as this porcelain cat and toy pup, reduce expenses and heighten the unique personality of this tablescape.
And here's Joseph, the guest of honor, with his sister showing off their furry, flying pal.


Always Frugal, Always Fabulous,

The Elegant Thrifter

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Find: Reopening a Trunk

After seeing so many old travel trunks during my stay in California, I remembered a post from a while back that seemed apropos:

When thrift shopping, we are often attracted to items that we dream up all kinds of creative ideas for repurposing, but often never actually get around to doing. One of those common finds is an old trunk -- one that looks chic and sophisticated and reminds us of the easier days of glamorous travel.

I've heard trunk ideas ranging from decorative accents and storage, to actually using the old piece of luggage for travel. As gorgeous as old trunks are, most of the ones I see have interiors that I would never want to store prized possessions in, they rarely offer a useful, level surface for a table, and I most certainly would never haul one on a plane. That's why if find Turquoise's Vanessa De Vargas Lucite artist Jordan Cappella's take on an old trunk is so innovative and appealing. Why not enclose the whole thing in a transparent Lucite box? Their new, level box looks like a time capsule zapped into the modern age, and creates interest in a room the duo decorated for Jennifer Siegel's Office of Mobile Design house in Venice Beach, California.

For more of Vanessa's creations, pick up a copy of my book, The Find: The Housing Works Book of Decorating With Thrift Shop Treasures, Flea Market Objects, and Vintage Details.

Feeling a little boxed in -- but in a good way!

Always Frugal, Always Fabulous,

The Elegant Thrifter

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Object of My Desire: Trolly Talk

As I was walking up to Nob Hill in San Francisco last week, I passed by this very 1980s style mural for a local corner grocery shop. It so reminded me of the TV show "Too Close For Comfort."

Always Frugal, Always Fabulous,

The Elegant Thrifter

Friday, October 8, 2010

The Gift of Thrift: Southern Exposure

Upon the publication of my book The Find: The Housing Works Book of Decorating With Thrift Shop Treasures, Flea Market Objects, and Vintage Details, the amazing Michael Quinn and Heather Kerr presented me with a treasured Gift of Thrift. Taken from the south side of a weather vane, this single S wrapped in a ribbon must have seemed destined to travel in my direction.

Always Frugal, Always Fabulous,

The Elegant Thrifter

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Frugal Fun: Here, Kitty Kitty

When you throw a stoop sale in Brooklyn, you never know who will show up. With so many goodies on display at excellent prices, this little leashed kitty couldn't help but stop and gaze upon his reflection in a mirror that was soon snatched up for pennies on the dollar!

Always Frugal, Always Fabulous,

The Elegant Thrifter

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Reuse & Repurpose: Open up!

Even though they are rarely used today, skeleton keys are plentiful at almost any flea market I have ever attended. Along with the keys pictured here, keyhole covers were mounted and framed to create a collection of graphic wall decor that seems to unlock at least one idea of what to do with these common vintage finds.

Always Frugal, Always Fabulous,

The Elegant Thrifter

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Find: Turning the Page

While spending the weekend with the marvelous Michael Quinn on the Jersey Shore, we had an exuberant chat about the joys of decoupage, a craft that I have loved since I was a kid. When I was a Cub Scout, I remember taking a beach scene photo from a magazine, gluing it on a beaten-up square of stained wood, and covering it with layers upon layers of some type of adhesive that left it shiny and permanently sealed for many years to come. Then, my sister and I discovered Mod Podge, a white adhesive that we used to apply images that we had cut out from used greeting cards and affix them forever on a rock we had pulled from the creek near my Grandma Churchill's house.

As we were leaving Michael's house in Point Pleasant, he pointed out a table he had made out of a large, wooden cable spool and had covered the top with a map of the Jersey Shore that he secured to the surface with Mod Podge. All that Mod Podge chat reminded me of one of my favorite images from The Find: The Housing Works Book of Decorating With Thrift Shop Treasures, Flea Market Objects, and Vintage Details.

Photographed by Jim Franco, this image shows how pages from an old book were effectively used as wallpaper in the entry of decoupage artist John Derian's Lower East Side apartment. No, Derian didn't use Mod Podge on his wall of wonder. As I marveled over this dreamy creation, Derian told me that he used nothing more than watered down white glue to make this repurposed wallpaper and then smoothed it all out with a wet sponge.

Always Frugal, Always Fabulous,

The Elegant Thrifter

Monday, October 4, 2010

The Object of My Desire: The Right Type

My dad, like my sister, is an excellent typist. As an elementary school principal, it seemed that his work was never done. He often brought home papers to sift through, forms to fill out and ditto sheets to type up, the latter of which he expertly cranked out at what seemed like the speed of light with rarely an error. When he didn't bring home an electric typewriter from his school, he would pull out a Smith Corona that looked almost exactly like this one and start typing away.

I took this photo recently while thrifting in New Jersey and was amazed at how this little machine looked just like Dad's. Dad purchased his when he was in college and then passed on to me when I went off to school. I'm not as skilled a typist as my dad, but I certainly wrote my share of term papers and journalism assignments on that old typewriter. And I used a lot of White Out, too!

Always Frugal, Always Fabulous,

The Elegant Thrifter

Friday, October 1, 2010

Found Fridays: Feelin' Blue

Having accepted a gracious invitation from the fabulous Michael Quinn, we're off to his family's house on the Jersey Shore this weekend, making today perfect for showing off his mother's eye for a treasure that was discovered along the side of the road.

Alice Quinn picked up the wicker chair and side table, carted them home and painted them a cheery shade of blue, creating a welcoming resting place under a tree in the back yard.

Always Frugal, Always Fabulous,

The Elegant Thifter


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