Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Find: Hellos and Goodbyes

One of the things I've learned over the years is that if you're going to buy furniture at garage sales and flea markets, you have to be prepared to let things you already own go, especially if you live in a New York City apartment like I do. For me, saying goodbye to furniture I've lived with for many years tugs at my heart, even though I know it's going to a loving, new home.

Take, for instance, this vintage buffet. It was one of the very first pieces of furniture I purchased for a pre-war studio I once owned in Chelsea. It still has a slight discoloration on its top where a pumpkin rested there a little longer than it should have. I bought it for $150 from a crusty old woman who used to sell her wares on lower Sixth Avenue, just above Houston. She even delivered this piece to my home along with this wooden table, which set me back another $100 or so.

It has a few water spots on it, but it was a table that has seen its share of celebrations in both apartments, served as a surface for crafting, sewing and cake frosting and at times, functioned as a make-shift desk.  It was also on this wobbly table that I wrote much of The Find: The Housing Works Book of Decorating With Thrift Shop Treasures, Flea Market Objects, and Vintage Details.

I let these items go when my new, old furniture arrived -- a dining room set that my sister bought me for $130 at a garage sale in Independence, Missouri.

Here are the hutch, table and chairs from the Tung Si collection by Hickory and a side piece from the Mainline collection for Hooker Furniture, sitting in the driveway exactly as I first spied them. The sellers said their mother had purchased them at Savage Furniture Co., a store in Independence that is long gone.

Until a few weeks ago, the whole set lived in my old bedroom in my parents' house. Here's how I saw it the last time I was home. But after a recent cross-country trek, they all now reside with me in my New York City dining room.

Here's the hutch (with a can of cleaner on it!) sitting against freshly painted sage-green walls, just waiting to be filled with all kinds of vintage treasures.

Always Frugal, Always Fabulous,

The Elegant Thrifter

Monday, July 30, 2012

The Object of My Desire: Croquet Anyone?

I wrote this post a few summers ago after making a stop in Austin, Texas, for a book signing event for The Find with LeAnn Stephenson, The Vintage Laundress.

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!

Always Frugal, Always Fabulous,

The Elegant Thrifter

Friday, July 27, 2012

Found Fridays: The Winners' Circle

Or maybe I should call it The Winners' Corner: Left at the intersection of Houston and Broadway.

Celebrate the weekend!

Always Frugal, Always Fabulous,

The Elegant Thrifter

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Reuse & Repurpose: Props on the House!

As style editor for Maxim magazine, part of my job is to preview products months before they are offered to consumers. Quite often in my visits to showrooms and presentations, I'm treated to displays that offer novel uses for vintage and thrift finds, such as this one for the eBay Holiday Collective, where nearly all the props came directly from eBay. 

Above, vintage sleds show off Billy Reid's all-white canvas carry-alls.

A stack of well-traveled suitcases is the focal point among Chris Benz home and lounge collection.

Ruffian's neckwear and scarves are hung from antique skis and ski poles.

Used ice skates set a wintery tone for Tibi's cozy pieces.

And wooden reindeer prance among Steven Alan's tech accessories.

Always Frugal, Always Fabulous,

The Elegant Thrifter

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Reuse & Repurpose: She Blinded Me With Science

The other night when I was at a friend's house at Brooklyn, another guest urged me to check out the  the hostess's bathroom. Not such a strange request, so I went to take a peak. There, I found these two metal boxes from 1960s microscope kits hanging on the wall, each filled with all the items you'd expect to find in a medicine cabinet.

Always Frugal, Always Fabulous,

The Elegant Thrifter

Monday, July 16, 2012

The Object of My Desire: Melon Madness

A few weeks ago while I was spending time with friends on the Jersey Shore, we bought a watermelon that, I have to admit, I ate most of for breakfast one morning. Later that day, one of my weekend comrades went to the refrigerator searching for some watermelon, and there was none. "Stan ate it all?" I heard he gasped.

Watermelon is one of my favorite foods, but only during the summertime when it's at it's season's sweetest and juiciness. If there were watermelon in my fridge from June to September, you can bet that it would be gone within 24 hours.

Always Frugal, Always Fabulous,
(And always up for watermelon!)

The Elegant Thrifter

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Frugal Fun: Vintage Surprises

When I go to garages sales, I'm automatically attracted to those everything-in-this-box for, say, $5. Often, you can do a quick scan to see if you're getting something extra-special. But when I picked up my $5 box at a recent garage sale, somehow these coloring books from the late 1940s and early '50s were inside, out of view. A few of the inside images had already been filled in with a crayon's hue, but the books were in remarkably good condition with the cutest Christmas images gracing their covers. What a sweet surprise!

Always Frugal, Always Fabulous,

The Elegant Thrifter

Friday, July 6, 2012

The Gift of Thrift: Lost and Found

Whenever I'm at a flea market of garage sale, I always try to keep in mind those special to me just in case The Gift of Thrift should pop up out of no where. The only problem with that is that sometimes I pick up a gift in May that won't be given until December, so I stash it away. But when the time comes to actually give The Gift of Thrift, I don't know where it is!

I spied this 1970s porcelain Hallmark bell, a perfect Christmas present for my mom, at a Jersey Shore garage sale last spring. But when it came time to pack up my things and head home for the holidays to Independence, Missouri, I couldn't find it! 

Jump ahead six months to this spring when I rearranged my living room to make room for new window treatments. As I was moving several pieces of furniture, I slid my desk away from the window sill and noticed a vintage, felt Christmas stocking wadded up in a glass container. And what in the world could that be? It was the elusive porcelain bell.

Photographs by Stan Williams

Earlier this week, I finally gave this porcelain bell to my mom as a belated Christmas present, and she loved it. No matter the time we give The Gift of Thrift -- even months after it was intended -- its sentiment rings true for every season.

Always Frugal, Always Fabulous,

The Elegant Thrifter

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Frugal Fun: Somethin' Fishy

There's nothing more satisfying after a day of hitting garage sales than to immediately find uses for all of our thrifted treasures. Just hours after purchasing this set of wooden fish chairs on the Jersey Shore, they found homes, not as seating options, but as decorative objects in Alice Quinn's nautical-themed back yard.

Always Frugal, Always Fabulous,

The Elegant Thrifter

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The Find: Party in a Pot

Photograph for The Find by  Jim Franco

I've shared this photo with you several times, since it is one of my favorites from The Find: The Housing Works Book of Decorating With Thrift Shop Treasures, Flea Market Objects, and Vintage Details.  I find myself drawn to this photo partly because it was taken in the home of one of my favorite people, Michael Quinn. But there's another reason my eye tends to linger on this shot. It's because I'm always reminded of my parents, since the bean pot they received as a wedding gift 50 years ago is nestled among the festive table accents.

Always Frugal, Always Fabulous,

The Elegant Thrifter

Monday, July 2, 2012

The Object of My Desire: Jiggle, Jiggle

Photograph by Stan Williams

Did I need it? No. Will I use it? Maybe. Could I resist it for $1.75 at a garage sale? No way! There's hardly a person I know who doesn't have memories of Jello, especially if you grew up in the Midwest like I did. 

This Tupperware Jell N Serve container reminded me of the molds my mom used to make as a kid. I distinctly remember one that was a bright green and held orange slices, diced celery and carrot slivers concealed inside, as well as one made with peach Jello, made even more peachy with a can of peaches added to it. 

I've never been a huge fan of the Jello. In fact, it always makes me think of what one eats when sick. Once, when I threw a retro food party in New York, I made a cherry Jello mold packed full of fruit cocktail, with full expectation that it would go mostly untouched by my party goers. Oh how I was wrong! To my surprise, they ate every last jiggly drop! 

Always Frugal, Always Fabulous,

The Elegant Thrifter

Sunday, July 1, 2012


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