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Gutting and rebuilding significant parts of a house is a big project. I’ve said “Things are really starting to come together” several times.

First, it was in September when we didn’t have lath and plaster anymore and again when we had drywall. In October, I said it when we had carpet and flooring. I repeated it when our furniture and boxes showed up later that week. In February, I said it as the bathroom got painted and new flooring for President’s Day. Last month, it was my excitement as our boxes started to move around and get unpacked. Earlier this month, I said it again as the last two bedrooms got finished, painted and furnished.

Now, things really are starting to come together. We have paint on most of the walls, furniture in most of the rooms, linens, and colors and things chosen. Books on shelves. We really are just down to the details. One of these pesky details is our walls. They’re blank except for a good coat of paint. So blank, in fact, that we now write off any discomfort we feel about furniture arrangement as a byproduct of it all looking like it’s in some kind of showroom where no personality graces the walls of the staged furniture sections.

I have some ideas for arrangements of wall hangings, but I need something to fill the frames or lack of frames in my mind. That’s where I Need Nice Things comes in handy.

“I Need Nice Things was created to make contemporary art collectable, changeable, and most important of all, affordable. It’s breathtaking art without the price tag.” —I Need Nice Things

I haven’t made a purchase yet—I just like looking through the prints and getting some inspiration—but it appears that they do ship internationally even though they’re based in Australia.

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Continuing on with our goal of discussing affordable decor on this blog, we’ve reached the point in our “Choosing Secondhand Furniture” series when it’s time to think about if you should consider refinishing when you see used furniture.

A lot of people have a really hard time finding the potential in a piece. Also, some just ride it off entirely because they don’t find themselves handy enough. Well, here’s some tips on how to see the potential in a piece that just needs a little TLC.

Condition of Current Finish: What’s the current finish like and what shape is it in? Is it chipping, just dingy, multiple layers of paint? We discussed this some when we talked about recognizing quality in a piece of used furniture, but it definitely plays a part in whether or not you should buy. If it’s something you can paint over and you like then by all means purchase the piece. But that’s the easy answer, right? But, sometimes this might not be that easy. For instance, my Lane end tables first looked like this:

And our coffee table was way, way worse:

To some, this damage would seem too much and the tables wouldn’t be worth it. But, it was only only $30 for the two tables and I figured the risk was worth it. After lots and lots of sanding and some spray laquer, here’s the end result:

We also purchased a second end table at Room Service Vintage when they were having a sidewalk sale. It was in the same condition as the others and so Brendan gave it some TLC, too. All of the table lost their original finish, because of the sanding but I honestly love how the refinishing brought out the dovetail details ever more.

Use your imagination: What would this piece look like painted? Or stripped to the original word? Or what if you styled it right, how would it look in your space? Ask anyone who purchases used furniture and they will all tell you this, “Everything looks worse in the store”. It’s so true. So when you see a piece just stare at it and think about how it might look with a fresh coat of paint.

Professional Refinishing: If you get them professionally refinished you have to ask yourself if spending the money is worth it? For our Lane tables, it wasn’t. It would have cost a couple hundred and at that price we could purchase them in really good condition at a local vintage shop. But, for a great couch, it might be worth it. Recently, I received a pair of 1950s shellback, patio chairs. They were my grandmothers and my mom had them professionally repainted in the 80s. So, when I got them this last summer they were in desperate need of another refinishing. At this point, the cost to have the chairs properly done was way more expensive than what it would cost to buy the reproductions. But to me, these were my grandmother’s and so I loved them more than just trying to get a good deal. In fact, after talking to my mom when trying to decide if we should have them powder coated, she gave me the best advice for thrifting, “Not everything has to be a good deal.” Do I love, love, love a good deal? Hell. Yes. But in this case, the chairs and their history were more important.

Do you have any other tips or advice to share? If so, send it over! We’d love to hear your thoughts!

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For the past several weeks Jess and I have been posting about things we think everyone should know about purchasing furniture secondhand. Just to recap: We wrote about why we buy secondhand in the first place here and here. Also here’s a quick recap of our previous posts.

  • Know Your Shared Style: Jess wrote about figuring out what works for both you and your partner. This leads to a happy home.
  • Reality versus Vision: Jess gave some great advice about taking a step back and not falling in love with a piece right away (some advice I should heed).
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The Spotted Fox

*** I search Etsy far and wide to bring you some absolutely beautiful finds from the artists and vintage shops on the site. I’d love to hear your thoughts and feel free to send over any shops you think are worthy of attention. Click on the images to be taken to the listing. ***

The Spotted Fox is the brain child of Sarah Estes from Nashville, Tennessee. I’m particularly impressed by way she adds the color wheel into the her designs. I love the playful and cleverness of it all.Mmmmm, avocado. Here are some of my other favorites from her shop.

I’m pretty sure this one is going to find its way into my home soon.

Hope you enjoyed this Etsy spotlight! Again, if you’ve got a shop that you’d like to see me feature (especially if it’s your own), just send over an email.

 

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As part of our ongoing series on choosing secondhand furniture, I’d like to discuss research tips when shopping for something secondhand.

Researching in the moment: Bringing along your smart phone or iPad and hit up Google, Ebay, or Etsy. These are quick sites to find what the item you’re looking at is currently selling for. More than likely you’re wanting to research quickly if you’re standing in the middle of a store, at a yard sale, or in someone’s home at an estate sale. Look up numbers, names, or any other information you find on the piece. If you don’t have a smart phone or iPad handy, then ask around. In a thrift store, someone might actually know something about the piece you’re looking at (patrons and employees). I know that this can be risky, but at the same time you might just find somebody nice. Often, if you’re at an estate sale, auction, or yard sale people might know about the piece anyway.

If you decide to buy without being able to research (at a thrift store), ask about the return policy. You can just go look it up and possibly return it if you’ve made a bad purchase. Most likely, you’ll love a piece regardless of what you find out.

Researching Later: If you think a piece might be a good deal and you’d like to look up quality, then feel free to leave. Go home (or to the nearest library) and do a quick Google search. Look for like items or things that might tip you off about what a piece is worth. Also, if you’ve got a camera phone or camera on hand then take a picture. If not, then jot down a description. That way it’s easy recall when you go to look it up.

Ongoing Research: For some folks the idea of researching just turns them off entirely. Which, I understand. Trust me, after grad school for 3 years, the word research still kinda makes me cringe. BUT, I love researching things that I’m totally into. Of course you can do this online, but another way to do “blanket” research (a one stop shop of sorts) is to get some books. If you’re like me, the reason you’re looking for a good deal in the first place is because of finances so loading up on books of your own isn’t an option. Well, that’s where your local library and Google Books comes in. My favorite find lately is by James W. McKenzie titled Antiques on the Cheap: A Savvy Dealer’s Guide to Buying, Restoring and Selling.

This book mostly has tips for used furniture hunting, but I’ve really enjoyed reading it. This author gives such a great run down and tips for antique buying. No, I’m not a dealer (even though I’ve got dreams of being one), but I still like to know what I’m buying. Also, he covers if it’s worth restoring yourself. Good questions and thoughts.

Lastly: If you like it and you don’t care about its history or worth, then by all means buy the damn thing. If it’s got value to you, for it to enter your home, then kuddos and happy thrifting!

Other tips for researching that I didn’t cover?

For the past several weeks Jess and I have been posting about things we think everyone should know about purchasing furniture secondhand. Just to recap: We wrote about why we buy secondhand in the first place here and here. Also here’s a quick recap of our previous posts.

  • Know Your Shared Style: Jess wrote about figuring out what works for both you and your partner. This leads to a happy home.
  • Reality versus Vision: Jess gave some great advice about taking a step back and not falling in love with a piece right away (some advice I should heed).

 

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I  mentioned last week in Choosing Secondhand Furniture: Know Your Shared Style that I think Kyle’s style is a little more fun than mine is. I’m not totally grown-up and boring around my house, though. I have one weakness for cute things — animals. I especially like it if I can get an animal thing that’s also functional. Maybe you remember my excitement about the elephant teapot in the Calypso St. Barth collection at Target way back when? Well, when I come across a cute animal at a thrift store I’m always tempted to buy it.

I try to curb my crazy ideas by thinking about what kind of use something might have.

When I saw the crazy winged zebra for $350 while shopping a few months ago, I had to think about whether or not it was worth $350 to have an item that had really no purpose except I thought it was hilarious. For the record, I decided it wasn’t.

Sometimes, though, I deem something worthy of acquiring. Last week, I saw these Bojensen era teak hippos on Vintage Scapes:

Friday, she posted that she had discovered one of the hippos for sale on ebay. I decided to try my hand at the deal and managed to score one for $20.49 when shipping & handling was said and done. It was a bit of an impulsive purchase, but I set my maximum bid fairly low and I was enticed by the seller saying it needed teak oil and describing the wood as very thirsty. I know the seller meant the wood was very thirsty, but it sounded like the hippo was thirsty and needed me to rescue him. … So, I did.

I think his mouth will be the perfect spot to catch all of my hair ties when they come off of my head so Kyle can stop complaining that he finds them all over the house and has no idea where to put them.

He should be here by the end of the week! I can’t wait!

We’re linking up at Flea Market Finds so go check out everyone’s finds after you check out our site for a while.

 

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I have a friend outfitting her first home with her husband and she told me recently that she’s came home with something she thought would fit their style and had to return it so often that she’s just used to that part of the home decor shopping process.  Obviously, with secondhand purchases, the return process is not nearly as easy as driving to a store, so it’s important you know your style when you enter the store so you can easily decide if something will work in your house as is, or with some adjustments, before you make the investment.

1.) Consultation is key

Especially when buying for a living space you share, an emailed picture of a potential purchase — or dragging a person along for the ride — can be a lifesaver. I’m lucky because Kyle and I have nearly identical tastes. There have been times where we’ve gotten it wrong but in general I know when I love something that he’ll love it and vice versa.

When we bought this industrial bench for our bedroom, I spotted it from across the store and thought “We’re going to want that” but didn’t say anything — I’ve learned it’s bad strategy to point out something across the room that I like because it means I miss all of the booths between here and there. When we got to the booth at our own speed, Kyle stopped in front of it and, sure enough, it was destined to be ours.

2.) Don’t get too attached

In February, Kyle and I bought a harvest table because we found one that was at a great price and we had been thinking about getting a harvest table. We got it home to decide that it maybe wasn’t the direction we were heading in the kitchen, wouldn’t commit to it enough to buy chairs for it during the last four months, and ultimately replaced it with an entirely different style of table this spring.

I think it’s important to recognize that something that’s working for you just may not work for someone else. I thought that if we got it some chairs, we would start to really like the harvest table, but Kyle just wasn’t ready to make that commitment. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that there would be some benefits to getting a table that was in a little better condition and easier to clean. Now that we’ve found the right table for our kitchen, I’m so glad that I didn’t put my foot down and commit to the old table.

3.) Take a leap

If either of us need to make a quick decision we can do it within an acceptable margin of error. We’re also lucky because our style is very, ahem, eclectic so we can make a lot of different styles or periods of furniture come together into one great space. A few weeks ago, we picked up a Moviegraph vintage projector at an antique store. Kyle was shopping for new furniture with our friend at the store next door  and I dragged him over to look at this find. He somehow got distracted on the walk so I bought it without consultation.

Good news, Kyle loves it as much or more than I do. And, surprise, it works!

4.) Give in a Little

If sharing tastes does not succeed, compromise a little. Kyle didn’t exactly understand my tea pot collection but as it started to fill up the shelving above our kitchen cabinets, he saw the utility. Kyle’s style is probably more fun than mine so occasionally I find myself bidding on some letter blocks at an auction or scoring a sweet magnetic message board at an estate sale.

It turns out compromise is often a win-win.

For the last few weeks, Mary and I have been sharing our advice for choosing secondhand furniture. We’ve both written about why we prefer to buy secondhand: here and here.  And I shared some advice for keeping your excitement for a potential piece in check in my post Reality vs. Vision. Last week, Mary passed along everything she knows about Recognizing Quality while thrifting furniture.

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On a recent trip home from work, I decided to stop in at my local Goodwill. It’s literally right down the street and within walking distance. I stop in there often to just see what they have. I usually walk out empty handed or with thoughts running through my head about furniture I just saw (i.e. I wonder what that would look like blue or how could I make that piece work).

Well my last trip started to seem like it would be no different. I walked the aisles of furniture and decided I would take another quick look back through.

Here’s how the conversation I had with myself went on my second trip back down the aisles:

“Wait, what’s that? No way, is that…is that a Cedar Chest? Hmm..

(pulls out said chest) Okay, the outside’s not too bad. Hmm, what about the inside?

“Oh my god! Oh my god! It’s a Lane! Okay, calm down. I’m sure it’s too expensive.

What?! $60?! Oh, I’m taking this.”

For the next ten minutes, I pulled it out, opened it up, turned it over, and just stood there trying to calm myself down to having rational thoughts. After quickly deciding it was for sure coming home with me, I didn’t move from that spot. I just waited for a Goodwill employee to walk by, and he did. He had to go get a cart for me to tote it out. At the register the cashier asked what it was so that she could type it into the computer. The guy helping me said “Um, a box” I thought, “if you only knew buddy.”

Okay, I’ll admit. My freakout over this cedar chest was a little nuts. But living in Austin and seeing what they go for, is what informed my decision to grab it up. I knew it wasn’t going to last long once it was displayed better.

Once I got it home, and the fella and I examined it a little bit closer. I realized, sadly, that the bottom had to come off. We just took out the screws and the ones that were too deep we had to break off the wood to get to them. As you can see, the damage was pretty bad on the base. It was broken, some worm holes, and quite a bit of water damage. Not to mention a lot of the veneer had started to come off. If I could have saved the base, I would have. Because removing it significantly decreases the value of the piece. That’s okay with me though. I’m not planning on re-selling it anytime soon.

After a quick clean up with diluted white vinegar, liquid detergent, and then a polish with beeswax, it looks so lovely in its new home. I’m on the hunt now for new legs.

After doing some research, I discovered that my chest was manufactured on May 16, 1950. That meant that the day after I bought it, it turned 61 years old. Such an awesome discovery.

Also, I left the original marketing stapled to the inside. How awesome is that typography?

Do you have any treasures that made you freak out upon discovery? Please tell me that you do, because I’d really like to not be the only crazy out there! Also, if you know where to buy some cool legs for this chest send them my way. I’m considering these after I saw them on Retro Renovation.

I linked up over at Her Library Adventures: Flea Market Finds and Apron Thrift Girl: Thrift Share Mondays

 

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Welcome to So Eclectic

So Eclectic is a blog dedicated to great ideas for home design. Austin, Texas-based writer Mary Marcum and Savannah, Missouri-based writer Jess Rezac feature affordable decor, decorating solutions, and inspiration. At So Eclectic, we experiment with design together. So Eclectic posts new content every weekday.

More About So Eclectic »
About Our Authors »

Hope Chest

In our hope chest, we share products that complement our home aesthetic or make us excited about the directions of new design.

 

Jess

I live with Kyle, my husband, in Kansas City, Mo. We have a dog, Oats, and a cat, Logan.

I am a development professional who specializes in museums and the performing arts. I write grants, fundraise, and assist with marketing in the form of donor communications. My academic background is in history and museum science, focusing on the presentation and interpretation of Africa in American museums.

As a freelancer, I work with clients in need of websites, Wordpress upgrades, and FileMaker Pro database solutions.

Mary

Hi! I live in a small two bedroom home in Austin, Texas. I believe in vintage, re-purposing, recycling, and making my home comfortable for us and everyone that visits. After grad school, I developed a love for design and giving old furniture a new life. Hope I can take you all along on my journey to rid my house of the "college days" furniture (or at least re-purpose it)! Welcome, and I hope you stay a while!

 
© 2011, Mary Marcum and Jess Rezac at SoEclectic.com