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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Just a recap: Jess and I both wrote about why we purchase secondhand here and here.  And last week started the beginning of our “Choosing Secondhand Furniture” series. Read Jess’s thoughts from last week about Reality vs. Vision. Right now, I’m passing along everything that I know about determining quality while thrifting furniture.

All that I know, I learned from my momma and through experience. My mom has fantastic taste in good quality furniture. Her bedroom suite she bought back in the 70s has survived four children, a dozen or more moves, and did I mention four children? Also, she only purchased one nightstand at the time and so when she married my dad she’s always needed another one. That was 30+ years ago. When in Lubbock, Texas recently, I found her a second nightstand at an estate sale! It was an awesome and the price reflected the quality.

So here are thoughts to consider:

1.) When considering purchasing anything that has drawers check to see if they’re dovetailed. (i.e. dressers, nightstands, cabinets, crates, etc.) Dovetailing consists of “pins” and “tails” that fit nicely together. Example:

(Hello, pile of laundry in my desk chair!)

Dovetails indicate quality. Yes, there is still quality furniture out there that is nailed, glued, or screwed drawers, but in my experience the drawers don’t last as long. Dovetailed drawers hold together because the two pieces of wood are made in such a way that they fit together. That’s important when it’s going to be a piece of furniture that you use often. Keep in mind that dovetail joints can pull apart over time if not taken care of properly. So make sure it looks solid and the fit is snug. The face of the drawer should not be able to easily pull away from the body.

2.) Does the bottom of the drawer look like it can handle the weight of the items you’ll be placing in it? This is really something to investigate. The bottom of the drawer should be snug and not gaping on any of the edges. It should also be able to handle some pressure. Also, is there water damage? If so, this might be a piece you should pass on.

3.) What’s the finish like? Is it veneer, paint, stain, or something else? And what condition is the finish in? For veneer: Check to see if it’s chipped. If veneer is chipped badly, it will more than likely be really difficult to make it look good again. Most of the time, even if you take the piece to get it refinished, you’ll spend more money redoing the veneer than the piece is actually worth. So, the condition of the veneer is definitely something to consider. For paint: if it’s an older piece make sure to ask the dealer/seller if it’s been tested for lead paint. This is really important especially if you’re thinking about stripping or sanding the piece. Here’s an example of chipped veneer from a piece I bought recently (details in a post this week!):

4.) Look for a name brand which is sometimes called a mark stamp. With furniture, they can be hiding anywhere. Check the inside, side, underneath, and back of drawers or the back of the piece itself. Just remember that it’s usually tucked away but not too hard to find. Don’t be worried about pulling the piece out and investigating it. I used to be really shy with this and never wanted to disrupt, but honestly if you’re going to buy the piece you of course need to know what you’re getting! Here on my Drexel desk, the mark stamp is hiding in the top drawer on the right:

5.) I’ll cover this in greater detail in a later post about researching, but the easy way to recognize a brand is just to bring along something with the ability to Google (i.e. iPad or smart phone).

Do these guidelines work ALL the time? NOPE. No way. They are just that, guidelines. Things to consider. Hell, it’s entirely possible that I will find the most awesome piece of vintage furniture without dovetailed drawers. And guess what, if I love it, it’ll probably go home with me.

Alright, that’s all I’ve got for quality. Anything you think I’m leaving out or you’d like to add?

I’d love to hear your thoughts! Happy Thrifting!

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After seeing this home tour on Design Attractor, I’m constantly thinking about that metal card catalog type piece. I know these are all over the place and people love them. But this particular one, I can’t stop thinking about. It’s such a wonderful piece.

This is the home of Danish Designer Birgitte Rabens. Although these rooms aren’t typically what I’d go for, I still love them. The usage of the wood, mixed with the leather, mixed with various metals is really pretty to me. Also, growing up in Texas has given me an affinity for cacti and after seeing this I’m really wanting some succulents around here! I’m inspired by the placement of the letters on the bottom right of the first photo. Such a small detail but I’m liking the idea of them not having to be on the walls.

Any rooms inspired you lately that don’t really go with your style?

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Have you seen these yet? They are just so awesome. After throwing the Travel Themed party, my affinity for globes turned into a full on love affair. If I could afford one, and if I had the perfect place for it one of these would be mine. That’s a lot of “ifs” though.

They are pretty pricey, but I’m choosing to post them because the folks over at ImageNations are creating art out of these globes that might otherwise be sitting in a landfill. Also, the graphic design is just beautiful.

ImagineNations: Art on Globes

Adventure Awaits: I’m totally digging the font and colors. Doesn’t it compliment the globe colors so well?


Oh, The Place You’ll Go: First, this is my absolute favorite Dr. Seuss book. Second, as a previously said, I love globes so this once is a perfect marriage.

Bon Voyage: Just beautiful. The sun rays and the banner.

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Creating a Travel Themed Party

A dear friend of mine recently got engaged and we decided to celebrate by throwing a good ol’ party! It was travel themed and so much fun.

I was one of 8 hosts and in charge of the decorations and invitations. My sister, a former wedding planner, helped me come up with the table centerpieces, game, and overall vibe of the party.

I ordered the invites from Paper and Pigtails over at Etsy.

They emailed me the editable PDF and it was super easy to customize these invitations. I paired them with paper bag, brown envelopes from Hobby Lobby. It was the perfect look to set the theme of the party. In total I only spent about $1.50 per invitation (including stamps).

Then we sat to gathering/collecting luggage, globes, vintage maps, lots of the letter “A” (the couple’s monogram), and old travel books.

I bought this beautfiul, vintage hat box at an estate sale here in Austin for only $10! It served as the perfect box for guests to place their cards. It’s a bit hard to tell in the photo but the hat box is the perfect shade of turquoise.

On the tables we placed old travel books (bought at used book stores), decoupaged spherical candle holders that looked like real globes, and crisp white “A”s. We bought at the “A”s at JoAnns.

On other tables we placed old maps (also bought at used book stores), more old travel books, and vintage camera (this one is an Argus 1957 35mm).

We had the party at a local coffee shop. This place set an awesome ambiance with it’s floor to ceiling windows. In the window ledges we placed some vintage luggage. I borrowed this one from my mom (hi, mom!).

I had all the guests play a game where they had to guess the location of where the pictures of the couple were taken. We placed the photos on each of the tables along with maps and more “A”s. We labeled each photo with a number and guests wrote down their guesses on game cards. I used these scalloped map cut outs for the number marker from 58 & Grace over on Etsy. She did a customized listing for me and used maps from the states where the couple are from.

The winner of the game won this little prize. I bought a simple red gift bag from Target and just cut out multicolored bunting from Post Its. Then just used a teensy bit of masking tape to close the package and detailed it with a Sharpie.

The food was prepared by two of the other hosts and they did an AMAZING job. I just added little flags that had the name of the country each food item was inspired by. Just a simple little dowel rod, some wooden model car tires, hot glue, and paint swatches were used to create these cute flags (Most bought at Hobby Lobby). I wrote the name of each country with a sharpie and then gave it a dotted line outline just to make the flag stand out a little more. Such an awesome impact for little money.

Overall, my tab was about $125 and that included invitations. I was able to construct the travel theme for little money!

Don’t get me wrong, these parties come with their struggles and planning issues. But, this is how everything came together and in the end it’s all about the couple anyway.

Many congrats to my dear, sweet friends!


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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.

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