Swap meets and garage sales are the perfect places to find unique items to fill those empty walls and corners in your home. Often these off-beat destinations are filled with odd ball items that can instantly add character and a bit of whimsy to any room.
Every era and decorating style from "country charm" to "old world elegance" can be achieved with a couple of vintage vignettes crafted from smart shopping and a keen eye. Some of my most cherished possessions were adopted from places I vaguely remember and for prices I have long forgotten.
On my roadside excursions I consider lots of items that I don't end up purchasing. Sometimes I am not sure how they will blend with my dcor, if the scale is correct or if the price is within my budget. It's when I'm least concerned with that "fit" that I'm most satisfied with my purchase. I'll find a place in my home for a piece that moves me.
Sometimes it's the color, other times the shape or design of say, a vase, that I really like. I have a special affinity for pottery with designs and lettering that are sort of retro-inspired. A kidney shape is my favorite. I collect ash trays, even though I don't smoke. They make the perfect candy dish or interesting serving piece. Not to mention, they are easily stored.
Mirrors are great also. Especially vintage one's with the reflection part slightly worn away. That patina I find particularly romantic. I have a collection of these old mirrors that didn't quite fit anywhere, so I grouped them together on a wall of their own. The collection looks amazing. Other great items to collect and cluster are pictures, figurines and lamps. I always keep my eye peeled for magazine racks and benches when scouting because they create great impact when mixed with items that I have had for years. Everything old looks new again.
To best prepare for the unexpected roadside shopping spree, here are my best recommendations:
-Have photos handy of problem spots in your home. Keep them in your car, complete with dimensions. It can save anxiety about "the fit." Also, tote around a tape measure and a yard stick.
-Stay focused. It's pretty demanding to sift through other people's stuff that they don't want anymore! It's easy to waste a half hour deciding whether or not to buy that perfume bottle for Aunt Emma's birthday, when you really stopped to search for a wall hanging for a spare bedroom.
-Don't feel pressured to purchase. If it's "just not right" then it is "just not right." If you need time to think about it, offer the vendor a few dollars to hold it aside until you decide. If you want it, it's yours and if you don't you spent a few bucks for your indecisiveness that could possibly be put toward another item.
-Expect imperfections. If you are not a dealer, a curator or a perfectionist, see if you can accept the flaws. Sometimes scratches and chips can be inconsequential to your enjoyment of the piece. If it's placed on a high shelf, you will see the scar only when your dust. And only you know how often that is...
-Be Creative. Have an open mind and think out-of-the-box. Mismatched lace curtains can be transformed into a table runner, neck pillow or scented sachets. A scratched piece of beautifully crafted furniture can be polished, painted or stained and updated with new hardware.
-Last but not least, be kind to the seller. It's a hard buck to be a vendor, brave the weather and humiliation of seeing others not want your stuff. Also consider that it cost money to rent space in a flea market or take out an ad in the local paper. Not to mention having to get up really early to prepare! So, remember to be fair in your offer, the item will be yours to cherish forever, or until you want to sell it at your own tag sale.
Every month Mindy will be offering decorating tips and answering your questions. Please feel free to email your questions to: Mindy@EncoreDecor.com
2004 Mindy Greenberg, Allied Member ASID