Sunday, January 27, 2013

Come In and Sit a Spell

We’ve been known to tell visitors that it’s easier to point out the few store-bought items in our home than all the thrifted ones. I looked around the other day and realized this is certainly true when it comes to our chairs, and that the thrifting goes w-w-a-a-a-a-y-y-y back. Like over 40 years. How can that be when we ourselves are still so young, so dewy fresh? Dang, I couldn’t even write that with a straight face. But no matter. I’m still young enough to give you a tour of our chairs!

Let’s get the retail-price ones out of the way. All three of them. Yup, three places in our house to sit that we bought in stores. Actually two, because this one came from a craft market.

handmade rocker

Must have been about 25 years ago, in High Point, NC. We went to a big Christmas craft fair and wandered around until we saw this puppy. Tried it out. Bought it. No matter who sits in it, the curves fit perfectly. Can’t remember what it cost, something like $100, but we’ve amortized it down to about four bucks a year so far. I can live with that.

The other two retail pieces are my husband’s desk chair, and a bench that used to be at the foot of our bed.

desk chairslat seat bench

When we moved to this house, we discovered the bench fit perfectly into a space in the master bathroom. It is the best place to tie your shoelaces.

Don’t worry that you won’t have plenty of choices when you want to sit down, however. Feeling particularly vintage? Settle in the corner of the living room in one of the Hans Olsen chairs, or the Danish rocker.

Danish rocker with Hans Olsen cane back arm chairs

Just found a pair of Olsen chairs like these for sale in a showroom in Los Angeles. Theirs are refinished, mine are original (though we did replace the cushions). Theirs are priced at $2695 for the pair.

Mine weren’t!

If you’d like to bask by the fireplace, we have the Sixties sofa, currently covered with a linen throw.


At mealtime you can settle in at the table on one of the Hans Wegner CH-23 chairs. Steven was at a vintage store in Portland recently that had a set of these. Theirs were priced at $2450 for the set of four. Mine weren’t.


For many years our dining table was surrounded by a mix of chairs. Some have gone by the wayside (i.e. were resold to other thrifty people) but we still have our first – a pair of antique pressback chairs.

pressback chairs

We bought these from a little old lady in Minneapolis back in the early 70’s. At the time they had that kind of gooey dark finish that old varnish gets after years of use. Steven refinished them and we were amazed at the design that emerged from the grime.

pressback chair design

These chairs have an unusual detail for pressback chairs of the era, can you pick it out? Think about it, and we’ll check later to see how you do on your test!

Another chair dates from our time in Minneapolis, from a sale in a very posh house. I’ve never forgotten the design of the inlaid wood floor in the foyer.

sturdy chair

Light weight but very sturdy, this chair has been on stage many times. Steven often takes it with him when he performs.


Sturdy but decidedly NOT light weight would be our old dentist’s chair. We found this in the catacomb-like basement of the first place we lived in Minneapolis, along with an old x-ray machine. Our landlord sold the pair of them to us for ten bucks.

 1916 dentist chair

We still have the control panel from the x-ray apparatus, and it’s scary enough.

1916 xray controls

You should have seen the rest of it – or maybe not. You’d never have dental work done again. We parted with it because of it’s huge size. Wish we could have kept the label with the patent-pending from 1916, and the warning not to use this machine for pyrotechnics. Ah, those were the days.

If you’d like to have a snack at the kitchen island counter, you’ll get to perch on these vintage babies. We have three in all.

vintage bar stools

My office chair is not fancy, but it works.

thrifted desk chair

Sometimes I sit on this old lab stool instead.

old lab stool

The big wicker wingback and ottoman relax in a corner of the master bedroom.

rattan chair and ottoman

This was our dog Lizzie’s favorite bed. Edward usually spends the night there now.


Zoe’s favorite chair is the ever-so-comfy Siesta Chair by Ingmar Relling. With or without Edward.

Big Brothers are so Comfy

Noll Baxter often sleeps on this bench, guarded over by his friend Woody.

woody on the bench

(Picture this cat on that cushion.)

Noll in a basket

We have two of these benches, which sometimes become tables. They weigh a ton. We think they must have started life in a mall or gym.

sturdy bench table

If you settle in to watch movies with us, you can sit on the Forties rattan sofa

vintage rattan sofa

or the surprisingly comfortable hair dryer chair.

vintage dryer chair

Or you can move Zoe off the Heywood Wakefield armchair hiding under a throw until I get it reupholstered.

Zoe in Heywood Wakefield chair

Back in the guest rooms, we have the old piano bench

vintage piano seat

and the vanity pouf that swivels.

vintage pouf stool

And for a real trip back in time, here’s the piece we’ve had the longest. My mother in law bought this at Montgomery Wards when she was pregnant with my hubs.

vintage rocker

Okay, test time! If you’ve been around very many pressback chairs, you might have picked out the detail that is different…it’s the slats in the backs. Almost always they are carved with knobby things that poke you as you try to relax. These have smooth slats that encourage you to sit around the kitchen table longer, sharing stories.

pressback chairs detail

I’m sure it’s obvious that we have eclectic taste in furniture, which helps when you’re a thrifty soul. I’ve been very lucky with my finds, but I do believe that luck resides in showing up. (Which I will be happy to do as soon as the weather warms up a bit and folks start having sales again!) But here’s a little comparison to put retail vs. shopping on driveways in perspective.

For the same amount of cash that we spent on this modestly-priced chair in a store (dog not included with purchase)

Edward and desk chair

I brought these home from driveways.

image IMG_5508 thrifted desk chair   IMG_6804IMG_2944

rattan chair and ottomanvintage pouf stool

Patience and perseverance pay. You can take that to the bank!


Saturday, January 19, 2013

Off and Running

Sales! I got to go to some sales, and some thrift stores! With a friend!

Really, it felt like a drought ending. Thrifters need to thrift. And everyone needs a mini vacation once in a while. So when my friend Judy told me about her favorite thrift stores in Corvallis, we quickly hatched a plan to go down there on Friday. We were both thrilled to see an ad on Craigslist for a garage sale in our neighborhood (Judy lives about five blocks from me; we originally met at the dog park, where else?) so we headed there first.

The lady started talking as soon as we showed up, and from what she said we really missed the boat by not getting there right at nine a.m. “You should have seen it,” she said. “The whole driveway was full of stuff, and about three rooms in the house.” We looked at the remains in her two-car garage and I for one heaved a quiet sigh. But no matter, still found a few things as she continued talking. We learned about her Chow and the other dog they adopted that didn’t work out and the good home they found for it. And that they had to move to another house because this house is a tri-level, and a few months ago she started having terrible vertigo. They thought for a while she might have a brain tumor but it turned out to be some inner ear thing (must confess some of it went into my inner ear and straight on through and out again without lodging in any memory cells). So now they’re in a single level house and just love it.

I wandered out to the driveway to check out the free pile, which was almost entirely composed of lids from Rubbermaid storage boxes. Then I noticed a large concrete bird bath a few feet away on the grass. Different from any I’ve seen before, a large circle with birds and other motifs embossed on the edges, and no pedestal. I asked if it were for sale. “Sure, might as well be,” she said. “My husband got it intending to put it on a tree stump.” When the price turned out to be five bucks and Judy was game to put it in the back of her car, the deal was made. And here’s where we got lucky. A young family had arrived to check out the sale, and I brazenly asked the husband if he might be able to help us get the thing in the car. He was a total sweetie pie. Lifted up the piece so we could dump out the half-frozen water and leaves. We got it onto one of the tote lids in the free pile and used that to sled it across the driveway to the car. Where I suddenly remembered I had a camera and pulled it out. I believe these are startled expressions!


With a heave and a ho, the birdbath was lifted into the car. Of course we thanked out benefactor profusely, as well as his wife for letting us borrow him. The lady having the sale shooed him into the house to wash the mud off his hands, and we parted cordially.


Back on the road, heading south, we were almost to the freeway when I saw a sign for an estate sale. Judy jumped into the turn lane and off we went. Sale turned out to be in a 55-plus development of manufactured homes, but if I hadn’t been told that’s what the houses were I’d never have known. The home where the sale was going on was one of the first in the development, and the folks who lived there were gardeners. The one thing they had that I really wanted was the greenhouse attached to the garage! At least I could tell what the greenhouse was. We never did figure out what this duck thing might be for.


There was another wood piece that we think was one of those gravity wine bottle holders, but it had a circle of cork inset in one end so we weren’t completely sure. There was an older couple shopping the sale that we chatted with, and the husband was musing with us on the identity of this wood thing. We kept running into them throughout the house and garage, where we had to muse over a tool none of us had ever seen before.


Amazingly enough, I was the one who figured out it’s a wire stripper. Since it was only a buck I bought it and presented it to my husband. He’s never evinced any desire for a wire stripper, but I’ve watched him stripping wires enough over the years to think he might find a use for it now and then.

When we left, the other couple were leaving too, and we got into conversation on the sidewalk. Turned out they used to live in Roseburg, which is where I started my library career over thirty years ago. We chatted about local landmarks and memories, and before long the Roseburg Blast came up. The Blast happened in 1959, destroying all the buildings in an 8 block area. Everyone who was there has a story to tell. We didn’t move to Roseburg until 1978 and even we have a Blast story: the first house we lived in was less than a mile from the blast site and had been ‘knocked off its foundation’ according to our landlord. There were metal straps in the basement keeping the building from being too whopperjawed!

Judy and I finally made it to Corvallis and the two thrift stores we were aiming for. As you probably know I’m more of a shopping-on-driveways type of thrifter, but we had fun. Poked into everything, conversed with the volunteers running the places. I made Judy try on a homemade fleece robe that had two sleeve-tubes inset into a big square of fabric. She looked like a human burrito. The only way that garment will ever find a new home is with someone who’s looking for a big cheap piece of fleece, not a robe! But we both found stuff to buy. A lovely piece of wool jumped out at me that turned out to be a Manos del Uruguay ruana.


I hate to wear a coat unless I have to, especially if I’m going to be in the car, so I shelled out the $4.00 for this puppy. It is SO cozy.


Had two or three snags


but a few seconds with a crochet hook and voila, snaggies are gone!


Judy’s best find was a gorgeous Fair Isle sweater in all her favorite colors. The glitch there was that its metal buttons had cut through the thread they were sewn on with, and only one was still on the sweater. The others were on a safety pin attached to the hem. But Judy called me a bit ago and said she was wearing her sweater, and the one button that’s left is in the middle, and she really likes wearing it with just the one buttoned! So the others might not be sewn back on any too soon.

I ended up spending $12.60 and besides the above mentioned brought home a bunch o’ tea lights (just in time, I was nearly out!)


and do you think I paid this price


or this?


Also some cupcake papers, which have gotten ridiculously expensive at the grocery store (and I don’t care a bit if they have Halloween motifs)


and some embroidery thread for the vintage pillowcase I got from a free box back in September (now all I need to find is a small embroidery hoop…what was I thinking when I decluttered all my embroidery supplies a while back?)

IMG_6562 IMG_5800

and some cute little rusty-metal snowflakes


and a vintage Vera linen tea towel. This one I’m keeping, and every time I dry something with it I will smile over a dime well spent.


And so the thrifting year begins.


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