Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Thrift Finds: Waiting for the Right Thing

I am not the world's most patient person. That doesn't always make me a good thrift shopper, the kind that will wait to strike until the exact item and price is right.

I think I may finally have learned my lesson. 

Last year about this time, I managed to pull together our front room with furniture I had on hand, plus some refitted curtains and a new rug: 

You can read about that adventure in this post. It's one of those rooms that looks better in person than in pictures, because the colors don't appear to play together in digital photos but do in real life. Also, I'm a little bit better photographer. (But only a bit.)

The thing I like best about this room is its coziness and personal art. Who doesn't like owl mirrors and drawings of dragons in teacups? Not anyone I want to know. 

The thing I liked least about this room was the printer situation. At first I put it on an old kitchen hostess cart that had been found lying about the place when I moved in: 

Which collected about six horizontal square feet of of crapola along with the printer. On an open shelf out in front of God and everybody. What a mess. 

I was so desperate to get that eyesore out of there that I sorted the mess, stashed the cart elsewhere, and  put the printer on the floor along that wall, which you can see if you scroll back up to the top photo. 

If you think a printer on the floor in a house with four boys doesn't seem like a great idea, I totally agree. I'm not saying this was ideal. Or even smart. But it beat the mess. Or the wrong piece of furniture, like that slightly rickety and rusty cart. 

But yes, I worried that one day one of the kids would come rolling along and step on the fold-out paper tray, and the Canon would be toast. 

I needed something small, no more than a couple feet wide, no more than 20 inches deep, and nothing too tall, bulky or dominating. I didn't want to spend a ton of money. I honestly didn't think finding something that size or shape would be that hard. Stupid me. 

Here. Look at vases while I kvetch about file cabinets some more. 
Since that project last year, I have looked at dozens of possibilities, some of which were: 

1. New printer stands, the cheapness and plastic crap of which depressed me. 
2. Lateral files, which were shallow enough, but too wide, and ridiculously pricey.
3. regular file cabinets, which were too deep, and not wide enough.
4. Vintage office furniture, which has taken a sudden turn into trendy and chic, and therefore now unaffordable. 
5. Surplus office furniture from our local university's weekly equipment inventory sales. Cheap, but everything I looked at was just somehow wrong.
6. An ongoing menagerie of second-hand small dressers, night stands, side tables, bookcases, and anything else I thought might fit the bill. 

A few weeks ago I was really getting fed up with the printer-on-the-floor situation, and was glumly contemplating a couple of options on Overstocks.com and Ikea, but not really in love with any of them and feeling really grouchy about it. Luckily it was late, and I didn't even have the energy to click through an online purchase. 

This weekend I stopped by my mother's to pick up and drop off the endless round of things that pass through the hands of family when you live in the same town. She'd been down to family in Missouri to pick up some things that had belonged to elderly relatives and was going through a giant sort, including a pile of things destined for the curb. 

The curb pile included this: 

This is the obligatory terrible cell phone photo of the item fresh from the back of my van. It is my Great Aunt Elizabeth's turntable and album stand. I think it is awesome. Also? Twenty-two inches wide and 16 1/2 inches deep. And FREE. Perfect on all counts. Open shelving again is less perfect, but I think the way they are arranged in this case I can make it work. No vinyl records though! 

It's in pretty rough shape, with water rings, loose veneer, and scratches. 

Oh and the dust too. I haven't had time to even unload my dishwasher this week, so don't expect dusting even for a blog post. 

I'm not sure whether it will stay this finish. The wood is in terrible shape, and the finish clashes with the paneling in the room. It might become a painted color. I'm not sure. But if it's waited a year to come into my life, it can wait another year while I decide how to fix it up. 

Another little tweak to this room also happened in recent weeks. This chair was what I started with: 

Don't get me wrong. I like the chair. But it just seems awfully busy in a room with a busy rug and busy curtains and wood paneling. Also, the boys were being rather rough on it. Not deliberately, just four boys doing their usual thing requires sturdy furniture. So instead of this one we are using another one from my Pathologically Large Stash of Old Chairs. (Yes. Capitalized. If you knew you'd understand.)

The orange isn't as bright as it appears in the photo. I like that I can wipe it down if things get a little out of control with the after-school snacking at the computer. Vinyl. It's a way of life. 

I learned from this year-long exercise in waiting that eventually, the Thrift Gods will smile on you. I am glad I resisted the temptation to solve this problem with a solution that involved throwing money at something else that I was less than crazy about. That never ends well, does it? I also learned that, in the instance of the chairs, living with a room makes you realize how first decisions may not be lasting ones, and rooms need to evolve to fit the way you actually live. 

What home decor items have you waited and waited and waited for? Did just the right thing eventually arrive in your life?


  1. So much I love in this story. Maybe the most is completely understanding the capitalization. :-) I have learned the hard way that it is best to wait until the gods smile with their teeth showing. And I know how hard the waiting can be. I think the best thing that arrived unexpectedly is the fiber art that's hanging in our entry. I could never have imagined it or gone looking for it, but it's the perfect thing for that space.

    And hear you on the office furniture thing. We lucked out and got a cool credenza nearly two years ago from an office liquidation place. We paid about $100 for it. I'd never expect to find something like that now.

    1. Your fabric art IS just perfect. Like it was waiting for you to come along and take it home.

      I'm going to get the chair thing under control. Eventually. I even put one on the curb last week. However, it disappeared before the garbage truck came, so I fear I was just feeding someone else's capitalized addiction. ;)