My friends at Invaluable asked me to share my favorite ways to shop for home decor and furniture. Anytime anyone gives me a challenge to shop, I gladly accept! There are so many great ideas out there, but here are my “Top Six” that work for me when shopping at antique malls and consignment stores:
Make a list of what you need or want for your space. This specific shopping trip was to find some pieces for our outdoor entertainment space that “tell a story” and create conversation. Walking into an antique store with tons of booths is fun, but can be overwhelming without a vision of what you’re searching for. You’ll get distracted anyway with the epic space of nostalgia staring back at you, but at least you can reign in the focus with your list.
On my shopping list: 1) Something long and narrow for our dining table that I could multipurpose for the seasons; 2) A tall cart on wheels for pool towels and beverages; 3) A drop-leaf, small dining table for extra seating on the patio near the bar; and 4) A schoolhouse chalkboard.
Go with a friend. I enlisted the help of my friend Amy. She has a great eye for home decor and I thought it would be a fun way to get to know each other better rummaging through stuff. Friends can help you stay focused, be your second set of eyes because she spotted things I didn’t see…and she was my photographer! In fact, most of the things I purchased on our excursion were inspired by Amy.
Think outside the box. One item on my list was an over sized, schoolhouse type chalkboard. Amazingly, we found one pretty quick in a booth at the Montgomery Street Antique Mall. The proprietor of the booth, Patsy, told us it used to be on the wall at her church. It was pretty retro with a green background, but the shape and size were not going to work in the space I had in mind. It was fun to hear from Patsy the chalkboard had a history — that for sure would have been a fun conversation piece. However, we did find a 1920’s glass cabinet door in another booth and we thought it could serve the same purpose for writing a menu or message. And, the size was spot-on (see why tip five is important?).
Study Your Space Before You Go. One day I stopped in Buy Consignment to see what they had. I spotted a dresser, but my first thought was that it was too large. I took measurements and a photo. The covered patio has vaulted ceilings, a stone fireplace, brick and dark cedar ship lap walls — so it’s a space with a lot of presence. This meant the piece I selected needed to be on a bigger scale to balance the strong structural features. I sat back away from the porch and really studied the spot the furniture would be placed. Another good trick is to tape off the area where the furniture will go to see if it works. I realized it was the perfect size and the scale was proportionate to the space. Something smaller would have been lost and looked out of place. And, I get the bonus of the nine drawers to store entertaining essentials like napkins, plates, cookware, decor. One project I am going to add is a metal cap for the top using an Amy Howard aged, zinc patina product. Stay tuned for that.
Measure your space and take a tape measure with you. This sounds obvious, but the only way I knew if the chalkboard and dresser I was interested in were going to fit was to take measurements before I left the house. I also measured my dining table so I knew I could get a large bowl for the top. Luckily, I always have my hot pink tape measure in my bag that I received in my swag from Haven!
Don’t be afraid to negotiate with the seller. I found the rolling cart in Patsy’s booth, the same lady who I chatted with about the chalkboard. She knew I was sincere with my purchase because we had built a rapport. Vendors love for you to ask questions about their pieces, because it shows you have genuine interest. I told her what I was going to use the cart for and she shared that it was made from reclaimed wood using an old utility cart for the base. I love the layers of paint colors. When it came time to make a decision, I looked at the tag and asked her, “what’s your best price?” This puts it out there, but in a way that respects her and the value of what she felt was important. We agreed on about 10% off the price. And, if you buy more than one thing from a vendor, by all means it’s appropriate to say, “since I am buying several things, what can we work out on the price?”
In the end, I ended up with everything on my list. I didn’t find the drop leaf table I was looking for, but something better. On the way home from the antique store, we stopped into that same furniture consignment store where I found the dresser. I have purchased, and sold, several things there. If you find a store like this, make a point to walk through once a week. You never know what you will find. I walked in looking for a table, sat down at this looking around while Amy and I chatted…
It’s a game table with a removable top. Checkers on one side and plain on the reverse. It even came with a wooden checker set and four bar stools that nestle into the table, a perfect space saver. This meant I didn’t have to purchase more stools because these can scoot up to the bar. Remember tip #3, to think outside the box? It dawned on me that this served all the purposes I was looking for. While the finish is a little formal for my outdoor space, I think I will ponder a paint finish for it to make it more casual or I may change the covering on the stool tops (think animal print!). I styled it with my copper serving pieces, playing cards and a bowl of popcorn. I can’t wait for our first game night.
Here’s where tip #6 came in. The top had a few scratches. It was already marked down to the lowest price, but I pointed out the imperfections, that I was a frequent shopper and could take it right then. The owner gave me an additional 10% off.
I did find the wooden bowl and candle holder. Amy suggested I get both so I could change them out, or bring one inside the house for another look. They were perfect for the spaces I had in mind and can be multi-purposed for the seasons.
Here’s an example of things I didn’t notice when I was there that day. Look at that green grocery cart, the coke bottle holder and in the bottom corner the wooden rolling pins. I may have to go back. This was the booth I got the wooden bowl.
So, there are my six tips. Be sure to stop over at Invaluable to check out their on-line sales of art, collectibles and antiques. I’ve got more to share from my shopping trip, but I’ll save that another day. Remember, I said I got the chalkboard…
Note: I was not compensated for this post. Just sharing what I’ve learned along the way…