Oh! You Pretty Thing

My friend Juliet came to visit because she’s moving to New York in the fall and needs to find an apartment, so naturally I dragged her to go thrifting with me instead. My house, my rules.

And I’m so glad I did. Hello, gorgeous. Welcome to my home.

On recommendation from a superbly savvy reader, I visited Green Village in Brooklyn. It’s magnificent. Aisle upon cramped aisle of junk like you wouldn’t believe, stacked to the ceiling. Luckily, I am tiny and agile, with a kind of monkey-like strength that renders me useless at lifting anything but my own bodyweight. I was a beast at rock-climbing at summer camp; high school crew team, not so much. So the barricade of sofas, upturned tables, and assorted chairs that blocked the back corner of the store was no match for me, despite discouraging every other sane shopper from even attempting a glance.

I risked life and limb, unsure of what I’d find. And then there she was, right in front of me, poking out from a mound of crap. I pulled her out. Things toppled over all around us. I didn’t care.

The price? $35! I tried to haggle for the challenge, but my heart wasn’t in it. A Bertoia side chair for $35? I mean, come on. Oddly, he almost seemed willing to waver on the price of the chair, but was steadfast on the $35 he also quoted for a lovably fugly little needlepoint I was also eyeing because “that’s a nice piece.” To each their own.

She was grimy and looked rusty, but a full hour in front of the TV with a toothbrush and a Magic Eraser (Mr. Clean does mean “magic” literally) made her gleam like the sun. Even the grey naugahyde seat pad cleaned up okay.

You don’t even have to say it: I like the olive Eames Shell better for the desk, too. But I have to make everyone feel special, at least for a little while. Them’s the rules.

In that vein, holla-back to the groovy ladies at Re-Nest, Green Your Decor, and Rearranged Design, who made me feel pretty special when they wrote about my bed on their blogs! If you’re here because they sent you, congratulations for making the right choice and clicking that link. You won’t regret it. Did I mention you have beautiful eyes?


39 Comments

  1. are you sure you didn’t swipe this from in front of fao s/apple in midtown? :) it is a lovely addition to a lovely flat.

  2. Found your site via Door Sixteen, and I’m in love. Please clarify location of Green Village: Is it the one listed at 276 Starr Street?

  3. Daniel, I think I just fell in love with you simply for the way you fold the corners on your bed spread.

  4. I cannot believe you scored that thing for $35, I’ve been searching for one of those chairs for-evah! Great find!

  5. Agreed that the shell chair looks better with the desk, but you know where that chair would look awesome?

    In my house. I’ll email you my addy. kthnx.

  6. I came from Door Sixteen to see the desk. And then I stayed for the flattery.

  7. Better not tell them about the art work discovery. People simply don’t know their trash these days.

  8. I’m jealous. I’ve been meaning to go to the thrift for months now. Thanks for the inspiration.

  9. So jealous – I love a great steal of deal! I just got 4 Bertoia chairs of Dallas CL for what I thought was a steal – but you put me to shame – I was robbed! : )

  10. I’ve noticed how many sites are linking to your desk and bed posts. Please understand I’m not trying to diminish the end result (which in both cases is quite nice), but are these people just not at all handy and/or inventive?

    Maybe it’s because I am handy and inventive, and have done things like build cars and install my own kitchen, but really it amounts to the headline, “Man saws legs off dresser, sticks it under desktop. Entire Internet goes wild!”

    Am I the only one that’s in on the joke? Can you and I wink at each other now?

    • I’m not really quite sure what you’re getting at, but this seems mean-spirited– if not towards me than towards people who’ve read about/enjoyed the projects I’ve done that have gotten their little slice of internet attention. I think it’s awfully presumptive to say that readers/commenters are “not at all handy and/or inventive,” having checked out so many of their blogs and seen their own creations. In the same breath, I would guess that people like these projects because they seem doable and adaptable, not because they require any great level of skill to accomplish, just a willingness to try.

      Having said that, I really haven’t done anything to promote these projects, this site, or myself. I love that some people have gotten excited about the things I’ve done, but I can’t tell you why. And I’m too uncoordinated to wink, nor do I want to, so no.

      • I knew someone would jump to your defense!

      • That came out wrong.

        I sit in front of a computer all day and consume a ton, so I get to have a really wide view of Internet culture and I notice trends pretty acutely. I had to stop reading a lot of design and architecture sites because they all just repost each other’s posts.

        If a German architecture firm leaked photos of stark white “House N”, I would see it on Moco Loco, who took it from CoolBoom, who took it from Swiss Miss, who took it from Kitsune Noir, who took it from Remodelista, who posted it from Booooooooom, who posted it from etc etc. By the afternoon of the same day, I’ve seen House N in fifty four places in my RSS feeds.

        It’s not to say House N isn’t to die for, and I believe the first few places to link it genuinely love that type of architecture. But there’s a phenomenon on the Internet where some site gets subconsciously voted as the arbiter of what’s the “thing of the moment”. I don’t know what sites you read in areas aside from design, but it’s like how many people don’t seem to be able to have an opinion about an Apple product unless John Gruber of Daring Fireball has it first.

        That being said, I’m a long time doorsixteen reader, Anna is indeed very handy, and posts some great projects she finds elsewhere, having a genuine interest and love for these projects. Yours was definitely one, it was a great idea and flawless execution. I had a particular love of the bed hack, since you and I are on similar monetary budgets.

        But by the fifty fourth place I saw your desk around the Internet that afternoon, it felt like it fell victim to the mindless reposting that cheapens the original piece of work, and made it something people were enamored with not for the value of an accessible piece of built furniture by someone without a DWR budget, but because Site X posted it so it “must be the thing of the moment”. Anything like that always makes me wonder if by Site 53, they’re just posting it because it was on doorsixteen 52 sites ago, and if they even know what a hammer looks like.

        You were making comments in your entries along the lines of “Wow, welcome people from Site Z, as long as you’re here please wash the dishes,” so I thought somehow you “got” what I’m talking about and were making fun of some the cheapness of those mindless reposts.

        I reread my comment and it appears, however, I just did a really poor job of making a joke about Internet culture, and slammed your projects in the process, which I can guarantee you wasn’t even close to what my intention was.

        Take care, and again, great desk.

      • Hmmm.

        Bill, it sounds to me like (a) you’re not being selective enough about the blogs you read on a daily basis, and (b) you need to counteract what you see as redundant blog content by making your own contribution to the pool of fresh, original content.

        I don’t read a lot of blogs. What you see in the blogroll on my site is pretty much the extent of it (with a few others thrown in that I check on periodically) — and it’s a varied and original bunch. As a result, I don’t worry about redundancy. Yes, the majority of my content is original, but I do post “inspiration” as well, and I honestly couldn’t care less whether something’s been seen a million times elsewhere already. It’s a mistake to assume that all of my readers are also looking at the same sites I am, just as it’s a mistake to assume that the 52 (or whatever) posts about Dan’s site that followed mine came from people who saw it in all the same places that you did. (Speaking for myself, the only other site I saw it in was Apartment Therapy — and only because it showed up in my stats.)

        A while back, I posted a couple of photos of a spice rack (standard-issue, purchased at IKEA for a few bucks) that I had mounted on the inside of my cabinet doors — just like the instructions said to do it. I didn’t do anything special or innovative or particularly creative, but a lot of people got excited about it, and my little project got reposted and blogged about all over the place. I thought it was kind of hilarious (so yeah, I “get it”), but at the end of the day, people are going to be inspired by the things that speak to their needs and desires. It kind of doesn’t matter if it’s obvious or easy.

        The internet, at its core, is about sharing. If you’re getting agitated because you’re seeing the same stuff shared everywhere, maybe think about diversifying your daily reading a bit. Even better, start putting your own contributions out there. Diminishing the efforts of others (ESPECIALLY the person who created this stuff we’re all talking about in first place!) isn’t the way to do it, though.

        Okay, now I’m going to shut my trap before Dan bans me from commenting on his blog…

      • Hey there Anna!

        Your “spice rack” example was spot on. I find it hilarious also, and my original comment was an attempt to share a wink wink nudge nudge laugh with Daniel that his desk experienced the same phenomenon. That unfortunately went south.

        Not sure about the other things you said, I find the reblogging funny/lame not agitating, my RSS feeds only consist of around 10-12 design blogs these days (huge fan of The Brick House), and I’ve been publishing original content online since 1997, my first weblog used Greymatter which was released in 2000.

        Take care.

      • Anna, I’d never do that! Bill, I appreciate your response and I do understand the feeling of things not coming out the way you intended them to on the internet. I guess I understand what you’re saying about reposting, but I don’t read that many blogs (part of the reason our blogroll is so damn skimpy, the other part is laziness), so that’s not really a problem I’ve encountered. However, as Anna pointed out, I’m pretty sure my desk was posted on a total of three blogs (D16, Apartment Therapy, and Re-Nest) and the same goes for my bed (Re-Nest, Rearranged Design, and Green Your Decor). This is all new to me, but I don’t really think any of those reposts were “mindless” as they all took time to write original content about what I did or what they liked about it. I tried to make an effort to mention them here because, well, I like to welcome new folks and if somebody wants to take the time to write a positive little something about what I’m doing, I appreciate that.

        I suppose I’ll just say that as a young-ish person, I’ve very much grown up in the digital/internet age where we have to confront certain choices about how we conduct ourselves online. We’ve all seen all too frequently how that anonymity and ease of sharing can generate some pretty rotten stuff, to put it lightly. Consequently, I always prefer to see the internet used as a tool to be friendly and supportive, and only critical in a constructive way. And that doesn’t just go for this blog, but it shouldn’t be especially difficult when we’re talking about stuff like building desks and painting walls.

        That said, I’d like to declare this dramarama over, it’s not fun for anybody. Don’t beat yourself up over it.

      • Thanks, Daniel. Again, sorry for this, I am regardless a fan of your site and projects.

    • Bill, as one of the people (maybe even the first) who blogged about Dan’s desk and tweeted about his bed, I feel compelled to reply to your question.

      “…are these people just not at all handy and/or inventive?”

      Actually, I am pretty handy. Reasonably inventive, too. I’ve been renovating my house for more than four years now, and I’ve been documenting the process along the way. I think I’ve inspired a number of people to take on their own renovation and construction projects, and I’m proud of that. There’s something to be said for taking cues from others in getting started, getting creative, and getting going. I don’t live inside a bubble of self-containment, and neither do the people reading my blog…or Dan’s. We all have something to share and something to learn.

      Your comment smacks a bit of the contempt I sometimes overhear in the voice of someone looking disparagingly at a piece in a modern art museum: e.g., “My six-year-old kid could do that!” Well, guess what — your six-year-old kid didn’t have the IDEA to do that. I don’t think Dan is trying to prove that he has incredible technical expertise, here. In fact, it’s quite the contrary — as he said, his projects are doable, adaptable, and within the reach of those who are willing to TRY. That’s what’s impressive.

      No joking, no winking.

  11. I love that your mom comments on your blog. Most days I’m pretty sure my mom is the only person reading/commenting on mine. Haha. Awesome find, now I must know about the artwork, and yes my eyes are quite lovely, thank you. ;)

  12. lovely! And the finish is in such good shape, good find.

    I bought my first Bertoia chair from a “prop” sale our in downtown LA from a bunch of scary ass tweakers camped out in a warehouse full of the most deadly looking crap I have ever seen.

    Lots of digging and $30 got me that baby, so maybe it is a thrifty right of passage to take your life into your hands and dig through treacherous shit for an awesome deal.

  13. Fab deal on the chair. I found a similar chair in the alley behind my house, in somewhat nerve wracking proximity to what looks like a hypodermic needle (no joke). Nevertheless, I snagged it and it’s now sitting on my back patio waiting for me to save it from its peeling paint and rust. It’s not a real Bertoia chair, just a similar wire one that is still pretty cute. I’m just not sure what to do about all the peeling paint (it’s that thick plasticky kind). Sigh.

    Oh and what’s Bill’s problem? :-)

    • I used to find hypodermic needles near my old apartment, but I never found any fun furniture! That thick plasticky paint sounds like powder coating. Unless you want to invest in chemically stripping it and having it redone–as far as I know, not really a feasible DIY– you might be able to just pick up one of those little wire brushes from the hardware store, get rid of all the flaky stuff, and give it a couple coats of glossy spray paint. The finish might not be perfect, but nothing is (including my chair, which definitely has some “character” and I thought was destined for spray paint before it cleaned up as well as it did).

  14. Hahaha… I love your writing style. Man, I was right there with you with everything falling down around us! It’s probably because I have some serious dumpster-diving in my past and likely in my future too. Although it might sound very (whatever)-aholic of me, there is such a rush from getting the things you love at such a good steal, err, deal.

    Really the best part for me is that YOU found that chair and not some “dealer” who wouldn’t even clean it up and then just post it on craigslist for $450 with the keyword like RETRO, VINTAGE, and GROOVY. Le sigh.

    Nice job! And congrats on the re-posting! I’m glad you are helping to make dope design hacks (and the like) attainable – because I can’t afford most of the stuff in dwell or from dwr. (Unfortunately, we don’t all have a dwr/annex within driving distance, like D16).

  15. Awesome work. Awesome blog. I’ve been thoroughly enjoying both. Keep it up!

    Question: Does the Green Village have artwork? I’ve been looking around thrifts for good pieces but have been so disappointed by what I’ve seen. Anything good is in stores that are no longer called Thrift, but Vintage ($$$$$ gag!)… I’m hoping against hope Green Village pulls through. I’d like to go down next week… Let me know please and thanks.

    And what’s the deal with Bill?

    • Thanks! Green Village does have some art. It’s kind of all over the place but there are two big racks near the front that are VERY hard to flip through because of the weight of it all, best if you can wrangle somebody to come with you. I can’t really stress enough how junky this place is, but who knows what you might unearth.

  16. Hi Dan. Was just about to leaving another gushing comment about your chair/desk/writing/blog, but Bill’s comment gave me pause.

    Hi Bill, I read your comment and now your reply. I’m still not following the logic. I think you’re saying that since so many people re-blog or leave complimentary comments about, say, Dan’s desk, these people mustn’t be capable of being creative with their own homes. That since I think Dan’s house is cool, my own house must be really uncool. Speaking for myself, and at an educated guess for my fellow gushers, the opposite is true. Creativity doesn’t happen in a vacuum, people inspire each other. You surely appreciate the value of sharing ideas since you’re so familiar with design on-line. I know it’s horrible to be rounded on when you’ve misjudged the mood, but here’s the thing; interiors blogs are generally friendly forums. Dan has invited us into his home. It’s nice to be nice.

  17. I know Dan declared the issue over but as one of the bloggers who reposted the bed I just wanted to let Bill know that I’m pretty damn handy and creative but it never would of crossed my mind to transform that bed like he did.

    I understand what you’re trying to say about the same content being recycled but I don’t think either of Dan’s projects is anywhere near the point of being overseen.

    I think because Apartment Therapy posted it and because they’re so big that maybe you feel everyone’s seen it?

  18. I’ve been to my share of junk stores piled high with “treasures,” and now you’re making me wish I had stuck around long enough to find what was under all of it. We did once get a men’s shirt form (ie. half mannequin) from a junk store, but the owner sort of creeped me out, so we didn’t stay to find much else. Maybe next time I’ll just go back with a can of pepper spray in my pocket in hopes that I’ll find an original tulip chair for $20 :)

  19. Ok. I’ve read all entries since finding you yesterday. You are so much fun. I am wondering though, do I detect a connection to the south, specifically Louisiana? I am in Lafayette Louisiana. Here are the clues which brought me to that conclusion: 1. Mom and Dad in Mardi Gras beads. 2. Your use of the word y’all. 3. You reference the Day Lab blog located in Baton Rouge LA. Just curious by the way. So am I even close to being right?

    • Thanks Patti, you’re very perceptive! Actually, I’m only sort of from the south– northern Virginia, right outside D.C. (I went to high school in D.C. and usually I just say I’m from there… lies!). My cute parents met while they were both students at Tulane, but neither of them are from there. I’ve only been to Louisiana once– doing Katrina clean-up in New Orleans with Habitat for Humanity, so not exactly a fun time to take in the sights and local culture– but I’m SO hoping to go back soon. I can’t even remember how I found Day-Lab a million years ago but I love Amy’s pictures and compassion for animals and I’ve ordered some things from her shop a few times. Annnnd I just like the word “y’all” and my slight southernness makes me feel justified enough to use it on occasion. Good work, detective!

  20. Daniel, Thanks for the reply. Feel free to use the word y’all whenever the need arises. It’s one of my favs as well. Also, what a shame you aren’t from LA. We would love to claim you! Y’all have a great Sunday now!

  21. My heart went KA-THUMP when I read “thrifting” and saw the top of the Bertoia chair. I’m insanely jealous.

  22. What a gorgeous stapler ;)

  23. yesss, I love finds like these, I just found an eames shell for 20$ at a similar place in detroit
    I posted a shot of it today

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