Weekend Thrifty Finds!

It’s been a while since we did a good old “look, here’s some crap I bought!” post, hasn’t it? It’s a crying shame.

Well. In case you started reading this blog less than 10 minutes ago and don’t know what I’m all about, first of all—welcome. Second of all, you should know I like to shop. I like to shop but I don’t like to spend a lot of money, so at some point in my life I really embraced that the way to fulfill both of these goals was to shop for secondhand stuff. eBay, Craigslist, consignment shops, weird barns full of antiques, thrift stores, the curb on trash night, auctions, salvage shops…I love them all equally and for different reasons. I’m an equal-opportunity crap collector. Admittedly a part of the appeal of doing freelance design work is that I get to spend more time satisfying these urges, except I get to buy things with other people’s money and for other people’s houses. Even though I end up wanting to keep everything. Life is one big struggle.

I’ve been trying to slow my roll on the thrifty front lately for two reasons:

1. We are running out of space, and it makes me feel like a crazy person. Our basement has extra furniture. The room above our kitchen? Packed. There’s furniture in the garage and furniture in the big, un-renovated living room, and there’s just no way we’re going to use it all—this much is clear. Of course, I maintain that we will use some of it, and therefore we should keep it around until the house is done, at which point I’ll need to find a new excuse to hoard. A client might need it! The cottage might need it for staging! And so on. I’m great at justifying my crap.

2. Buying cheap stuff is only cheap until you buy a lot of it, at which point it becomes…not so cheap. And I’m a little cash-strapped right now between this stupid house and this stupid cottage and being in between freelance gigs the heat bills on our house ain’t cheap and…ya know. Should probably stop buying things that aren’t human food and/or dog food.

BUT SOMETIMES YOU CAN’T HELP IT. SOMETIMES A FRIEND (who you invited) DRIVES YOU TO A PLACE (because you specifically asked him to) AND SHOWS YOU NICE THINGS (which you reasonably guessed would be there in the first place) AND YOU’RE FORCED TO BUY THEM (because otherwise you might feel sad later on that you didn’t).

Ugh. So here’s some shit I bought because the choice was basically between these vintage items and everlasting regret and remorse.

mirror1

So, this MIRROR. Or maybe I should call it a “mirror”? Lord knows I do not need more mirrors. My main weaknesses in life are old mirrors, old rugs, old lighting, and old chairs. Also, old houses and old dogs. I have a lot of mirrors and I love them all but I’m especially into this one, and at $60 I felt like I owed it to myself (I did not) to take it home and make me so happy (it did). This beige colored parts you’re seeing, by the way, are just the wall behind the glass, where the reflective foil has just completely worn away and disappeared over the years.

mirror2

My major rules with mirrors are these:

1. There has to be something interesting about the frame. If you only like the shape of the frame, you can always paint it, but I like my frames to have some weird Victorian detailing like the one in the office or an interesting shape like the one over our apartment’s mantel, or just have a great patina of wear like the one hanging out in the kitchen. I love the shape and the tone of the wood on this guy, so it’s a winner.

2. There has to be something good about the glass. New mirror glass, even if it’s in an old frame? Kind of boring, usually not worth it. Extra points for a bevelled edge, but not necessary. My real weakness is when the foil backing that makes the mirror reflective starts to disintegrate over time, leaving what some would consider “damage.” That’s just patina, folks! As long as the glass isn’t shattered, I pretty much feel like the “worse” shape it’s in, the better! This guy ranks pretty highly, to the point that it barely even functions as a mirror anymore. You can get the basic idea of looking at a human figure, but that’s about it. It’s oddly flattering. LOVE.

mirrorselfie

Also, it tells me what to do at night. Shhhhh.

What else did I buy, you ask? I’ll tell you.

coasters

For a while now, I’ve been on the hunt for some old-school glass furniture coasters. You can still buy these new and there’s a nice selection of vintage on eBay, but for some reason I was stubborn and wanted to just stumble upon a bunch of them in a junk shop or something. For what, I’m not even really sure, but I figure they have to come in handy and they just look a billion times more awesome than a shim or a block of wood or whatever the other alternatives are.

Anyway, I bought 8 in total! The shopkeeper wanted $2 a piece for them (I had to hunt them out of a huge bin of old Atlas jar lids), which was fine I guess. 4 of them are smaller and four are bigger—these are the bigger ones pictured above. I probably should have taken another photo after I washed them because they no longer look like a gunky mess, but sometimes I forget stuff.

Man, I really wish I knew about these back when I bought my first credenza that sat on a very sloped floor, or then when I bought my second credenza that also sat on a very sloped floor. These would have been a much easier and more attractive solution to leveling those things out. Oops! Live and learn.

oldshims

Anyway, we had two radiators that needed to be shimmed under the front two legs. Radiators are really designed to be most effective when sitting level, which isn’t always easy on floors that have some slant to them. Luckily the floors in our house are very level for the most part, but there are areas where they do slant downward away from exterior walls for about 1 foot into the room and then more or less level out. Prior to this discovery, the radiators had been sitting on some unattractive old pieces of scrap wood…but now….

radiatorcoaster1 coaster2

I put the four smaller ones to work under those two radiators, and they look a billion times better! I know that sounds like a bad idea (incredibly heavy objects on top of pieces of glass…), but it seems totally fine and stable and unlikely to cause any problems. So the front of the radiators have been shimmed up a bit, and…I love these things. They’re so pretty! Getting them under the feet was a little challenging, just because the radiator did need to be lifted/rocked a fraction of an inch to get the coasters under the feet. You do have a little play with these pipes, in my experience, though not a ton, so you want to be careful and watch your unions once everything is settled. One of the radiators did develop a small, slow leak at the union after we persuaded the coaster in, but a couple turns on my pipe wrench was all it needed to seal itself up again. No leaks + level radiators + attractive shims = success!

lightfixture

Oh, let’s see, what else…OH RIGHT THIS LIGHT. I love this thing. It definitely bears a strong resemblance to the large Alabax light from Schoolhouse Electric, except this one is vintage and came out of a prison! At least that’s what the sellers told me. Clearly I have a thing for stuff in my house having dark, creepy pasts. And at $85 vs. $139 + shipping for the new Schoolhouse version, the price was decent.

I think this guy is going to hang in the back of the first floor hallway. We had an overheat light added there since it was SO dark back in that area of the house, but I don’t want to make it too conspicuous. The big nice chandelier with the big fancy ceiling medallion will go at the front of the hallway, where the front door is, but I don’t want to make a big production of a light fixture in this spot. Something small and inconspicuous (but pretty, duh) has been what I’ve been on the hunt for, and I think this fits the bill perfectly. I can’t wait to finally paint out that space and get this thing hung up! It’s already been freshly rewired, too, which saves me a little work.

escuscheons2

Lastly, I picked up this little assortment of pretty porcelain plumbing escutcheons! You see these a lot in old houses with old plumbing, but they should be easy to incorporate in new plumbing, too. The ones with the little holes are for supply lines, like on a sink, and the bigger one should work for a waste line on a sink.

eschusceons

They need a little work in terms of stripping the paint off and cleaning them up a bit, but I love them! I think I’m going to be greedy and save these two more elaborate ones for the bathroom in my own house, but I’m planning to put the smaller/simpler ones in the bathrooms in Bluestone Cottage. I know I could just as easily go buy some cheap stock chrome ones at Lowe’s or something, but this will just take it up a notch—and at $5 a pop, that seems entirely worth it. It’s the little details that will make these brand-new-but-aspiring-to-look-kind-of-original spaces look appropriately old, so I’m really psyched to see them in place…even if my plumber is going to think I’m crazier than he already does. He loves me for it, and I love him for putting up with me. Bless his beautiful plumber heart.


57 Comments

  1. I missed your “look, here’s some crap I bought!” posts ! And I can’t wait to see where all your finds will end up…
    Also I’m really relieved to hear that I’m not the only one devoting entire rooms (besides the basement) to my thrift finds. Although in my case this tendency is probably more worrisome as I do live in a small-ish apartment…

    • Ha! No, you are not alone. The only reason my apartment isn’t overwhelmed by stuff is because I bought a glorified storage facility in the form of a house.

      I have faith that as I renovate, I’ll have a better sense of what’s going to get used and what isn’t, but right now it’s a little out of control. Sometimes I feel like I’m thrift shopping in my own house but I like everything and I know the day will come when I have to let a lot go!

  2. I can’t tell if you are more crazy or I am more crazy, because I already could picture in my mind all of the mirrors you referenced before clicking on the links. But also, pretty much every time you blog about a mirror, my vintage-mirror-lust is re-whetted and I add “mirror like the one Daniel found” to my ongoing thrifting wish list. Darn you and your impeccable taste!

    • Aw, that’s nice! I really have to quit it with the mirrors. There was a gateway mirror I bought years ago when I lived in Manhattan and it’s just been a spiral ever since. I feel like the logical answer is just buying/renovating more houses where I can use them so I can keep buying them?

  3. I know what you mean about looking crazy to the “trade sane.” My dad and brother have been helping me renovate my 1910 house. The other day, when I said I wanted the vintage cast iron wall mounted sink brought up from the basement bath to live in the shiny new main floor bath instead, I got eye bulging and a “You want what?!” Heh heh.

    I want to dance in place and clasp my hands in delight whenever I see the space. I want to love it, that’s what I want. To paraphrase Barbara Mandrell: If loving my house is wrong…I don’t wanna be right.

    • Exactly! All my subs think I’m crazy because I *don’t* want things as open as possible or I’m insisting on using old fixtures or I don’t plan to drywall everything or whatever…but they know what to expect with me now, so it’s all good? :)

      • I always feel justified when I hear later, “I thought you were crazy at first, but it turned out looking real nice.” Hah! DELIBERATE SO STOP DOUBTING ME.

  4. Everything you write, even about your second-hand crap that isn’t crap, is just… deeply satisfying. I bet half your readers wish they could come thrifting with you in the Hudson valley. The first things I noticed in a house I toured yesterday were the really nice brass floor vent grills. They were new–the house was fairly new–but that little detail favorably colored what I saw. The little things do matter! Keep shopping, keep caring, keep making the world more beautiful, like Miss Rumphius (http://www.amazon.com/Miss-Rumphius-Barbara-Cooney/dp/0140505393).

  5. I have glass casters for my bed which is on casters. They keep the bed from moving around and they have saved the floor from getting gouged. I got them from my mom – who knows where they came from before. I never thought of using them to level anything!

    • Ugh, that’s so smart!! My 20s bed has casters that are KILLERS on the wood floors…which I don’t care about that much until they get refinished, but it still bothers me. I’ve thought of replacing the casters but this is a much easier solution! Thanks!

  6. Your new light looks so much like a little light we got for our kitchen (from Rejuvenation)! Just installed it this weekend. Adorable.

  7. Totally wish I was out scavenging around for lost treasures instead of sitting at my desk.
    So awesome if the light really did come from a prison. I love twisted beauty. Maybe you can tell visitors the mirror came from the psych ward or something to up the creepy-factor even more.

    • I think it really did! They kind of told me like maybe I’d reconsider knowing the source, but all it did was seal the deal. DUH.

  8. I’m a card carrying crap collector too. I need a support group. Hello, my name is Stefanie and my storage space is full.

  9. I inherited a gaggle of those glass furniture coasters from my grandmother and I love them! They have saved many a wood floor from unnecessary scratching and are perfect for leveling out furniture on sloping floors. I need to remember to look for more when out thrifting–I’ve never thought to add more to my collection before today. Thanks for the reminder!

    • No prob! I can’t believe how many there are on eBay, and so cheap! I want different colors now. For what, I do not know.

  10. You are a terrible person! There are porcelain escutcheons out there? Some things I’m not meant to learn, but you still teach me. I shall not search the earth for these! Porcelain is not necessary for everthing. Repeat afeter me. Sometimes bakelite is just as good!

    • Sometimes it is!!! It all depends on the type of house and style of the bathroom! I love Bakelite, for the record. :)

  11. What I love most about these posts, is that years later you’ll use an item and I’ll remember the day you posted about buying it.

  12. I had no idea that glass furniture coasters even existed, and now I desperately need some. You see? You see what you did? You should be ashamed of yourself. (okay, okay, not really.)

  13. Can you find four of the larger glass coasters for me? The couch in Dad’s office needs them desperately. There are some UGLY plastic black and white things under there now driving me crazy every time I see them, even trying not to notice. But that sofa/bed is on casters so it’s a desperate situation. SITUATION.

    • Just check the links in the post!! There are so many, and cheap. Just take the measurements into account, obviously.

      I’m glad to hear you’re surviving, despite all this hardship. :)

  14. I too, WANT ALL THE THINGS. I drove a friend on Saturday to see some chairs I very reluctantly passed on at a sketchy “garage sale” the prior weekend (weird guy with a warehouse full of rotting things, perfect!) Even though I took my friend there, it was everything I could do to not push him down and claim the chairs I had already passed on. I bought a Danish, teak mirror (which I also didn’t need and couldn’t afford) on the way home to cheer myself up.

    See them on insatagram #junkinmytrunkthatsisntminedamit

  15. I totally thought those coasters were ash trays! haha

    • Oh my gosh! Me too! Especially since they were so dirty and gross in the first picture….I didn’t even know that glass coasters existed. I feel like I need these in my life now.

      • Ha! I mean, I guess they could play double duty, but I’d rather just have a fabulous ashtray. Sometimes I see really amazing ones in thrift stores and it makes me feel like smoking is a great choice. Then I remember lung cancer and cigarette stench and reconsider.

  16. Thanks for the links back to your other mirrors – they really snuck up on me, I wasn’t realizing there was a collection being collected! They are all nice in their own ways, very individual.
    It makes me think of the feng shui recommendation for problems: add mirrors. Which always leaves me leaves me with a “and that’s going to look so dumb, me putting up mirrors everywhere” reaction, but here you are, pulling it off very handily, in fact without me noticing them multiplying.
    Plus, I suspect that old mirrors are much easier to store than your old rugs, old lighting, and old chairs, all of which take up a LOT of space (I am an old chair collector, myself, alas).

    • You know, I didn’t realize there was a collection being collected until I read your comment! I like that idea. I’m a *collector* of vintage mirrors, not a hoarder. It has such a nicer ring to it. I’m a mirror connoisseur.

      I feel like as long as you don’t have more than one in a room, mirrors tend to just sort of recede in a way that art typically doesn’t, you know? That’s my rule at least, haha. Each room is permitted just one.

      And yes, the chair storage thing is an issue. BUT I LOVE THEM ALL!

      • I have a collection of mirrors, too. My DH thinks I’m insane but they call to me whenever I’m shopping…I think I’m up to 50…no joke…I have a 15 foot stairwell that I intend to hang them all in – floor to ceiling…

  17. Ugh, I started breathing a little heavier when you described digging through the Atlas jar lids. Is there a technical term for the disease of needing to dig through junk? Is it genetic? It is certainly real.

    • I don’t know, but I get it! So much more satisfying than plucking something off the shelf. Thrill of the hunt shit.

  18. Where did you get that fabulous mirror? I’ve been looking for one for years — ever since I saw the one Anna has in her downstairs bathroom.

  19. I never in my life thought about plumbing escutcheons before. Never! And now, what am I going to be obsessing about for the next 6 months …?

  20. And the posts just keep coming fast and furious, loving it.
    That picture of your reflection in the glass looks like a (pretty) painting.
    The radiator looks like she’s trying on new glass slippers :)
    You do well to ‘hoard’ all of this stuff, for all the reasons you mentioned. My excuse (well one of them) for thrifting is that you save money to spend elsewhere. For example last week I spend 300 euros for a beautiful enameled cast iron apron bath which would have cost me thousands had I bought new (and not as nice), and some of the money I ‘saved’ on that purchase went to buying an electrical outlet which cost 250 euros. I hear you gasp BUT it isn’t just any old electrical outlet but a Meljac floor oulet in brushed nickel which I have long coveted. http://www.remodelista.com/posts/the-worlds-most-beautiful-light-switches-by-way-of-france. 250 euros was a bargain by the way as the catalogue price is around 850 euros so in a way it WAS a thrifty-ish find?
    LOVE everythinh you found, well done Daniel

    • Oh, I bet that tub is great! I need to find a tub, stat. Yikes.

      And hey, whatever floats your boat! Renovations are hard, and everyone has different priorities. If a fancy outlet is what you need/want, you gotta just go for it sometimes! It is lovely. :)

  21. I live vicariously through you ‘crap I bought’ posts, Daniel. It’s a public service!

  22. Escutcheon is my new favorite word.

  23. We could be related by our love of collecting old “stuff”. Today my husband found a chair that I had pulled out of the trash and hidden in the shed. I figured that I would at least have until all the snow melted before he found it!

    I am glad that those little class things turned out to be coasters. At first look I thought they were ashtrays. It had been a while since I have seen one of those! Also, in the second paragraph after the picture of the lamp you mention “overheat” lighting. I tried to figure out what that was for a while before realizing that you must have meant “overhead”. I think I need to go to bed!

    • HAHAHA, hidden junk chairs in the shed!! I’ve done that a couple times with Max. It usually doesn’t end well. :)

  24. Yup. Haunted mirror. Nice!

  25. I would like to have one of those flattering mirrors for my hairdresser! Her mirror is way too clear.

    • I feel like I want an iPhone filter that does what this mirror does. I’d feel so much more comfy with selfies if all of my features were totally obscured!

  26. Hi Daniel! It’s been great to follow your experiences with the house and the cottage. My husband and I just bought a house in the Catskills and need to furnish it. Do you have any good recommendations for consignment shops, weird barns full of antiques, thrift stores, etc. that we should visit? Thanks!

    • Congrats, guys! Welcome!

      Hmmmmm…just like anything, it’s always hit or miss, so no real amazing recs. I’d recommend staying on the west side of the river (cheaper, generally), checking yelp, and just driving around a lot!! You’ll stumble on all sorts of stuff, including the weird barns. It’s also almost tag sale season—I know some people who have bought AMAZING things at summer tag sales. It’s also just a fun thing to do for a while on a Saturday, for me at least.

  27. Because I come from long ago and far away when they were under EVERY leg of EVERYTHING in my mom’s house and my grandmother’s house, those coasters caused a huge burst of nostalgia. I very clearly remember making paperweights out of them in Girl Scouts, by filling the cavity with the colored gravel that went in fish tanks, and then gluing felt over the opening and turning them over.

  28. Love it all! I’m always very jealous of your finds even if I have no need for them myself.

  29. A good plumber is worth his weight in porcelain!

  30. BUT SOMETIMES YOU CAN’T HELP IT. SOMETIMES A FRIEND (who you invited) DRIVES YOU TO A PLACE (because you specifically asked him to) AND SHOWS YOU NICE THINGS (which you reasonably guessed would be there in the first place) AND YOU’RE FORCED TO BUY THEM (because otherwise you might feel sad later on that you didn’t).

    This. Cranked me up real good.

    Nice finds, I’m really looking forward to see where it all will end up being used.

  31. That mirror is amazingggg. Reminds me of the movie Oculus, but that’s probably because I just watched it recently. Your blog is so fun to read! Makes me want to go find some great stuff and start a thousand projects all at once.

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