All posts tagged: Thrifted & Scavenged

Michigan!

I’m a person who naturally resists the importance of having goals, but secretly really likes to make goals. And lists. Lists of goals. Goals to make more lists.

A consistent, long-running goal of mine is to MAKE THE TIME TO GO SEE PEOPLE I CARE ABOUT. It’s also one I consistently feel like I fall short on. I’ll concede that it’s partly the house—giving up a sunny summer weekend translates to at least a few days when I can’t be scraping or caulking or painting or carpenter-ing or whatever it is, and that’s difficult for me wrap my mind around. The bigger reason, more likely, is that this is kind of a new-ish thing in my life, and I haven’t figured it out yet. This thing where the majority of my friends live in places that are different from where I live, and I won’t just see them again in the fall or on that vacation my family takes every year together, you know? You have to start working for it a little. And work is hard. Not working is easier than working. So the work of setting aside some time, planning it out, making reservations, and getting on a plane or a bus or a train doesn’t get done. And then you don’t see so-and-so until somebody dies.

So. I try to remind myself that blocking out some time and skipping town for a few days is REALLY FINE. EVERYTHING WILL BE OK. THE JOB WILL NOT IMPLODE. THE HOUSE WILL NOT COLLAPSE. THE PROJECT WILL WAIT. And hopefully when I’m back I’m actually excited to get going again…because isn’t that kind of the best feeling? I had hoped to do more of this kind of thing this summer, but ya know. Time moves fast and projects are intense and I turned around and it was August.

SO! Realizing the end of summer was approaching and I’d neglected this goal completely, I got my shit together and planned a little bop to Michigan! My super cool Chicago-based aunt and uncle, Janis and Tom, have a weekend-ish place in Sawyer, a short drive from Lake Michigan. It’s such a special place. I grew up going there every now and then, back when they owned the adjacent property and a different house which they renovated about 5 times over. At some point when I was a kid, they purchased this adjacent woodsy/prairie lot with a cute little house on it, which they renovated into a cozy guest cottage. We’d stay there as kids, making a short walk through the woods between the two houses to hang out with my cousins Tatum and Reese around the pool or get in a little gardening time with Tom. Then more recently, they sold the original house and undertook a massive renovation of the cute little guest cottage, and the result is this gorgeous place that feels at once familiar and completely brand new. Janis and Tom mostly designed the house themselves—a habit of theirs when it’s come to their own properties over the years, each somehow more beautiful than the last—which is honestly a little too impressive.

In the background of this, they also focused on stewarding the several-acre prairie, working with experts on native ecology to remove overgrown trees, do controlled burns to eliminate invasive species, and re-seed with this incredible array of native plants and flowers, which in turn has attracted an incredible array of native birds and insects. And THEN, they went and mowed paths through the prairie and created a damn sculpture park with their art collection. Tom is a collector and art dealer and Janis is a collector and an artist. So. You know. Very good taste. Lots of weird creative energy. Personal sculpture park. As one does.

The property has a few little outbuildings on it, including the cutest little boathouse thing there ever was! There’s pretty much just a mini-fridge of beer and some chairs…what else do you need?

Hi Phoebe! Such a pretty girl.

THE DEER! It’s like 16 feet tall. It’s so fucking cool.

This space used to be where my parents slept when we went to visit! It’s really weird seeing a recognizable view out the window but be in a completely different space. The collection of antique Mexican pottery is so beautiful. I love how Janis and Tom balance old and new—their spaces always feel modern but there’s barely ever anything actually new in them. My grandparents had that wild chandelier removed from their house during redecorating in the 70s—only for Janis to hang it up here 40-some years later.

Janis and I are a lot alike.

Anyway, it was a few wonderful days of hanging out, cooking, going to the beach on Lake Michigan that I love so much, exploring Sawyer, wandering the prairie, trying to infuse a watermelon with a bottle of tequila…you know, good clean family fun! I got to take my two “little” cousins (now fully grown adults!) to their first drive-in movie, and sing camp songs around a campfire with Janis and Tom for the first time in roughly 2 decades.

That kind of shit is good for your soul, I’m telling you.

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE! I was EFFICIENT. Also on my list of people to visit were my friends Kim and Scott, who ALSO HAVE A HOUSE NEARBY! So after a few days with Janis and Tom, I threw my bindle over my shoulder and headed over to Tree House. They actually hung out with Janis a while ago when they started looking for houses in the area, which I think is kind of adorable. “Hey Aunt Janis, can I invite my blog friends over to your house even though you don’t know them at all and I won’t be there? Great thanks!”

OMG YOU GUYS, MY HEART.

MY OVARIES.

ALL THESE VARGOS.

My two cute sweet blog friends up and made a baby since last time I saw them, and…well. Lucy is the cutest most charming little baby in the world. I got to nibble those toes! I don’t even consider myself a “baby person” but I ADORE THIS BABY.

Also, seeing Kim and Scott in these new roles as parents of a human being is just so beyond heartwarming. They’ve always been the best couple but now they’re the best parents too, and that is one lucky duck of a kid.

Of course, my other favorite Vargo (all of them are my favorite Vargo) is CC, short for Chocolate Chunk because look at her. I packed in as much CC cuddle time as possible during my short stay, during which she convinced me she was allowed to be on the bed when, in fact, she is not allowed to be on the bed. Sorry Kim and Scott!!!

(I’m not sorry)

We went to the dunes! Which was cool and also my feet melted to the sand!

GIMME DAT BABY!

Even though we both have blogs about the same kind of stuff, it was fun to get a glimpse into how the Yellow Brick Home blog-sausage is made! Kim and Scott work their asses off–not just on the renovations (impeccable, every time) but also on creating really well-produced blog content, and they do it in this hyper-organized, thorough, kind, supportive, cooperative, adult kind of way that’s…well damn. It’s serious work but not too serious, and honestly it’s inspiring to watch. They’re the kinds of friends that make me want to be better.

Kim and Scott did a little video recording during my visit, which they then cut into these cute little videos! You can check out our day of bopping around here, and a little Q+A we put together here!

Because I am seemly incapable of leaving anywhere empty-handed, I MAY have done a little thrifting. Now I will show you my items.

First up is this little piece of pottery. It’s by SØHOLM, a mid-century Danish ceramics maker. Usually with vintage ceramics I prefer one-of-a-kind amateur studio pottery (the more its taste can be questioned, the better), but hey! It fits in well.

Also, I got these primitive wooden tools. I think the one on the left is a kind of masher, and the one on the right is a butter paddle? I kind of just started buying things like these a while ago because they’re usually just a few bucks and I think they’re so simple and pretty…a little oil and bam, collection!

Someday I’ll figure out what to do with them. Stop rushing me!!!

Also I found this sweet pair of 20s/30s bathroom sconces, which for $12 for the pair just seemed dumb to pass up. It’s the kind of thing that isn’t that special, but if you wait until you NEED them, you’re at the mercy of resources that you KNOW will have them, and then you pay way more. YES in fact I DID buy two similar sconces not that long ago for the same reason. Anyone need a vintage bathroom renovated? (Oh right, I have 4 on the docket, never mind.)

Oh ALSO I picked up another yellowware bowl. I will not be stopped.

Thank you for having me, loved ones!

Living Room, 5 years In!

I’ve realized lately that I tend to blog about a room once it’s renovated, and then I kind of move on. I guess I feel like…how many times does anyone possibly want to look at the same room, just a little altered from last time we looked at the room? I never feel like a room is finished because I move stuff around ALL THE DAMN TIME for shits and giggles, and then posting about it feels so…self-indulgent? Unimportant? And then years go by and the room actually does look TOTALLY different than it did before, and then I feel a little regretful that entire iterations of the space have gone undocumented in the meantime. The public must know. For the purpose of…I don’t know, this is a blog and that is what we do here.

Which leads us to my living room, which regularly ends up as the victim of my late-night puttering. And the last time I felt inclined to write a blog post about it was OVER THREE YEARS AGO! Oopsie! We have some catching up to do!

Back when I bought the house, the living room looked like this!

A couple years later, it looked like this! Let’s take a moment to appreciate and mourn the extreme cuteness and specialness that was Linus. I miss that dog so fucking much.

Today, it’s more like this! I didn’t consult my old pictures before taking new pictures, so APOLOGIES for the inconsistent angles. I didn’t ask Mekko (or Linus, who did not take direction) to pose for pictures—she does that on her own free will—so, I don’t know, do we feel weirded out she chose the same spot? It’s like she…is trying to tell me…something. (She isn’t; she’s a dog.)

So some things have changed and some have not changed. My dumb little bench is still my coffee table, which really just goes to show how utterly impossible it is to find a good coffee table. I MEAN MY GOD. All the ones that are right in most ways are still so wrong in other ways I fear I will die before the culture at large figures this mess out.

I got that painting a couple weeks ago from a local consignment place. I had this idea that I’d paint the frame but instead I got home and immediately just put it up and so far have not addressed it further. It appears to be signed S. Eagle in the bottom right corner. Seagull?

Also, the sofa is new! And by new, I mean no longer really new, but I guess making its big blog debut? Just in time for me to WANT IT OUT OF MY HOUSE RIGHT NOW? Fancy that! So this is the IKEA NOCKEBY 3-seater, which I found in the As-Is section at IKEA around 3 years ago for something stupid, like $200. I didn’t like the legs so I swapped them for these Pretty Pegs, which this couch isn’t really made to do but I made it work. I’ll spare you the DIY tutorial but it involves extra screws and additional support and it’s just not that interesting. Anyway. The NOCKEBY is in most ways a good sofa, but I’m not allowed to own a sofa that isn’t going to also serve as a luxury dog bed. This sofa has a limited selection of slipcovers, and this one (which may now be discontinued?) is TERRIBLE when forced to interact with either dog hair or dog nails. TERRIBLE. Of course it can be taken off and washed, but with IKEA couches that’s actually kind of a production, and it doesn’t wash well, and I just do not like it at all.

This lead me to purchasing a SECOND, DIFFERENT slipcover, which had a tighter weave, and that was SOMEHOW EVEN WORSE. After trying every stain removal method I could imagine, I could never get the thing clean and I eventually threw it away.

SO now I’m at this dumb crossroads of either buying yet another slipcover ($$) for this so-so cheap sofa I performed some light hackery on, or getting this menace out of my life and buying a new leather sofa ($$$). I suppose I could also just put the original black/chrome sofa back, since I still have it, and it IS leather, but I didn’t like it in here either so I’m not sure that’s an improvement.

I think I just need a different sofa.

Let me think about it for another three to five years.

The rug is also new! But not new-new. I got it at auction and I like it! The colors and the pattern are so bright and bold and fun. Which is also me saying: I have not taken the time to learn anything about the origins of this rug, but it is a nice rug that was $300 and the main color is mustard and I’m into it.

2013! Those walls were wild, man.

2015.

So this looks like that now, you get it. More stuff on the mantel. Less big scary lady. Bertoia wire chair from yore still hangin out.

Ya know, I feel like I pulled this faux fireplace project off.

The arts above the fireplace are by Gregory Gummersall. On the mantel are stuff and things. We have vintage studio pottery. We have my dead dog’s collar. We have 2 Dala horses. We have my precious lamp. We have some antique crocks.

WE HAVE THIS BANANAS CRYSTAL I paid $5 for at a garage sale recently. I’m not, like, a ~crystal person~ but I’m totally a crystal person. Also, Dala horse butts are so cute.

This is 2015. This wall has always been tricky. I’ve since moved the piano. I have NO IDEA what to do with the piano. It’s HUGE and in reality, there are exactly 3 walls on the main floor that can fit it. I do not play piano. I do not have any desire to learn how to play the piano. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to know how to play the piano, but I do not see myself trying to learn that of all things in the foreseeable future. Shower/car singing is my only real musical passion. But I have this huge piano that came with my home, because the man who lived in it FROM AGE SEVEN TO NINETY-TWO was the lead organist at the Old Dutch Church and taught piano lessons out of this very house during the Depression and, like, the war and shit and who the hell am I to put his piano on fucking Facebook Marketplace?

It’s a real problem.

Also I got a nice bench that matches it pretty perfectly. And then I moved them both into the hoard room of doom.

So, in a fit of I-don’t-know-what, I made this situation all by myself and I call it Curiosity Corner because I don’t know what it does, it just is. It is my things assembled in a way that is just a way to look at a lot of things at once. Shiny objects I have acquired by various means.

The mirrors are nutso but I like it a little nutso.

I inherited these two really groovy lucite end tables from a recent exciting purge of my parents’ storage space, which came in a shipment including things like my old soccer trophies and these truly astonishingly long spools I made of my finger-knittings (not pictured). The tables originally came from my grandparents’ house! I don’t really have anywhere for large end tables like this right now, so to maximize Curiosity Corner I put them side-by-side and then put things all around them. Over! Under! Inside! More things!

That blanket folded up on the chair, yonder, I bought at a war reenactment with my friend Chandler in high school. The bud vase I got at a thrift store in Sweden. That little colorful container has a set of matching coasters in it, and once lived in my grandparents’ rec room (the other grandparents, not the lucite table grandparents). My friend Maya gave me that mirror above the lamp. The lamp is from IKEA and I love that thing. Maybe not as precious as some of the other stuff but I’d still TRY to save it in a fire.

Also on display are a few things I’ve found in the walls or swept into the corner of the attic, that kind of thing. I blogged about the one in the back a while ago!

Is this…doxxing? Forgive me Madame Jeanson.

That pillow in the background was part of the Marimekko for Target collection and the alpaca wool pillow on my safari chair was a thrift find a couple weeks ago! It was $20 with the down insert and is in PERFECT condition. It’s by Elvang Denmark and was…definitely more than $20 new. Look at me with a fancy throw pillow.

Does that about cover things? Mekko’s OVER. IT.

MINE: Porcelain Treasures + A Mirror

Yesterday I went on a high-stakes salvage adventure up to Albany. See, right now I’m looking really hard for nothing in particular so unfortunately it just had to be done.

I got a few things. You don’t drive an hour to simply turn away empty-handed. That would be unethical.

How stupid cute are these little porcelain bathroom sconces??? I’d guess they were made in the 1930s. I’m used to seeing sconces all the time that are similar to these, but I’m not really used to seeing that sweet bubbly rounded cloud-like shape on top. Precious! Naturally, every item in this store had price tags except all the things I bought (I don’t know why—it is just my way), so I was pleasantly surprised when the manager suggested $15 for the pair. Sold! They don’t have any sockets or wiring, but that’s easy enough to replace.

Where will these go? I don’t know, but I do know that $15 to have these two in my back pocket for some future bathroom renovation even if it isn’t my own makes me feel PREPARED.

By the way, they were super grody so I used my tried and true cleaning method of sticking ’em in the dishwasher. Thanks, Cascade!

Sometimes when it rains it pours, and yesterday’s theme was porcelain! ‘Tis what the thrifting higher being dictated. This is another porcelain light, also likely from the 1930s, also with no socket or wiring, also with no immediate function, but $5! You just gotta! I have a few lights very similar to this (including one I blogged about a while ago), and they just seem so handy for when you just need a little tasteful inconspicuous-but-still-special ceiling light.

I noticed later that it says “Alabax” on it, which I didn’t realize was actually a whole line of porcelain light fixtures produced by Pass & Seymour Inc. starting in the 1920s! I only knew it as the name of Schoolhouse Electric’s new production version, which I’ve used in a couple spaces over the years. IT’S ALL MAKING SENSE! The Schoolhouse versions are really lovely, and Rejuvenation has a few vintage ones available, and a nice write-up on their history.

More porcelain please, I do not have enough. Here we have a $1 plumbing escutcheon, sized for a 1 1/4″ pipe which is generally what’s used for a bathroom sink drain. I think this one will be for my downstairs powder room once I get around to it! It’s also just another good thing to have on hand because of COURSE when you really need one, they’re nowhere to be found.

ANDDDDD to round out the theme, I scrounged up 5 porcelain door knob escutcheons which match the door hardware in my house!! SEEE?!?!

It’s the little things! These have been super hard to find and of course break easily, so I’m missing a few around the house and unreasonably stoked to have a little stockpile to draw on as I inch along with restoring all the doors. At $2 a piece, they’re also by far the cheapest ones I’ve ever come across.

Amazingly, these literally came into the salvage place about an hour before I got there, and were still attached to the doors that the rad salvage guys had just pulled out of a DUMPSTER. Ugh, I mean, can you even? DOZENS of solid oak 1860s doors without a lick of paint on them and all the original hardware, in a goddamn dumpster. People are so infuriating. I’m so glad they got saved.

Anyway, salvage places usually remove all the hardware so they can store the doors more easily (and sell the hardware separately), so I offered to pitch in and take the escutcheons off myself and they gladly passed me a screwdriver! You can sort of see in the back of the group one that’s dis-assembled: there’s a round metal plate that screws into the door, and the porcelain part covers that and then a brass threaded piece screws into the metal plate and holds the porcelain part in place. Naturally these pieces always get separated from one another, so having FIVE complete sets is very exciting.

BTW, if you ever see those little white porcelain keyhole covers like the one on my door while out and about and they’re under like $10 a piece and you don’t buy them for me, we’re not friends. I’ll pay you back!!! They’re so elusive and so fragile.

Finally, this specimen. If you have more than two of something, it’s a collection, and therefore I collect mirrors like this. They have to be missing their frames (otherwise they’re just part of the mirror collection—I think of this more as a sub-collection, but it’s also been labeled “hoarding”), be an interesting shape, have beveled edges, and foil backing in vaguely this kind of disintegrating condition.

Right now they live in this totes-normal arrangement up in the den, but someday I’m sure I’ll do something else with them. It’s not like they’re creepy or anything.

Just don’t look directly at them or you’ll see your own death. K have a great weekend everyone!!!

MINE: Bowls n’ Scales

You know what used to be fun? Telling the internet about random stuff I bought. I like stuff. I like the internet. I buy stuff all the time. I’m on the internet all the time. It’s really a natural pairing. Why aren’t we doing this more?

This past weekend I went down to D.C. to visit my parents for Passover. Passover is what Jews were up to while y’all looked for colorful eggs left by a grown adult in a rabbit’s costume to celebrate that time 2,000 years ago when God’s human son was brutally murdered and then reemerged zombie-style a few days later, or something along those lines. I’m fuzzy on the details. Human beings are so bonkers.

SPEAKING OF BONKERS (swerving back into my lane now, forgive me the religion lesson), I drove out to Fredericksburg, Virginia to watch my older, fitter brother play in an Ultimate Frisbee tournament, which was awesome? My tolerance for sports is probably best described as sub-zero, but Ultimate Frisbee somehow makes a lot of sense to me. If I had any athletic ability whatsoever, I’d totally want to join the ranks. Most of the players rock this elusive combo of having the chiseled body of an athlete but the goofy attitude of a stoner hippie, and I feel like you just don’t find that in baseball. Five stars.

On the way home, I stopped at an antique store. Why? Because I passed it on the road. NEED I ANY MORE JUSTIFICATION? GOOD. DIDN’T THINK SO.

I have a bowl problem. I know I have a bowl problem. Once I was with someone who wanted to put a moratorium on bowl purchases, and it might be telling that I’m no longer with that person but still have an impressive surplus of bowls. I JUST LOVE BOWLS. LOVING ME MEANS LOVING ALL OF ME MY BOWLS.

For several years now I have been accumulating antique yellowware bowls. I do not have a reason other than that I think they’re beautiful! Someday, hopefully in the not-too-distant future, I’ll have an actual place to display this collection. For now I just hoard them. It’s totally healthy and fine.

As I’ve matured into the stable adult with good judgment you see before you today, I’ve learned that collections of all kinds can get totally out of hand unless you impose some real boundaries and criteria. One of the easiest rules for me to follow is simply to not hunt for it—I don’t search specifically for it and never look online. Either I come across it while out and about or I don’t. I try to keep it fairly limited to white or blue striping (very often you see brown stripes which I’m not as into), and it has to be legit old, not vintage reproduction. I also impose a price limit of $30, because pricing is ALL over the map. I think yellowware got really popular in the 90s and early 2000s, maybe due to Queen Martha’s famous affinity for it. Now it seems to have fallen sufficiently out of fashion, so consequently sometimes it’s priced as though the trend never died and sometimes it’s super cheap.

With vintage/antique ceramics, you want to be smart because the glazes can contain lead, so you probably don’t want to…I don’t know, serve soup in something like this. Honestly you should just give it to me. I’ll take that hazard right off your hands. It’s safer for everyone that way.

Anyway. $25 antique yellowware bowl, hello welcome home. Go join your friends and I’ll call you when there’s a kitchen.

OH WHOOPS I BOUGHT ANOTHER BOWL DARN IT! Bowls, bowls, all day long—bowls! But this is a special bowl!!!

(They’re all special bowls.)

THIS bowl is enameled steel, and it’s Finnish, and it’s from the 1960s, and it has mushrooms all over it! I’ve long adored this particular pattern, which was designed by Esteri Tomula. The bowl itself (and the whole coordinating line of dishware that might have joined it at one time) was designed by Kaj Franck and produced by Finel. They’re highly collectable and I can’t remember ever seeing one just hanging out in the wild! It was $40, which YES is a tad steep for a bowl I do not need but merely want desperately, but a quick online search confirmed that these typically go for 2-3 times that, so it’s a Good Investment. For what, I do not know. That’s not important.

You know what else is not important? That these little scales ever serve a function in my life, other than looking cool. I bet they did at one time for somebody. Now they’re just so cute and dangly and patina’d and look very homemade and for $10…I mean…

I’m a Libra. That’s the scales, right? How’s that? It’s astrology’s fault.

Also, there’s a good enough chance that they’ll look s’cute in my kitchen or pantry that I just did it.

Also I lack a lot of self-control.

Let’s Go to the Auction! Tips and Tricks and A Big New Addition!

We all know I love vintage shopping. We all know I like a bargain. Good—glad we got that out of the way. See that rug up there? I bought it. For $40. At an auction!

There are lots of ways to find good deals on vintage/antique stuff: occasionally you’ll get a deal at antique stores, but I tend to favor consignment shops, thrift stores, salvage shops, flea markets, Craigslist, and the curb. Sometimes I venture into the land of eBay and Etsy but I like to see and touch and inspect things in person, so online shopping can be tricky. Also I hate waiting for shipping because I’m impatient.

In the past couple of years though, I’ve started going to more and more AUCTIONS! Auctions are my kind of fun: the people-watching is usually good, and I like seeing how much things go for even if I’m not really interested in them. It’s an exciting way to spend an evening…or afternoon…or morning…when ISN’T a good time for an auction, really? Especially if you’ve never been to one, though, the whole thing can be a little intimidating. In my experience, the general crowd at an auction seems to be largely composed of dealers—which is good if you’re not one, because you’re often bidding against people who have to be able to re-sell whatever’s for sale at a big mark-up for their attendance to be worthwhile. So if, like me, you have rooms to decorate and renovations to outfit, auctions can be an awesome resource once you get over the initial apprehension that might come along with trying it out.

Every auction house works a little bit differently, but here are some tips I’ve picked up along the way with the ones I’ve gone to!

1. Finding the auction! A quick Google search should pull up auction houses in your area. Most of them will have a website or at least a Facebook page giving some detail about the upcoming sales. Some places hold auctions on a regular schedule—once a week, typically—but others may be a few weeks between sales. Auctionzip.com is a great resource for finding sales in your area.

2. GO TO THE PREVIEW. ALWAYS. Before the auction, there’s a preview. Sometimes it’s a day or two before, and sometimes it’s just a few hours before the auction actually commences—usually the auction house will list this information, but just ask if it isn’t listed. GO. This is your opportunity to look at all the things for sale, and inspect anything you might actually want to buy. Usually there are paper copies available of the entire catalog that you can use for reference. I like to circle items that I’m interested in, and perhaps make small notes so I remember any flaws or repair work or whatever. There’s typically a LOT of stuff so it’s easy to forget—particularly if there are ten light fixtures you might want but two you REALLY want. You have to be able to remember which two! Obviously don’t break anything, but the preview time is there for you to touch things, open doors and drawers, and make sure it’s something you really want to buy. It may also allow you some time to check what similar items might be selling for online, so you have a point of reference for what a fair/good price might look like.

3. Bring a tape measure! You never know what you might find, and seeing a bunch of stuff sprawled out in an open space can mess with your sense of scale. You want to make sure you can fit whatever it is in your life!

4. If you can’t make it to the preview, your auction house might post the whole catalog online. The pictures are generally poor quality, but sometimes it’s enough to get a good idea. Sometimes, a few more items will be added to a sale that never make it into that online catalog, so going in person is definitely the best thing. If you can’t make it to the preview, though, sometimes it’s best to just skip the auction—purchases you immediately regret upon actually seeing them in real life suck!

5. Register to bid! The auction house will typically want your name, address and phone number, and then you’ll be in their system which makes the process faster next time. They’ll give you a bidder card with a number on the front, and typically a place on the back for you to fill in with your purchases. That space on the back of the card is really for your benefit—once you win an item, your number is noted in their system as the winning bid. But it’s good to keep track of your purchases yourself regardless—mistakes happen occasionally, and you don’t want to spend your whole paycheck!

If it’s your first time at an auction house, give yourself plenty of time to register—the registration counter will become crowded as the auction approaches, and you don’t want to miss the first items if you’re interested in them because you don’t have your card in hand yet!

6. Bring a checkbook! Or cash! On your winning bid, there is a buyer’s premium: essentially a percentage of your winning bid that gets added.  The buyer’s premium is usually between 10-20% of the winning bid, but many auction houses charge a lower buyer’s premium if you pay with cash or check instead of a card.

7. Lots: anything that goes up for sale as a unit is called a “lot.” When you bid on a lot, you buy it all—so sometimes a lot will be just one piece of furniture, sometimes it will be two chairs and a side table, or it might be a box lot like the ones above, which are just groupings of similar items that the auction house decides to sell as a single lot. Don’t disregard box lots! Even if there are 30 things in a box lot and you only want 2 of them, sometimes you can buy the whole thing for 5 bucks and then you just have 28 things to get rid of or resell or whatever. Ha!

8. Bidding! The actual bidding part is SUCH a rush but also sort of scary, so a few things are liable to happen: either you get so determined just to WIN that you end up over-paying and regretting it, or something is just going way too cheap so you buy it just BECAUSE and then you have shit you didn’t really want, or most LIKELY you get too nervous and flustered and don’t bid or stop bidding and then lose stuff that you actually would have paid more for if only you had a second to think! That’s the WORST. So I like to pencil in my maximum bid next to the item in the catalog (and keep that shit close to your chest!), so I don’t end up in any of those positions. It’s such a simple thing but makes a huge difference, I promise! Always know how high you’re really willing to go before you bid.

My rule: don’t be the first to bid, ever. Often, the auctioneer will open bidding at something like $100, and then nobody will bid until he drops down to $5. Let other people bid it up and swoop in toward the end if it’s still in your price range. You don’t want to be the dummy that raised your hand at $100 when you could have walked away winning for $30. At the same time, don’t wait too long because sometimes nobody will bid, and the winner is just the first hand up—so if you want it, be that hand.

Also, try to sit toward the center, in clear view of the auctioneer. It SUCKS to bid on something and the auctioneer just doesn’t see you. I like sitting more toward the back than the front—that way I can watch my competition. You can pick up a surprising amount from body language!

Also, also: SOME auction houses will have the entire catalog photographed and displayed on a slideshow so you know what you’re bidding on. Sometimes, auction house workers will carry each individual item up to the podium area as they come up. In the first case, bidding is more likely to go in order of the catalog—meaning you know if you can go to the bathroom or something because the next item you’re interested in is 20 lots away. When the catalog isn’t photographed, often they’ll just auction things off in the random order that the auction worker grabs them off the floor, so you have to pay attention.

9. Leaving a bid: If you can’t make it to the auction in person, you might still be able to buy stuff! You can usually leave a bid on an item with the auction house, and then your bid competes against bidders who are there in person. EDIT: if you leave a bid on a chair for $400, and the highest bid in the house is $50, you will win it for $55 or $60—whatever increments the auctioneer is increasing the bid at.

10. Phone and online bidding: again, if you can’t be there in person but might be able to bid in real time remotely, the auction house might be using a service like Auctionzip.com to allow online bidding. It’s the future! It’s kind of like eBay but way more intense: you have to sit there and wait for your item to come up, and then you’re bidding in real time against any other online bidders and whoever is sitting in the auction house. It moves quickly! For phone bidding, tell the house which lot you want to bid on, and they’ll call you when the item comes up and you can bid over the phone, much like you would if you were in the room.

11. Bring refreshments! Auction houses often sell concessions like hot dogs and sodas and stuff, but maybe you don’t want that? Bring your own! Even though each individual lot might only take 30 seconds or so between opening bid and hammer, the entire auction might last a few hours. Be prepared! For the love of god, leave your kids at home and don’t bring friends with short attention spans. Auctions are just too boring for some people.

12. It’s OK to leave early! If you’re over it, or everything in the catalog that you were interested in has already come up, snag the opportunity to beat the line at the end and check out early. It can take a while for everyone to check out, and then even longer for the house to bring out your items if you wait all the way until the last lot.

13. Be nice! Nobody likes a sore loser, so don’t be one. Also, if you have friends you go to the auction with, make sure you’re not competing!! If three of you want the same item, be open about your max bids then let whoever is willing to pay the most bid on it. It’s never worth losing friends over! With other attendees, don’t be an asshole! You never know if you’ll end up walking into that dealer’s store, and you don’t want to be remembered as that jerk from the auction. Also, you might start seeing items that you saw go at auction for $10 in a store for $200—knowing what somebody paid for something does not give you license to begrudge them what they’re reselling it for.

OK SO NOW THAT YOU KNOW HOW TO DO IT…wanna see a thing?

I went to an auction a couple weeks ago. I saw THIS. I was filled with FEELINGS.

SO I BOUGHT IT FOR $200 AND NOW IT IS IN MY BEDROOM! It’s so tall. It’s so beautiful. It’s so…not my usual thing! Where furniture is concerned, I typically like modern from the past 60-70 years or so, or really primitive kinds of antiques from before 1850-ish. Then again I can be a sucker for Art Deco, so I don’t know. This armoire is Eastlake style—call it 1870s. I normally don’t like Victorian furniture for myself, but I make an exception for Eastlake because it was really a reaction against what we think of as Victorian furniture—the SUPER ornate, Rococo-revival kinds of stuff. Although the style of my radiators are literally named “Rococo” and I think they’re incredibly beautiful. What’s my point?

I have no point, except that the way to Narnia is through my bedroom and I’m pretty psyched up about it. I really like waking up and seeing this thing.

Right now the inside is set up with a clothing rod, but…I want a TV in it. I know I just renovated the den and the bedroom, but I do kind of miss having a TV in the bedroom because I’m trash, but I also want it concealed because I’m an insufferable snob. It’s a delicate balance.

To tie this post together, this is part of why you go to the preview! The armoire is not in perfect shape—it’s missing a few little trim pieces and the lockset for the doors, but look what was hiding in that lower drawer! All the pieces! Plus a finial that doesn’t appear to match anything. So $200 and an hour or two of little repair work, and it’ll be good to go.

I love you, towering Eastlake armoire. Welcome home.

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