Thursday, February 11, 2010

Five Favorite "Thrifted" Household Finds

Over the last eight or so years, I have become a fan of thrift stores and buying things second-hand. I used to hate garage sales as a kid and was especially mortified of them as a teenager, but I guess I have come around to the idea of used stuff. Although I must say that I am still not too fond of garage sales, and I am very particular about cleaning and disinfecting all things I buy used. But re-using and re-purposing is great for the environment, and I have found many fabulous, interesting, hip, funky, weird, and sometimes rare things in great condition. It is such a kick to find a treasure in a thrift store (or abandoned beside a dumpster, or on the curb on trash day) among all the...stuff-that-is-not-a-treasure. It's a bit of an art, really. And takes some persistence. But I have come to realize that there is something spectacular about the act of finding something that has been discarded, cleaning it up, and then enjoying it and giving it a whole new life. It is redemptive and liberating.

Perhaps I should do some future posts of favorite thrifted clothes? Or favorite funky-quirky-vintage clothes that I just had to buy because they were just so unbelievable? For example, a few weeks ago I got a vintage dress that looks like it formerly belonged to some Swiss Alps girl who should have been singing songs in the hills à la The Sound of Music. S did not like this dress and called it Amish (???) but I saw something in it that appealed to me. I have not worn it yet though and have no idea if I can pull it off in public. Maybe I will wear it at home for fun?

Anyhow, here are five of my favorite household finds:

1. Vintage Library Card Catalog Drawers

Cost? $10
Where? Bought at an antique dealer at a flea market in Québec
Estimated value? Anywhere between $30 to $91 on ebay
Comments? It's an interesting storage spot for pens, pencils, scissors, hole punches, twine, etc. In our next apartment, I might use it to store spices. (Our current place has a built in spice cabinet.)

Also pictured: The vintage cart in the picture was free and retrieved (with permission) from S's dad's basement and the antique light-up globe on top was inherited a long time ago from my great-grandmother (I think). The framed map is a June 1949 National Geographic map that was in a collection of old maps I inherited from my grandfather. This one has little British, French, Russian, and US flags over parts of Germany and Austria to mark the distribution of control over the land at that time. My dad framed and matted it for me as a Christmas gift a few years ago.

2. Vintage Tool Box, Made in Ontario

Cost? $7
Where? At a thrift store in Québec (S spotted this one!)
Estimated value? Between $12 to $49, according to etsy and ebay.
Comments? I love using it as a creative way to store jewelry and keep it open all the time to see everything at once. I put cute quilted place mats under it to protect the wood on my antique dresser from being scratched by the metal.

3. Red Wood Rocking Chair, Made in Yugoslavia

Cost? Free
Where? Found by the dumpster area at my old apartment in Chicago
Estimated value? About $60 to $85 online, for a similar used rocking chair from Yugoslavia
Comments? I had wanted a rocking chair for years and this one just made its way to me. The fit is great for me, I LOVE the color (which it was already), and BooBoo often hangs out in it too. Plus it is very sturdy and carved into the wood on the bottom of the seat is "Yugoslavia" and "X75". I am not sure what that means; maybe it was built in 1975? Anyone else know?

4. Le Creuset Sauce Pan with Pour Spout

Cost? $14.99 (Well, S bought this for me as a spontaneous gift, but that was the price he paid.)
Where? S triumphantly found it at a thrift store in Québec
Estimated value? About $115 for a new one, $50 on ebay for a used one in worse condition
Comments? S also found a big Le Creuset Dutch Oven at the same time. I think it is 5.5 quarts and was $25. He got it re-enameled for me as a Christmas gift, and it should be ready soon. I can't wait to use it! Le Creuset Dutch Ovens normally sell for $225 to $315 new. And I must say, they do work REALLY well, and I think having one is a great life-time investment. They are something that can be handed down to future generations. Like a cast iron skillet. I inherited my grandmother's cast iron skillet and love it and the memories it brings me.

5. Red Formica and Chrome Dining Table (with leaf) and 4 matching chairs (circa 1950?)

Cost? Free
Where? Found by the dumpster area at my old apartment in Chicago
Estimated value? $300 or so online
Comments? This is probably my favorite piece of furniture and all-time favorite find. I LOVE eating at this table and working at it. It puts me in a good mood just to be near this table.

Also pictured: The funky red and white mod place mats (there are 5 total) were thrifted for $.49 a piece in Québec a couple weeks ago, and the two matching pewter candle sticks were thrifted for $10 in Sweden last year. (The center candle stick was a gift and was bought new in Norway.)

So, there you have it. Maybe I should do a post sometime on the cool things S has found on the curb on our Montréal street's trash day? He has quite the eye!


  1. Not that this was the point of your post, but I like the lighting on the rocking chair, the reflection it creates on the seat of the chair is cool.

  2. Oh my goodness, I love all of these! I am a big fan of formica and I have been COVETING old card catalogue boxes for ages. So awesome. We have a fair amount of dumpstered (er... "thrifted"!) stuff in our place, but I don't think any of it is as cool.

  3. I already had major lust over your dining room set, back when you posted about it a few months ago. But now I love all your finds! Martin and I are the same, and really like this kind of stuff (in particular, we do vintage radios, old cameras and alarm clocks, as well as Coca-Cola promotional stuff from the 20s-50s).
    Oh, and I have the No.2, as well, except it's yellow instead of green. I keep my floral supplies in it. :-)

    @accordionsandlace: We often go to Prince Antiques, which is right on Highway 20 towards Quebec City, in Ste-Eulalie (a little past Drummondville). They always have these library boxes, and they're not really expensive.

  4. @Mike- Thanks! :)

    @accordionsandlace- I am glad to hear you guys use similar dumpste---I mean, "thrifting" techniques. I would love to see a post of some of your cool finds. and I loved your recent kitty post. :)

    @Marie-Eve- what is a No.2? The tool box? I was trying to google it to find one like it online, but didn't find anything exactly like it. and I saw a coke thing in a pic on your blog from the birthday party and loved it. thanks for mentioning the antique place. S and I make that trip ALL the time, and have been wanting to stop somewhere but wasn't sure where a good place was.

  5. Re-enameled the le creuset? Where? How? Cost involved?? I never thought about that... Mine is getting a bit scratched up on the inside and I hated to replace it (a. because they cost so much and b. because they don't make it in that color anymore).... Please tell me more

  6. Hi D,

    This is a link, in French, that talks about the process. Even if you don't read French, you can see the before and after pictures of the re-enameling process:

    Its about $8 per inch of the diameter of the pot. There are quite a few places here that do them, but I think every place sends them off to the same one factory to have them done. It might be the only one in the world? It's not cheap, but re-enameling for $75 or so is way cheaper than a $300 pot. :) Plus, it's green and you get to keep the one you already have. The down side is that there are very few colors to choose from (only blue and green I think), so we had to give up the cheery orange color we loved. But at least we will have another working Dutch Oven. :)

    This is the Le Creuset link that provide a US phone number for more information:

    Good luck!

  7. I love all of your finds, but especially your dining set! Wow! I think I would be happy working at a table like that too, because I really love the colour red. I don't what it is about it that attracts me so much. It really does make me happy!

    I think it's important to surround yourself with things you love!

    I'm trying to hold off on the impulse purchases, buying things just because they're cheap/on sale and they'll do the job. Instead, I want to buy things that I really LOVE.

  8. @Kim, Yes!!! S and I have had that talk- whether to buy cheaper things "for now" and later, when we theoretically have more money someday, buy the "real" furniture. But then, after talking we realized it would be really easy to have the "do-for-now" furniture forever and never replace it and never be happy with it. So we are hoping to, for those few furniture purchases we make in the coming years, to buy something we LOVE that we can enjoy for years and years. Our first purchase will probably be an armoire/closet thing, and this choice of which one to buy is what took us on this same journey you've been on! :)