Archives for category: thrift shop finds

The time-worn way of zipping up a house when you tire of the look is to redecorate — move the furniture around, replace the curtains, or change the paint colors.

Why not approach it from a different angle and add some unusual architectural elements? There are a myriad of online sources available to purchase new pilasters, columns, doors, fireplace surrounds, mantels, etc. They are all fine but without professionally distressing them they still look, well . . . . new. There is nothing like vintage items to bring depth and layers to a house. An architectural salvage yard is just the ticket to find that one-of-a-kind feature that stands apart and tells a story.

Recently, I had the opportunity to visit three such establishments in New England. If you desire quirky architectural object d’art, the eye candy that these places provide is almost better than a trip to a museum. And, even better, you can buy the stuff you fall in love with. Try that at the Metropolitan Museum of Art or the Louvre. Most of the objects have been removed from houses that are to be torn down or remodeled. Re-purposing them for another life keeps beautiful things out of the landfill and is “green” to boot. You will feel down right self righteous bringing home one of these treasures to grace your home.

Here are a few items that you will never find duplicated by a neighbor who shops at Target.

“Warm Ye in Friendship” mantel detail

Classical beefcake


“Dark Shadows” doors

Curvaceous corbel

Corinthian kitsch

Electric blue

Links to some New England salvage yards:  Restoration Resources, Nor’East Architectural Salvage, and Architectural Salvage, Inc.

Click on any photo to enlarge.


A golden rule in the design world is that one NEVER reveals design sources. I am about to break that time-honored credo.

We have been lucky enough to live in towns with great swap shops. Both our current home town in Massachusetts and our previous residence in New Hampshire had swap shops at the town dumps. These swap shops enable town residents to drop off unwanted but serviceable items and fellow townspeople to peruse through the items and take what they wish. One man’s trash is another’s treasure, indeed. If, after a week or so, the item has not found a new home, it goes in the dumpster as trash. Over the years, the scores of finds that I have rescued from the landfill could furnish a small nation. Antique bed frames, lamps, dishes, frames, silverware, trays, glassware, tablecloths, antique Christmas decorations, chairs, a Danish modern bureau, and books have all found their way into my house and houses of neighbors and friends. My across-the-street neighbor and I trade each other discovered items that we know the other would like. She has an amazing eye.

The priviledge of shopping at these dumps comes at a cost, however. A sticker on your car is necessary for admittance to the dump. In our Massachusetts town the yearly sticker price pushes the $200 mark. In the New Hampshire town, the sticker is had for a mere $6.00, good for two years. When we first applied for the sticker in New Hampshire some ten years ago, it was $2.50 and when I remarked on the low figure, the town employee replied, “when the sticker price went up from $1.00 per year there was an outcry.”

In reading a recent article in a shelter magazine about a decorator and her work, she was quoted as saying, “I always like to add a few thrift shop finds to a project to give it a not all new look.”  My philosophy is the opposite. I like to use mostly found and vintage items and add just a few new items so the end result is not dowdy.

The return policy at these establishments is unparalleled. If you tire of the item or it no longer works with your “look,” take it back for someone else to enjoy.

Here is just a tiny sampling of the items that I saved from destruction.

I dream of Jeannie lamp