How to shop vintage for your home

Vintage finds

Vintage finds

I am lucky to have friends who know how to entertain me for the weekend. I went last weekend to visit a friend in Lansing, Michigan and we spent the day estate sale shopping. I managed to get a pretty decent pile of things for the shop and for myself. 

Vintage vase available for sale at  Meandering Design

Vintage vase available for sale at Meandering Design

Most everything in my home is vintage and I've gotten pretty good at finding treasures and I realized there are a couple of clues I could give you that help you find a good estate sale. Most areas have an estate sale listing and you can just google estate sales and the name of your town (if you are in a super small town then search the next large town over) and you'll find a listing. Chicago folks can look here

  1. Review the listings within your area. I highly recommend looking at the pictures posted with the listing. You want to go to the places that have piles of stuff. Clean looking houses usually don't hold treasures. Also, avoid moving sales because they've taken the best stuff with them and there isn't much left behind. 
  2. I usually go the last day of the sale because everything is marked 30%-50% off. If you see something in the pictures that you must have then go the first day because chances are it will be gone. 
  3. Do not go with any preconceived notions of what you will find. If you are looking for a tall blue mid-century modern vase you may not find it. If you are looking for some cool vases or decor for your living room, then you may find that. 
  4. Hunt through everything. One of the houses we went to last weekend looked super picked over, but then I kept looking and I found some amazing pottery that was worth at least 3-4 times what they were charging (especially since it was the last day and 50% off).  
  5. Bring cash. Most places only accept credit cards over a certain amount. If you are looking for a piece of furniture bring a measuring tape to make sure it is the size you want. Bring water and hand wipes because it is dusty dirty work. I usually bring those big blue Ikea bags because you can fit so much stuff in them and they are easy to carry.
  6. If you are buying a few things you can politely ask for a discount, especially if it is the last day of the sale. Price is negotiable but keep in mind you don't want to be insulting. It is usually easier to get a discount if you are paying cash. 
  7. Most importantly have fun. You never know what you are going to find. 

I prefer estate sales over auctions. Mainly because I can pick up what I want, pay for it and leave. I do also stop at thrift stores, flea markets and vintage shops, but I've had the most luck at estate sales. 

Sometimes it is hard to go to an estate sale because usually the sale is happening because someone has passed away. Instead I look at it as a way for that persons treasures to be cherished anew. 

Keep an eye on the shop because I'll be posting all the goodies I've found recently. 

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Figure out what you are good at- screw 'follow your passion'

Every time I hear the phrase 'follow your passion' I kind of want to punch that person in the face (although I am not a violent person) for two reasons: 1) Some people honestly don't know what they are passionate about and 2) I'm passionate about sleep, but I don't think I can get paid to do that. 

Ironically when I first started a business I did something I loved to do, which was sew. Then I realized that I love sewing for myself and I really didn't like sewing for other people. Could I have made it work, maybe, but at what cost. I started getting angry and resentful and so I switched gears. 

At first I thought I started selling vintage by a fortuitous chance. A friend and I stopped by an estate sale and I knew the going price for a lot of the stuff I was looking at and so I purchased a couple of things and listed them on Etsy. They all sold so I started buying more stuff. 

Yes, I love vintage and my home is full of treasures I have picked up over the years or items I inherited, but the reality is I'm super knowledgeable about it. I have been going to antique stores since I was a kid. I can tell you what was fashionable and pricey in the 80s, 90s, aughts and today. When I teach my Interior Design 101 class I give my students a list of resources and it includes a great section on shopping for vintage. I'm sharing my skills and knowledge. 

There is a fabulous vintage shop in Dekalb, IL called Cracker Jax and I worked there in my late 20s. It taught me so much about the vintage business, especially how to create beautiful displays. 

In my family DIY wasn't a label it was just simply part of our lifestyle. When I find vintage pieces that are a bit broken down and need some attention I can fix them up, give them a new life and pass them on to a new family. 

My knowledge set is what makes it possible to run the vintage side of my business. And it is a business. While being able to go shopping for new pieces definitely gives me joy, having to clean everything up, itemize and price, have a photoshoot, list everything and then find a place to store it (thankfully I now have a booth at Beehive so that has helped immensely) is a lot of work. It takes elbow grease, attention to detail and having the ability to take good pictures along with the knowledge of how to price everything. 

My point is find something you are good at, that you enjoy doing enough that you can do it all the dang time and that is your sweet spot. 

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