When I was 19, a rebellious wild-haired thing in central Oklahoma, I stood in my dear friend Jerry’s kitchen, nursing strong black coffee in a large Mexican mug, looking around at strangely carved wooden things, old tins and antique ceramics that held spices, cutlery and exotic wooden spoons. The rugs were old Navajo, and the plates were mismatched bone china. In short, gorgeous. Jerry’s one of the most well-traveled, and most stylish bohemians I have ever known. His dinner parties were things of legend, and everyone envies his easy, laid-back aesthetic. At that moment, my concept of the world being larger was suddenly tangible; each piece reflected part of Jerry’s personality and his travels. To my mind, this personal, carefully-cultivated eclectic expression will always beat the hell out of the pristine, cookie-cutter “aesthetic” that now enjoys such ubiquity. Jerry took me to Dallas to nose around thrift and pawn shops, and my love for collecting my own treasures began.
Over the years, my favorite homes, and I mean in every demographic, from poor artists to the obscenely wealthy, have shared this personal cultivation of treasures. Some can afford to ship back textiles and furnishings from their travels, and others (like me) (for now), are completely satisfied picking up little knickknacks that remind them of a beautiful place or moment.
Once these treasures begin infiltrating your home, I’ve found that there’s a definite yen for more. Suddenly, the round white lamp from Target or Macy’s doesn't seem so appealing. The Ikea plates seem somehow less, um personal.
Enter your local Thrift Store!
Alongside the antique Chicory and coffee tins I bought in Aix-en-Provence sit several lovely little American tins from Angel Street and OKC’s Junior League. My buffalo lamp from Westport is a huge prize. As I look around my (small) but lovingly developed little apartment in NYC’s Upper East Side, so many items have come from thrift stores, well, I could open my own. (But don’t touch my buffalo lamp!)
Granted, being chockablock with tchotchkes doesn’t turn everyone on. And there is such a thing as going too far, to be sure. However, don’t discount eclectic little treasures. At your next soiree, instead of paper plates or run-of-the-mill plates, try setting your table with mismatched china and a funky vase full of peonies. Collect little frames and paint them all the same color (glossy white or matte black, red lacquer or gunmetal gray?) to create an instant, elegant display for your photos. Antique tins and canisters don’t have to stay in the kitchen – they can hold car keys, spare change, cotton balls, sewing supplies – use your imagination! Crazy little lamps may look horrible in their current state of, well, avocado, but a fresh coat of glossy paint and a new shade can make even an ugly hula dancer look like a chic statement. Embroidered sheets can be made into lovely, sweet pillows, and stacks of old books make beautiful bedside tables.
The point is, before you spend hundreds of dollars to make your rooms look like pages in a catalogue, use your noodle at your local thrift store, and make your home, well, your own.
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All the best,