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I am an avid consignment and antique shopper.  For me there is nothing like finding that uniquely perfect treasure for the perfect spot in my home.  Its like a treasure hunt.  I love the idea that I’m also giving an old piece a new lease on life, thus recycling it and helping to keep it out of the landfill.

Recycling high quality older pieces is a fantastic way to low cost decorate, to give a great piece a new life and to add unique and one of a kind pieces to your home décor.  However, there are some simple strategies to effectively maneuvering the consignment shops so that you are getting the most for you money and time.

*When it comes to consignment shopping, not all shops are created equal.  Look for shops that discriminate.  Good consignment shops will only accept pieces that are in good shape and that have good potential for someone else.  Ask the store owner what their policy is for accepting consignment items.

* Keep an open mind. When shopping a consignment  shop, try to think beyond what a piece is to what it could be.   An old lamp can be given new life with a new shade.  Curtain panels could be converted to valances or accent pillows.  Focus on the potential of a piece versus its current state.  Can it use some paint, a new shade, a light sanding?  How can you transform that piece into something spectacular?

Believe it or not, this is an antique sewer grate mold that we found in the basement of Fairmont Avenue Antiques in West Virginia. I think it will make incredible wall art.

The lamp was purchased at Stuff Consignments in Gainesville. The shade was purchased at http://www.lampsplus.com. The sculpture on the table is actually a pair of wall sconces standing upside down. They were purchased at The Very Thing in Haymarket.

My daughter's night stand lamps were purchased with different shades at The Very Thing for about $12 each. I changed the shades to add a pop of pattern against pattern.

*Let your creative juices flow and don’t be afraid to try something new.  Consignment shopping provides an opportunity for trying out new decorating techniques and ideas.  Since you are typically paying lower prices for these pieces, it would not be so painful if something went wrong with your creative project.

Wall cabinet purchased at The Very Thing in Haymarket. I added the fabric panels using a tension rod and some hot glue, to hide the "not so nice" bathroom necessities.

Dresser with distressed paint finish found at antique shop in West Virginia. We use it to store our dining linens in our dining room.

*Look for quality. Just because the piece is being consigned doesn’t mean it should be sturdy, of good quality and safe. Be cautious of peeling paint or rusting nails and screws.  Just like if you were shopping for new items, consider the quality of piece being purchased.

*Don’t be afraid to negotiate.  Some consignment shops will keep items for only thirty days.  After fifteen days, the price is usually dropped and the consignment shops and consigners are typically more willing to negotiate the price of an item.  I always say, if you don’t ask you won’t know.  See if the shop would be willing to reduce the price or sell a combination of items for lower price.

*Get to know the shop owners or staff.  Getting to know the store staff will allow them to get to know you and your tastes.  Perhaps the next time something that would appeal to you comes in, they will contact you directly to let you have first dibs.  Or perhaps you are looking for something specific, if you know the staff you can ask them to keep an eye out for this item on your behalf.

*Drop by your favorite shops often.  As I mentioned before, good consignment shops will keep items on display for about thirty days, which means there will be a lot of rotation and fresh items coming into the shop weekly.    By stopping by often you reduce the risk of missing out on that perfect items you’ve been looking for.

*Consider consigning your older, good quality pieces.  You can make some money towards your your items and will give someone an opportunity to give your great piece a new life.  Be sure to think about the minimum you are willing to accept for the item and speak with the shop owner or staff to make sure you can get that for your item.  Also, if you want your items returned if they do not sell, you must make arrangements to return and pick them up at the end of our consigning period.  Make sure they make a note of it and make sure you keep track or your consignment timeline.

Consignment shopping is a fantastic way to add unique, one of a kind pieces to your home décor.  I hope you find these tips useful for effectively shopping your local consignment shops.  Good luck and happy hunting!

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As I said in my last post, reupholstering old pieces is a great way to give them new life and to recycle.  It can save the piece from being tossed and in some cases can save you money from having to buy a new piece all together (depending on the fabric you choose, if you embellish, etc.)  So how do you know if a piece is worthy or reupholstery?  There are few tips that I can provide to help you decide.

*How is it holding up?  Are the cushions deflated, flattened or lumpy?  Has it basically retained its shape over the years?  How are the cushions constructed?  There are many materials from which your cushions could be constructed, including: down (most expensive), down lined with Decron Polyester fibers or Blendown (still expensive), and polyurethane wrapped in cotton or other fibers (most reasonable) are among the most common fillings.  If your cushions are made of high density, good quality foam they will not have broken down (or would have broken down less) over time.  Even your cushions are not holding up, however, there are other factors to consider in the construction of your sofa so don’t let this be the only deciding factor.  A good upholsterer can always provide you with new cushions to replace poor quality ones (of course, this will add to your overall price).

Client's reupholstered antique settee.

Here is another picture of the 50’s sleeper sofa I purchased and had reupholstered in a linen blend fabric…

1950's Sleeper Sofa reupholstered in linen blend. It was in excellent condition and is an incredible quality piece. The cushions needed to be remade and we replaced the mattress. We are very happy with it.

*Does it have good, solid bones?  If the piece is sturdy, strong and well constructed, you should definitely consider giving it a facelift. One of the tell tales signs of a quality piece of furniture is the joint system.  Good quality pieces have mitered joint systems or are dovetailed or tongue and grooved, and the frames are often glued and screwed together.  If the piece is made of particle board or plywood and the frame is held together with staples, it is probably not worth investing in reupholstery for the piece.

*Quality of exposed wood – if your piece has any exposed wood (dining chairs, sofas with wood legs, etc.) what kind of shape is the wood in?  If it has a few knicks and scratches it can probably be repaired fairly easily or these can add to the charm of the piece.  If the wood is rotted or broken or falling apart, you may want to reconsider as it may be costly to repair the piece.  Painting or restaining exposed wood is also an option but you may have to do some heavy sanding to remove any top coat that has been added so that the piece will take new paint or stain.  Here are pictures, before and after of my breakfast room chairs which I got from an old neighbor when I fell in love with the back design and I repainted and reupholstered them to be more interesting and updated.

Unpainted, pre-reupholstered dining room chairs I got from a neighbor. They are over 30 years old and were in great shape except for some scrapes and scratches. I had reupholstered them when I first got them in a paisley fabric.

My chairs now, painted in a blue metallic paint and reupholstered in brown polka-dotted fabric.

*Does it, or can it work with your existing or new decor?  It is important to consider if refacing a piece will allow it to fit more nicely into your decor.  There are some very creative things that can be done with old pieces to bring them up to date and give them updated style.  You can get creative with your fabric choice.  I love seeing traditional wingback chairs in very contemporary or graphic fabric patterns and colors, for example.  Don’t discount a piece because it simply looks dated.  Think about how you could make it into a contemporary piece that is perhaps fun and funky, or unique, or almost art like.  Paint can take furniture a long way these days.  Take a look at these pictures…

Traditional chairs in contemporary silk fabric from a project I completed in Alexandria.

I have these fantastic chairs that I actually got for free from a neighbor at my old house.  I drove by them in the morning and fell in love and they were still there when I came back in the afternoon.  They were with a circular dining table (which I regret not getting) and I asked him if he would sell the chairs alone.  He told me to take them.  He mentioned that they were 30 years old.  They have seen better days but are in good condition.  I loved the detailing on the backs.  The fabric on the seats was atrocious but I was able to look past that at their potential.  When I first got them I reupholstered them in a more traditional paisley fabric.  But when we moved here I decided I wanted to do something more fun and contemporary with them.  My solution, I had Andrew at Vienna Paint of Gainesville help me to paint them in a metallic blue color.  Vienna Paints sells a great metallic product that can be used for walls, furniture and other things.  On the walls you typically want to use a sprayer as painting this product with a brush will leave streak marks.  It is a glaze so you have to give whatever you are painting a base coat of regular paint and then go over that with your metallic glaze product.  I love the way it looks.

So I painted two of the chairs.  It took Andrew a while to get these two painted because it seemed like every time he started to paint, someone came into the store and needed help.  This product dries quickly and will leave streak marks if you are not careful so starting and stopping was not a good idea.  He finally got two of the four chairs completed.  Now I’m trying to decide if I want to do the other two in the same color or if I want to be creative and do them in a brown metallic, or a regular brown paint color.    I would love to hear thoughts if anyone has an opinion on this either way.  I am leaning towards doing all four in blue but I’m not so sure…

I changed the fabric on the two chairs that I had painted once more to a more contemporary circular pattern design in a brown that matches more closely with the rug that the chairs sit on.  Take a look at the before and afters..

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Another view of the chair newly painted and reupholstered.

I love finding beautiful old pieces and giving them a new life.  You would be surprised how unique and updated an antique piece can look when you place it among more contemporary furnishings.  I have acquired this beautiful antique sofa that was made for my great, great grandmother in the Dominican Republic.  It is a beautiful sofa that has more traditional lines.  However, I have decided that it will have a home among my more contemporary and updated traditional furnishings.  I have happily placed it in my living room.  It patiently awaits a new coffee table which I have yet to find.  I am having some beautiful accent pillows made to compliment the damask fabric that my aunt reupholstered it in.  It is a piece of my past, that has been handed down from family member to family member and I so honored to have it my home.  I personally think it looks fantastic here.  Check it out.

Here is a photo of my great, great grandmother's antique sofa in my living room.

I love the traditional lines and the detailing on the arms and legs.

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