Another Friday morning away from work, another estate sale just outside the city. I keep meaning to stop it, but I haven’t yet. Not yet anyway. If it wasn’t for my partner in thrift, I’d be tucked into the office every Friday morning, working. Instead, Friday morning rolls around and a few texts later, I’m trading stretch pants for real pants, we’re arranging who will do the driving, listing out our work worries, justifying our need(s) to get away from the office, and pulling up to another estate sale. Cash in hand. Hunting game faces on.
Yes, I like a bargain at the end of a treasure hunt, but thats not the big reason why I like estate sales. Estate sales are like museums of real life. Catalogs of things– some glamorous, mundane, exotic or extremely well-loved. Every sale is a snapshot of a period of time, of someone else’s life. That snapshot might not be accurate, it most certainly is cluttered and curated in a certain sale-y way. Its a fleeting sort of experience, you are watching (and participating!) in the dismantling of someone’s life through their leftover things. Sometimes the overall effect is a sad one (ex: aging wedding dresses hanging on doors), and sometimes, its incredible. America! This is what it looks like in San Francisco, and who would ever really know that without seeing it firsthand? We’re a nation of collectors, keeping up with the Joneses, keeping memories and things, one on top of the other, and forgetting most of it.
On Friday I ventured out in the rain with a friend to check out an estate sale in Hillsborough. The home was described as a “manorly maze” in the email I received from the organizers, which seemed too weird to resist. I dragged my shopkeeper pal along to this Friday sale, because I learned this lesson the hard way, never go to a Friday sale without backup. Hardcore estate sale shoppers are scary, and they push. Fortunately for us, we just missed the early crowds and the pushing. I regret leaving my camera at home and wish I could have documented every wallpapered room after wallpapered room. So. Much. Wallpaper. Also pretty good? The wood paneled rooms and red tiled kitchen.
While Charles was busy hunting treasures for his shop, I was digging through a cardboard box of vintage stationery from hotels around the world. I came home with a set of wood nesting trays, a few kitchen tools and a pile of envelopes, notecards and letterhead. I plan to hand off most of it to The Aesthetic Union, but some of it, I’m hoarding for myself.
It has been a while since I’ve been out on the estate sale circuit, or visited any weekend flea markets. In December I made it to two different sales and came home with modest piles of cheap, thrilling treasures. In Foster City I found this filthy mirrored chrome jewelry box tucked away in a garage for a mere $2. This was a pretty good find because I’ve been searching for a jewelry box for two years, but its hard out there to find a simple jewelry box that isn’t creepy, sequined, glittery, ugly, cheap or really, really girly. I just want a box for my fancy things!
The chrome was rusted and grimy, so I used foil and a splash of water to scrub and clean the chrome. I used a soft rag and a bit of vinegar to polish and clean the rest of the box. I didn’t bother to take an ‘after’ shot, so you’ll have to take my word that the technique works. It does.
The last weekend of December we visited Alemany and I found a wood shoe shine kit (DREAM FIND) that I haggled down to $15 after longingly walking by and touching it, then walking away at least 4 times. While Christmas shopping on Valencia I had been tempted by a brand new fannnncy wood shoe shine kit for $150. I think the brushes inside were made from newborn baby hair (kidding). I did not buy it, after I realized that a shoe shine kit would be a horribly unromantic gift for a certain Intern of mine, and I felt pretty certain I could pay a lot less for a kit if I did a little searching on my own. Happy Birthday Kate, you got yourself a dirty used shoe shine kit!
I am not too eager to explore the contents of the kit… I think I’ll put some gloves on and see what can be salvaged and more likely, tossed. After that, I’m going to set up a shoe shine business at the top of our stairs when I run out of shoes of my own to polish.
As we were trying to leave the flea market, I spotted these mini-mini-mini cast iron skillets. THEY ARE SO SMALL! No reason to want or need these, but I really needed these baby skillets in my life. For now I’m planning to use them as Christmas ornaments on our tree next year, if I can wait that long to see them again.
We’re back in the habit of visiting the Alemany Sunday flea market after a long break. Since repainting our dining room we’re on the hunt for gold frames to hang on our navy blue walls.
Sometimes Most of the time, Alemany can be hit or miss, but last week was full of treasure. Sure, there is the lady that yells at you for looking at her wares (most, but not all are for sale, btw), the guys that try to cut you a deal on rusty tools while you walk by, and the piles of kitchenware and junk poured out on long flooding tables, begging for a tetanus shot, and a good dig through.
Last weekend we went with $32 in cash scrapped together between the two of us, not sure what we’d find. Making a trip to the cash machine beforehand is almost a guarantee you won’t need that cash. Within about 20 minutes we’d found a selection of mid-sized gold wood frames for $13 and another carved wood frame for $5. A few minutes later I was bargaining with my last $14 for a $25 crazy ornate gold frame. We went back and forth between $14 and $15 for a few minutes, until I had to prove that I really only had $14… but the frame was finally ours. Intern convinced me to leave a short while later, because looking at bargains when you don’t even have a $1 left is pretty pointless.
Those of you who follow me on instagram or twitter already know how much I love my new print by Carolyn Sewell, but for those of you who haven’t experienced her charming work, get to it. This print is most likely going to end up in the studio, not the dining room, but I do think it needs a fancy frame.