Article Line Long1
Design

My Latest Haul – Because Thrifting Is Therapy (Right?)

If I were to get all existential on you I’d say that I’ve re-found my original “Why??” – at an antique mall in Sellwood called “Stars”, inside a primitive wicker-basket backpack. It didn’t even have a top on it – you strap it to your back and feel the handmade structure, the random obsoleteness on your ribs as you try to convince yourself that you need this mode of transport for $65, for that charcuterie picnic you’ve been fantasizing about for years. It’s not an easy decision and you leave wishing you had got it. Thus is the thrill of the hunt that I’ve pursued for 35 years now and what drove me to become a stylist. Only the market is different from when I started – it’s better curated, with professional pickers and dealers doing a pretty darn great job of sorting through the literal garbage to bring us all the good stuff. And while I’m adjusting OK back to city life, thrifting has been my therapy when I’m feeling overwhelmed, which is far more frequent than I’d like. Maybe it’s an addiction to the serotonin burst I get from the thrill of the thrifting kill, or maybe it’s feeling at home with a hobby, a smell, a repetitive action I’ve had since I was a wee bairn (I’m also back into comfort-watching Outlander and reading Scottish romance novels when I feel untethered, so there’s that). But I’m being super super choosy – focusing on what is a steal or something we really need. Here’s what I’ve scored so far.

TINY LITTLE WINDSOR CHAIRS FOR MY LIKELY GROWING CHILDREN

In the name of trying to entertain our kids through “the long dark” (aka winter in PNW) we bought our lego-loving kids this table to help spruce up their basement playroom. But I needed chairs and I wanted to find something farm-appropriate and not too expensive because they are growing too fast. So I was pretty darn psyched when I found these two kid Windsor chairs for $15 each in Aurora. Now, as soon as I get a free 45 minutes I’m going to strip them to a nicer more raw oak finish. But for $30 total they are solid and great.

A FANCY PLANTSTAND TO PROVE TO MYSELF I’VE STILL GOT IT

This perplexed my best friend who had flown up for the weekend to cheer me up/keep me company when Brian was OOT. I wouldn’t say it’s “simple and special”. No. It’s full-on special and specialer. Here’s how I plan on styling it in our more minimal shaker farmhouse – in a corner, by a window, and with either with an epic weird plant on top OR a sculpture of some sort (something post-modern, not too traditional to create that weird tension). She’ll be on her own, letting her hand-carved lines shine. This lady was not cheap – I think $140, but my brain told my tummy to tell my hands to pick it up and put it on the counter and pay for it. My body parts are a real team like that.

THE LIDDED BOX FROM MY CHILDHOOD TREE OR SO I’LL TELL MYSELF

I grew up on Myrtlewood Lane in Coos Bay Oregon and even BEFORE I saw the markings on the bottom I was super drawn to this footed, round, and lidded box (check, check, check). So When I flipped it over and saw that it was from Myrtlewood, Oregon and from Coos Bay my heart leapt a little bit with nostalgia. Now to find the Myrtlewood clock that we had growing up (from the ’70s) that of course now I would LOVE (let me know if you have one and my body parts will pay you properly).

THE ACTUALLY “GOOD HEIGHT” STANDING LAMP

I find that many standing lamps are too tall for lower sofas (which are more common these days). Very often when you sit next to a standing lamp you are staring right into the bulb (and you know how I feel about BAD lighting killing vibe and mood) and it’s a bummer. So this height is basically the height of a good table lamp on a side table (hello, hole in the market). Sure I still need a side table (a cute cocktail table will do) but I love the architectural shape/style and simplicity. I’m open to new shades, for sure – either something pleated and weirder or something more angular and a solid color. Dunno. Maybe I’ll draw Brian’s family Scottish crest on it. Only time or a really good psychic can know where I’m headed here.

THE PINE ARMOIRE TO SAVE MY SANITY AND SHOES

Our shoe and coat situation was DESPERATE. And it wasn’t about hoarding. I needed 2-3 coats a day based on temperature and activity (working out, walking dogs, a meeting) and 2-3 shoes a day (running in rain, Uggs inside, vans for the grocery store, rain boots). Without a mudroom and a proper drop zone, I was going NUTS. So I found this at Urbanite via Wilma and pulled the trigger fast. I knew that it would work here and while I was unsure if we needed it at the farm, at least if we do it will stylistically work and if we don’t need it then I didn’t buy new (but I’m sure it will work somewhere). Now cleats and shinguards have a place in the drawer and coats and baskets of shoes inside. The problem isn’t solved because turns out you still have to “hang things up” and “put things away” but I’m way happier doing that daily than the visual chaos that we had before.

MY NEW COMFORT BLANKY “JANET THE LEATHER STICK GIRAFFE”

I had this huge “leather stick giraffe” ‘box’ that has been left unchecked for decades until last week. She was in the back of an antique booth, smothered in quilts, her face/lips forced into an eternal kiss with a stack of paint by numbers. I was drawn to her for her caramel leather tones, the hand stitching, the utter whimsy of her existence made me smile HARD. Not to mention how good she is going to look in one of my kid’s rooms – something they’ll likely not appreciate visually as much as I do, but I’ll force it just as much. Curious if there is a kid version of cat-nip – a liquid or powder you can pour over something to ensure they play with it. Pause while I contact my agent to ensure a spot on Shark Tank because once again I have a trillion-dollar idea.

While I miss the Rose Bowl (deeply) I’ve only just begun vintage shopping in Portland and it’s just so gooooooood. On days when I miss living in the mountains, thrifting has become my therapy (along with cardio) and it’s something I couldn’t do there so it helps me reframe why I’m here.

0 0 vote
Article Rating

WANT MORE OF WHERE THAT CAME FROM?

Never miss a single post and get a little something extra on Saturdays.

27 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Nancy
1 month ago

Every one needs a leather giraffe in their lives. Specially this cute

Pinny
1 month ago

Hi, Emily! Id be interested to hear about if/how living in Portland and experiencing the local day-to-day lifestyle has influenced your farm house vision. (For instance, the 3 coats/shoes per day routine, and preparing for the long dark winter) Has that caused you to rethink any design features of your house or add items to your shopping list (like the armoire to corral shoes)?

Erin
1 month ago

Would be *very* interested in updated romance reads Emily — especially some of the Scottish variety. They’re my therapy when I’m overwhelmed as well ๐Ÿ™‚

Jen
1 month ago
Reply to  Erin

Hello, I have tried to find good Scots romance but aside from Outlander, not much luck. Would appreciate suggestions too. However, I am excited to share what became, for me, the best part of the last year and a half. I became an avid fan of romance writer Loretta Chase’s audio books. Read by the amazing Kate Reading, they are so witty and smart, not so much the earlier, but the later titles. The leads, not the usual, are interesting in their own right. Lord of Scoundrels is a classic. (The heroine is also an antiquing pro.) Love Your Scandalous Ways, about a courtesan which I would usually avoid, but Chase made it work. Lord Perfect, Dangerous Dukes, Dressmakers, Fallen Women and the Carsington series, all fun and worth it. She is an excellent writer, her love scenes have emotional depth not often found. Reading was such a good narrator I checked out her other work and if you like fantasy and much better writing than GOT, Curse of Chalion by Lois McMaster Bujold is excellent and has a lovely romance. It is part of a series which I really enjoyed but is fine on its own. Her Penric and… Read more »

Jen
1 month ago
Reply to  Jen

Oops. Sorry, meant to say Paladin of Souls instead of Curse of Chalion, which is the first in the series, excellent it its right but Paladin has a female protagoinst, who was also in the first book but not the lead, and a mature romance that gears up nicely in the final third.

Erika Otter
1 month ago
Reply to  Jen

OMG Paladin of Souls is THE BEST

Samantha
1 month ago

โ€œMy body parts are a real team like that.โ€œ Haha! Teamwork makes the dream work! Iโ€™m glad youโ€™re rediscovering your *why* here in the PNW, Emily!

Also, yes to multiple coats and shoes per day. Itโ€™s totally a thing.

Missthing
1 month ago

OK I say this with love, respect and gentleness. You are a talented stylist and a wonderful decorator. I check you blog daily and it helps me a lot with my home goals. And I am finding this post very uncomfortable to read. I really don’t think its OK to use or normalize shopping as a mood regulating activity on this level. I myself was addicted to thrift shopping in an unhealthy way – using it to numb out as a default activity, not even thinking about it but finding myself doing it almost daily. And I had excuses- its so cute, cheap, stylish- and I’m furnishing a house. And I am an expert OG thrift shopper from my broke 70’s childhood when my own decor queen shopping addicted mom took me and it was shameful to admit you wore thrift to my cool 80s vintage teens until now. But all that time I was sad and using it to change my mood as a blocking and disassociating activity. A default thing I id without even noticing I did it. And I see other women there with a desperation in their eyes doing the same thing. Not just thrifting but… Read more »

Christa
1 month ago
Reply to  Missthing

Missthing I truly hear you and can appreciate what you are saying. I also learned thrift shopping as therapy from my mom, and it pains me that she still does it with every closet it her house bulging with unworn clothes and shoes. And sometimes I find myself wandering around a thrift store, then I look at what I’ve collected to buy and often put it all back. Eh, is it any more or less healthy than wine drinking and indulging in sweets, which are also typical coping strategies?

Renovation a house is so expensive and massively stressful with many decisions, and a big gamble that it will turn out beautifully and be worth the expense and stress – all while living in a slightly funky rental house that isn’t quite working and can’t be changed. So, I think I read this a bit differently. I think dear Emily is being much more conscious, not numbly shopping. And I do love to see what she finds, and her job is creating content here, so — you do you, Em!

Nancy
1 month ago
Reply to  Missthing

If this was about a delicious recipe, ans you were straggling to loose wait would you write the same?

1 month ago
Reply to  Missthing

OK I say this with love, respect and gentleness. But Missthing, project onto others much? Anonymously and publicly pontificate on the personal lives and motivations of others much? Anonymously give unasked for opinions on and advice much to other HUMANS sharing content that anyone is free to read or to not read? Would you say what you said to Emily’s face upon meeting her out in the world? (Even if so, that doesn’t make it right. Emily is not responsible for your or other people’s triggers or places of work.) How about each of us humans focuses on our own side of the street? I know that I, for one, have plenty to do there without managing other people’s life choices.

Lavieenblanc
1 month ago
Reply to  Missthing

I appreciate your sharing your experiences with thrifting as an unhealthy coping mechanism, especially as a heads up to others who might experience the same, but your comment seems to imply that Emily is having or condoning that same experience which is a big and, IMO, unfounded, assumption/projection that isn’t fair or appropriate to make.

To me, the essence what you are sharing is simply, “I struggled with thrifting as an unhealthy/compulsive, numbing coping mechanism, and this post reminds me of that and makes me think of other folks who might do the same.”

Emily doesn’t thrift everyday, doesn’t seem to “numb” with it (rather cheer herself up), her house isn’t overflowing with unused unworn thrifted objects, she isn’t overspending, etc., all things that might more so suggest unhealthy/high-consequence thrifting.

(Also as an aside, I personally think all coping mechanisms are “valid” as in understandable and compassionable, but some forms of coping can have more negative consequences than others.)

I just want to gently and kindly point out the assumption/projection and respectfully say I don’t see the tension that you see, as a counter-point to your experience reading this post.

Joyce Garrity
1 month ago
Reply to  Lavieenblanc

I struggle with this problem and was grateful to hear it acknowledged. Don’t think it applies to Emily, but is is a silent problem.Mine started as a single mom furnishing home and constantly upgrading.. It bears mentioning as many quietly suffer.

Rose
1 month ago
Reply to  Missthing

Missthing: How on earth you think that you can interpret someone’s mood and psyche from a post on thrift shopping is the definition of the word “presumptuous.” And “tiresome.”

Rusty
1 month ago

The sign!!! “HOME AGAIN ANTIQUES”!!! You are ‘home again’!๐Ÿค—
Rediscovering your “why” speaks volumes about why you moved to Portland.

While another reader commented their concerns (which are valid), I ‘hear’ a different drum beating. It’s a drum of rediscovery, inspiration and reinvigoration.

The “let’s get weird” kinda dropped off the radar there for a while and things got a big too ‘perfect’ and expensive.
EEG poked her nose in momentarily and shrunk away again.

Now … it appears that you’re prepared to take more chances, risks and delve into consciously buying 2nd hand and not buying, just to buy.
I sense that this is a positive, more authentic way of being, you! Less buying 4 similar things online and sending 3 back. (all.that.packaging.and.transportation.๐ŸŒ) Shopping in person and shopping small. Saving the planet from more garbage, one purchase at a time.๐Ÿ‘

Dive into those piles of possibilities and enjoy “the hunt” of thrift gold.๐Ÿฅฐ

emily jane
1 month ago
Reply to  Rusty

I wish I could ‘like’ this comment multiple times…

Rusty
1 month ago
Reply to  emily jane

๐Ÿ˜Š

Sylvie
1 month ago

Although pretty in itself, the colonial style “plant stand” looks suspiciously not like a plant stand, but rather a pedestal for… an ashtray. I have seen such things as a child in my relatives’ homes. The curved top part would have been a receptacle for the actual glass ashtray. That being said, I think it’s a great idea to repurpose this piece as a plant stand or a pedestal for a small bust, or maybe even a small round marble top.

Kanl
1 month ago
Reply to  Sylvie

Yes I agree not a plant stand originally, but it could be! With something to level off the top so a plant or art piece sculpture. I agree it was most likely an ashtray holder.

Shar
1 month ago

Hi Emily! I lived in Portland for 8 hours years and miss the thrifting there every day! Highly recommend Monticello Antiques in the Montevilla neighborhood and when you want to take a little drive, every single thrift store in St. Helens (and the Goodwill in Scappoose) is AMAZING.

Rhonda Loumena
1 month ago

Hello. I love the small kids chairs. They have such beautiful patina, are you sure you want to strip the finish off?

1 month ago

Hi Janet :). I love wooden stuffs they reminds me my old house. So happy to you for having this things they are lovely.

Christie J Priem
1 month ago

I think sugar is catnip for kids. Maybe stickers or sparkles, but those would ruin the glory of Janet.

BW
1 month ago

Shopping is not (nor should it be) therapy. If you need help, please get it from a licensed professional, but I was uncomfortable with the association between the two in this post.

Michelle
1 month ago

“Now, as soon as I get a free 45 minutes Iโ€™m going to strip them to a nicer more raw oak finish…” LOL. Spoken with the eternal optimism of a true furniture thrifter!

This was me after buying a killer set of 4 killer Windsor chairs in January last year. Three months later, after multiple tendonitis flare-ups and many, many hours of stripping, sanding and cursing, they were finished. I’m sure I will forget all about this the SECOND I spot another piece I know will be just perfect after just a leeetle work.

Irina Visan
1 month ago

Hi Emily! Do you have a goood wood stripping technique? I have a few gorgeous chairs that are too dark I want to surface the wood there. What’s the best way? Thank you!!! P.S.:I love Janet, probably the best purchase!

Go To Top