Long before I was introduced to Rachel Ashwell’s “Shabby Chic” style of decorating I was out and about happily digging through fleamarkets, thrift stores and an occasional rubbage pile. I grew up on the south shore of Long Island, NY where people throw just about anything out on the curb on trash night. My love affair with other people’s “trash” began when I was a newly married woman without two nickels to rub together. I remember being pregnant in the dead of winter and spotting a chest of drawers sitting out in the front of someone’s house. Needing a dresser for the new baby I made my husband stop and throw it in the back of the car. I was now officially a garbage picker. It was a nice sturdy piece with a broken bottom drawer. I brought it home, gave it a new paint job, did a quick fix on the drawer and put it in the nursery. It still sits in my sons room 13 years later and is still in good shape. I’ve since pulled quite a few more treasures out of the trash incuding scrap wood with lots of character, old windows, fencing, etc.
In 1998 we moved down to North Carolina and I am sad to say that its slim pickins’ here on trash day. They have lots of regulations and most trash collectors won’t take furniture or large pieces so people have to find other ways of getting rid of things. We do have some awesome thrift shops here though. There is this one local favorite that people actually line up at the door outside before the place opens. I got hooked on that place years ago and have decorated most of my home with things I have found there. I remember stopping there one day after dropping my son off at preschool. It was about 10 minutes before opening time and there were people gathered by the front door. I got out of the car and mingled with them and prayed nobody I knew saw me as they drove by. As the elderly man came and unlocked the doors I almost got trampled as people pushed there way through the door trying to be the first ones in. I couldn’t believe it. These thrift store shoppers could be ruthless, and eventually I became one of them. I would park myself in front of the door with my daughter in a stroller prepared to run anyone over who got in my way. Well, I never had to inflict bodily harm on anyone but did hold on to a vintage breadbox for dear life as people eyeballed it.
A friend of mine was there a few months ago looking at a lamp. Her arms were full so she put it down for a second and a lady came by and swooped in. The lady grabbed the lamp and when my friend said “Hey that’s mine!” The lady said “Sorry I just HAVE to have it” and TOOK IT! My friend just sat there dumbfounded. Its amazing what comes over people hunting for a bargain.
I have loved the thrill of the hunt for many years and thoroughly enjoy redesigning my finds into beautiful home accessories. How tickled I was to find out that there was another person who embraced this style of decorating and made a living doing it!