Please welcome back my lovely friend Elizabeth for Part III of her brilliant series on thrift shopping for the home (here are links to Part I and Part II in case you missed them!). Today, she’s sharing all her favorite in-person locations to score amazing deals on furniture and decor. I hope you find it as useful as I have! Take it away, Elizabeth!
Today, I’m thrilled to share with you my love of physical estate sales and thrift shops. At an estate sale you can snag everything from hardware to high-end furniture to useful appliances like a Dyson vacuum. At a recent physical estate sale in Atlanta, I took home Pierre Frey curtains and matching wallpaper, a Stark bedroom carpet for $100, pretty and petite ice cream bowls for a friend (12 for $12), a set of 24 bamboo rattan chargers for $40, and a black Akris cocktail dress that made me feel like a million bucks (pre-pregnancy) for $200. You can often find better deals in-person than shopping online. You also escape the associated fees!
Elizabeth’s Best Brick-and-Mortar Sources:
ASSISTANCE LEAGUE STORES
– A national nonprofit with attached thrift stores across the country.
– The best one I have ever visited is their location in Houston, TX.
HOUSING WORKS (New York City)
– The Chelsea location (143 W 17th Street) is the best!
– Insider tip: On Sundays you get an additional deal with a Housing Works loyalty card!
ANGEL STREET THRIFT STORE (New York City)
– Recently relocated into a larger space on 22nd street.
THE CHURCH MOUSE (Palm Beach)
– Closes during the off-season and reopens for the year on September 30th.
– All items, no matter what is left, are discounted 90% off their price on the last day opened of the season. This is usually around the third week of June.
THE SALVATION ARMY
– Are you a student? A teacher? A veteran? On certain mornings you can get discounts at The Salvation Army.
HABITAT FOR HUMANITY RESTORES
– The restore is a great source to find useful and pricey home items from plantation shutters to quality wood doors to hardware.
– Goodwill is a total treasure trove and my personal go-to to find unique vases of all sizes.
– You can buy discounted Goodwill gift cards on Raise.com to save an extra 5%.
– If you donate to Goodwill, most locations will extend you an instant 20% off coupon.
– Are you a student? A teacher? A veteran? You can get discounts on certain mornings at Goodwill.
MOTTAHEDEH SAMPLE SALE (High Point, NC)
– Shop one-of-a-kind samples, vintage, and overstocked patterns at Mottahedash’s biannual china sample sale. 200N Hamilton St., North Court, Suite 131.
ROUND TOP ANTIQUES FAIR (Texas)
– Skip the Marburger Farm Antiques Show section of the fair and hit the meth-infested looking trailers off of Texas 237 for the real deals!
– Here I am pictured at Round Top fully embracing Texas life.
UNCLAIMED BAGGAGE CENTER (Scottsboro, Alabama)
– A Costco size warehouse that sells unclaimed airline luggage from designer clothes, jewelry, to electronics. This funny but true center is a thrifters dream!
KOFSKIS ESTATE SALES (Palm Beach)
– Palm Beach home liquidations sold off-site at Kofski’s warehouse.
– The next and first sale of the season is being held on December 7th and 8th.
– Gotta get there early as the line on opening day wraps around the block.
– Martha Stewart is a regular shopper and fan.
VINTAGE THRIFT SHOP (New York City)
– A hidden gem for furniture, lighting, curtains, rugs, and tabletop.
The Antique and Consignment Hierarchy:
There is a hierarchy for antiques and consignments. Beware of seeing “consignment” furniture on a storefront and thinking you are getting a deal. You are most likely seeing merchandise that has been purchased from an estate sale or auction house and then resold to the store buyer (potentially even going through additional middle men!) to end up at that location.
To demonstrate the price difference, I took a look at the pair of Maison Bagues-style crystal sconces we have in our home (pictured above). If I wanted to nab another pair, embedded below is a break-down from various sources online. The most expensive being sold at Elizabeth Pash followed by Sotheby’s and then going down the chart.
Ex: Pair of Maison Bagues-style Crystal Sconces
Gilt iron and crystal sconces attributed to/in the style of Maison Baguès
$1,800 via Live Auctioneers
$1,995 via eBay
$3,275 via Sotheby’s
$10,900 via Elizabeth Pash
One more example–I purchased a regency style inlaid mahogany soft table for $250 at a Hindman auction in Palm Beach over the summer. The exact table is selling for over $7,000 on 1stdibs. Be sure to do your research!
Tips for Finding Great Deals at Physical Sales:
Brick & mortar thrift stores attached to a church or non-profit will have better deals. Period. The generous individuals that donate product are not looking for a consigner check; therefore, the store has more flexibility on price and can negotiate as they wish. A few great thrift stores attached to charities include, but are not limited to: Housing Works in NYC, which benefits Aids research; The Church Mouse at Palm Beach, benefitting The Church of Bethesda-by-the-Sea; and, the Assistance League of Houston, which benefits multiple local charities.
Ditch the luxury mom mobile if you are pulling-up to a physical estate sale, and borrow your Aunt Linda’s truck if you are planning to negotiate. Furthermore, think more leggings and less Louboutins when you are planning to haggle the price of goods in-person.
Download the EstateSales.net app to your phone. Input the best zip code in your city to be aware of what sales are happening when and where. The majority of sales are posted on Tuesday.
Get to know the people that run the physical estate sales in your city. If you do, they are more likely to keep you posted on sales, select items, news on future sales, and cut you deals for items esp. towards the end of sales.
After a few months of using the EstateSales.net app, you will start to recognize who is organizing the nicer estate sales in your area. This is not always the case but is generally pretty true. In Atlanta, the organizers whose physical sales I gravitate towards the most are VT estate sales and Shirley Wender / Litch Carpenter. Shirley is pushing 90 and looks like Lynn Wyatt.
The address of a physical estate sale is made public the day before the sale occurs. If you google the address, you can sometimes learn about the couple, their chosen decorator, and see additional photos inside of their home.
If the house is good and you have done your research, go in with a plan of attack and bring a large tote for small misc. items!
Demolition sales are organized by the same folks who do the estate sale and are great places to pick-up light fixtures, hardware, electronics, tile and even (surprisingly expensive) items like hardwood shelves. Know your needed measurements and befriend a local carpenter to help with any purchases or questions. I once saw a brand new looking Wolff oven for an absolute steal so I talked with a carpenter on-site who looked at my floor-plan and instantly told me it wouldn’t work in my kitchen without a major renovation. The steal then became a super-expensive indulgence and I had to walk away.
Don’t give up after your first visit to a thrift store or estate sale. These sales are a treasure trove but it takes time to comb through the junk for gems.
You truly never know what you will find at estate sales, but sometimes, you can get a good idea within the first minute of walking in a home. One of the best houses I hit for an estate sale had beautiful Zubar panels in the entryway and I instantly knew it was most likely gonna be good. On the other hand, if you see beat-up Uggs at the front-door, the house may not be filled with as many gems!
Cash in on deals and specials. All in-person estate sales generally discount 50% on the last day.
Use the weather and season to your advantage! For example, if it’s off season in Palm Beach or downpour raining at your local physical estate sale–the better chance you have to score because you have less competition. Darwin’s theory applies to just about everything in life but esp. to thrifting.
Be resourceful! I own a PR firm and love energizing people around a product, service, and/or event. At times, I have traded working hours for product. When we first moved into our home in Savannah and our renovation budget was nonexistent, I worked the week of Christmas for a tile company that needed some PR assistance in exchange for our bathroom tiles.
Know the market. Never ever buy china, silver, or crystal from a retail store! If you are like me and appreciate these items, you can find them for a steal at home sales, thrift stores, and across the internet.
Shop Geographically Smart. As a general rule of thumb, thrift stores in areas of higher net-worths will have nicer items. This is not always always the case but if your time is tight, I would recommend swinging by stores in select cities and around neighborhoods that are in nicer areas. Thrift stores located in cities where second or third vacation homes are common are probably not as interested in making a profit off of their furniture. They most likely also invested in a high-end decorator when originally designing their home and those items can now seen at their local thrift store. This is a double win for you. Additional insider tip: Kofski’s estate sales in Palm Beach occur only in-season and are full-fledged fire sales from full mansions on the island.
Elizabeth’s Best Finds at Physical Sales:
Two Pierre Frey Curtains and 9 Rolls of Matching Wallpaper
I stumbled across at a physical estate sale in Atlanta. I believe I paid $400 for the curtains and $10 a roll of the corresponding matching wallpaper. At the sale, I met a man who seemed knowledgeable and had a pair of amazing framed intaglios in his hand. I knew we were destined to be friends, or at least, I wanted to be his. I knew what I had found was nice, but didn’t know how nice so I went up and introduced myself and showed him what I had. It turns out he was a well-known decorator and the owner of a great showroom at ADAC, our local decorating center in Atlanta. It would have been difficult to google to find the fabric designer right then. Don’t be afraid to approach others at the sale. He told me the designer, make, and offered me double the asking price to take off my hands right then.
Brand-new Monique Lhuillier Lace Wedding Shoes
I snagged these off Ebay for $100 a week before my wedding. I wished I had been smarter to try and find my dress on Ebay (s/o to Julia Amory who did this) when I went through the dress shopping process. I recommend this to all brides-to-be.
Bunny Williams Celadon Table Lamps
I snagged these for $100 a piece. When I heard about the deals at Bunny Williams’ first sample sale a couple years ago, I called their corporate office. They graciously let me place an over-the-phone order for items at 85% off their retail value.
Starburst Light Fixture
I snagged it for $25. I found it in a box in a garage under tons of random misc. items.
Set of Mottahedeh Sacred Bird Dinner Plates
These were found at their annual sample sale in High Point, NC. They were graciously discovered and transported by fellow deal hunter, Danielle Rollins.
I scored the beauty above on the last day of an estate sale in Atlanta for $75.
150 Scalloped Hand-Embroidered Linen Dinner Napkins
These were made at the same factory as Julia B. The napkins were priced at $4 a piece at a sample sale and I negotiated a trade to work in exchange for them. I now need to plan a party!
Two Brunschwig & Fils Carsten Check Curtain Panels
There were $150 and are in great shape (as you can see above!).
The glider was for our nursery and was found at the local Goodwill for $15.
Thin Bamboo Table Lamp
I purchased the lamp above for $4 at an estate sale. I paired it with a £100 Ben Pentreath marbled lampshade. I fell in love with the fun shade and purchased it in London and carried it on the plane with me home. When the lamp costs $4, you have more flexibility to splurge on the shade!
Heavy Gold Mirror and Botanical Prints
This mirror was snagged for $75 along with some pretty botanical prints from a yard sale in Santa Fe, NM.
Thank you again, Elizabeth! I hope you all are feeling inspired by her amazing finds and wealth of thrifting guidance. I’m off to do some bargain hunting!
(Photography courtesy of Kelli Boyd)