Cheap & Cheerful

Last time I shared my dining room table score for $8 and the subsequent fling with black spray paint it prompted. What I didn’t share were the other things I picked up on my adventures that day. The Salvation Army … Continue reading

Black Spray Paint is my New BFF

 …but I’m a terrible blogger for not documenting my love affair with black spray paint this past weekend enough to do a DIY post. Oops. Bad blogger! I’ll do what I can.

I told you last about the furniture that I rented from Easy Home to stage the house. While they were able to provide me with most of what I needed, there were still some things lacking, i.e. a dining set. Since we don’t have a separate dining room in this house, I though it was super important to show that it is an eat-in kitchen, and to have a table that could seat at least 4. Easy Home only had one set that was wayyy to huge and bulky, and we have a set in storage that belonged to Jon’s mum, and while it is a very nice mahogany set, it is very large as well, and the style is more Victorian and fancy. Since we’ve gone more modern and clean in this house, it just wasn’t a good fit… in fact, it probably wouldn’t have fit at all.

So my mission was to find a small- scale dining set. I knew there was a perfect set at Ikea that I’d been eyeing for a while, but it was $149, and the 2nd part of this mission was cheap. So that meant to the trio I would go a-hunting. I measure the space in the kitchen I figured would be the most a dining set should take up, and off I went.

First stop was the Salvation Army. They had a small little wooden table, square and just very basic, with two upholstered chairs, similar to this, but blue: 

However, they wanted $49 for the table, and $49 for the two chairs for $100 total for the set. For that price, considering the table was a little roughed up and I would probably need to paint it, and that the upholstery on the chairs was kind of a dusty blue velour and they weren’t quite the style i was looking for, I felt it was too expensive and passed- after all, it was my first stop.

Next stop was Goodwill. I went straight to the back where the furniture was, and this was the scene I encountered:

IMG-20130411-00383At first the round table caught my eye, but I quickly realized the rectangular one fit the bill almost perfectly. It had black metal legs with a wooden top. It can with 3 black metal chairs with geometric fabric seats, with bits of white, mint, yellow, brown and blush. The table had the right depth, and although the length was longer than I had originally been envisioning, I actually had the space to accommodate the length.

And it was $8. SOLD!

I marched right up to the cash, before looking around at anything else, and paid for the table so no one else could get their grubby hands on it.The girl at the cash gave me a big “Sold” sticker to put on it.  I’ve learned the hard way that in these types of places, if you can’t stick it in your cart, pay for it right away so you don’t lose out. I continued to wander a bit and found a few things I’ll share in another post, but picked up a metal wall coat rack that was perfect for going by the front door. I’m terrible and didn’t take any ‘before’ pics so I apologize.

So I  wrestled my treasure into the car and stopped at Home Depot to grab a can of spray paint. I used the Rustoleum Painters Touch in Flat Black. Spray painting really is the easiest thing; all I did was  put down a drop cloth, give the table a once over with some medium sandpaper to even out any nicks and scratches, and had at ‘er with the spray paint:


The best method I found was to work in smaller sections, and to go slowly in a back- and-forth motion to make sure the surface was evenly covered. I only needed to paint the wooden top, as the legs were already a black metal. I gave any scratches on the legs a quick spray too. The quick coat of black cleaned it up nicely, and it looks great in the kitchen:



Since I had the spray paint going, I grabbed an old clock that I had never known what to do with, and gave it a coat as well:


The clock face was removable, so I didn’t need to tape it off. Previously it had been a bronze-y greenish colour and I had never really liked it – the black is a vast improvement over the bronze-y green:


Now the clock lives over the window in the kitchen- it fills the space perfectly, and is a great touch of decor int he kitchen:


I also sprayed the coat rack I had grabbed at Goodwill- I think it was $3.99. It was originally a creamy colour that had been roughed up to look rustic, but the colour didn’t work with the interior of the house It had a ceramic disc in the middle as well as two in the corners, so I taped them off  with painters tape and sprayed away:


I hung the coat rack in the front hallway, and it’s a perfect spot to put your coat and shoes when you come in, as we don’t have a hall closet:

IMG_1257And therein ends my affair with black spray paint. I always say, its amazing what a coat of paint can do to something!

Poppin’ Tags

{Have you listened to Mackelmore’s album the Heist? If not, you must- Its amazing! I am O B S E S S E D.}

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned previously my penchant for thrift and second hand stores. For everything from furniture and decor to clothing and jewelry, I have found amazing things second-hand for next to nothing.  Everything I know I was taught by my mother, who is the queen of thrifting and vintage finds; my parents’ house and closet is a museum of the amazing things she has collected over the years. I still love wandering around and looking at it all, there’s always something new. My friends used to come over and walk around in amazement ( still do!). She has taught me to identify eras in fashion in both clothing and home items, to tell the difference between leather and vinyl, to know any and all brands worth knowing, and to spot a fake anything from a mile away as well as how to identify the real deals. And a few real deals, I have found. From vintage Chanel purses to 70’s teak furniture, you name it, my mom has found it. Including the most fabulous black and white chevron  Dior Mink coat ever created. Not kidding. Similar to this, but not quite: 

But I digress. I just love that coat. It’s the ultimate thrift shop coup.

So naturally, when it comes to start staging this house for sale, my local trio are my first stop: the Salvation Army,  Value Village and Goodwill. There’s a Bibles for Missions store the other end of town I usually forget about, so I don’t get in very often. We also have a few great second hand and consignment stores downtown in our city, but they are a bit more expensive and I don’t pop in nearly as often. Garage sales, church sales and the like are also great spots to find things during the summer- my garage-saleing expertise was passed on from my grandparents ( mom’s parents) who used to take us garage saleing as kids every saturday morning when we were at the cottage with them for the weekend- some of my fondest memories of my grandparents (as you can see, my penchant for this type of stuff is inborn).

But back to the trio. Here’s my take, and what I’ve come to learn about them:

Value Village: Usually, this is my last resort. I’m not the biggest fan of Value Village’s business practices. It is a privately-held for-profit company, as opposed to a charity, and the company partners with local non-profits by purchasing and reselling donated items. The non-profits collect and deliver donated goods to Value Village, which pays the non-profits for the items at a bulk rate. Many of the contracts these organizations sign with Value Village provide a very small return compared to the (perceived) large amounts of money Value Village retains. According to an article that appeared in the Alberta Report in 1996 “According to the Times, for every $1.00 that went to undersigned charities from some Ellison-owned thrift stores, $2.55 went to the Ellison associates” (via).  At Value Village you pay tax on all of the goods you buy even though they are used, and the goods available, especially clothing, have been specifically merchandised. When items are donated, they are  sorted and anything that is designer or of value is not  put out of the floor. I have heard various information about where items of value are sent, including high-end consignment stores, sold online, and even sent overseas where designer goods are paid a premium for, but I haven’t found any of that written down anywhere. What I do know from experience is that you usually won’t find anything designer or of really great value anymore at Value Village. You may find the odd great thing that has been overlooked ( I found a silk Chanel scarf in perfect condition at my local store about a year ago that I’m sure is real, but they probably thought was fake), but for the most part it is run-of-the-mill crap that you can buy for the same price or cheaper at the retail stores in the mall on sale. Generally, I find it to be too expensive for low-to-average quality items.  The odd time you do find something great, it is usually priced so high its ridiculous.

Goodwill: Goodwill is a registered charity operating for over 75 years, and through operating the thrift stores, they create jobs and provide employment opportunities for people who face employment barriers, i.e. the young and the old, new Canadians and disabled persons,  allowing people to work and learn new skills through paid employment. You will not pay tax on any goods purchased, and all revenues fund Goodwill’s core mission to create jobs and opportunities for those in your communities facing barriers to employment.(via) I have read some not- so stellar things about Goodwill’s operating practices over the years, but they have changed a bit in southern Ontario since 2005. Goodwill’s pricing operates mostly on a standard pricing structure, i.e, women’s tops, $4, men’s pants $6, pillow cases $1 etc. ( I don’t remember the actual prices, pretty close, but for example’s sake). Things such as housewares, furniture, jewelry, etc. will usually be individually priced, but always very reasonable.  Goodwill is where I find the best furniture & housewares deals, art & decor stuff. And you do see the evidence of their mission in the stores; there are always visibly workers who have a disability or are elderly, and they are always the nicest people.

The Salvation Army: or The Sally Ann, as you may hear it referred to by your grandmother,  is a Christian organization that has existed for over 100 years, and is a 100% charitable organization.  86% of all monies received by The Salvation Army go directly to  charitable work – only 4% goes to fundraising and 9% to administration. the S.A. Thrift Stores support many programs and services provided by The Salvation Army, including food banks, shelters, children’s camps, addiction treatment facilities and many other community programs. In fact, the Salvation Army is Canada’s largest non-governmental provider of social programs(via). In the Salvation army, you will not pay taxes, because it is a charitable organization. They also do not usually discriminate on pricing. If there are designer or high- value items, you will most likely see them in the silent or normal auctions they will often hold. I have found things to be fairly priced based on their conditions, and have often found brand name and designer clothing at great prices, along with household goods and furniture. Recently, I have found some of their furniture to be a bit overpriced, i.e. $50 for a small beat- up wooden table and then another $50 for the matching chairs, and Ikea tables priced higher than what you can buy the for new.  a bit crazy. But overall pretty good, and their workers are all often volunteers. I always donate to the Salvation Army.

Sorry about the social studies lesson, but I do believe it is important to know where you are donating and buying from. I don’t buy from Value Village unless it has something I’ve been looking for that I haven’t found at Goodwill or the Salvation Army. I prefer to shop and donate to the Salvation Army because they are the most transparent about their money, but I often find the best stuff at Goodwill. However, I by no means know everything about these organizations, so you should definitely do your own research.

Some tips to remember when thrifting:

Be open minded. Many people can’t wrap their heads around this type of shopping; in fact, some of my friend’s heads are probably rolling reading this, even though they know I get great deals from these places all the time. When I receive a compliment on an outfit or something in my home, I am always very honest about where I bought the item and what I paid for it.  But not everyone has the patience to comb through the racks at second hand shops, some can’t get past the ‘ick’ factor, and some just never think to go into these types of shops, if they haven’t been exposed much to them. But if you do go, remember that a ride through the washing machine or dishwasher can completely change your outlook on an item, a coat of spray paint can do magic, and white vinegar will take the smell out of anything ( true, I promise! except maybe for cat pee- if something smells like cat pee, take an automatic pass!), and so many things can be re-purposed and given a new life. Usually all something needs is a good cleaning, so the ability to have a bit of imagination is key.

Shop often. Merchandise comes in daily and changes over quickly, and especially if you are looking for something specific, stop in every few days if you can. Know that it can be very hit or miss, and that you can’t expect to find exactly what you’re looking for all the time, or even anything decent at all.

If you see something you can’t live without, buy it now. If in doubt, and its cheap, buy it too ( within reason). Often if you pass something up on a Wednesday evening, when you go back Thursday evening, it will be gone. If you pass up on something, and go back in two weeks and its still there, then it was meant to be.

Only buy it if you’re satisfied with its condition. If something doesn’t fit, has a stain, a hole, or other wear, unless you are 100% sure you can get it out/ fix it, and committed to actually doing so, don’t buy it. If you’re anything like me, you’ll never get around to putting in a new zipper, hemming a skirt that’s too long, or replacing all the buttons on a top that one is missing from and you’ll never match. It just wont happen, there’s not enough hours in the day unless you have nothing better to do with your time, and you will end up with a bag of clothes in your closet that is ultimately headed right back to the Salvation Army.

Same goes for furniture. If you have to fix it, paint it, or otherwise change it, unless you love it and it is for sure you’re next DIY project and just what you were after, odds are it will sit in your garage forever, untouched, and ultimately end up back where it came from.

Get to know your brands. Your have to know what you’re buying, what the retail costs are ( approx) and what the quality is like. You will often see things from the dollar store, Wal-mart, Ikea, etc. at prices similar or even more than what you could buy things for new.  Same with clothing; know your brands and what different brands retail for. You don’t want to pay more for an Old Navy t-shirt at Goodwill than you could get it in-store on sale. That gives you the sense to know when you really stumble across a gold mine.  Like a $6 Coach purse. But the flip side of that is you need to know what the defining characteristics of a brand are, to know how to spot fakes. Like with Louis Vuitton, if you ever see any of the LV print upside down, you’ll know its a knock off.

Read every label. Know your materials, even if its a brand you don’t recognize, because there will be a million brand you won’t, especially older stuff. But if it say “100% Silk” odds are it will still be a decent quality piece. But be wary of reading where things are from; ‘100% cashmere, made in Scotland’  is very different than ‘100% cashmere, made in China’. And ‘ Made in China’ is very different than ‘Made in Hong Kong’. If a label is ripped out, it can sometimes mean its a good piece that someone didn’t want identified at a thrift store. But if you know your brands & styles, sometimes you can guess.

Know your socio-demographic areas. If you live in a city where there are multiples of these types of stores in different areas, be cognisant  of the type of area it is; higher income, lower, etc. as this will affect the type and quality of merchandise in the stores. Choose the ones that are in a higher-income area for the best results, although no matter where you go, something sill probably surprise you.

I have furnished each of the places I have lived with a large amount of furniture and accessories from second hand stores and will continue to do so, so this post serves more as a background to some of the DIY and thrift-score posts that will invariably be put on here.  I’ve got one coming for you next time, possible two ;). I think its a great way to save yourself some money, and to collect unique & vintage pieces that you wouldn’t otherwise find.

What’s your take on thrifting?? I’d love to hear your thoughts, and if there are any great finds you gotten second hand!


Well, don’t you clean up nice!

We’ve decided we are going to list the house for sale, and see what happens. It will hopefully list next Monday, provided everything works out and we finish up on schedule.

That being said, our plan of attack changed a bit with intending to sell rather than move in. If we were moving in, many of the little things we spent the past week/ end on wouldn’t be high on the priority list,  but since we’re going to sell, the house needs to be in tip-top shape so we get the most bang for our buck with this renovation. We started to really focus on the things that would get the house sold and the overall appearance.

We spent a good few days last week & weekend giving the house a through cleaning to remove all the construction debris that was still hanging around, and I spent a significant amount of time scraping paint off the new floors- considering that the contractors had ‘painted everything’ before the flooring went in, there was a ridiculous amount of painting to still be done- the old doors and trim, touch ups, you name it, I painted it for 4 days. And didn’t put down any drop cloths, because I didn’t realize exactly how much there was still to do. Oops.  I never want to paint another piece of trim again.

Jon’s brother James kindly came over one evening and gave me a hand with the cleaning. So after scraping paint off the new floors for a few hours, we attempted to organize the remaining tools and building materials,and gave the whole place a good dusting, vacuuming and mopping. And not only was I grateful to James for his help, but the place looked really good after, despite the clutter still hanging around:


front hall, looking towards front door


front hall, looking towards kitchen/ stairs


bedroom #3, smallest


bedroom #3, smallest


bedroom #2


stairs to 2nd floor


kitchen, view from front hall doorway


kitchen, view from side door

Please excuse the mess that is the kitchen- it is functioning as our command central, so all the tools and various supplies are scattered all over.


kitchen looking into living space


dinette area of kitchen


living area


view of kitchen from living area


living room, back door to yard


powder room


view from top of stairs, into master & bath


main bath. still needs new light fixture ( the one we had walked off) and the mirror hung.


master bedroom


master, side view

When the spaces are all tidy and clean, I really like the look of the place. I think the colours are great, and we did a pretty good job choosing  all the ‘permanent'” fixtures. I like to think/ hope that this place will sell, and fast. There must be a ton of people, whether a young couple starting out, a young family, even parents looking for a student house for their kid to live in through university( since we live in a university town), that this would fit the bill for.  Who wouldn’t want a brand new, completely renovated house with an amazing kitchen, great bathrooms and adorable backyard? I would! And there’s nothing currently on the market that even comes close to this place at the price point we’re listing at. It’s gotta fly! ( Knock on wood!)

The next step is to get some furniture in here and stage the space. I want to show that the rooms have purpose and although some of them are smaller, they are perfectly usable and able to fit all of the necessary furniture. We’ve actually already got some furniture in, along with some artwork and accessories, but I haven’t snapped pictures of all that yet, so that  post will be up next! Stay tuned!