A cheap, quick and dirty job.

So, I bought these chairs.DSC02729 chairs edited 2

I found them at Value Village.  And it was love at first sight. I spotted them among a bunch of junky furniture,  and was immediately drawn to the chrome frame, because it matched my chrome and glass coffee table perfectly. And I like shiny things too. Jon calls me a magpie.

Anyway, I was wandering the furniture section at Value village on a  Thursday night when Jon was out of town. I had just had Easy Home pick up the rental furniture that didn’t work and drop off a different bedroom set, leaving the living room empty.  I was actually on the hunt for more colourful accessories to match what I had already purchased, but I do have to admit, finding something to fill the living room space was in the back of mind. The idea of leaving the living room empty was a bit anxiety- inducing to me, like I mentioned here. But it wasn’t what I was on the prowl for, because I just honestly didn’t think it would happen. I had no budget, so even with my thrifting skills I wasn’t even really trying because it seemed so out of reach.

Then I saw these chairs. They were marked $7.99 each. After a bit of inspection, discovering that they were in really good shape, and that the tweed was probably original, I decided they were coming home with me. I just couldn’t pass them up. I would have bought them even if I wasn’t on the half- lookout for some Unicorns of  living room furniture. One just doesn’t come across perfect mid-century, possibly Milo Baughman, chrome chairs that often. If they are real Milo Baughman chairs, they could be worth a pretty penny, but I didn’t find an obvious tag so I’ll have to do some investigating.

I attempted to balance one chair in my shopping cart and dragged the other behind me to the checkout  to get me another of those big ole’ SOLD signs so no one else would swipe them.  Then I ran back to the fabric section to see if there was anything I could use to do a quick & dirty re-upholstery,since I didn’t really have time to attempt my first all-get-out re-upholstery job. And lo and behold, there was a huge piece of black fabric for $4.99. I felt like the thrift gods must have been smiling over me that night, because everything was working out just fine ( knock on wood). I just prayed I could get them in the car.

I had also found a bunch of decorative stuff I was planning to buy before I found the chairs. Then, because they were such a  major coup, I decided to put the majority of the stuff back, because I didn’t love most of it the way I loved those chairs. I ended up buying two things; this really interesting bowl for $4.99 and another vase that matched the others I picked up the day before for $3.99:

IMG_1627 IMG_1626 IMG_1652

Then at the checkout, the woman only charged me for one of the chairs. I didn’t realize till I got home and looked at my receipt  but had thought the total was cheaper than expected…bonus! I’m not about to look a gift horse…er, chair… in the mouth.

So I’m kinda in love with these chairs. Except with the tweed. It’s in good shape and perhaps would work well in another space, but with the brand new black/ white/ gray/modern-ish theme we have going on in the house, it didn’t quite work. So enter my DIY re-upholstery, quickie-style:

The materials I used for this project were: black fabric ( a large piece, about 30 x 170 if I remember correctly, but don’t quote me on that. It cane from VV), scissors, my putty knife and a screwdriver. I began by cutting the fabric in half:

DSC02739

Oh yes, and I used thumbtacks. From the dollar store. I told you this was a cheap DIY!

DSC02748
I laid the fabric out long over the chair so that the excess draped over the seat:

DSC02745

Then I flipped the chair over so I was starting with the back of the chair. And I proceeded to use my putty knife to shove the end of the fabric under the metal crossbar at the back:DSC02750

Please keep in mind I had never really attempted something like this before, so I had no idea if it would actually work or be a major fail. I wasn’t following any directions or a project scooped from Pinterest- this was all me, winging-it.

My method was mostly shove-the-ends-in-the-cracks-and wrap-it-like-a-present. With a few thumbtacks thrown in to hold the folds down. So once I had the end of the fabric shoved into the cross bar in the back, I righted the chair and pulled the fabric up over the top of the chair, and tucked a fold down in between the seat back and the cushion: DSC02752  And anchored it down on the side with a thumbtack:DSC02758

Then I pulled the fabric down and tucked it in between the seat and back. Then the fabric got pulled down the side of the chair seat, and anchored under the seat with a thumbtack:DSC02755 I did the same on the other side, but realized my material was a bit skinny width-wise, so I couldn’t get it pulled under the chair. So i just left the side unanchored, as the fabric hung down almost long enough to cover the side ( this is what you get for blindly buying Value Village material without measuring anything): DSC02757

Then I doubled the fabric under itself because it was wayyy to long, but i didn’t want to cut it, just in case. It was long enough to wrap the end completely under itself all the way to where the seat meets the back, and I shoved the excess fabric in there.  While I was pulling and tucking the fabric into the front of the seat of the chair and vigorously trying to get the fabric under the front chrome seat bar with my putty knife, I realized there were screws that were holding the metal support bar tight to the seat frame. DSC02753So, brilliant me, I unscrewed the screws a bit, and it made it much easier to shove the fabric in, and re-tighten: DSC02761Much easier.DSC02762

Once the seat was done, I went back up to the sides of the back cushion section that I had left open. I basically tucked the fabric in the way you would wrap a present and used a thumbtack to keep it in place:

DSC02758

And voilà:DSC02767

Wash, rinse and repeat on the other chair, and you have a set of brand-new fancy-schmancy modernist chairs: DSC02766

Not bad for about $15/ for the set!  And it took me about an hour and a half to do the whole DIY from start to finish. Unicorns indeed! Wait till you see how these babies made that awkward, small living room look like a designers dream… That’ll be up next!

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High five for Friday!

Happy Friday all! So glad the weekend is here… and it’s the first weekend in a long time where there are no- house related manual-labour-type things to do… although there will be some really stressful brain/ thinking/ anxiety- inducing ones to deal … Continue reading

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

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!