My Home at Christmas

For some reason it took me longer than usual to get my home decorated for the holidays this year. While I usually get it done over a weekend, this year it seemed to evolve over several weeks following Thanksgiving. I’ve shared my holiday toy truck, shirt pillow and snow globe projects with you in previous posts. In this post, I thought I’d show you a few other things I’ve done around the house to decorate for the holidays.

I featured these window screens in my very first blog post last year. I decided to repaint them charcoal gray which I think gives a little more weight to the fireplace than the previous blue color. I flanked them with rustic lanterns and intertwined fairy lights through magnolia leaves, pine cones and a “noel” sign.

The family room got some red plaid flannel pillows, a cable knit throw, and a small tree.
The round mirror in the dining room has been encircled with faux greenery and red berries.
I placed a few pinecones in my antique ironstone egg cup collection inside my dining room hutch. A few sprigs of cedar add life and draw attention to this area behind glass.

Rolled up red and white hand towels are displayed on the bamboo shelf. A cinnamon spiced candle surrounded by pine cones and cedar adds festive color and fragrance to the bathroom.

Over the toilet is a festive holiday sign that I topped with a red bow and some greenery. I changed out the towels on the hooks over the tub with pretty red ones that I bring out only at this time of year.

 A red velour pillow, a scented candle and a faux fur throw cozy up the master bedroom.

The crewel work “Holly Jolly” pillow was made from a placemat from Target, while the larger pillow in back was crafted from an old sweater.
A bunch of faux mistletoe on a beautiful crystal hanging from the door knob at our entry door is a lovely reminder to kiss the ones we love often.

I’d like to sincerely thank all my dear readers for your support and encouragment during my first year as a blogger. Every comment, like, share, pin, or repost means the world to me. I wish you all a safe and happy holiday season. Merry Christmas!

 

 

 

 

Magical Miniature Worlds


Snow globes and terrariums have been around forever. These miniature worlds under glass have always seemed to capture the imagination. And why not? They have a magical quality that evokes childhood memories and wonder.

I recently purchased a glass cloche for the purpose of creating my own holiday-themed miniature world. Going through my collection of Christmas ornaments, I found a couple of ceramic figurines of ice skaters which were the perfect focal point for my scene. Using a vintage silver serving bowl as my base, I filled it with fluffy fake snow. A few bottle brush trees of varying sizes were nestled in around the figurines. A wooden sleigh ornament added another texture to the scene. This little world requires more than a glance to take in, and brings detail and whimsy to my holiday decor. 

To make it even more magical, I placed a string of fairy lights inside the cloche (hiding the battery pack under the snow). It looks enchanting at night!

I enjoyed creating this little scene and once I got started, there was no stopping me! I realized that just about any clear glass container could be used for such a project and set about my home to find other vessels from which to make more snow globes.

I learned a few things the hard way while working on this project. I had to disassemble and re-do my globes several times, so I’m sharing my tips in hopes you won’t make the same mistakes.

Tips for Making Snow Globes

  1. The wider the mouth of your jar, the more space you will have to create your scene, so look for jars with large lids.
  2. A pretty ribbon around the jar lid edge covers any printing and adds a bit of elegance. Glue ribbon around the edge of the jar lid first. 
  3. Test your scene inside the jar (with the lid screwed on) to make sure everything fits before adding snow. I made the mistake of putting everything perfectly in place only to find my tree was too tall to fit inside the jar!
  4. In order to lift the scene enough to be clearly visible above the snow, you will likely need to elevate your pieces. I used a wine cork sliced into rounds to raise my ornaments a bit. Adhere your ornaments to the cork with glue. 
  5. Once you are satisfied with the appearance and fit of your scene, secure the ornaments to the lid with glue.
  6. Place the snow inside the jar.
  7. With your figures upside down, place the lid onto the jar. Then turn it upright so that the snow falls onto your scene. You may need to shake it a bit in order to settle the snow evenly between your figurines.

    I ditched my original jar and found a jar with wider mouth for this one. With the larger platform I was able to fit the tall tree and add a second one.
The German caroler figurine was given to me by a dear neighbor when I was a child. I happened to have the red piano ornament which was the perfect accompaniment. Elevated on a green depression glass pedestal dish, it adds a sweet holiday touch to the bathroom.
I emptied a large glass canister of laundry room supplies and used it to make another snow globe. Positioned behind the canister is a jewelry tree draped with a strand of gold beads. Surrounded by a few sprigs of greenery and placed on my kitchen island, it adds holiday spirit to a room that generally doesn’t get a lot of Christmas decorating.

This is a project that can probably be made with things you already have on hand. While Christmas ornaments make great focal points, don’t limit yourself to them. A bird’s nest, pine cones, or other natural elements also look lovely surrounded by snow and placed under glass.

So I urge you not to toss that pickle jar when the pickles run out! Use it to create your own snow globe for the holidays. I think you’ll find this project will spark your imagination and fill your home fill with a touch of magic. 

Shirt Pillow Tutorial

For me, a big part of decorating for the holidays includes changing out pillows in nearly every room of my home. It’s an easy and inexpensive thing to do that infuses the house with the Christmas spirit. When the season is over, I simply remove the holiday pillow cover and put a different cover on the pillow form. Storing pillow covers takes up little space and allows me to continuously change up the look of my rooms.

Last year, I made holiday pillow covers from a place mat, sweaters, a skirt, a flannel nightgown, and even a velour bath robe. This year, I added to my collection with a pillow cover made from a flannel shirt.

I found this bold red and black buffalo check men’s flannel shirt at the thrift store and knew the print would be perfect for my holiday decor. Here’s how I transformed it into a pillow.

  1. Measure first. This shirt was exactly 20″ across and my pillow form measured 20″ X 20″ so I was able to use the existing side seams without having to cut or sew them.
  2.  Button the shirt completely and spread it out on a table so that it lies flat, making sure there are no wrinkles on either side. 
  3.  Cut straight across the top of the shirt just under the sleeves. Then, cut straight across the bottom so that the total length is approximately an inch larger than your pillow form. If your shirt is larger than your pillow form, cut 1/2″ larger than your pillow form on each side. This shirt’s checked pattern made cutting a straight line rather easy.

4. Now, turn it inside out so that the right sides of the fabric are together. Pin across the cut edges and then sew the edges together.

5.  Unbutton the shirt and turn it right side out. Ironing the seams open before turning creates a more professional look, especially if your fabric is stiff. With the tip of your scissors, poke out the corners so that you get nice sharp points on all four corners.

6.  Insert your pillow form, button it up, and ta-da–you’ve just made a pillow from a shirt!

Would you believe this pillow only took about 15 minutes to make? It’s a fun, easy way to recycle old shirts. When the season is over, I’ll remove this cover and put on a different one, but right now I’m enjoying the cozy look it brings to my living room.

Do you have any old shirts that would make great pillows? If so, I encourage you to give this project a try. It’s easier than you think.

An Old Toy Truck

Are you a Pinterest addict like me? I can spend hours drooling over beautiful photographs and gathering ideas. Last year around the holidays, I came across a decorating idea I loved and decided that I would start looking for a way to replicate it. It was an old toy truck that had been decorated for the holidays as a table centerpiece.

I came across this picture on Pinterest and it became my inspiration. Photo courtesy of Janet Collazo.

A few weeks ago I found my truck! I visited a new-to-me thrift store and sitting right at the front of the shop was my toy dump truck. Best yet, the price had been marked down from an outrageous $75 to only $6. I’m not sure why it had been marked down so drastically but I don’t ask questions when I see these kinds of deals–I just do my inner happy dance and snatch them up!

While I initially intended to use it only for Christmas decorating, I quickly realized that it could be outfitted for fall as well. I immediately filled the bed of the truck with fallen leaves, dried foliage, sprays of orange berries, an acorn squash, and white mini-pumpkins for a natural fall display. I even placed one mini-pumpkin at the rear of the truck to make it appear as though it had fallen off during transit.

After enjoying it decorated this way for a while, it was time to look forward to Christmas. The truck’s original bright yellow color had been painted over with black paint and while it wasn’t terrible, I knew I wanted the color to be a little more vibrant for the holiday season. I was leaning heavily towards red but ultimately decided that green would be more versatile.

Milk paint comes as a powder and is mixed with water to create paint. It is a completely natural, non-toxic substance that works well on metal as well as a variety of other surfaces.

Knowing that milk paint adheres well to metal and makes for a old fashioned matte finish, I decided that this was the type of paint I wanted to use. I like its chalky texture and knew from a previous project that it was easy and forgiving to work with. I researched my options on line and purchased a fairly bright Tavern Green color.

After two coats of milk paint and a light brushing with an antiquing glaze, the truck has the rough vintage look I was going for.

After the first coat, I could tell the color was going to be a little brighter than I had hoped so I added a second coat and then brushed on a brown antiquing glaze to tone it down a bit. To add more detail to the truck, I added an accent of cream colored paint on the tires to create “white walls.”

A couple of packages were placed at the rear of the truck to appear as if they had fallen off during transit.

I love how it turned out! I tucked in some evergreen cuttings and placed a small artificial Christmas tree in the bed of the truck. I added a string of fairy lights to the tree to enliven it and filled the bed with a load of tiny wrapped gifts. A couple of the packages were placed at the rear of the truck to create the impression that they had fallen off during transport. To decorate the front grill, I added a tiny spray crafted from a sprig of rosemary, a brass bell, and some faux berries.

The toy truck adds a spirit of fun and whimsy wherever it is placed and I just love how versatile the piece is. I can envision it filled with a pretty spring flower arrangement in the summer or pots of succulents in the summer. I may even use it as a serving platform for party favors, drinks or utensils at an outdoor party. Rest assured, you’ll likely see it again in a future post!

Perhaps you have an old toy truck that once belonged to your children–or maybe you saved one from your own childhood. If you’ve got one packed away somewhere, I urge you to bring it out and use it in your seasonal decor. It is likely to bring smiles to the faces of everyone who sees it.

 

Living Room Refresh

A change of seasons makes me crave a change of scenery. Not only do I enjoy adding seasonal decor to my home, but sometimes I like to rearrange my furniture for a fresh look. Now that we’ve lived in our home for over a year, it felt like a good time to change things up in the living room. The room is ample in size and lends itself to an evolving layout.

This is the living room before rearranging the furniture. While this layout functioned well, a change of scenery can help you see your space with new eyes and provide a greater appreciation of the features of the room.

Here’s the room’s previous layout. The sofa was placed directly across from the fireplace and two matching arm chairs flanked it. The coffee table was centered in the middle of the seating arrangement. The mahogany server was placed in front of the large window facing the street. My antique dough bowl held a place of honor on top of the server (see above picture).

After measuring my walls and furniture to make sure everything would fit with the new plan I had in mind, the sofa was moved in front of the large window that faces the street and the mahogany server was positioned on the wall where the sofa had been. The arm chairs now hold down the side of the room opposite the sofa. I reoriented the sea grass rug and the coffee table. A round end table from another room was added so that a lamp could be placed next to the sofa.

With this new arrangement, an accent table was needed to go between the two armchairs. Since there is an abundance of square and rectangular shapes in the room, I wanted a round table to soften the hard edges. I found this table on Amazon and thought it would work well. The black metal frame repeats the black metal on the coffee table and connects the other black accents in the room. The transparency of the glass keeps it from feeling too heavy and adds a reflective texture to the room.

I placed the dough bowl on the floor in front of the fireplace on an old hearth to elevate it a bit. It will likely move around the room once we begin using the fireplace, but for now it works fine here. It also helps draw the eye to one of the best features of the room. 

Throw pillows in golden hues were added to the sofa. Two of the six prints that had hung over the server were moved to the wall space under the sconces which flank the front window. The added artwork provides symmetry and visual weight to the area behind the sofa. The four prints remaining over the server are now centered, and I believe the smaller gallery arrangement still carries sufficient weight to anchor the wall.

I could only keep the cat out of the photo shoot for so long! (See him sleeping in the chair?)

The room feels larger and more spacious now. There is ample space to bring in additional seating when needed, and there are more surfaces upon which to place food and drink. It should work even better for entertaining than the previous floor plan did.

It’s amazing how simply moving furniture around can reinvigorate a room. When is the last time you rearranged your furniture? Is it time for a refresh?

The 2017 Pasadena Showcase House of Design

This rotating garden greeted visitors upon entering the property. The circular disk spun slowly giving movement and life to the walkway. Design by Haynes Landscape Design.
The loggia overlooks the pool and is a relaxing spot off the living room. Design by Ederra Design Studio.

After many years of reading about and ogling photos of the Pasadena Showcase House of Design in national design magazines, I finally was able to see it in person. Founded in 1948 as a fund raiser for the arts, this project has become a major annual event that draws people from all over the United States, and indeed the world. It features the area’s best designers, landscapers, architects, and artists at their best. It is an “over the top” experience for those of us passionate about design.

The blue and white living room is a beautifully proportioned room with a fresh coastal feel. Design by Robert Frank Interiors.

The featured home for 2017 was a stunning 8,000 square foot English Tudor style mansion built in 1916 designed for actor Samuel Hinds, best known for playing Peter Bailey in the film, “It’s a Wonderful Life.” The house has been featured in numerous movies and television programs such as “Beaches,” “Mad Men”, “Parks and Recreation” and more recently, “La La Land.”

The master bedroom suite features a drop-down flat-screen television hidden in the ceiling! Design by Home Front Build, Inc.
The level of detail continued outside of the main house and is shown in the brass bumblebee door knobs and honeycomb leaded glass doors to the Bee’s Bliss Cottage. Design and photo by Rose Thicket Botanical Design House.

This is a large scale event that includes so much more than just a house. The outdoor areas included a lagoon style swimming pool, loggia, bee keeper’s cottage, numerous patios, waterfalls, and stunning gardens. The organizers enhanced the experience by including a cadre of carefully selected vendors in an outdoor market called “The Shops.” Vendors sold home decor items, clothing, designer jewelry, linens, natural bath and skin care products, and local gourmet foods. And in case all that design inspiration and shopping stirred your appetite, the organizers also set up a full service restaurant, bar and bistro on the grounds!

The vaulted ceiling in the grand staircase was designed and printed on fabric to resemble Trompe-l’oeil, while the tree landscape on walls at the base of the stairs was hand painted to give the illusion of looking through a window. Design by L’Esperance Design.
Design by Jessica Today Designs.

Built at an original cost of $25,000, the house is believed to have last been renovated sometime in the 1950’s. Fortunately the designers and contractors saved and restored many of the original bones of the house including the leaded and stained glass windows, carved newel posts and balustrades, elaborate wood paneling throughout the first floor, a jaw-dropping arched stairwell ceiling with corner grotesques (reminiscent of a European cathedral!) and an amazing ironwork entry door.

But it was the level of detail added by the designers that most impressed me. I loved the hand painted ceiling in the lady’s office, the pull out ironing board cabinet in the laundry room, the bee motif door knobs and honeycomb leaded glass motif on the doors to the beekeeper’s cottage. I loved the emphasis on original art which added so much personality to every room. While each designer clearly expressed their own aesthetics, the house maintained flow and felt cohesive.

 

The laundry room is large, light-filled, and features a small powder room. It also houses my favorite practical feature in the entire showcase house–a pullout ironing board and broom storage cabinet. Design by Dana Triano Designs.

 

Photos courtesy of Dana Triano Designs.

Design by D. Christjan Fine Cabinetry Design and Manufacturing.

If your city has a major design showcase house or if you can make it out to Pasadena next year, I encourage you to go. You will leave feeling inspired and with the satisfaction of knowing that you have made a contribution towards furthering a good cause in your community.

Note:  Photographs courtesy of the Pasadena Showcase House of Design except as noted. Photographer Peter Christiansen Valli.

In the Shakespeare Garden, a mosaic was created using succulents, drought tolerant plants ideally suited to the climate of Pasadena. Design by GreenLink Landscaping and John’s Tree and Landscaping.

Creating a Gallery Wall

Do you have a hallway or stairwell wall that is currently empty because you can’t figure out what type of artwork would work there? Do you have family photos that you’d like to display but can’t figure out how to do it in a tasteful way? Or perhaps you have a mishmash of disparate pieces of art and photographs that don’t seem to go together and need a way to display them?  A gallery wall just might be the solution!

We recently purchased two sofas for our family room which necessitated a room makeover. Suddenly the wall that formerly was taken up by our television was now blank. Because this wall faces the living room and is immediately visible upon entering the family room, I wanted the wall to make a statement.

Here is the room before the new sofas arrived. The modern sofas were from our previous home and didn’t go well in our 1927 Spanish style house.
With the new sofas and the television moved to the wall with the window, you can see how empty the wall now looks.

I did a quick inventory of my home to see what artwork I had on hand that might be useful. I had a few larger pieces in neutral black, white and sepia tones, all framed in black  I knew I had a few smaller black frames in storage and that I could easily put together a gallery wall which would make a statement in the space.

Here are the steps to creating a gallery wall.

  1.  Curate your art.  While gallery walls can be a mixture of frame styles, colors, and different types of artwork, I decided to put together a mostly black, white and sepia toned color scheme to create a calm effect. Adding in dimensional pieces, such as the coral in the shadowbox and the square shelf box shown in the picture below, creates interest and adds texture.
  2. Lay out the artwork on the floor.  Play around with the layout until you find an arrangement that looks balanced. You don’t want things to line up too perfectly in this style arrangement so don’t worry about making the spaces between frames exactly the same. Mix up your frame orientation with some hanging horizontally and others vertically. You can also mix in different shapes, e.g., a round or oval frame. Adding in a mirror or small shelf can add interest.
  3. Take a photograph. Once you are happy with your layout on the floor, take a picture as a reference to transfer the layout to the wall. While your original layout doesn’t have to be set in stone, you will refer to it often as a guide.
  4. Make templates.  It takes a little extra time to do this but it is well worth it.  I cut out templates from newspaper for each frame and marked where the nails would go in red marker so that it would be easy for me to hang the artwork once in place.

    If you mark where the nail should go on your templates before attaching them to the wall, you will find it makes hanging the pictures a breeze.
  5.  Transfer the layout to your wall using painter’s tape.  Attach the templates to the wall following the layout from your photograph. You will probably need to adjust the spacing a few times before you get it right, but the painter’s tape makes it easy to move the templates around. Better to play with the layout using tape than with nails in the wall!

    I used a combination of photography, pencil drawings, fabric, and natural objects that all had meaning to me. The black frames and color scheme unify what could have been a random looking assortment.
  6. Nail it down. Once you are pleased with the layout of your templates, go ahead and put nails in the spots you have marked in red.
  7. Peel the templates off the wall and hang your pictures.  Use a level to make sure each item hangs level as even one picture out of square can make the whole display look disheveled.

    Notice that open spaces remain where new pieces can be added at a later time if desired.

This is project that is especially effective in stairwells, hallways, or other areas that can be difficult for which to select artwork. Family photographs can look especially artistic on a gallery wall if they are printed in black and white (or sepia tones) and framed in a similar manner. A gallery wall provides limitless options for displaying your artwork in a unique and interesting manner.

It’s a difficult job keeping the cat out of the photo shoot!

Do you have a spot in your home that would look great with a gallery wall?

Placemat Pillow DIY

I am always looking for quick and easy ways to update my home. By keeping major pieces of upholstery neutral, pillows can be the catalyst for a whole new look.  I have found that a simple change of pillow covers is an easy way to embrace trends, add color, and give rooms a fresh look.

I noticed some time ago that many placemats were roughly the same size as a lumbar style pillow.  I realized that by opening up one seam on a lined placemat, a pillow form could be inserted and the seam re-stitched, resulting in a lovely custom-made pillow.

I found this placemat on clearance at Target for a mere $3.88.  I loved the subtle herringbone pattern and the elaborate crewelwork embroidery.  The colors just happened to fit perfectly with my current living room color scheme. Importantly, it was lined with a backing that separated from the front which made it possible to open up a seam and insert a pillow form. Naturally I snatched it up!

After considerable research, I’ve found that Crate and Barrel has the best variety of pillow forms at terrific prices. I got my 12″ X 18″ feather/down pillow insert for only $9.99.  They have the same size down-alternative pillow for just $9.00.

Here’s what you’ll need for this project:

  • Lined placemat
  • Pillow form
  • Seam ripper
  • Pins
  • Sewing needle
  • Thread
  • Scissors

First measure your placemat.  Mine measured 14″ X 20″ so I decided to find a form that was slightly smaller than those dimensions because I prefer a soft mold-able pillow.  If you prefer a firmer pillow, just use a larger pillow insert.  I ended up purchasing a 12″ X 18″ form which allows for easy sewing as well as possible shrinkage of fabric when the placemat is eventually washed.

Using a seam ripper, remove any top stitching first.

In most cases, the placemat will have a row of top stitching around the entire edge of the pillow.  You’ll first need to remove that in order to get to the seam inside.  Once you have removed the top stitching, firmly pull the fabric apart at the seam and use your seam ripper to find a stitch that you can cut.  Once you have the first stitch or two opened, it becomes easy to cut the other stitches and open up the seam.

After you have removed the top stitching, pull the fabric apart at the seam and begin opening up the inner seam.

After you have opened the seam enough to fit the pillow inside, insert your pillow.  Line up the front and back sides of the placemat opening and secure the edges together with pins.  Then use a blind stitch to hand sew the two sides back together. This will hold the opening together securely and the stitches will be “invisible” from the outside of the pillow.   (If you’re not sure how to do a blind stitch, here is a great tutorial. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WbE5hXt27uU)

You can also sew the opening together by top stitching on a sewing machine, but if you do, you’ll need to be able to sew a straight line very close to the edge, which can be a little tricky.  This is why I prefer hand stitching. If you do choose to top stitch on a sewing machine, I’d encourage you not to overstuff the placemat as it will be difficult to keep the edges together as you machine sew.

This is an extremely simple project that even novice sewers can do.  Keep an eye out for inexpensive placemats that you can convert into pillows throughout the year.  It is easy to undo the seam and pop the pillow form into another placemat, which allows you to change up your decor as the seasons change.

 

 

 

 

 

Rotating Collections

If you are a collector, you have probably faced the challenge of how to display your collectibles.  And if you have multiple collections, as I do, or have one gigantic collection, you may also face challenges in finding sufficient display space. The solution to this problem is rotating your collections.

Even museums and art galleries rotate their collections to keep their displays fresh and interesting.  I’ve found that rotating my collections gives me the opportunity to bring out items that have been packed away and greet them anew. After a time out of the spotlight, they feel like old friends I haven’t seen in a while.  Changing out collections freshens up the space and often helps me to see them in a new way.  Even small changes can have a big impact and reinvigorate a room.

The ironstone has a calm, architectural feeling. I think it is appropriate for any time of the year, but I enjoy adding a bit more color to my decor once the weather starts to warm up.

As a self-professed “dish addict,” I have several collections of tableware that bring me great joy.  I find tableware aesthetically pleasing, as well as useful (well, “useful” is how I justify it!). When we purchased our home in southern California last year,  one of the best selling points for me was the built-in bookcase in the living room. This feature is the first thing you see when you enter our home and I knew it would be the perfect place to display my collections.

I have had my white ironstone collection displayed on these shelves since we moved in almost a year ago. My blue and white china collection had been stored in my dining room hutch, largely behind glass doors. I decided to simply switch them out, letting the vibrant blue and white collection take prominence at the entry of the house.

As I was taking everything off the shelves, I realized it was also time for a little spring cleaning. I took the opportunity to dust and wipe down the shelves. I wiped down each piece, making sure lids were secured with earthquake putty before placing them in their new home. While I had to set aside an afternoon for the task, the exercise was not at all onerous for me. It makes me happy to look at and handle my collections, and I’m guessing you feel the same way about the things you collect.

So whether you rotate an entire collection or just several items within a collection, I encourage you to do this on a regular basis. In addition to gaining a renewed appreciation for your collections, you’ll also find a change can infuse new life into your home. The exercise is well worth the time and effort.

I found these adorable white porcelain bunnies and thought they added just the right touch of whimsy to the display. It almost looks like they are playing on the shelves.

 

Sourcing: The Estate Sale

Today I want to share one of the best kept secrets for finding great furniture and household items at rock bottom prices: estate sales.  Having had my own estate sale several years ago when we decided to downsize and change house styles, I came to understand how these sales work and why they are such a great thing from the standpoint of the buyer.

Estate sales differ vastly from yard sales where individuals set up in their yards and try to dispense with household clutter, e.g., used toys, half-burned candles, old florist vases, clothing, etc., in hopes of earning a few pennies on the dollar. While you certainly can find great deals at yard sales, I generally find the quality and diversity of offerings is not at the same level as estate sales.  In most cases, estate sales are held to liquidate the estates of people who have passed away, moved to assisted living situations or otherwise downsized, or those who are liquidating assets due to divorce.  The goal is to quickly get rid of what is sometimes an entire lifetime’s accumulation of stuff.

While the first impression upon walking into a stranger’s home and seeing all their belongings displayed with price tags can indeed be a little sad, I’d encourage you to get past that and see it as an amazing opportunity to purchase unique quality items at excellent prices.  And keep in mind that, for whatever reason, the people holding the sale NEED to get rid of these items. You are helping the sellers alleviate the burden their possessions now represent.  Their possessions will have a new life through a new owner.  It is recycling at it’s best!

While many estate sale companies now accept credit cards, many do not. Take cash, preferably small bills.  It can enable you to negotiate better deals.

The best site I know of to find sales in your area is www.estatesales.net. Type in your city and you’ll get a list of upcoming estate sales in your area. Once you are on a company’s mailing list you will receive regular emails telling you when they are conducting sales in your area.  They will usually advertise a few days before the event with numerous photos of every item included in the sale.  Sales usually include furniture, garden items, jewelry, clothing, kitchenware, and collectibles.  I recommend scanning through all the photos to see if any items catch your attention. I can usually determine whether the sale is a “must” or a “pass” just by previewing the pictures.

See the white ironstone pudding molds towards the front of this picture?  Several of them ultimately came home with me! I paid between $4- $8 each which is a steal!

For example, earlier this year I came across the estate sale of the former editor of Bon Apetit Magazine.  The preview photos showed a wall inside the house that had been signed by Julia Child during a visit for Christmas Eve dinner in 1980!  I knew this was the estate of someone who loved cooking and entertaining, and I could see from the pictures that there were vast amounts of tableware, cookware, linens and many other items of interest to me.  It was a three day sale and I went on the second day. (Truthfully, I also went the first day but there was a line wrapped around the block to get in!  I decided to return the next day.)  I came home with two of the ironstone pudding molds shown in the picture above.  I went back the third day when items were 75% off and purchased two more molds, several pieces of tin bakeware, a vintage faux fur throw, as well as other miscellaneous goodies.

Most estate sales start on Fridays and end on Sunday afternoons.  The first day you will get the best selection, but you will pay the most.  By the second day, most sales cut prices by 50%. On the final day, prices are often slashed by 75%!  Yes, there is a high probability the item you eyed on Saturday may be long gone, but if it is still there, it is now at least half price! Because I’m not in an active acquisition mode these days, I most often go on the last day of the sale to scoop up amazing deals on unexpected finds.

Here are some of the best things to buy at estate sales:

Large pieces of furniture.  You can purchase large pieces of quality furniture at extremely low prices.  These items tend to go for very low prices because no one wants to haul them away.  Since these pieces have usually remained in use, they are most often in quite good shape.  Oftentimes, the style of the furniture is dated, but a fresh coat of paint or new upholstery can breathe new life into dated pieces of furniture.  Smart estate sale companies will usually have a mover on call that will give you a moving estimate before you purchase.  Since the mover is usually connected in some way to the estate sale company, try negotiating the price to include the moving fee.

Tableware.  Formal china, crystal stemware, silver serving pieces, linens, and other cooking related items are often great deals at estate sales.  Of course, it helps if you like vintage but don’t be surprised to find items of all styles, quality levels, and price points.  I recently found a set of twelve contemporary handmade dinner plates that still had their original price tags on them.  The original price was $33 per plate and the sticker indicated that they had been marked down to $25 each when they were purchased.  On the last day of the sale, I got them for $2 each!

Linens.  If you’re a fan of vintage linens as I am, you can often find gorgeous tablecloths, napkins, and hand towels at estate sales.  In bygone eras, fine hand needlework was something every well-equipped household had. And because it was prized, oftentimes it was rarely used.  It is not unusual to find an entire room dedicated to linens at estate sales.  While you’ll need to examine them carefully to check for stains or damage, I’ve seen many, many beautiful items with original tags still attached.

Garage/yard items.  Tools, garden supplies and equipment, planters, lawn furniture and other unusual items are often displayed in the garage or in the backyard.  These practical items can be quite expensive to buy in retail stores and you might find just the item you need for your garden or patio.

Hobby Items and Collectibles.  From cameras to comic books, estate sales tend to reflect the owner’s hobbies and interests.  Depending on your interests, you can find just about anything you collect at reasonable prices.

This beautiful Chanel jacket was for sale at a recent sale I attended. If you enjoy vintage purses, hats, shoes, jewelry, etc. you can often find unique designer items at estate sales.

So if you’ve seen signs around your town for estate sales and been intimidated or thought they were just junk sales, I’d encourage you to give them a try.  You might be pleasantly surprised at the treasures you’ll find.

This enormous French provincial style armoire was even more amazing in person.  It was originally priced at $300, which was already a steal.  It was half off on Sunday afternoon and they offered delivery for only $60.  I offered $200 for both the armoire AND delivery–they accepted!