True designers always incorporate items with age and from different sources. Even the Pottery Barn catalog displays pressed ferns and tobacco baskets among its new furniture!
Here's how designers find some of their fantastic pieces:
Pickers--people just like you and me--buy great-looking stuff at yard sales, auctions, and thrift stores. Pickers sell directly to a few dealers and designers--or, bring their wares to wholesale antique markets like Scott's in Atlanta. Antique dealers and designers all over the Southeast drive there to fill their shops back home. At that point, a lovely piece of furniture has been marked up as many as four times from its humble secondhand origin.
Here's a short list of what I consider some of the best buys in used furnishings--the things I stop and investigate whenever I see them cheap:
Custom-made draperies and hardware:
The fabric is usually expensive if someone has spent the money to have draperies custom-made, with trim, double linings, and weighted hems. Unlike ready made curtains, these are often the only way to find true floor-length panels. Use the voluminous yardage to cover tables, make pillows, or reuse hardware and trim for another project.
50's and 60's furniture:
The ubiquitous French Provincial and Modern furniture is usually made with real wood and dovetailed drawers. French Provincial has good grooves and molding for do-it-yourself glazers.
Real wood bookcases:
You can find sturdy bookcases for less than the cost of Sauder specials, and you don't have to put them together yourself. Paint them whatever color you wish, with contrasting interiors for interest. Link several bookcases together with molding across the top.
Lamps with character:
My favorite copper kitchen lamp cost $1.50. Unusual or antique lamps are elements which can lift a room from the ordinary Kirkland's variety.
One-of-a-kind pillows and artwork:
Look for the handmade touch and textures here--needlepoint, old tapestry, bark cloth.
Benches and chairs you can reupholster yourself:
Some chairs have seats which unscrew for recovering. An old remnant and a cup of paint can transform a plain chair in half an hour. Benches and pairs of chairs are extremely versatile.
New to Like Merchant Ships? Here are all the lessons in our Live Well On Less week of study!