Embracing a mid century inspired home, or any style of older home, is not for the person who loves a quick fix. It is going to need work. It will be messy. And if you want to preserve or bring back the classic wood tones, bright colors, clean lines and especially the iconic furniture and accessories of that time, it is going to take patience and lots of second hand shopping.
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It is hard for me to believe that I have lived in my mid century inspired home for 15 years this Fall.
When we moved in not only did people think we were crazy – again. This wasn’t our first fixer upper. But the previous owners had made attempts to decorate the home in a different style that strongly combated with the bones of what the house was meant to be. In fact my first thought when I walked in to the home and gazed up at the kitchen’s 17 foot ceilings, and then at the pink grapevine border applied underneath the kitchen cabinets was that the wife of this home hated it. Rooms throughout the house were a mix of traditional meets beach vibes intertwined with farmhouse and Disney Princesses.
After stepping through the door that first day, my mind raced with ideas and plans with all the changes I was going to make to this home and I was going to drag my husband along with me to do the harder projects. It was going to be stunning!
Have I achieved all those mental plans. Nope – not at all!
As the story of purchasing older homes often goes, our home needed more TLC than just paint could fix.
Since living in the house we have gone through challenges of my husband finishing his Physician Assistant Master Degree, a major accident that landed him in a wheelchair for six months, a tree falling on our house that caused nearly $40,000 in damage, two kids in college, and two weddings.
Can’t forget a pandemic mixed in there are well.
Money and time have been tight over the years so I have had to be creative in not only big renovations on our home but also in finding all of the little things that reflect our love for vintage and all things mid century modern.
Even though we have come so far in our home, second hand shopping and thrift stores, and lots of estate sales, have become a new passion for us. It can be so addicting!
It is also a necessity to achieve the look we want for our home.
Let’s be honest about it – authentic and iconic mid century modern furniture and accessories are expensive!
Knowing the shops that curate and restore original mid century pieces from famous designers of the era is a must. I love the mid century furniture boutiques in my area, but I can’t always afford the prices. They know they have unique treasures and often sought after gems that the values are increasing every year. I am so glad there are shop owners who are restoring these finds.
However, second hand will continue to be my first choice before I buy new again.
There is not a single room in my home that does not have at least one piece of second hand furniture or an accessory.
Thrift stores have become more trendy. They are no longer the places you cringe to think about shopping in but have become the best source for vintage style pieces that people are casting off in favor of the more popular modern farmhouse look or as they are downsizing to smaller homes.
Successfully buying second hand and thrifted items does requires some thought and skills. I have had to cultivate some guidelines through my own journey of thrifting that I follow whenever I shop that I feel are worth sharing with you.
First, know what you are looking for and shop with a plan.
If you are looking for something specific like a queen headboard or a small dresser, it is a great idea to have a list with some noted measurements. Investing in a small tape measure is another great idea. Nothing is more frustrating than when you find a great piece and it doesn’t fit the space when you get it home, or can’t get it through the door.
Be aware of the distraction to impulse buy!
Yes it may be the most unique and coolest looking mid century chair you have ever come across. But ask yourself if it has space to fit perfectly in your home? Will something else need to go out so that it can come in? If the chair or item is exactly what you have been looking for to complete a room, even if you do need to get rid of something else that was just a place holder, then go for it. If you just want it because it is a certain style, then think long and hard before bringing it home.
I will be the first to admit that I often visit thrift stores and estate sales without a solid goal in mind. But I do operate a vendor booth at a local resale shop so I have an excuse for impulse buys – sometimes.
So take this advice from someone who has too many mid century modern style chairs that aren’t being used and have to be moved out of the way all. the. time. Impulse shopping can also mean an item goes right back to the thrift store because you realize you shouldn’t have spent the money on it.
Can you fix it?
You also need to think about your skill level for any necessary repairs. Second hand items will have scratches and dings and often needs new upholstery and refinishing. Are you comfortable with your level of DIY skills? Can you afford to have it professionally done? Can you sew?
If fixing a piece will cost more than it’s current price tag, or worse, cost more than it is worth, then it is okay to take a hard pass on something. Not to mention avoiding the added stress it may add to your enjoyment of the piece too. If the work it requires to make it pretty and functional also makes you fall out of love with it’s charm, then it is best to leave it at the store.
The bright green vintage bar cart in the picture above is a great example. The original finish had become sticky and damaged that I ended up painting it instead because I couldn’t get all of the old stain off. I like the green paint but still can’t get the paint finish just right either and may have to strip it down again and start all over. Or not. It is a struggle to even like it anymore.
This is a good one. Can you get it home?
Transportation is a big deal.
Do you need a truck or a friend with a truck? Will the cost of hiring a delivery service cost more than the item itself?
Recently I won an entire 10 piece outdoor patio set for a steal at an Estate Sale auction. I was thrilled because of it’s vintage style. On the very rainy morning I had to pick it up, I reached for the keys to our larger SUV and they were missing from the little key hanger at our back entrance. My husband was 7 hours away at our son’s home helping to rebuild their deck. He had taken his large truck with him – and the keys to the larger SUV as well by mistake. I had just that one day, no truck and just my much smaller SUV to pick up all those pieces. Did I mention it was raining as well? The exhausting endeavor was 30 miles each way, two trips, lots of bruises, four hours for the trips, and a scary slow drive back home each time because I couldn’t see out the back of my car safely.
I won’t do that again!
Factor in the whatever transportation you will need to get your new find home before you hand over the money. Because it is that important!
Patience is a virtue. You need to have patience my friend.
It takes time to find the right piece you are looking for that will complete your room, or that piece of vintage art that becomes the centerpiece for a space. Even if you plan on giving whatever you find a makeover, if you don’t love it don’t buy it.
Believe me when I tell you there will always be another headboard or dresser at the next shop, garage sale, or estate sale that could be the one! Don’t convince yourself you can make something work if you don’t really like it for the long term. You will want to kick yourself later when you find the one and your money is already gone.
My last piece of advice, embrace the journey.
Curating a home that is uniquely you is a adventure, no matter what we have been lead to believe by popular DIY home show episodes that showcase a perfectly renovated and decorated home in 60 minutes or less. It is your home, so change it, paint it, and find those special second hand items if you can. Learn to blend the old and the new. Make it uniquely your own.
Until next time,
Psalm 94:19 CSB “When I am filled with cares, your comfort brings me joy.”