Wendy and I have long been fans of estate sales. After all, it was a Cleveland estate sale where Wendy's mom found an old painted wooden chair that ultimately became the catalyst for our many renovation projects. (Yes, Wendy and I have been working on projects since we were seniors in high school, circa 1995.) But in our opinion, along with the thrill of the hunt comes a certain sadness that is difficult to ignore.
Old Town offers some very unique opportunities when it comes to estate sales. Many of the homes in our area have been lived in by the same families for decades. Often times these residents are ex-military, political, or have had professions or hobbies that have made them world travelers and collectors of some magnificent things. When the families of these long-time owners opt to hold an estate sale, it often provides an opportunity to purchase some very interesting and unique items at sometimes reasonable prices.
There are typically a handful of estate sales that Wendy and I attend each year. In any case, we always have the same goal in mind as we head in: find unique items that would work in our home at a fair price. But sometime during the hunt through someone else's things...it hits us. We're looking through the material items that formed peoples lives. This is where that element of sadness comes in. We can't help but to imagine the people the items belonged to, what their story was, and how they and the stuff we are looking through came to be. Though we attempt to be as respectful as possible when shopping in estate sales, we usually see some customers who seem to miss this element of the sale.
A few weekends ago we stopped at an estate sale we happened upon while out for a walk with Lulu. The quaint 19th century home had a large banner draped over the front advertising the sale along with the hours the sale would be open.
When we arrived a few minutes before the doors opened on the second day there was already a line or about seven or eight people.
Upon entry to an estate sale home, I'm always too busy looking at the details and structure of the house rather than the items for sale. In most cases the house is in moderate to poor condition, but is typically intact from a detail and architectural standpoint in a "has great bones" sort of way. This house was no exception. Fireplaces, nice floors, plaster walls -- it hadn't been stripped of it's character.
Wendy, on the other hand, can stick with the bargain hunting better than I can. On this particular day after only a few minutes in the house, she was able to find two large brass Asian plates. They were tarnished and in need of some elbow grease, but she could see the potential. They were marked $32 each but Wendy was able to get them both for $55. A little sadness and a distracted husband can't derail Wendy as a bargain shopper.
Proud of her find and glad to be giving these unique items a good home, we looked through the rest of the items in the house. While looking, we also checked out all of the floors and rooms of the house and talked about what we would do to renovate it. Yep, we have a true addiction and borderline sickness. But seriously, how cool is this entryway?
We paid for the items and headed home. Almost as soon as we got the large dishes home Wendy immediately got to work polishing them. Using some metal polish, Wendy got the grime off and got them both looking clean, shiny, and ready for our home. As you can see, she was working vigorously.
Much of the thick tarnish came off with the application of a little elbow grease and the details of the pieces started to show. Here's some midway progress.
We weren't sure exactly what to do with them, but Wendy suggested hanging one on the wall in our living room and decided to use the other as a table top under the lamp in our sun porch. After a quick measuring for the correct height and location in the family room and placement of the wall anchor, we finally had a unique and interesting piece to hang above the chair in the corner.
The best part of this whole thing was my skepticism but acceptance that Wendy knows better than me. No joke, I don't let onto this fact much, but she does, especially when it comes to aesthetics. After hanging the tray on the wall, I had to admit, I liked the way it looked. But even better, when we went on the Old Town Home Tour last weekend, the absolutely nicest house we went through had a very similar Peruvian tray hanging in their dining room. The docent was gushing about it, and when we saw it Wendy looked at me with that knowing glance that unequivocally stated..."I was right."
Have you picked up any great finds at estate sales recently? Do you get the same vague sense of sadness when going through estate sales, or are you all about the find?