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How to Affordably and Sustainably Change Up Your Space

We all want homes that feel comfortable and true to our lifestyle. We want to feather our nest with beautiful, functional furnishings and decor. Good quality, new furniture is expensive, heck, even poor quality furniture can be expensive. IKEA has it’s rightful place in our homes, but I’m so uncomfortable with the idea of bulky old sofas and pressboard bookshelves eventually clogging up our landfills. It pays to invest in quality, but how can we do so in a way that doesn’t break the bank?

Say yes to hand-me-downs. Listen up. Do not say yes to everything your mom, your aunt, or your grandma wants to give you. Doing so will only clog up your home with more clutter than you can handle. Instead, know what you need and say yes to those things. Is a perfect set of neutral dishwear up for grabs? Go for it. That pair of lamps that match everything in your den? Thank you. But, that old rug from the basement that doesn’t work with anything you own? No thanks. Some examples of lovely hand-me-downs in my home include original artwork, mid-century chairs and tables from Holland (thanks Grace) and a beautiful Art Deco liquor cabinet my grandparents gifted me when I was 10.

My great-grandfather built this liquor cabinet as part of a matched three-piece living room set. The set was brought over from Norway in the 1950’s. The other pieces are still in the family.

Online sites like Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace. Yes, you have to be careful and you can’t just meet strangers willy-nilly to buy random household goods. Meet in a public place to make the exchange and bring a friend for safety. But, with the proper precautions, you can find some real treasure. The Pottery Barn wool rug in our living room was a Marketplace find. I’ve also found three adorable matching side chairs. Both Craigslist and Marketplace are good places to find outdoor furniture. It’s always a good idea to get as much information about the piece as you can. Measure to make sure it will fit both through your door and in the room you intend to put it your home.

These chairs were a garage sale find. I’ve never regretted the $65 I paid for them, nor the work it took to reupholster them. Small enough to fit in any corner, yet comfortable enough to pull out for extra seating for guests.

Garage Sales and Estate Sales. There was a huge garage sale culture in Alaska. Every year, once the snow melted, the garage sale signs would start popping up everywhere. Down here in the PNW, I see some garage sales, but more estate sales which are often like garage sales on steroids. I often look for linens at estate sales, things like good quality tablecloths, fabric shower curtains (which make great tablecloths in a pinch), baskets, vases, good quality cookware and hard furniture. We found the vintage dresser and mirror in our master bedroom at a garage sale the first summer we were married.

Vintage military-issue dresser and mirror, a garage sale score!

Thrift and Consignment Stores. This proves the rule that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. I’ve found lots of great decor at thrift stores including a giant wicker chicken, a set of Dansk coffee cups with saucers, desk lamps, Oxacan pottery, transfer ware plates, frames and mirrors.

Trade With Friends. At the time of this writing, every thrift store in our area is closed due to COVID-19, and I don’t expect to see many garage sales this summer. Is there another way you can create a more welcoming home without making another order to Amazon? Maybe you have friends who want to trade dining tables with you. Or perhaps they have outdoor chairs you could trade for that extra dresser you have in your garage. Get creative!

Roadside Finds. I’m a little nervous to even share this one. But I am the daughter of a thrifty Alaska sourdough and I have collected more than a few real treasures from the roadside. The chair below was next to a dumpster at a gas station in Anchorage, AK. With permission, we rescued it from certain destruction and we have used it almost daily for 22 years. We once rescued an old oak TV console from the side of the road, waiting for the garbage truck. We cleaned it up, and converted it to be used as a storage spot for board games and now, a linen closet. I think at one time we even had our own TV in there.

Do you have a great story about how you acquired your favorite home decor? Let me know! I truly believe that a creative, collected home can only be achieved by bringing in items from a large variety of sources. It’s easy to go to a store to buy a whole room-full of matching furniture, but true warmth and character comes from layered pieces with storied histories, goofy memories, changing up the purpose of items and that connected feeling that comes with a great find. If you follow me on Instagram, I’ll be doing a series of stories called “Where is that from?” which will highlight various items in my home with a quiz to see where you think they come from. Join me over there!

Your Decluttering, Design, and Organization Questions Answered: For the next four weeks I’ll be hosting a Facebook Live event on Saturdays at 10 a.m. Do you have a burning home-design question that needs to be answered? Send me a message or drop me a comment and I’ll do my best to answer it for you. Then join me on my Facebook page at 10 on Saturday for this super fun event. I’ll see you there!

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