The New Year Bucket List - 2016

2015 has been a great year and I'm looking forward to 2016 --

I've made some changes to my furniture business and am getting ready for more...

I have been threatening to bring in more nature/primitive items to compliment the mid century look and add more industrial items as well -- my pickers have interpreted my requests in this way:

I asked for Industrial and they brought stuff like this:



Hmmm..... not exactly what I had in mind... I was thinking more like this....



So then I asked for nature / primitive items and I got this:



They missed the mark by about a mile....I was thinking more like this:




Needless to say my fantasy is not in alignment with reality -- people don't toss out cool Industrial and Primitive furniture

...but I know it's out there, being under appreciated by someone, buried under old army blankets and motor oil...left to decay in the rain....cool vintage furniture just waiting to be restored ---

In 2016, I have vowed to get back to the hunt -- find some sources for vintage primitive and industrial furniture with the simple mod lines that I love....

If this is your "thing" - then 2016 will be a great furniture year for you - ...see you soon

Don't Mess With My Wine....



A few weeks ago, I had a beautiful MCM Dresser posted on craigslist for $220  - after an exchange of about 8 emails and texts, I set a time for a customer to see it.

They cancelled at the last minute and rescheduled for an hour later. I agreed to wait (things happen out of our control, I try to be understanding.)

Then, they were about thirty minutes late for the next appointment.

I had plans, so the rest of my family set out to an event and I waited around for the customer and decided to be late to the party.

They came, visited for a while, looked it over - loved it and then said:

"We brought $150 cash with us - that's all we will pay."

I sent them on their way and sold the dresser for full price to another customer who came the next morning.

The first couple was pretty bent out of shape that I wouldn't take their $150...a few weeks ago I had a lady storm off cussing at me when I wouldn't take $100 for a dresser that was priced at $180.

It's nothing new, I have been doing this almost 8 years and most people (99%) are pretty cool, but occasionally I get the aggressive, pushy people and frankly....

I'm over it.

I wasted 3 hours of my day for the $150 couple and I was late to a party I was really looking forward too, plus I had to drive myself home which means I couldn't have more than 1 glass of wine.

When work interferes with my drinking...
Well, that was proof positive that things have to change!


...I just have to work smarter. So.....

If you are looking at items I post on craigslist, you will start seeing this quasi-abrasive line in the description:

-- firm on price (I hate haggling so I set the price for the lowest I can accept -  thanks for understanding)

I tried to say it as nice as I could, but there is no delicate way to say, prices are firm, quit making offers, I never take them, don't waste both of our time!

At least, in this post, I can explain my pricing a little better.

First, I know its craigslist and everyone is looking for a bargain.

If you compare my prices to any store, you will see that I am way less than half of what they are asking for the same items (no overhead, no extra cost).

It is the stated goal of my business to make mid century furniture affordable, and keep costs reasonable. I feel strongly about not gouging people- so when I set a price, its fair and reasonable.

I don't negotiate, I have no built in price hike to wiggle down - I set a more than fair price and I'm sticking to it. I always have, I always will...

So, starting in 2016, when I get the emails that make low offers or any offers, I have decided not to return those emails. I have always explained that I don't negotiate in these emails but really its just a time-sucking exercise.

Now, my "price is firm" explanation will be on the ad. If the customer doesn't read the ad, then they aren't serious and I won't feel bad about ignoring their email.

I have to start using my time wisely - its partly my fault for not putting the line in the ads earlier.

Mistakes have been made on all sides...

Here is to clearer communication in 2016!

Have a Merry Christmas!!

My favorite mod / minimalist Trees of 2015







PVC pipe cut in circles with ornaments inside each circle

Mixing Mid Century with Modern

Mixing Mid Century with Modern - What does this mean?

It means that vintage items don't always work and sometimes you have to break down and go to the Container Store.
Vintage MCM End Table with Container Store Floating Bookshelves
Obviously, with the weather and both of my garages snowed in, I have a lot of time on my hands.

Instead of working, I will write about my bedroom. (Yawn! Only interesting for me, but it is my blog.)  
This is the "bedroom" when we used it as a Dining Room when the kids were small

As I mentioned in earlier posts, it's a 10' x 10' room that one must walk through to get to the bathroom. It's really an old study but we have re-purposed it, first as a dining room to open up the living area, and then as a bedroom so that the kid's have the upstairs rooms and we are on the Main floor.

When we first moved it down, it was strictly utilitarian in nature - a place to sleep.

The kid's favorite spot to rest - just a bed and dresser crammed in a room
Being such a small room, floor space is at a premium.

I had matching MCM nightstands next to each side of the bed and it looked okay but really crowded.

I tried a Low Mid Century Dresser on one side and it looked terrible, but was useful.

We just needed lights to read by, a place to throw books, and a place to charge our phones and IPads.

The Container Store came through:

Acrylic shelves on each side and a floating bookshelf below - PERFECT!
 The other problem was a giant window on the left of the room that make our Mid Century walnut headboard look off center.

Solved with an extra curtain over the wall - makes it look like two windows instead of one. We added drop down pendant lights to read by... and our favorite saying (written in Japanese) over the bed.

Finally the room looks balanced
So we spent a day, and a crap load of money (about $450 in all) to make this "hallway" bedroom look decent. It's not the natural/airy room that I was originally thinking about, but we like it and it works.

Now I have to paint the walls - the old sage color needs a transformation. It could take some time before I feel the urge.

How the bedroom looks in its natural state - I can always find a kid or two here

Not perfect, but better than before - I love small space living because it forces me to pare down to the essentials - and to me, simplicity always looks best.

Distraction


I LOVE this primitive cabinet - old, funky and perfect!
A few posts back, I wrote about how I was changing my bedroom this past Fall to made it more modern / primitive and natural in it's decor.

That didn't happen.

The biggest sticking point was this huge, over-sized "Home-Depo" cupboard that hogged an entire corner of the room - so ugly that I won't even take a photo.

Despite it's largess and homeliness, it hid a lot of stuff that we needed hidden and stored. We have a small bathroom off our bedroom that also serves as the Main Floor bathroom (old houses, you have to love the quirky layouts).

So, we squeezed past a fake-birch-pressboard cabinet to get to the bathroom everyday.

Finding something to hold our junk was impossible, especially when I have no time for the task.

The cold weather had forced us inside and made us lazy - after more Netflix than any sane person can take, I started thinking....I had just posted that primitive cabinet.

It was thin.

It was small.

It is simple and basic.

Hmm...

On a whim, we wrangled the giant behemoth cupboard out of the house and I brought in the rustic, primitive piece.

Guess what?

It didn't fit in our room.

Too wide.

After some thought, I moved it into the tiny bathroom we share, where nothing ever fits.

Voila!

Now - onto the bedroom!

Adding a few baskets for the brushes we can never find

This isn't a photo shoot for a magazine - its what a real bathroom cabinet for a family of 5 looks like


Lovely Snow

November 27 2015

When my backyard looks like this - it is a vacation day.

Furniture has to wait - pick ups, delivery, planning, refinishing and all that entails just disappears.

Hot tea, a warm blanket and a good book -

See you when the weather clears!

How To Get A Mid Century Dresser For Under $100

What?

This is possible?

Yes.

But, not from me.

I get regular emails from people looking for a bargain or others who want a MCM dresser that they can customize and they don't want to spend a lot of money on a refinished dresser just to redo it in their own vision.

And, truth be told, even if you want one of my dressers, you have to act fast. 90 percent are sold to dealers and many go out of state.

But...if you are willing to do the leg work, here is the inside scoop on how to get a MCM dresser for $100 or less.


1. Stalk Craigslist - and I mean STALK. Every 90 minutes or less, from 8am to 10pm, check craigslist for NEW listings and use the word "dresser" - don't limit your searches by specifics. Within a few days, you will find a gem that is priced well. They are out there - most of the time they are not listed under "mid century".

When you find it - don't send a lame email that is lukewarm like...

"I might be interested in seeing this dresser... can you tell me more about it..."

SAY:

"I love your dresser! When can I come purchase it! I definitely want it and will pay your asking price! When are you available? I can be there today!"

Put yourself in the sellers shoes... if you received both of the above emails, who would you respond to?

2. Second hand furniture stores or Thrift Stores are awesome - especially if you are willing to drive to Fort Collins, Greeley or anywhere further North -- the Denver area might not have such great bargains but its worth a try. Stay out of trendy areas and go to low rent areas to see the used furniture...and really look...the more packed the store, the more likely you can find something buried away.

3. Avoid Estate sales but go to Garage Sales. In estate sales the heirs have to get the maximum price (usually to be divided between themselves and the estate agents) - in garage sales people are trying to ditch stuff they don't want - its you or they donate it somewhere. That's when bargaining is a great tool. Again, go North (many of the neighborhoods were built in the 1960s so they have a better selection of vintage from the 1960s).

4. Don't be too picky! Hey, you are trying to spend less than $100 -- you aren't going to get a mint condition George Nelson credenza... but you can still find some cool MCM dressers / credenzas to make a statement in your room.

Most of my things come from Professional Pickers these days but I have successfully and repeatedly used all the methods above to find great MCM items when my inventory was low.

Most need to be refinished, but that is what I do....if you want a bargain, be prepared to work on it a little (see my refinishing blogs).

And Finally....Don't be discouraged! The furniture is out there, but to get a bargain, you have to do the leg work! 

How Much Is This Worth?

The question I get almost daily... How Much Is This Worth?

Emails and texts float in from people all over the country asking me how much their Grandma's dresser is worth...Here is my answer:

Whatever someone will pay for it.

As many of you know - I am probably the most inexpensive MCM furniture seller out there. I buy in bulk, and try to price my items in a way that still make them affordable. I have limited space so I can't sit on large dressers for months, I turn items quickly so my prices have to be under market.
Lane Acclaim on 1stDibs $2400

However, my working model doesn't mean your dresser is worth more or less than I can sell it for - A Lane dresser can vary from $150 to $2400 - the questions is -- What is it worth to you?

That said, here are rough ideas you can use when figuring out if a dresser is a good price or what your dresser/item is worth.

OVERHEAD:
Lane Acclaim on Chairish $1200
Retail stores have overhead - they can't operate without a physical location and that costs money - the cost has to be included in the price of furniture or they can't be in business. Craigslist should be a less expensive alternative, but some people try and sell their MCM furniture for full retail even though there is no overhead expense. So when pricing your own piece, remember, its worth about 25 - 50% less than what you will see in a retail store.

LOCATION:
We live in Denver - not NYC, LA, Chicago or Houston...prices are better here. When you see a similar item to what you have for sell on 1stDibs, don't be fooled into thinking your item is worth the same amount. First of all, its retail (see above) and most of those dealers are in a major city which drives the price up -- also, most items are way overpriced on the online stores and that is why they sit there for months and years.

DEMAND:
Lane Acclaim in California $699
A 6 drawer run-of-the-mill mid century dresser is not worth as much as a rare solid wood Heywood Wakefield -- I don't need to drive this point home. The more desirable, collectible and "name brand" an item is, the more its worth -- collect-ability is key.

RARITY:
A Knoll Credenza is not easy to come by - A Ward Furnture Credenza is...enough said.

CONDITION:
If your item has finish wear, repairs or any blemish, the price is about half of what the item is worth if it was in mint condition. Someone will have to refinish or repair the item and that costs money and time. If its very collectible, you might be able to get a bit more than half, but its not likely.

 I hope this helps in pricing or figuring out what to pay...however, vintage furniture is really a crap-shoot - if someone really loves what you have, the value goes up despite the real value.

If you really love an item, and can afford it, then price isn't really a factor ---, as they say, "The heart wants what the heart wants"...especially when it comes to furniture!

Lane Acclaim I sold -- - $450

Yikes! It's Been A While

Time slips away.

I haven't written for a while.

Many reasons, none that are interesting.

I have to be honest with myself, at this stage, I only work part-time. When I began, I worked 80+ hours a week. After hiring some help, I got down to 50+ hours and now, I'm lucky if I squeeze in 20 hours.

When my kids were little, I worked all the time. However, I was at home and they were always nearby, working on their own projects, hanging out in the back yard with me, doing homework at the table while I showed furniture from the front room. They would come with me to buy items and we had long talks on those endless car rides.

In 2 months, I will officially have three teenagers. The youngest is crossing over on January 6th. I think I love the teenage stage even more than I did the baby stage. Watching these kids come into their own is amazing, sometimes irritating, but overall its a great stage.

My oldest is looking at colleges and out with friends most of the time, my middle son is permit-driving and restoring a 1961 VW Bug, the baby, my daughter seems to be almost biologically attached to her phone and lives her life thru Snapchat and Instagram.

All that, means that they are no longer following me around and hanging out with me as I work. Now it is I, who must follow after them, try and catch a few words of conversation and stay in touch.

Chasing after their interests, watching them perform and play sports and just hanging out with them takes a lot of time. Trying to keep everything organized and scheduled is almost another full time job, but I love it.

It's another stage we have entered, and like all stages, you don't realize you have crossed over until you have already been there for a while.

The furniture still stares at me from the garage - waiting for my attention. Sometimes texts, emails and phone calls from customers are not answered in a timely fashion, a few are lost all together (sorry about that).

I used to be a Master at multi-tasking, and now, I am not interested in that fast-paced chaos. When I'm overwhelmed, I no longer ramp-up, I drop out. The only thing that I can really let slide is work. So, the furniture must wait.

When I think of all the 80+ hour work weeks that have dwindled to 20... I see it as a giant life scale that is righting itself - demanding balance. I love my work and would not voluntarily let it slide, but you don't always get options, life is funny that way.


So, if you see fewer items available, if I'm slow to respond, if it takes longer to arrange a time to come see some furniture, be patient with me. I will find my footing in this new stage and a new normal. I still love what I do. I count myself lucky and blessed. 

See you soon!

They keep me hopping


Balance

The weather is beautiful.

Perfect conditions for working on furniture.

I have no pressing engagements / school functions  / meetings or anything else to do today except for work.
And yet....

It's days / weeks like this that make working for yourself and working at home difficult.

Normal I am self-motivated.
My Backyard Retreat

But it is my birthday week.

I am 48.

I have a lot on my mind.

All good stuff.

Work just isn't in the cards.

Last night I sat on my patio and drank tea while I read a book. I stayed until it was so dark that my little light wasn't enough.

I saw the moon rise.

My teenagers each came out, one by one, to briefly talk.

My husband came out for about an hour.

My life is normally chaos with work, three teens, one with a chronic medical condition that keeps me in an alert mode 24/7 and then the ongoing, never-ending sports schedule.

Last night my life was a Norman Rockwell painting.

My favorite room
I'm not ready to let that go.

 Tomorrow might be different, I might "face-my-garage"

Today I am going to sit and stare.

When I look at my bank balance next week I will curse my laziness.

But that is next week's problem.

Today, I have no worries.

See you next week....


.

Ishma Update


As many of you know, part of the proceeds of this business go to support a refugee family living in Denver. The family are Kunama people who lived on the border of Eritrea and Ethiopia. They were displaced by the fighting and forced from their land. The mother and her six children lived in a refugee camp for eight years (a few were born in the camp) until they were granted asylum in the US. The dad took off shortly after arriving in the US.

Sara
They have been living in Denver for eight years - I like to describe their time here as an ongoing train wreck when it comes to jobs, illnesses, police trouble (being black and poor with limited language skills is sometimes considered criminal - I can't tell you how many times I have sat in court with them and had charges dismissed because they were ridiculous.)

Case in Point:

Felony Charge/Arrest Warrant for Child Abuse (translation: no child car seat - case dismissed - paperwork had been lost)

Assault Charge (translation: 11 year black boy hit a white kid at school, white kid had been tormenting the black child for months but his language skill prevented him from complaining to the teachers, the boy finally lashed out and punched the white kid-- case dismissed) why the principal called the police?? no answer, she just did.

Criminal Trespass (translation: kids -all under 12 -were running through the sprinklers on a golf course at 10pm - case dismissed) side note - mom lost her minimum wage job for missing work that day

I don't remember the charge - but in court because the 10 and 12 year old boys got separated from their older cousin while watching a parade downtown. They hopped on a bus that seemed to be going in the direction of their house. Ended up at the airport. Airport Officers charged them and we had to go to court. Case-dismissed.

Those are the cases I remember. All charges are always dismissed because they are stupid charges. What scares me is that when I show up with the family, the prosecutor and judge start falling all over themselves trying to apologize and back pedal.

I am not a lawyer, but I "speak" for the family and that changes the dynamic. I fear for the refuge families who don't have an advocate.

On a happy note - the family is, as always, full of laughter, smiles and are genuinely happy people despite their poverty and troubles. They aren't blissfully ignorant, they just choose to be happy. They have plenty of sleepless nights.

I purposely do not name the family or use their real names (Ishma isn't their last name but it is the name I use when referring to them, it's a funny story how that started, I will explain it someday) because I want to protect their privacy. However, the oldest girl, who is now in her mid twenties, has a baby, and that baby turned 1 today. They stopped by this weekend and I snapped a few photos - because babies change so fast, I decided to post her photo here.

Because of Mod Mid and all you buyers/ collectors - little Sara will have a permanent home address where she will grow up and be able to go to the same school without switching constantly and falling behind. She is the first in her family to have an American citizenship (by birth).

When I feel hopeless I remember that I can't change the world. However, together we have changed the world for these eight people by giving them a bit of security ...thank you to all my customer who have made this possible!

DIY Refinishing a Dresser Part # 3

It's taken me longer than expected to get back to this dresser...life is like that.

So, my guy who sands for me came last week and began taking the finish off the dresser. It was rough all over so he used 100 grit sandpaper to take the old finish off and it ended up looking like this:



It took about an hour to sand the finish off. When it's down to bare wood, I hand sand it again with emery paper and then wipe it down to get all the sawdust particles off. Some people buy a product to clean natural wood, I just wipe it clean. A damp cloth (not wet) helps the job along.

When everything is clean and dry I get out the polyurethane and foam brush.


Some people prefer lacquer or water based finishes. I like poly. for a few reasons. The main reason is that it wears well. Some people like the patina that lacquer will eventually bring, but I like the look of natural wood at its best.

When spreading the finish, use long, thin  strokes to even out the finish.




If you leave the edges undone, your finished product will look like this. Even the best painter goes back and checks for drips- they can really ruin the look.


 When an edge is done properly it will look like this:


Here is one drawer with one coat of poly. It needs to dry a few hours or overnight. After the first coat is dry, run the emery sandpaper over it and wipe it clean. Then its ready for the second coat. I like to do three coats (each sanded in between).



One drawer done!

When the three coats are applied over all the raw wood, take the emery paper and give it one last rub down to take off any uneven finish.


Finally, its ready for polish. Using any rag, put about a dime sized squirt of Feed & Wax on your rag and polish every inch Take a towel to wipe of any excess. Put the hardware back on.....and... it....is


FINISHED!