This morning Sean and I went to the gym, an accomplishment which is really deserving of its own post—as well as a medal for the both of us for finally getting off our butts for the first time in eh, let's not go there—and on the way back, we detoured past a sign that said "Estate Sale" just a few blocks from our house. Now, I don't know about you, but there is nothing that gets my pulse quickening faster than a sign that says "Estate Sale," except maybe a sign that says "Estate sale! And everything is fifty percent off!" which this one didn't, unfortunately, but hey, you can't win 'em all.
If I'm lucky, Sean will accommodate maybe one "Pull over! An estate sale! Can we stop, can we stop?" request a month—the rest he just rolls his eyes at and mutters "don't you own all the junky vintage furniture in the world already?" and this goes for dumpster dives too, whether I have just spotted a mint condition Eames lounger on the curb or not—so I knew I had to use it wisely. A quick perusal of the estate sale's potential—three floors, lots of cars parked outside, including a hovering cab—convinced me it was probably worth cashing in my pull over card. So we pulled over and I ran in, promising Sean that I'd be back in five minutes.
Two seconds later I texted him "OMG, it's amazing, you have to come in."
I always feel a little weird at estate sales; basically, someone has died and you are now walking around their house, looking at all their stuff. It feels disrespectful, honestly, to be poking around in the closets of the recently deceased. I try and rationalize that all of their beautiful, well-loved things are going to go to new homes and be enjoyed again by new people, but there's something rather sad about it all the same.
This estate sale, nevertheless, was a goldmine. There were some nice things in the living room and the kitchen, but the jackpot was the garage, where I could easily have poked around for an hour. It was like the set of Mad Men exploded all over the place, but not the obvious stuff like the furniture or the clothes, more the mundane things like board games and stain remover and Christmas lights. There was a label maker, completely new in its packaging, from the early 1960s. There was a bottle of Baileys whose label suggested it couldn't have been produced any later than 1975. I picked it up. It was still half full.
We had, to our name, eleven dollars. Actually, Sean had eleven dollars, I didn't even have my wallet at all, just my YMCA card, which I was pretty sure wouldn't count as actual currency. We could have run home, of course, one of us standing sentry by whatever must-have item was going to put us out more than eleven dollars while the other foraged in the drawers for the emergency cash and ran back, but sometimes it's good to set yourself a limit in situations like these. I'm pretty sure I could have wreaked some serious havoc with fifty bucks in my pocket and nobody needs ten bins of old records just because the cover art is pretty.
(Actually, I would argue that I did need them, despite the fact that we don't even own a record player, because I vaguely suspect that deep down I have the beginnings of the hoarder gene. I'm sure I could psychoanalyze myself and say that I like stuff—the collecting of, the accruing of—because I moved around so much as a child and lived in impersonal boarding school dormitories with minimal belongings for seven years, but that would probably just be a cop out, or at least part of a cop out. I think I just really like stuff because I really like stuff.)
Still, even with eleven dollars—which reminds me, I still owe Sean eleven dollars—we made out like bandits. For a buck, we bought what is now my new favorite book of all time, "Global Geography," whose pages are full of gorgeous full-color maps and illustrations, and whose inside flap has a publication date of 1949:
But the real prize was a bar cart, which I spotted three seconds after walking into the garage and made Sean stand next to—WITH HIS HAND ON IT, JUST IN CASE—while I tracked down the guy running the sale to ask for a price. I was seriously in love with that bar cart. I told myself I would pay forty bucks maximum for it, and that I'd just run back to the house for cash.
"Ten bucks," said the guy when I brought him down to the garage, where my dutiful husband was patiently standing guard.
"Done," I said, handing him the cash. He seemed a little disappointed that I hadn't bargained.
Here is a picture of the bar cart, and also of my naughty cats trying to escape my front porch. It doesn't look like much here, I know it—and trust me, it looked way worse in the cluttered garage, covered in piles of junk and, for some reason, mounds of powdered laundry detergent—but there's potential there, and we're going to do her up right.
I spent a few hours this afternoon getting started. First, I put the bar cart in the driveway and hosed it off to get rid of all the dirt and grime and random particles of laundry detergent, which at least made some rather pleasant suds despite the fact that they were probably manufactured during the Reagan administration. Then I dried everything thoroughly and went to town on the rusted chrome with a big can of Brasso. I was actually pretty amazed at how well it turned out.
On the left: rusty chrome. On the right: brand new shiny chrome!
Then I took it upstairs, where my cat Charlie—ever suspicious of new objects in the house, specifically whether or not he might be able to eat them—immediately jumped on top of it to claim it as his own.
Mother, this is marvelous. Can I fix you a drink?
But now here's where I'd love to ask you something. Do you think I should paint it? The wood—which may look nice and rich from afar, but which I am pretty sure is just thin wood paneling—is a little beat up in spots and definitely needs a bit of love.
On the one hand, I could just sand it a little, stain it a little, and leave it at that, which would be nice in that it would be a) easy, b) fairly authentic-ish, and c) the same color as our TV stand, which will be to the right of it, but on the other hand, it could look amazing in a bright color like yellow or turquoise (which would match a lamp in the room) or Chinese red (which would match our side tables.) Or what about white? Or even gold?
The options are endless, and I'm curious what you think: leave it au naturel or pep it up a little? I await your verdict, paintbrush in hand, car pointed in the direction of the hardware store.