Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Confessions of a Shopaholic

I feel like I'm home whenever I'm shopping. I blame my family for that, but I still love them. I love that whenever we call each other the first words out of our mouths are not "Hello!" but, "Guess what I did?" With the excitement in our voice any normal person would have guessed we had cured cancer or won the lottery - but not my family. The sentence that follows is always, "I just bought..." Maybe the reason why I feel like I'm at home when I'm shopping is I feel like I'm with my people. This different breed of people are set apart from normal society. The shopaholics! I have been a bred shopaholic for generations, with special skills in thrift, antiques, and collectibles. My brave mother would take my sister and I to the antique shop, which was very daring since she started us at the ages of four and two. When I was four I found my first love. I remember when other kids were getting Lego sets for their birthday, I was getting antique tea sets and four poster beds. My aunt, my nearest relative, residing in Charlottesville VA, has recently become a shopaholic. She understands the whoosh of emotion when you find that deal, and you were the one to find it! The thrill of the hunt, to those who are not shopaholics I will compare it to say - pirates sailing up and down the ocean with a map. Pirates know where to find the buried treasure, but most of the time they have other pirates after it as well. The same goes for us and the deals we find in a store. You have to be calm but aggressive, clever, and always ready for the attack!

I myself have had many run ins with the competition. For example, I was shopping at a local antique shop called Class and Trash, and I was looking at a old hutch from across the room. Suddenly an old lady was eyeing my hutch! I continued through the store and came to the hutch. "Isn't this hutch great?" I said.
"I know! I have to get it. I know just were to put it!" she exclaimed.
"Oh, I'm sorry. I have already bought it." I said untruthfully. To some I'm sure this would seem like an outlandish thing to do to an old lady, but to us shoppers, it's just part of the game. No hard feelings - we all win some and we all lose some. I joked earlier that I feel that God blesses me with good deals. I do believe that, but I also believe that I'm always aware of deals, ever looking, and ever on the hunt.

First you have to know what you are looking at when you find a piece of furniture.

Things to look for:
- Good bones
- Shape and size
- The condition of the piece
- The finish
- Look for clues

Good Bones: The term is usually used when talking about a house. People will ask if the house has good bones. The same concept applies for furniture. What is it made out of? Is it sturdy? Are there pieces missing? Examine the pieces to see if all the bones are there and if they are all still good. When it came to the hutch the bones looked great. I saw that it was made out of walnut which is an expensive wood. That also helped me to know that it is an older piece.

Shape and Size: If the piece is too big, it's too big. Usually when you go out shopping you have places in your home that need to be filled. Measure them before you go out looking that way there is no guess work. The shape really starts to come in to play when it comes to your style. If you seem to side with a more traditional style, look for ball and claw legs. Or if you're more contemporary look for sleek and modern lines and silhouettes. When it comes to the shape, ask yourself, is it interesting? Do you like it the way it looks? Even if it is painted the most heinous orange, you can always refinish it.

The Condition of the Piece: Are there any cracks in the wood that would keep it from falling apart? Bubbles in the finish? Water damage? If the wood is warped or the metal is rusted and falling apart, even a good coat of paint won't heal a bad piece of furniture.

The Finish: This is my favorite part the - what ifs. What if I stripped all the paint off? I wonder what kind of wood is underneath? Maybe a glossy black with new hardware. No! White with a distressed French Country look. Maybe I can reupholster it. The sky is the limit when it come to refinishing your chosen piece. Of course you have to make sure that you can refinish it. Say if it has a formica top. You still have options - you can either replace it with a new custom piece of wood, or you can still paint it, but it will take more time. Over all - have fun!

Look for Clues:
This is the bonus round! When you are shopping, look under the table top for a plaque or a stamp, staples or engravings. These clues can help you find more about the story and the past of your new find. One of the desks that my mother still has in her house used to be an old hotel desk. She found it while living in L.A. We know it belonged to a hotel because of a stamp on the bottom side of the desk. It had been mostly worn away but we could make out "hotel" on the stamp. What a bonus!

It always feels like such an accomplishment when you find the table, dish or chair of your dreams. Now it's yours and it will be something you will use for years and years that you can pass on to you children and your children's children. Family heir looms don't have to start with you grandparents. By using these tips of what to look for is won't cost you all of your money either! Even YOU can become a shopaholic!

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