Monday, February 4, 2013

Estate of Mind

One thing I noticed when I first moved to LA was the ubiquitous "Yard Sale" signs pinned onto trees and street lamps. The closest equivalent to that in New York City are stoop sales, but for fear of bed bugs I mostly avoided those.

In Los Angeles, it seems like any given Saturday will be chock full of yard sales = garage sales = moving sales. Many of these, like the one that annoyingly used to pop up every Saturday by my old apartment in the mid-Wilshire area, are full of useless junk-- old VHS's of Friends, empty glass vases from a 1800-flowers delivery, used dresses from Forever 21, old baby toys. But the rich and famous also occupy certain hoods of LA, and estate sales, where someone is usually selling off everything inside their house, are where the real treasure's at.

It can sometimes be creepy--oftentimes estate sales will come around because an old person died and their family is trying to get rid of their stuff. This was probably why I waited so long before venturing into an estate sale. But then again--that's just the essence of vintage, isn't it? Vintage clothing, furniture, jewelry...they were all owned by someone at some point long ago in time. Estate sales are also just as common for people who are moving and want to get rid of everything, movie props and cancelled TV shows, or even designers who decide to change the whole look of their house and start from scratch. And contrary to popular belief, they are not super expensive, open to the public, and are a great way to find some collectible, rare, or heirloom-quality furniture for pretty cheap. If you go early, you'll find yourself alongside the collectors and hard core people who then sell what they find at marked up prices at places like the Rose Bowl Flea Market. So why not go straight to the source? I've wanted for a long time to check out an estate sale, and finally, this past weekend, when I thought* I was recovered from my horrible cold, I saw a notice for an estate sale at one of the beautiful Larchmont homes close to my house. The lure of thrifting was calling for me to get out of my pajamas and off the couch.

*Sadly, I was wrong about being recovered.

A typical Hancock Park house

A quick aside about the hood--Larchmont and its surrounding Hancock Park is the neighborhood of the rich (and sometimes famous) and the area where I spend all of my evening walks. It's partially the tree lined streets--there are fewer palm trees here and a lot more beautiful deciduous ones like you'd see in the East Coast-- and that's probably why I feel at home here. The houses, too, are done in the European revival style and also are gorgeous-- many mansions have been designed in the '20s and '30s by architects like Paul Williams (Frank Sinatra and Lucille Ball's personal architect) and A.C. Chisholm. So it's no wonder that they're full of history and lived in by the well-heeled.  The houses even have blogs dedicated to them so oglers like us can ooh and ahh.

The estate sale I went to was already on its final day, so the good stuff was mostly gone and they were pretty packed and trying to get rid of everything. Lots of stuff I didn't need...

But this cast iron garden chair caught my eye. It was super heavy and obviously an antique, as they don't make much cast iron furniture anymore. I didn't ask for a price, but most things were pretty cheap, so I'm guessing it was around $20-50.

Went home later and googled "cast iron morning glory garden chair" on a whim and found this same exact one, except in white, dating from pre-1950...

...going for $300 on this auction site! Doh!

A very similar one, though probably older and in better condition, looks like it was going for $800-$1200 on another auction site.

Oh well. Lesson learned. Also in the garden was this cool old bike. Definitely not in working condition, but it made a nice photo...

I also saw this cool antique rocking horse...


...but visions of it creaking slowly on its own at night creeped me out too much.

These beautiful chairs also caught my eye. No idea when they were made, and they have obviously been reupholstered, but the woodwork was detailed and beautiful. Sorry the pic is a little blurry.

Can anyone place these? Too bad we already have way too many chairs for one house. Some girls collect shoes; I collect chairs.

Estate cherry sufficiently popped, I decided to make a detour to This Is Not Ikea (or TINI), a vintage store on Fairfax that has a lot of great finds from estate sales, yard sales, etc. Ikea it is not. There are a lot of old treasures in this place but you really have to dig. And some of them are cheaper because they are in need of some TLC, which means that's perfect for me and my DIY streak.  This refurbished Drexel dresser with hairpin legs was under $300. It would've been great for our office storage problem. I liked the handles, but didn't love the reclaimed wood top.

This mod Herman Miller-looking orange shell chair was $115.

The antique patina on this trifold mirror was amazing. I would've loved this for a bedroom vanity.

Last stop: The Jewish Women's Council Thrift Store, at their new digs on Fairfax. It's hit or miss--last time I was here I picked up a 1919 2nd edition of The Magnificent Ambersons for $1. This time, it was slim pickin's, except this vintage framed collection of cigarette cards of the 1933 of the Derby and Grand National Winners. Cool, but not worth $40.

don't bring me to the glue factory!

Now that I've braved my first estate sale, I may have discovered a new hobby. Who's game to come along?