Friday, August 21, 2009

Sometimes You Have To Wonder


We're missing some odds and ends. A side table here, a coffee table there, some lamps, floor coverings. The kinds of things we might one day invest in, but for now just need to have. Well I am a not infrequent Martha Stewart Living reader and I always see enterprising young things painting lovely old things lovely new colors. Then there was that article in the Times a couple weeks back about the couple that decorated their summer home entirely from craigslist, and you sort of see where I'm going.

I was going to surprise devoted partner by finding truly wonderful magical things on craigslist that were either good as is, or soon to be lovingly rehabbed by me (a person with no experience, eye, or artistic talent) into darling pieces we would treasure. Oh, and I wasn't going to spend more than like $75 on anything.

Come with me, oh ye who wish ye were more like Martha and less like me, and see what it is people sell. I'm not the first one to do this, there is a fantastic site at Item Not As Described which features truly awful items from the free sections of craigslist, but I want to spend money. Let's see what I can get. The parameters? I only looked at items in Fairfield County, sold by the owner, that had pictures.

We're looking for lamps. I don't like lamps in general, and I really don't like any lamps that devoted partner likes. I like lights. Sometimes I like chandeliers but only in an ironic way. I can be won over by sconces. Fortunately the following two lamps were discovered, both very much in the price range and, as you can see for yourself, funky. I'm funky. Funky can be good. I sang in a funk band in college. I felt like an idiot but there was definitely funk afoot.



But now I'm worried this funk doesn't match. The first funk could easily have lived at my great grandmother, Nan Nan's right next to her bowl of spearmint leaves. Nan Nan's house smelled like old people which is about right as Nan Nan lived to nearly 101 making her, help me now math, 88 when I was born. And 88 in those days was different. Older. Smellier. I think Nan Nan would have liked this first funky lamp. I'm not sure my love for my long departed great grandmother makes ME like the lamp any better. Furthermore, I would be surprised, nay shocked, had Nan Nan paid $85 for this lamp when it was new. After all, she raised my grandmother during the depression, and depression-era people don't shell out that kind of money for ugly, I mean funky, lamps.

I'm pretty sure the second piece of funk was actually once owned by the art teacher at primary school. You all know this art teacher. She wore very big possibly hand knit sweaters, either hand knit by her or by the indigenous Chileans she had spent the summer with, the necklaces with the huge HUGE beads, and the reading glasses that had the artsy chain so they could hang around one's neck. I like to think that Ms. L brought this lamp back from Burma where armless orphans had assembled it with their feet and teeth and presented it to her as thanks for the summer she spent with them doing art therapy and sanitizing their water supply. Even though it probably took the orphans a bit of time to assemble these lamps, $85 is more than their entire village will make this year and, as such, might be slightly ambitious in the pricing department.

2 large off white lamps - $75

Fortunately, for less than the cost of ONE of the funky lamps, I can honor my other grandmother by buying these two lamps. My other grandmother was Jewish and lived in an apartment complex in Miami Beach with all of your Jewish grandmothers. The apartment was styled in whatever it is you call the style these lamps fit in, but she had dishes of seashells lying around the house, so these would have been perfect. Done.

Hand Made Book Shelves - $100

This has convinced me to take a photo of something:

In 8th grade we had to take pottery. I sucked. No, that isn't self-effacing, oh I'm sure you weren't that bad kind of fishing for compliments. I could not, for the ever loving life of me throw a pot and have it remain, well, pot-like. Instead I threw a ridiculous number of things that look like this. I'm not kidding, I have them all displayed in our living room, you should come over and look. Because I went to the kind of progressive, art-friendly school I did, the teacher, rather than tell me I was retarded, said she liked my non pot pots. I thought then, and think now, that they look like vaginas. Glazed vaginas. I like them a lot, but I would never have the balls to try and sell them. Especially not as, say, Homemade Ceramic Objet - $75; perhaps as Retarded Kid Can't Use Pottery Wheel Makes Ceramic Vagina - $2. So I don't know if I have it in me to subsidize someone else's retarded kid who couldn't handle wood shop.


I know what you're thinking. You're thinking that I have plenty to say about this piece. But you don't know what. You think you do, but you don't. This piece falls into a category I like to call Budget Madame X. You see there is a woman. A superfantastic woman who is the mother of a friend, the mother of a friend who is reading this, who has awesome, but totally eclectic taste. Think Louis XIV meets Miami Vice, but in a way so over the top and well thought out, that it works. I mean really works. Works so much that I, who would prefer all of my belongings to be angular, simple, and in a solid color, occasionally find myself staring at a seriously ugly piece like this and wondering what the non-KMart version would become in her hands. Since, I too would like to become a superfantastic woman in my later years, ugly pieces like these speak to me in a very particular way. They say things like, "but Yelena, you don't have a desk yet. You could turn this hideous vanity into something wonderful; something so Madame X aspirational." Then reality sets in, devoted partner comes walking by, reminds me that he knows Madame X, he grew up watching her decorate houses, and I am no Madame X. Sigh.

Brown Jordan Outdoor Furniture - $1200

Something I'm really quite partial to is being thought of as stupid. Sure, I know other people might not get off on it quite as much as I do, but there's something so delicious about the scenario in which someone wants to sell me a used item of theirs for more it would cost me to buy it new myself. You see, over this past weekend, devoted partner and I went to United House Wreckers in Stamford because they were having a patio furniture sale. We saw something that was, wait, exactly like this except it had an umbrella and an additional chair, for about $800. I feel kind of certain that a number of people scouring craigslist might have also seen the advertisements stating that UHW was having a huge patio furniture sale. Perhaps it's just poor timing on the part of the owners of this patio set, but I find it insulting to my intelligence. Either way, I thought $800 was too much for cheap patio furniture, so I definitely think $1200 for the same cheap patio furniture is excessive.

Wooden Picnic Table - Newly Repainted - $100

Similarly, I wouldn't have thought twice about this had the owner not pointed out he had freshly repainted the picnic table. By he, I'm assuming he meant his five year old, or the same kid who made the bookshelves, because this isn't a great paint job. And I can easily steal this same piece from any number of State Parks or summer camps and then poorly paint it myself.

leather chair and love seat - $40

Then there are times when you know that it's futile to fight. That even if you pay for them and keep them in your room, devoted partner will not go with you to pick them up, will not permit them to be loaded in or on top of his car. Will not spend any time remotely near them. You cry because these are POWDER BLUE LEATHER THINGS. Or as devoted partner just said, "you just like it because it looks like the elephant piano player from the Cantina scene." (Can't find you a photo of the thing, because of George Lucas's general douchiness no doubt, but you know the one I'm talking about.)

Strangely enough we might have found an item or 2 we'll actually buy. So craigslist is still good for something now and again. I just do fantasize about the house you get to decorate with all the kinds of crap above. Someone would probably consider it visionary!


  1. In the past year, I have purchased the following on Craigslist: an orange "Gulf Oil" enameled metal sign, 6 feet in diameter; an apartment-size "Admiral" refrigerator from the 1950s (still working); a Chambers stove of similar vintage; a zinc-lined wooden ice chest from the early 1900s, a Hoosier cabinet, a Kodak Showtime 8-millimeter film projector, a Schwinn sting-ray bicycle, a cast-iron kitchen sink, a dutch pharmacy sign and an enamel-top kitchen cabinet.

    Things I considered, but ultimately did not, buy: An embalming table and an old scale that tells your weight and your fortune. And some other stuff that I can't remember.

  2. Where did you put the Gulf sign? [please say toilet]

    And, I will see your Schwinn and raise you one, provided I can find one in baby blue.

  3. It won't fit in either bathroom, sadly. It's really big. Wider than a Volvo station wagon big. Currently, it's in exile behind the drafting table so it won't fall over and hurt someone.

    The elephant's name is Max Rebo, google with abandon.