Friday, June 27, 2008

The Gift of Thrift: Dial a Dance

I am always up for a thrift-store challenge that requires a quick turnaround on a minimum amount cash. So when Doris Cooper, my editorial director at Clarkson Potter, asked me if I could provide a raffle prize for her sales and marketing meeting that would embody the essence of my book, scheduled to hit bookstores May 2009 and tentatively titled, The Find: The Housing Works Book of Decorating with Thrift Shop Treasures, Flea Market Objects, and Vintage Details, I immediately abandoned my desk and headed straight into the subway that would take me to Housing Works ( on 17th Street.

As I walked through the store’s front door, a velvet camelback sofa caught my eye – way beyond my budget, not to mention an odd raffle prize for an intimate corporate meeting. Nearby rested a rustic wooden wine riddler I considered, but decided it, too, was a somewhat strange offering as well as a little rich for my wallet. I then made my way back to the corner of the store where books and records lined the shelves, right around the corner from jumbles of colorful housewares. I fiddled with a pink and white beaded candleholder, mulled over a quintet of Mid-Century atomic bowls and even eyed a pair of Epcot Center mugs from the 1980s. Nope. Not right. On this rare occasion, I stunned even myself by leaving the store empty handed.

I decided to take a leisurely stroll through Chelsea and then on to Greenwich Village to see what another Housing Works shop on 10th Street and West Fourth might hold. And sure enough, the shop was hopping with activity, which is always an encouraging indication of awaiting treasures. A silver-based soap stand got my attention, but as soon as I reached for it, another shopper practically snatched it out of my hand. The same thing happened when I spied a pastel plaid floral pin in a display cabinet. Before I could even inquire about it, another thrift seeker grabbed it right from under my nose.
A little miffed, I walked away from the counter and started circling the shop for renewed inspiration when out of my periphery appeared the find of the day: a blue and yellow cardboard wheel, probably from the 1960s, called “The Ballet for the Beginner,” decorated with delicate sketches of tutu-clad girls in ballet positions ($5!). Dial a position, such as a grand pliĆ©, and a pronunciation shows up in one window and a definition of the term in another. I was on to something.

Wheel in hand, I returned to the housewares area and there was the second Find: a gorgeous, pink pressed glass candy dish ($6!) exactly the same diameter as the wheel. What if the wheel became a lid for the dish? All I needed was a topper for my creation, and across the way, there it was: a curvy pink wire sculpture of the Eiffel Tower ($4!). My grand total was $15 plus tax, with just enough money left over to fill the dish with Swedish Fish candies, jellybeans and gumballs. The towered ballet candy dish has layers of discoveries. First, remove the wire tower to reveal the ballet-themed wheel. Then slide the wheel aside to find a bright surprise of classic sweets.

While my towered ballet candy dish is probably more appropriate for a little girl’s dance recital than a corporate get-together, it incorporates elements of everything I love-- shimmering pink glass, heart-warming vintage stationery, a splash of anything French, and of course, discovering that thrift find.

A la prochaine.

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