One of my favorite diversions is thrift shopping with my dear friend Ruth Handel. We will hit the streets of Santa Monica at the crack of dawn, and cruise by driveways strewn with colored glass bottles, milk crates full of 1960s record albums, wooden chairs draped with skinny neckties and metal tables heaped with vintage cookbooks.
We will eagerly spend hours discovering potential treasures: a carpenters box loaded with outdated tools, a pile of grocery shopping bags from stores that no longer exist or maybe a canister loaded with old kitchen utensils. Ruth is my voice of reason: she will calm me down when I become over-excited about a book demonstrating pinecone crafts or develop an impractical affinity for a funky glass vase that might be too difficult to carry back on the plane. She never encourages extravagant purchases, and firmly believes in thrift karma: if you love it, buy it; but if it’s way out of your budget, leave it be.
But on an outing a few years back to The Santa Monica Outdoor Antique and Collectible Market, our discovery was too phenomenal to ignore. Hanging in a booth was this framed Christmas tree encrusted with 1960s costume jewelry. It had working, twinkling lights nestled among an intricate, bejeweled symmetry of brooches, earrings and pendants. It was beyond my budget, but Ruth, on the only occasion I can recall, said, “Buy it!” She fronted me the bills and my glittery evergreen was packaged up and sent to New York where she leans in all her shimmering glamour against my living room wall all year long shimmering glamour.
This year, I gave my jewel-box-of-a-tree a place of prominence in my dining room where she spreads her exotic splendor over the coming festivities. At night I plug her in and she lights up, and I’m reminded of the day that Ruth and I made this true holiday find.
In May 2009, Clarkson Potter will publish my book, The Find: The Housing Works Book of Decorating with Thrift Shop Treasures, Flea Market Objects, and Vintage Details.