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Stop Whining and Start Decorating

Kimberly Clay Dreams Alive Magazine
Stop Whining and Start Decorating


Don’t Let Your Pocketbook Tell You Lies!



Do you dream of evenings filled with chardonnay, candlelight and the warm glow of a picture-perfect room? Do you fantasize about hosting intimate dinner parties and being the envy of your friends and neighbors who marvel at your tasteful and comfortable décor? Do you want to create and inhabit stunning spaces like those you see in the magazines, but think it impossible because of your “ soda pop” budget?

Well stop dreaming and start planning, because I’m going to tell you how you can do all of those things and more, if you so choose. You can handily and skillfully create stylish, tasteful and comfortable spaces without breaking the bank, and no on will be the wiser. Want to know how? Okay, here’s the big secret…shop second hand and bargain stores. Combine items you find in local flea markets, flea malls, auctions and yard sales, with those of discount stores to create beautiful interiors.

What? Are you less than surprised? Heard it before? Did you think I was going to tell you something new?

While the idea of shopping “ second hand” (I know, it’s an old term. You can’t even say “ used car” anymore. The politically correct term is now “ previously owned” car. Gimme a break okay? I’m a child of the sixties.) is certainly not new, the concept of successfully shopping for items of real style and value in this manner is still very new to many people.

My mom had me on the thrift store, garage/yard sale, and auction path before I was out of the third grade. In all of the years since, she has always lived in exquisitely furnished homes that no one, unless they knew her well, would ever guess were furnished almost exclusively from places like Goodwill, Saint Vincent DePaul, the Salvation Army and the like.

While popular shows like “ Trading Spaces” , “ Queer Eye For The Straight Guy” and “ Extreme House Makeover” feed what have become our insatiable appetites for all things interior design, most of us feel that we can never achieve similar results in our own décor endeavors. Even though the shows make it look very easy, what they do on those shows still costs a lot of money if you live in the “ real” world. However, there is hope. You can achieve amazing results buying furniture and accessories on the secondary market if you’re mindful of a few things.

First, always remember that you are “ bargain” shopping. We’re using the term “ bargain” as defined by Merriam-Webster: “ an advantageous purchase” . If you purchase an item that is not in good or fixable condition, is not exactly what you want or is of no benefit toward your design vision, then it isn’t a bargain; even if it’s offered at a great price. Before embarking on this shopping endeavor, look through a collection of design and decorating magazines. You’ll want to get an idea of the atmosphere or ambiance you want to create for a space (casual, formal, traditional), what styles you prefer (modern, antique, art deco), and what mediums or material you’re drawn to (wood, ceramics and pottery, metal). Make notes. When you have finished with this exercise, you’ll have a considerably sound idea in mind of what it is you’re looking for. Now you’re ready to begin shopping. When you find something that is appealing to your sense of vision and design, it is then that you concentrate on acquiring it in the best condition possible and at the most advantageous price. Now that’s a bargain.

Second, keep in mind when shopping auctions, flea markets, flea malls (antique malls are much more expensive) and the like that there is an advantage of choice and variety in shopping this way.

Flea markets and auctions, by their very nature, offer a hodge-podge of items and merchandise. Many people fail to realize what a wonderful benefit this is. When you look through any well-published interior design or decorating magazine, what is the one thing that often comes to mind? “ I never would have thought to put those things together. But they’re so perfect.” It’s the designer’s ability to combine seemingly “ unlike” objects together that draws attention and creates unique, attractive, and interesting spaces. So, stop looking for that full set of china for your table. Combine two or even three different patterns to create one attention-grabbing display. Buy a dainty, wooden antique chair and place it in a room with a large, overstuffed art deco chair. Mix and match throw pillows of different colors, fabrics and textures for you sofa. Soften a glass-topped metal table with brightly colorful linen runners. Get the picture?

Finally, keep usability in mind when you’re shopping second hand. It may very well be the most important advantage. The whole purpose of creating beautiful and comfortable surroundings is to enjoy them. What would be the purpose of creating the most beautiful and comfortable environment if you can’t enjoy it, or if you’re hesitant to invite other people to enjoy it?

Another very good thing that my mother did for me, even as a child, is that she taught me that things are temporal. In other words, you can’t take it with you, so you’d better enjoy it while you’re here. She uses good china, cloth napkins and “ silverware” (not stainless) everyday, not just for special occasions. When you purchase items second-hand, even when they’re valuable items, you can relax a little more. If someone breaks a vase or plate, you may be disappointed, but the world won’t come to an end, and now you know of a good way to replace it. Use what you have and enjoy your surroundings constantly. That’s the true value of creating beautiful spaces.

So go, now! What are you waiting for? Express your true self through the abundance of your surroundings. Start your treasure hunt, become the envy of your neighbors, and tell your pocketbook to shut up.

See you at the markets.



Kimberly Clay is a businesswoman, public speaker and freelance writer whose published work includes online and hard copy magazine articles and short stories. She is currently focusing her talents in the areas of interior design, antiques and collectables where she has over thirty years combined experience. She is passionate about the ability of every individual to enjoy stylish and comfortable living. Visit her website to subscribe to her upcoming newsletter.


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