Curate a Goodwill Furnished Home Office

It’s not that many weeks away when everyone starts looking around their space, itchin’ for a change. Whether it’s a complete room makeover, or just some needed reorganization, one thing usually leads to another, and before you know it, you’ve got an entirely new look evolving.

When I listen to my upholstery students talk about their Craigslist finds, I’m surprised at how much they’re willing to spend for used furniture. Take away the words “vintage”, “recycled”, “thrifted”, and you essentially have plain old used furniture. Don’t get me wrong, I do love interesting, used furniture. I guess compared to new pieces, the prices are still relatively cheap. Remember back a few years ago when Goodwill furniture was reasonably priced and nobody shopped there? It was a dream come true for a dyed-in-the-wool furniture thrifter like me. I was in one of my “Buy When You Find” manic phases when I wrote this ancient post over on Curbly about what to look for when shopping at Goodwill. One of my main points was to buy two, if they’re available. Two are always better than one. Following my own advice, I started buying two of everything that I found in pairs, including two wooden spool lamps, two almost brand new drum lampshades and two task chairs. As the garage filled up, I was scooching everything farther and farther back into the corners, knowing that one day I may be able to use some of these treasures.
Well, my friends, two weeks ago, I went Goodwill Hunting in my very own garage. There were some goodies I forgot I even had (two upholstered Danish barstools-yippee).

I pulled out the lamp, lampshade, a crumpled plastic bag with this lovely blue glass bowl and an old handpainted canvas that I could repaint into the knock off Andy Warhol I saw on the front of House Beautiful. The desk was put into use two years ago and, believe it or not, it replaced an original Stickley table that was filling in for a desk. Not to worry, we still cherish the Stickley.

My office area is versatile enough to take on a different feel with a switch of a canvas (too big, but fun) and some bright pink flowers.

The design blogs are overflowing with images of other people’s Goodwill finds. As an experienced veteran of second hand furniture shopping, my words of advice are these:

1. Don’t pay so much that you would regret it if you find out the pieces don’t work when you get them home.
2. Don’t overbuy. A well composed, simple, and carefully edited space can convey your style more effectively than a bunch of disjointed bargains.

I’ll be the first to admit that the decor of any room in my house is more or less dictated by what I’ve collected, rather than a solid plan. For me, that works. The fun of the hunt, and the challenge to work with my finds is the core of my very being. It pushes me to think creatively, problem solve, redesign, be flexible and create a space that makes me feel secure, comfortable, and happy. Home is my very dearest spot on earth.

I received the best compliment last weekend. During a big family gathering at our home, my cousin’s wife said to me, “Your house is so YOU”. Instead of double guessing her comment, I just thanked her for noticing.

Here’s the breakdown of costs for this space. If you saw the rest of the room (which you will), it’s also filled with carefully culled Goodwill finds.

Desk: $45.00 (I remember thinking that was outrageous)
Task chair: $6.99 (They’ve gone up to around $14.99)
Pair of spool lamps: $5.99 each
Pair of drum shades: $12.99 each (a little pricey)
Blue glass bowl: $9.99
Ugly handpainted canvas: $3.99
Fabric for desk chair: $12.99 (three years ago)
Grand Total: $97.94

I already had acrylic paints and brushes on hand for my new artwork.
Since I only used one of the lamps and shades for this area, I tallied in the price of one, even though I bought two.

My home office space is warm and surprisingly bright, thanks to those big flowers right in front of my face. My furniture stash is always changing, so it’s not unlikely that come spring, I’ll be brightening up the walls, possibly painting the desk and maybe changing the lampshade. This is the true value of being able to curate inexpensive furniture into functional, visually pleasing rooms. You never feel like you’ve spent so much on something that you’re stuck with it. However, it’s important to have a few quality pieces that will withstand the periodic makeovers.

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