An estate sale hunter’s tips for making vintage furniture finds your own
Shopping for furniture secondhand can lead to some amazing deals on one-of-a-kind pieces. However, it can also lead you down a DIY spiral, trying to figure out what can–and should–be upcycled or tweaked to fit your style. By combing countless estate sales, plenty of Facebook Marketplace listings and the cluttered aisles of consignment shops, Victoria Capello of JolieFinds Design has become an expert on the topic.
“In my ideal situation, I look for really interesting, timeless pieces that need minimal work, but have a small flaw or two,” she says, noting that she likes to begin with wood pieces, especially English pine and walnut. “That way, the seller either already has the piece priced accordingly or is usually willing to negotiate if you ask. Always ask!”
Once the negotiation is over, the fun begins. Capello says she always starts off with some TLC. Something as simple as a good wipe-down can help reveal the texture of the wood and show you what you’re working with.
“The first thing I do when I get a new piece home is give it a good clean and waxing,” she says. “Especially with pine—it gives those pieces a whole new life.”
Once the wood is taken care of, she moves on to the details. Hardware can change the entire look of a piece of furniture, so she will decide to either replace it entirely or go over the handle or knobs with a product called Rub ‘n Buff to make them stand out. This is the time to cater the item exactly to your taste, either with minor details like drawer pulls or a large switch like one of Capello’s recent projects.
“My most recent project was a $220 antique accent table I found in New Orleans,” she says. “I love marble-top furniture, but those pieces run super expensive unless you get lucky at an estate sale. I figured, with the style of my little table, I could just sit a piece of marble on top, so that’s what I did. I was able to get a scrap piece of Carrara cut at a local stone shop for $125. All in all, the project cost me $345 verses $1,500 or $2000. It was definitely a win in my book.”
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For more of Capello’s projects and finds, follow her on Instagram @joliefindsdesign.