Everyone wants to find a good deal, but few people have the knack and the patience to sort through mounds of junk to find hidden treasures. Lisa Walker, however, is an expert in this department. “My love of thrifting evolved when I was looking for furnishings and bric-à-brac for my daughter’s first post-college apartment and my son’s first home,” she says. “I was also trying to recycle quite a few inherited pieces that needed a little TLC or reinventing. When I was a young adult and setting up my own house, I was often told by my mother to only purchase and keep solid wood furniture. ‘None of this new stuff,’ she used to say.”
Lisa started with what she already had — reinventing the pieces that she and Frank, her husband, had inherited. “Some I refinished, and with others I tried my hand at painting. I became addicted to this painting and reinventing process … and decided I would start buying most any quality, solid wood pieces I could find.”
For the would-be treasure hunter, Lisa recommends looking first for solid wood, then study the drawer construction — dovetailed drawers are a sign of quality workmanship. Also turn the piece over to look for a maker’s label as this is a clue to if the piece is well-made. Identification of the manufacturer or craftsman may also be on the inside of a drawer or on the back of the piece. Look for brass pulls, brass toe caps and pulls original to the era of the piece. Try to determine if a piece has been in the home of a smoker as it is very difficult to get the smoke smell out.
Lisa recommends inspecting the piece for water damage, mold or mildew. Although, she explains, if water damage is discovered, don’t necessarily write the piece off, instead evaluate whether the damage is workable. “Sandpaper, paint and stain are my best friends; however, a broken leg or damaged structure say to me ‘leave me behind’ as they can require extensive and expensive repair work,” she shares. “While most of the pieces you might find are not fine antiques, they may be antique or vintage.” In the essence of reinventing, you might even prefer them not to be fine, just quality.
Lisa prefers to shop at local thrift stores that are nonprofits or have a philanthropic mission. “Thrifting is a very big business in Columbia. There is an upswing for upcycling, recycling, reinventing!” she says. “I have also found many spots along my drive from Columbia to the Upstate and Columbia to the coast, some of which most people would never go inside or at least not alone. Whenever I am headed out of town, I google thrift shops in the area and make a plan.”
Lisa has discovered that while looking for furniture pieces, often her “treasure haunts” or “junktiques,” as she likes to refer to them, carry donated bric-à-brac items of very high quality that are often brand new with tags. So she recommends not only browsing for furniture but also scanning the shelves for a steal.
“Very seldom do I pay the listed price as most people are willing to negotiate, especially if you are buying more than one item and if you are taking it with you that day. If you have cash, then that’s even better. If you frequent places as often as I do, you become friends with the staff and with other repeat customers,” she says with a smile.
Lisa now also belongs to several closed Facebook groups that sell — micit, Clutch and Clutch Kids — which has opened up a whole new world of thrifting. “You can buy and sell from the convenience of your home by posting and commenting on items in these groups,” Lisa shares.