My Suburu pulls into the Goodwill parking lot of its own volition, a modern divining rod delivering an irresistible message: “There are treasures hidden here.”
I’m not one to proselytize for supernatural guidance but I can vouch for Goodwill–there are almost always treasures tucked away in its over-stuffed racks and shelves of discarded household items. Some are prosaic, a heavy All-Clad skillet for $4 or the stainless steel coffee maker that costs $8 rather than $5 because of its high-end brand name and excellent condition.
But I am more excited by the possibilities of seemingly unneeded or useless items:
- A pair of pristine white matelasse twin bedspreads from Garnet Hill, a measly $3 apiece. Hung from a black iron rod with clip-on curtain rings, they block the drafts of winter and the heat from summer’s afternoon sun with casual elegance.
- Mismatched glass shades from old chandeliers and modern bathroom fixtures, 50 cents each. Turned upside down on outdoor tables, they glow with the soft light of votive candles while protecting the flames from wayward breezes.
- Heavy crystal ashtrays–once accoutrements of gracious homes, now relics of a reviled habit. Inverted, they serve as foundations for displaying decorative objects or adding to the height of a flower vase.
Creating a room is, for me, an artistic act. I have a vision of the environment I want to create. If I wanted to (and had unlimited funds, which I don’t), I could go to the mall or the art galleries or a designer showroom and achieve my vision with the wave of a credit card. Where’s the fun in that? There’s no hunt involved, no turning a sow’s ear into a silk purse, no delighted discovery of an imperfect object whose very imperfections give it charm. No challenge.
Art–whether writing, a painting, a piece of music or the creation of a beautiful environment–is an act of problem solving, of recognizing and overcoming limits. I browse through stores ranging from Nieman Marcus to Anthropologie; I attend art openings and museum exhibitions; I love a good designer’s showhouse–but only for inspiration. When it comes time to execute, I prefer the raw materials I find in salvage shops, resale emporiums and the cluttered booths of so-called antique malls. I prefer to apply my imagination.