The Joy of Second Hand

I always like to see my favorite places in the media so when I read “Shop like a Local: 6 Philly Thrift Stores,” on philly.com, I was happy to see they included some of my usual places.

Antique room warmer.
Antique room warmer.

The Philly Aids Thrift (Bainbridge and 5th) store is an almost weekly stop for us. We participate in a regular ritual of dropping things off and buying the occasional item. I have a few memorable purchases.

One, was a full-length wedding attendant gown that fit perfectly for $20. I needed something for a very formal work event and refused to spend a lot of money on something I’d wear once, on account of it having to be something from this century.  It was a beautiful color, I wore it for the following Halloween, and I cut it up and made an awesome bustle over-skirt. Best $20 on a garment ever!.

The next item that we really love is our antique room warmer. Back in the day, probably around the same time our house was relatively contemporary, room warmers were very popular. At the end of the day, you’d take the smoldering coals from the fire and put them into the metal cylinder. The heat would radiate out of the lattice  keeping your room nice and toasty. I also found similar pieces that say they’re a kerosene heater. I like my version better; it’s more romantic.

Anyway, at one point, some enterprising fellow decided that with modern heat, this was more of a decorative item and seeing that the lattice creates a pretty design on the wall, turned it into a lamp. It’s hard to find vintage stuff that we can afford so we picked this up for about $25 to make the living room nice a cozy in the summer when we don’t use the fireplace. Apparently we got a deal because I’ve seen similar heater-turned-lamps for up to $200 on eBay and Etsy.

Next, they mention Retrospect Vintage on South Street. They have all sorts of things but we haven’t bought anything yet. Second-hand is not something you rush. You have to be devoted to the discovery. The acquisition has to be perfect. Then the victory is all the sweeter.

Antique chest of drawers, mid 19th Century.
Antique chest of drawers, mid 19th Century.

They mention Jinxed, which has a new store on 4th Street. I’ve been in several times because that’s how this works. You go in a lot and make friends with the owners who’ll then search for things for you if asked nicely or hold things you might like. They have some smaller architectural pieces and even an antique coffin. We thought about that since it would make a nice re-purposed bookcase but it didn’t fit in our living room. Currently they have a few nice pieces of furniture and Frank bought me a most lovely beautiful bracelet there for my recent birthday.

Two places that they don’t mention are Uhuru Furniture (Spruce and 13th-ish) and Greene Street Consignment (South & 7th or 8th). I absolutely love Uhuru for furniture. I pass it every day on the way home because they’ll get serious estate quality antiques in every now and again and typically they’re swooped up faster than a vulture on a day-old carcass. The better pieces often don’t make it into the store. Regulars are waiting on the sidewalk. We got our wonderful TV stand/former coffee table that Frank was able to transform into quite a nice piece. The lovely chest of drawers (picture right) got away before I could get to it. Sometimes you have to be aggressive.

Greene Street consignment doesn’t even feel like you’re shopping second-hand. Quite often, what I’ve gotten still has the original tag on. Sure, you might fall in love with a dress and be two sizes too big. But occasionally you get a winner. Most recently I scored a really great black skirt to replace one (we have that rule) that had gone to shreds and will be resurrected as a sundress for the Pumpkin (reuse reuse reuse!).

For someone like me who favors old over new, second hand is all you’re going to get in terms of furniture  For clothing, one woman’s impulse buy is another’s perfect item.

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