February 19, 2014

good things come in threes - estate sale tips

I think it is well established on this little blog that I love a good estate sale. (little gems have been found here, here and here) But I now believe those were all just to prep me for the real deal because over the past several weeks St. Louis has had the trifecta of estate sales. Two design mavens/shop owners that have been local favorites for decades just had estate sales at their homes. And one of them had another retirement/estate sale at her store as well. It was simply wonderful.


We are talking 40 plus years of accumulated awesomeness. Beautiful old homes, upholstered walls, custom drapes in every room and lights you just can't find anymore. Heavenly.

I would have gotten more pictures, but these sales are crazier than a Justin Bieber concert and I had to keep my game face on lest someone would steal my stash right out from under me. I've seen it happen.


I was luck enough to get two killer bamboo pieces at the first sale - the fire screen I used in my Christmas mantel this year


as well as this bamboo side table. Pennies on the dollar people. They were $10 and $20 I believe.


At the next sale I snatched this slipcovered arm chair for $35 that I shared on Instagram. That is a Lee Industries chair in excellent condition with fabulous down cushions. I pet her each and every day. I've named her Sonja.


I also came home with tons of great trim, fabric, decorating books, teapots, and silver. Good god do I love a great estate sale! So how do I find these and what do I do when I go?

- Estatesales.net.
You can search for sales by zip code and most will show pictures of items and give a laundry list of what to expect. If the sale is in a good neighborhood, go. If you see things on the list that interest you, go.

- Fight or flight.
If you know there is something there that you want, go early and stand in line. Bring your cash, or a check if they'll take one (it will say on estatesales.net) and turn on your tunnel vision, making a b-line for the piece as soon as you walk in the door. If you don't see anything particular but it looks to be a good house or the sale is given by a good company, go an hour or so after the sale starts to avoid the lines. There will still be tons of great things to find and you won't have to stand outside in the rain with the weirdos (me).

- Make friends.
Get to know the people giving the sale(s). Most of them have email lists, Facebook pages or mailing lists that you can join to know about sales that aren't publicized and get early entrance to some. This is how I knew about two of the last sales I went to.

-Sunday is deal day.
Saturday is when the big stuff goes. Quickly. Sometimes you are able to possibly get the price down a bit ("Is this the best you can do?" is my standard line) on Saturday but Sunday is the day to wheel and deal. Typically everything will be 50% off. If you can hold out and want to play the odds on something, go Sunday morning first thing and see what you can do. That is how I got the arm chair. It was still there at the end of the sale on Saturday so I figured my odds were pretty good to get it for 50% off the next day. So I went bright and early (in a snow storm) and laid claim on Sonja. The sales lady told me that several people that had their eye on the chair and were coming after church to get it. I skipped church that day because I'm a heathen chair hoarder.

-Enjoy the view
I've been to many a sale where I walked out empty handed or even knew before I went that there would be nothing for me. But the house. I had to see the house. If you are a house lover/stalker like me, think of it as an open house without having to lie to a real estate agent about why you are there.

-Kiss the frog
As my grandmother said, you've got to kiss a lot of frogs to find that prince. Sales can be a big bust but the more you go to, the more you'll get a feel for the ones that you know will be good. And when you hit a good one, all of those frogs are worth it.

What about you? Do you go to estate sales? Ever found any big scores? Wanna go trolling with me some weekend?

31 comments:

  1. awesome finds. estate sales are my favorite! plus, they hold me over till yard sale season in the summer!

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  2. I am sort of lazy about the estate sale thing but luckily folks in this area are not design junkies for the most part. I got my pagoda mirror on 50% off Sunday for a pittance.

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  3. Great tips! I'm an estate sale addict. But my game face sucks! I usually feel and probably look like I have an anxiety attack when I really want something.

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  4. Oh my gosh, LOVE this post! Your bamboo stuff is to die for! I should go to estate sales and my long time vintage dealer (and good friend) always chides me for going to the flea market since all the dealers get their stuff at estate sales, but somehow I haven't gotten into the swing of it here, I'm more of a craigslister. But this post may have just changed my mind :) Great tips, thank you!
    xo Mary Jo
    http://MagicalMined.blogspot.com

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  5. Estate sales are my favorite!!! I have scored so many great items for my new shop and it is always fun to see what kind of gems are up for grabs! I usually try to hit the Friday sales when they are going on in hopes of avoiding the weekend crowds :)

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  6. How did I not know about estatesales.net? The estate sales where we moved from were always pretty lame but there are some amazing ones here and I'm just learning the ropes about how to navigate them. Sometimes going just to see the house alone is worth the trip!

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  7. I go whenever I can! It's truly fantastic to catch the items before they go to the antique stores and I love seeing how most owners use these furniture pieces. Love all your finds!

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  8. haha! love your red chair! Awesome tips! I will be checking that estate sale website...I can never know when there are any happening around here.

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  9. I would love to troll with you! I have one on my calendar in Ojai next Friday. My best treasures have come from CL in Santa Barbara, but I do love a good estate sale.....
    Sharon

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  10. One of my favorite forms of entertainment! :) It kills me to have to pass one up! Sonja is a treasure!

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  11. I've only been to one estate sale but it was so much fun! I scored my rug for $90, and its been appraised at 5 grand. Not too bad! I hope to go to some more this summer. I love your tips and that little side table is AMAZING.

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  12. Such great tips, Elizabeth! And yes, I want to go with you! We're headed to Kansas City for Spring Break and I'm really hoping I can find some good thrifting spots!

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  13. Oh the trolling we could do... Those bamboo pieces and that chair, amazing.

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  14. I've never gone to one, but it would be fun to look!

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  15. Great advice! I never go to Estate sales, but I know it will be different in Florida.

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  16. This has actually made me depressed that I haven't been estating in quite some time. I need to get on my game!!!!

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  17. Hi! I love your blog! I emailed you yesterday with an inquiry and wanted to make sure that you'd gotten it?

    Thanks! Robin

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  18. Your advice is so on target. As a veteran estate sale stalker myself, I can vouch for getting there early and going back early on the last day to get the bargains. Funny, a lot of our sales start on Thursday or Friday and are over on Saturday. Although some last through Sunday. I think every market is different. I've found some great stuff but often walk away with nothing. The key is to have an open mind and scour those online photos. I'm hitting a couple this weekend. Lately there haven't been many great ones, but the spring never disappoints!

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  19. The items that you found are amazing!! I love Sonja, she is beautiful. I actually saw the sales that you went to and was so bummed that I couldn't go. I am glad that the prices were good and that you found some awesome stuff!

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  20. Estate sales are the best! I got my vintage pink velvet couch at an estate sale for $150! Thanks for the tips :)

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  21. I have never been to one bc I assume they are always in a musty house but I think I may try it now!

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  22. You are speaking my language lady! I was just stallking estatesales.net less than 15 minutes ago. Great tips!

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  23. An estate sale is what led us to our house. We're big fat lookie loos over here and saw that they were having an estate sale. Our real purpose was to look at the house, but I do love estate sales. Some are crap but the good ones are soooo good.

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  24. I didn't know you lived in St. Louis! I also live in St. Louis (in Maplewood, specifically) and love the estate sales here. I'm originally from Texas, so estate sales with great finds are still a novelty for me. Maybe I will meet you at a sale, one day!

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    1. Hi Emily! So many great houses in Maplewood. Let me know if you ever want the names of a few good sale companies and I'll be happy to pass them on. Welcome to town!

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    2. That sounds great, I would love to hear them. What neighborhood do you live in? Your house is beautiful, by the way!

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  25. Great tips! I too love estate sales. Ugh finding that diamond is like hitting the lottery. (Which I've never actually won, but I'll bet it would feel about the same). Those lights are awesome. And that Le Lac shade? Insane!!!

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  26. Great finds and advice from a fellow estate sale lover! I agree, sometimes it's all about the cool old house.

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  27. Thank you for the tips. I've never gone to an estate sale but love finding a bargain. I just checked in my area and there are at least ten going on this weekend. I'll never get my house cleaned…

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  28. LOVE estate sales too and love hearing other people's tips. So true about kissing frogs. Thought you'd like this post we did last year with one of the better estate sales I've been to around here--check out the steal of a mirror I got in the last photo--still love it! http://twoinspiredesign.com/2012/05/29/one-mans-trash/

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  29. Thought you might be interested in an update (thank you?) on my first estate sale adventure, thanks to this post. My husband agreed to go with me on Sunday for the last day half-price deals. The pictures from the sale showed a silver plate champagne bucket which I've been looking for forever. When we got to the sale, the silver plate bucket was one of the first things I saw so I grabbed it. We also came home with a beautiful Natuzzi leather couch, chair, ottoman which are incredibly comfortable, an original charcoal drawing, two crystal decanters, and some household odds and ends. The sofa style is not what I would normally choose (it's quite modern) but the comfort can't be beat. I'm still trying to wrap my head around the serendipity of reading your post, going to Estatesales.net and finding this sale, attending the sale and buying things I hadn't gone looking for but will now change the look of my living room so I thought I would be remiss if I didn't say thank you. THANK YOU.

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