Since this page regularly features homes filled with all things thrifted, found, and repurposed, it's high time we offer some general tips on finding fantastic furnishings on the cheap.
Where and when to look
The floor stock at larger stores such as Unique, Salvation Army, Goodwill, and Village Thrift turns over quickly. We recommend popping in whenever you have five minutes to spare. Remember: successful thrifting requires persistence and patience.
I'm known among friends as the queen of Craigslist, specifically the "Free" section. I scour it daily and have found amazing things, such as a Scandinavian credenza, 250 vintage National Geographic magazines, and a pair of Nelson-inspired bubble lamps. So when it comes time for me to clean out my apartment, I like to return the favor on Craigslist and give things away.
For the three years that Veronica Shaeffer and Keith Dumbleton lived in their Ukrainian Village apartment, their back room—an adorable sunporch with loads of potential—had become a catchall that served as a mudroom, potting shed, and storage area. The sad space was in serious need of an overhaul. Armed with $150 and a little DIY know-how, we transformed the porch into the perfect spot for summer cocktails.
When McGee and his wife Shelby Allison relocated from Las Vegas in 2008, Allison immediately began scouring thrift stores and estate sales for items to round out her mid-century-meets-Americana aesthetic. The couple scored this stunning stainless steel rolling banquet bar at an auction in the suburbs for $275. It was produced in the 1940s by Brunswick in a building that now houses Columbia College and came complete with forgotten treasures tucked in the drawers, including cocktail flags dotted with just 48 stars.
Greg and Ellen Gartland settled into their Wicker Park condo three years ago with big ideas. The Gartlands knew they wanted more room for a family in the 100-year-old building that was once a carriage and saddle manufacturer. So when it finally came time to expand—and make room for their son, Calvin—it seemed natural to bring a barn into their space.
Given the choice between carpet and hardwood, most renters would opt for wide-planked timber. But what would you do if you found an amazing two-story, three-bedroom apartment in the heart of Ukrainian Village . . . with brown, industrial-style carpeting covering the entire lower level?
The objects in Johnathan and Addie Crawford's Wicker Park condo have stories to tell—stories about channeling the past and making the most of the present.
When I moved from Los Angeles to Chicago, one of the things I missed most was the sunny, plant-filled living spaces that were ubiquitous on the west coast. India McQuoid and Chris Neeley's Bridgeport loft channels that California sensibility. Rumored to have once been a Chinese fish factory, the three-bedroom home is smartly decorated with a mix of well-made furnishings and well-priced vintage accessories, thanks to McQuoid's keen sense for thrifting. (She scored a set of Bertoia chairs at Brown Elephant for $150 and recently found that black wire Italian bar stool at a Salvation Army for $8.)