Sourcing Sorcery Part 1: The Easiest Way
Hello and welcome to the first installment of the “Sourcing Sorcery” series. I really want to create a simple guide to the furniture and home goods brands who are aligned with my personal goal to do the least harm possible when furnishing and decorating my home. Some factors I’m looking at include:
- -Sustainability. How does this company treat our planet? Do they source the materials they use responsibly?
- -Who owns this company?
- -How does this company treat its employees and manufacturers? Are they paid a living wage?
- -Does this company support any political organizations?
- -Do they give back to their communities or other organizations in any meaningful way?
- -Do they have a reputation for inclusiveness?
- -What are the price points of the merchandise and do they match up with value?
I’m sure there’s more, but those are the main ones. Now, have I always adhered to these standards with the things I’ve purchased for my home? No. But am I doing my best? Yes. Do I judge anyone who uses sources considered problematic due to budget? No. I just want to offer this information for your consideration and hope that it might inform the way you shop for your home going forward. We’re on this journey together!
The problem is that much like the fast fashion business, inexpensive furniture and home goods can come at a tremendous cost to the wellbeing of the planet and the people on it. This is a fantastic article that goes into this concept in more detail. Traditionally, furniture and décor were handmade or manufactured by unionized factories here in the US or Europe. That made it expensive, so pieces were valued highly and saved for generations. However, as our world has changed ENORMOUSLY in countless ways since the days when grandma’s mahogany dining room set was worth a fortune, the demand for cheaper, lighter, more disposable options has exploded. So while its awesome that more accessibly-priced furniture and home goods have completely blown up in the marketplace over the last decade or so because It means that more people can afford to improve their living spaces, it also sucks because it means that we’re just creating all sorts of other problems related to consumption and labor abuses amongst others.
FOR EXAMPLE. This past week I started looking around for a new dining room table for merchandising in my shop. The one we have is pretty shop worn and starting to fall apart a bit. So one of the first spots I checked was West Elm. Now I don’t really buy much if anything from West Elm but I often check their selection to get a sense of what a contemporary, mass-market piece similar to what I’m looking for looks like/sells for. In this case I clicked the link for “dining tables” and 82 options come up. I clicked the filters for “Sustainably Sourced” (which they define as: “responsibly sourced using FSC®-certified wood or reclaimed, recycled or upcycled materials and less waste.”) and the options went down to 12. TWELVE. So that means 70 of the dining tables they’re selling are UN-sustainably sourced. When you click the “fair trade” filter, it goes down to SEVEN. Insert linemouth emoji here.
Now, this is not to single out West Elm. I’m sure something very similar would happen with similar companies, but honestly most of them aren’t even transparent enough to offer those filters! In fact, good for West Elm! Here is a link to their full “Responsible Retail Glossary”. But the fact still remains that 91% of their dining tables aren’t sustainably sourced and the people manufacturing them are not guaranteed a living wage or safe working conditions. That is an industry wide norm. BARF.
Is that the energy you want to bring into your space?
So here’s where I tell you that honestly, if budget is a concern, the absolute easiest way to ensure that you’re doing the least amount of harm when buying furniture and the like is to shop vintage/secondhand. I am going to talk about this A LOT. I’m obsessed with shopping vintage and in general I love my “vintage miracles” more than any the stuff I’ve bought new. Like can you imagine saying “Pottery Barn miracle”? No, you can’t. Because while buying new will fill the void, it probably won't help you feel your connection to the divine synchronicities of the universe in quite the same way. But it’s not just about vintage! Regular old yard-sale type secondhand resources like Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace are total treasure troves too!
Aside from the sustainability factor, the thing I love most about vintage is the magic that goes into finding the perfect piece. When we moved into the PentHaus there were two pieces of furniture that I knew were going to be especially hard to find because they needed to be really specific sizes and shapes.
The first was a cabinet or bookcase to go under the window downstairs high enough that the hauscats could lay in sunbeams and feel the breeze whilst also fitting perfectly into the space between the window casing and molding. Extra extra credit if it looked like a built-in. You can see Salem was not pleased with our temporary, too-short solution:
The second thing was a coffee table that would fit in the space in front of the couch without blocking the walkway and sitting awkwardly in the middle of the with pointy corners sticking out for people to hurt themselves on.
In those very specific circumstances, vintage is not always my first instinct, but after weeks of searching the internet I could find NOTHING with the dimensions I needed for under the window and prices for anything close were wild. So when a vintage mid century glass front cabinet popped up on FB Marketplace for $250 I grabbed my tape measure in pleasant disbelief and confirmed that yep, this cabinet, which was only a half hour from where I live would sit perfectly within in the space under the window it confirmed once again that the magic of vintage is real. Plus, it was almost instantly hauscat-approved!
Oh sure it had a big burn mark on the top and it was the wrong color, but all of that could be fixed. The important thing was that it was solid wood and it had good bones. I hired my friend Lyd of Foxtail Painting to paint it white and the rest is history. Total cost: $680.
The coffee table came to me by way of amazing local dealer I-Spy Vintage. I first noticed my beautiful beanie baby on their Instagram feed but by then the post was a couple of months old and I figured there was no way in heck that beauty was still available.
BUT IT WAS! Not only was it the right shape to easily accommodate the walkway, but the color (white with a fabulous gold base), size and condition were perfect too. It was truly meant to be and I think it might be my favorite piece of furniture I've ever had.
But this goes beyond simple synchronicity. Its also about the shattering the illusion of limited possibilities. There are already like, infinite pieces of furniture on the planet and without including stuff that’s had a past life or two you’re cheating yourself out of options you never even imagined! I really never even considered that a bean-shaped, 80’s glam coffee table existed but of course it was the perfect thing! Plus, when all the factors line up (size, shape, material, color, etc) it’s hard not to feel aligned with the universe and that ALWAYS feels good.
So what are some good ways to find amazing vintage/thrifted miracles?
- Comb Craigslist, FB Marketplace, and “Buy Nothing” Social Media Groups. You can simply search “vintage” “retro” or “antiques” or a specific period/style like “Mid century”, “Danish”, “Glam”.
- Chairish has a great selection if you live in an area with a lot of good dealers. If not, shipping rates are usually around $300 for a piece of furniture which might make your piece too expensive. However! If you’re searching for something super specific or a statement piece it might be worth it. Same with smaller décor pieces that won’t be as expensive to ship.
- Antique Malls! The best places ever! A few of my local faves are Crompton Collective, The Mills at Pulaski Street, and Ramble Market. Rhode Island Antique Mall I’m coming for you as soon as this dang Covid thing blows over.
- Secondhand Shops! No brainer here, again my local faves are Witch City Consignment, Lifebridge and Savers. Goodwill is good too of course, especially for picture frames! But always remember that Salvation Army is run by bigots so maybe that can be your last choice?
I hope I've convinced you of the power of vintage miracles! Stay tuned here and on IG for a Vintage Manifesting Spell and a little more about how to determine if a vintage or secondhand piece is a diamond in the rough or just rough. I could truly talk about vintage furniture all day every day so stay tuned!
- Choosing a selection results in a full page refresh.
- Press the space key then arrow keys to make a selection.