Talking Trash

Dumpster diving, roadside reappropriation, trash-to-treasure, or curbside shopping… No matter what you call it, scouring the roadside on bulk trash day can yield some terrific furniture finds.

The trick is to be suave about it...

Or simply shameless.

Now, MY technique? Well, I may SOUND bold here in the safety of my comfy Internet home. But when it comes down to the actual ACT of garbage-picking, I am a big ol’ scaredy-cat-- deeply afraid of embarrassing myself.

Not that that prevents me from TAKING the trash, of course. It just means I lean more toward the Stalking method.

You know the Stalking method? I see a potential find… size it up... drive by... maybe drive by again, and wait for the perfect unobtrusive moment... to pop it in my trunk, dive behind the wheel and burn rubber.

It’s kind of like a Mafia kidnapping...

So I hear.
Now if the item is on MY street, I might saunter out onto my front porch and pull at a stray weed or two, keeping the prey in my peripheral vision.

I listen for traffic... la, la, just me weeding here, nothing to see...

Wait for the guy walking the pug to go by… “Yes, hello, sir, howya doing? Nice day. Fine pug...”

Allow three minutes for the curly tail to shrink safely into the distance and...


Like a Navy Seal on a tactical mission except, you know, not in water or actually athletic, I run across the road, a red-headed blur, and seize the item.

A glance right, a glance left, and another lightning fast jaunt, and I’m home safe with my prize.

I waited out my first roadside chair for FOUR HOURS, stalking that thing until my neighbors-- who were chatting on their front porch-- finally went inside and allowed me to get down to business.

In those days, I was right out of college, had nothing to my name but three milk crates and a fold-out bed, and I really needed the furniture.

And the chair was a sweet little 1930s number with Tudor legs and a bad wood finish-- but lots of potential.

Today it’s this. I stripped it, reupholstered the seat, and now it resides in my Medieval/William Morris styled living room.

The biggest expense ended up being the tapestry for the cushion, which I purchased at the Greater Pittsburgh Renaissance Faire.

Below is another roadside discovery, and one of my absolute favorites.

The chair was originally this cream shade, but a bit stained. So I repainted it, distressed it a little, and gave it a new seat cushion of vintage pink velvet. It now lives merrily in my guest room. How cute are those spindles?

Now these two chairs below were my most recent finds.

As you can see, I’m in the process of recushioning them from the weird cream burlap on the left to the vintage hunter green velvet upholstery fabric on the right. I’ll be giving these to a friend’s mom, who could use some replacement dining chairs for her well-worn set.

The funny story behind these chairs is they weren’t put out to trash the same week. The first week was the armchair. And then the next week before trash pickup, I looked out the window and… could it be?

It was. I lifted the chair, tucked it inside the house, went off to work, and no one was ever the wiser!

Okay, so you may be thinking, “Are chairs the only thing you can get from the side of the road?”

Why, no! In fact, many good pieces of furniture are put to the curb every day, in search of new homes. The reason my pictures here are so chair-centric is more related to my physical limitations, than curbside quality. It’s much easier to do the Stealth technique with a dining chair instead of, say, a seven-foot long buffet when you’re one gal trying desperately to be subtle.

Also, I have a compact car.

Oh-- and before I go-- one more pic!

This picture is courtesy of one of my friends, the current owner of the chair. This was a roadside find I reupholstered... and which adopted my friend as new owner because it went so well with her existing decor.

So one more roadside chair has found its place in the world! And it’s easy to feel good about curbside shopping when you can uncover treasures you love and can really use. In a society that’s becoming more and more disposable, I just like to think I’m helping do my part by turning potential landfill into a little luck.


NJTomboy said...

Very pretty... OH those are gloves! I thought it was a stencil of a electric blue horse's head.. LOL I am thinking about experimenting with silhouette on a few projects... so I see them everywhere! Silhouettes that is....

Thrift Shop Romantic said...

NJ- Heh, sounds like you have silhouettes on the brain these days! :) While my friend likes horses, somehow I don't think an electric blue horse's head would be what she'd choose to finish off her decor. Not unless, you know, she was the Godfather and really wanted to make a statement. :) Hope you're doing well, and things are going excellently for your kids this school year.

Anonymous said...

You are absolutly hilarious! I love your writing it seems as though I am right there with you. When is your book coming out? ~redesigndiva@gmail, ncredesigndiva

Thrift Shop Romantic said...

RedesignDiva- Heh, somehow I don't think there's a big book market for chair thieving techniques. But I appreciate the note and your kind support! :)