Must Be The Season of The Kitsch

IMG_8207Tag sales, garage sales, rummage sales, lawn fetes, yard bazaars– whatever you prefer to call them, the season is now upon us.

Those types of sales are all fine and good for most people hunting for a bargain, but I prefer rummaging exclusively through dead people’s things.

Ok, that sounded way more creepy and goth-y than I intended it to.

What I MEANT is that spring is a magical midcentury revival time when estate sale companies are gearing up to sell the remaining contents of the time-capsule houses that have sat empty all winter. The character of these homes has not yet been obliterated by clueless realtors who want to “maximize the listing potential” by slathering white paint over the beautiful roman brick fireplaces and covering (also see: ruining) the original slate floors with cheap, shitty laminate that absolutely does not look like real wood no matter how hard you squint (and gag).

Call me a snob, but I only want to peruse (and shop!) at the homes where all the matchy-matchy pastel bathroom fixtures are still in place, the bedroom wallpaper is still blindingly mod, the shag is long enough to rake, and the amber swag lamps are still dangling in the entryway.

Because these are the homes that have an authentic story to tell. And I like authentic stories. Especially when they’re about couples like Ralph & Gladys, or Ed & Doris

However, not all estate sales are of this caliber. But I’ve perfected my retro-radar by developing a patented system for finding only the really swell sales.

#1. Sales Listed Online With Photos: Don’t look at the items for sale in the photos (those will all be snapped up by the Eames-hungry dealers who camp out on the front lawn before dawn), look at what’s BEHIND the items for sale in the photos. Is that shag under the settee? Formica under the fondue set? Hanging lamps over the Herman Miller? Then this is a house you definitely want to see, even if it’s just for the incredible asbestos tile floor inlay design in the basement bar room. Anchors away!


#2. Sales Listed Online Without Photos: Read the listing for the address, and then do a Google Streetview to see what the house actually looks like. Are there little gnomes, pinwheels and bird-baths out front? Do you see wrought iron railings, brick planters and cutesy curtains? Is there a pastel blue 1992 Cadillac Seville in the driveway with a selection of foam & mesh hats lining the back window? Then this house is your retro jam– which you can tune right into on the built-in Philharmonic wall radio in grandpa’s basement workshop.


#3. For Sales With Only Local Signs: These are almost impossible to investigate beforehand unless you know the ‘hood by heart, so your only real option is to follow the signs and drive by the house. But if you turn on to a treeless street of beige, vinyl-sided, cookie-cutter houses with plastic mailboxes, then you’re outta luck. However, if you end up on a winding cul-de-sac of split-level homes with carpeted front porches and wooden-paneled garage doors, then keep going, because eye-popping sights like the “amazing technicolor shower stall” are only a few odometer clicks away.


Time-capsule estate sales will almost always deliver. Because if the prices are too high and the selection of vintage goods ends up being a total drag, you can always entertain yourself just by looking at the flooring. And who doesn’t love a good retro pattern? You can bet your Herb Alpert record that I sure as hell do.

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