Yard Sale Bonanza


Eight birdhouses, $1 apiece. Red and yellow bench, 8′ long, $20.

AT THIS MORNING’S ROUND OF YARD SALES, I made out like a bandita, and I owe it to my friend Ada. She wanted to schedule our Saturday morning walk for 9AM, about an hour earlier than usual, so I had to get my yard-saling ass in gear earlier than usual.


Photos/postcards of local scenes (some repro, some old), $1 each

Normally, to a sale slated to start at 9, I roll up no earlier than 8:45, but today, since there was only one 8 o’clock sale listed in my yard sale oracle, the East Hampton Star, I swooped down on the 9AM openings well before the appointed hour. Thus, I was first, or close to first, at two or three of them (I found only one closed to “early birds.”)


Hand-painted, double-sided, plywood fish, already hanging on my kitchen wall, $1

With grim determination, a steady hand on the steering wheel, and my handy laminated map by my side, I squeezed in five or six sales in an hour, scoring bargain after heady bargain. Everywhere I went, I heard comments in my wake: “Wow, she got a deal,” “Why did you sell them so cheap?” “If only I had dusted that table, I could have gotten more,” “Why didn’t you show those to me first? I would have taken them.”


Signed, framed watercolor of old houses in Rockport, Maryland, $20

Gloat, gloat. From now on, Labor Day weekend looms in my personal mythology as the absolute best for yard sales. I vow to set that clock earlier, down that coffee faster, and skip the lipstick.



Moroccan (or Moroccan-style) painted table, $10

Yard Sale Season


YARD SALE SEASON IS UPON US. Here in East Hampton, N.Y., it’s fertile picking ground. Actually, I’ve been checking out the East Hampton Star‘s yard sale ads all winter, whenever I’ve been here on a weekend, and I’ve scored a couple of items that make me unreasonably happy: the blue-and-white tin spackleware urn ($15), top, and a chunky green wood bench, below, probably home-made, that works perfectly at the foot of my bed ($10).


Yard-saling is an extremely popular weekend pastime around here. On Friday, there was a queue outside the door of a cedar-shingled cottage in Wainscott, below, which was billed as the moving sale of an “ex-Martha editor.” As it happens, I didn’t find anything — not being in need of white kitchenware or white linens bundled with white ribbons — but I liked the house, with its subdued green trim and angled bump-out to create a south-facing sun room. (This picture was taken as I exited, after the eager crowds had dissipated.)


This is my third spring on the East End of Long Island, and as I’ve done every April since living here (formerly full-time, now part-time), I planned my own yard sale to unload the stuff that tends to pile up in one’s basement when one is an aficionado of yard sales. I didn’t have all that much to dispose of — I’ve actually grown quite good at saying ‘No’ to new acquisitions — but a few friends wanted to join forces, using my 400 square foot gravel parking court as a staging area. So we placed our own ad in the Star for Saturday April 23 (“Years of accumulation”), which, as residents of the region know, was cold and foggy, with rain pelting down all day. A total washout.

View from my back door Saturday


We had advertised Sunday as a rain date, though, and two of us decided to proceed, though it was Easter and quiet, even on my busy road, and none too promising, weather-wise, in the morning. It was a long day: nine hours from the time I started bringing stuff up from the cellar to the time I put the ‘Free’ box of leftovers out on the roadside. We had a flurry of activity in the beginning, then sparse custom throughout the day, which ended with a few neighbors on lawn chairs drinking prosecco in brilliant sunshine.


The upshot: enough cash to keep me away from the ATM for a few days, and enough cleared-out space in the basement to hold the spoils of future yard sales.

Bouncing Back to Brooklyn


RAINY SIDEWALKS FULL OF SOGGY GARBAGE. Racing to move the car by 8:30AM or risk getting towed away. Crowded buses creeping up Flatbush Avenue. Ah, it’s good to be back.


No, really, it is. The weather was spectacular my first three days back in Brooklyn, and it feels almost like I’m traveling in a new city — London keeps springing to mind — even though I lived here 30+ years before buying my cottage on Long Island a year-and-a-half ago. I’m sure the novelty will wear off, but right now, I’m enjoying exploring my new neighborhood of Prospect Heights, especially the restaurants, cafes, and bars along Vanderbilt Avenue. It’s all new to me: the trendy Australian-owned Milk Bar, where you can get whole grain toast piled with strawberry butter or mashed avocado, and the unpretentious Joyce Bakery, below, very welcoming on a gray morning.


My block is lined with classic, elegant brownstones, and I’m extremely pleased with my garden-level apartment. It’s all a pied-a-terre should be. My main worry, that it would be too dark, has not (like most worries) materialized. The north-facing back bedroom, under the owners’ deck, is indeed cave-like; I wake with no clue what time it is. But the south-facing living room gets lovely warm light that moves from the white marble mantel across my beloved hooked rug, to spatter the opposite wall, painted Benjamin Moore’s Dalila, a strong sunflower yellow, in the late afternoon.


The space feels very familiar. I’ve lived in so many mid-19th century Brooklyn row houses, where the details and proportions are all of a piece. The ceilings are high, even for a garden floor, the parquet is in excellent shape, the window moldings and four-panel doors and wood shutters and iron gates are all original and intact. The kitchen is in the right place (the center of the space) and attractive for a rental apartment; the built-in bookshelves are a godsend. The bedroom, though light-challenged, is huge, and I’ll be painting it too — peachy-pink to warm things up.


My move on Monday was uneventful, except for their having to unscrew the chrome base from the 8-foot-long sofa to get it in the door. Since then, I’ve been unpacking my stuff from storage and filling the car for my maiden voyage back to Springs with items I’ve got no space or use for here. Clothes and shoes (so easy to toss, with the hindsight a year-and-a-half of storage fees will give you) are going to LVIS — the Ladies Village Improvement Society thrift shop in East Hampton. Other things I’ll put in the basement for next spring’s first yard sale.


The book I’m reading in between cartons, and late at night when I’m too wired from unpacking to fall asleep, couldn’t be more appropriate: Life Would Be Perfect if I Lived in That House, Meghan Daum’s amusing memoir of real-estate addiction. I’m relating on many levels to her tales of compulsive house-shopping, frequent moving, and shoestring decorating, feeling smug that my own case is a tad less severe.


Map Giveaway: LI Before the LIE

IMG_3417UPDATE: Lisa of South Slope, Brooklyn (comment #7) is the winner of the map!

THIS PAST SUNDAY, I followed a yard sale sign to a classic 1850s Greek Revival. It was late on Day 2 of the sale, and there wasn’t much left (and I was on my way to yoga — a girl’s gotta have priorities). But I did manage to snatch up a couple of 1930s road maps with mellow retro colors and evocative pen-and-ink illustrations.

As a little incentive to you, dear readers, to get you in the habit of commenting on this blog — and in the interest of market research — I’m giving away a 1930s Esso map of Metropolitan New York and Long Island, gratis. It’s full of anachronistic touches, like the words “The Ghetto” plastered over the Lower East Side; a ferry schedule; a long, long list of golf and yacht clubs; and no Long Island Expressway or Kennedy Airport. Suitable for framing!


All you have to do is comment on this post. Click on ‘Leave a Comment’ or ‘[Number of] Comments,’ above, under the headline of this post, and a form will open up for your comment. You can use your real name or not, but you do need to give an e-mail address, which won’t appear on the blog, so I can contact you if you’re the lucky winner. On Sunday, June 20, I’ll select the winner at random using random.org’s random-number selector.
Tell me how you discovered this blog, what you like about it (or dislike – I can take it), what you’d like to see covered here, why you like old maps, what kind of old house you live in — I don’t care what you say, just comment! You might enjoy it.



Shoestring Summer Decorating


I LOVE VINTAGE RATTAN FURNITURE so much, I once thought of opening a store devoted to it and calling it Bamboozled. I didn’t, for many reasons, but I’m still a sucker for the stuff. It’s sturdy, stylish, and cheap. (Rattan is not the same as bamboo — it doesn’t have divisions — so the store’s name would have been a misnomer anyway).

The problem is that the vintage rattan furniture you find at yard sales and thrift shops rarely has cushions. So my weakness for it often results in my buying something for a pittance that I then discover costs $1,800 to custom-upholster — like the 1970s Ficks Reed set I found on the street in Brooklyn, which now reposes, cushion-less, in my basement.


I’m very happy with the 1930s stick rattan sofa, above. It was in this house when I bought it, dark green. I painted it white and got cushions from Restoration Hardware that fit perfectly. (The seat cushions are actually floor cushions and not very cushy, but they fit.) It’s on the porch now, along with two wicker chairs and two wicker tables, bought for $5 each at a yard sale (cushions from Home Depot). My latest additions are two butterfly chairs with covers from Urban Outfitters in NYC, the only place I know to get them — fun ones, too (they have a great cabbage-rose pattern, but the graphic blue & white is more beach house).

Moving the stick rattan sofa to the porch left a gap in my living room that needed filling. Well, this morning I went to a nearby yard sale at 9AM and found….another vintage rattan sofa with no cushions, top. It’s a three-piece sectional with nice lines. Hard to pinpoint the era — possibly ’60s or ’70s. Anyway, it was $50 and I saw it would fit the space perfectly. Though mindful of the cushion problem, I snapped it up and brought it home.

Now it happens that I also have, sitting around in boxes from Crate & Barrel, four striped 20″ square floor cushions which I ordered on sale recently for these metal lounge chairs, below (I have four of them, found last summer near a dumpster in Napeague):


The Crate & Barrel cushions didn’t fit the metal chairs well; they were a couple of inches too small. It seems that furniture dimensions have changed a lot in the past 30, 40 years. Very rarely do the cushions sold by today’s catalogue companies match up with vintage pieces. I was thinking of sending them back, but now it appears I don’t have to.

I set my new sofa under the window where I envisioned it and tried three cushions. Too small. But then I tried all four cushions on the three sections. By jamming them in a bit (and cable-tying the three sections together for stability), I made it work. Keepers!


I still need back cushions, but that can be finessed.

Along with my $200 classic picnic table from Agway, below, which I love — it’s heavy enough not to wobble on my wood-chip “patio,” and surprisingly not uncomfortable — I’m ready for summer entertaining. Now all I need are a grill and some guests.