Estate Sale Problems & Another Duncan Phyfe Table

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It’s the thing I dread most at every estate sale.  I’m negotiating the price of a furniture piece with the estate sale worker, and they casually ask, “What do you plan to do with it?”

I take a deep breath, smile a big smile, and respond, “I makeover furniture.  I am going to refinish and sell it.”

GASP!  Instantly, the worker casts their eyes down at me and all kindness drains from their face.  I become to them one of those cheap dealers just looking to make money and ruin precious aunt so-and-so’s antique treasure.

Or, they don’t ever ask the question, but say something like, “I am just so glad it’s going to a good home.” That’s almost just as bad . . . the shame doesn’t come from them, but builds up inside of me as I feel obligated to tell them I plan on making money on this piece.

Ughh.  I really do dread it.  I know I shouldn’t care what estate sale workers think of me, but I do!  I want to shout, “I am a nice person!  I am a pastor’s wife for crying out loud!  Don’t look at me like I am an ax murderer or child abductor!  I just paint furniture!”

Any other dealers out there get what I’m saying?

There is a culture of people who really do despise the painted furniture movement, and honestly at times I don’t blame them.  Some absolutely terrible things have been done to beautiful pieces by people who shouldn’t be allowed to pick up a paint brush (see some examples of what I’m talking about here).

But I’m not one of those people.  I promise I am not going to paint grandma’s china cabinet a bright turquoise with gold stenciling on it.  I will make over this furniture in a way that is tasteful, elegant, and adds to it’s charm.

Why have I climbed up on this soapbox?  Well, I’m getting ready to work on my next major dining table makeover and I am remembering the shame I had to endure when I purchased the set back at an estate sale in October.

It’s a beautiful Duncan Phyfe style table, complete with a leaf, table pad, and 6 sturdy chairs. I don’t have a picture of it because it is literally buried under a pile of other things in my garage, but it looks basically just like this one (of course without the new paint job):

photo (17)

When I buy furniture at an estate sale, I always try and scoop up the pieces left over at the end of the sale that nobody wants. Usually they are damaged, need some minor repair, or already painted some other wierd color.

The pristine condition, high-quality antique pieces at estate sales never last until the end of the sale–they always go early on to people who want those pieces just as they are.  So when I come in at the end of a sale and negotiate a price for furniture nobody wants, I think I should be seen as a hero rather than an evil villain who is out to destroy culture, history, and everything our country holds dear.

If I don’t buy these leftover pieces, they will wind up either in the dump or a thrift store.  If they wind up in the thrift store, they will likely go home with somebody who just wants cheap furniture and doesn’t care about the possible beauty of the piece, and who will most likely continue to beat it up and damage it more until it does eventually wind up in the dump.

That may be a slightly overly dramatic . . . but you get my point.

My goal in purchasing this old furniture nobody wants is to restore it.  To make it appealing to the average person again by updating its look and returning its charm.


So please don’t give me that look of shame . . . After all, it is just paint and can always be taken off!

For this new Duncan Phyfe set, I am planning on going yellow on the base and chairs, either using Fusion Buttermilk Cream,


which is a warm, pale yellow, or Fusion Aubusson–a yellow with cool undertones.


The tabletop I will re-stain, and I think that will be a beautiful contrast to a pretty yellow base.

I’m hoping to start working on it this week.  I have two other big furniture pieces in the hopper as well, although I think I am going to hold onto those for the my Vintage Market Days booth space coming up in May.

I’m excited to try out some more Fusion colors and use my new paint on a bigger project.  And I’m really excited as I think about all of that waxing I don’t have to do . . .

If you haven’t tried Fusion yet, you can order it online here from me!

Fusion-Certified-Retailer-Emblum 2

Tester size pots are only $4.99, with shipping $3 for the first tester and a $1 for each one after that.  I really think you will love it.

Thanks for bearing with me as I ranted some today . . . I feel better and am ready to get started on that dining set!



Thursday 2nd of April 2015

Wow I can't believe the backlash you got on that post. I totally got the post for what it was. When I go to estate sales, thrift stores, yard sales whatever I try to get the best price I can. I know they are there to make money and so am I. I have no shame I go on the last day at the end in hopes of getting a great buy on something I can make money on. Keep on being real and don't be deterred by the negative comments. We are a nation of offended people and really some people just need to get over themselves and live and let live and understand we all are people and have opinions and minds and don't all have the same thoughts. What a boring world it would be if we did.

Cynthia - Clockwork Interiors

Tuesday 31st of March 2015

Yes, I think it's better not to mention paint at estate and garage sales. If I'm specifically asked, I just say, "Well, first I'm going to load it up and bring it home ..." . I think 95% of the time, they are just making small talk. I do, however, pay whatever price they are asking. I just don't feel it's worth offending anyone over the price of a pizza. If something is way overpriced, you can bet they have an attachment to it! haha But I realize that you have business expenses .... I'm just a Mom painting in the garage :D


Tuesday 31st of March 2015

That's a good line Cynthia! I need to come up with a good stock line I have as my go-to answer. Mind if I use yours?


Monday 30th of March 2015

Wow. Ouch. Some of those comments were a little painful to read. I want to tell you Melanie, I totally understood where you were coming from. I also heard your 'tongue in cheek'-ness loud and clear and knew you were just being funny, not judgmental. I often coach Mr Q when we are heading out to pick something up by saying "now remember, just don't mention that I'm going to paint it". For the record, I have actually had people refuse to sell me something once I mentioned paint. Talk about awkward. People sometimes have emotional attachments to furniture even though they are getting rid of it, so sometimes it is just easier to not mention what you plan to do with it, right? I'm also guessing that like me, you can't tell a lie, so when someone asks you outright, you just don't know what to say. I usually stick with "gee, I'm not quite sure yet, but I love it so much I'm sure I'll find a home for it." P.S. I think you are a hero, not a villain ;-)


Tuesday 31st of March 2015

Thanks Linda. I am glad my intention came across when you read the post. I was writing with other furniture flippers in mind, people whom I was sure had experienced the same kind of things I have when trying to buy pieces to paint. And you're right, I can't tell a lie (not necessarily because I am such an honest person, but because I stink at lying!) so I have been put into many awkward situations as well. I like that you coach your husband about what to say and not to say, I have done the same things with mine :)


Monday 30th of March 2015

Hi Melanie, First let me say I love your blog and always look forward to seeing your projects. You are a talented painter and your furniture re-do's turn our beautifully. Having said that, this latest post was not a favorite of mine. You sounded judgey and condescending, especially at the end stating that people buying the furniture at thrift stores don't care about the pieces and will continue to destroy them. Really? Please don't get back up on that soapbox anytime soon- just stick to the beautiful furniture makeovers. Thanks.


Tuesday 31st of March 2015

I forgot to say about the thrift store comment in my post . . . I had in mind an experience that I had buying an antique chest from a young man (fresh out of college). He had been handed down this chest of drawers by his mother. He told me, "She's gonna be really mad when she finds out I am selling it!" His mom appreciated the beauty and history of the chest (which was an average antique piece by the way, not something of high value), but he was a 21 year old bachelor and the curves and detail of this pretty little chest just wasn't his thing. In his mind, it was "junk". I also was thinking about the big house full of boys that my husband lived in during his time in college. It was filled with thrift store furniture, and I can't say that that house of boys was really concerned about taking excellent care of their things :) I certainly do not think that every person who buys furniture from a thrift store is careless and doesn't take pride in their possessions. Again, I was writing this post with some sarcasm and had those above instances in mind. I apologize for coming across as condescending to thrift store shoppers--I am one myself and don't think they are bad people.


Monday 30th of March 2015

Hi Marg. Thank you for being a faithful reader, I appreciate your kind words. I am sorry that I wrote something that wasn't enjoyable. From the comments that have been coming from this post, it seems that you aren't the only one who feels that way. This blog is an outlet for me, and while writing this post I was expressing some frustration coming from a myriad of comments I have received, both recently and in the past, from people who have been unkind about the work I do with furniture. I did not mean offense or unkindness to anyone in return, was just expressing my frustration from a build-up of negative comments that had come my way. I believed many of the people who follow my blog remake furniture as well, and I was thinking they might be able to relate to my feelings. However I haven't received any comments confirming that, so maybe I am wrong. Anyways, I am sorry you didn't enjoy the post. We all have down moments, hopefully there is grace for those times we slip up and do something not so pretty.

Tara Doering

Sunday 29th of March 2015

Hey girl- You know I know both sides of this. You also know that I think you are awesome and love your work..... But let me say this from the other side of things, think of this....You mentioned you go on the last day, so things are already marked down, probably 50% off.....the items you mentioned (need repair or repainting) more then likely have been priced to reflect that from the beginning. Estate Sale companies work with dealers all the time, even ask to see pictures of the pieces repainted because they would love to see what one does with them. So it probably isn't about the repainting a piece, which you mentioned may have already been painted, it's more about asking for a discount on top of a discount when you are going to be flipping it, not keeping it for yourself. There is also another side to think of.....the person who owns the items....maybe it's a person who has moved to assisted living and the money will help pay the bills, or a family member who is trying to take care of a loved ones estate and has expenses to cover, or someone who has lost a loved one and is moving etc etc. Also, keep in mind that way more then half of everyone coming to shop at an estate sale asks for discounts...if this was you or a loved one having a sale, wouldn't you want the company to be fair to all involved? Also, at the end of the sales, we don't take things to the dump, we have folks who do buy outs for the remaining items. ;)


Monday 30th of March 2015

Hey Tara :) Thanks for your thoughtful comment. I certainly understand that everybody has a job to do and that people who are selling off furnishings at an estate sale need the income from their items. I have a set price that I pay for various pieces (dressers, tables, chairs, etc), and sometimes a piece is already discounted into that price range already. If so, I pay the sticker price, but if it's still a little off, I will try and negotiate down the price a little more, thinking that some money is better than no money. My "soapboax" in my post though was meant mostly for the various people (at estate sales, on FB, at Canton, etc) who have made rude, unkind comments directly to me about how painting furniture is a terrible thing to do. To each his own . . . I know it's not some people's taste. I guess I was just trying to speak up for us furniture flippers to say that even though I'm not keeping a piece for myself, I am trying to help get it to a good home that will love and appreciate it. When I paint a piece, I do make some money off of it, but I also see it as a way to help provide beautiful, high-quality, lasting furnishings to somebody's home for an affordable price. These old furniture pieces are so much more sturdy than anything you can buy at a store today! My desire is to have them be loved and appreciated again, and I feel like my painting work at times helps that happen.

Tara Doering

Sunday 29th of March 2015

I just saw you comment above.... I am sorry that people have not been nice to you at the sales, not all companies are like that. I know you are not a person who is rude when you are out shopping and feel bad that you have been treated like that. :(

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