The Two Best Places to Buy Original Art & How to Get the Best Deal


estate_sale_painting_find I’m going to let you all in on a little secret: You can absolutely afford original, beautiful art. You really can. For most of us out there, we can’t afford art gallery prices. That’s OK. You just need to know where to look and when to buy. I’ve hesitated to write this piece because I’m giving away some of my secrets and possibly adding competition, but fortunately my desire to help outweighs my desire to look expensive and posh. So let’s dive in before I change my mind and delete this whole post.


Estate sales are THE best place to find art, in my opinion. Let me give you an example to prove my point. The painting above is a magnificent original oil by a renowned English artist, set in an antique gilded frame. His work runs $2-5k. This painting is a bit smaller so I’m guessing it would be on the lower end of that range, but who knows. The frame, not original to the painting, is much older and worth several hundred dollars as well. For simplicity’s sake, let’s just estimate the value on the low end- $3,000. Now my favorite part begins. Guess how much I paid for it??

What did you guess? If you guesses $300, you’d be correct. Yep, paid literally one tenth of the lower-end estimated value. How did I do that? Well, first of all, you always have to remember that estate sale companies are interested in liquidating everything. That’s what they’re paid to do. Follow a few simple rules I’ve developed and you’ll get an amazing deal.


Rules For Estate Sale Purchases:

  1. Know when to go. Try to be there the first day of the sale 30 minutes before opening, if possible. Many of the best deals will be snatched up within the first 5 minutes. I know that it sounds crazy, but it’s totally true. I’ve kicked myself quite a few times for being just a little bit late and missing out on gorgeous pieces. Always go the last day of the sale as well, and again, right when they open. Usually the last day of the sale will be 50 to 75% off of original prices. If something was too expensive for you the first day, it might still be there the last day, and at a much more reasonable price.
  2. Know where to go. is probably one of my most visited sites if you were to look at my browser history. The site allows you to punch in your zip code and then shows you all estate sales within a hundred miles. You can click on the sales and view pictures, descriptions, sale times, and even GoogleMaps locations for each sale. It’s golden. Bookmark it. Now.
  3. Know what to look for. Sometimes the best artwork is above the mantel but most of the time, it’s not. I’m always surprised how often I see over-priced reproductions on the mantel while beautiful original art is in the bedroom, dining room, or other spaces. That huge red painting above is almost 5 ft by 5 ft and originally quite expensive. I found it in a super traditional home in their finished basement closet. My husband would murder me if I told people how much we paid for it so I’ll just say this: pennies on the dollar. It wasn’t the first and it won’t be the last time I’ll buy beautiful work that I found in a storage area. So check all over the house, not just the main common areas.
  4. Remember that liquidating is their business and don’t forget to negotiate. Estate sale companies want the house to be nearly clear when the sale concludes. Many times they’ll donate unsold cheaper items and ship expensive ones to auction houses. It’s extra work and cuts down on their profits. Knowing this, you can and should negotiate on the last day of the sale. Remember that first oil painting? We negotiated the price down to 75% off original asking price because it wasn’t moving and the sale was ending. He won because he saved auction house fees and we won for obvious reasons. Offer a reasonable price and wait for an answer, sometimes they won’t budge but 90% of the time they will.
  5. Make friends with the estate sale company owner. If you’re going weekly or even monthly, you’ll start to see the same people work the sales. Find out who the company owner is and make friends. I’ve seen people get crazy deals because they’re frequent customers who are kind to the people who work there. It always pays to be kind.

rsz_p1020742 ANTIQUE STORES 

The painting above our mantel was the first original piece of art I ever purchased and I found it in antique mall. Hidden away near the end of the booth, this beauty hung in the most awful colored frame imaginable. Beige-y puke is the color that comes to mind. But we loved that painting and we decided not to let the frame stop us. The frame has since changed and we’re even more glad that we purchased this large original, Texas oil painting for less than $100. We got lucky, but we also followed some of our own rules to score this beauty.

Something to keep in mind is that while some of the rules can overlap, buying at an antique store is very different than buying from an estate sale. Margins and personalities are VERY different as well as retail vs. liquidation setting. The differences don’t have to keep you from scoring that perfect piece though. Some of my favorite finds have been at antique stores.

Antique_store_painting_deal Rules for Antique Store Purchases 

  1. Look for the odd man out. Many antique dealers specialize in certain types of antiques, or even just a certain type of piece. Much like car dealers, you’ll get the best deal on what they don’t specialize in. You’ll find the best price on a Honda at the BMW, just as you’ll often find the best deal on American art in a booth with mostly European imports. The Renoir-esque painting above was found in a store that is filled with Asian art and pottery. I’m not sure how she came upon this painting, but I do know that she gave it to us for a steal!
  2. Look beyond the frame and surrounding. I chatted about this before about frames but seriously, don’t let them get you down. You can change the frame. And if that is cost prohibitive due to size, remember than a can of paint can change the whole look and feel of the piece. Also don’t forget to imagine the piece in your home vs the booth. The store might be gross, have funky painted walls, or be surrounded by clashing artwork. Don’t let that distract you. Good art is good art and needs a loving home. Preferably yours.
  3. Always be complimentary. Estate sale companies sell other peoples things while antique stores sell curated pieces. Some things are acquired by chance but most of the time, they have been painstakingly hunted, cleaned, and priced. While you don’t have to love everything in the store, if you’re serious about buying anything, make sure you keep any less than flattering opinions to yourself. Love something in the store? Tell them. It’s nice to hear and it’ll soften up even the most crusty owners.
  4. Be honest about what you’ll pay. You might find a gem that is such a good deal, you’ll gladly pay asking price. Many times however, you’d like a better price and that’s totally fine. Tell the owner that you love the piece but that you’d like to talk about the price. Then suggest a price, but make sure it’s not extremely lower than the original listed price. The last thing you want to do is to ‘insult’ them by suggesting a price that is too low- 25-30% off is about all I’d ask. Anything more than that and you might make them less inclined to do any business with you.
  5. Bundle, bundle, bundle! If you like multiple items, suggest buying all of them for a set price. I’ve found that prices are far more negotiable if you buy more than one item. The additional plus side is that you get to bring home multiple beauties as well.


I hope that you found some advice that will work for you. I’m sure that there are other tips that work (and I’d love to hear about them in the comments) but these are the ones that have consistently worked for me time and time again.

And thanks for your patience as I’ve been MIA. I’ll have more details on why soon, but my life has been busy with my other project and a fun experiment.



Sometime Life…

Thinking Girl Oil Painting

Sometimes life gets busy. And messy. And totally breaks your heart. And I coming to realize that it’s OK. Not everything has to be a win and not everything has to go the way that you planned it. Life moves on.

The picture above is an original painting that I bought at an antique mall for a steal. The price and colors were a huge selling point but she just had something about her, a je ne sais quoi if you will, that I loved. I’ve thought about her quite a bit since she’s come to live with me and I think what I love most about her is that she doesn’t look particularly happy or joyful. Some days she looks bored, or disappointed, or even sleepy. Even with her apparent displeasure, the picture is truly beautiful. It’s a reminder to me that life can be beautiful, even in those imperfect moments. And if you could see the whole picture (I’ll post it when I’ve replaced the frame and styled the room) you can better see how gorgeous and verdant her surroundings are. She hangs out, across the sofa from me and reminds me to step outside my particular moment and realize things are far more blessed and perfect than what’s in my head and heart at the time.

So I guess this post is telling you where I’ve been. In my my own head a bit too much. I hope you’ll excuse the absence and still check in from time to time. And here’s a little enticement: We’re installing new countertops, sink, backsplash, and more in the next few days.I know everyone loves seeing the whole “Before and After” pics so stay tuned.

And if you haven’t already, check out Amy Poehler’s book, Yes please!  She’s part of the reason I’m emerging from my funk. And she’s freaking hilarious too.

Until later,


Moody Bedroom Inspiration

In my non-blog life I run a marketing consulting company and we have been super busy which has put me a little behind on some (OK, a lot) of home projects so I’m going to have just salivate over other finished, beautiful spaces in the meantime. Blogger, SFgirlbybay posted a great home tour and I fell in love with this moody and beautiful bedroom.

Moody Bedroom

It’s moody, dark, edgy and yet somehow, a little romantic. It’s a beautifully styled room that would have intimidated me in the past until I started breaking down designer rooms the room piece by piece. I love this room and would love to take pretty much every single piece but I’m not entirely sure that the husband would be OK with the neon sign.



So what are your favorite pieces? Would you put a neon sign in your bedroom? I’ve already convinced the husband that we should paint our room the glossy flint color, now to cajole him into agreeing to the swan print.


Tips and Tricks For Decorating Small or Awkward Spaces

The new place isn’t exactly small, coming in at just under 2,000 sq feet, but a few of spaces are small, or even just a bit awkward. I’m sure I’m not alone in having a few tricky spaces so I’ve put together a few tips to help others out there who may similar problems.

  • Decorate with pieces that are clear or have thin profiles. This little desk area is functional without creating a cramped feeling because the designer went with a ghost chair. Great seating with out breaking things up visually.

Ghost Chair Office

(Image Souce) (Chair)

  • Use mirrors to reflect light. Mirrors have a magic ability to make pretty much every space feel lighter, brighter and larger. The general rule of thumb is the bigger, the better!

Wall mirror for small spaces

(Image Source) (Mirror Options 1,2,3- under $100)

  • Look for alternate solutions. This next one is way more practical than pretty but sometimes your staircase is just only so big. Find furniture that can fold or be disassembled so you can actually get it into the space. This guy below is actually headed our way as I type.

Foldable Box Spring

(Image and Product Source)

  • Use large art. Sometimes people can think that using smaller art in a small space can help the space feel larger when really it does the opposite. Large art can help a space feel bigger and more interesting.

Large wall art

(Image Source) (Art Options 1,2,3)

Obviously this is not an exhaustive list of everything that you can do to decorate in small spaces but using just one two can make a huge difference in a room. Anyone else out there have issues with a space? Also, how magical is that folding box spring?


Having Humor in Your Home

Funny Anniversary GiftThis past weekend was my 6th anniversary and let me tell you, after a few years it’s hard to be as original when it comes to gifts. So I found this picture, laughed heartily in the antique store, and bought for my husband to celebrate our love. It’s ridiculous but it’s “us” and I know we’ll giggle every time we see it.

I love seeing humorous or odd art in people’s homes because it give a little sneak peek into their personalities. The best way I’ve seen it done is having the art tucked into a powder room, hallway or office. That way, your art doesn’t come on too strong and only the people who are paying attention will get to enjoy the added bonus.

Funny Art BathroomSo after scouring the web, I’ve found some funny/quirky prints that I think would be great in most any home.

Funny Etsy Print

I’d love to have this hanging in my bedroom for laughs and the husband thought it was pretty spot on.



This print combines my husband’s obsessions with all things burgers and all things space. More on the quirky than funny side but would still be a great surprise addition to a hallway or office.

Funny Bathroom ArtThis last print would be great in any bathroom but especially a kid’s bathroom. It’s just a wee bit cheeky and is great for those little spots in your bathrooms that need something on the wall.  Any of you have something funny hanging up on your walls? I’m getting really excited to move into the new house and get our antique art up in the office!




What to Buy at Estate Sales

Estate Sale Finds

I love estate sales. My husband says that I love them because you get a chance to dig through people’s stuff, but I say that it’s because of the amazing deals you can find. If I’m going to be honest with myself though, it’s probably a little bit of both. Either way, I love taking half an hour or so and heading to a couple after my Saturday donut runs. But do not be fooled, not everything at every sale is a good deal or even a good buy. I’ve come across half burned candles, dirty linens, broken plastic toys and many other less than desirable items at plenty of sales. After going through quite a few homes, I’ve learned for experience what’s worth it and what’s not. Here’s a basic list of things I always keep an eye out for:

  • Original Art– I am always on the hunt for a great oil painting or water color that would fit in my home. I’ve purchased awesome pieces for pennies on the dollar. Pro tip: look beyond the frame. Sometimes the artwork is beautiful but just need a little update.
  • Vintage Scarves and Ties– See that taupe tie in the picture above? It’s a beautiful Dior tie that we paid 50 cents for. That is crazy, I know. Not every sale will have gems like that, but it’s worth looking. Pro tip: I usually have more luck with finding awesome ties if the home is mid century modern.
  • Cuff Links– We’ve found some of my husband’s favorite cuff links at estate sales- the ones above are actually really cool 1930’s cars. Pro tip: Don’t just look in the cases in the front. Many times they’ll have some in the back bedroom/bathroom near where the ties are.
  • White Serving Ware and Milk Glass- I use my little white flower bowls all the time during parties and dinners. I think I got the set for something around $4 so I have more than got my moneys worth out of them. Milk glass is also awesome for serving and adds that extra touch. Pro tip: Many estate sale companies know that milk glass is hot right now so sometimes it can be incredibly over priced. I never pay more than $7 for anything milk glass and recommend not going over $10 unless it’s extremely large, detailed, or unique.
  • Silver Plate- I think old silver has a beautiful patina and can add depth to a space. Pro tip- Like milk glass, it is often over priced! Don’t be afraid to walk away from something if the price is too high because you can find tarnished silver in most sales.
  • Blue and White Ginger Jars- Ginger jars are so popular right now and some of the best prices I’ve seen on them have been at estate sales. Pro tip: Unless you do your research or have some way to authenticate age, be a little wary of the super pricey “older” ones.
  • Plants and Planters- I’ve more recently discovered that buying plants and planters at these sales can mean you can get INSANE deals. Pro tip: Don’t forget to check out any planters in the front and back yard, especially on the last day. I’ve missed out on some beautiful antique urns because I saw them just a moment too late.

So there’s my list of things to watch out for. Have I missed anything? Anything you always pick up when you go to estate sales? Good luck at the sales this weekend!