A Beginner’s Guide to Estate Sales

I was chatting with an Instagram friend the other day and she said that she was intimidated by estate sales. This was not the first time I had heard that from a friend and I thought to myself, “well, if I had not grown up frequenting estate sales with my mother, I might harbor similar feelings towards them.” So, I’m here to tell you that estate sales are nothing like attending an auction at Sotheby’s or Christie’s. I also want to tell you why you absolutely need to get over that fear, because you are seriously missing out.

Nearly everything in this photo was sourced by Kate at estate sales

Perusing estate sales on weekends has long been a favorite pastime of mine, but ever since opening my Etsy shop three years ago, attending estate sales has been of absolute necessity for my business. I suspect I have been to well over 500 sales in my lifetime, so I feel fairly well poised to offer some advice on how to best navigate these mysterious places. The first order of business would be, “how do I even FIND estate sales?”

I am sure every country and every state has their own methods, but for me in the NYC Metro area, EstateSales.net has been an indispensable resource. Nearly every estate sale company operating in and around New York City lists their sales on this site, and the site is also nationwide so I do know that it is likely a very good resource if you are in the United States. The best part of EstateSales.net is that you can input your zip code to see which sales are closest, but you can also see photographs of what will be inside the home. This is how I am able to vet homes before I take the time to go to them, and I hardly ever enter a sale that doesn’t have a very good mid-century inventory. Other ways of finding sales are the app YardSales – or simply checking your local papers or google. Once you find your favorite Estate Sale companies, get on their email lists so you are sure to never miss a good sale.

Rare Powder Blue Mid-Century Alarm Clock – listed at Kate Pearce Vintage

Ok, so now that we know how to find a sale, what do we do now? Most sales happen on weekends and, around NYC/Long Island, I often wait in very long lines to enter them. Want to avoid the lines? Go late in the day, or if you have the flexibility, find that gem of a mid-week sale. Lines also tend to be longer during estate sale season (Spring – Fall). Just be aware that if you do go to the sale on Day 2 or later in the day, you will not have the pick of the litter (but you will undoubtedly score better prices). If there isn’t something that you have your heart set on, going later in the day can really be a win-win.

Velvet mid-century dress sourced by Kate at an estate sale

Many estate sales companies also have lists that are put out early in the morning. If a sale starts at 9am, the list may be put out at 6:30 am and dealers and estate sale junkies will be there to get there names on the list so they can be the first to enter the home ( how do you think all those Brooklyn vintage shops score their steady supply of Eames recliners )?

Ok, we have our sales, we’ve waited in our line and now we’re inside. Now what? Well….. go crazy! Estate sale companies will almost always give you a better deal if you buy in bulk. And unless you were the first one through the door or a price seems very fair to being with, don’t ever pay that price on the tag. In the 500+ sales I have been to, I have only walked out the door on two occasions paying full list price for items. If bargaining intimidates you or offends your unbending propriety, I assure you these companies are expecting you to bargain with them (hence why they price their items as they do).

Art deco acrylic mannequin sourced and for sale by KatePearceVintage

The last bit of advice I’d like to offer about these sales is to please not be intimidated. Sometimes I think it was a good thing I worked on Wall Street before entering this business because my skin was already pretty thick going into it, but don’t let those estate sale gurus push you around. People can get a little crazy in these places, but just remember that the worst thing that can happen is someone says no to your price (and if they say no with attitude, just take a deep breath and remember these people are dealing with a bunch of vultures all day). And if you think you’re the only estate sale freshman in there, I assure you that you aren’t. There are ALL types of customers in these sales: rich, poor, dealers, collectors…. or just that guy walking down the street who decided to pop in to see what all the commotion is about).

Vintage apothecary bottle sourced and for sale by KatePearceVintage

So, what are you waiting for? Get out there! I promise, there is nothing more exhilarating than digging through a dusty basement to find that authentic Fernand Leger ceramic with a $2 price tag on it.

An Inspired Kitchen

We’re gearing up for a major kitchen reno here at Casa Pearce and what better way to begin the process than look to Instagram for inspiration. But, let’s also be honest, I’ve kept a folder of kitchen inspiration for about a decade now and have been dreaming of my first kitchen reno for pretty much my entire life.

Since we are gutting to the studs, there are so many details to be covered, and I’ll be taking inspiration from tons of different sources. From color, to tile, to layout and lighting, that folder I just mentioned is so large it would probably make your head burst if you saw it. But, I’m going to show you some of the highlights that are really going to inspire this reno for us. Today’s post will focus on the element that is the starting point for every room I ever create: COLOR.

KITCHEN BY BARLOW & BARLOW

For those of you who have been following me for a while on Instagram, you know that color is my middle name. I simply can’t live without it. But, it’s also very difficult to do well. When it comes to color, it’s important to use it as a design element to accentuate a space, and to make sure it’s not overdone. I want you to come out of my rooms remembering how all of the details worked together, instead of only being able to recall “GREEN” or “BLUE,” or worse yet, “I CAN’T EVEN RECALL A COLOR BECAUSE THERE WERE TOO MANY.”

Take this stunning kitchen by Barlow & Barlow above, for instance. The oranges in the books complement the blues in the cabinetry, but the greys and whites accentuate the architectural elements, allowing them to shine. There is so much interest in this space, and while color is a defining feature, it doesn’t steal the show.

Kitchen by Devol Kitchens

The next major inspiration shot comes from Devol Kitchens. The greens in this space set against the gorgeous marble countertops and backsplash just make me DEAD. Like, nothing will ever be this good again so I may as well just throw in the towel.

There was something I read recently about designing with color, and it was that it was important to repeat the same color at ground level, eye level, and above eye level. I walked around my rooms and realized that I do this, not because it is a design rule, but just because that makes sense to me. I don’t even do it purposefully, it just happens. That’s exactly what I love about this kitchen. The entire design doesn’t seem contrived by some formula, but the color, texture and overall design just seem to come together in the most natural of ways.

So, that’s the goal for our kitchen reno: bold color that doesn’t overwhelm, and will come together to create a seamless landscape that doesn’t quite defy the rules of interior design, but just follows them without trying to.


How We DIY-ed Our Dream Bathroom Renovation

So, they always say that necessity is the mother of invention, right? Well, that’s the gist of how this bathroom came to be. We moved into our 1910 fixer-upper 1.5 years ago, and lived with the bathroom for more than a year. Then, one day, when our youngest daughter turned around 7 months-old and I had finally gotten enough sleep to be cognizant of my surroundings, I got into the shower and had this moment where I had just had enough of the bathroom. The white grout in all of the tiles was almost black from mold and dirt, the tiles were broken, the ancient wooden cabinetry was warped and filled with mold, and there was this bizarre closet smack in the middle of the space that just needed to be KNOCKED DOWN because…. well, just BECAUSE….because it drove me NUTS!

So, armed with no interior design degree and little to no renovation experience, my husband and I decided to tackle the project 100% solo. We took our little to no money and headed out to salvage yards and Lowe’s (and added a splash of Restoration Hardware because I felt we deserved to splurge just a LITTLE).

The first step was taking the space down to the studs. We smashed tile and walls and we stripped everything from the room… except for that amazing pink art deco tub.

Everyone thought I was nuts.

“If you’re replacing everything else, why not replace that TUB?” people would ask. “Can’t you have that thing refinished in WHITE?” others would suggest….but forward march I did without listening to anyone’s opinions about my ancient pink tub. I didn’t keep it because of budgetary reasons, I kept it because it’s irreplaceable and AWESOME. How these people couldn’t see that blew my mind. But, they see it now. Because everything we replaced around it allowed it to to finally shine in all its pink glory.

So, about that tub. From an aesthetic perspective, I wanted that beautiful little tub to be the star of the room. The current pink floor tile that attempted, but failed, to match the the pink of the tub was all kinds of wrong and it needed to be replaced with something fun and modern, but subdued enough to allow the focus to still remain on the tub.

The other obstacle to overcome was to make this a bathroom for both adult and child because, for now, this is our only full bathroom. But down the road we would like it to be the bathroom for just our two little girls. Knowing this, we needed it to be sophisticated enough to serve as our only full bath, but fun enough so that a few years down the road it can be easily turned into a kid’s bath. So, white mermaid scallop tile with a modern charcoal grout next to millenial pink tub it was. Sophistication: CHECK! Fun Factor: CHECK!

Now, onto the walls. I always admired Johanna Gaines infatuation with shiplap, but after the millionth room she coated from floor to ceiling in shiplap it started to feel a little overdone to me..even dull. I knew I wanted to use it in the space, but I thought white shiplap would make the entire space feel drained of life. I also knew the shiplap would abut the pink tub and there is no coupling that makes me swoon more than seeing pink living next to black. So I slapped some Farrow and Ball Off-Black on that cheap Lowe’s shiplap and BOOM. My heart felt full.

But no space will ever feel truly complete without some serious vintage touches. Yes, the pink art deco tub checked that box in some ways, but the space was still feeling a little too, well, impersonal, if you will. So, I turned to the cabinet to inject this space with some really good vintage vibes. We were able to find an old, mid-century dresser that had the perfect dimensions and bones to work as a base for our sinks and storage for alllll the things. All it needed was some new hardware and some of my husband’s handiwork to translate the look I had in my brain into the REAL THING.

I found some fab Anthropologie hardware (that, apparently, I bought them out of) that picked up the gold in the Restoration Hardware faucets, and the black in the shiplap of the walls and the grout of the floors and shower. I found a piece of quartz from a scrapyard at my favorite marble and granite place, some great semi-recessed sinks from Build.com to give the entire piece some dimension and there we had it: an awesome, mostly vintage piece that gave this space some SOUL.

The large gold mirror was an antique piece I had salvaged long ago, but we lucked out that the dimensions were exactly the same as the cabinet.

But there was still a little something missing…. and it was just a bit more color. I still wanted to that pink tub to shine, so I decided to pick up the same shade of pink and repeat it on the ceiling with the semi-flushmount. Sazerac Stitches was kind enough to customize the piece, and put these peachy pink shades on one of their awesome fixtures.

Oh, and in the end, I felt the space needed just a touch more color and a touch more vintage …. so I killed two birds with one stone by snagging this June and Blue vintage beauty.

And there we had it…. the bathroom of our dreams for much less than we had expected to pay… and just a touch more than we could actually afford! In other words, our first true foray into the world of DIY home renovation….