Skip to content

How to Mix Secondhand Finds with New Items

December 17, 2013

As more daring interior designers have always known, adding vintage furniture, artwork or striking found objects to a room is an easy way to add character.  But if you’re not careful, it’s also a potential recipe for turning a room into a confused hodgepodge of modes. Here are some rules of thumb to mastering the subtle art of secondhand elegance.


Begin with a Neutral Canvas

When set against the backdrop of an imposing color, an assortment of vintage pieces might make the room look scattered. White or neutral-colored walls, on the other hand, accommodate a high degree of heterogeneity by giving individual elements more breathing room. To stir in a little more warmth, beige, grey, taupe or black backdrops will serve a similar function.

Work Within Unified Themes and Color Palettes

In the same way that neutral walls curb the busyness of a room, composing the layout of a room according to common visual elements cuts down the carnivalesque ambience. This is particularly important when using pieces that have an antique appearance to begin with (and doubly so if they happen to be vintage pop culture items). When set against similar color schemes and patterns, the used items take on a consciously curated style rather than haphazardly kitschy.

Choose Wisely

As a rule, plan on contemporary furniture for large pieces and use retro items for accessory items or accent furniture. However, if you come across a larger secondhand piece of furniture that you can’t pass up, applying a little TLC to your find will ensure that it doesn’t stick out for the wrong reasons. Often all it takes is some reupholstering or a deep clean to have an old treasure looking new again. But first, consider the amount of time and energy you have to dedicate to giving a secondhand item a makeover before you lug it home.

Highlight a Signature Item

One of the greatest things about thrifting is the thrill of finding rare, one-of-a-kind items. When you score that truly oddball mid-century modern chair or Op Art coffee table, don’t let it recede into the background. Arrange the furniture and items in your room around it as a centerpiece to showcase its uniqueness.

Use New Fabrics with Old Furniture

Even when a piece of furniture has been handled with care over the years, upholstery tends to fray, so accenting a vintage chair with a brand new blanket or modern throw pillow will breathe some life back into it. Since the raison d’etre for the new fabric is to provide sharp and unpilled texture, it need not be an attraction on its own: a simple throw from Target will do the trick.

An underlying goal of mixing new and secondhand items should be to create an overall vision of simplicity while livening things up with juxtapositions on a smaller scale. Using a vintage, ornate wood end table as a television stand is a good example. Finally, while it’s good to begin any schematic with a master plan, let a room evolve over time.  Imposing a single concept all at once can result in a forced, almost sterile appearance—and as in much of life, the best things often come to us out of the blue. So always be ready for your next unexpected find!

Uma Campbell is a freelance writer from Southern California. She loves mixing secondhand treasures with newly bought items in her home. To view more of her writing, please visit the Luxe Water Walls blog.

Join this effort to help local workers find jobs

December 13, 2013

MichaelElderFor the jobless, the holiday season can be particularly difficult, especially since diminished unemployment benefits do not pay enough to cover even basic expenses. As the holidays approach, I encourage all of us to think creatively about ways that our community can work together to reduce barriers to employment that challenge thousands of our citizens in their quest to provide for their families.

While the recession has affected our nation’s entire workforce, it has devastated the ability of low-skilled job seekers and entry-level workers to find family-sustaining employment. Last year, Charlotte-Mecklenburg’s workforce development agencies—under record-breaking demand for services and diminished funding—banded together to form a unified task force to explore opportunities for strengthening community services for adult job seekers. By working together for the past 20 months, we are gaining a more thorough understanding of the complex challenges facing low-skilled individuals and making strides to develop more effective job training services that will benefit local workers and employers.

The workforce development sector has shifted gears to deepen our collective impact on the employment outcomes of the people we serve. For example, we are in the process of developing a standardized “soft skills” training curriculum for clients, marking the first time that our agencies have reached a consensus on best practices in pre-employment training. But much work remains to keep building momentum and break the joblessness cycle. Here at Goodwill, we see hundreds of individuals each month who have been stuck at the back of the jobs line for years because they’re perceived as “damaged goods” by employers. We prepare them with the proper skills to find and keep a job so that they can support themselves and their family. However, to make the transition from low-wage worker to living-wage worker, this group needs support from individuals and employers.

I invite people to join the movement to create local solutions to employment barriers. Become a mentor to a youth without career goals. Volunteer as a mock interviewer at one of Goodwill’s job training classes.  Hire a person who has been out of work for six months or longer. They may have a weaker resume, but their motivation to work is strong. When a person is able to contribute economically, that not only benefits the individual and their family, it goes a long way in building stronger communities.

Michael Elder is president and CEO of Goodwill Industries of the Southern Piedmont. This letter originally appeared in The Charlotte Observer on November 15, 2013.

DIY Christmas Gifts

December 10, 2013

You don’t have to go to the mall this Christmas to give your loved ones a gift they will treasure for a lifetime!  Why not make them one of these great gifts with materials found at your local Goodwill?  Not only are DIY gifts affordable, they are more personal that other gifts.  Give a gift that will remain valuable in your loved one’s eyes.

Have you ever received a homemade Christmas gift?

AllisonPlatteAllison Platte is a Charlotte, NC blogger & internet marketing specialist that writes a lifestyle and fashion blog, In the Queen City.

Success Story: Lavette

December 6, 2013

IMG_0158Lavette Johnson had 20 years of work experience as a successful business woman with positions in customer service and sales. But when her younger sister was diagnosed with cancer, Lavette left her job in Virginia to move back to Charlotte to be closer to her family.

Despite her robust work history, Lavette struggled to find another position that matched her skill set and education. “I learned the term for my situation was ‘dislocated worker,’” she said. “But I decided that I would maintain a positive response to change throughout the job seeking process.” When a family friend who was also looking for a job picked up a flyer about Goodwill’s Occupational Skills Training program, it was Lavette who called the number first to enroll in the Banking & Customer Service class.

Lavette describes the benefits of her Goodwill experience as two-fold. First, there was the emotional support given by classmates and instructors. “The classroom setting exposes you to a lot of different people, yet we all ended up forming strong relationships and helping each other get through each step of the process.” Secondly, Goodwill allowed Lavette to sharpen skills that would make her stand out to potential employers. “While I had previous computer training, Goodwill gave me more in-depth skills that helped boost my confidence,” Lavette said. “I became stronger in Power Point, spreadsheets and public speaking, to name a few.”

Lavette says Goodwill helped her reevaluate her career goals and gave her new direction. She is currently seeking a position in banking or customer service and volunteer opportunities where she can draw upon her strengths of working with people.  In the long-term, Lavette would like to be a trainer in the banking industry so she can help others gain the skills and opportunities that she gained at Goodwill. “I take all the good from where I’ve been and I put that energy into where I’m going,” she says.

Elizabeth Isenhour

Elizabeth Isenhour

How do you stay focused during a job search?

Give Where You Live: Three Reasons to Donate Locally Before December 31

December 3, 2013

55When asked what our goals are for the holiday season, most of us would include giving back. But let’s face it: between the dinner parties, holiday celebrations, frenzied shopping trips and exciting New Year’s travel plans, few of us actually find a moment to give back in a meaningful way before the end of the year. Fortunately, there’s one way to help people right here in Charlotte that is quick, easy and affordable — and it feels good, too!

By donating used clothing and households goods before the end of December, you can help people in your community get back to work while putting your own life on a new path for the New Year — and even saving a little money yourself. Here’s how:

1. Local Donations Have Local Impact

We all know that unemployment is still a major problem here in the Charlotte metro area and most of us know individuals or families who are struggling just to make ends meet. At Goodwill, we turn the value of your used goods into job training and placement services for people right here in our community. The sale of donated clothing and household goods in our stores funds programs that help put our friends and neighbors back on the path to employment success.

2. Get a Fresh Start

Helping your neighbors find jobs feels good, but it also feels good to get a fresh start yourself. Make room for holiday gifts and new purchases by cleaning out your closet, garage or storage space, and know that you’re helping give someone a fresh start in the process. Get the kids in on it too! Parents can encourage children to give back this holiday season by donating one toy for every new item they receive.

3. Kick Off Tax Season with a Bang

During this financially stressful time of year, many of us are looking for any way to rack up a little savings. Fortunately, by doing good and donating you can also get a head start on saving for tax season. Items donated on or before December 31 can be counted as charitable deductions when you file your 2013 taxes.

All of us want to give back this holiday season. By taking a quick drive to your local Goodwill donation center and giving before December 31, you can help put friends and neighbors back on the path to employment success, while cleaning out your own closets and getting a fresh start on 2014.

Click here to learn how your donations helped local people get back to work.

Wall Art with Thrifted Plates

November 21, 2013

I love collecting things. One of my favorite things to collect is decorative plates for their myriad of styles and colors. While shopping at Goodwill, I have discovered many unique plates – from tiny ones featuring cottage chic patterns to large plates with antique flair. However, you defeat the purpose of building a collection if your items are just stuck on a shelf somewhere collecting dust, instead of being seen. Enter wall hanging tips to display your art!

To display my treasures, I have turned to modern decorating methods. Although hanging plates can be considered old-fashioned (I remember my grandmother’s house having a plate or two on the walls), the modern style of hanging fits well in any décor.

In the modern version of plate wall art, you can choose one color to tie the group together. Beautiful blue china is a popular style and you can easily find many shapes and sizes of plates to use with this theme. Plain white plates can also have a striking effect by varying the sizes and shapes.


You can also create cool designs on your wall by artfully flowing the plates across the space. Like creating a river of art, your plates really pop.


Another version of wall art ties eclectic finds together with a burst of happy color. Just pick a shape or style—like Mexican pottery—and go for it! You can make a striking feature wall in your home for very little money.


Making wall art out of plates is an easy way to display your finds and add a modern style to your home at the same time. Have fun discovering new finds and adding to your plate wall throughout the years!

This post is contributed by Linda Bailey from She is a Texas-based writer who loves to write on the topics of housekeeping, green living, home décor and more. She welcomes your comments, which can be sent to b.lindahousekeeping @

Dispelling the ‘One Person Can’t Make a Difference’ Myth

November 15, 2013

recycle-girlPublic awareness about the value of recycling is at an all-time high, but currently fewer than 35 percent of households and 10 percent of businesses in the United States recycle, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Sometimes the enormity of a problem, such as massive amounts of waste headed to our landfills, keeps people from taking small steps that could add up to make a big positive change. It’s the “one person can’t make a difference” myth.

November 15 is America Recycles Day, an initiative of Keep America Beautiful. This national commemoration is the perfect opportunity to raise public awareness while encouraging action, because every person can make a difference.

Goodwill Industries of the Southern Piedmont is a proud supporter of America Recycles Day. Environmental sustainability has been central to Goodwill’s mission since its founding 111 years ago. Goodwill’s donation-resale model extends the life of usable clothing and other goods, and earns revenue for Goodwill job training programs, employment placement services and other important social services that benefitted more than 6.7 million people last year alone. In the process, thousands of tons of waste are diverted from landfills.

Goodwill offers this advice for America Recycles Day in hopes that occasional recyclers will become regular recyclers.

  1. Make it simple.
  2. Make it meaningful.

This model works successfully for Goodwill’s donated goods retail business. We provide easy-to-access donation drop-off points in convenient locations. We demonstrate how donations make a positive impact on the donor and the community: Donations are sold in stores. Store revenues fund job training and career services. People get jobs. Families grow stronger. Communities thrive.

The model can work for recycling as well. Breaking down your efforts into simple steps can help. To start, choose to recycle one item — whether it’s newspaper, aluminum or glass — for six months. After that time period, start recycling a second item that you use regularly until it becomes a habit. You can continue to add to your recycling efforts as they become part of your daily life.

Then, understand that your actions have impact. For example, recycling one aluminum product can save enough energy to allow you to listen to a full music album on an iPod. Recycling 100 cans can light a room for two weeks.

Whether you donate regularly to Goodwill or just recycle your aluminum cans, you help dispel the myth that small acts aren’t important. On America Recycles Day, it’s appropriate to celebrate all the ways we collectively and individually protect the planet.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 164 other followers