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The Art of the Estate Sale

chatsworth antique
Chatsworth Auctions, Mamaroneck

Vintage Hunting in Westchester and Greenwich

Almost every Friday they open up a house in the area so you can pick through a stranger’s lifetime. 
No doubt people are sized up by the value of their possessions; this is
 frightfully apparent at an estate sale in the home.

Not unlike a wake, I recently found myself 
tiptoeing around “the mansion” (largish home in Rye) where nothing had ever been tossed.  These were sporting people, with tennis 
racquets and golf clubs and countless silver plate trophies to prove it.  I dug around awhile before I found a perfect 
silver water pitcher, Men’s Doubles Winner 1987; the Runner-up items seemed 
less inviting ($10.00).

The wife 
appeared to have no trophies but she had good taste in lamps, and I found a 
cream porcelain Foo Dog sitting on a large pedestal that I needed for a guest
room ($125.00).  Not cheap, but old and
 one of a kind.  My Tag-Along pal got a 
small brass side-table with glass top for her library ($75.00).  We passed on the faux Louis Vuitton wallets 
and bags.  Linens and blankets felt a tad 
too close to the former owners.

The next week we were in Harrison.  If you were looking to read Gore Vidal and
 Salmon Rushdie while wearing an assortment of mink coats, this was your
house.  Otherwise it smelled of mothballs 
and dated furniture.

Like shaking down the deceased, price haggling seemed 

Later, I took a drive to Estate Treasures in
 Greenwich.  In possession of oversized 
urns from France that would look great in the garden entrance of my fictional
home in Alsace, I took them to be consigned. 
Estate Treasures has been around for 32 years, and is known for its
up-market inventory and fair pricing.  I
 had also brought along a copper tea kettle that had been given to me in the days 
prior to my taste evolving, and a reproduction (say crackle finish painting) of 
a Victorian girl with a doll, “The artist didn’t think it was good enough to
 sign?” Harriet, the owner asked.  These 
items were flatly turned down by Harriet, who assured me that donating them was
 the right thing to do.

She took the urns. 
The split on any thing you consign is 2/3’s to you and 1/3 to Estate
Treasures.  You won’t find a better 
deal.  Although there is some room for
negotiation, the place is well–appointed, taking away that flea market
 bargaining power.

Chatsworth Auctions in Mamaroneck would fail the white glove
test.  An institution located on 
Mamaroneck Avenue, it has been there since the ‘30s and sends props to many Broadway shows.  The gentleman behind the counter also rejected 
my copper tea kettle and little Victorian girl painting, giving me new respect
 for the discerning eye running this place. 
And that is what you must have.

I picked up an iron cherub posing atop a marble base.  They wanted $25.00 but took $20.00 because
 the top was missing; nothing a pillar candle couldn’t fix.  Chatsworth also liquidates estates and for 
those that walk in with things to sell that they actually want to buy, you will
 be paid on the spot (with a check).  That
will probably get you less cash than consigning, but it gets you freedom from
 your stuff.

By the way, I had purchased 
a fireplace screen from them a couple of years ago ($75.00-I had saved the
receipt).  When I found one I liked
 better they let me trade mine in for a couple of antique wooden Chinese stands
 that I have placed large vases on. 
Rather neighborly.

Note:  Haggle. You will have to clean
 items you bring home from Chatsworth.

The History Channel’s popular show, American Pickers, has 
the amiable hosts Mike and Frank searching mostly run-down properties for 
buried treasure, often under hostile fire. 
This makes sense.  Parting with
our possessions is tough.  I think if the 
homeowners at the Tag-Along Estate Sales could run you off their property with 
a shotgun, they would too.


Kim Berns is a Designer and Radio Talk Show Host living in Rye.



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