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 forbidden.
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.