Avant Garb-age

February 2, 2012 — 12 Comments

Dallas (my current home) is a bustling city with a center core, sprawling suburbs and cozy neighborhoods, it’s a far cry from my hometown.  I grew up on a farm in Fairacres, NM (not the moo-cow, oink-oink type of place but an agricultural based farm) where we lived right smack in the middle of fields that rotated cotton, chile, alfalfa, onions, cabbage and tons of other vegetables that we’d steal we were given for our Sunday night dinners.

New Mexico Farm

While having many wonderful qualities, beautiful views of the mountains, interesting wildlife, the ability to see the stars at night and peace and quiet, it lacked a sense of neighborly love.  Not that we didn’t like our neighbors it’s just we didn’t have much contact with them.  The closest neighbors were about 100 yards away so we weren’t about to walk that far to bring them fresh baked cookies just to be nice.

Now, I live in a small neighborhood just east of downtown Dallas.  I have a 10 minute commute to work,  a 10 minute walk to the lake (yes, Dallas has a lake, not the kind that you’d go swimming in — actually I think that’s illegal here — but a lake with ducks, mutant fish and pretentious bicyclists) and a 10 minute walk to my local organic-conscious and slightly-more-expensive grocery store.  Having said all of that, my truly favorite part of living in my neighborhood is BULK TRASH DAY!

My reason for liking bulk trash day isn’t because I have lots of stuff that I need to get rid of, rather, I like going through other people’s trash to find furniture that I can fix up.  Besides cheapskate furniture connoisseurs (like myself) there are lots of people that rely on big trash day to supplement their income. If your neighborhood has bulk trash pick-up you’ll notice that there will be trucks driving up and down the street slowing down and occasionally stopping to go through the piles of scrap wood, bags of leaves and garage sale remnants.  Scrap metal is usually the sought after prize…these guys will scrap even the smallest of metal objects with ceiling fan motors being the coup de grace (we’re talking like $3.00 in scrap copper).  But, if you are a crafty person you’ll find all sorts of uses for left over lumber, tree branches and slightly abused furniture.

If you have a keen eye,  patience and luck (and by “luck” I mean “the death of an old person who hasn’t bought furniture in 40 yrs and whose kids don’t want to deal with their crap”) then, you will be rewarded with some awesomeness left curbside.

My biggest find to date is this Sculptra china cabinet and nightstand. Found 3 blocks away from my house on the curb and luckily in pretty good condition.

Broyhill Sculptra China Cabinet

And my latest find…matching white vinyl club chairs!

Mark VII Division Eddystone Manufacturing Company chairs

Yes, I hear what your saying “One of those chairs looks alright but the other one is a pile of crap”  Well, part of bulk-trashing (yes I just made up a new verb) is looking past the surface rust, spider webs and cat pee and see the potential of something awesome.

Part of the reason why I am writing this post is to force myself to follow through with refinishing these chairs and show you the result in a future post.  With a little help from photoshop I’ve mocked up some fabric options…


Grey plaid?Grey Plaid chair


Grey Felt?Grey Felt chair


Awesome 70’s floral print?Floral Print chair.

Blue gingham?Blue gingham chair


On second thought…maybe I’ll just stick with the white vinyl.

So go check your city’s bulk trash calendar, go through your neighbor’s discarded stuff and save one piece of perfectly good furniture from the landfill.  It’s good for you and good for the environment (or something like that).




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  • Matt

    I’ve collected a few pieces from the curb. Some needed minor repairs, but most are just fine. My most notable was a 3’x5′ metal drafting table with the green rubber top and parallel glider that I found already disassembled on the curb. It was on a busy street and no one must have known what it was or wanted to deal with putting it together. I kept it a few years and when I needed some money, I sold it on Craigslist for $200. You might think that was high, but that was actually a low price for the type as they go for something like $500 new. Not bad. I’ve also fixed a nice curbside free mower and sold it for $80. You can’t sell yourself too short. Someone else might pay or charge more.

  • dom

    I love that framed print of the ape raising its arm on top of your cabinet! It seems to have been inspired by Le Corbusier’s illustration for the Modulor!

  • Anonymous

    Reminds of the story growing up where a neighbor put out a Barkalounger with a “Free to good home” sign on it. After a week, no takers. He then put out another sign, “$20-Great Buy” and the next morning it was gone.

    Oh yeah, almost forgot-Grey Felt.


  • craig

    Bob, I am so glad that you posted this. I keep it a secret that I “recycle” stuff. Here in SoCal people talk about the environment but yet throw out anything shabby. I have restored lots of wonderful stuff which people like. However, I have learned not to reveal I salvaged it from the curb or trash as they immediately get turned off. I just pretend that I have a secret inside connection to getting really valuable “restorables”. I have actually restored “junk” items which were then sold to clients at ridiculous prices to add interest to their Mid Century Modern projects. It is refreshing to see that a respected colleague has the same sort of vision that I do. Thanks for being so open and honest. Who knows, maybe we’ll start a trend. But then we’d be over run with profit hungry competitors, most likely.

    • Anonymous

      Uhh, Scott posted it. Bob’s got a staff now.


      • Scott Taylor

         Staff?  That would imply that I get paid to do this.  It’s more like indentured servant.

  • shtrum

    Kudos, Scott.  i love found objects.  One hazard though with discarded/thrift store furniture that’s making a big impact here in Ohio; bedbugs.  At $2000 for extermination fees, you may want to remove as much material as possible, then bag and seal for a few months first.  Bag your clothes too and wash immediately in hot.  And remember that nudists don’t run, they walk . . . chest out, chin up, eyes straight ahead.

    And my pick’s the floral print.

    • Scott Taylor

       Amen brother…I’ll check for bed bugs before I move these bad boys into the house.

  • JO5

    I agree, grey felt – hands down.

    • Scott Taylor

      Oh come on guys, you don’t like the 70’s floral print?  Ha!

  • Sanctuary Homes

    The grey felt is pretty awesome!