Thrifting by design

  • Sebastopol resident, Selena Cate has a collection of second hand bargain finds in her home.
    (Crista Jeremiason / The Press Democrat)

As a kid growing up in the 1970s and &‘80s, Selena Cate frequently went "thrifting" with her socially conscious parents concerned about not over-using Mother Earth. Virtually everything in their house was second-hand. By the time she was in high school, she rebelled and took to the mall.

But over time, the 40-year-old mom of two and home-based entrepreneur has re-discovered the virtues of buying used stuff.

Not only can you save a ton of money, very often older objects made before the era of cheap imports are higher quality, she said, in materials, construction and design.

Drawing on the skills she learned from her parents, Cate has completely outfitted her Sebastopol home with second-hand finds, everything from the furnishings and wall decor to the 1960s designer dishes, the Finnish glasses and Danish flatware.

But unlike the heavy and dark antiques favored by her parents, Cate, like many younger gen X-ers and millenials, has fallen for mid-century modern. Hers is a generation that came of age in the 1990s and beyond. To them, the &‘50s and &‘60 are cool.

This is frequently the stuff coming out of estate sales now — the parents of baby boomers who were furnishing their homes after World War II, said Susan Gardner, who has watched tastes change dramatically in the more than 20 years she has been running estate sales in Sonoma County.

"The gen X- and Y-ers don't want crystal, china and antiques," said Gardner, noting that what many are attracted to, instead, are Scandinavian designs, teak furnishings and shelving units, Melamine dishware, hanging globe and ceramic lamps, Dansk dishes, anything with stainless steel and plain lines.

"Eight years ago," she said, "this stuff went begging."

A lot of the younger buyers just want "the look." But Cate is among those who can discern real quality designers from the era, like Charles and Ray Eames, Jerome and Evelyn Ackerman and Russel Wright, who made mass-produced items for the home with quality and style.

From estate sales, rummage sales and flea markets, she's collected items her parents could never have afforded new, like Heath ceramic plates, Finnish Iittala ice glass and a Drexel Heritage cabinet she found for $50 at the Salvation Army thrift complex on Lytton Springs Road outside Healdsburg.

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