While helping homeowners clear their garages of long-forgotten stuff, their barns of rusted tools and old-time treasures, and even hoarders’ houses loaded with trash, Leslie Boutell and Simon Purshouse are reminded that one person’s trash is another person’s treasure.
Rather than just carrying the dusty discards to the county dump, the Boyes Hot Spring pair decided they might also be able to find homes for some of the refuse with buyers interested in shabby chic furnishings and unique accessories.
Since spring, they’ve been doing just that at Urban Refind, open by appointment and selling one-of-a-kind home and garden items from two locations in El Verano: one specializing in “outside spaces,” the other in “inside places.”
Both locations are housed in repurposed storage spaces, one at a former dairy and the other in a rustic barn on a former egg farm and bird sanctuary lush with flowers and foliage.
“We like to say we rescue things,” said Boutell, 55, who owns Boyes Hot Springs-based Good Riddance Hauling with her life partner, Purshouse, 46. “These (items) are all our little rescues.”
Visitors will find everything from antiques and vintage items to rustic goods, Mid-Century Modern discoveries and former ugly duckling castoffs given a second chance with sandpaper, paint and Boutell’s creative touch.
The merchandise is eclectic and ever-changing, always promoting the environmentally forward concept of repurposing and reusing everyday objects, furnishings and funky finds. Boutell said anything farm-related is big with North Bay buyers who like weathered items for display or DIY projects.
A rusted Radio Flyer wagon, old-time watering cans and milk jugs and a 1950s potato masher were among recent discoveries, along with galvanized buckets, a hand-painted teapot and an autographed copy of a Beatles poster.
A whimsical wine-selection menu board pulled from a restaurant job showcases a quirky mustached-man holding a wine glass in one hand, a wine bottle in another.
The pair can remember where they discovered most of their items, but not always. A vintage Mobo pressed-metal children’s riding horse with a red saddle and fanciful bridle detailing is unique and charming, yet Purshouse isn’t certain where he picked it up.
“Sometimes it’s just a blur,” he said. “I’m on so many jobs.”
Boutell remembers falling for the spotted scoot-along toy horse the minute she saw it.
“When Simon brought this home, I was like, ‘Oh my god. It’s adorable,’” she said. The asking price is $299.
Priced to move
The two research their finds and price things to move, typically taking half off the retail price of newer items.
“We’re able to (do that) because of the way we acquire it,” Boutell said. “Sometimes it’s the bones or just the vibe of the piece. You go through these homes and see things of your childhood. It’s like comfort food for me.”
Adds Purshouse, “It’s like going back in time.”
Everything is taken from job sites where homeowners need help clearing garages chockablock full of long-forgotten stuff, barns brimming with rusted tools and old-time treasures or hoarders’ houses loaded down with trash but with an occasional hidden gem. Even construction cleanups or yard waste and debris hauling can reveal cool or useful things. During a recent job, they uncovered a metal candle holder from within a pile of trash.
Almost always, owners don’t know what to do with all the excess stuff, or even care. Donate it, they say. Take it. Toss it. Just make it go away.
Offspring call for help after the death of a parent or grandparent, unable or unwilling to take on a household packed with decades of accumulation.
“It’s left up to us to do it because the kids don’t want it. They just want it to go,” Purshouse said.
Foreclosures, evictions and home sales result in abandoned or unwanted furnishings, washers, dryers and even riding lawn mowers.
Urban Refind merchandise currently includes a rosewood replica Ming Dynasty dining room set with a buffet featuring Shou longevity symbols, everything in perfect condition. The pieces were removed from a multi-million-dollar second home in Napa Valley, Purshouse said. The asking price is about $2,500 for the set, a fraction of its retail value.
A petite shabby chic side table, distressed and painted with cream-colored chalk paint by Boutell, is available for $99. A vintage aluminum letter carrier with its original strap, discovered within the trash of a hoarder’s home, can be yours for $65.
On occasion, the owners discover something they would like to keep — but don’t. A vintage 1950s Hotpoint refrigerator in mint working condition from a Glen Ellen home sale was a tough one to let go, the sparkling chrome and white exterior and aqua interior a true temptation.
“It was mint, I’m talking mint,” Purshouse said. “I actually hated to let that go.”
The retro icebox, as refrigerators were often called then, had been in the same home since the 1950s. It sold for $400 and is now chillin’ in a funky rental cottage up north.
Even with the launch of Urban Refind, the couple’s Good Riddance Hauling business continues to deliver specified items to charitable thrift stores. They just no longer spend time consigning items, viewing Urban Refind as an opportunity to turn one person’s trash into another’s treasure.
They rely on their instincts after six years of making dump runs, sorting recyclable items, bringing valuables to consignment or thrift shops and clearing out the clutter that bogs down so many of their customers.
“It’s extracting and realizing that it’s worth something,” Boutell said. The rest gets transported to the landfill, less than half of what they haul away.
Urban Refind fans include interior decorators, set designers, wholesalers, bargain hunters and those who simply appreciate unique items and the opportunity to help save Mother Earth.
For more information, visit urbanrefind.com, facebook.com/urbanrefind or call 721-6793.