For self-proclaimed grandmillennial Elizabeth W. Cook, revamping her dining room into a scenic oasis was inevitable—but it was still very much a major undertaking. The inspiration for the space, reveals the antiques-obsessed marketing consultant, were two Gracie Studio wallpapers—one of which was on full display in designer Mark D. Sikes’s creation for the 2018 Kips Bay New York Show House. Above all, says, Cook, she and her family “wanted the room to feel fresh, elevated, and timeless”—and she accomplished just that.
Cook sourced many of the furnishings and decor from auctions and estate sales, including the chairs (which were later reupholstered in Thibaut’s Bailey fabric) and table. “While some may suggest to go on the first day to a physical estate sale to get the ‘best stuff,’ I personally prefer to go on the last day to get the best deals,” Cook reveals. “Often times the items I am most interested in are still there and I have a lot more negotiation power.”
Other standout pieces include an antique mahogany sideboard from a Peachtree Battle estate sale in Atlanta, a pair of silver leaf lamps by Nancy Cozine are from Cook’s grandmother, a chinoiserie mirror that was purchased from Danielle Rollins (originally from STAIR Galleries), a silver-plated Reed & Barton cachepot from an estate sale in Atlanta’s Tuxedo Park neighborhood (which cost just $20!), hand-embroidered linen napkins and placements from a sample sale (each placement was $4, and each napkin was $2!), and a china set from EBTH, which Cook used at her wedding. Known as the Royal Crown Derby “Gold Aves,” the set includes dinner plates, salad plates, dessert plates, small cups, and small saucers (16 each); small plates, teacups, and large saucers (14 each); plus eight bowls and a dozen glasses.
Additionally, the dining room features glassware from the aforementioned EBTH set, as well as Waterford Lismore, which were sourced from from Strawser Auction Group in Wolcottville, IN. “I purchased my crystal from Strawser and nabbed a set of 14 Lismore white and red glasses along with water goblets for $220,” Cook reveals. “To give you an idea, one Lismore glass is approximately $75.” Other key pieces including sterling silver candlesticks and a bowl, both from George Jensen and originally sourced from Scott’s Antique Market.
When it came to flooring and window treatments, that was all “left with the house when we moved in,” reveals Cook. “For the drapes, I removed the valance, lengthened the panels, and placed them on a hand-painted gold French return rod.”
In designing the space, Cook drew inspiration from the STARK rug that had come with the house. “I personally like the green shade of the rug, as well as the material for our young family. It also saved us money to not replace, so we leaned in and painted complementary hues around the flooring.”
Following the viridescent color scheme, Cook opted to paint the walls Charlotte Moss’s favorite shade of green, Vert de Terre by Farrow & Ball. “Once we had the colors down and the walls painted, [decorative painter] Emmie Ruth got to work,” boasts Cook. The nature-inspired mural took only two months to complete. “We adore Emmie Ruth and had worked with her previously. As such, we felt comfortable with her coming and going from our home. She would come in for an hour a day or for a full-day—it was completely based on her schedule,” Cook reveals.
Opting for a custom mural instead of wallpaper made all the difference, Cook contends. “It was so nice to work with a decorative painter as opposed to putting up wallpaper because we were able to make changes to the mural throughout,” she explains. When the one-of-a-kind work of art was nearly complete, the dining room ceiling was painted in Farrow & Ball’s Teresa’s Green (in high gloss) and trimmed in Farrow & Ball’s Pointing.
“The last addition to our dining room was the chandelier” from Circa Lighting, reveals Cook—”which we had coveted for a while and purchased right after looking, [because we were] struggling to find the right one at an auction!”
If you’re looking to incorporate more estate sale finds and antiques in your own home, peruse Cook’s shopping tips below.
Estate Sale Tips
- The first thing you should do? “Download the EstateSales.net app to your phone,” Cook says. “Input the best zip code in your city to be aware of what sales are happening when and where. The majority of sales are posted on Tuesday and start on Thursday.”
- “There is a total hierarchy for antiques and consignments,” Cook reveals. “Beware of seeing ‘consignment’ furniture on a storefront and thinking you are getting a deal,” she explains, since it’s likely referring to merchandise that has been purchased from an estate sale or auction house and then resold to the store buyer—”potentially even going through additional middle men to end up at that location,” she adds, which translates to a higher resale price.
- “Brick-and-mortar thrift stores attached to a church or non-profit will have better deals,” Cook asserts. “The generous individuals that donate products are not looking for a consigner check—therefore, the store has more flexibility on price and can negotiate as they wish.” Among the best ones to shop are Housing Works in NYC, which benefits AIDS research; The Church Mouse at Palm Beach, benefitting The Church of Bethesda-by-the-Sea; and the Assistance League of Houston, which benefits multiple local charities.
- Thrift shops in wealthier neighborhoods usually offer higher quality products. “This is not always always the case—but if your time is tight, I would recommend swinging by stores located in cities where second or third vacation homes are common,” since residents of those areas are typically not as interested in profiting off their used furniture, she suggests. In addition, they most likely also invested in a high-end decorator—one presumably in the know when it comes to all the best brands. Bonus insider tip: “Kofski’s estate sales in Palm Beach occur only in-season and are full-fledged fire sales from full mansions on the island!”
- Download the LiveAuctioneers app. “Live Auctioneers is the leading curator of estate sales and auctions around the world,” Cook asserts.”There are other similar online sources such as Invaluable and BidSquare, but I personally prefer LiveAuctioneers,” Cook admits.
- Once you’ve created an account, use the “find auctions” drop down to find sales near you. “It is helpful to know about those around you for two reasons: You will have the ability to preview the sites up for sale if you choose, and you can escape any cross-country moving expenses,” she explains.
- Beware of any fees. One important fee to know about is the “buyer’s premium,” “which is essentially a cut that goes to the house,” Cook says. “Twenty-five to 30% is pretty standard, but calculate that out before you set your top bid.”
- If an item at an auction doesn’t sell, ask the sale coordinator if you are able to bid on it post-sale. “Depending on the agreement with the seller, the majority of items can be yours for half off the original starting price!”
- When it comes to shipping, “UShip and Bunjii are great resources to connect with third-party shippers across the country,” Cook advises.
- Last but not least: set a budget. “I usually will set budgets for items I love at an auction and try to fight the urge to bid past this number!”
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