photograph by Melissa Sheets

You can’t scroll through your Pinterest feed or flip through a home decorating magazine without noticing that vintage, upcycled, and farmhouse pieces are having a moment. There are plenty of big-box stores and online retailers that sell reproduction, but for original finds, nothing beats antique malls, flea markets, and — my favorite — barn sales.

Once a month, I make the trek from Charlotte to Thomasville to shop at Chartreuse. Steve and Paula Lynam started hosting sales in their refurbished (and beautiful!) barn in 2014. Up to 25 vendors sell carefully curated collections of vintage and modern pieces that will have friends asking, where did you find that? 

 

More than 1,000 eager shoppers show up at the barn every month. “It’s more than shopping, it’s an experience,” Steve says.

Show up early for the best finds and look for these seven popular items:

1. Vintage advertising

It’s hard to ignore the patina on this pub sign. The lettering is too worn to make out much more than the name of the establishment, The Oakland, but the rust is part of its charm.

Vintage advertising can be displayed as art. Like art, finding “the one” is a matter of personal taste. You might choose a piece based on its colors, images, or advertising that fits with a theme. This pub sign would look great hanging above a bar cart in the dining room.

The best part of displaying vintage advertising is imagining the stories behind the pieces. Where was The Oakland and what happened to it? It’s as much a piece of art as it is a conversation piece.

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2. Upcycled lighting

An illuminated wicker basket, an olive bucket-turned-chandelier, and a vintage wine barrel upcycled into a lovely pendant light are a few of the one-of-a-kind light fixtures hanging in the barn.

After seeing the creative lighting at Chartreuse, it’s hard to imagine opting for mass-produced fixtures. During my visit, I was scoping out options for the dining room.

Remember to take measurements; a piece that looks averaged-size in a cavernous barn might be too large for the standard dining room. Also make sure to ask vendors whether vintage fixtures have been tested; older chandeliers might have to be rewired to be brought up to code and safely installed.

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3. Wooden crates

In the past, wooden crates were used for shipping and are often imprinted with the brand names of the products they contained. Today, they offer plenty of space to stash magazines, toys, blankets, hats and mittens, or anything else that needs to be corralled. Unlike plastic totes, crates are pretty enough to leave out in the open. Stack several for the ultimate storage solution.

Crates vary in size and depth; some have more interesting iconography than others. The more ornate or rare the images and advertising, the more expensive the crate. Canada Dry beverage crates are fairly common and priced at $22 each.

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4. Enamelware

Enamelware refers to the coating that covers cookware made of materials like steel and cast iron. The enamel coating is functional; it creates a non-porous surface that makes cookware easier to clean and safe to use on stovetops as well as in the oven or microwave. Enamelware is also decorative. It comes in a number of different colors — often bright hues like orange, red, and blue — and mottled patterns that mix traditional brights with white.

As long as the finish isn’t cracked or rusted, enamelware is still food safe. Don’t dismiss less-than-perfect pieces; enamelware is pretty enough to display and adds great pops of color.

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5. Painted furniture

A coat of paint can transform a dated cast-off into a modern must-have, so it’s no surprise that painted furniture is a design trend.

Barn sales are great places to find furniture rescued from other barns that has been reimagined and modernized with color.

The vendors at Chartreuse have pieces in all sizes and styles from turquoise nightstands and pink dressers to grey dining tables and off-white china hutches. Resist the urge to pick a piece based on its color alone; test all of the doors and drawers and assess their sturdiness. If you find a piece with good bones that is the wrong color, don’t be afraid to take it home and repaint it.

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6. Ironstone

This durable stoneware was first produced in England in the 1800s. At the peak of its popularity, almost 200 manufacturers were turning out the weighty white china.

Ironstone pieces ranging from soup tureens and platters to mugs and pitchers are still great finds. Collectors will look for maker’s marks to see if a piece is authentic ironstone, as opposed to another kind of white china. There is no right or wrong way to building a collection. I’ll even overlook slight damage if a piece has a size or shape I love.

One of the vendors at Chartreuse had an amazing selection of ironstone. I purchased two small pitchers and added them to a small (and growing) collection displayed on open shelving in my kitchen.

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7. Architectural salvage

Glass doorknobs, shutters, tin ceiling tiles, iron gates: all of the pieces that were used in old homes can be found at a barn sale. These are essential items for renovating old homes; remember to take measuring tape to triple check that a stained glass window, cast iron grate, or corbel will fit.

You don’t have to be renovating an old home to incorporate architectural salvage into your home: Corbels make great bookends; vintage doors can be hung as headboards; and spools from a long-abandoned textile mill are beautiful as decorative pieces.

Chartreuse
326 Litwin Drive, Thomasville
Learn more: (336) 617-7423 or facebook.com/chartreusebarn.

This story was published on

Jodi Helmer is a freelance writer based in Charlotte.

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