The Storied Stylist | Unearthing those hidden gems in your own backyard

Posted in Blogs, Visual Art

May 9, 2014

Several years ago, a friend (also a design enthusiast) told me about a store that sold gently-used furniture and building materials for the home—at next to nothing prices! I had stopped listening to her talking about “all these incredible deals” because I was wondering: how on earth had I missed a store like this?

Here is the best part: it was in my own backyard. NOT, literally but—if it’s anywhere on the island—it might as well be.

“What are we waiting for,” I said to her.“Let’s go NOW and check out this new place in Freeland, called Habitat for Humanity!”

In case you happen to be like me and you let this wonderful store slip under your radar, and if you don’t have a clue what this organization is all about, please allow me to give you a VERY brief explanation: It’s a non-profit that provides affordable housing for people regardless of their race or religion by selling household furnishings and building materials to the public from their restore outlets.

Okay, that explanation may be a little clunky, but I wholeheartedly encourage you to read a bit more about this wonderful organization by visiting their website.

My friend was in the process of building her own home and she wanted to cut down on her expenses by furnishing her home with items purchased at Habitat. And I became her sidekick for the next several months.

We went to the Freeland location on a regular basis and then, on the weekends, we went to other stores such as Oak Harbor, Mount Vernon, Port Townsend and Seattle. Needless to say, we were able to find some amazing things. It wasn’t unusual for me to end up on the floor of her car, sandwiched between a chair and a light fixture. On one occasion we had managed to stuff her car to the limit and I was beginning to get a little concerned about our safety. Sure enough, our last stop resulted in a major find that we simply could not pass up! Originally a light fixture resembling a mini version of the space needle, it was now going to live the second half of its life transformed into a fountain for her back yard.

We wrestled this bulky thing into the front seat of her mid-sized car. The only possible way it would fit was for me ultimately to ride shotgun, lying down with this monstrosity between my legs. Oh, did I forget to mention? We found this industrial looking sculpture in Mount Vernon and I had to assume this position all the way to LANGLEY.

Most people would find this kind of behavior dangerous and ridiculous. What can I say? Collecting artifacts from the underbelly of the American sophisticate is not for the faint of heart.

Here is a small glimpse of those items we discovered on our adventures. Please note: all of them (with the exception of the hairpin legs on the coffee table) are from Habitat for Humanity stores.


Some of our findings need a lot of work but if you happen to have a few skills, then the results can be truly breathtaking!


The mid-century chair covered in black vinyl had a super high gloss finish that virtually destroyed the true beauty of the wood (maple), so I wet-sanded tirelessly, for a couple of weeks, and this is the result!


I found a bunch of doors that screamed “we want to be something else for a change!” So, I converted one into a coffee table. The hairpin legs came from another table that was rescued from the garbage. Also, all of these items pictured were purchased for $35 or less.


I hope I’ve inspired you enough to take a look inside these fabulous stores and—who knows? You might get lucky and find some hidden gems in your own backyard!

To get more information about Habitat stores, or to find locations near you, click here.

Julie Cunha Interiors specializes in expertly edited restyled vintage and modern interiors. Lucky to be living and working on Whidbey Island, she is currently working on a memoir.

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  1. Julie, what a fun article to read!
    I loved used stuff, too. WAY more fun than boring old regular stores.

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