Last summer, I wandered into an “estate sale” by following a sign down a narrow road. The sale took place at a house that it appeared the home’s owner had lived in for many, many years. Items that had been neatly stored and lovingly cared for were on display in every room of a 1950’s era home. I was entranced, not so much because I found great bargains on items but instead to see objects and a place dearly loved and cared for by someone.
It did make me a bit melancholy to see that the person behind the various collections of things had passed on and their belongings remained. Yet, glimpses into what appeared to be a well-ordered life with some well-loved things was fascinating.
When leaving the sale I grabbed contact information for the company holding the event and made note of upcoming sales to be held over the summer. While my summer was ridiculously busy, I was able to visit several similar “estate sales” over the course of the summer and early fall. In looking back it may have been my favorite form of entertainment last summer (other than the occasional paddle-board outing, lake swim or evening jog).
My reason for placing the words “estate sale” within quotation marks here has to do with the fact that word estate can imply something rather grand and this particular company holds sales in smaller, less imposing homes that would be considered middle class by most standards (within the United States).
It occurred to me as I wandered through these sales that most of the homes had not been renovated over the last 50-75 years and this might be the other reason I found the experience so fascinating. As a designer, I am very interested in renovation but also in places that have not been renovated or remodeled. I enjoy seeing the original details of homes and examining the layout of spaces, and to see how people actually used the spaces within homes of differing eras.
It’s the ultimate invasion of privacy to enter a dwelling when the homeowner is no longer alive, and yet I find myself drawn to see thermos bottles from 1962 next to an insurance agency’s give-away 1974 calendar set carefully beside a complimentary butter dish from the local car dealership circa 1953. Clearly, these items are owned not only by the departed, but exist part of a shared history, and I am drawn to this trip into our material history.
Or maybe I am just nosey?
In any case, at each sale I looked for something to purchase that I could use and was able to pick up objects such as this great mortar & pestle as well as that butter dish from the car dealership.