Home & Garden

This Chapel Hill woman decorated her whole house with thrift store finds

Anna Mangum's bedroom, decorated in a "Southern romantic" style, has chandeliers, rugs, pillows and artwork found in second-hand stores.
Anna Mangum's bedroom, decorated in a "Southern romantic" style, has chandeliers, rugs, pillows and artwork found in second-hand stores. jleonard@newsobserver.com

Anna Mangum always felt she deserved to live in a palace. Trouble was, her house needed a facelift, and she had a tight budget.

When she asked a local contractor where to start, he encouraged her to do the renovations herself, and to buy her supplies from the ReStore in Durham. The nonprofit home improvement thrift store, operated by Habitat for Humanity, accepts donations from builders and home owners who are building or renovating homes. Then it resells just about everything – from new and gently used furniture to building materials and appliances – to the public at deep discounts. Proceeds go toward building homes in Durham and Orange counties.

“I had gone to the ReStore and bought furniture and odds and ends,” said Mangum, a 61-year-old landscape designer. “He introduced me to purchasing moldings and finishing materials like flooring, wallpaper and tile.”

Mangum’s frequent visits to the store near her Chapel Hill home yielded a treasure trove of what she considers to be priceless finds at a fraction of their retail cost. She bought rolls of wallpaper for 25 cents to one dollar. She updated her fireplace hearth with Carrera marble tile she found for $1 a piece, and decorated her mantel with a box of hand-painted Spanish tiles that set her back five dollars. She redid her floor using a case of bamboo flooring she bought for $12. Several years and several thousands of dollars later, her entire home has been completely renovated and decorated with local thrift store finds.

As she points out her favorite chandelier in her living room, the hand-sewn rug in her bedroom, and the decorative accents that dress up her kitchen, Mangum said it’s not the thrill of a bargain that makes her proud of the new life she breathed into her home; it’s the ability to help others while doing so.

I started by saying it is my birthright to have a beautiful place to live in, but I don’t have a lot of money. So how can I have a palace and have beautiful things on a budget?

Anna Mangum

“I started by saying it is my birthright to have a beautiful place to live in, but I don’t have a lot of money,” she said. “So how can I have a palace and have beautiful things on a budget? While I was doing it I started realizing everybody else wants a little palace too, and we deserve it.

“I’ve spent at least $15,000 and that money has gone to battered women, some to the Durham Rescue, and a lot of it has gone to Habitat. I know somebody is going to get a house with really good quality stuff because I’m shopping there,” she said.

Now Mangum is taking that good deed one step further. Every other month or so, Mangum shares her experience. During her free presentation at the ReStore, she offers advice on renovating and decorating homes using the ReStore and other local thrift stores.

Caitlyn West, the ReStore’s communications manager, said Mangum’s presentation gives people the confidence to “walk into a thrift store and create their own paradise.”

That’s no small feat since shopping in a thrift store can be overwhelming. And finding diamonds in the rough can be challenging.

Here are just a few of the tips Mangum covers in her presentation:

Prepare to be overwhelmed. The ReStore is a giant warehouse filled with just about every home need. There are rows upon rows of entertainment units, sofas and chairs, sinks, flooring materials, barbeque grills, light fixtures, exercise equipment, you name it. When you enter the store, Mangum suggests you look around first, then zero in on the section that piques your interest.

Keep your eyes and your mind open. “You cheat yourself if you don’t take in the whole store,” Mangum said. “You never know what you are going to find.” People move things, an item can roll under a cabinet. Check out each section.

Don’t be afraid of stains. Yes, some of the used materials and furniture are not as clean as they would be if purchased brand new. Mangum offers advice on cleaners that remove some of the trouble spots to make them like-new again.

Stay focused by sticking to a theme. Mangum chose a theme for her each of her rooms: Her living room is Colonial. Her kitchen is French. Her bedroom is Romantic. Look for items that fit in the themes you choose.

Avoid Saturdays; aim for Friday afternoons. Saturday is one of the busiest days of the week at the ReStore. By the afternoon, most of the good items have been sold. Mangum recommends shopping at the ReStore on Friday afternoons. That’s when they are gearing up for weekend shoppers.

Be a frequent visitor. New shipments arrive nearly every day. Frequent visits will ensure you are the first to spot the new finds. “I used to go every day,” she said. Now she goes about twice a week. “I go when I have a hunch. When I get those hunches there’s always something there that I need.”

More Information

Anna Mangum’s next free class is 11 a.m. Oct. 22 at Durham Habitat for Humanity ReStore.

Here’s are some of Mangum’s favorite thrift stores:

▪ Habitat for Humanity ReStore, 5501 Durham-Chapel Hill Road, Durham, 919-403-8668, restoredurhamorange.org; Proceeds go toward building homes in Durham and Orange counties.

▪ Durham Rescue Mission Thrift Store, 3900 Durham-Chapel Hill Blvd., Durham, 919-401-1935, durhamrescuemission.org; Supports homeless programs and services in the Triangle.

▪ Everything but Grannies Panties , 2926 Guess Road, Durham, 919-471-0996, everythingbutgranniespanties.com.

▪ Pennies for Change, 2715 Durham-Chapel Hill Blvd., Durham, 919-237-2167, facebook.com/PenniesforChangeThriftStore; Proceeds go to Durham Crisis Response Center.

▪ PTA Thrift Store, 125 W. Main St., Carrborro, 919-967-1272, ptathriftshop.org; Proceeds are a source of funding for the areas’ PTAs.

Check local listings for more thrift shops near you.

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