win win win

When I first started asking people where to find the sort of shops where you can get cheap second-hand furniture, everyone kept saying, “and of course, you have to get out to Emmaus.”

So I did, and everyone was right.

Emmaus communities around the world are all different in how they get to where they’re going, but what they do is give people who are homeless, trapped in poverty, drugs, or whatever, not just a place to live, but a reason to live.

Each community does this differently, as they choose, but Emmaus communities usually run self-supporting businesses. Companions, as community members are known, work with each other and with Emmaus staff in their businesses to support the community and others who are in greater need.

Emmaus Cambridge was the first UK Emmaus community. They collect, repair and refurbish, and sell household goods that are no longer needed by their owners, thereby supporting not just themselves, but also helping those who can then purchase these goods at much less than their original prices, and giving direct support to various charities serving the area’s homeless and those affected by poverty.

Emmaus Cambridge was once known for their absolute rock bottom prices, but I’ve heard quite a few people mention that the prices have gone up recently. From what I can see, they’re still slightly under the prices of the little secondhand furniture shop in our town.

Considering the work the Emmaus secondhand shop supports, I still think it’s a pretty good deal, and I get to feel like I’m supporting people at the same time.

So we’ve purchased rather a lot of furniture and other household goods from Emmaus. (Click on a thumbnail to see a bigger pic.)

A pretty little coffee table – the photo doesn’t do it justice. It’s plainly pretty new, but has a very nice “inlaid” veneer top, which you can’t see here from the glare on the extremely ill-cut glass.

Four chairs of the Parsons Chair variety. (This kind of chair is named after the Parsons School of Design in Paris, which first introduced this chair, and it’s been widely copied with many variations over the years.) They came with extremely faded and shrunken purplish covers, which fit onto the chair with velcro, and I’ll be making new covers with fabric from some oyster-colored curtains I got, also from Emmaus.

And four more chairs, these very graceful and comfortable x-back chairs. (What is that, somebody, Federal? Directoire? Neo Classical? Generic X-back dining chair?) I’m honestly thinking of using the zebra fabric to cover them, if I can stretch it to cover all four of them. (I suppose the most fashionable thing to do would be to not only cover the cushions with the zebra fabric, but also to paint the chairs cream to match, but I hate painting over pretty wood that’s not in bad enough condition to warrant paint. So un-trendy of me. But I figure you can get away with being un-trendy at the age of nearly fifty.)

There’s a drinks trolley, a blue and white lamp (which matches some dinnerware we also got from Emmaus — it’s the kind that has the same “Chinese” motif of pagoda-ish house with weird tree with lollypop branches, etc.), and what J insists on calling “the cat mirror”.

A set of three nesting tables. They’re actually kind of fancier than I like, but they were very inexpensive and you can always use nesting tables, so we got them on principle.

Last but certainly not least, a table that caused me to stand and stare at it for a while, then go away, then come back and stare at it some more. Then I went and got one of the counter guys and we stood and stared it for a little while longer. While we were standing there and he was trying to figure out what to charge me, he said, “well, I’ve certainly never seen one of those before,” and then while we were standing and staring at it some more, he blurted out, “but what are you going to do with it?”

I can’t quite make up my mind if it’s utterly grotesque or completely fabulous, both at the same time, or what. So of course I had to buy it. I’m going to put it in the hallway as a conversation piece. (The conversation will probably start, “soooo…where on earth did you find that table?”) J says he thinks it looks like what you get if you throw a bunch of old furniture into the woodworking workshop of an insane asylum. We both love it.

The little drawer (the original key is inside the drawer) is obviously not original, being of a totally different wood (as in, not veneered), plus the runners are very rough, even on the front. The base seems to have been added to make it free-standing, and plainly the thing was made to go up against a wall.

My friend GD says that his ex-wife’s parents had something like this in their entry hallway, attached to the wall and without a base. He says he thinks it has to do with the Victorian and Edwardian habit of leaving visiting cards, which makes sense.

My business partner Karen says that it reminds her of The Luggage in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series, and it definitely looks like it will up and walk away at any moment, so The Luggage it is.

4 Comments Add Yours ↓

  1. 1

    Major Score! How fantastic and timely for you (and the flat).


  2. Zina #

    Yep, pretty much rawks! Next up, the artwork we’ve gotten from Emmaus… :)

  3. 3

    You have a Luggage! That’s… quite something.

  4. Zina #

    It is, isn’t it? My friend Rick says it looks like it’s about to run away. And every time I walk by it in the hallway, I have to laugh, so that’s got to be worth something. :)

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