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Top Ten Holiday Items Found at Estate Sales

Here in southern California with our “wonderful” weather (could we get some rain please!) it’s a bit hard to tell that we’re only days away from Halloween. Retail stores are already selling Christmas decor and soon lights will be strung and fake snow will be precisely placed at all of our shopping centers. It’s an expensive time of year with the decorating, gift giving, party throwing we all love to do so much! 

I start noticing about now all the items we’re selling at estate sales that can help decorate your homes, and the unique gifts that can be found, and all the money that can be saved just by shopping second hand. It’s no different than any other time of year but considering how much we actually “need” to get us through the holiday season estate sales are a great way to save where you can. 

My list of the top ten things you can find at estate sales for the holiday’s. 

1. Serve Ware – not every sale can have practically brand new serving dishes but if you look hard I bet you can find a moving sale with contemporary Crate and Barrel (or some other house goods store) serving pieces. We had an entire kitchen full of contemporary items at our recent Woodland Hills estate sale


2. Vintage China – But if you’re just as happy with vintage china to round out your table setting then just follow the next estate sale sign you see and I’m willing to bet you’ll find a little something. Alternatively you could scour the photos of estate sales through websites like or and find just what you’re looking for. 


3. Christmas Ornaments / Decor – This time of year estate sale companies are using that key word term “Christmas” (alternatively; Thanksgiving / Hanukkah) to help you find the stuff you’re looking for. Just simply visit those websites mentioned above and use the search function to determine which sales you’ll be visiting the next time you’re out. 


4. Books – A great gift for just about anyone on your list! A coffee table book or well chosen novel can stand alone as a gift or compliment another thoughtful (read: inexpensive) gift. Estate sale companies sell books at tremendously good prices compared to what they cost new. We ask $1 for paperback, $3 for hardback, and $5 + for coffee table style books. Unless they are a first printing or super rare you shouldn’t receive much sticker shock. 

5. Jewelry – If you didn’t visit us at our Cheviot Hills estate sale two weeks ago then you missed one killer jewelry sale but don’t worry most estate sale companies offer at least some jewelry selection. We don’t adhere to the practice but some even bring jewelry into their sales. Jewelry is a great gift for any lady (and some men) on your holiday gift list. You can’t return items you purchase at estate sales but if you pay attention to your loved ones style I’m sure you can pick out a lovely piece. 

6. Linens – Vintage table linens are such amazing quality compared to a lot of what we are offered for “reasonable” prices at stores today. I don’t know if people didn’t use their linens or it’s just because I don’t live in a world of ironing, but they always seem so new; perfectly folded, not a wrinkle in sight! Having a large sit-down gathering? Try mixing it up by placing the table cloth on one table and using the matching napkins at another table. They also pair wonderfully with contemporary designs. 


7. Vases / Candlesticks – Take your party to the next level with a lovely flower arrangement and well scattered candles. A great thing about estate sales is they can help you get creative, sure you can find traditional vases of all shapes, sizes, and styles. But why not think outside the box? Bowls, ice buckets, even glasses can make a special floral arrangement. Not sure you have what it takes to create something spectacular? I think you’re wrong and so do the people at Real Simple. Check out these directions for easy flower arrangements


8. Baskets – Now that you’re determined to gather a few “thoughtful” items for your friends and family keep your eyes peeled for baskets. I feel like we see baskets all the time and you don’t need me to tell you how perfect they are for containing all of that holiday splendor you’re giving this season.

9. Wrapping paper / Stationary – In the same vein as baskets is wrapping paper and stationary – I see it all the time! Vintage stationary has such a fun vibe and OMG is it cheap! The graphics on this stuff is really too good and if you find yourself an estate sale where truly everything is for sale, you’re bound to find stationary and / or wrapping paper. Take the time to dig through those boxes in the office and garage and something is bound to entice you. 

10. Stemware – Please don’t pass up stemware at estate sales! It’s this time of year that you’re going to start kicking yourself for the $20 set of crystal wine goblets you passed up two months ago at that very awesome Los Angeles estate sale! For that price you could (maybe) buy two wine glasses at Crate and Barrel


There you have it – ten items you should scour estate sales for this holiday season. I wish you the best of luck! And please, if you have other suggestions about what to look out for share it with us here in the comments section. 

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A great photographer… and she loved to shop!

Our next estate sale is in the Cheviot Hills area of Los Angeles, for those who don’t know it’s central. Think the neighborhood between Century City and Culver City. A wonderful little pocket where our clients lived for over fifty years! That’s 5-0, talk about commitment! Can you just imagine the wonderful things we are uncovering while working our butts off to get this estate sale ready for all of you!? It’s exciting. 

The lady of the house was an amateur photographer and dare I say professional shopper. Her personal vibe was 100% ethnic, there are so many amazing vintage caftans and tribal print clothing. The jewelry case at this one is nothing like we’ve ever had, 100’s upon 100’s of pieces of sterling silver (sorry guys we’re not selling anything for melt value), loads of Navajo pieces, some Danish pieces; cuffs, pendants, clip-on earrings, brooches, and more. There are turquoise pieces and some jade! I’m telling you, this stuff is sooooo good. 

And we’re so lucky that we get to sell some of her wonderfully mounted photographs too! She really had an eye for composition and wasn’t shy about taking photos of natives while traveling… which they did a lot of. You guys are going to love this stuff!! You’ll also find a whole bunch of ephemera they acquired while traveling to South America, Africa, and other exciting regions.  

Maybe the love of shopping came from the fact that the man of the house started one of the first mail order catalogs. Hey, we have a bunch of fun, quirky, items that came from that catalog as well!! 

And for all of you book lovers this is a couple that loved to read! There are hundreds of books including some (read: tons of) first editions. 

Any textile hoarders may have found the mecca for table linens at our LA estate sale. You’re welcome! 

Check out the listing page for more information about this awesome estate sale. 


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Interview: Interior Designer, Judith Lance

We love it when we are able to collaborate with interior designers to help them find the right piece/s for a project they are working on, there’s so much satisfaction for us and our clients to know someone who is considered a professional tastemaker is interested in recycling their long loved possessions. Because few of us out there can afford to work with an interior designer we’re thrilled to know that estate sales can really level the playing field for people to own designer quality home furnishings and décor. Still some of us struggle with transforming our homes into designer abodes…

We were lucky enough to spend a few moments talking with the creative force, Judith Lance, a Los Angeles based designer with impeccable taste and style. Judith’s international experience in fashion and interior design has instilled in her a unique aesthetic and cultural range that continues to be the basis for her passion for the decorative and domestic arts. May this interview inspire you!

Can you tell us a little about your background? I was born in Tokyo and grew up in Tokyo and Manila.  I spent my high school years in schools in Hawaii, Arizona and Los Angeles.

How did you get started as an interior designer? The interior designer, Bill Sofield, approached me to work with him.  I did not have formal training and had previously been in the fashion industry, my last position being with Valentino Garavani.

Judging from your online portfolio you’ve had the opportunity to design some pretty drool worthy spaces – is there any one thing that you’ve designed that you wish you could’ve just moved right into? Not really, they were all designed specifically for each client’s requirements and vision, though the closet I could say that would apply would be the project 1 on my website….with some modifications, of course!

It seems like you use a lot of soothing neutral colors and natural elements in your designs and keep things modern with pops of color in the textiles – What other design tricks do you use to keep your designs timeless but fun and interesting? For fun and interesting: There is much focus placed on upholstery details, well-chosen objects. For timeless: Emphasis is placed on addressing the bones of the room that allows for thoughtful furniture plans, traffic flow and appropriate storage and millwork.

So many of your designs feature interesting furniture pieces and decorative art – where do you find such awesome stuff? So many places; dealers, antique stores and many in-house designed furniture and objects made by our fabricators for us.

Does a lot of it come from your husband’s store, Dana John? Only when appropriate to the project.

Do you have a favorite resource, online or brick-and-mortar, other than Dana John,that is your go to resource when sourcing items for a project? 1stdibs is the go to place to shop decoratively.

Can you tell where you find inspiration for your design projects? From my clients, the given architecture and where my aesthetic interest happen to be at the time.

Like anything design is cyclical and mid-Century design is all the rage right now, what do you think will be the next design style to become popular will be? Mid-century means different things to different people, as does the word modern. For me modern encompasses the period, primarily though not exclusively, from the 1920’s – through today.  For some it means the period of the 1960’2 – 1960’s Eames / Knoll California modern.  That said, traditional interior design is alive and well, though mixed in with “modern” pieces. And are you seeing any movement in that direction now? I think the goal going forward is towards comfort, not overly aggressive design or “themes”, more sophistication in the mix.

Your home must have so many mouth-watering decorative pieces. Give us a little taste of what’s behind the doors of your personal residence. Vintage paintings and prints with custom frames, lots of vintage light fixtures slowly collected over the years, thoughtfully designed upholstery in rich fabrics, a garden we designed with 85 topiary plants.

Any parting words? We relate to the world around us through our eyes and happily find much to entertain us in both the humble and extravagant.

Thanks, Judith!

photos courtesy of Judith Lance   blog post by Stacy Browner
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