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6 THINGS WITH VIRGINIA CHAMLEE

6 Things with Virginia Chamlee Author of Big Thrift Energy

Based in Florida, Virginia is a lifelong antique fiend, professional writer for People and artist who has over the years amassed quite the collection of high-quality designer wares. With her debut book, Big Thrift Energy, she'll teach you all the tips you never knew you needed: How to shop for the good stuff, how to upcycle and style vintage treasures in your home, and even how to flip your most-coveted items to turn a profit. Plus, she'll share her all-time best finds, from a Goyard trunk worth upwards of $10,000 (scored for $90) to a floor-length vintage Christian Dior cape, a $10 Goodwill find. 

1. What started it all for you?

I grew up in the world of design and antiques. I was raised by grandmother (she was a single mom, I was an only child) and we were incredibly close. She started a business buying containers of furniture and selling each piece individually but over time it became a store and she would supplement the new furniture with vintage accessories. It grew from our living room to an enormous booth in an antiques gallery (and eventually to its own brick and mortar). So I grew up going to estate sales, thrift stores and the like hunting for treasure. I started selling vintage as a side business in my 20s, when I was working as a full-time journalist. Eventually I decided to marry my two interests and write a book about how to find amazing pieces and what to do with them; that's how Big Thrift Energy was born. Now, I feel like all my interests — writing, painting, collecting vintage and styling — have collided. The book features all my tips and tricks but my own art (both that I have painted and collected) is also featured throughout. It's wild getting to live this experience.

2. What drives your creative spark?

I think hunting for antique treasures is akin to a surfer on the hunt for the perfect wave — you just keep obsessing over it and spend your life looking for the next thrill. There's always something new, something better, something more incredible than the last thing you found.

I obsess over beauty and art and have always wanted my home to be full of weird, amazing, one-of-a-kind finds. It just feels like inspiration is endless; which means I will endlessly be on the hunt for it.

3. Most treasured home decor item?

My Goyard trunk, hands down. I got it for $90 — which is unheard of — and I found it at a secondhand furniture shop that I just happened upon while waiting in traffic. It was one of those "stash it in the trunk before anyone notices" kind of moments and I was with my grandmother and we just laughed and cheered about our good luck on the drive home. I think of her every time I look at it.

4. What’s the best advice you've ever received?

The best advice I've received is to show up prepared and to be determined. My book deal, for instance, came as a result of preparation and research. No one sent me contacts; I had no "ins" in the world of publishing — I just spent a lot of time crafting my pitch, and researching where to send it. If you have a goal and it seems daunting, take a step back. Ask yourself, "What's the formula to achieve that goal?" then take it step by step, and complete each step to the best of your ability. (Going back to the book example, that might mean crafting a book pitch and sending that pitch to publishers in order to get a book deal — so you take those steps one by one and you do them all well.) Don't try and take shortcuts, don't rush. If you can visualize the steps you need to take in order to achieve something, the end result becomes much less daunting. It's akin to decorating a house and taking it room by room in order to narrow your focus.

5. It's 5 o'clock at home. What would you be pouring?

I live in Florida where it's currently roughly 900 degrees so I am most likely cooling down with an ice-cold Topo Chico.

6. What are your favorite 6 accounts that you follow for inspiration?

@jpdemeyer
@forsythart
@cortneybishopdesign
@m.a.r.c.c.o.s.t.a
@dalucido 
@racheldonath_

SHOP VIRGINIA'S 6 HOME PICKS

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"I started selling vintage as a side business in my 20s, when I was working as a full-time journalist. Eventually I decided to marry my two interests and write a book about how to find amazing pieces and what to do with them; that's how Big Thrift Energy was born. Now, I feel like all my interests — writing, painting, collecting vintage and styling — have collided." -Virginia Chamlee

PHOTOGRAPHY BY AGNES LOPEZ