"Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful." -William Morris


Wiliam Morris was a designer (and socialist, I might add) and yes, there is a talent agency called William Morris but as far as I know they have nothing to do with each other. I first heard about Morris at Smith College in a class simply called "Home." This quote is the only thing I remember about that class, and I have taken it to heart ever since. You'll notice it doesn't account for sentimental attachment, which I think is part of the reason why I can let things go more easily than some of my more delicate friends. Apparently, Morris had an early influence on my design priorities.

I've talked about finding stuff before; the hunt, the yearning, the feeling that you'll die if you can't fit this fucking chair into your tiny car and where's the goddamn bungee cords? I feel it, a lot. When I see something that is beautiful it affects my whole person; my heartrate goes up, my belly goes butterfly, my eyes dart around. Sometimes, when I am in a very large warehouse full of beauty or at an estate sale crawling with people, I will even feel slightly faint and pretend to be hyperventilating in order to avoid hyperventilating.

Besides buying whatever it was that was making my heart race, there isn't much to do to calm me down, and buying everything that makes my heart race is not feasible. For one, we have very little budget for Sarah's Object Obsession. Two, we do not want to become hoarders and die buried under our piles of baskets and cat figurines. Three, who says you should be able to have everything you want?

Okay, so: last winter my friend Anja, of Fruit + Sugar and a designer for Dr. Hauschka, started a little private group on Facebook called Salvation Army Stylist, or something equally as cute, and the point was to upload photos of good fashion finds to the 6 people in the group and let them know where you are, how much the thing is, and what size it is. It fizzled quickly for various reaosns but I always thought it was a good idea, and frequently wished it existed whenever I found an amazing vintage dress or stilettos that Anja should totally rock (which she totally could).

Eventually I inherited an iPhone and starting taking photos of things I loved in thrift stores just so I could feel better about not buying them. I also have been doing some space consulting, helping my busy friends figure out what should go where and what color it should be. Doing that has made me look at the stuff I see in thrift stores differently; I would never look at a pink crushed velvet Victorian fainting couch, but since Rachel might be into it I notice it. And I'd never look at anything purple, period, but since it's Melissa's favorite color I stop to investigate purple things now. So I've been taking pictures of things for other people too.

Eventually, all of this came together in my head and I emailed Anja and my friend Andy (a newly minted architect, years from actually being able to be an architect [that shit is crazy], and a pair of good eyes and great taste) and asked them to curate the Valley's best finds with me; at thrift stores, tag sales, on craigslist, and wherever else they come across useful and beautiful stuff. That way we could enjoy the hunt and not bankrupt ourselves. We'd take photos and post them to a Facebook group that anybody could opt into and hopefully we'd find a community of people who like the stuff we think is awesome and maybe, just maybe, they'd go get it for themselves. Anja and Andy said yes and we were up the next day having narrowly avoided being named The Department of Blahblah Aquisitions Blahdittyblah, or something like that.

As of today, Useful/Beautiful has 173 fans and we've pointed people in the direction of some great affordable stuff in the Valley. Better yet, I get to hunt and come out feeling helpful and hopeful rather than faint and panicked.

AuthorSarah Reid