Since March, we’ve spent more time in our homes than ever before with the people, pets, and objects we’ve chosen to surround ourselves with. You’re probably a little sick of them all, but not many of us are eager to go to a Goodwill mid-pandemic and put our hands on dusty picture frames or souvenir mugs that hundreds of people have touched. Thankfully, the internet has adapted to our collective desire to redecorate with a surge of Instagram thrift accounts — like @cute.sips, @finds.ny, @secretchildren.la, and @thehavenmarketplace — that make you feel like you’re browsing the aisles of a well-curated secondhand shop from your phone.
These accounts sell used homewares, such as martini glasses, ceramic salt and pepper shakers, or brass candle holders, and were all started within the last five months — their rise fueled by sellers with extra time who are looking to diversify their incomes as well as by consumers who are tired of their apartments and ready to embrace buying secondhand.
Furniture and home sales rose 5.4% in December, and retailers like At Home, Overstock, and Wayfair reported increases in sales in 2020 — with Wayfair turning a profit for the first time in years. At the same time, there’s a growing movement — partly fueled by record levels of unemployment, environmental concerns, and corporate greed — to buy less, to buy secondhand, and to support both small businesses and Black-owned businesses.
While vintage clothing has long been a staple on Instagram, thrifted homewares are catching up with a crop of accounts offering items that are more accessible than the out-of-reach normcore of @funkkythrifts or artsy objects of @oddeyenyc, toeing a line between aspirational vintage homewares and sidewalk free boxes.
Jillian Tuttle, 32, started @cute.sips in September, where she sells vintage glassware sets, like amber goblets and pink champagne flutes.
“Because of the pandemic, people are drinking from home, and that’s lit a fire under their *sses in wanting nicer things for the space that they’re in,” says New York-based Tuttle, adding that she’s reached an age where she’s trading her Ikea cups for high-quality glassware. “There’s a lot of conversation around secondhand and wanting to be eco-conscious and wanting to invest in pieces that are a little more unique and exciting.”
Tuttle worked in bars for 13 years before she was laid off in March. She says the account gives her a place to use her knowledge of glassware and to indulge her passion for buying it.
“I have 27 cordial glasses. Every time I saw a cute one, I couldn’t not buy it,” she says. “Now I get to love something so much and then pass it along to someone who will love it as much as I do.”
LaToya Granados, 33, started @thehavenmarketplace in October after seeing a lack of women of color in the Instagram thrift community. For Granados, the account — which offers white ceramic pitchers, woven baskets, and more — was inspired by a topic she explored on her podcast: how to make a home a sacred and intentional space.
“For the last 15 years, I have primarily shopped secondhand. The more I learn about the fashion industry, the more I want to keep things out of landfills,” she says, adding that for her customers, “it doesn’t seem like a budget issue so much as it is an eco-friendly choice.”
For Saint Urbana, 27, who recently bought a vase from @secretchildrenla and sells furniture on Instagram, the choice is both ethical and aesthetic. “I love thrifted homewares because I think that there’s just so much being produced right now. I like to shop vintage with my clothing or my home goods. I like to be sustainable,” she says. “There’s a charm that something vintage has.”
For sellers, there’s also an aspect of community, which has been particularly important during the pandemic.
“We package things intentionally. We write personal notes, and the buyer responds to the note, and you build a mini relationship from there,” Granados says. “Especially with the pandemic, which has been so exhausting, it’s an avenue to connect with other women.”
Rae Witte, 35, a freelance writer, started @finds.ny with her mom, Valerie, in September, where she sells anything from rose-colored Depression glass dishes and ceramic ashtrays to gold-rimmed Pilsner glasses and other objects sourced from thrift stores and estate sales.
There’s an emotional aspect to any purchase, and sellers say that for thrifted homewares, it’s likely due to an impulse to squeeze every bit of joy we can right now from otherwise mundane objects.
Witte sees similarities between now and the 1930s, when Depression glass — cheaply-made, mass-manufactured colored glass — was invented to keep people in glass factories employed during the Great Depression. Businesses would then offer the glassware as a free gift with purchase to entice customers.
“People could get these pieces when they couldn’t treat themselves to anything,” she explains. “Being stuck at home, but being able to treat yourself — like eating a meal off of a nice plate or picking up tulips at the bodega and putting them in your beautiful, inexpensive Depression glass vase — is a beautiful thing.”