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Colorado: New Year, New You?

By Stephanie Wilson
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Two dogs on a couch with colorful decor around them

A fresh look for a fresh year is sure to be refreshing.

Chances are you’re reading this at home, where you’ve been riding out this pandemic for what feels like ever. With 2020 in the rearview, you’ve committed to having a fresh start, to forgetting about what was and celebrating what is. You’ve resolved to never use the term “dumpster fire” ever again (and I promise that’s the last time you’ll see that phrase in this magazine; I’m so over it too).

But if you’re so sick of your surroundings that you want to take everything in your place, toss it in a dumpster, and set it on fire, I feel you on that too. Even the most change-averse person you know is probably ready for some change right now. It’s safe to say that amid the pandemic, our homes have become more important than ever before.

If you’re like the majority of Americans, you’ve already spent some time and money redecorating since the pandemic started. According to research from interior design platform Modsy, 69 percent of people engaged in a home redesign project in 2020, with many customers opting to reorganize, move, or change the aesthetic of their spaces. Some people turned coat closets into home offices, some people finally cleaned out the garage, others went ham decluttering their closets.

Personally, I played Tetris with every piece of furniture and decor I own, which is a lot—my apartment takes maximalism to the max, and there are very few surfaces that are still unadorned. Like the ceiling, which hopefully will no longer be so by the time you’re reading this, because the temporary wallpaper I plan on sticking to it arrived today. Tomorrow, the peel-and-stick vinyl floor tiles I ordered after seeing photos of Jonathan Adler’s New York apartment in Elle Decor inspired me to layer some black-and-white geometric patterns under my collection of boho rugs. Some might call it excessive. I call it an evolution. Whatever it is, it’s certainly not boring. And it certainly won’t be the last project I tackle around here. When you’re working from home (or is it living at work?), you owe it to yourself to do what you can to make your home as great as can be.

If you’re thinking, “OMG , I can hear my bank account laughing at me for even thinking about decorating, let alone re-decorating,” I hear you. My account just about LOL-ed itself to death for the same reason, but I showed it what I’m about to tell you: where there’s a will, there’s a cheap way to do it. Here are some of our favorite spots to treasure hunt for our home furniture and decor.

Junk of Arc

This Colorado-based thrift store chain is just the best—best prices, best selection, best range. And I’ve found some of the best things ever at one Arc shop or another. At the South Broadway location, I snagged a five-foot-tall framed painting that looks so much like my pup, Gidget, a friend of mine saw it and thought I had paid a couple grand to commission a custom portrait. Best. Score. Ever. Which Arc is the best, you ask? That’s a toughie. Depends on the day; depends on what you’re hoping to find. But whatever that is, the location off County Line Road in Lone Tree is probably gonna have it.

Thrifting is Uplifting

Discovering funky retro items that radiate cool quality is such a thrill, and finding vintage goods that I can repurpose gives me purpose. And keeps me busy and out of the house without draining my bank account, because the thrill is in the voyage of discovery. It’s in the hunt. (As long as that hunt is done early in the day when crowds are scarce but even then, only in a socially distant way while wearing a mask and washing your hands frequently.) Compared to buying new things online, thrift shopping is a) cheaper, b) better for the environment (no shipping, no packaging), c) a way to support small local businesses, and d) keeps items out of landfills and gives them new purpose. It’s a great way to save money and buy quality items that will last for years to come.

And here’s where we love to do it:

H & E Furniture 

Here you’ll find gently used furniture and one-of-a-kind accessories at extremely affordable prices—so low they feel like a steal. Find a little bit of everything for your home, including used books, vintage furniture, retro accessories, and interesting antiques. The selection changes often, so swing by often.

6443 E. Evans Ave., Denver /

Mid-Mod Mall

Mid-Mod Mall has groovy midcentury furniture and decor, a vast selection of vintage art, great discounts, an ever-changing storefront packed with treasures from one of the most aesthetically interesting periods in history, and owners who just want everyone to have a home filled with things they love. The gallery is overstocked right now, so all prices are negotiable. Bonus: you’re all but guaranteed to have fun negotiating with the owners, both of whom are a delight.

1351 W. 38th Ave., Denver /

Brass Armadillo Antique Mall 

The Colorado outpost of the fantastic chain of markets showcases antique and collectible merchandise from more than 600 of Denver’s finest dealers. It’s the ultimate vintage shopping adventure with millions of one-of-a-kind treasures in all price ranges. You’ll find merchandise from every theme—farm house, sports memorabilia, pottery, old books and magazines, tons of records, and retro furniture. Row after row of stalls are packed with sought-after vintage and repurposed items, and you can spend hours if not days browsing through it all. Luckily, the place is

open 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily, so you can get lost wandering the memory lanes (aka the aisles).

11301 W. I-70 Frontage Rd. N., Wheat Ridge /

Habitat for Humanity ReStore 

These home improvement stores and donation centers sell new and gently used furniture, appliances, lighting, home goods, and building materials—at crazy low prices, a fraction of what you’d pay at Home Depot or Lowe’s, and a lot of the items are brand-new. If you’re embarking on a project—putting up new tile backsplash in the kitchen, installing a new pendant light in the entryway, or redoing your bathroom—ReStore probably has you covered. And if you’re looking for fun projects to tackle, the ReStore blog is full of DIY tips, tricks, and how-tos. Such as: upcycling cabinet doors into plant stands, transforming repurposed tiles into a new doormat, making your own gallery wall with repurposed vintage frames. So much to make, so much to love.

Various Locations /

Treasure Hunting Tips

1. Start with a clean slate. Before you go looking for more items to bring home, donate what you no longer want or need.

2. Go without expectations, keep an open mind, and remember it’s all about luck and chance. And it’s a good way to get out of the house for cheap—just wear a mask, go early in the day when the stores are mostly empty, keep socially distant, and wash your hands often. 

3. Ask about markdown or discount policies. Many thrift stores offer steep discounts on certain days of the week based on the color of the price tag.

4. Don’t just focus on what you see; imagine what it could be. Put another way, keep repurposing on your mind. See that vintage magazine or that coffee table book filled with stunning photos of pretty people doing interesting things? Imagine those photos framed and hanging on your wall. While you’re at the thrift store, pick up some frames for your new art pieces.