Photography by Jeanne Canto

Styling by Elizabeth Jaime

Published on September 27, 2020

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Photography by Jeanne Canto

Clearwater, Florida–based vintage furniture dealer Carmen Nash isn’t specific about eras or designer names when describing the wares she sells through her Instagram account, Loft and Thought. In fact, many of her posts include song lyrics from artists like Lupe Fiasco and Jill Scott. “I allow the piece to move me,” she says. “I often feel a rhythm as a result of the pattern, warmth, and motion it evokes. A spiral table can look as though it is dancing, and the perfect bamboo console can conjure images of sun-soaked palm trees.” We’re not the only ones who are drawn to her romantic style. Emily Henderson, Kai Avent-deLeon, and Kelly Wearstler have all clicked “follow” too.

Nash’s refreshingly artful approach to dealing vintage comes courtesy of a lifetime surrounded by creative types like her father and grandfather, two master craftsmen. “As children, my siblings and I would spend our summers learning painting, flooring, and wallpapering and buying vintage for a small shop our family opened,” she says. Later, Nash earned a degree in hospitality and worked at a collection of luxury hotels, where she further developed her eye for interior design.

Nowadays you can find her beneath the buzz of fluorescent thrift store lighting or gleefully sifting through sites for the next great piece, whether it’s a Caprani lamp or a folksy wood chair. But how exactly does she nab such stellar finds? Below, Nash lets us in on her shopping secrets.

Timing Is Everything

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Photography by Jeanne Canto

Nash says new listings typically pop up online in the morning and evening, so make a habit of checking secondhand sites when you wake up and again after work. Or let your phone do the work by turning on Instagram notifications for the accounts you like the most. That way you’ll be first in line when your favorite sellers post new pieces. Finally, keep your phone by your side toward the end of the week. Why? Listings increase as dealers gear up for the weekend, when they will have more time to meet with buyers.

Search Terms 101

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Photography by Jeanne Canto

When looking for vintage furniture on eBay and Facebook Marketplace, don’t be too specific with your searches. Instead of using exact designer names or styles, cast a wider net through unique word combinations related to what you are after (for example, wrought iron and leather). If you’re on the hunt for more bespoke items, add handmade.

Shopping on Instagram, however, is a different ball game, one that lends itself to specificity. With that in mind, Nash suggests following very particular hashtags (#CapraniLamp, #MidcenturyArt, #PercivalLafer, etc.) so you’ll know when new options become available.

Play Detective

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Photography by Jeanne Canto

Pay attention to what lurks in the background of photos as you scroll through listings online, and if something looks promising, ask if it’s for sale, too. A wood leg peeking into frame, for example, just may be attached to the sofa of your dreams. “You would be surprised how many times I’ve heard, ‘Sure! Make me an offer,’” Nash says of the tactic.

Be Ready to Buy

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Photography by Jeanne Canto

“There is no feeling like the regret of mismanaging the negotiation of a great, once-in-a-lifetime vintage piece,” says Nash. To avoid heartbreak, be quick and direct when you come across something you want. When shopping on Instagram, message the seller these three things: your offer, where you are located, and when you can pick it up (the sooner, the better). Nash also recommends sending a DM and commenting “DM sent” on the piece you are interested in. That way you get their attention no matter which notification the seller checks first.

Thrift Shopping IRL

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Photography by Jeanne Canto

Nash has cozied up to the staff members at her favorite thrift shops and, in turn, gets a heads-up on what is about to hit the floor. (Translation: It pays to be nice.) “Relationships are key in this business. I cannot stress that enough,” she says. When surveying new arrivals, Nash makes sure to check every nook and cranny, because smaller items often find their way into unexpected places–rolled up inside a poster, hidden at the back of a cabinet, or trapped in a dresser drawer. That way you’ll only head home with the item of your dreams—no more, no less.

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