Whether you already spend your Saturdays perusing your favorite vintage shops, or are simply looking for a new hobby or some decorating inspo in the new year, you need to be following Virginia Chamlee.
As a professional writer and unofficial thrifting guru, Virginia has built her brand around finding second-hand pieces and giving them new life. In her new book, Big Thrift Energy, she shares her tips and tricks for shopping second-hand, how to style it at home, and how to flip it for a profit..
We had the opportunity to learn more about Virginia’s new book, her favorite thrifted piece, and her goal (and success!) of bringing this antiquated hobby into the 21st century.
Hometown: Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.
Current city: Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. but I spend several months of the year traveling
Currently reading: Beach Read by Emily Henry
Currently watching: White Lotus Season 2
Favorite food to make: Pancakes (extra chocolate chips, plz)
Favorite food to eat: Sushi
Tell us a little about your background! How did you find your passion for thrifting and antiques?
I grew up going to antique stores almost every day, since my grandmother (who raised me) started her furniture and home decor store out of our home first, and later out of a booth at an antique mall. I would go to school, go to dance, then head to the antique mall where she met with her clients. When I was bored, I would wander the aisles and read magazines (I was obsessed with InStyle even when I was like, 10). I started seeing some of the same names from the pages of those magazines — Lagerfeld, Dior... and I realized that luxury design doesn’t have to be unattainable. It can actually even be affordable so long as you do a little digging.
Why do you think we’re seeing such a big thrifting craze right now? What makes thrifting so fun?
I think thrifting allows us all to tap into nostalgia, for one thing. And nostalgia is huge right now (it's part of the reason people are so drawn to shows like Stranger Things). When you go thrifting, you come across items from your childhood, or pieces you once had a connection to — it's always fun to rediscover old parts of yourself. I also think people are drawn to it as a more sustainable way to shop. Rather than getting a factory-made piece of furniture that will wind up in a landfill, thrifting allows you to find a better-made piece with more character that will stand the test of time.
Tell us about Big Thrift Energy! What sparked your interest in writing a book?
I am a professional writer (I currently write full-time for People magazine) so I've always wanted to write a book. But it wasn't until a few years ago that I had the idea to write one about thrifting. I share my finds a lot on Instagram and always get DMs from people asking for tips or tricks on how to determine the maker of something, or know whether something is original or a reproduction. It felt like there was an appetite for this information, so I decided to pitch it to publishing houses and ultimately found a great fit. Now, you can buy Big Thrift Energy at Target, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Books-A-Million...pretty much everywhere!
Where do you draw inspiration from?
Of course, Pinterest and Instagram are full of inspiration. I also love reading old issues of Architectural Digest and visiting estate sales to see how other people design their homes.
Have you experienced any challenges as a woman while pursuing your career as an author?
Oh my gosh, so many. I can't tell you how often men on social media have dismissed me for either the way I style my home or the way I buy and sell vintage pieces. If you go to any major antique show, you'll notice a lot of older male antique dealers. They've all been doing the same thing as me for decades — I'm just trying to break down the walls a little bit and show people that high design can be more accessible. (And that flipping furniture doesn't just have to be for elite "antique dealers" — it's something almost anyone can do.)
How do you find work/life balance?
Cooking and working out are very therapeutic for me. So I like to find time to carve out for both. There's a meditative quality to chopping vegetables for a salad, to braising meat for a stew. Fitness is similar — when I'm spending an hour focused on running a little faster or lifting something a little heavier, I'm not thinking about much else.
What does wellness mean to you?
Wellness, for me, is all about a healthy balance. I'm happiest when I'm filling my body with things that actually make me feel good. That might mean a warm chocolate chip cookie, because I got to bake it for my boyfriend and mom and share in the joy of eating it. Or, it might mean a piece of grilled salmon with veggies because my body wanted something colorful and full of healthy fats. Wellness is also about keeping as stress-free as possible, maybe by taking some time to read a couple chapters of a book, going for a walk and listening to my favorite podcast or taking an Orange Theory class.
What is your favorite piece you’ve ever thrifted?
The Goyard trunk I found for under $100, undoubtedly.
What is one piece of advice that has helped you the most during your professional career?
Find opportunities and take every single one you can. That sounds like a cliché but once you start realizing how many opportunities abound, you're really only limited by the hours in the day. Social media is an opportunity to expand your reach, for instance, and has completely transformed my life and business — but it's required investing serious time and energy into learning the best ways to use it, how social media companies are transforming, and how they can best serve my brand and my business.
We often think of opportunities as things that are served up on a silver platter but the reality is nearly everyone who got to the top of their game did so by working hard to get there. Even my book wasn't the result of some company finding me and offering me a book deal, but of seeing an opportunity to create something that didn't exist, and putting in a lot of time and research into determining how to make it happen.