Broken for Me

Hi, my name is Nora and I am addicted to thrift stores. I am powerless before the strange power that lies within. The dusty corners where a special item might lurk are my siren song. Over the years I have taken a lot of ribbing by family about my addiction … where I see a treasure hunt they see the acquisition of … stuff. The “H” word has been bandied about. I am also an independent online bookseller selling through Amazon, Alibris and many other stores using books I have rescued from thrifts. I started going to thrift and charity stores when my boys were little and seemed to go through jeans at an alarming and expensive clip. We went for cheap clothes but soon my eyes began to stray from boys jeans to books and then to the china.

I blame my mother for this. She had a beautiful but incomplete set of Limoges china with little pink roses from her mother that I coveted since I was a little girl. Somehow she ended up giving it to my sister. But one day I saw a piece of the same china in a thrift. I found another and another. Then I would finds sets of different china and different patterns that I fell in love with. Mostly what I find are broken sets. There may be four dinner plates, six cups and saucers, five soups … some in perfect shape and some with slight imperfections. It seemed such a waste to leave these beautiful representations of household history to an unknown fate. Soon it became impossible to leave them and then I had a LOT of china in my house. I filled my china cabinet and cupboards. I had everyday china, tea sets, fancy translucent porcelain for holiday dinners. I had serving pieces, crystal and antique linens to match. So many beautiful things … so few meals!

blue basket

What to do? Especially with the odd sets. I could have sent them to ( and sold them. But that would require too much packing. I collected a set for my daughter for when she grows up (a lovely silver edged Limoges pattern with blue roses). I tried to give sets to my sons (they were mostly uninterested). I gave a set to a dear friend for a wedding gift. Then I decided that gifting would be the best use of these lovely little works of art. My kids and my friends usually don’t want or need place settings of formal china for 12. But a cozy tea set for two, three or four? That they would use. A special set for two with the finest china, crystal and linens, silver, candles for a romantic anniversary dinner? I decided to make up eclectic, complementary baskets of table settings for two or a few more as gifts. Then someone asked if I would donate a basket or two to a church auction and they were delighted with the result (and the prices they fetched).


Recently my son and and his girlfriend had a minor flood in his home, necessitating new floors, paint and carpet. They redid the kitchen cabinets in white, they have black appliances and my hoped-for daughter-in-law expressed wanting to go with black, red and white color scheme. She wished out loud that she had something retro or funky for the kitchen, little suspecting that in my library of classic tableware I had the perfect things. So with the love of a future mom-in-law and the enthusiasm of someone whose husband often threatens to “take out the back door what you bring in the front,” I put together this basket.

This setting was built around a neat teapot in an Aladdin shape. I usually don’t go in for black anything but I knew that I had seen quite a bit of Syracuse China’s restaurant ware in the stores lately. Syracuse China was a venerable china manufacturer located in Syracuse, NY and I had visited their factory before they closed down for good two years ago. The pattern I had in mind for the basket was one of their nice comfy (as in the perfect thing to eat comfort food from) patterns in a creamy white with a scalloped black edge. This china, made for decades by both Syracuse and Buffalo China companies, was found in diners, trains and motels all over the world. So off I went to find some and was rewarded almost immediately with a ton of plates, bowls, salads, cups and saucers. Since this pattern was sold in large quantities I didn’t feel badly about selecting only a few place settings of each. I decided that though the teapot was the main piece I wanted them to be able to use this set for breakfasts or lunches or snacks so I accessorized the set for different occasions. In went some bright quilted red place mats. A sugar and creamer came along in black. I found some very simple black iron candle-holders and a medium sized bowl for oatmeal, salad or Mac-and-cheese. I knitted a black and red trivet and discovered a vintage linen runner embroidered in a Danish style black and red. Per usual I had to stop adding items before I ended up overwhelming them. In this economy the world of thrift is bountiful!

Orphans waiting for a home.

4 Responses to “Broken for Me”
  1. vintagejenta says:

    Welcome, Nora! Also, we may or may not be thrifting twins. I also inherited my thrifting tendencies from my mom, and my love of vintage china from both great-grandmothers. Thankfully, I have some willpower (and a limited budget) or my house would be even more filled than it is. Having limited space makes me get only the stuff I really, really love. And use, of course.

    What is your favorite thing/color/style to collect?

  2. I loved this post, Nora. So glad you are contributing to FarmHouse! Now the whole world can benefit from your thrift expertise and awesome sense of humor.

  3. Katya Paige says:

    Oh my goodness! That set is gorgeous! You are so sweet and thoughtful to think of us(me) and remember! I can’t wait to utilize this set and decorate the kitchen around it : )

  4. Susan says:

    Beautiful site, great idea!!! I love dishes too!!!

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