Behind the Blog: BackGarage's Thrift Store Workspace

Behind the Blog: BackGarage's Thrift Store Workspace

Sonia Zjawinski
Apr 13, 2009

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They say you are what you eat, but the same could be said about what you blog. Most people blog for fun rather than a paycheck -- and even those of us who get a paycheck do it because we're obsessed with the subject we cover rather than the pocket change we get. Here at Unplggd, we're all décor snobs who are geeks at heart. Katherine Raz, the woman behind BackGarage, is a thrift store junky. Her blog covers all things second hand including craigslist finds, tours of people's homes, and a few techy finds we've even stolen.

With such a great eye for old school décor we had to ask Katherine to show us a glimpse into her life Behind the Blog.

By day, Katherine is the marketing director for a Chicago theater company. At night she freelance writes about design on a budget. She's been posting on BackGarage for almost a year, and before that published zines. "Remember zines? Ah, I miss them." When she's working on her side projects she works from a small office space designated within her living room, "about the size of a desk."

Photo Info:
"This vintage Pioneer SX-737 stereo receiver was given to me by a friend who has the uncanny ability to find expensive vintage stereo equipment at thrift stores. I like to combine the vintage power of the Pioneer stereo and AR TSW 110 speakers with the internet radio capabilities of my iPhone. Old + new = sweet."
5: "The bench is an old library bench that my dad refinished. The flat file came from a yard sale - $5. The train case stores headphones, digital camera junk and other computer uglies, it was also a yard sale find, $5. The painting is by Nick Kashian. I framed it in a frame I got at a garage sale for $10."
6: "I love the way beautiful Mac products look next to vintage stuff. Am I crazy?"
7: "I bought this flat file at a yard sale for $5. The Capri dish holds my letter opener for easy access -- that came from a garage sale. The birds were an estate sale find, 50 cents! Skulls were hand-me-downs. This is an all-around great place to store mail, tax forms before you file, parking tickets you still need to pay and (as you can see) blank CDs that you have no idea what's on them."
8 &9: "One of five walk-in closets in our apartment, where I store most of my 'office uglies' -- a printer, a label printer, a postal scale and all their hideous, hideous cords. I use them a few times a week, so I just swing my laptop into the closet for 4 minutes and print what I need to. Much better than spending a lifetime trying to hide cords. This closet is pretty big and even has a window for natural light."
10: "Just beyond the calm and beautiful dining room lies a tangle of cords and wires that make any office look junky. That's why I hide them in the closet. "

How Would You Describe Your Office? Vintage meets Mac. I love vintage wood, 1920s and mid-century. I like the way clean tech products look paired with old stuff. Are you familiar with Dieter Rams? His record player, "Snow White's Coffin"? I love that look.

What's Always Found in Your Workplace? A MacBook. I can't live without it. Also coffee. But I also love vintage metal file boxes and trays and office supplies. I buy a lot of Sharpies, pink erasers and red felt-tipped pens at estate sales. Oh -- and gotta have the Chicago Manual of Style and AP Stylebook handy at all times. And a stereo, either for NPR or whatever music I'm listening to at the time.

Favorite Thing About Your Workplace? Right now it's less of a workspace than just an area in my living room where I work. So I never feel isolated or away while I'm working.

What Do You Hate? Right now it's less of a workspace than just an area in my living room where I work. So I never feel isolated or away while I'm working. To add to that, though -- I find printers and the envelopes, scales and other supplies I need for shipping the vintage items I sell on Etsy or rare books on Amazon, inherently ugly, so I go out of my way to store them out of sight, even if it's inconvenient (and really, it is).

What Inspires You to Blog? The fact that most design blogs are "ooh and aaah" and don't give most people any sense of satisfaction about their own homes and lives. I try to do less coo-ing about how beautiful something is (or isn't) and want to inspire every day people to take design matters into their own hands, to feel comfortable in their surroundings, to live large on small budgets. Right now I don't think there are a lot of people writing about that. Julia Child is my personal hero. Her approach to cooking is much like my approach to design: don't be afraid -- anyone can do this.

Is it Reflected in Your Workspace? Oh, for sure. Everything in my apartment comes from thrift stores, garage sales, flea markets and estate sales. And it's not perfect -- my apartment doesn't quite look like something in a design catalog. But I'm happy with it -- it's a work in progress.

Do You Find, Due to the Blogging You Do, the Need to Constantly Change the Décor Around You? We Know We Do! I find so much great stuff for cheap at thrift stores, estate sales and the like, that it's hard not to constantly change up my surroundings. So yeah, I do. Luckily I can just sell the old stuff on Craigslist or Etsy. The only things I really hold on to are the hand-me-downs from my dad, who was an antiques dealer.

What's Your Best Find for the Office? Right now I'm obsessed with these vintage tiered metal trays -- old "inbox" sorters. I've seen people use them as a way to store current issues of their favorite magazines, and I love that idea. I have four favorite design magazines that I like to keep handy, so you can store several back issues in each tier of the tray. Genius, huh? Not my idea -- I stole it. From Apartment Therapy? Also, vintage train cases are perfect for hiding clutter you need to keep handy -- headphones, plugs, chargers, digital camera, batteries. (Although they sort of all get infused with the smell of "vintage train case," but love it or leave it, right?).

Thanks Katherine!

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