Junking maven Ki Nassauer is an editor, author, retailer and entrepreneur, fashioning her passion for the repurposed into her full-time livelihood. She is the founder of Junk Revolution, which produces the annual Junk Bonanza event (this year featuring an Etsy partnership) and operates a website with an online community and shopping venue. She lives in Los Angeles, where she enjoys the frequent company of her two grown children, the delights of $1 Taco Night, and good junking weather.
The best part about junk is the junking — the flutter in the stomach, the urge to shout upon discovering a treasure others have passed by. People tend to fall into two camps: those who espouse the junking gospel, and those who find it inexplicable (and sometimes seamy!). As a member of the first group, I embrace all matter of junk: antiques, vintage curiosities, collectibles, architectural salvage and plain old trash.
I never expected to grow up to be a junk entrepreneur, and I am certain it wasn’t what my parents had in mind. It was midlife when I took a flyer and opened a junk warehouse, holding monthly sales for the like-minded. I had no idea what would follow: published books, magazine gigs, appearances on national TV, an online junk community/retail operation and the annual, three-day Junk Bonanza. All for the love of junk! And the best part is, I get to do it all — the junking, the creating, the building and the selling. It’s a creative person’s dream and it could not be more satisfying.
While I regularly scour flea markets, auctions, antique malls and thrift stores nationwide, my favorite places to scrounge are the ones that most folks don’t know about — pretty much in the middle of nowhere. (The producers of American Pickers offered me money to reveal my secret sources, but I just couldn’t do it.) A good day junking is a dirt road, an outbuilding brimming with vintage furniture, architectural salvage and farm equipment. I like to head home with a full trailer. And the people are as eclectic as the junk and they only enrich the amazing junking experience. Some day, if we meet, ask me to tell you about the guy with the chainsaws in the dark cellar — which we navigated by flashlight.
Junking is a cerebral experience. My brain is on at all times, thinking how each item could be repurposed or whether I could fit one more thing inside my apartment. Fresh ideas continue, even after 10 years of creating and building. Some of the first repurposed projects I did for Country Home magazine included a garden fence chandelier, bed spring candleholders and vintage stamp photo holders. The fall issue of my magazine, Flea Market Style (on newsstands in late August!), contains two of my all-time favorite ideas, involving a vintage egg separator and suitcases.
People always ask me about the weirdest thing I have found over the years, and I have to say, without question, the vintage dentist’s suitcase that contained pulled teeth, dentures, tools and instructions. A few of my other favorites include Sandy, a vintage coin operated horse; a giant, cherry red game wheel; and an old wood and cast iron trimmed pie table from the 1800s that converts to shelving with a crank of the handle. The best deal? That has to be the Nichols & Stone University Windsor chairs I bought at an auction for $20 (and found the same single chair selling for more $350 at the auction the next week).
Where does the inspiration come from? It’s the junk. Each piece’s shape, texture, design, color and patina will speak to me, if I listen closely enough. And if you are as crazy in love with all things vintage, too, I bet you know what I mean.
Looking to find some new treasures? Be sure to check out Junk Bonanza, the best junk round-up in the Midwest, September 15-17 in Shakopee, Minnesota.
What’s your favorite vintage find?