Love Your Home
I love everything vintage. The clothing, the furniture, the tableware – if it’s over 20 years old and can go in my kitchen or on my body, I want it. So, going through Katie Donovan’s Instagram without a bottomless wallet was akin to torture for me. I’ve spent hours scrolling through her shop, salivating over wicker baskets and bewitching tea pots. I got a chance to sit down with Katie over zoom so she could tell me more about her charming collection.
I had a lot of fun talking with Katie. She wore a huge smile throughout our entire conversation, and it was apparent she genuinely enjoys thrifting and is delighted to talk about it. Katie is excited over more than just her one shop, however. This is a woman who sees true value in building a community, and sharing the love of all things vintage and antique with everyone around her. When I ask her how she got started, Katie tells me about all the other thrift shops that she visits and how wonderful their selections are. She isn’t one to want to hog the spotlight, choosing instead to talk up other thrifters who influenced her own page. Katie really is living a Small Light life without even trying. She sips from the cup of inspiration. Joy seems to permeate from within her, and she sets it forth into the world, through herself and through her pieces.
Her thrifting page is an absolute delight, with items ranging from cookware to home goods. Beautifully staged and intentionally styled to reflect her own unique look makes pouring through her selection a small adventure. Her choices are pleasantly rustic.
It was not surprising to learn Katie’s shop was born from a day out with her friends. She comes off as fun loving, breezy, and real. She tells me about a day she went out with some friends antiquing, and how she fell in love with it instantly. “I found this super, super cool antique wine rack…[I thought] this is so fun, I could totally do this.” I find a little bit of myself in Katie when she talks about how instantly she was hooked. “I feel like that day catapulted me.” I can relate to that love at first sight feeling – it’s what led me to writing, and it’s what led Katie to open her own shop.
An ever-inspired forager of the imaginative, she did not waste any time in getting started. “I immediately started the Instagram…the name I just got from my other Instagram…and then made the logo.” Oh, that’s right. Katie has another area of expertise. Did I not mention she’s also an illustrator? Having created even her own logo, Katie is a one woman operation from start to finish.
Katie slipped seamlessly into the thrifting world. After all, it does involve some of her favorite activities. “It kind of has this great mixture for me where I can go shopping, because I love shopping…And I get to take pictures and I get to edit them and I get to present them in a way [I want to present them].” Luckily for Katie, her well of antique shops and thrift stops does not run dry. As a travelling Covid-19 tester, her work leads her all across the state of Massachusetts, from Worcester to Boston, the South Shore and beyond. “Sometimes I’m in Watertown and I’m – if I have a 2 hour break or if I’m done at 3 o’clock…I’m instantly on my phone… [searching] ‘thrift stores near me’ or ‘antiques near me’.” Add bravery to Katie’s already impressive resume; conducting Covid-19 tests and navigating the streets of Massachusetts cities? I usually just cringe and hope for the best when it comes to those intersections (you know the ones). And let’s not ignore the fact that she’s working the front lines as a tester. Thank you, Katie, for everything you do.
She also gets buys from a little help from her friends. When it’s too tough to pick just one, she’ll employ her more honest pals for feedback and grounding. It’s easy to get lost in the thrill of the thrift. Katie laughs as she tells me “sometimes I’m clouded by my own preferences.” While it’s tempting to stock up only personal favorites, she soldiers past those feelings. (Side note: I do not know how anyone does this). The love and care she has for her community extends to her selection of antiquities. So what is her process in choosing how to stock her space?
A big part of her process is just the allotment of time it takes, she says. “I need a lot of time in a thrift store.” If you’ve ever been to a large antique shop or thrifting spot, you’re probably picturing towering china bowls, assortments of nutcrackers and vintage ornaments, and prints of vintage ads, to start. And then of course there’s the rooms of kitchenware, gorgeous furniture, and racks of clothing. The different avenues one can choose for their specific niche are endless, but Katie has honed in on her spot in the thrifting space. Her page features charming home goods that remind me of an old farmhouse, or a quiet autumn morning.
On item selection, there’s a few things that run through her mind. “Is it worth the money? Do I think it’s gonna sell? Is it gonna be marketable?” Deeper than that, though, Katie is looking specifically for items that strike something within her. “I think about it all the time when I’m picking up the item, what it’s going to look like posted so I want the item to have this…impact, almost.” As a photographer as well, she has an eye for style and beauty. Her photography degree plays a tremendous role in what elevates her thrifting shop from the others. “[The items] just kind of speak to me…I know that sounds so silly.” Personally, I don’t think this sounds silly at all. It’s very intuitive to be able to hear the world around you and receive something, anything, back.
Don’t we all have things that speak to us? In a world where we’re trying our best to be a light for someone or something, we all make connections. Those connections are with each other, or with a passion, or an art. For Katie, it’s photography, and the community she has found in the thrifting world. When we’re true to our passions, we all benefit. For the big reasons: community, positivity, light and art, and the smaller reasons: I bought the most adorable vintage item from Katie’s store, and I wouldn’t have it without her.
Her photography skills come in handy not just for staging an item, but also as a creative way to infuse her own personality into her shop. Staging items in ways she personally finds visually pleasing in lieu of standard stark white backgrounds creates a connection between the buyer and the seller that wouldn’t otherwise form.
Katie also runs her Instagram like the pro she is. Her skills in creating eye catching posts is paramount to the success of her shop. She knows just one loud post isn’t always enough when you’re trying to disengage the autopilot of a user’s scrolling thumb long enough to grab their attention. “Whenever it comes to marketing, like a drop or something like that, I always make sure to make it really well known to my followers that something is coming up.” That means multiple posts and stories as she builds anticipation. “I have a post that I make for it, I have a story that I make for it, I make sure that on top of the story I have a countdown for it…I try to do little sneak peeks.” Her marketing strategy is a winning one; I was drawn in like a baby sea turtle instinctively crawling towards the sea.
For me, it was the vintage teapot that stopped my thumb. I am addicted to green tea, and this vintage addition to my kitchen is a new favorite of mine. I also loved opening the box and finding a hand written thank you note with my teapot. Small gestures like that bring me so much joy. The bond we form with each other over hand written notes is something I’ll never understand, but it is tangible.
Curious about the challenges one might face in this business, I ask Katie for her thoughts, and she is eager to talk about it. The first that comes to mind is cleaning an item. That was a learning experience for her- what should be restored, and what should be maintained as is? She has learned how to properly clean brass versus sterling silver, or choose when something is better left untouched to maintain its vintage charm. That’s the kind of thing you have to have an eye for, which again speaks to her affinity for art. Beyond that, however, is her biggest challenge and the one she is most eager to tell me about.
“I hate having to charge shipping,” she tells me. Even as she says it, I can tell from Katie’s body language she really does anguish over postage. “This is kind of nice I get to talk about this.” Unintentionally revealing even more of her generous spirit, the only reason she doesn’t like the shipping portion of her business is because she just wishes she could ship for free! “Shipping supplies [are] expensive… everything. Tape, boxes, packing [material], thank you notes, all of that is expensive.” Bottom line? Katie doesn’t like making her clients pay for shipping. “It hurts me,” she said.
Katie worries about giving her customers the best experience, and her stress over the shipping costs really speaks to that. Of course, her item selection and presentation speaks for itself, and I was more than happy to pay the shipping cost for my teapot (which I thought was quite reasonable- I paid less than $10) because I knew I was getting a quality product. I can’t speak for every thrifter, but I’m sure I’m not alone in appreciating the extra care given.
A Passion Nurtured
What I love about Katie’s shop is the energy that created it. Katie went out with her friends one day and fell in love with thrifting. That same day, she set up shop. There is something to be said for that kind moment. I think we all have those moments, rare as they may be. We might get the urge to push them down; there’s too much cleaning to be done to sit down and write the poem, or take the photograph. Katie is one of the rare few in the world who instead consciously takes hold. Let us nurture the magic that stirs within us, cherish the chills that run up our spines, and seize these moments whenever we can. We can all learn a lesson from Katie. She nurtures the magic within her, that much is abundantly clear when you speak with her, or look at her art, or scroll through her thrift shop. “It’s my pieces that I’m picking. Someone else could pick the same item and market it a different way, and give you a different idea on how to style it or place it…It’s unique to me. You’re going to see the piece that I picked out and why I like it and how I would style it in my house, you know what I mean?”
Katie is generously offering her magic to the world, and I am grateful to partake. Check out her Instagram here, and happy thrifting! Take your moment. Find something that speaks to you.