Why My Living Room Looks Like a Cabinet of Curiosities

I ascribe to the cabinet of curiosities school of interior design. Almost everything on display in my living room is something I found on a beach, in the woods, on a river bank, chiseled out of a limestone cliff, or dug out of the dump piles of an abandoned mine.

I am by nature, a collector and a natural history buff. I started with seashells when I was a kid on all those summer trips to my grandparents’ house in Florida. As an adult, I lived in and around Austin for 10 years on the edge of the Texas hill country. I went hiking almost every weekend and quickly discovered that Austin sits right on top hundreds of feet of Cretaceous limestone deposited by an ancient sea, and you can find marine fossils at almost every road cut or creek bed in the area. So I collected 100 million year old sea urchins and oysters and ammonites. Later, when my family and I lived in Asheville, NC, on the bones of old mountains chock full of gems and interesting minerals, I began hiking to old mines sites and collecting kyanite and garnet and apatite and beryl. Sometimes, in my travels in the woods, I came across antlers or turtle shells or bird’s nests and I brought those home, too.

Three years ago, we moved to our current home, and I quickly discovered that the rocks of this area contain neither fossils nor particularly interesting rocks. And we’re 3 hours from the ocean, so shells and sharks’ teeth are only an option once or twice a year. So I began collecting bugs and birds by camera. Photos took up so much less room. But still, in the winter particularly, I need something to satisfy my collecting urges so I fall back on a more urban addiction – thrift stores. Here, I comb through the detritus of the culture that spawned me, and drag home whatever strikes my fancy. (If you want to know how it began, see my post, Confession of a Thrift Store Junkie.) And once a week, I post one of my finds, here.

My Thrift Pick of the Week is kind of a double whammy – a product of disposable American pop culture and an homage to one of my oldest collecting habits – a fake fossil of a triceratops skull I got for $3.00 at my favorite second-hand establishment (an interesting collection of cultural flotsam that goes by the name of Everything But Granny’s Panties).

Leave a comment


  1. That was totally, hands down, worth every penny! I’m not going to lie, I am pretty jealous.

  2. You are a woman after my own heart! I, too, am a collector of organic objects–and lover of thrifting and garage saling. Great find–and what a deal!

    • I never can seem to make myself get out early enough on a Saturday morning for garage saling anymore but I used to get a real kick out of it. So what’s your favorite organic object that you’ve gathered? I’d love to see what you have on your shelves.

  3. Anita Gallagher

     /  March 15, 2012

    You found that at Granny’s? How big is it and where did you put it? My favorite thing I found in a junk shop? Hmm, there were several but greedy Katrina took them. I did recover my glass fishing floats that I found in various thrift/ junk/ antique stores in Maine.

    • Hi Mom! Yes, I got it at Granny’s. It’s not nearly as big as the real thing would be and I put it in the garden (because the living room is getting kind of full).

  4. My kids would dig that! Heck, I would too. Really cool. I love all things vintage. Love Asheville by the way. One of our favorite antiquing, thrifting, and getaway spots.

  5. Fantastic find!


  6. Asheville is great, isn’t it? Good restaurants, two big national forests a stone’s throw away, and the Blue Ridge Parkway runs right through it. We loved living there. Glad you got a kick out of the fake fossil!


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