Living the second-hand lifestyle in Eagle County |

Living the second-hand lifestyle in Eagle County

Matt Terrell
Vail, CO Colorado
Dominique Taylor/Vail DailyDecorative tiles of birds and buffalo from Habitat Home Outlet border the Foster's fireplace in Gypsum.

EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado ” Bill and Bobbie Foster’s log cabin house in Gypsum is like a big, wooden patchwork quilt.

Inside and out, it’s pieced together from the low-cost odds and ends found in second-hand stores, auctions and garage sales. Most everything ” the kitchen floor, the furniture, ceiling fans, beds, cabinets ” once belonged to someone else, and they all have a story.

The main staircase in their home used to be a set of choir risers ” yes, choir risers, those wooden platforms singers stand on at church or school plays. After building the stairs, they used the leftover wood to build a mantle above their fire place, which was also built on the cheap with tile samples found at the Habitat Home Outlet.

“Even if you have a lot of money, you should at least check these places first, see if they have what you’re looking for,” Bobbie Foster said.

The Fosters’ frugal way of living is catching on in the valley. More people than ever seem to be embracing the money-saving lifestyle of second-hand shopping, and many are doing it in creative ways, says Kristi Moon, director of the Habitat Home Outlet.

The outlet is filled with the unwanted and donated leftovers from the valley” the love seats hotels no longer need and the doorknobs you replaced with prettier ones. When people donate and shop there, it ensures that tons of perfectly good stuff isn’t going to waste in a landfill, Moon says.

Many outlet shoppers are there to exercise the artist within ” to buy something old, spend a few hours with it, and create something totally new, a la an episode of “Trading Spaces” on TLC.

The Garden Center of Gypsum is getting pretty creative with its second-hand finds. Take a look at its hummingbird feeders, which are hanging on old chandeliers that were bought for around $50 at the outlet, repainted and stripped of their wiring.

Instead of light bulbs, they now hold candles, and could sell for around $950, said landscape designer Nathan Stowe.

The Garden center recently bought bed frames and headboards that will soon be turned into “flower beds.” Instead of a mattress, flowers will be put out on display.

Stowe recently found a set of old mirrors that, after some paint and stain, look like something you’d find in an antique store, and people are interested in buying them, he said.

Stowe is particularly proud of an old farm table that he found for $150, which is now the centerpiece for the store’s merchandise displays. It’s the kind of table you see for hundreds of dollars in one of those so called “shabby chic” stores, Stowe said.

After that small investment, all it takes is a little time and know-how to turn something bland into something wonderful.

“I’m always looking for things ” somebody’s junk is another man’s treasure,” Stowe said. “It’s a great way to keep it green, to keep items circulating though.”

Waste is a big enemy of the Fosters. Bobbie Foster said her parents grew up during the Great Depression, and that tendency to save everything has been instilled in her. That’s why she and her husband visit the outlet twice a week to look for new deals.

“My mom used to wash aluminum foil. I may not be that bad, but I don’t like to throw anything away. I’d rather it give it to someone, and Habitat speaks to that,” Bobbie Foster said.

Anne Verratti is filling her new home near the Eagle Ranch Golf Course with secondhand furniture from the outlet. She’s already found Kohler brand sinks, an antique chandelier, a Ralph Lauren leather couch and light fixtures ” tons of name brand, expensive things that normally would have cost her hundreds and hundreds of dollars, she said.

“I really like that it’s recycling ” that’s the funnest thing for me,” Verratti said. “I try not to buy something new if I don’t have to.”

Verratti regularly visits secondhand stores like the outlet, the Thrifty Shop in Edwards and the Nest in Avon, and always calls up her friends when she sees good shipments that have come in.

When you buy secondhand ” you’re usually buying things with character, things that are hard to find elsewhere, Verratti said.

“I try to buy things that are unique, that you won’t see more than once, and you can find that at secondhand stores and garage sales,” Verratti said.

The Habitat Home Outlet in Gypsum kept 276 tons of stuff (everything from furniture to lumber) out of the Eagle County landfill in 2007.

Staff Writer Matt Terrell can be reached at 970-748-2955 or

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