Luxury Studio Finds for Under $20

Luxury Studio Finds for Under $20

Unless you have a stash of cash just waiting for that moment you start filling your studio with furniture, most likely you have been at the bottom of the budget. Pinteresting your way through DIYs on old furniture, Craigslist, or even flea market finds will be how the majority start their collection of studio furniture. So how can you take something that was left for trash and incorporate it into your high-end luxury vision?

In the start of my own career, I was not able to afford brand new items to fill my studio. Searching for furniture and items was sometimes depressing nine years ago, when I was looking for anything to create a space that my clients that would not feel the sense of sitting in a side of the road flea market. Determination to fill the studio, yet still keep the luxury experience lead way to the ultimate finds.

Searching Craigslist or Swip Swap pages can be helpful but my main source of finding the perfect pieces was simple. I spoke with the people at the shops. Yes I know it seems these days no one wants to talk with anyone but I guarantee you will find unique items if you ask the right questions. The piano below was not in the thrift shop I was exploring. It was not even for sale at the time. I asked the owner of the shop if she had anything unique that was not on display. Perhaps something she was not thinking of selling but might for the right price. After explaining what I do for my profession, she closed the shop doors and took me out back. A small back wooden shed in the middle of the yard that creaked when the doors opened. The sunlight filling the cracks of the old place with rain dropping in on the items discarded on its floors. 

There stood this piano. Broken and worn, keys missing and no where near tuned properly. She explained that it was damaged in the trip to the location and she stored it outside until she could call the sanitation to take it off her hands. The images I could see on this piano outweighed any issues the piece was carrying with it. The structure and foundation was solid and the rest I could work with. I was willing to pay upward of $100 and would even negotiate more. She looked it over and said, "If you could get it out of here today I'll sell it for $20? Is that a fair price?"

I called everyone I knew to get help with a trailer (and yes I gave her more for being so generous as she did not realize how much this piece would mean to the studio). This one small market find has given the studio a signature on every session that comes in to shoot. Everyone of my clients is excited to shoot on the piano as they have seen it so many times over Pinterest and my website. The majority of clients who have hung a framed oval wall art is an image on this exact piano. It has given life in the start and still continues on to today where a newer piano could be bought but it would never carry the same stories.

Trained ballerina Jacqueline Valdez

Most of the clients that come in will not perform amazing feats of acrobats; trained dancer and contortionist Jacqueline Valdez and Derrick Pierson were up to try anything. They are both highly trained so I would not attempt this with my everyday clients.

Another great way to use your finds is the create a mood surrounding it. A bridal boudoir where the piece in set in the background as to not distract but still bringing the story to play. The items on the piano were a $20 violin that I found on eBay, a $5 lamp, a free discarded frame, and an old vintage photo album cover given to me by a past client for a prop. The dress circa 1920 was found at a thrift shop. It had a small tear on the side so I got them down to $18.

Other Finds for Under $20

This sofa was sitting in a client's band room. She knew it would fit in perfect to my studio but they needed a place to sit when writing or recording. I found an Craigslist crushed velvet sofa for only twenty dollars and traded it to her. They were happy to have a place to sit, and the studio gained a magnificent piece that also has seen its way through the years in the studio.

Many clients come into the studio expecting to see an array of bedroom furniture as they see in the images that are created. Currently no formal bed exists in the studio. It is merely a perfectly angled air mattress accompanied by a king-sized duvet that I found for $15 at the Humane Society Thrift Shop (yes it was washed!). Shooting with air mattresses is a great way to minimize any concerns a client may have with the abdomen area as it gives a little more than a formal mattress.

A more modern find was about five years ago when a local thrift shop was closing down. The couch was white leather and in the back under some other items. A bit disheveled but I could see past the dirt and tears to what it could be. Fifteen dollars and an hour of scrubbing it down created the more modern piece I was in search of for the less vintage images. It is very versatile in that it serves for modern clean line boudoir, a family friendly furniture with the sturdy edges for multiple client seating, and it serves for my male and female cliental who are not looking for the vintage image of my other furniture. 

Dig Deep and Find the Diamonds in the Rough

Talking to the owners of the shops to see what may behind door number three is a great way to fill the studio whether in a commercial space or your home. Finding pieces that match your brand and your style do not have to cost you your first born. Once you get into a situation years down the road where you may be able to purchase larger ticket priced items you can add them. However even now with a full boudoir studio and the ability to do so, I still find myself perusing the thrift shops in the hopes of finding something unique to fill a new space. You can use the money you saved for a new lens or underwater housing.

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Anonymous's picture

Kind of related... Several years ago, I found a solid cedar chest on Craigslist for $75. I was kinda leery about the area but I really wanted it. When the seller found out I'm a photographer, he asked if I shot porn and proceeded to regale me with his experiences in the industry. He mistook my patience for interest and even dropped the price without my asking. I stayed long enough to get the chest and not a second longer!

Jennifer Tallerico's picture

That story is great!

Michael Murphy's picture

I love searching flea markets and going to the Impact (second-hand) donation stores and even the Good-Will furniture store) and searching for items close by Craigslist. I have found actual bar bar-stools in great condition and even three different styles Boudoir benches and several nice wooden chairs for models to pose with. I don't specifically do it because of lac of money but who wants to pay $2,000 for a boudoir bench you are only going to use sparsely when shooting boudoir, lingerie or nudes.
I found a nice wood boudoir bench with a removable top, it was a light blue with a gold seat. I stripped the paint and Black Lacquered it then I cut and upholstered four more removable seat-tops for it in Soft Pink, Chinese Red, Chinese Red with a Gold Dragon pattern and Soft Lilac Purple. Nothing like options.

Jay Jay's picture

Looking on craigslist for a loft like in those pictures right now ;)