Ki Nassauer founder of Junk Bonanza
Dubbed the “Martha Stewart of vintage," Ki Nassauer knows a thing or two about salvaged style. After an extremely profitable garage sale, the Minneapolis native realized that “junk” items have their own star potential. As a result, she founded Junk Bonanza, a series of shopping extravaganzas held twice a year in Minnesota, and now once a year in Portland and San Diego. Currently in its 10th year, Junk Bonanza is back at Canterbury Park in Shakopee September 24–26 for shoppers and purveyors to find vintage antiques, architectural salvage, and artisan-repurposed goods. Here Ki shares her thoughts on the art of junk transformation. junkbonanza.com
What advice do you have for the first-time junkie?
Don’t be overwhelmed. Follow your heart and buy what you love, not what magazines and trend coverage say you should. If a piece evokes a good memory, or the color calls to you, it’s likely a great purchase.
How can someone take a piece of junk, say castoff dining room chairs, and transform them into something new?
A fresh upholstery job on a vintage chair provides an instant update, as does paint and an interesting finish. Sometimes just a good cleaning job does the trick. One of my living room end tables is an old metal chicken incubator. It is sturdy and functional, and its amazing galvanized patina looks very modern and au courant.
Is it safe to say that you abide by the “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” mantra?
Yes! It’s amazing the things that people throw away. Pieces often “speak” to me and tell me what they want to be. I had great kitchen lighting fixtures in my last home that were made from vintage grain aerator cages.
You can see the beauty in junk anywhere. What are some of your best finds?
My cherry-red game wheel—about four-and-a-half feet tall—purchased in Nebraska. Game wheels are highly prized in the junking business, often fetching very high prices. My second-favorite is the National Shuffleboard Co. scoreboard I just found in Portland. Doesn’t everyone have a skinny wall for something like that?
Why do you believe everyone should have at least some up-cycled junk at home?
The patina and texture of junk—a beautiful, chippy farm table, for example, or the depth of weathered metal—balance out too many “new” items, which tend to make a room static. Vintage can immediately imbue a home with visual interest. The most interesting interiors look as if their contents were collected over time.