For more than a decade, Dwell with Dignity has hawked heavily discounted luxury furniture and home accessories at Thrift Studio, its monthlong temporary shop. The popular event draws plenty of love from the city’s interior design world and anyone looking for a good deal. Each year, Thrift Studio picks a handful of local designers and showrooms, like Peacock Alley and Javier Burkle, to set up staged room “vignettes” with the donated furnishings. (See the full list of designers here.) Think Rooms To Go, but much, much nicer.
When I walked into Thrift Studio’s preview party last week, I was hit with cool air and the buzzy din of excited shoppers, plus a pajamaed DJ blasting music atop a bunkbed in a children’s bedroom vignette. It was packed. I wandered the vignettes, ogling the beautiful wallpapers, headboards, and club chairs. I wondered if I should toss out my own Rooms To Go side tables for something here—the deals were, indeed, great. But just about anytime I approached a table or bookcase or backgammon board, I saw big, bright “sold” tag.
All the money from Thrift Studio goes directly back to Dwell with Dignity, which provides thoughtfully designed living spaces to families in need. “To us, that’s the ultimate goal,” Dwell with Dignity executive director Ashley Sharp says. “That we can provide one-of-kind items to people on demand and to know every single dollar that you have goes back to serving a family in need.”
At the party, I chatted with Sharp about how Thrift Studio works, what the best deals were, and the new Social Impact Marketplace, where local nonprofits can come into the pop-up shop on Saturdays and sell their wares.
This party is crazy. Can you tell me about the community reaction to this year’s Thrift Studio?
I think Thrift Studio is needed now more than ever, right? We talk about the supply chain issues and how everything’s backed up and you can’t get anything. But what if you could come to one place and get a unique item immediately, but also know that it’s going back for a social good?
How many people typically shop Thrift Studio?
The opening day alone is about 500 people. And then any given day, we can have up to 100 people and we run for a month. You will see a lot of repeat shoppers, because they know that those deals are coming through. And so, we really can see anywhere between 1,000 to 3,000 unique shoppers, and our goal is to keep growing that and introducing people to this mission.
So how do the vignettes work? When a piece is sold, does it get replaced?
So the designers get to do a “shop the warehouse” event. The first thing that they do is come to our warehouse and they start shopping. It’s like Supermarket Sweeps, where we literally line them up, saying “1,2,3, Go!” And they run and they get to pick up items from our warehouse. But then they go and get items, too, from their own clients, people that they partner with. And then what’s great is that they take all those and put it together, we sell the vignettes, then we have probably 6- or 7,000 square feet of refreshed stock ready to go. Every single Tuesday, we’re gonna restock with more donated items.
What would you say is the best deal of the pop up this year?
The art is the best deal here. We’ve had [around] 70 artists donate art—unique pieces that they’ve actually created and made just for us. And some of these pieces of art would resell for $3,000 or $4,000, and you can get them for a couple hundred dollars. So the art is amazing. It’s all one-of-a-kind, made with love, just for Dwell with Dignity. I just actually bought a piece of work myself.
Tell me about the Social Impact Marketplace.
We are launching our first-ever Social Impact Marketplace, which I have been dreaming about. We’ve invited different partners to come and sell completely free. We provide the space, we provide everything that they need, they don’t have to give us any cuts. They just get press promotion and space to meet clients. And so, we’re excited. We have jewelry companies, we have soap companies, all benefiting different organizations. You get to come sell and meet new people.
How did you pick the nonprofits?
These are nonprofits that were actually also part of the Social Innovation Accelerator—so it’s great—and then other nonprofits that we partner with. We have The Worthy Co. that does jewelry out of Fort Worth. And they run The Net and work with victims of sexual trafficking. We really love working with them. My Possibilities was one of my mentors, and I’ve worked with them forever. And so we’re thrilled because they have Soap Hope and it’s for individuals with disabilities. So, they get to come sell soap. Howdy Homemade is the same—it’s individuals with Down syndrome. They’re gonna come serve ice cream, which is the best ice cream on Earth. We wanted to pick people who aligned with our goals and values and then also those who we knew were already out there on the community and wanting to get greater presence.
What is your ultimate goal for Thrift Studio?
My goal for our studio is to have a permanent space where we have monthly pop ups on the weekends and then we do an eight-week run. I think that that would be my dream. Right now, we only do four weeks, which, as soon as people hear about it, we’re closed. So, we’re kind of like the State Fair right now. But if we’re able to have a permanent space, and then we could do warehouse sales, [because] we’re always sitting on inventory, we’re able to get the name out there. And then do a blowout once a year or so.