August 3, 2010

Mary Randolph Carter

A few weeks ago, I mentioned Mary Randolph Carter and her series of Junk books. 9_30_08_Carter_ She’s known by all as simply Carter, and in her role as Senior Vice President at Ralph Lauren, she’s been responsible for a good part of his signature American look.

Her first book, American Junk, was one of my favourite books for a long time. When I found it and started reading it, it was like finding a kindred soul who could look beyond an object’s original intent and find something new and beautiful in it.  American_Junk

She followed that up with Garden Junk, garden junk then Kitchen Junk and Big City Junk. Big City Junk Each of these books is beautifully photographed, giving the items a dignity that they might not have had otherwise.

Several years ago, she wrote another book which is an homage to old things. The book, For the Love of Old: Living with Chipped, Frayed, Tarnished, Faded, Tattered, Worn and Weathered Things that Bring Comfort, Character and Joy to the Places We Call Home, is her most beautiful to date.For the Love of OldThe typefaces are stunning Carter 001 and the images of simple subjects are reverential and elegant. Carter 003 Her words show a respect for even the smallest object. Carter 004 I know that this book is going to be one that I keep for a long time.  Carter 006Here are four tips from Carter about junking, antiquing or thrifting.

  1. Be prepared, like a good girl or boy scout. Think ahead. Are you looking for a bedside table for the guest room or Easter costumes for the kids? "Make a list so you can stay on track and not get overwhelmed," says Carter. "Your list is your compass in the wilderness."
  2. Trust your instincts. "Good junk is linked to good memories, so if you find yourself saying, 'Oh that reminds me of the time...' chances are you're onto a good thing."
  3. Case the joint. Do a walk-through, making mental notes about what items strike your fancy and what ones you feel you can pass on.
  4. Haggle -- it's part of the sport. "I always ask the proprietor if I can start a pile. Then, when I'm ready to cash out, I start negotiating."

To read more about Carter, check out this piece in The Selby or this one on Apartment Therapy or her semi-defunct website here.


  1. I have been a big fan of hers for years and have the first 3 books. Thanks for reminding me...think I will take them out to look over again! :)

  2. I've never been able to haggle. It's something I need to learn.

    Just realized that I missed your spot on NPR Marketplace. I'll have to see if I can find it online.

    All best,

  3. Now, I see you've given us a link to the interview. Thanks. I can't wait to hear it.

  4. I love all of her books, but For the Love of Old is a treasure, I agree.Your post makes me want to get out and hunt right now!

  5. Thank you for a view of a woman I would enjoy knowing better.

  6. love these books. thanks for sharing. hope you are well.

  7. I would buy the books just to stare at the beautiful typefaces. Thanks for sharing For The Love of Old.

  8. Yep a big fan of Carter myself and "For the Love of Old" is one glorious book!

  9. Going right up to my Studio and bring out my copies to enjoy again.

  10. For "house things," your opening line could be "Would you consider taking less for this item?" or maybe "Are your prices negotiable?"

    I have all of the MRC books, including the early "American Family Style." They are always fun to go back to from time to time as a refresher, say, if you're getting ready to head off to a flea market or antique fair. I'm sorry her web site has sort of pooped out, but I'm sure she is one busy lady!

  11. Just put all these books on hold at the local library! Look like good summer browsers.


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