Debra Breaux’s well-trained eyes are peeled as she drives around the area looking for garage sales and treasures by the side of the road.
And a tour of her Westminster home is a testament to her expert collecting skills and a dose of good luck.
Breaux’s thrifty collecting has been both a pleasure and a necessity.
Several years after a divorce, she sold her house and moved into a series of small apartments.
“I had gotten rid of a lot of things,” she said. “I didn’t have a lot of furniture.”
For years, she stayed close to her former husband’s family. In 2009, came “a gift from God,” she said.
Her former brother-in-law, Robbie Breaux, offered to buy a house for her in her old neighborhood.
“It saved my life,” she said. “He bought the house, and I pay rent.”
Decorating her present house is a work in progress for Breaux, who doesn’t mind adding legs to tables, flip-flopping rooms or tackling just about any project, no matter how long it might take.
“Every piece in this house is a story,” she said.
Like the brand new mirror she found on Sherwood Forest Boulevard. It was still in its original bubble wrap.
“I asked a man in front of the house if they were giving away the mirror,” Breaux said. “He said his wife had bought a complete set of furniture but just didn’t like the mirror.”
It now has an important place on top of a dresser in Breaux’s den.
The dresser itself was a find from a classified ad in the newspaper.
“A lady was moving to California, and she had a whole set of Century-brand furniture,” Breaux said. “I got the dresser, two night stands, a mirror and an armoire for $500.”
One of her favorite stops is St. Vincent de Paul, where she has located many treasured pieces including a painted sideboard, which is still in the furniture line of a well-known company in San Diego. She paid $35 for her piece, a dead ringer for one offered online for $1,700.
Her green leather Hickory Chair sofa is another St. Vincent de Paul find. She paid $165 for one in perfect condition.
In her living room, at the side of the sofa is a wonderful collection of botanical art, originally the pages in a 50-cent calendar Breaux found at a garage sale on Goodwood Boulevard. She framed the pictures with frames from Family Dollar Store and hung them in an attractive grouping.
Then there’s the chair. She found it on a garbage pile at the back of a high-end interior design shop next to an office where she was working at the time.
“It had a broken arm and a price tag of $459,” Breaux said with a smile. “I fixed the arm with my glue gun.”
Her biggest find of all drove up to her house in the truck belonging to someone fixing her fence.
“When he was ready to leave, I saw that he had bags of trays in the back of his truck. He said he was taking them to the dump,” said Breaux, who was happy to take them off his hands. Turns out the trays were sterling silver.
“Every one,” she said.
Her most time-consuming project was her bedroom, which started with a desk she found on Drusilla Lane. To tie everything together, she decided to paint the assorted pieces of furniture a shiny black enamel.
“It took four months and a lot of work, mainly getting the layers of paint to dry,” she said.
She combines her thrifty finds with family pieces, including a trunk that belonged to her great-grandfather, some paintings from her childhood, her mother’s bed and a three-tiered server that belonged to her grandmother.
And the best of all:
“I’m back where all my neighbors live,” she said.