Kelly Millspaugh Thompson returns to her roots with Rough Luxe warehouse sales

Kelly Millspaugh Thompson, owner of Stylish Patina, is known for her one-stop shop for vintage furniture, gifts and DIY supplies. But one weekend a month this summer, you’ll find her amid a sea of antiques and vintage furniture at Rough Luxe Marketplace, a market she’s hosting in a Falls Church warehouse.

The idea for the marketplace came from Thompson’s experiences selling furniture at festivals and barn sales. Since opening Stylish Patina in March, she wanted to get back to displaying what she calls raw furniture, or furniture that has been untouched, and redesigned vintage together in the same space — something there’s just not room for in her shop.

Thompson, 40, describes her aesthetic as “vintage modern” and prides herself on salvaging pieces. When we met her just before her second market sale of the summer, she sat in front of a wall of vintage tennis rackets facing a table made from lobster crates. We spoke to her about her aesthetic and what she looks for in quality vintage. Here is an edited transcript of her comments.

How would you describe your aesthetic?

I usually like to say that what we’ve been doing is “vintage modern.” I really feel that folks need to mix both. A lot of my clients have things that have been passed down, so part of what I like to do is show them how to use them in your home. I find folks tend to throw stuff away or give things away, even though it’s important to them, because they can’t figure out how to make it functional. From a design perspective, that’s what I really enjoy showing people how to do.

Kelly Millspaugh Thompson started her marketplace sales this summer. She opened her permanent storefront, Stylish Patina, in March. (Rachel Lubitz/The Washington Post)

When did your interest in vintage furniture begin?

About 21 / 2 years ago officially, but I’ve been doing it since I got out of college. When I got out of college I didn’t have any money, and I was furnishing an apartment and going to yard sales and Goodwill and repainting those items to make them fresh and new for my own home. I got on that path and that concept because my parents furnished their entire home with antiques.

Do you think growing up in Falls Church affected your design?

I think seeing my parents rehab their home and make something nearly unlivable to wonderful and filling it with furniture from antique stores and flea markets made me have a love of re-purposing and rejuvenating furniture.

Where did you first start finding quality vintage furniture to refurbish in this area?

Other than scouring yard sales as much as I could, I always had luck at Clock Tower Thrift Shop just down the road and going to the local thrift stores. Now I buy more in Pennsylvania, New York and auctions up there, because I have to buy in bulk.

Do you have any retail idols whom you look to for ideas?

Anthropologie is my all-time favorite. I think they do fabulous display, and they use salvage amazingly. As far as local, there’s a shop in Arlington called Le Village Marche that does a great job visually on incorporating old doors in their shop. Another is Red Barn Mercantile in Old Town Alexandria and the Nest Egg in Fairfax. They do a great job in the sort of aesthetic I’m into.

How did the blog on your site come about, and how has it affected your business?

I’m really big on social media. I was so comfortable with it when I started in 2011 because of the years I had with corporate marketing. So, the blog has been so important that I don’t really even have to pay for advertising. It’s Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook and then the blog. I love it, because I feel like that’s really where people are engaged now. When I get something cool in the shop or Rough Luxe, I can post pictures right away. So it’s instant advertising. I think a blog is the easiest way to get into any market, and I think equally as important is Facebook because people are on there all day. My advice for starting a business here, if you have a low advertising budget, is to use social media.

Do you remember your first great find from when you were first starting?

Yes, of course! It’s an old, wood two-seater bench with a seat that flips up for storage. I got it 20 years ago at a thrift store in Tulsa and paid $50 for it. I have carried it with me through probably four states and 10 homes. And now it is up against my kitchen table, and I will have it forever.

When you’re looking for high-quality antique pieces, where does your eye go first?

I look at detail. Curved legs, carvings, interesting shapes and styles. The curvature of things is what I home in on. It could be a table or a chair or a dresser. Another thing that my eye always goes for is really cool salvage — old chippy doors, big barn fences, shipping crates that have original stickers. Anything obscure turned practical will always be wonderful.

Rough Luxe Marketplace will take place again on the weekends of Aug. 16 and Sept. 27 at 138 W. Jefferson St., Falls Church.

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