At Home with Chris Miller

A seasonal Naples resident furnishes his entire condo with sustainably chic secondhand finds

At home with Chris Miller. Photography by Nick Shirghio
At home with Chris Miller. Photography by Nick Shirghio

It is a generally accepted belief that one person’s castoffs may be another’s treasure. After purchasing, remodeling, furnishing, and decorating a 1990s-era condo, Chris Miller concurs. “The only new retail item is the television in the great room,” he says, revealing that he sourced every piece of furniture—including all bedding, dishware, artworks, and even knickknacks—from local thrift and consignment stores or from RH (formerly Restoration Hardware) outlet stores at heavily discounted prices.

When he first found the single-story end unit with eastern views on a golf course—replete with white tile, pink carpet, wicker furniture, fluorescent lighting, and gold fixtures—Miller felt like he’d walked onto the set of The Golden Girls. Once his, he tore out the carpet and painted the walls a moody gray and the yellowing shutters a brilliant white; he also removed a valance and a wall of mirrors, floral wallpaper, and the dated lighting. Gold hardware was painted black or replaced with bronze or stainless fixtures purchased at Restore (a secondhand retail store operated by Habitat for Humanity). The pink countertop in the primary bath was refreshed with a stark white epoxy paint.

Miller’s condo is filled with secondhand treasures.
Miller’s condo is filled with secondhand treasures.

Miller visited a couple thrift stores when he first moved to Naples, not intending to fully furnish his home but to find pieces he could use in the interim. He quickly discovered that “thrift stores here are not like the ones in Long Island,” explaining that properties change hands more frequently. As new owners remodel and update, they regularly donate or consign items they no longer want—often with little wear or tear. 

Now, when Miller is in Naples (usually a few months every year), his secondhand store visits are a daily activity. In fact, he is known on a first-name basis at most. “It is so much fun,” he relates. “I love the finds. There is a definite thrill to it.” This means that the interior of his home is constantly evolving, with pieces regularly replaced—after a morning of shopping—with ones he deems more fitting.

Miller is emphatic about not hesitating when shopping. “If you see something you like, grab it,” he says. “You can’t deliberate over purchases or wait to come back because they will likely be gone.”

He points to the two armchairs poised next to a console table in his foyer. Upon first glance, he casually dismissed them because he didn’t like the fabric on the seats. He hovered nearby, however, and remembered he had a duvet cover at home in a blue pelagic print that he could use instead. He bought them—and lucky he did because he discovered yet another benefit of his new hobby: the deal.

Matching armchairs in Miller’s foyer with freshly recovered seats
Matching armchairs in Miller’s foyer with freshly recovered seats

Exhilarating moments of secondhand shopping often occur for Miller when he learns the true value of an item he has purchased. To determine this, he often consults the Google Lens app on his phone, an image-recognition technology that identifies an object, delivers information about it, and provides the current valuation. Miller is no stranger to turning objects over and inside out, unearthing original price tags, QR codes, or certificates of authenticity for such information as well.

He has found works by artists Frederick Cooper and Ted McKnight and furniture designer Barbara Barry. He relishes in the realization that some of his finds can be found online for thousands of dollars. For instance, take the red lacquered armchairs in his dining room. Miller paid $100 for the pair and later found similar ones online selling for $2,400. He also cites a rug he purchased for $350 that—after some quick research—he discovered to be a Tamarian Irezumi rug that retails new for nearly $8,000. Miller frequently finds unique pieces with historical value, too. He calls attention to an octagon-shape wooden side table that opens from the top. “It’s a cellarette,” he notes, which is a small furniture cabinet (common in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries) used to store bottles of alcohol.

Miller in his kitchen next to the mirror that masquerades as a window
Miller in his kitchen next to the mirror that masquerades as a window.

Of course, it helps that Miller is handy with tools, of which he owns many, including an industrial sewing machine. He admits that he has done some dumpster diving—once near an RH outlet store, where he rescued a large dining tabletop from the trash. He carved it into three rectangular pieces, sanded it down, and added legs, creating benches for the matching table he previously purchased at an RH outlet store.

Miller has a definite eye for design; he has perfectly positioned a plethora of blue, white, and brass pieces throughout the many shelves in his home. He willingly divulges his decorator hacks, sharing how he squared off a mirror with white electrical tape to create the illusion of a window above his kitchen sink. And yes, he admits to occasionally making a bad purchase. Those items are simply donated to one of the shops he regularly visits—continuing the story of what goes around comes around. 

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