Picker Sisters' Guide to Treasure Hunting
by Tanya McQueen and Tracy Hutson
If you crave design inspiration and adventure like we do, it’s time to hit the road! Grab a pal, stock up on truck-stop snacks, and explore the highways of America … But don’t forget to get off the beaten path too. You never know what amazing experience lies around the next turn!
We both grew up in rural Texas, so the Southwest feels like home to us. This region is diverse in both culture and landscape, making for a wide variety of junk and discarded items calling out to be transformed and given a new life in your home. Drive far enough down the highway and you’ll get up close and personal with the desert, mountains and plains. Local industries and weather patterns make for discarded pieces with varying levels of deterioration. We are always on the hunt for different versions of the gorgeous patina we love, and in these states we can often find beautiful pieces that have been well preserved by the dry climate. Arizona, New Mexico and Nevada enjoy their own unique personalities, influenced by Native American, Mexican and Western Americana culture, all of which is reflected in the junk you’re bound to stumble across.
We feel incredibly comfortable traveling throughout the South, and that’s mostly due to the warmth and kindness of the Southern folk we’ve met who welcomed us with open arms and yards full of great rusty stuff. The whole region is replete with farming communities chock-full of old equipment languishing in fields and on properties, often left behind by past generations. Louisiana is a treasure trove of international influences, all sifted through the Cajun culture. The weather is humid, and there’s no shortage of rust on the pieces there. Good thing we love the color and character that the damp weather infuses into the Southern junk! Summers in the South can be brutally hot, so plan your trip wisely to maximize your comfort and productivity while hunting for treasures.
The rich history of the Northeastern states makes for an abundant, eclectic mix of items just ripe for the pickin’. People of countless cultural backgrounds have collected generations of junk, which lie scattered throughout the region, waiting to be unearthed and repurposed. The states in the Northeast are fairly close together compared with other parts of the country, and each has its own industries and identity. This means that a well-planned road trip can cover lots of varied ground, with lots of varied junk, in a shorter period of time. There are plenty of big cities to explore, but if you crave the rural landscape like we do, there’s an abundance of that to comb, as well. We’re all for wearing cute parkas, but we tend to stay away from this part of the country during the wintertime! The weather can be erratic, and the snow might conceal good junk and you may miss the find of a lifetime … The horror!
Farms are everywhere in the Midwest, which means plenty of huge properties, languishing equipment and rusty goodies ready to be rescued and given a new life. Machinery becomes outdated, crops are rotated and wide-open spaces act as the perfect way stations for antiquated items soon to be forgotten. Items sit outside for decades, exposed to the elements, and acquire the weathered character we crave in our pieces. Some people have inherited the stuff from family or previous property owners and are more than willing to make a deal. You just have to ask. Thankfully, Midwesterners are just as warm and friendly as could be, and are usually more than willing to share tips and give leads to point you in the direction of more good pickin’.
The Pacific Northwest
The weather in the Pacific Northwest may make some people want to curl up by a fire with a good book, but it makes us want to get our hands dirty and dig into this rich region, on a quest for some gorgeous rusty items. And trust us, there’s rust on everything around here. Once again we have Mother Nature to thank for working her magic. The pummeling rain and dampness of Oregon and Washington help expedite the natural processes that lead to our beloved patina, and we can never seem to get enough. The rugged coastline is breathtaking, and the fishing industry is the purveyor of lots of cool pieces we’ve rarely seen outside of this area. So grab your umbrella and some rubber boots, and get pickin’ in the Pacific Northwest. The unique gems you’ll find will be well worth the effort.