Hobby Lobby Creative Center
There used to be a time when Phoenicians flocked to a quaint chain called Pic-N-Save. Here you would find, amidst a bunch of crap, some of the best bargains in town. Hobby Lobby does away with the crap part of that equation. Several clearance aisles sport some of the finest low-budget home furnishings and accessories around (think Pottery Barn knock-offs and architectural pieces), along with aisles of crafting materials (hence, the name).

Of course, digging and frequent scouting trips are mandatory. Or maybe that's our Hobby Lobby addiction talking. The folks at Hobby Lobby must understand the depth of this illness, and have done their part by providing impossibly small shopping carts in which to haul your plunder. Despite this minor obstacle, you can decorate entire rooms of your house for less than the cost of a tank of gas and, if you are old enough to remember Pic-N-Save, you might just think you've died and gone to bargain heaven.

It was too hot to get out of the air-conditioned car, but we just had to pull over once we saw the brightly painted faade of this, well, curious new Seventh Avenue establishment. What could they be selling inside? While we were straining to see what was displayed in the windows (was that really a Day of the Dead King Kong tableau?), someone came waltzing out with a gun-metal table lamp with a parchment shade, and we bolted from the car to get a gander at what else might be inside.

We weren't disappointed. Crammed floor to ceiling with amazing tchotchkes, Curiouser and Curiouser turned out to be like Grandma's attic, if Grandma were a super-hip connoisseur of cool junk and went thrift-shopping every day in search of it. Among this mother lode of marvelous fun, we spotted a Fab '50s turquoise ice crusher, a tidy lineup of old soda bottles, and enough vintage barware to open up four swanky saloons. Everything here is organized based on where it might live once you get it home, so all the kitchen stuff (like the Vernonware highball set we knew we had to have) is displayed in one spot, while all the old toys are wedged into a sort of clever nursery display in a room off to the side. Who needs an Internet auction when one can visit such cool stuff in person? We don't, not now that we've gotten Curiouser and Curiouser.

Antique Market
We were overcome with grief when three of our favorite antique malls vanished overnight earlier this year. Central Antiques and Antique Gallery, both formerly located at Uptown Plaza, disappeared pretty much the same week that West McDowell's Antique Market (our all-time fave) closed up shop. But before you could say "great old furniture at spectacular prices!" all three malls returned in one super-sleek, monster-sized store that's set up like a museum of gorgeous antique décor, lighting, dishware, and everything old and pretty anyone could ever want.

The new, improved Antique Market has brought together your favorite vendors from Central Antiques and Antique Gallery and combined them with nearly all of the booths and sellers from Market's former location in a 10,000-square foot colossus of antiquing pleasure. Row upon row of gleaming glass cases are augmented by a separate high-end furniture gallery, a "shabby chic room" full of gently distressed décor, and more than 100 dealers offering neat old clocks and lamps and tables and every conceivable item we admired at each of our former favorite shopping havens. This place is a one-stop shop of the Valley's best antique malls, all wrapped up in one great location!

Antique Gatherings
Okay, so we were shopping for a table lamp and we came home with two giant 1940s Drexel china cupboards. So shoot us. We couldn't resist these mammoth mahogany beauties. They were so gorgeous — and so affordable, too! Now all our china is happier, and so are we, because we know where to go for fancier antiques for our great old house. On a recent return trip, we scored a hundred-year-old cherry wood library table, a lighted lectern ripped from the lobby of an old Deco Miami hotel, and a '20s oil lamp chandelier, too. We're planning to go back next week for that Regency tea cart and maybe the framed Turner prints, too. With lovelies like those we've found at Antique Gatherings, how can we possibly stay away?
We saw it from the street and nearly drove off the road: A flawless fainting couch, circa 1930, upholstered in blood-red chintz and trimmed in enough fringe to choke a horse. When we stopped to admire it, we did so knowing its price tag would be enough to scare us off, because nothing this beautiful could cost as little as we're willing to spend on old furniture. We'd clearly forgotten where we were, because Vintage Solutions is the best — maybe the only! — place in town to find amazing antiques at bargain basement prices. The sofa was — can you believe it? — only $40, and mere minutes after we snatched it up, another customer at this fantastic furniture gallery tried to buy it from us for nearly twice what we'd paid. We've since recovered from the shock of getting such a gorgeous piece for such a ridiculously low price, and have purchased a roomful of stuff from Vintage Solutions' new, improved 16th Street location, where the sweet life can be had for a song.
It'll drive our copy desk crazy that the name of this place is CQ (Wikipedia it, Einstein). But we must bring the goodness to you. Every visit reveals something we never knew existed. A yellow enamel one-piece complete kitchen that looks like you should buy it for a giant Barbie doll. A hand-carved tiki bar with red-velour-topped stools. At 20,000 square feet, the showroom seems endless. You gotta be tough, though; CQ is not some Melrose-on-Seventh boutique with a John Waters clone sliding up to discuss the provenance of a cocktail table. There's stuff from the '80s on consignment here, as well — avert your eyes. Then peep a suite of Broyhill easy chairs with original upholstery, or the clean lines and light wood of sturdy bedroom sets, or lamps and lampshades that must be breeding behind our backs, they're so numerous. It's old-school shopping: the treasure hunt with the unexpected payoff.
Haus Modern Living
We're not sure, but we think we might have actually been birthed in a shopping center, given our native Phoenix status. So don't get us wrong, we love a trip to the mall. And we're sure that the Biltmore Fashion Park location of Haus, the groovy midcentury-style furnishings store, is perfectly pleasant. But the Scottsdale location is to die for, honey!

Located in one of those cool strips that used to house a bank or something, just a block or so north of one of our long-gone favorite Scottsdale hangs, the Safari Resort, you have to drive 'round back to enter Haus. The first time we stopped by, we were struck by how spacious and airy the store is, even though it's jam-packed with modern design, most notably by Jonathan Adler, the darling of the midcent set. Adler himself actually made an appearance at this Haus, not long ago. We're sure the crowds went so wild they had to partake from one of his signature striped ceramic jars, whimsically marked PROZAC. (Adler's actually penned a book called My Prescription for Anti-Depressive Living.)

For us, a trip to Haus is as good a mood elevator as any, 'til we get our credit card bill.

Red Modern Furniture
It may not hold any bargains, but Red Modern is the place for midcentury chic. And since the shop switched up locations a while back, settling into groovy two-story digs on Camelback Road, we can't stay away. Can't afford those Paul Laszlo (at least, the owner thinks so) powder-blue chairs reupholstered in brightly striped chenille (to die for), or even the "lady candle holders" that clearly inspired none other than Jonathan Adler (we can't stop thinking about 'em)? Slink over to the side of the store, where Mint offers cute vintage clothing and accessories at affordable prices. Find yourself some cowboy boots and an Enid Collins purse, and start hitting up estate sales — maybe the Red folks have left some treasure undiscovered. But don't count on it.
A.k.a. Green
It's not that easy, being green.

Apologies to Kermit, but truer words were never spoken. (Ribbeted?) We look around the house and think, "Where to begin?" We can barely keep up with the laundry, much less the movement that tells us to use all natural products and rid our lives of plastic bottles. (As if.) That's why we're so glad we found a.k.a. green, a place where, if so inclined (and financially endowed), we could retrofit our house with enviro-friendly flooring, tile and other green products, and get all sorts of advice on how to do it. We think at this point we'd need to raze our 1940s home to truly fit the latest trend — starting from scratch, at the pesticide-laced foundation. (Those damn termites.) And if we ever do that, we'll know where to go.

Construction Lots!
Planning a remodel? Looking to replace an old door? Need a new toilet but don't want to flush big dollars down the drain at the usual warehouse home improvement stores? Navigating the construction on Washington is worth it when you land in this DIY-er's oasis for great deals on all things related to remodeling. Construction Lots! gets inventory from builders' overstocks or random items not used in custom home projects, and sells to the public at a fraction of the price.

We found Jacuzzi tubs for less than $500, laminate flooring for 88 cents a foot and all kinds of beautiful floor tile that's nearly being given away if you hunt and peck through the selection stacked up in the parking lot. Some of the items are regular stock and the deals on that merchandise were only so-so, but this is the first place we'd venture out to if needing a new door or front porch light fixture.

Check out the clearance tables; inventory shifts from day to day. The store is well-organized and clean, and the staff is very helpful, not only in answering questions but with loading your car with your purchase.

Watch out, though — upgrading your home can become addictive and with the prices here, you could walk in wanting a new faucet and end up with a whole new bathroom. Now if they just offered cheap labor to take home with the supplies, we'd be happier than Bob Vila at a World of Screwdrivers convention.

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