Rashon Carraway is dressed for business. Sporting a striped blue-and-white collared shirt with the sleeves rolled up, vest and slacks, and a pair of what my folks in Georgia would simply call church shoes, Carraway's attention-grabber is his fuschia bowtie.
What might surprise you is that he picked up some elements of his outfit — specifically the vest and pants — at a thrift store.
Carraway looks sharp. And why shouldn't he? He is a regular guest expert on TV's The Nate Berkus Show. The producers of the daytime syndicate found Carraway's lifestyle blog, Mr. Goodwill Hunting (www.rashoncarraway.com), and asked him to appear in the show's "House Proud" segment. Since then, he has started his own design firm and takes on projects, both big and small, in the Charlotte area.
"The shirt I have on is a Ralph Lauren shirt and the bowtie is Ralph Lauren, but I've mixed it with something that's vintage," he says. "And that's how I do a lot of my clients' homes. People don't have a lot of money to spend on furniture and design, so what we basically do is show them how they can get a great space with very little money."
Practicing what he preaches, Carraway brings that same approach of mixing new items with thrift-store finds to his own condo, an 850-square-foot rental in Rock Hill.
When you enter the living room, sharp geometric shapes catch your eye. Eight black frames on the wall showcase simple blue and red squares. The glass-covered coffeetable is large (about 5 and one-half feet by 4 feet) and squarish; it dominates the room. A circular mirror that shoots sunbeam-like rays from its core hangs over the fireplace.
Carraway, who has recently signed on to blog for HGTV, says he aims for a "traditional lounge-type feel" in his space, and his oversized lounge chairs (which swallow you up) help achieve that. They are the only pieces of furniture in his living room that he paid full price for.
One of the first things Carraway points to as a DIY project is a black dresser sitting opposite the sofa. He paid about $60 for the piece, then sanded, painted and added new hardware to it.
"A lot of stuff in thrift stores are in good condition — they just need to be modernized," he says. "It looks a little beat up, but that's primarily the way that I like a lot of my furnishings."
His couch is traditional, with wooden legs; he bought it for $20 from Goodwill and re-upholstered it with dark gray fabric from IKEA. The same fabric drapes over the windows. Other thrift-store purchases include throw pillows and lamps, some that have been spruced up with a can of spray paint.
"Too much brand-new makes your home look like a showroom," he says. "Too much old and vintage makes your home look dated. And that's not the look that I'm after. I want to balance my home, my life and certainly my wardrobe."
Just like the striped fuschia bowtie Carraway wears to add a bold statement to his personal look, two random busts sit in his living and dining areas, respectively. Carraway has both a large horse's head (he found it at TJ Maxx and spray-painted it white) and a metallic-colored Julius Caeser.
"We all have unique things that we are attracted to. Sometimes we can't explain them," he says. "We don't know why girls like pink; they just do. We don't know why boys like the color blue, but they just do. For me, I just think [the busts] give the space a little history and character."
Carraway says one of his contributions to society is showing people that they can have luxury without paying too much for it — simply by perusing places like the Salvation Army, Goodwill and Value Village. He believes in this so much that he organized the first national "I <3 Thrifting Day" back in July.
"Why pay $4,000 for a dresser that I can get for $60 and repaint it," he says. "No, it's not a $4,000 piece, but it is certainly a great piece. And at the end of the day, if you die, you die with a $4,000 dresser. You can't take it with you."