Vintage collector lives a perfectly imperfect lifestyle in Pacific Beach
By embracing imperfections and spending frugally, Sheree Perelman has created a one-of-a-kind home filled with vintage treasures, collections and heirlooms.
Perelman’s Pacific Beach house was built in the 1940s. She describes it as a two-story, split-level beach bungalow. She’s lived in the home since 1998. Her two adult sons — one is 29, living in Nebraska, while the other is 27 and lives in PB — were both raised in the house.
While none of that is unusual, the home became uniquely hers after going through a divorce several years ago. After first deciding she needed to redecorate, Perelman said she decided to purchase everything she wanted secondhand and vintage.
Perelman even gained a following when she began showcasing her finds and display skills on Instagram.
She scours yard sales, thrift shops, online sales, flea markets, estate sales and sometimes even alleyways and curbs, where she said “the thrill of the hunt” is often as much fun as actually finding something.
Although she’s traveled as far as Long Beach and Pasadena for sales, she said she often finds treasures much closer to home.
“I love the sales in Pacific Beach, they are so much fun. And the yard sales in La Jolla are good,” she said.
Perelman added she loves living in Pacific Beach because it’s not “cookie cutter” and “every single house is different.” She also believes the difference in homes is reflected in the yard sales, with so much variety offered.
Her love of thrifted items and color begins even before the home is entered. Although Perelman says in an ideal world she would have a white picket fence with a yard full of wildflowers growing.
But with the sunshine and salty air typical of homes less than five minutes away from the beach, she chose a water-wise garden full of cacti and succulents, with red mulch for added color.
Perelman believes her love of secondhand finds has been passed down to her through generations.
“I come from a long line of antique dealers; back in the day they were called junkers,” she said. “My great-grandparents lived in Bangor, Maine. My great-grandfather would travel throughout Maine, riding his horse Fanny and looking for junk.”
She recalled that when he came home, he always fed his horse and put her in the barn before he did anything else. After that, he would sit with Perelman’s grandmother.
“She couldn’t wait to see him and hear all about his trips. It was some of her most treasured memories,” Perelman said.
Her grandparents also bought and sold antiques; some of her prized possessions include her grandmother’s hutch, a stein from Germany and a hand painted portrait.
But more than just the pieces themselves, Perelman found herself in love with the imperfections in the treasures.
For example, a mysterious past adds to the provenance of the old portrait.
“My grandmother had gotten the portrait back East, and the owners had pulled all the information off the back of it. She always suspected it had been done by a famous artist, so she wrote down the year she bought it and her recollections of the sale on the back,” she said.
Another one of her prize possessions is an Italian wood sofa with a displaced leg she found in an alley.
She sat next to it and did not move until she was able to find someone who would haul it to her house. By searching Craigslist on her phone, she was able to have the piece delivered for $50.
Describing the piece as gorgeous, but not too comfortable, Perelman said she later ended up meeting the sofa-dumping neighbor and learned it came from his grandmother.
Some of the items Perelman collects include Victorian shell art, lady head vases, white ironstone and old florals.
Antique, hand-painted portraits, however, she said are her obsession.
“My house is literally covered in portraits. I easily have at least 50; there’s at least 10 in one room alone,” she said.
For her, it’s all about the faces.
“Every face is different and every one tells a story. I just love them,” Perelman said, adding she’s been drawing faces since she was a little girl.
She prefers the really old ones when she can find them and said they are recognizable by the nailhead trim on the side of the frames.
Although she searches for original pieces, Perelman said it’s the amateur art that appeals most to her and she doesn’t like her finds to be perfect.
She’s so passionate about portraits she has even painted a few.
“I don’t have a clue what I’m doing, I just know my amateur portraits represent the flea market style that I love,” Perelman said of her own artwork.
Her love of old florals is similar, as she finds the combination of amateur art and color “just gorgeous.”
Her love of thrifting has even led her and a friend to be featured on the television show “Flea Market Flip” twice.
For the show, two teams of two are given a limited amount of time and money to purchase items from a large flea market, then transform them based on varying criteria. The transformed items are then sold at another flea market, with the winning team being the one that makes the biggest profit at the resell.
“I wasn’t a participant on the show, but was on it because I bought something that had been flipped,” she explained. “One piece was a chest table, like a game table, and I use it as a coffee table.”
As part of being on the show, Perelman and her friend met the host, Lara Spencer, and received autographed books.
Although as a beginning collector Perelman said she bought everything, she now looks for specific items, paying attention to cost and size.
“I want to curate my collections and tell a story with how they are organized. Besides, I don’t want to turn into a hoarder,” she laughed.
Because she doesn’t spend too much money on her purchases, it is easier for Perelman to change her mind. She’s not afraid to donate or give away pieces that no longer work for her, or to use her items in unexpected ways.
She has used an antique purse to hold postcards, hung up a beaded throw just because it looked good, used old quilts as tablecloths and covered vintage furniture with fabric she purchased at yard sales.
Her pets round out her family. She lives with Esme, a 13-year-old black cat; Sky, a 1 1/2-year-old Siamese whom Perelman nicknamed “the Destroyer;” and Sawyer, her 6 1/2-year-old toy poodle mix.
Being able to walk Sawyer on the beach is one of her favorite things about life in Pacific Beach, Perelman said.
While a love of vintage furnishings doesn’t always mesh with a love of animals Perelman has found ways to make both her passions work.
“If your pets destroy something, just recover it or repurpose it. If you get something new, chances are they are just going to ruin it again, so find a way to make it work,” she said.
Even her beloved grandmother seemed to accept that owning pets meant accepting imperfections in her beloved antiques.
“My grandmother lived with us and she was a huge presence in my life. She always had hookbills and my nickname for her was Parrot. I have scars all over my hands from her birds,” Perelman said.
She describes her grandmother’s hutch as her “pride and joy,” even though the steeples have all been chewed off due to her grandmother regularly letting her cockatiels out of their cage.
“It’s all about give and take. When you love vintage, you love the imperfections, because that’s part of the piece and tells a story,” she said.
With her home becoming filled with her finds, Perelman recently sold some items on Facebook Marketplace and is considering opening an Etsy online shop.
Whatever the future holds, Perelman feels sure she’ll continue to enjoy the thrill of the hunt.
“It’s my guilty pleasure. I enjoy going to the flea markets and sales with just my dog; it’s my therapy,” she said.
To see more of Sheree Perelman’s unique finds, visit her Instagram @shereevintage.