It happens when you’re not looking.

It happens when you're not looking | Modern Mrs Darcy

We’ve been half-heartedly searching for a new kitchen table for months.

Our old one (visible in this instagram shot) was truly terrible, not for how it looks, but for how it functions. The table was literally somebody else’s junk: my parents’ old tenants left it behind when they moved out of their rental house, because it wasn’t worth moving. I don’t remember how it ended up in our old basement, but it spent a good 5+ years there, buried under craft supplies.

We weren’t planning on moving it to the new house—it was destined for Goodwill, if not the dumpster—but at the last minute decided to use it as a stand-in for the new IKEA table we planned to pick up within weeks of the move. The new table was a top 5 priority.

But we soon discovered our space was just a little too snug to accommodate the table I’d picked out, and finding one that worked was tough. My casual searches didn’t turn up anything that was the right size, the right style, and the right price.

It happens when you're not looking | Modern Mrs Darcy

Now that we’ve been in our house five months, I was more than ready to cross this item off the list. (Top 5 priority—ha!)

I didn’t like our kitchen table, but Will hated it with a fiery passion. He was in Seattle for business last week, and I wanted to surprise him with a new one when he got home. (Not everyone likes that kind of surprise, but he hates making house decisions even more than I do: he just wanted it done.)

So for weeks, I looked and I looked and I looked, and found … nothing.

I called off the intensive search. We’d keep an eye on craigslist, or build our own if we had to. (Shudder.)

It happens when you're not looking | Modern Mrs Darcy

But then our electricity went out Friday night, and the kids and I made an impromptu Trader Joe’s run so we wouldn’t have to open the fridge.

We found a parking spot in front of the newish furniture store next door. I’d noticed it before, and the cottage-meets-modern pieces they set out on the sidewalk to lure you in.

Just inside the open door, they had a round wooden table that looked just the right size, painted a cheerful Mediterranean blue.

I pulled the kids inside. We confirmed it was the right size and within budget, and I texted photos to my friends with great taste. They approved, and on Saturday, I went back to buy it.

The table is all set up and we’re all really happy with it—even my husband (he’s home—yay!) and my child who fears change. It’s not practically perfect in every way, and it could use a glass top, but it’s 400x better than the old one, and that’s good enough for me.

The irony doesn’t escape me, but it no longer surprises me. This is far from the first time I’ve found the perfect (enough) thing when I wasn’t looking, maybe even because I wasn’t looking.

One of my mom’s rules of life is that you can’t force a shopping trip: great dresses stubbornly appear only when you don’t need them. You have to buy them anyway, because when the time comes when you actually need one you won’t be able to find one in the racks.

And I have a half-dozen friends who met their significant others at a time when they’d sworn off dating. They said they were done … and then they met someone who made them change their mind.

Maybe this is just one of the laws of the universe, like Murphy. But I’m tempted to think there’s logic behind it, as well as serendipity. When we’re looking for a table, we see tables. Lot and lots of tables, to evaluate and compare, and ultimately choose from those options.

But I wonder if our bar is higher when we’re not looking. We have to like the table (in my case) well enough to let it seize our attention, interrupt our day, pull us into the store, and inspire us to negotiate moving it home on the weekend I’m single parenting. That’s a table worth pursuing, and one I’ll (knock on wood!) be happy with.

Do you find the best stuff when you’re not looking? I’d love to hear your examples, and your theories about why it works. 

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  1. Crazy as it sounds, I kind of found our house that way. I had found another house I wanted to look at, but I didn’t want to call our realtor just to have him come show us one house. So I went back through the old listings and found a few more houses to look at that afternoon. When we pulled up in front of our house, I fell in love with it almost instantly. There are so many times I’ve thought about how we wouldn’t have even found our house that we now love so much if I hadn’t wanted to waste our realtor’s time with only one showing.

  2. Victoria says:

    Oh, Anne! What a cheery looking table 🙂 My husband and I just got a contract on a house and I’m so excited to start ‘setting up shop’. I love the boldness of that turquoise; makes me feel a bit more confident that we can pull of something bright and bold, too! As you mention, I think being patient and not pushing for house updates is the way to go. We can build our houses slowly, with purpose (as The Nester would say). It’s a beautiful process.

  3. Jamie says:

    Beautiful table!

    I had a similar experience with a cheese board last year. I so wanted one, but couldn’t find any for less than $60, which seemed absurdly expensive. I finally gave up looking all together. Then I randomly went window shopping with my mother at a new thrift store on a girls’ day out and found almost exactly what I had been looking at online for $3 !!!

    Needless to say, it immediately went in the cart and I have been immensely happy with it ever since. Now if only I could get that rule to work on light fixtures and other things that are ridiculously hard to buy… 🙂

  4. Tristan says:

    It totally works like that for me, for almost everything. As someone who really likes to have everything all planned out, it is rather frustrating. I can pretty much guarantee that if I go out looking for something I won’t find it, but then sometime later I will find the perfect chair (lamp, table, dress, shoes, etc) in some random place when I am not even thinking about it.
    Frequently it won’t even be a place where you would expect to find such a thing — I have found the best clothes, for example, at art festivals, or in stores that are not really clothes stores.

    Which reminds me that I am looking for a good reading lamp — because about 5 months ago 🙂 when we rearranged the living room we moved one chair away from the light, and now I can’t sit in it and read. But we have already gone through the usual suspects for lamp stores, so I sure hope that unexpected find happens soon…

  5. I like your theory! I am one of those who met my husband after I’d sworn off dating. But I’ve heard from single friends that they’re tired of being told they’ll meet someone once they stop looking, so I keep that to myself now. But in that case, my theory is that you develop a certain confidence once you’re not actively trying to attract someone, and that confidence is itself attractive, or else you decide to pursue things you’re interested in, in place of dating, and you meet someone who genuinely shares your interests.

  6. Rachel says:

    Love the table! Would you mind sharing what color your walls are painted? I have been looking for a great blue/gray shade and I love yours.

    • Anne says:

      The walls are Quiet Moments by Ben Moore. We have this color in three different spaces in our house, and it looks completely different (but quite nice) in each one, depending on the lighting.

  7. Anne says:

    It sure does happen when you’re not looking sometimes! What a fresh dose of cheer that corner provided this morning. Bet it feels great! 🙂

  8. Emma says:

    We came upon our block of land this way – and are now living in the little house we’ve built. We’d given up looking for quite some months, and then heard about this land through friends of friends. Love it when this happens 🙂

  9. Victoria says:

    I love it when that happens and it really does happen just when you need it most! Congrats on a new table and being reminded that good things come to those who STOP LOOKING. 🙂

  10. Molly says:

    I agree with your mom about the dresses. I can never seem to find a nice dress within budget when I need one. They always appear on the racks right AFTER the event I needed the dress for. I also had similar luck with looking for a new kitchen set. Our chairs were terribly rickety and the finish had worn off the table in some places so for months we searched for a table to fit our needs and our space. Right about the time I was ready to special order something, my sister moved and was planning to take her table set to the thrift store. We got it instead at the bargain price of helping her pack!

  11. Jeanne says:

    I actually like the old table – it was just wrong for the space and with the rest of the furniture. I never seem to find something when I specifically set out to look for it, so I end up being a “this is great, I shouldn’t pass it up” shopper. Not always a good solution either… Love your sunny breakfast nook, so happy with the new table!

  12. Nadine says:

    I almost didn’t click over because I figured this was about falling in love (aka good click bait!!). But then I did because what if it was and maybe you had the key I have been looking for and thus need to stop looking for. Either way I was going to lead a snarky comment about dating. So this is it. 😉
    Anyway, that table is lovely! I want to eat at a blue table. My bedside table, which used to be in the front entry of my old place is a similar blue and I love it.

  13. Vanessa says:

    I always find it best to shop when I’m broke, then I’ll find a lot of good things. Also, there did seem to be more guys around when I was already dating. It just took some pressure off the situation, I think.

  14. Peggy Minisi says:

    For the past 3 days I have not received your e-mails with kindle and nook daily deals or any of your other posts. Not in my spam folder. Just not receiving them. Having no problems with any other e-mails that I get on a daily basis. Am I the only one or has this happened to others?

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