Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Monday, September 28, 2009
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Friday, September 18, 2009
I had seen these chairs offered by
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
The class is taught at the
Last night was our first class. Our instructor, Paul, is an affable gentleman who admits to being a trash digger, too (I’m sure we’ll get along famously!). He actually passed along a ‘curb alert’ for a discarded rocking chair at the beginning of class! (He also told me about his collection of wooden casket trays that he acquires for free from funeral homes; he plans to use the lumber to build a shed. Not sure I’ll add those to my list of ‘must-haves’.) We spent the first half of class having the students introduce themselves, their furniture items, and project goals. It was fascinating to see what each person had brought, and the history associated with each item. My project is a small folding wooden table that I had acquired from Lord knows where years ago. It appears to date from the 1930s/40s, is made of pine (according to Paul), and has a removable blue plexiglass top. The finish is pretty distressed, and one of the legs is cracked near the top (a previous owner had used medical tape to secure it in place….Lovely!). This table actually resided in my basement den for the past three years, so even as-is it’s functional and rather charming (the medical tape repair is not immediately noticeable!). However, I thought it would be the perfect first project for me, since it needs both refinishing and repair.
After discussing my project with Paul, I decided that I want to try my hand at a black lacquer finish. Also, I hope to find a vintage piece of mirror to have cut for the top to replace the blue plexi. (I’ve discussed the project with my friend Diana; as an alternative to the mirror top, I’m considering a gold leaf reversed glass decoupage! Do you think that’d be a bit much? Oh, I hope so – too much is never enough!).
Another classmate, Janet, brought an
The second half of class was spent with the initial cleanup of our respective items. Paul instructed me to use water, then paint thinner, to clean the wood in prep for the lacquered finish. Janet is going to provide me with a ¼” dowel rod to use instead of the medical tape for repairing the cracked leg. (Interestingly, Paul said a bamboo chopstick is a good alternative to a wooden dowel!). I have a list of other supplies I need to gather for the next class, including a very fine bristle brush, steel wool (for lightly sanding the wood), and of course the lacquer itself.
Janet spent her time chipping away at the heavily damaged veneers on her trunk’s edges. I suggested she might consider edging the trunk in black lacquer (it’s all the rage!) to give it a high-Deco look.
It’ll be fun to see how each student approaches his or her project; I hope to have time to observe everyone as they tackle their respective challenges, and apply that knowledge to future projects. For now, just wish me luck on my little table, and stay tuned for updates from each class. Hopefully, the before-and-after pictures will show dramatic changes (for the better!).
Sunday, September 13, 2009
I probably should be very selfish with my vintage furniture sources; after all, seeking out unique home décor is a treasure hunt, and why tell all the other furniture pirates the location of the booty?!? Nonetheless, being the giver that I am, I’m compelled to share with my dear readers my absolutely favorite vintage décor source (besides, I’m notoriously bad at keeping secrets!).
Class and Trash, located just north of Richmond Virginia on Route 1, is an amazing warehouse of vintage and antique goods. Owned by my childhood friend Lisa Waldrop and her husband Kenny, I discovered it quite by accident one day several years ago while traveling down Route 1 with my mother; as we were speeding down the highway, I saw this large brick building with a bunch of outdoor furniture sitting in front, and almost gave my mother whiplash when I did a sudden hairpin turn into the graveled drive. Walking through the front door, I felt as though I’d entered Xanadu! Vintage home, garden, and collectible items were piled up as far as the eye could see! Imagine my surprise when the lovely lady manning the counter told the person she was speaking with on the phone, “Oh my God, Tammy, guess who just walked in the shop? HOWARD!” Lisa recognized me from YEARS ago, and happened to be on the phone with another classmate.
I was hooked from that point on. Turns out, Lisa and Kenny returned to our hometown of Ashland after spending several years in Northern Virginia. Their passion for collecting unique vintage items led them to start a small booth in an antique mall. Five years ago, they followed their dream (one shared by many of us furniture addicts!), moved back to Ashland, and opened their unique shopping emporium.
I find myself visiting Class and Trash at least once a month….Sometimes, though, I have to stop cold turkey, because I always find too many desirable items: vintage furniture, wonderful collectible pottery, architectural elements, even antique needlepoint pieces. Kenny and Lisa have quite a fan base; one Sunday morning last summer, while waiting to pick up a pristine French dresser that I had purchased weeks earlier (and which had belonged to the mother of the aforementioned classmate Tammy), there was a small crowd of ravenous shoppers eagerly awaiting Kenny and Lisa’s arrival to open their shop. The inventory of “as-is” items is constantly changing, and the shop has become a resource for many dealers in the Richmond area. The Waldrops gather their wares from estate sales, auctions, and private collectors. Lisa’s father even helps with the hunting; he somehow manages to regularly locate the odd piece of Homecraft patio furniture featured in one of my earlier postings!
Last Friday, I took Sharona to Richmond for her first C&T experience. She, too, was mesmerized by that day’s offerings. And, true to form, the shop was bustling and there were many interesting items to admire. A piece I found particularly desirable: a lovely wing chair (1920’s/’30’s) with its original upholstery, beautifully carved legs and ball-and-claw feet, all in fine condition (to be featured in a later post!).
I’m so pleased for Kenny and Lisa; they work extremely hard to ensure C&T provides a constantly changing array of unique furniture and décor for their client base, all at extremely reasonable prices. Their friendly, hands-on style makes everyone feel as if you’re stopping by for a fabulous neighborhood yard sale! Contrary to the shop’s name, Class and Trash is a class act all the way.
Thursday, September 10, 2009
Like many such afficionados, my interest in vintage furniture started partly by accident, partly out of necessity. More than 15 years ago, my now ex-partner and I moved into our first apartment in Alexandria, Virginia. Almost all the furniture for our one-bedroom third-floor walkup had traveled with me from Charlottesville via Richmond. However, one day the Ex discovered a discarded trestle dining table next to the complex’s dumpsters – our first rescued piece of furniture! He lovingly and painstakingly refinished the piece to a honey maple luster, and it became our dining table for many years. Other ‘found’ pieces followed: a bow-front dresser, a large shield mirror, and a fabulous cast aluminum patio table and chairs later identified as Brown-Jordan!
We also discovered the joys of estate sales. Our apartment complex was home to many elderly folk, and the unfortunate times when someone passed away or had to move to an elder care facility resulted in the need for their families to sell off their belongings. We were often amazed at the treasures to be found at these sales. The sofa pictured here (reupholstered several years ago in its current lotus flower-patterned damask) was one of our estate sale bargains. I’ve identified it as 1920’s, probably American, and it has the most wonderful grapevine carvings on the arms. For me, it is truly an heirloom piece.
Therein lies the most beautiful aspect of vintage furnishings: their history. My family had very few pieces of furniture that survived the years, or which were worth holding onto. Perhaps that’s why I’m so attracted to vintage décor; each piece has a story, a lineage that often may only be assumed, especially if the piece was discovered in a thrift store or as a result of “dumpster diving”. To me, that’s part of the thrill of discovery, and part of the daily pleasure a particularly treasured find provides. I love thinking about the period from which an item dates, and wondering about its provenance. By filling my home with unique vintage items, it’s as if I’m wrapping all that history around me….I’m surrounded by the stories each piece brings with it, and imagine that at some point someone else had a special fondness for each piece before it made its way into my life, into my personal story. And, I’d like to think that someday, perhaps my two godsons (who will eventually inherit all my wordly goods) will treasure these pieces, too, as part of their history.
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
These pieces represent one of the most stylish, cohesive groupings in my ‘collection’. The two chaises and the table/chairs set were given to me by my Sig-O; they conveyed with the house he bought in Capital Hill about 15 years ago. The people who built the house in the late 1960’s (soon after the riots) bought two rowhouses, tore them down (before the area around Eastern Market was designated Historic, and you were able to do such a thing), and built a Federalist-style house with a full-size pool in the back. These pieces were their original pool furniture. When Sig-O redid the pool decking years later, he was getting ready to junk these gloriously fabulous items, so I quickly snatched them up (complete with their vibrantly floral cushions!). According to the cushion labels, the furniture is by Homecraft, which still manufactures patio furniture.
More recently, I discovered several other pieces at my friends’ Lisa and Kenny’s shop in [undisclosed location] (more on their wondrous shop later!). From there I acquired an upright lounge chair (unbelievably, it came with the original bright yellow vinyl cushion that matches the floral ones!), as well as a three-person glider that is in remarkably great condition. I also discovered the complementary planter at L&K’s, though I haven’t been able to confirm it is indeed by Homecraft.
I’m crazy about the Jetson-esque lines! The design is streamlined to focus on form, while adhering to good ergonomic principles – in other words, they not only look good, but they’re pretty damned comfortable! My goal is to have them stripped and powdercoated; the mechanisms allowing for swivel and rocking motions are still incredibly smooth, but the finish has rusted in some spots. (The finish on the glider is particularly distressed, but it glides as if it were brand new! Very much want to have it refinished and have a cushion custom-made for it.) The design is so iconic of the late ‘60’s. Can’t you picture a bikini-clad Doris Day sunning in one of the chaises, hair wrapped in a chiffon scarf and holding a Mai-Tai? (OK, well, how about an inebriated Rock Hudson in the same garb??)
I’ve seen several exact pieces of these Homecraft items on 1stDibs, and on Websites for various NYC shops, without the original cushions, for $1000 +. Sig-O has threatened to take back the original pieces of my collection…..Yeah, just try it, bub!
Monday, September 7, 2009
Checked out the Arlington Civitan Yard Sale and Flea Market last Saturday, Sept 5. This event is held the first Saturday of each month, April thru November. BFF Sharona showed up at my house at
When we entered the garage, most of the vendors were completely set up and ready to sell. One of the first ‘booths’ we stopped at was fantastic; the vendor was an enthusiastic lady named Sam, who was offering some wonderful items at excellent prices. Sam’s story is that she had owned an antiques shop in Manassas, Virginia, but the downturn in the economy forced her to shutter her shop, and she subsequently lost her home. Very sad. So, she was selling some of her wares, which ranged from vintage Noritake handle soup bowls and saucers, to Victorian biscuit jars, to lovely French paintings and prints. My nose for the Italianate immediately took me to a PAIR of guilded metal candle sconces, which are an exact match to the chandelier in my dining room! According to Sam, these had previously resided in her own home, flanking the mantle in her living room. However, she mistakenly represented them as 1920’s French; from my own research of such pieces (many of which are in my personal collection – read about that later!), these items are 1960’s Florentine. Nonetheless, I chose not to argue the point, and instead paid the very reasonable price she was asking and cradled my finds back to the car.
Sharona and I scoped out the extensive and varied offerings of the other vendors. This flea market is so much fun! We discovered that almost all levels of the parking garage were filled with vendors, some with amazing vintage pieces. In particular, I saw several fun 1950’s boomerang tables and kitchenware, which I had to hold myself back from becoming too attached to! Also, there was one very affable gentleman with a nice collection of ‘40’s vintage rattan furniture. The wooden structures were in great condition, but unfortunately most pieces were without cushions. However, his partner was selling some lovely vintage fabrics which could have been used to recreate the perfect pre-Castro Cuba look for a solarium or funky living room.
One of the last vendors we happened upon had a fabulous set of eight folding wooden chairs. All were in decent working order, and the patina was so perfect: these chairs had been painted a lovely shade of medium green and had weathered over the years to a natural vintage crackled finish. (I’ve had this fetish for folding wooden chairs since seeing my friend Amy’s collection in her basement, which were on their way to the family’s cottage in Bethany Beach, Delaware. Amy alerted me to a set being sold at our kids’ Catholic school yard sale last spring, which I bought for a steal!) According to the couple selling them, the chairs originally resided in their beach house at Rehoboth for many years, til they ended up stored in the couple’s garage. Acknowledging that I REALLY didn’t need more folding wooden chairs (especially a set of EIGHT), I managed to tear myself away from them, and, after stopping by to bid Sam farewell til next month, Sharona and I departed for a French toast breakfast at our fave Greek diner.
But, in true Furniture Addict form, I could NOT get those damned folding chairs out of my mind!! I obsessed about them the entire time I was at the gym (trying to work off all that French toast and bacon and eggs!); I kept romanticizing the idea of the chairs finding their rightful place back in Rehoboth, albeit at Sig O’s condo there. I finally gave into my impulses, cut my workout short, and haul-assed it back to the Civitan Flea, which was closing in less than an hour. I managed to locate the vendor, and miraculously all eight chairs were still there! I offered him 10% less than his already very reasonable price (just to make myself feel better for giving in to my addiction), and he readily agreed (maybe I should’ve started lower?!? UGH…that’s my downfall…I’m always fearful of insulting a vendor by low-balling them.) In the end, I added a set of eight beautifully patina’d vintage folding deck chairs to my collection. And of course I called Sharona to blame her for not being there to stop me!
Is it possible to be addicted to furniture? Probably not physically addicted (unless your butt tragically gets stuck to a vinyl upholstered seat in 90 degree heat!). No, the addiction I’m referring to is best described as a craving, a preternatural desire for and attraction to home décor objects with unique form, line, or function: the sensual curve of a 1930’s wing chair, the striking geometric lines of art deco, the lush texture of quality upholstery. And such an addiction can pose some of the same hazards as any other: trawling dark streets and alleys, obsessively cruising Websites and classifieds (I swear, Craigslist is my crack!), spending the mortgage on items to feed the need…GOTTA HAVE IT GOTTA HAVE IT GOTTA HAVE IT
OK, so pardon the slight hyperbole. Nonetheless, some of you know exactly what I’m talking about. I KNOW there are others out there like myself, whose homes are chock full of furniture and decorative items that force you to use your (or a friend’s) attics and basements as ‘staging areas’, til you can decide what to switch out to make room for the latest find. Those who devour every page of the latest Elle Décor, whose furniture restoration project list rivals the To Do list of the most harried soccer mom, and who dream of some day opening the perfect little shop to showcase their accumulated treasures.
My own addiction takes the form of hunting for and collecting vintage home furnishings. I am particularly drawn to items from the 1920’s thru the 1970’s. Yes, that covers a broad range of styles (my home is decorated in what is politely referred to as “eclectic” style). I find myself attracted to a variety styles and periods, and get great pleasure from mixing it all together to represent my own peculiar viewpoint and vision. (Friends who visit my home for the first time always comment that my house is very “me”… I sometimes wonder if that’s a compliment!)
This blog is a way for me to share that viewpoint and vision, as well as my treasure-hunting experiences. I have a voracious appetite for vintage décor; I regularly trawl yard sales, flea markets, thrift stores, estate sales, and yes, the cursed CRAIGSLIST (any of you who are familiar with Curb Alerts understand the danger!!). I will also relate my 'furniture rescue' experiences (including those incidents of which I am not particularly proud: DDUIs (Dumpster Diving Under the Influence). I’ll warn you though, I am a bit protective of my ‘sources’; I may not always divulge the exact names/locations of the shops and areas where I make my best discoveries!
So, if you identify with Furniture Addiction, or if you suspect you have a problem, I hope you’ll join me regularly on this blog. It’s not a cure – more like an enabler. Go ahead – indulge! I promise you won’t hate yourself in the morning.