Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Drowning. Overwhelmed. In over my head. That pretty much describes how I’m feeling this week about the state of my furniture addiction. Devotees of this blog have an idea of how frantic my quests for the Next Great Vintage Find have been lately. You’ve traveled with me as I’ve scoured antique/thrift/junk shops and flea markets, joined me in haunting the streets of my Arlington neighborhood, and read of my endless Craigslist cruisings (of the Free/Furniture/Antiques kind, that is). Hopefully you’ve enjoyed the lovingly-snapped pictures of the fruits of my labor. Other times, you may have shed tears of empathy for my missed opportunities (remember the French settee ?
But now, as I struggle to maneuver around my tiny home in Arlington, the sheer weight of the work that lies before me threatens to send me into the antithesis of Vintage Vertigo: Fix-it Phobia. Those of you who can relate to the thrill of finding a discarded or neglected piece of vintage décor treasure can most certainly understand the approach/avoidance phenomenon of such pursuits. Like the woman who is convinced she can change the shortcomings of her boyfriend, we vintage junkies are sure there is silk to be made from the sow’s ear. Such confidence (delusion?) often results in an endless list of To Do’s: scraping, sanding, gluing, painting, staining, caning, stapling, upholstering….The great number of tasks required to elevate the trash to treasure eventually seems insurmountable.
And that’s where I am at this point in our journey. Even before this most recent period of manic acquisition, my List runneth over: the ripped cane back of Windsor chair purchased years ago at an estate sale; the rusted Homecraft glider sans cushion; the distressed teardrop-backed iron ‘50s-vintage garden chairs; the ragged channel-back upholstered chair with the marred ball-and-claw feet; and on and on and on…. On the bright side, I am making some inroads. Two chairs are in the hands of an upholsterer (and if I must say so myself, my design incorporating a cacophony of fabrics and trims will positively wreak of Fabulocity!). And two other pieces are, well, in some state of refurbishing (thanks to the “Furniture Repair and Refinishing” class , which will resume in January).
Nonetheless, the attic is collapsing under the weight of my passion. The small bedroom in the basement has been dubbed “The Chair Room”, in honor of the seven pieces that fill the Tom Thumb-sized space. And, thanks to three newly acquired tables, reaching my kitchen once I wearily crawl downstairs each morning has become an exercise not unlike an obstacle course better suited for a Marine recruit.
So, dear readers, I’ve finally been forced to face this detrimental aspect of my otherwise exceedingly satisfying addiction. Yes, I must now answer The Question That Should Never Be Asked: “But where will I put it?”.
I’ve been avoiding this for years. The solution has been tickling the deepest recesses of my mind, always present but repressed – til now. But alas, Dear Readers, I must ask you to wait for our next episode, “Foraging for Storage”. Be forewarned: it ain’t a pretty journey.
Sunday, October 25, 2009
Your fave addict experienced a serious bout of acquisition mania last week. The onslaught of a nasty cold, combined with dreadful weather, must have put me in a particularly weakened state. The defenses were down, and I was especially susceptible to the wiles of vintage furnishings.
Saturday: This prolonged episode of Vertigo started with a trip to that bastion of vintage booty, Class and Trash . Godson "V" accompanied me on a chilly and rainy morning on the trip south (godson "D" had a soccer game – in 43 degrees and pouring rain! What madness!). Actually, in my defense, I had a legitimate reason for visiting C&T (as if I need an excuse!): a fantastic ‘30s vintage Chippendale-style wing chair that I had asked Lisa and Kenny to hold for me awaited a redesign. Armed with a bag full of fabric, I was on my way to label the chair with swatches as a way of informing my upholsterer Blanca on how to proceed with turning the chair from frumpy to total Fabulocity!
Upon arriving at C&T, Vidic and I were greeted by Lisa and Kenny’s assistant Tammy – and a most interesting table that was sitting just inside the store. I swear, Kenny placed this delightful and unique (though a bit marred and scarred) item right where I would immediately become enamored with it (he’s so evil that way). Of course, in typical C&T manner, there were many other pieces of décor sitting on and around the table, requiring me to engage both Tammy and godson in unearthing the beckoning relic. Upon digging out my find, it still presented a puzzle; while it initially appeared to be simply a console table (with wonderfully carved legs ending in perfectly intact and beautifully detailed ball-and-claw feet), it was apparent that the table somehow was meant to expand into something more. Perhaps a game table? After flipping the top, we discovered that the two halves actually pulled apart; the two leaves sitting nearby belonged to this amazing piece and, once the hidden support legs were unfolded, could be easily inserted to convert this console into a dining table sufficiently large to seat six! Needless to say, this treasure was claimed in the name of Howard.
Wednesday: Having driven back to and around town for four days with the aforementioned console/dining table in the back of the Passat (clearly visible for all the jealous gawkers), I was still flying from the high of my discovery when I ventured into the virtual ghetto of Craigslist . No sooner had I started perusing the day’s offerings when I happened upon a listing for a “Queen Anne Desk” available in Capitol Hill – for a seemingly quite reasonable price. Although the picture included in the ad was of an intriguing piece of furniture, it most certainly did not show anything resembling the Queen Anne style; nonetheless, I felt compelled to inquire into the availability of the piece.
After some email traffic between me and the offeror, I finally succumbed to the Siren’s call once again, and arranged to stop by the Cap Hill home to visit the desk on my way to have dinner with Sig-O and family. That evening, before venturing into the Hill, I had to stop in Arlington to unload the table from C&T to make room for the impending purchase. (You see, although I had not overtly committed to the desk, I knew that I would be too weak to say ‘no, thank you’ once I had it within my grasp. I am nothing if not insightful.)
I was greeted at the door of the desk’s residence by the husband of the lady with whom I had negotiated via email. A most affable man from Kentucky, he told me a charming tale of finding the desk during one of his many antiquing trips around Manassas, Virginia. Well, dear readers, I guess I was in a particularly weakened state; I agreed to purchase the desk for the asking price, although upon close inspection the desk appeared to be neither Queen Anne nor antique. Indeed, I would not be surprised if the item was actually made in a high school woodshop (though perhaps by someone’s now elderly father, which I suppose would at least make it ‘vintage’!). Ah, but still it is a lovely piece, and I’m sure I can find a place for it among my collection. I’m discriminating, but hate to discriminate. Oh well, perhaps I was expecting too much honesty from a Hill politico. And, perhaps feeling a bit guilty for attempting to lead me astray with his tale of antiques, the seller did throw in a non-vintage yet lovely sconce as well as a large wall map for the godsons.
Thursday: Less than twenty-four hours later, and with the Hill desk having taken the place of the C&T table in the cargo-hold of my Passat, I found myself in one of our local hookah bars toasting Sharona at a Happy Hour fest wishing her well on her new job. About an hour into the festivities, I receive a text from Diana, the Lady D; the message only contained a picture of two massive wing chairs and a matching ottoman! I immediately ran outside into the cool, quiet night to call Lady D. Visiting a local Falls Church thrift shop, she had come upon these items and of course had to signal me of their presence. After some detailed descriptions, we finally decided that I must at least have the ottoman; Diana handled the transaction, and offered to transport the ottoman in her vehicle for me to pick up the next day at the office. Diana also felt that I really should see the chairs, so I eventually excused myself from Sharona’s fete and rushed to the thrift store in hopes of not becoming instantly enamored with two large chairs which I would have no way of transporting.
Upon arriving at the shop, I quickly homed in on the objects of my search. They were indeed as large and enticing as the Lady Di had described! Although not terribly vintage (mid-‘80s?), they appeared to be in good structural condition, and the upholstery, though a tad outdated, was pristine. The Queen Anne-style legs (yes, REALLY Q-A style this time!) were ornately carved, and the winged sides included unique armrests. However, the handwritten tag attached to each showed a price significantly higher than that which Diana had quoted over the phone. A quick call to her revealed that the shop’s workers had apparently decided that the chairs were more valuable than originally thought. And, since the ladies manning the store during my time there seemed less than willing to discuss the chairs with me, my disgust overwhelmed my interest and I chose to leave the shop sans wing chairs.
By the end of the next day (Friday), Diana and I had successfully completed our ottoman transaction. Now, days later, I have (1) an “antique Queen Anne” desk and (2) a chairless ottoman being transported hither and yon in the back of the furniture-weary Passat. Both my wallet and I are drained by my extended bout of Vintage Vertigo, and I can’t bring myself to carry yet another piece of furniture into my already cramped home. Yet, the Lady D called me earlier to inform me that the thrift store has assured her they would (probably) honor the original quoted price on the massive wing chairs. Damn.
Friday, October 23, 2009
Had the pleasure of having dinner with my dear friend J.L. at her home in Springfield, Virginia. J.L., now semi-retired, formerly had an interior decorating practice. I’ve always admired her sophisticated eye and ability to carefully edit a room’s decor. For years, her spacious townhome has been cheerfully swathed in pink and white with accents of green, with comfortable and chic furnishings. I've always enjoyed visiting with her, and marveling at her innate sense of style and hospitality.
After a delicious dinner of roasted peppered beef, butternut squash, and asparagus, J. L. delighted me with fabric and wallpaper swatches she’d selected for her extensive redecorating project. Having foraged through the showrooms of the DC Design Center , she was armed with sumptuous brocades and damasks for her living room’s down-cushioned Chippendale-style sofa and French chairs. Over a warm berry dessert, we also had great fun with wallpaper samples for her dining room, selecting a glamorous Donghia grasscloth that will positively shimmer in the glow of her new crystal chandelier. And, she plans to accent her kitchen’s sitting area with framed prints of her amazing nature photos, which have a textural quality that will beautifully compliment the overall elegance of the revamped space. (I also had the opportunity to once again admire her lovely McGuire chairs and table, which I threatened to confiscate if ever given half a chance!)
Several hours later, filled with delicious food and warmed by great company, I departed J.L.’s home with the delightful gift of a GlamKat doll ("Esperanza"), seen here posing in one of a pair of Victorian chairs (purchased years ago at DC’s St. Peter’s Catholic School’s annual yard sale) in my Arlington house. Seated in her permanent space at the bottom of my stairs, Esperanza is the purrfect reminder of my splendid friend and fellow décor junkie!
Thursday, October 15, 2009
The godsons and I had an early Saturday morning yard sale-ing date. The previous weekend, we’d seen signs advertising several such events around Capitol Hill’s Eastern Market area. My youngest godson, “V”, shares my enthusiasm for trash digging, so it’s only natural that we would enjoy the innate thrills of searching for treasures among other people’s belongings (albeit while they watch!). And, older godson “D” is just as happy to join in the melee.
Once again, I set my alarm for 6 AM Saturday morning, just so we could be among the early birds (hey – I can always sleep-in during the off-season months). True to form, V was awake and dressed and met me at the door when I arrived at Sig-O’s Cap Hill home less than two hours later. (‘D’ was still basking in Dreamland, so V and I decided to do reconnaissance at our first scheduled stop of the day: the annual “Trash to Treasure” yard sale at 6th and I Streets SE; doesn’t it just sound divine?!?). Imagine our overwhelming disappointment when, after rushing to get to the Promisedland, we discover that the T2T sale had been postponed to NEXT Saturday, all because of the threat of rain! AMATEURS! V and I weren’t afraid of a few potential raindrops! Not about to let this turn of events derail us from our saling quest, we drove back to Sig-O’s house to regroup.
By this time, D was out of bed, but still draggin’. So, while he finished pulling himself together V and I walked the few blocks to Eastern Market to hunt for signs of other sales. With notebook in hand, the eight year-old V made a list of potential homes to visit; once they had been prioritized and mapped out for maximum logistical efficiency, we went back to pick up D in hope of finding a grand variety of must-haves.
The first stop on our newly prioritized list turned out to be most fortuitous (and costly!). The signs directing us this garage sale indicated there would be VINTAGE FURNITURE! Rushing the godsons down the now slightly wet brick sidewalks along North Carolina Avenue towards the Hill’s Lincoln Park, we spotted our destination a block away: there, sitting on the sidewalk, were several substantial pieces of furniture and home decor. Already this sale hinted at being the mother lode!
The closer we got to the home, the more shallow my breathing became….Two gentlemen were in the process of setting up for the sale, dragging more and more pieces of finery out of a garage that seemed built solely for the purpose of housing décor overflow. Although we were arriving a few minutes before the designated start time, the sale was already in full swing. A table sitting on the tiny lawn along the drive immediately caught my attention: a rectangular rattan base painted orangey yellow, with a cream laminate top. At first glance, it appeared that there was a folding laminate screen had been placed on top of the base. However, further investigation (and a query to one of the sale’s sponsors) uncovered that the laminate actually unfolded and slid across the bases, converting the piece from a sofa table to a dining table! Details included brass fittings along the top’s edges and the feet. Though not terribly vintage (late ‘80s?), the table’s vibe was quite chic and functional.
While D and V were searching through the detritus of a neighboring yard sale, many other pieces from the gentlemen’s collection struggled for my attention: an oak rolltop desk, a column rescued from a period Cap Hill home, and an Empire-style keyhole desk. However, a set of black painted dining chairs placed near the garage’s opening kept issuing the Siren’s Call. The six (five side- and one arm-chair) humbly sat along the yard’s edge, without seat bottoms. I noticed one of the gentlemen in the garage, armed with a staplegun and hastily covering a wooden seat with red twill; might this be for the chairs currently in my sight?
Twirling amongst the bounty of this locale, I recognized that I was beginning to get swept into the Vintage Vertigo vortex. Breathing deeply, I extracted myself enough to (1) locate D&V, who were negotiating the purchase of a cookbook next door, and (2) step back from the delicious décor lying before me in order to make some semblance of a calm and rational buying decision. The owner of all these treasures (who, as it turns out, had moved to the Hill two years ago from Savannah and felt the need to downsize his extensive décor collection) became keenly aware of my interest and strolled over, ready to strike a deal. We discussed several of the pieces, but my attention kept getting drawn to the unique slide-top table. However, I managed to tear myself away, with the intent of pondering all the possibilities before me while checking out other sales on our list (and heading back to the Passat to measure the wagon’s maximum cargo capacity!).
Along the way, D&V picked up several treasures of their own: a world globe sitting on a wooden stand, a pair of cut-glass votives, and – OMG! – a trio of disco ball keychains (for godson V, of course!). Knowing that Sig-O (whose parting words to me that morning were, “PLEASE don’t let the boys buy a lot of junk!”) would go into cardiac arrest once he saw the boys’ box of booty, I nonetheless accompanied D&V back to their house, globe in hand like the mighty Atlas. (To his credit, when Sig-O greeted us at the door, he simply sighed heavily and left for a dogwalk.) After unloading from Round 1, the boys assisted me with measuring the Passat’s interior, and we headed back to the garage sale; I was now armed with the knowledge of my transport limitations, and the resolve to purchase ONLY the chic table – and ONLY if its measurements proved to be Passat-compliant.
A block away from our destination, we saw Sig-O and pup walking towards us; they happened to be directly in front of the garage sale at that very moment! Commanding Sig-O to stay put, my cohorts and I crossed the street and began to engage him in examining our potential purchases. (While I was concerned with Sig-O’s thoughts on the folding-top table, D&V accosted their dad with the merits of a stuffed Flying Monkey being offered for $2. We all have our obsessions.) Sig-O, typically less enthusiastic about the object of my desire (I had low expectations going in!), asked the ridiculous “Where Are You Going to Put It” question, then continued on his dogwalk. However, before he had gotten very far, another guy strolled up and greeted us both. “Kevin” recognizing us from Results gym, engaged in friendly banter while I simultaneously began negotiating the garage sale’s host for the folding-top table. While I was bemoaning the fact that I had no way to transport (much less store!) all the pieces offered as part of his initial deal (the table, six dining chairs, AND the Empire desk), our rediscovered acquaintance Kevin graciously offered to assist with the transport dilemma – his pickup truck was parked only a few feet way! OK, now it was decision time: in an effort to compromise on my desires, I finally negotiated a fair price for the table and the dining chairs. It was arranged that Kevin would carry the chairs (and godson D) back to Sig-O’s house, and I would come back later in the day to claim the table.
Hoping beyond hope that Sig-O would have left for his gym workout before a truckload of chairs arrived at his doorstep, V and I hurried back to the house. But of course, Sig-O was there to greet us and my newfound treasures. He agreed to let me temporarily store them in his garage. However, sensing that the thought of having any of my finds cramping his space was enough to induce cardiac infarction, once he left I managed to fit the six chairs and the two godsons into the Passat, and off we went back to Arlington to unload (and have a well-earned Mickey D’s breakfast).
Within a couple of hours, the dining chairs were in the already cramped (I mean, ‘cozy’) Chateau d’ Howard, D&V were returned to Cap Hill, and the chicest-of-chic rattan table was loaded into the Passat/delivery truck (where, BTW, it still resides).
We didn’t make it to ALL the sales on V’s list, but I think we did a commendable job anyway. And, we still have the Trash-to-Treasures Yard Sale coming up!
Monday, October 12, 2009
My oh my, but it has been a busy week! Once again, with my tale of the latest Fairlington Exchange treasures , I led you Dear Readers down a path of search and discovery. I kept you hanging for days on end with promises of yet even more flea market finds from the October 3rd Arlington Civitan Flea . I’d say it’s about time I made good on my promise!
At the close of my last account, Sharona had arrived at my home bright an early – 6:50 AM! Coffee in hand, we proceeded to the spot in Arlington we had discovered only last month – the Arlington Civitan Flea Market, between the neighborhoods of Ballston and Clarendon. Once again, we arrived in sufficient time to grab a great parking space. Although the weather looked a bit foreboding, the parking area was quickly reaching capacity, and bleary-eyed shoppers were streaming into the parking structure that housed all the vendors.
Our very fist stop was to visit ‘Sam’ whom I had mentioned in last month’s Civitan episode. Having purchased the pair of 1960’s gilded Florentine sconces from Sam in September, I was anxious to see her available wares for this month. Although I was once again tempted by the set of vintage Noritake handle-soup cups with saucers, I was a bit disappointed that there were seven, and not eight, pair in the set. This being the most attractive of her offerings, Sharona and I decided to continue meandering through the impromptu shops to see all there was to be seen while I pondered the purchase.
While there appeared to be nearly as many vendors represented in the parking garage/flea mall as last month, Sharona and I both expressed that the quality of goods offered seemed a bit less than our previous experience. Nonetheless, as we strolled through, there were some pieces that called to us: a refurbished steamer trunk (also seen last month); a large (10’x14’) wool Persian rug of excellent quality, condition, and price; and, handcrafted mobiles/windchimes of found objects. The last of these were particularly fascinating; made of such items as broken bottles, rusty horseshoes, and pieces of vintage porcelain faucets, the mobiles were incredibly unique and mesmerizing. I wish I had remembered to get the artisans contact info; alas, I must hope that he participates in next month’s event – the last for the 2009 season.
Eventually, we came upon a vendor whose table of various china pieces caused a fit of glee…. There, among the odd pieces of tableware and miscellany, sat FOUR king-sized (i.e. double) egg coddlers ! One was even in its original Royal Worcester box! Dear reader, you may recall from an earlier post that I collect these darling crucibles of English porcelain, and coddlers are always on my radar when traipsing through any flea market or vintage store. But in all my years, I have not come across FOUR double coddlers, all in pristine condition! As if this discovery were not sufficiently sweet, the negotiated sales price was beyond reasonable. Finally, I had found treasures at the day’s Flea that made the early wake-up time worthwhile!
Coddlers in hand, Sharona and I continued our quest. By now, however, we were being particularly discriminating and judicious with the time spent in each vendor’s area. You see, it was also my birthday (my Forever Age is, BTW, 27), and Sharona had promised me a breakfast of French toast/eggs/bacon at our fave Alexandria haunt, Atlantis . Only such culinary delights could tear me away prematurely from a flea market (after all, even addicts have to eat).
As we commandeered ourselves through the vendors’ tables and the meandering shoppers, we remembered to stop back by to see the Made in England matron. Fortunately, several of the pieces I had admired earlier were still there, waiting to be claimed and incorporated into my own hodgepodge collection. Intent on purchasing only one item (or, in this case one group of items), I chose a set of four bone china dessert plates (all Made in England, of course!). Three of the plates are by Royal Grafton , and one by Regency . From my Internet research, I discovered that all four were most likely made in the 1950s. Although they are of two different manufacturers, the designs and shapes are remarkably similar, and they easily serve as a complete set.
As I was completing my sale, my attention was grabbed by another little piece I had seen during my earlier encounter with this vendor. There, sitting among the more dainty floral china items, was a little pitcher of insanely green color and gold trim. What was most intriguing about this vessel – aside from its vibrant coloring -- was it shape: rather squatty, with a squared wavy handle. Quite honestly, I found it completey delightful! (The pitcher is marked “Carlton Ware, Made in England”, and is stamped “1347/3”. My research -- was there really life BI, Before Internet??-- indicates that this piece was made in the 1920s. Indeed, the design is tres’ Art Deco.) Purchasing this item was most definitely a win-win, since the seller seemed as pleased to have made the sale as the buyer was in making the find! Sharona also found a delightful set of china saucers (and, believe it or not, they were MADE IN ENGLAND!), so we parted ways with a very happy vendor. (Actually, it was a bit difficult to tell if she was happy or not, being English and thus rather reserved, but we decided to project.)
By this time, the siren call of Atlantis’ French toast overwhelmed the waning promise of more vintage Flea finds. Having decided to forego yet again the Noritake soup set Sam was offering, Sharona and I made our way to her convertible and, content with the few yet fabulous Flea items in our possession, proceeded to my birthday breakfast bonanza. It was a morning of satisfaction on many levels! Ah, 27 is such a lovely age!
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
I must begin this post, dear readers, with a note of sincerest apology. Last week, I regaled you with a story of successes with my neighborhood’s monthly Exchange program, and promised to relate the upcoming “First Saturday” adventures. Then, as if that weren’t enough to cause sleepless anticipation, I dangled the “Civitan Flea Market ” carrot, with allusions to more potential Tales of Treasures Found. However, here it is days and days later, and I have yet to satisfy the cravings I so devilishly induced. I teased, but have yet to please.
In my defense (please accept this as a reason, and not as an excuse), I must confess that the results of my Friday and Saturday excursions were so deliriously satisfying, so intensely intoxicating, that it has taken me almost a week to recover sufficiently to speak of them. It was indeed, this addict’s Lost Weekend.
As you know, Friday night was the eve of the ‘hood’s monthly Bulk Trash Pickup (a sordid epithet for such an eagerly anticipated event!). Having dined on the Hill with Sig-O and the godsons, I had to excuse myself around 9 PM to engage in the night’s Exchange program. (Sig-O, resigned to the manifestations of my addiction, accepted my need to return home so early in the evening.) Bidding a fond goodnight to The Guys, I hurried southward to hunt unknown bounty.
On the short drive home, my hopes of a gleeful night of trash digging were almost quite literally dampened by an unexpected rain shower. My curses to the weather gods proved to be premature; the potential calamity passed before I turned into the neighborhood’s tree-lined entry, its sweeping brick pillars welcoming me like Bernini’s colonnade embraces visitors to St. Peter’s Square. Indeed, sometimes the treasures awaiting one on Exchange night rival those found at the Vatican….
Traveling what has become my routine course on such nights, I immediately came upon a matching pair of wooden folding beach chairs, complete with canvas sling seats. Convinced these must have been discarded because they were broken beyond repair, I was delighted to find that, while faded and in need of a good cleaning, they were completely functional and salvageable. While not terribly ‘vintage’, they nonetheless made it into my Passat wagon.
Continuing the hunt, I had almost decided that the folding chairs would have to satisfy my cravings when I accidently turned down an unfamiliar street. (My neighborhood, like so many in Arlington County, has streets of such convoluted design as to confound the most advanced GPS devices.) However, it was a most serendipitous detour: there, in the darkness of an ancient oak’s shadow, sat an undeniably vintage (dare I say, antique) wooden armchair! My mind barely registered the chair’s condition before I had leapt out of the car to claim my find. (I must admit that I am always engaging in these trash digging activities with at least a hint of trepidation; I have an irrational fear of absconding with a piece of claimed décor that someone has simply set by the curb while they retrieve their vehicle….Of course, such thoughts make the ravenous addict side of me all the more manic in claiming my fix!)
Fortunately I managed to fit my newest treasure amongst its more contemporary traveling companions, the beach chairs. The clouded moon provided barely enough light for me to observe that my new old chair was acceptably sound, although the cane backing was ripped and the cushioned seat was in dire need of new upholstery. But, adhering to the “don’t-ask-where-it-will-go-or-for-what-purpose” rule, I gleefully returned home, satiated at last.
The next morning, Sharona was scheduled to arrive at my house by 6:50 so that we could arrive at the Arlington Civitan Flea Market shortly after opening. Managing a scant 6 hours sleep, I was unable to sufficiently recover from my Vintage Vertigo stupor of the night before. Nonetheless, I rallied – after all, The Hunt waits for no one! Recalling the episode of the night before, I realized I had to empty my car of the recent acquisitions (to make room for any NEW acquisitions from the Flea!). It was not til then that I got a good look at my latest vintage/antique piece. As I had perceived upon first capturing my quarry, the chair seemed to be in reasonable shape; a few joints were loose, but the carvings were intact, and there was little damage to the wood itself. The style perhaps is Edwardian; more research is necessary. Regardless, I have been churning on how to refinish it, and I have some very quirky ideas to make this chair rather edgy – think “rocker chic”!
The chair made it into my already crowded home. But like the stereotypical crazy lady with a hundred cats, there’s always room for one more castaway. Sharona arrived right on time, and since she agreed to drive to the Flea, the beach chairs were allowed to stay in the Passat (and eventually found their way into Sig-O’s garage….After all, once I paint the frames and dye the canvas, they should reside in Rehoboth Beach!).
And THEN, at the Civitan Flea….Ah, but now you must wait for Part II of The Lost Weekend ("Coddled on my Birthday"). After all, I’m still recovering, and have to regain my strength….
Sunday, October 4, 2009
Alas, dear readers, not every Dumpster Diving story has a happy ending. Certainly there are many among the ranks of vintage décor hunters who have loved and lost: finders of apparent vintage gems, who later discover their treasures are as irreparably broken as a butterfly’s wing. However, what follows is a much sadder tale, not one of broken dreams but rather of fate’s cruelty….
Recently, while taking a much needed respite from the drudgery of The Job (i.e., the one that funds my furniture addiction), I succumbed to my habit which I had managed to avoid for some weeks – browsing Craigslist. I entered the CL world, with the intention of journeying through the Washington DC listings in my routine order: “Free”, “Antiques”, and “Furniture”. However, shortly after initiating my scan through the “Free” category (and after skipping ads offering such questionable items as “Half Box of Frozen Dreamsicles”), I happened upon an ad that stopped me in my tracks: the lister was GIVING AWAY a 19th century French settee. Yes, FREE. The owner indicated he/she to be despondent over having to part with such a treasure, but nonetheless circumstances (which must have been dire) mandated that this glorious piece be left by the curb for the first taker.
The ad indicated the settee was awaiting rescue on a street in Alexandria, Virginia – only a few miles form my office! I immediately sent an email to the lister asking if the piece was perchance still available. Since the ad had been posted over an hour prior to my seeing it, I had no doubt that my inquiry was in vain.
After another hour passed without any response, I decided to throw caution to the wind: I called friend Doogie (who works in my office building, one floor above) and told him that we needed to embark on a furniture rescue mission. As this was not the first time Doogie had been called upon to accompany me on such an undertaking, he immediately agreed. Within minutes, after Googling the street address stated in the CL ad, we were off in my Passat wagon like a furniture EMS team to save the settee.
Doogie, being more familiar with the layout of that particular niche of Alexandria, deftly maneuvered us to the identified street. There, nestled among the closely parked cars, was the object of our search…and it was more alluring in person than in its CL photo! Yes, dear readers, it incited an attack of Vintage Vertigo! Trembling with the thrill of discovery, I pulled my car to the curb (shielding my find from others who may have embarked on the same search) and began removing everything from my car that may hinder the loading of the treasured settee. (Such items included another rescued item of the French persuasion: a 1970s vintage dining chair, saved from certain ruin on Sig-O’s Capital Hill street weeks earlier, intended as a project in my Furniture Repair and Refinishing class. I had visions of strapping the chair – and Doogie – to the Passat’s luggage rack in order to transport the settee to its rightful home.) Although Doogie the Dubious doubted my ability to get the substantial settee into the Passat’s rear compartment, I assured him, “IT. WILL. FIT.”
Recognizing that making good on my promise would require some assistance, I frantically searched for someone to engage in my task. Low and behold, like a gift from the furniture gods, but a few houses down the street was a crew of landscapers! I quickly approached one of the gentlemen, and without preamble offered him $5 to help me move the settee de’francais from the gutter into its awaiting chariot; having earlier seen the beauty in distress, he readily agreed.
Although he shared Doogie’s doubts, the landscaper heartily assisted us in maneuvering the settee through the Passat’s rear hatch. But, oh the furniture gods, they are a’fickle! Despite all our finagling, IT.DIDN’T.FIT. Indeed, the now seemingly gargantuan structure of wood and velvet actually got stuck halfway in the car! The trio of rescuers was finally able to dislodge the faded lady and I, spiraling down from my Vintage Vertigo crescendo, was forced to admit defeat.
Having no other resource to call upon (that is, no friend with a truck), I solemnly placed the settee back in its spot among the trash receptacles. As Doogie and I drove away, I forlornly caught my last vision of the settee in the rearview mirror; cursing the inadequacies of the Passat, I once again proclaimed to the heavens the obvious: “I NEED A VAN!” And to the lovely French settee,
Un amour qui hante mon coeur à jamais... un amour pour l'éternité et l'espoir de trouver la paix un jour... des mots qu'un amoureux parti ne verra pas...Adieu, mon amour. Adieu.*
*(A love that forever haunts my heart...love for eternity and a hope to find peace some day….Farewell, my love. Farewell.)
Friday, October 2, 2009
Dumpster Diving. Trash Digging. Recycling. Whatever you choose to call it, from my previous postings you already know I get a great thrill out of coming upon discarded treasures. Personally, I like to consider it “rescuing” furniture and home décor objects from inevitable destruction. The idea of some perfectly good home décor object meeting untimely end in some landfill is totally offensive to me. And in this new “green” era, what could be more environmental and economical?
I’ve had some fabulous successes because of where I live. In my neighborhood, which is a wonderfully preserved and well-regarded historic district in Arlington, Virginia, the first Saturday of every month is officially called “bulk trash pick-up”; unofficially, the residents refer to it as the Neighborhood Exchange. For me and some like-minded neighbors, it is best described as Treasure Hunting Day. On the Friday night before, you will see residents and outsiders alike trawling through the ‘hood in search of home décor gems that, for whatever reason, have been tossed aside. Indeed, many residents place their discards carefully by the curb in anticipation of someone else making claim to them.
Although I’ve lived in my ‘hood for over three years, these once-a-month Friday night expeditions are a new experience for me. My first time out, just a few months ago, was so fortuitous as to have me hooked for life! Having heard tales from a neighbor of all the bounty to be found on these treasure trips, I ventured out on foot late that Friday night, with the intention of walking just a block or two from my home to see if there was anything worth getting excited about.
Less than a block from my doorstep, I noticed a bulky pile of something on the curb. As I trepidatiously quickened my pace to my target, I could see that two of the items appeared to be dressers. Even as I got a closer look, I was sure that, since they had been unceremoniously tossed to the curb, they must be some destroyed particle board-constructed piece of garbage. However, imagine my glee when, upon very careful inspection, I determined that these were actually very well made, perfectly intact and matching hardwood dressers!! However, they also were quite bulky and heavy – much too substantial to move by myself, especially by foot.
Back in my home, I spent the next thirty minutes trying to convince myself that (a) there was no way that I could move these items, and (b) I have absolutely no place to store them (not to mention no immediate need that would justify the effort of claiming them!). BUT WHEN HAS THAT EVER STOPPED ME?!? I swear, it was as if I were trying to talk myself out of getting involved in a tragically doomed romance. As I agonized over leaving those two glorious pieces to the inevitable – death by landfill – I was looking in my pseudo walk-in closet for something when it hit me: I could used them for storage in my bedroom closet!!
I raced down the stairs like a man on fire (or, more descriptively, like a crack whore after the next fix). I quickly ran to the corner to see that the dressers were still there, calling to me; tossed everything out of the back of my VW Passat Wagon to make room for my haul, and sped over to the hulking mass at the corner, defying anyone to stand between me and my new found loot.
Keep in mind that I am still alone in this endeavor. And let me tell you: those dressers were NOT lightweight! Unleashing some superhuman strength, I managed to get both dressers into the back of my compact wagon. Of course, the hatch wouldn’t close, but I carefully drove back to my parking space, and lugged one of the pieces out of the car and into my front door. There, I became all giddy and giggly (another Vintage Vertigo attack), thrilled at not only my good fortune, but also my ingenuity in capturing and delivering my prize! The next day, I engaged Sig-O in assisting me to move both pieces to their new home, where they are very snuggly serving their new purpose – providing much needed space for my abundance of shorts, sweaters, and gym attire. The pieces have a decidedly mid-century sensibility of form plus function, with an elegantly simple line. They are a welcomed addition to my vintage collection!
Stay tuned for more tales of Furniture Rescue….After all, tomorrow is the first Saturday of the month!