Friday, November 27, 2009
Recently, BFF Richard bravely agreed to accompany me to Richmond to bring back a plethora of vintage treasures. The part of this effort that required real fortitude: Richard was in charge of driving the moving van that had been provided by the self-storage company where my ‘warehouse’ is located. Not having ever driven one of these behemoths myself, I was thrilled when he made the offer.
BFF Sharona had planned to join us, but alas the truck had bucket seats that could only accommodate two persons. I’d graciously offered to let her and Richard manage the move, but Sharona demurred.
The truck itself was….well, functional. It was one of those 12-foot box things, built strictly for utilitarian purposes. Comfort certainly never entered the equation. Nonetheless, I positively drooled over the prospect of owning one for The Shop! However, recognizing my endless trepidation at driving such a vehicle, I’ve decided that one of those ubiquitous white cargo vans is a slightly more realistic target for my eventual business transport needs.
The trip to Richmond was extraordinarily uneventful. Even with the constant rattling and the bone-jarring suspension, Richard and I enjoyed a quick and easy journey south on Interstate 95. Since we had use of the moving van just until mid-afternoon, there were only two stops on our itinerary: Class and Trash (of course!), and my mother’s house in Ashland (a few miles north of Richmond), where I had over the past year stored many pieces of my collection. Based solely on logistics, C&T was at the top of the short list of stops. (The fact that C&T’s ever-changing inventory might yield a whole new crop of vintage bounty had absolutely nothing to do with making them our priority!)
Oh, Dear Readers, imagine my glee at driving up to C&T with an empty moving van! It was as if I were a famished infant being offered its mother’s milk-laden breast. (OK, I’ve officially crossed over into The Land of Bad Analogies. Mea culpa, mea culpa.) Suddenly the possibilities were endless (well, the limits of my credit cards did place some restrictions on my impending shopping experience). For the first time, my choices were not bound by the space limitations of the Passat! Couches and tables and beds, oh my!
This being Richard’s foray into the land of Class and Trash, he began by idly wandering around the first floor. Meanwhile, I embarked on my typically manic initial survey of the shop’s current offerings. As a Soldier of Vintage Fortunes, I have honed my skill at targeting the most desirable items on C&T’s floor within minutes of entering the front door….Dark brown 1960s vintage swivel chairs at 10 o’clock, check. French-style rectangular dining table dead-ahead -- Roger that. Vintage Martha Washington armchair on the left, just around the corner…LOCK ‘N LOAD!
Having successfully completed the first round of recon, I escorted Richard to the second floor of the C&T emporium. Here, Kenny and Lisa allow other vendors to display their wares in loosely bordered areas. (To a less seasoned C&T shopper, it’s not immediately apparent where one vendor’s space ends and another begins. I, however, have mentally mapped the second floor terrain, and therefore have a feel for the key areas on which to focus.)
My quick yet efficient survey of the top floor soon yielded one of the most unique curiosities I’ve every found there: a pair of 1950s-vintage highly stylized porcelain dog figurines. I literally gasped at the cleverness and artistry with which these canines were fabricated! Complete with tiny foil labels which declared them as being manufactured by “Norleans, Japan”, I scooped up these treasures before any other vintage décor hunter could claim them. Richard, who in the meantime had been exploring the less glorious collectibles, appeared somewhat perplexed at my excitement over these objects. Cretan.
Back now to the wondrous furnishings awaiting me on Floor One. Mindful of the clock (we had only a few hours before truck return time), I began to feel pressured to select from among the glorious pieces of vintage finery positively screaming to be chosen for my already saturated collection. Vintage Vertigo coupled with time constraints is a deadly combination! And, as Lisa and Kenny (and their new comrade Richard) kept reminding me, there was an empty moving van in the parking lot! All that space, and all these pretty pretty things! The voices in my head had reached a crescendo!
STOP. Take deep breath. Exhale. OK….now try to think clearly, Howard. I was able to regain some semblance of control and began to make thoughtful choices from among the delights surrounding me. The French-style dining table, for its graceful lines and subtly bleached finish. Yes, that would be the piece for this day (after all, two dining tables, four dining chairs, and an antique farm table purchased on previous visits were already stacked together outside awaiting loading). But, what about that pair of ‘60s swivel chairs, delightfully covered in dark brown velour? Aren’t they the embodiment of FABULOCITY?!? Just as I was about to walk away from these hip iconic pieces, Larry (C&T’s houseman of sorts) innocently asked if the matching pair was to be loaded into the awaiting van. I broke. My resolve crumbled. Witnessing my display of anguish/ecstasy, Larry decided it was best to abscond with the swivel set before I could veer into another lane of emotions. Yes, Dear Readers, the chairs are mine.
By the time I’d euphorically completed my transaction, Larry and Kenny had loaded up the day’s booty into the box truck. Richard and I had spent all our allotted Richmond time at C&T (it took him forever to decide on two vintage prints and a frame!), so we decided that it would be prudent to forego the trip to Ashland. After all, most of the items housed there could make their way to The Warehouse piecemeal in the Passat. Although, as you can see from this pic, there was room aplenty in the van’s box to fit many more monolithic pieces vintage furnishings. I showed such restraint, did I not?!?
With the northbound traffic moving uncharacteristically swiftly, we made it back to the storage facility with time to spare. This allowed us to thoughtfully unload the latest additions to my collection, so as to plan out the most effective use of my quickly dwindling storage space. Hoping that no other space leasers needed to access the units adjoining mine, we hauled the day’s bounty to the second floor, and lined the corridor leading to my space with a multitude of tables and chairs. OMG, would everything fit?!?
Once again, Richard proved his worth by strategically planning how to best utilize the available space. Pausing to artistically photograph each item before it was placed in The Warehouse, we managed to fit in all of them. Granted, I’ll need a cherry picker to access some pieces now located in the hinterlands of the storage unit, but fiddle-dee-dee, I’ll worry ‘bout that tomorrow.
Many, many thanks to Richard for all his assistance. And, I’m sure all the other I-95 travelers that day praised him for keeping me from behind the wheel of that big ol’ butch truck! Howard driving a moving van….What a frightening thought!
Friday, November 20, 2009
What does a dream look like?
Many of my Dear Readers know (or have ascertained) my desire for my vintage décor fanaticism to become more than simply an avocation. Oh, to be sure, the hunt-and-find aspect of my addiction is most fulfilling; to lay hands on and actually possess a particularly appealing piece of vintage treasure is satisfaction defined. Indeed, the euphoria experienced during a fit of Vintage Vertigo is a reward in and of itself.
However, over the years, as my diverse collection of vintage furnishings has grown exponentially, an idea became implanted into my subconscious and has grown/fermented/festered into a dream. I now have a fervent wish to not only collect all these delightful and decorous vestiges of the past, but to also share them (and my own unique tastes) with others via a vintage décor boutique.
Surely even those who are not intimately familiar with my myriad of personal quirks saw this coming; after all, even the most ardent of collectors might show some restraint prior to reaching the point of actually having to rent storage space for the objects of their desires! And, as you’ve seen since the commencement of this Blog, my acquisition activities have reached a fever pitch. To let you in on a little secret: I’ve justified the majority of my purchases in the last couple years by proclaiming that they were being acquired on behalf of The Shop.
The dream: a small and tasteful shop offering a well-edited selection of vintage décor home-and-garden furnishings, from the 1920s thru the ‘80s, selected for their uniqueness, quality, and style, or simply because I find them appealing. I’ve recently refined my concept to reflect my other passion, fashion -- as in clothes, both haute couture and high-end ready-to-wear. I wish to restyle pieces of my collection to reflect fashion trends of the season, but in such a way as to render them timeless. I want to offer a collection of sophisticated yet edgy and quirky furnishings that expresses my particular viewpoint, and that encourages others to embrace the beauty of vintage and individuality.
So, what does a dream look like? If you’re Furniture Addict Howard, it starts out looking like these two chairs. Both items are vintage: the wing chair, discovered last summer among the cacophony of delights at Class and Trash , dates from the 1920s; the more contemporary one was rescued during one of my now famous “911” missions, and is of 1970s vintage. Both pieces appealed to me because of their overall aesthetics, as well as their sturdiness, craftsmanship, and comfort. However, you can see from the “Before” pictures that each chair was in dire need of a makeover. While the wing chair appeared to have been professionally reupholstered (probably in the 1930s, based upon the use of a quilted nylon fabric that was de rigueur back in the day), this lady was faded and worn. The other chair, tattered and torn, had been tossed to the curb (most literally) presumably because its previous owner had determined it to be past its useful life. Mistake. BIG mistake.
From the point when I had claimed each of these unique items, it had been my intention to restyle them in some unique way. However, it was not until I ventured into a local fabric store that the crucible of my creativity was uncovered; as I maniacally tore through the mounds of upholstery remnants, visions began to take shape in my mind’s eye. Not being content with any singular textile, I instead started piecing together coordinating patterns, textures, and colors into distinct viewpoints. Guided by my awareness and understanding of current and future fashion trends (I’d just reviewed online videos of the Fall/Winter 2009 and Spring/Summer 2010 runways!) I was able to down-select from the piles of fabrics I’d collected and create palettes of 3-5 fabrics that I could envision for specific pieces in my vault of vintage.
Behold, the two chairs representing the first instantiation of my dream. From its shape, you can see that form and function are the only remaining tangible characteristics of the wing chair. Gone is the seafoam green nylon upholstery; it is now resplendent in a symphony of white tiger print (accented with gold), black-and-white boucle’, and black faux Persian lamb, trimmed in chocolate brown velvet cording. The mahogany Chippendale-style legs remain as they were when I’d first claimed the chair, complete with the nicks and imperfections that serve as a nod to the piece’s undocumented (but undoubtedly colorful) history.
The second chair, its shape a nod to French moderne, resided in my boudoir from the moment it was rescued. Although I’d hidden its imperfections (tattered upholstery and worn seat cushion) with a handcrafted throw, for years it begged for a dramatic redo. And finally, a wish fulfilled: the front is a textured silver-grey, the back is luxurious in faux Persian lamb, and the buttons reflect the seat’s front and box, covered in a nubby plum. But the most dramatic accent to this chair, now painted in a Ralph Lauren saddle black semi-gloss: 11/16” nickel-plated pyramid nailheads highlighting the elegant line of the back. TOTAL.FABULOCITY. And, true to my concept, these pieces now reflect a clothing fashion trend; the colors, textures, and details embody the spirit of Rocker Chic . Rock on!
So, what’s next? The Rocker Chic collection will be completed with a number of pieces currently in-process: tables and accessories in black and metallics. Other collections are also taking shape, including a group of tables and chairs designed for an idyllic life by the sea, and inspired by Ralph Lauren’s Spring/Summer 2010 nod to the simpler and austere life of the 1930s.
And for The Shop? In case you were wondering, the name that I’ve had in mind: As Luck Would Have It. A Website is in the works (Frank and Nelson, if you’re reading this, GET TO WORK!) which will serve as an informational portal to my edited and restyled inventory of vintage furnishings. Then, I hope to convince realtors in the DC metro area that pop-up shops are a retail trend worth latching onto in this market abundant with vacant commercial space. And beyond that? Well, that’s what dreams are for, right?!?
What does a dream look like? If you’ve been reading this blog, you see a dream every time you go to the URL. And by doing so, you are sharing in my dream. Thanks for being a part of it.
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Might you happen to recall from a previous post the message I got from Diana the Lady D while I was out partying with Sharona and crew? To refresh your memory: while at a local hookah bar celebrating Sharona’s new job, I received an urgent text message from Lady D containing a photo of two ginormous wing chairs and matching ottoman. She’d come across these lovely items while visiting one of our fave thrift stores in NoVA, and just knew I’d fall hard for them. Well, that evening she purchased the ottoman on my behalf, but even after visiting the two delightful (and, did I mention, gi-NOR-mous) chairs, I somehow managed to forego them. (Although, as I mentioned in my earlier post, I wasn’t able to get the attention of the…um… ‘ladies’ who worked there, so I couldn’t negotiate the price. Details.)
As so often happens when I walk away from an undeniably special find, I was haunted for weeks by thoughts of possessing them. Ah, those substantial ornately carved cabriole legs, the stately silhouette….Oh, I tried to overcome my hunger; I told myself repeatedly that the need was not there, tried to console myself with the ottoman that I possessed. However, the ottoman was but a constant reminder of those left behind. Even after I’d selected the fabric with which to restyle the ottoman, I obsessed (I know, hard to believe, isn’t it?!?) over the massive wing chairs. After all, when would I ever again find a chair that would complement the ottoman as well as its matching counterparts?
Then, when I was blessed with the discovery of the Harden club chair , I knew, Dear Readers, that it was divine intervention! After all, the wings and ottoman were also Harden creations! I knew then that at least one of the massive wing chairs was meant to be mine. But, it was weeks before when Lady D had first seen them….Surely they were spoken for by now?!? Ah, but Diana had been making daily pilgrimages to the thrift store to check on the chairs’ status. Often she would arrive just as the doors had been locked for the evening, and she would be forced to peer thru the windows in search of the lovelies, all the while having to endure the proclamations by the ‘ladies’ inside, “We’re closed! Come back tomorrow!”. But the Lady D is made of sterner stuff, and she continued her vigilance day in and day out.
Finally, when I could no longer control my craving, I left my office one evening fully intending to purchase one of the chairs. But Diana had not laid eyes upon them for over twenty-four hours; would it not be fate’s cruelty to have finally accepted my need only to have the object of my desire snatched away before I could claim it? (I should mentioned that I had already purchased a beautiful set of fabric with which to restyle this chair the day before….I was most definitely counting my chickens, was I not?)
Having called Lady D on my way to the thrift store, I had learned that she had not been by the store that afternoon on her way home, and therefore could not verify that the chairs were still there. Nonetheless, I fought NoVA traffic in pursuit of my treasure, hoping beyond hope. As I pulled into the store’s parking lot, who should be waiting for me but LADY D! She just had to witness the impending procurement for herself!
As we both ran to the store in anticipation, we kept trying to see through the windows if the chairs were still there. YES! There they both were! And they were both still available! But, showing a modicum of restraint, I convinced myself that I had to acquire only one to satisfy my need. Also, there was no way two could fit into the Passat. In fact, I wasn’t convinced that one of these massive items could fit! So, armed with my ever-present tape measure, I carefully measured one of the chairs from every angle, and checked the measurements against the Passat’s cargo hold. Yes, it would fit, but only barely!
After overcoming the challenge of removing it from amidst all the other furniture on the selling floor (with the help of ‘Sean’, the store’s charming and able-bodied assistant), it was time to finally place the chair into its awaiting chariot. My fears, previously calmed by the multitude of measurements, were once again raised: IT.DID.NOT.FIT. By mere centimeters! As I was trying to determine what manner of clothing I could tear apart in order to tie down the Passat’s rear hatch, The able-bodied Sean proved that he was more than just a pretty face: he ingeniously suggested turning the beast (the chair, that is, not moi) around and placing it legs-first. And, lo ‘n behold, IT.FIT!!!
So, the most wonderfully huge wing chair (pictured here with the most elegant Lady D in repose) is now holding court in The Warehouse, awaiting its royal transition to total FABULOCITY. Yes, look at all the glorious fabrics that are its destiny! Teal and fuchsia and pewter OH MY! It will be pure insanity, and I cannot wait! But fear not – you, Dear Readers, will bear witness!
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
It was a weekend of fabulous finds and vintage delights! After all, the opportunities were aplenty: it as the first Saturday of the month, which was accompanied not only by my neighborhood’s “exchange” program, but also by the Arlington Civitan Flea ; and, as if that weren’t sufficient activity to throw one into a fit of Vintage Vertigo, the DC Big Flea was also in town! My oh my oh my….
On Friday, having spent several festive hours of happiness with Sharona and Richard at Richard’s new bachelor pad, I hurried off to join Sig-O and godsons for a quick bite to eat near my office. Afterwards, the godsons were excited to take a tour of The Warehouse, as I’ve come to call the storage unit housing my furniture overflow. I was so pleased that they were almost as enamored with my collection as I am! They had great fun trying out the many chairs that sit in the storage unit, awaiting their eventual debut in someone’s home.
Once the trio departed to return to Cap Hill, I drove back to my own home. As soon as I entered the ‘hood, it suddenly dawned on me that it was Exchange Night ! As any avid reader of this Blog knows, the first Saturday of the month is officially ‘bulk trash pick-up’ day (eeww…there’s that ugly term again!). The residents, however, have dubbed the Friday evening before “The Exchange Night”, since it is a glorious time to wander the streets in search of others’ cast-off treasures. In the past, my late night searches have been rewarded with vintage dressers, wooden beach chairs, and various wicker items. Naturally, like a slot machine devotee, I was anxious to see what the payoff of tonight’s spin of the wheel would be!
Well, dear readers, I did not have to prowl through the meandering streets for more than a few moments before being generously rewarded! Soon after turning onto the tree lined street approaching my court, my car’s headlights shown on a massive rectangular object. Placed on the curb among various bits of debris was a most lovely Chippendale-style garden bench! As I came to a screeching halt, I simultaneously bolted out of the front seat to claim my find, as if demons from Hell were on my heels. Upon a cursory inspection (my vision was dimmed not only by the sudden onset of vertigo but also by the lack of adequate illumination from the streetlights), the bench appeared to be in fine shape. Granted, the paint was peeling, but imagine what a fresh coat (or two or three) of glossy latex would do for it!
There was but one problem: in a bout of forgetfulness, the previous night I had filled the Passat with non-furniture related items. Where was I to put my most recent delightful discovery? And, equally perplexing, how was I to load it into the Passat (assuming it would even fit)? Again, avid readers know that I seldom succumb to such trivialities (the French settee notwithstanding. Will I EVER live that down?!?). So, as I quickly rearranged the detritus of my life that was being hauled around in the Passat, I continuously glanced around to ensure no one tried to abscond with my prize. (There was one moment of extreme paranoia when I threw myself across the bench as a passing car slowed to stare. Their envy was quite apparent!)
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
Through this Blog, you’ve all witnessed my ‘intensive’ (manic?) vintage décor collection activities. It was inevitable that I’d eventually run out of space to put it all. Even the Taj Mahal has its storage limitations, I suppose! So, what’s an insatiable Furniture Addict to do when the walls of his abode are bursting at the seams?
And thus began the dreaded search for a viable storage unit.
Nonetheless, reality bitched-slapped me into turning my attention away from the pleasurable activities of foraging for treasure and toward trudging around Northern Virginia in search of a suitable (and affordable) repository. After combing through numerous Websites for the major self-storage companies, I narrowed my list down to less than 10 potential locations. Naturally, my preference was for a secure, clean, climate-controlled space of warehouse-sized proportions, convenient to home and office, all within my meager budget. HA!
Armed with my list of locations and a well planned itinerary, I set out one Monday morning determined to conquer my storage limitations. I had decided to start at locations further out from DC proper, figuring that those closest to the city (and hence closer to my home) would be the most expensive. However, I had to temper my budget constraints with convenience; keeping in mind the traffic patterns in the metro area (an region clogged with traffic 24/7/365), I had already down-selected from several of the more suburban areas simply because the times I could easily visit my treasures in lock-up would be severely curtailed.
After visiting several of the first locations on my list, I was convinced that I would not be able to find a facility that would meet most of my needs. (I didn’t think I was being TOO unreasonable with my requirements!) Most places that advertised ‘rate specials’ suddenly did not have any qualifying units available, and the unit size that even came close to my budget – 10’x10’ – would be filled within minutes by only a portion of my existing inventory. I must say, however, that I was pleasantly surprised about one thing: without exception, all the folks working at these storage facilities were polite, friendly, and extremely helpful. I was prepared to deal with the exact opposite!
I happened upon one location that offered a (relatively) great rate, but I knew I’d have difficulty getting to-and-from the site (and with the bounty of vintage booty in my possession, I anticipate many many hauls!). Eventually, the self-storage gods smiled upon me: I found a very secure facility quite convenient to both my home and office, and the delightful sales rep worked diligently with her manager to obtain a good rate. And, they offered a fantastic bonus: the use of their moving truck for a day! (BFFs Richard and Sharona have already been recruited to assist in hauling a truckload of treasures from Richmond!)
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
Recently, I took a step back and re-read all my previous Furniture Addict entries. It occurred to me that my writings truly illustrate the anatomy of an addict: the dizzying highs, the plummeting lows, and (oh so rarely) enlightening philosophical musings. And I must apologize, Dear Readers: my last entry was, oh, a bit dark, was it not? Insightful, yes. Perhaps even rather engrossing (humor me, please). But where was the gayety, the giddiness, the joy of discovery?? Most certainly, not in that last entry. Well, let’s change that direction, shall we? (Yes, I know I promised you a tale of “Foraging for Storage”, but you’ll just have to wait for that one. Honestly, that whole episode is rather bland. A necessary segment of my addiction story, yes, but I’d prefer to play on the manic side of the street tonight!)
Although I’ve been delinquent in my postings lately, have no fear – the Fabulocity continues! Dear Readers, there has been a plethora of incredible furniture and décor finds this past week! They’ve fallen into my lap (or, more accurately, I’ve almost literally fallen over them!) Indeed, there’s been some kind of cosmic alignment: I seem to have become a magnet for wayward furnishings. Let us start this chapter with a most fortuitous exit from my office parking garage….
Over the past couple of weeks, Arlington Virginia has been vying with Seattle in the rainy-and-chilly category. One thing we have most definitely not suffered is a drought. Just when we seemed to be on brink of respite, the drizzle recommenced. Such was the case late one afternoon as I was leaving The-Job-That-Finances-My-Furniture-Addiction. When departing our parking garage, I must travel behind a hi-rise condo building. It just so happens that one area I pass by is the spot where the occupants deposit their outcasts for ‘bulk trash pick-up’ (you know how distasteful I find that term!). Let me tell you, more than once my daily scouting of that location has yielded great treasure. And on this day, I was rewarded once again! There, barely protected from the elements by an overhang, sat a tufted club chair of substantial size, upholstered in a slightly tattered floral fabric. Of course, I immediately swerved the Passat into the adjacent parking area (I am blessed with remarkably quick reflexes in such instances) and jumped out to assess my find.
Well, in a temporary lapse of judgment that I can only blame on (a) the weather, and (b) caffeine crash, I just could not get very excited about the piece. Besides, the Passat already was carrying the amazing extendable dining table described in my previous post; this time, the poor table was on its way from my house to an “undisclosed location” (you’ll have to wait for the “Foraging” posting for more details on that!). So, I left the poor club chair behind and proceeded to deposit the table in its new (and hopefully temporary) home.
Having emptied the Passat of its cargo, I proceeded to run a few mundane errands. But fate intervened; I received a text from Diana, containing a picture of a club chair! No, no, not the one I’d left behind; the Lady D had come upon a lovely upholstered piece on display at one of our fave fabric stores. Having recently foraged there myself, I instantly recognized the piece and quickly called her to see if she’d found any particularly fabulous fabrics.
Naturally, as I was driving home I had to relate to Diana the story of the discarded chair. As I’m describing the piece, the fog that had clouded my judgment suddenly lifted, and I knew I had to have it!! As I raced back to its location, I made sure Diana stayed on the phone; I intended to text her a pic of the chair, so she could validate my desire to claim it.
Fortunately, the chair was still sitting where I’d left it. However, the Seattle-like rains had started in earnest, and I feared that the chair was getting drenched. Although it was a bit damp, it remained relatively unscathed. Upon further inspection, I determined that not only was the chair in quite decent shape, it also just happened to be of the same brand (Harden ) as the two chairs Diana had texted me about the week prior. (As you may recall, Diana had come upon two gargantuan wing chairs and a matching ottoman in our fave thrift store, and alerted me of them while I was partying with Sharona at the hookah bar.) We found this coincidence incredibly humorous, prompting Diana to research the Harden Furniture Company in great detail.
So, with Diana’s blessing, I lugged my latest discovery into the now empty Passat, and immediately transported it to reside alongside the amazing expandable table in the “undisclosed location”. It will need a facelift to make it presentable to polite society, but the Lady D and I have already found an amazing retro-inspired flamestitch-patterned fabric remnant that will immediately elevate the chair from frumpy to fabulous!
And rest assured, Dear Readers, that I will soon regale you with more stories of recent Fab Finds….Good Lord, I’m stumbling upon them faster than I can write!