A Truly Atomic Chess Set
During a recent search for mid-century treasures at the Alemany Flea Market, David spotted this unique chess set. Despite missing 5 pieces and board, this chess set screamed Eames era and therefore would feel right at home in our living room. After a quick web search we discovered that this modernist styled aluminum chess set was designed by Austin E. Cox for Austin Enterprises and manufactured by the Alcoa Aluminum Company in 1962. He created a slightly different set in 1967 but this particular set seems to be the most desired. Thanks to the wisdom of the internet, we also discovered that David lucked out on the low price of his purchase. My hope is to slowly find the missing pieces & board to complete this set. Luckily, we are both young.
When I came across this cheerful casserole without its lid at the Alameda Flea Market recently it was love at first sight. Still a HUGE fan of Pyrex, Cathrineholm designs ranks second on my love scale for vintage cookware. As a leading artist of Scandinavian design movement in the 50s, Norwegian designer Grete Korsmo Prytz-Kittelsen captured the optimism of the era through her work with Cathrineholm. It was common for her cookware to line the shelves of most Norwegian homes during that time. Well respected for her contribution to mid-century design Kittelsen was made a knight by her county before her death earlier this year.
As one blogger put it, Cathrineholm designs is the gateway drug for vintage cookware collectors. It is not hard to see why.
Sacramento Antique Faire
Best hidden secret is the antique fair under the freeway overpass on 21st between W & X Streets in Sacramento. We discovered it on a whim as an excuse for a weekend getaway and now have gone back twice since that time. This flea market opens its doors on the second Sunday of the month between the hours of 6:30-3:00pm. Yes, it is in Sacramento which means an 1 1/2 to 2 hr trek for us living in the Bay Area but the non-city prices makes the money spent on gas seem like a bargain. The decent selection of mid-century furniture will keep me coming back.
Another eBay Casualty
When we began "mid-centurizing" our apartment we knew that our mission would not be complete without barkcloth drapes. It took a while but thanks to Urban Burp in San Francisco we finally were able to find Eames inspired drapes for our sitting and living room. With tall bay windows this task was not easy but I am satisfied with the results.
I was first introduced to barkcloth fabric about fifteen years ago when I purchased a vintage window panel. I recall the sales clerk looking a bit disappointed when I shared my plan to cut the mint condition panel to make a few throw pillows for my futon at that time. Now knowing the importance of this fabric to mid century design I can now appreciate the look of horror on this salesperson's face.
With barkcloth's durability I can see why it became an easy choice during the atomic age.
As Sarah Callen explains:
The original barkcloth was quite literally made from the bark of trees. To make this type of barkcloth the inner bark of certain types of trees (primarily trees of the Moraceae family) is beaten flat and formed into sheets. These sheets are then used as a primitive fabric in many different applications.
If you hear the term barkcloth used today, however, it is most likely referring to a different type of fabric all together. From the 1930's through the 1960's (and even early into the 1970's) one of the most popular decorating fabrics was also known as barkcloth. In this case, the term barkcloth refers to the weave of the fabric which is thick, nubby and slightly textured. Barkcloth got it's name because the texture of the fabric bears a slight resemblance to the bark of a tree.
Barkcloth fabric is often made of cotton, although it can be made of other fibers as well including linen, rayon, polyester, and fiberglass depending how old the fabric is. Although thicker than a standard cotton, barkcloth is surprisingly soft and drapes nicely which made it a great choice for draperies and curtains. Because of it's thick texture barkcloth is also quite durable which also made it well suited to being used as an upholstery fabric.
In the 1970's the popularity of barkcloth faded. However, there is currently a big renewal of interest in this beautiful fabric and it is becoming quite popular again today. Some of the most coveted prints included atomic prints from the Eames era as well as soft, pretty florals with a cottage feel.
Swag, Baby, Swag!
Have you ever had that moment when you hadn't realized you were missing something until you spot it hanging in a stall of an antique mall? We had that moment last week when spending an afternoon shopping at The Antique Society in Sebastopol. Whenever we stop off at this particular mall we tend to gravitate towards our favorite dealer, Carole & Ferd Silva, to admire (actually drool over) their display of mid-century decor. And there it was. A black and white porcelain swag lamp that was to die for.
For months now David & I have been debating on what to do with an empty hook in the ceiling of our living room that had been a chandelier decades ago. As a renter, we have not been permitted to make any structural changes, especially re-wiring. We have tried hanging candles but they seemed lost in the vastness of our 15 foot Victorian ceiling. The swag lamp was the perfect solution to our quandary. Not only does it bring style to our bare ceiling but the light helps lend the right swank bachelor pad feeling to our cozy living room.
Music To My Ears
Ignoring the weather forecast calling for thunder showers, we decided to venture out of our cozy home to check out an estate sale across the bay that commenced at 8am Saturday morning. Despite arriving thirty minutes early, there was already a line half way down the block. The wait wouldn't have been much of an issue if the light morning drizzle hadn't turned into sideways freezing cold rain. After what seemed like an eternity (actually was a full hour) we finally were allowed entrance into the Hudson Gallery in Oakland. The disorganization of this particular sale (and the tempers of those waiting in line) has discouraged me from ever walking through their doors again but part of me is secretly glad we stayed (trust me, several times we almost bailed).
Now you may ask - why did you bother going in the first place? The reason being is that this particular estate sale promised a warehouse full of vintage radios of all shapes and sizes. And the believe me, they were not kidding.
After the thrill of winning the "golden ticket" to enter, I immediately was blown away by the quantity of radios still left to purchase. Sad to think that someone had spent years collecting vintage radios to only have them sold off at rock bottom prices to strangers, I selfishly smiled with glee when I realized that the grueling wait was so worth it. Our focus was on anything Bakelite and portable. We ended up walking away with several models, mostly Philco. Surprisingly all of our purchases were in excellent working condition.
My most favorite is the Philco Transitone PT-49 built from 1939-1941 (we would have to take ours apart to figure out which year it was manufactured). Made from wood it has amber colored Bakelite accessories. And looks fantastic on our mantel.
Best Antique Store in Petaluma
Probably why I am so fond of this little shop is that so many other storekeepers have a habit of either ignoring you or following you around like a shoplifter. Vintage Style is the complete opposite. If anything, you will want to sit down on one of their beautiful couches, put your feet up and stay a while.
The Vintage iPod
Living with a record collector I was not surprised when David starting coming home with vintage record cases.
Meant to carry one's 45s and LPs from party to party, this "iPod" from the past provided organization in a stylish and hip way. Most came with dividers to help its owner find their favorite record easily.
Honestly, I never had seen one until David began purchasing them on eBay and at flea markets. Now that I am familiar I thought it would be fun to show off his ever growing collection in the blog.
With patterns ranging from psychedelic to plain ol' adorable I am impressed that these cardboard carriers survived the test of time.
Resortation Project Takes A Turn For The Better
After only one coat of stain our little side table already seems refreshed. It still had some streaks towards the back so coat number two is drying as I write. It is not completely out of the woods yet but I am happy with the results so far.
The Restoration Continues....
Day three and our little table is starting to show its true colors. After sanding it down last night for what seemed like hours our hearts sank when we discovered several shiny areas where the old varnish remains.
So I have lathered on more stripper to conquer this battle once and for all. My hope is that our naked table will be ready for new coat of stain tomorrow. We'll see.
I am still baffled as to why she said this would be easy.
She Said It Was Easy - Diary of a Restoration Project
After a little online research, I ventured off to Cole Hardware today to buy the necessary supplies. Taking advantage of the nice weather outside, I applied my first coat of stripper onto the table outside on our deck.
Then reality set in. After applying the toxic stripping chemicals over and over again I started questioning if the promise of an easy project was just a sales pitch. After three rounds of removal my table looks blistered and sad. Luckily there are some sections where the natural wood is starting to show through so I am encouraged not to abort ship by throwing the table in the dumpster. I am confident that with a few more rounds of stripper and elbow grease, I will win the battle I have waged against the lacquer that has been on this table longer than I have been alive. And hopefully not contract some horrible disease in the process.
But I would not call it easy.
Luckily I Am Fond of Puzzles
Discovered a new flea market this weekend. We had to travel 100 miles to get there but boy was the Sacramento Antique Faire worth it. To break up the drive while guaranteeing that we would not miss the early morning action, we booked a hotel room to make the journey easier. Hitting a few antique stores on the way made the trip more adventurous. The funny thing, however, was that we kept running into a dealer we know from one of our San Francisco favorites, The Other Shop. Running into him time and time again at our various shopping spots reminded me that we weren't that crazy to venture so far away from home to satisfy our thirst for vintage. But back to the faire.
Better than Candlestick but not as vast as Alameda, Sacramento's faire was well worth it. Not only was the entry fee only $3, there was plenty of free street parking available within walking distance to the faire. Situated under a freeway, there was plenty of shade available to avoid unwanted sunburns. Knowing that prices are always cheaper the farther you stray from San Francisco, there were some real bargains to be had at this flea market. There were even a few dealers who mentioned that they would be charging double if they were at Alameda instead of Sacramento. I believed them.
The greatest challenge was not the distance but how to fit all our new goodies into the car. Luckily we both like puzzles but are always surprised when everything fits.
Just A Little Imagination Required
One of my most favorite home decorating ideas is using objects whose original function is extinct. The Eames era chrome phone stand being one of them. With the advancement of the cell phone I am fearful that generations to come won't even appreciate that phones were once plugged into a wall. Back in the atomic age, manufacturers designed these stands to not only house your phone but provide you a mini desk to fulfill for all your phone call desires. Although passe there is no reason for these stands to end up at the trash dump.
Personally, I have found this stand handy to store anything from CDs to TP. I have also found that its compact size permits it to be used as an inexpensive side table to place your morning coffee. I am sure there are other possibilities out there if you let your imagination run free.
The King of Kitsch
After the recent death of a black panther purchased on eBay, I was tickled pink when David came home from an estate sale this weekend with a new kitty. With its S&M style chain, this panther is the king of kitsch.
Because of the stripes on its coat, I am really unsure whether it is a panther or a black tiger. Regardless it is deliciously distasteful. Not a T.V. lamp like our Siamese cats, this porcelain cat was a planter at one time. Although it is quite possible that plants went directly into the base of this planter, I suspect that it originally came with small dishes to make planting less messy. For us, though, it has been added to our growing mid-century kitsch collection.
A Word About Bay Area Flea Markets
Next in line is Alemany Flea Market located in Bernal Heights in San Francisco. More like a bazaar, sellers are not restricted to antiques by any means. You can find anything from tools to vinyl but sometimes if you dig hard enough you might find that rare antique at garage sale prices. Open every Sunday with no entry fee, the hunter in me goes time and time again. You have to go with an open mind since some trips are better than others.
Last in line is the new Candlestick Park Antique and Collectibles Faire in the Bayview Hunter's Point district of San Francisco. Occurring on the 3rd Sunday of the month when the 49'ers are not playing (alternative Sunday if they are) the selection is similar to Alameda but on a reduced scale. Despite being in operation a few months now, the numbers of vendors has not increased which makes me worried about its longevity. I hope for the convenience of its location (and easy parking), this market draws enough foot traffic to keep it open. As for me, I have been lucky enough to walk away with several amazing deals so I will continue to go back despite the limited amount of sellers.
If you can venture from the Bay Area check out the Sacramento Antique Faire when you get the chance.
The Murder of a Cat
OK, my title may seem a bit dramatic but I do believe I stumbled upon a crime scene. A long time customer of eBay, I have been very fortunate buying ceramics online until now. I knew immediately when my package arrived that the rolling noise inside was not the best of news. Opening the box I discovered that my brand new black panther T.V. lamp was so poorly wrapped that it would have been a miracle it if arrived unscathed. Now amputated to the point of no return, it has retired to the trashcan. Hoping to get a refund I am most sad that this lamp survived all these years until it was mailed cross country to me. I know it is not personal but it is disappointing.
I didn't know this lamp well. Until today, I hadn't even laid eyes on it. But I write this blog in honor of what could have been so very kitsch.
Update 11/22/10: After complaining to eBay about the lack of response from the seller about my refund inquiry I was eventually offered a refund (minus shipping). Not the best but it was at least something. Lessen learned - really pay attention to the sellers ranking history. Oh, and don't mail a porcelain cat wrapped only in newspaper in a gigantic box if you want your package to arrive unharmed.
Couroc of Monterey
I had never heard of Couroc of Monterey until I found this tray last week at a Goodwill in Antioch, CA of all places. Made of black resin with a wood inlay, this sweet little tray caught my eye immediately. Thanks to marigold05's helpful history lesson on eBay, I discovered that the Courac Company was a joint venture of Guthrie Courvoiser and his wife, Moira Wallace, from 1948 until Guthrie's death in the 1970s. The company continued under various owners until its closure in the early 1990s. In its hay-day, they partnered with several artists to create various inlays from whimsical to classic.
Don't just take my word for it. Discover for yourself the world of Couroc on Flickr. I think I see a collection in the making.
The Original Stow-Away Hassock by Barnett
A few months back David & I set out on a quest to check out every single antique store in the Bay Area. Although we are not even close to accomplishing this goal, we did stumble upon a little shop in San Carlos called Antiques Unlimited that had a decent selection of mid-century decor. (Up to that point most of the stores carried what we affectionately refer to as 'grandma' decor. You know - Edwardian furnishings, doilies, china tea sets. In a nutshell - not us.)
Speaking of grandma - while browsing I spotted a stool that reminded me a lot of my own grandmother (she never was the Edwardian, doily, tea set type). Its textured vinyl immediately flashed me back to hot summers spent stuck to my grandmother's couch since time and time again I would forget that bare legs and vinyl coverings don't mix. Honestly though, if my grandmother was still alive I probably would still be stuck to her upholstery as we speak.
But back to my find. This little green with black specks ottoman was so retro that we knew it would one day find a place in our home. Labeled the 'Original Stow-Away Hassock by Barnett' I sadly have not been able to find much on the web about our new treasure. But I must say that the compartment inside is very handy to 'stow-away' random objects. The memories of my childhood summers, however, remain priceless.
My Buddy Lane
As mentioned in an earlier post I have a fondness for Lane furniture. Launched in the early 1960s, the Acclaim series was America's competition to Danish Modern. I recall a conversation I once had with an older gentleman at an antique mall in the East Bay who mentioned that his first apartment in the late 50s/early 60s was furnished by Lane. I assume Lane's combination of affordability and durability made it the perfect choice for this fellas bachelor pad back in his hay day.
A while back, David & I found this gem at the Alameda Flea Market. With David's gift for haggling, we were able to get the dealer to reduce the price by $50. Not a huge savings but enough to make this purchase a little easier on the wallet. After a weekend spent touching it up, it looks almost new.
Here is what others are saying about my buddy Lane.
Long Live the Lamp Fetish
Of all the lamps we own, this one ranks top on my list. With its green Asian-esk porcelain base and textured lampshade, I fell in love the moment I laid eyes on it. Purchased at Alameda flea market (seems to be the best place in the Bay Area to find vintage lamps at affordable prices), this particular lamp has an art deco meets mid-century modern feel to it. The most impressive component for me is that the lamp shade remains in perfect condition for its age.
It is so common that most vintage lamps for sale are shadeless. I understand that fibers wear with age but it can be frustrating when only the base is for purchase. Whenever I stumble upon a lamp with its appropriate lampshade intact I often buy it solely for its rarity.
Homage to Captain Kurt
I was having good karma the day I found this lamp at the Alameda flea market. Not only had I found my nifty 50s floor lamp, this space aged beauty was waiting patiently for a new owner. The design of this lamp reminded me of the Enterprise crew's uniforms. This beige and gold porcelain lamp with fiberglass shade screams atomic. The best part for me is that the original shade is in perfect condition; a rarity these days.
Not The Juicy Kind
Apparently, David is not the only one obsessed with resin table grapes. Apartment Therapy does have a good article on the subject.
50s Era Lamps
It wasn't like we needed another lamp but when I spotted this beauty at the Alameda flea market a few weeks back I found myself gravitating towards it. Not only was it clearly from the 50s, it had a bit of splash that made one stop and notice. The design of the fiberglass shade appears vaguely leopardish, which for me represented the playfulness of the era. In contrast, the atomic metal decal serves as a reminder that this was the age when bomb shelters were fashionable. And even though its base is pink, there is enough masculinity that I would imagine Frank Sinatra nodding his approval.
The 50s represents a time where appearances meant everything. This floor lamp demonstrates for me that elegance could be whimsical. That practicality could be beautiful. And most of all, that furniture did not have to be dull.
Warning: Make Sure it Dismantles Before Buying
We seem to always do this. We fall in love with a piece of furniture and rationalize if it fits in the car then it is ours for the keeping. So it happened again. This past Sunday at the Alameda Flea Market David and I spotted these awesome grey kitchen chairs from the 50s. The chairs' original vinyl seemed to be in perfect condition and in a pattern I had never seen before. Although not part of a set, the same dealer happen to have a pink and grey Formica table for sale that seemed to almost belong to these chairs. (Side note: David & I have been talking lately about replacing the Formica table I inherited from an old college roommate many years ago so spontaneously buying a new table didn't seem odd at the time.)
Sounds like a match made in heaven, right? Well, it would have been if the legs of this table were removable.
Living in San Francisco has many perks. Living in a Victorian 2nd story flat isn't always one of them. For those who have not experienced this type of dwelling, imagine for a second opening your front door (after climbing several stairs to your front door that is) and right smack in front of you is the steepest flight of stairs you have ever laid your eyes on. Yes, you have arrived at our apartment. No, it isn't like climbing Mt. Everest but it can feel like you just worked out on a stair master if you go up and down them a few times. So fitting our new table into to car was not the issue. Carrying it up our damn stairs was. With superhero strength and the magic of spackle, we were able to transport the table up the stairs, down a hallway and around a few tight corners before situating it in our kitchen. The good news is that it fit.
Note to self - must buy stock in spackle.
As any proud parent I was delighted to discover that the juice glasses I have been collecting over the years were highlighted in Gene Florance's Collectible Glassware from the 40s, 50s, 60s... to soon realize that they were not juice glasses at all. Instead they are Kraft cheese spread canisters manufactured from the late 1930s to mid 1970s cleverly known as Swanky Swigs. According to Mr. Florance, my collection of Cornflower No. 2 came in two sizes depending on whether they were distributed in USA vs. Canada (not surprisingly I seem to have the USA version). Swanky Swigs came in a variety of colors, sizes and patterns making it easy for housewives across America to use these promotional containers as inexpensive drinking glasses. Huh, who knew?
It didn't take me long during my quick Google search to realize that everyone else was in on the secret but me.
Have You Seen Lane?
Without even trying we have started collecting Lane's Acclaim furniture series. Trust me, this was an easy mistake. With its clean lines, creative blend of walnut/oak and durability, we continue to be attracted to this dovetail design over and over again. Launched in 1963, the Acclaim series was the American answer to Danish Modern but at an affordable price. It is hard to believe that the coffee table sitting in my living room right now originally sold for $29.95. But thankfully the affordability of this series increased its popularity and in essence, its availability today.
I am sure the designers never dreamed that their two tiered end table would make a handy place to house a turntable.
Some light reading on the subject.
For the Love of Pyrex
Less than 24 hours ago if Alex Trebek asked me what a Blaupunkt was I would have stared blankly at the camera.
It all started with a traffic jam due to the Folsom Street festival in San Francisco. To avoid the messy backup in SOMA we aborted our trip to our favorite non mid-century furniture store, McCarney's, and headed to The Other Shop on Divisadero. The moment we walked in, we independently gravitated towards this gem from the past - a Blaupunkt Arkansas model 4635. I have seen other radio consoles before but this one seemed to be the cream of the crop. Immediately we confessed that this was the perfect antique that represented a blend of our styles. For David it had a vintage AM/FM radio while for me another location to store my ever expanding barware collection. At one time there was a small turntable inside that appears to have been kidnapped within the last 50+ years. But otherwise, the piece is in mint condition. If it fit in our SUV then it was going to be ours.
You guessed correct. It fit.
Since my German skills are non-existent, my online research is limited to a handful of chat rooms, images and old eBay ads. What I have been able to gather is that our model was made in 1959 in Germany by the Blaupunkt company better known for their car radios. How it landed in a vintage store in the Lower Haight is a mystery but it is a great reminder how hip stereo equipment had been in the late 50s/early 60s. And with most things German, it was built to last. The really fun part is that all the radio keys are in German so it took David a few attempts to figure out not only how to work it but to test whether he could hook up his iPod to it (a success). But the radio comes in loud and clear.
For those interested in practicing their German.
I'm Seeing Stars
During one of our recent Alameda Flea Market hunts we noticed a couple holding this extremely cool chrome mirror while in the midst of an intense discussion. The mirror was so striking that both David & I simultaneously commented that we wished we had seen it first. As I continued to make my progression down the aisle David suddenly made a u-turn making a bee line back to the previous stall. He was almost sprinting. The next thing I recall is David walking towards me with a huge grin on his face holding the mirror in one hand. Assuming that the root of the intense discussion between couple was financial I nervously asked David how much he spent. $20 was his answer. Baffled that a $20 purchase at a flea market could create so much debate I am delighted at the thought that there are people stingier than I.
Sadly, I have not been able to uncover any interesting tid-bits about our find online. At that cheap price I even question whether it is truly vintage even though the mirror itself appears to be old. But in any case, it looks fabulous on our living room wall. And frankly for $20 I just don't care.