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

With the abundance of flea markets it seems logical that thrift shopping is so popular in the Bay Area. With the arrival of Candlestick, we have three fairly decent (ok, one phenomenal) flea markets that operate almost every weekend. My favorite remains Alameda Point Antiques Faire that occurs the first Sunday of every month on the island of Alameda. Situated on a former naval base, this vast market is a vintage hounds dream come true. It is so spacious that you feel like you worked out at the gym by the time you are done. Serious shoppers get there early (yes, at dawn with flashlight in hand) to get the best stuff. It costs more but is so worth it. Trust me - you do not want to be stuck standing in line to buy your reduced price ticket at 9am watching people carrying out all the items you were hoping to find. Plus watching the sunrise over the city isn't bad either.

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

For a while now David has been wanting to collect resin table grapes that were so popular back in the late 60s/early 70s. To satisfy his thirst for all things kitsch, we purchased our first red colored figurine at Briarwood Antiques in San Jose. Since then the collection has expanded to include amber, purple and now blue (you cannot get more kitsch than blue).

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.

Wacky Covers

Need I say more?

Swanky Swigs

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.