Miss Sally

She could have been named Betty, Suzy or Mary Jane. She was likely someones mother, grandmother or even great grandmother depending how her story unfolded. But to me she is known as Sally Mae or Sally for short.

Kodak launched a creative advertising campaign using true to life posters of attractive young ladies to entice buyers to purchase their various products. No, they were not the first company to use this style of advertisement but they inadvertently captured a time in America that still seemed innocent and carefree. A time when people still fantasized about space travel. A time when the Cleaver home seemed realistic.

Provided to camera shops to help encourage customers to document their Kodak moments only a few of these cardboard cut outs remain today. And lucky for me David found one in fabulous condition recently at the Alameda Point antique faire.

I tried desperately to learn more about the adorable girl in the picture wearing her pink swim dress and yellow shoes (I am really loving the shoes) but to no avail. All I do know is that this particular ad was released sometime between 1950-54 based on the manufacturing dates of her camera.

I am not sure why I am so fascinated by her. Perhaps it could be that she and I are about the same height. Or that I happen to own the Duaflex II camera she is holding. It could also be that I so desperately want her shoes. But until I can discover more about her this mystery lady she will remain Miss Sally to me.

George Was Right: It is Surprisingly Comfortable

What seems to be our never ending redecorating project we decided to shift gears and go designer. Well, a reproduction of a quintessential mid-century design that is.

Enter Craigslist.

A few weeks back we discovered a listing for a Nelson Marshmallow Sofa online. Hoping to replace a well loved chaise lounge with something a little more hip, we knew instantly that this sofa provided the solution. More like a love seat than a couch, our new playful black leather sofa added style without overpowering the room. And as advertised, it is surprisingly comfortable.

Designed by George Nelson and Irving Harper for Herman Miller in 1956, the marshmallow sofa led the way into the pop art style of the 1960s. With its original limited release only a few survive today.

Enter reproduction.

I once read that most mid-century designs were not issued patents. Although this practice has proved unfair for the designers it has provided the opportunity for folks like me to afford something that otherwise would remain an image in a magazine. And so what if mine is really a second-hand reproduction. I like it just the same. And so does my wallet.

40 Year Matchbox Time Capsule

David announced tonight that his rekindled interest obsession in Matchbox is his way of avoiding the inevitable. Cheaper than buying a convertible, David's mission is to collect every Matchbox and Hot Wheels he owned as a child as a remedy for his mid life crisis. And with the magic of the internet, he is now closer to fulfilling this dream.

Today arrived a box set consisting of pristine cars from the late 60s/early 70s. From the Lamborghini Countach to the Beach Buggy I was surprised to learn that these colorful toys were manufactured in England by Lesney Products. (Ok, my sheltered childhood was filled with dolls by Mattel so this was new to me.) Of the twenty four cars inside his new carry case only two matched the ones lost long ago.

So his "crisis" continues....

Besides, he has already warned me that his next crisis will be to collect the original set of Star Trek action figures and Enterprise playset. Apparently, he is saving the biggest challenge for last.

Ahhhh, boys will be boys.

Not Your Ordinary Jack in the Box

The curse of living in a Victorian apartment is the constant lack of closet space. So whenever I find a mid-century piece of furniture that could double as a storage unit I get goosebumps. I had one of those experiences several months back when we found this amoeba print hassock at a flea market. With its spacious hidden compartment, I knew instantly that I would find a use for it. And the bonus was that it also doubled easily as a stool.

So naturally it became our toy box.

Yet I was confused. With its plaid lining and random rubber bands I was suspicious that our new toy chest was once a fancy but rather impractical picnic basket.

But I was wrong. Dead wrong.

About two weeks ago David & I spotted a similar hassock at an antique mall in Sebastopol. It was the fraternal twin of ours with similar construction but different fabric.

What shocked us most was the contents inside. A Filtex Vacuum complete with instructions.

I had never seen anything quite like it. No, not the vacuum silly but a chest to store a vacuum cleaning system. Isn't that what closets are for?

So I am flattered to think that this hip hassock created to store a vacuum was designed for people like me. Those with limited closet space in their Victorian apartments.

Pretty cool, eh?

Party Planning Mid-Century Style

In anticipation of a mid-century cocktail party we are throwing later this summer I have been researching. This isn't your ordinary web based research. Trying to remain as authentic as possible, I have limited my investigation to materials published between 1950 and 1960.

So when David came home with "Hear How To Plan The Perfect Dinner Party" on vinyl the possibilities expanded. Given to him by our good friend Dick Vivian of Rooky Ricardo's Records, I felt I crossed the finish line without even breaking into a sweat. Released in 1960, this handy instruction manual from Gaynor and Dorothy Maddox offers tips on how to prepare a steak to a Polynesian dinner. Nothing remotely vegetarian, lactose or gluten free so to the modern audience this record is a tad bit dated. Our party will involve mostly liquid meals anyway.

My research takes me to cookbooks still widely used in homes today. Glancing through the Better Homes & Gardens New Cookbook (1953) and Betty Crocker New Picture Cookbook (1961), I found the later very amusing. Filled with sketches of individuals demonstrating how guests should appear, this is no ordinary cookbook. It almost feels like Emily Post joined the staff at Betty Crocker to design a classy entertainment manual for the "modern" home.

So next time you are at a party make sure you find time to pat a child's head while balancing a plate of food. It really is the party breaker.

This book also solved the mystery of "English" vs. "Russian" dining. Hint: who served your dinner last night? Think - hired help. No, not your mom.

Well according to this book only Russians have servants. Who knew? But then again, I am not Russian and the only "servant" I have come across is better known as a waiter in a restaurant.

Since cocktails are the theme of the party, I have also been reviewing a bunch of guides David once picked up at an estate sale. My task is to find a signature beverage that will be a crowd pleaser. Something with gin, perhaps? Luckily the party isn't for a few weeks so I will have plenty of time to sample a drink or two (or three) before I feel competent to host to millions as this book promises.

More to come.

Crazy Projects

I woke up this morning thinking it was as good of a day as any to tackle another renovation project. The victim this time was a classic mid century wood chair that had been painted black. Since the paint job was, well lets say...less than ideal, it seems time to bring it back to its original state. With heavy duty paint stripper and industrial proof gloves in hand, I set out to prove to myself once and for all that "projects" can be fun.

Then out of the blue the theme song for Flashdance popped in my head.

Ok so slapping on toxic chemicals onto an old chair has absolutely nothing to do with a struggling dancer but Michael Sembello's one hit wonder seemed perfect for the moment. Because from the first moment I slapped on the paint thinner I knew that I was a maniac.

And then it started raining. (Hmmm, maybe someone was trying to tell me something.)

By mid afternoon the clouds parted so it was time to carry on with my project. This unforeseen break provided me just enough time to restore my lungs to proper working order before exposing myself to more toxic fumes.

So I continued. Layer upon layer of stripper was lathered onto the chair. Before I knew it, virgin wood started to peak through. After a little bit (translation: A LOT) of sanding the chair was finally ready for a face lift.

By day two my little chair started looking like it did when it originally left the nest.

Biggest challenge now is removing the paint from its joints. Right now it looks like it has moles. And these aren't sexy moles. Instead they are the pesty ones a dermatologist removes leaving you praying that they aren't malignant.

But the plot thickens. I forgot to mention that this chair was part of a pair so I had to repeat the same process all over again. Ok, this is when my theme song really does kick in.

A Star is Born

Speaking of stars, David came home yesterday with another starburst clock for our collection. This one does not belong on a wall. With its marble base, our new clock belongs on a mantel. With no mantel available it now adorns our Zenith Stereophonic. No complaints here.

I See Stars!!!!

Inspired by Jon & Jose's Homes, Sweet Home feature on my favorite blog Mimomito, I knew that I wanted a star wall to call my own. Since we often come across starburst clocks during our vintage hunts, I was confident that we would be able to build our wall in no time. Luckily, David shared my dream.

Our challenge was to find various styles that would mix well together. Eclectic but with a purpose. Clocks with cords had to have a secret cubby to hide them in since visible cords would look...well...tacky. And with all of our DIY projects, our budget was a little over zero.

Ranging from $10- $70 we found clocks throughout Northern California to help build our collection. All are in working order from manufacturers such as Syroco, Lux and Sessions. All are mid century. To our relief, most were battery operated. Those with cords met the bill by having some type of nook in the back to hide the cord in. (Otherwise we would have had to rely on Serene's helpful advice to switch out the cord.)

With our project complete all I now have to do is to remember to shield my head if there ever is an earthquake or I will really be seeing stars.

Zenith Stereophonic

On our last Alameda Antique Faire pursuit we took home this lovely stereo console that now adorns our living room. Despite having the original operating guide to our new Zenith Stereophonic High Fidelity Phonograph with AM-Stereo FM Tuner, we know relatively nothing about it. After striking out on Google, I am left to make a best guess estimate that it was manufactured in the early 1960s.

This walnut console with bentwood legs is truly an attractive piece. The radio works but hums pretty loudly. Strangely the hum gets louder when the turntable is spinning. So it needs a few repairs before it is playable.

I did, however, uncover info on the evolution of the FM radio that I thought was worth sharing. According to Cybercollege.com, the story of FM radio is one of success and tragedy. Instead of me summarizing the events, check out their article on the Dawn of the FM Radio to learn more yourself.

Laura's Saga

Growing up a TV junkie I had no reason to read "great novels" that were not assigned as a school assignment. With blockbuster movies based on Jane Austin's novels, there really was no point. But when David came home after an estate sale with a 'Little House on the Prairie' box set from 1971 I felt it was time to change old habits.

A huge fan of the 70s hit show that ran for almost a decade, I giggled with excitement at the opportunity to read the story from the beginning. Now almost finished I find myself reluctant to say goodbye to half-pint and her family.

Since the publication of the first book in the series ("Little House in the Big Woods") in 1932, readers from all walks of life were drawn to this childhood tale. Written from Laura's perspective, life was not always pleasant for the Ingalls clan. From a grasshopper plague to Mary's unexpected blindness, Laura's story is a page turner. I have gained a greater appreciation for modern advances. The fact that hand washing clothes to me is a choice and not a chore seems quite remarkable after reading this series. Despite these advances, Laura's story helped me appreciate how much we have lost. Wide open spaces. Prairies without highways or better yet, tract homes. Organic produce growing in your own backyard.

So here I remain - a city girl snuggled on my couch enjoying the adventures of Miss Laura Ingalls without the television on.

Baby Bullet

Ok, I know that I already wrote about bullet planters. But I could not help but write about my latest acquisition. My charming new baby planter. I spotted it at SFADM and knew instantly I had to have it. And it fits beautifully on my bathroom cabinet. As Martha likes to say "it's a good thing".

Thanks, Toni

I am sending out a huge round of applauds to my friend Toni of the Mid-Century Modern blog Mimomito for her research skills that helped me avoid the biggest mistake of my antique picking career. Earlier today, David & I stumbled upon a brown Eames style lounge chair listed at a ridiculously low price. You think that the price would have tipped us off but we came across it at a junk store where we have found hidden treasures in the past (i.e. rare 1st edition books for $1). So we were curious. The chair appeared to be from the right era. The leather worn in all the right places. Structurally it was sound. Needless to say, it caught our attention.

But my inner voice questioned whether it was too good to be true.

So I consulted Toni via text messages (love them smart phones) who immediately turned me on to an incredibly helpful website that distinguished real vs. fake. After quickly scanning this website we realized that the chair in front of us was not an Eames but a bona fide knock off. The dead giveaway was that the base was not five star but four. Its arm rests were also flat and made from one piece of leather. Yes, an expert would have noticed all this at first glance but we're still novices.

So thanks to Toni I am not sitting on my fake Eames right now sulking but counting the money she saved me at the click of a button. And I am one step closer to being able to spot a true Eames piece from the wannabes.

Hip Hip Hooray!

Hey, is that a Flamingo I see?

As long as we remain living in San Francisco it is highly unlikely that we will ever have a lawn. So us city dwellers had an unique dilemma. Where in the heck should we display our vintage flamingo lawn ornaments when the closest patch of green was cross town? And chances were - they would have been stolen if left unattended. And sadly, I doubt I could issue an Amber alert if they were kidnapped.

So on top of our refrigerator seemed the most logical solution.

Surrounded by vintage advertisements, our three pink flamingos now truly have a bird's eye view of the apartment.

Should We Sell These?

On our way to Sacramento this past weekend we decided to make a pit stop in Vallejo to check out what was happening mid century-wise. Cruising down Georgia Street we came across Indian Alley Antiques and decided to peak inside. Not more than a dusty hole in the wall, this antique store was filled with hidden treasures. One such discovery was a pair of mannequin heads likely used to display jewelry. Our best guess is that both were from the late 60s/early 70s and surprisingly in good condition figuring that mannequins are not always handled with care. David was in love.

Problem was that they were bald.

Not wanting to spend a fortune on wigs for the girls, we were directed by friends to the "hood" in Sacramento proper. Proving once again that friend's advice in the best advice, we were able to find a wig store with a vast selection of surprisingly affordable hairstyles. Mission accomplished.

But the story gets better.

On our way back to the car we were almost car jacked in the stripe mall parking lot. Lucky for us, our would-be car jacker was over weight making it easy for us to dodge his advances in order to make a clean get away. Although annoyed at the time, I laugh recalling this dude's face when we flat out told him that we didn't have time "for this" and sped off.

So the girls are safe and sound in our living room with their new coiffure. Our only dilemma now is whether we can part with them.

Do Try This At Home

Who said you couldn't be creative with vintage appliances. One of my most favorite tricks is to use an item meant for one purpose for another. One example of this is my recent conversion of a mid century chrome kitchen canister set meant to store flour, sugar, coffee and tea into an office (or in my case laundry room) organizer. Lacking office space, I was at a loss as to where to store necessary (but seldom used) items such as scotch tape, glue, scissors, and calculator. Then it dawned on me.
Voila! Now I have an adorable yet functional office organizer hanging in my laundry room.

Match Made in Heaven

Those who know me are aware of my fondness for Franciscan Starburst dinnerware. So it should be easy to imagine my excitement last Sunday when I spotted a table full of these adorable atomic dishes at the Alameda Point Antique Faire. It was an addict's dream come true. Among the mix was a sugar bowl with lid. It was flawless. Already the proud owner of not one but two creamers, I have been on the hunt for a sugar bowl for some time now. And there it was just waiting for me. A match made in heaven.

So I blame my obsession on my mother. Recently she shared with me that when her family relocated to California from the East Coast back in the late 50s her mom decided to modernize their dishware. Since the Franciscan factory was within walking distance to their Glendale home, she accompanied her mom to pick out the new pattern. You guessed it. They chose the Starburst pattern. But this story takes a sad turn. No one knows what ever happened to that set of dishes. Likely sold or given away after my grandparent's deaths, these once cherished dishes could be in your kitchen right now (or perhaps mine without even knowing it). The good news is that my grandmother was among the masses that helped make these dishes popular back in the day. Pretty cool, huh?

Ice Ice Baby

You cannot get any more atomic than this. The first time we stumbled upon a Dazey 160 ice crusher buried deep inside a box at a local flea market I recall David exclaiming with joy like he found a long list friend. It started with one (the red one, actually) but as you can see our collection has grown (true confession - we own six and counting). With its metal top and colorful plastic bottom, this rocket shaped ice crusher originally launched in the late 40s. Linked to the Populuxe movement I am not surprised why these space-aged crushers remain popular today.

The Magic of Restor-A-Finish

With the clouds clearing this afternoon I took advantage of the spring day to work on my ever increasing pile of restoration projects. Today's mission was to breathe life back into a mid-century china cabinet that I recently purchased from a couple on Craigslist. Not a simple task since David & I managed to ding it quite a bit trying to get it home. Lesson learned - remove all drawers before carrying heavy cabinets over wet grass.

After some light sanding I got my arsenal out to help me with the transformation.

I have used Howard's Restor-A-Finish before with pleasing results but this time was totally blown away by its magic. Doubting that it was ever polished or waxed since the day it came off the assembly line, my new china cabinet's wood was splintered and sad. After cleaning it well with Murphy's Oil Soap, I lathered on Restor-A-Finish (Walnut) with extra fine steel wool praying that I would not ruin the piece. What unfolded before my eyes was nothing short of a miracle. Finishing it off with a healthy dose of Howard's Feed-N-Wax the cabinet looks amazing.

Voila!!! My beautiful new china cabinet is no longer sad.

Now christened 'Howard', my new china cabinet won't be complete until the glass sliding cabinet doors are reinstalled. In the meantime, he looks pretty good to me.

One Person's Junk is Another Person's Treasure

I had one of those moments again where I was reminded why Alemany Flea Market was the best kept secret of San Francisco. Buried deep within a box full of junk, I discovered not one but two black & gold porcelain table lamps that were screaming my name. They weren't perfect but miraculously were not chipped (much) despite the layers of discarded objects piled on top of them. It was truly a proud moment. Originally the seller wanted a ridiculous amount of money but with a little persuasion we got him down to $20 for the pair. Gotta love junk dealers. I get goosebumps just thinking about it.

But they desperately needed re-wiring. Thanks to the talents of our buddy Matt Osborne of Glass Key Photo (yes, he fixes lamps too) our adorable art deco lamps have a new home.

Renovation Time Capsule

At a recent estate sale in San Francisco, David picked up a mystery envelope that he hoped contained brochures with images from the 50s to further our knowledge of the time. To our surprise, this Eames era envelope was jammed pack with various pamphlets, magazine cut-outs and paint samples that had been forgotten long ago in some random drawer. Here is what was inside.

Notice the postage date? We really are going back in time.

All renovation projects start with a good coat of paint.

Never fear this DIY guide is for beginners.

I think this owner was interested in sprucing up their bathroom.

So many color choices. I pick the blue one.

There was also a random McCall's - December 1956 inside.

Back to the bathroom decorating project. A new shower door is a must.

Don't bother going to Bathroom Accessories Supply Co. since it is now someone's home.

A little hard to appreciate but the vanity is a cut out from a magazine.

Proof that it isn't just me who reads travel guides while on the toilet.

Now moving on to flooring.

The personal touch was such a great selling technique. (Yes, it is a real signature by a good old fashion ink pen.)

Oh, we were so innocent back then.

So that finishes our tour of home decorating 1956.