Friday, July 18, 2008

Unfortunately, 2 more closings

The Arcola Antique Mall, located in Amish-country Arcola, IL, has closed and will be selling merchandise and fixtures at auction on July 24.

The Peckham Gallery, located at 118 E University in Champaign, IL, has announced they are closing after 16 years in business. The Peckhams plan to concentrate on their estate sale and personal property appraisal businesses. The gallery, which was only open on select weekends each month, featured high quality furniture, glass, paintings, Oriental rugs and much, much more. Prices have been discounted up to 50%. We're really sorry to see them close.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Two more bite the dust

Mom and Pop antique stores are some of the places we liked to hunt for undiscovered bargains or unusual items. Unfortunately, like other small businesses, they are rapidly closing their doors.
Over the past five years it seems the antique market has slowed down significantly. There seems to be several causes: ease & low overhead of selling on eBay or other Internet sites, families retaining heirlooms (thanks to shows like Antiques Roadshow) resulting in lack of quality store inventories, and a general disinterest by most younger consumers.

Two area stores have/will be closing by the end of this month. Will E Makit, a well-established business on Rte. 9 in Gibson City, will close at the end of this month. Not only did they sell/consign antiques, they offered china repair, doll repair, and custom lamp shade services. The owner is retiring. Ruby's Glass in downtown Paxton has sold their building and is concentrating on internet sales. Although we felt their inventory was quite over-priced for the area, they had one of the largest antique/collectible glass selections in East Central Illinois.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Candlestick lamps

One of our favorite styles in table lamps are candlestick lamps. They never go out of style and they represent another design that goes well with many decors.

Of course they get their name from the shape of the base. Like their non-electric counterparts, candlestick lamps come in single and multiple arms. Quite often you will see tall single candlestick lamps on buffets and entry tables in the latest magazines.

We're a bit partial to multiple-armed designs.

The top lamp has three candlesticks that are affixed to a sold brass base with a tray-like appearance. The black fabric shade, lined in gold fabric, can be adjusted on the brass pole to provide different lighting ambiance by varying the height.

The bottom lamp is a solid brass candelabra base with three arms. The green fabric shade, like the black lamp, is lined with gold fabric.
Both lamps are approximately the same age and medium table top height. Can you guess which was purchased new for $250 and which was purchased at an auction for $3.00?

Friday, April 11, 2008

Reading Lamps

D. was on the lookout for a good reading lamp and found this solid brass floor lamp at a used furniture store in downtown Rantoul, IL - Family Discount Resale Shop.

The lamp was of excellent quality and condition. Height is adjustable from three to six feet.

The triangular lamp shade swivels 180 degrees and the entire lamp swivels 360 degrees.

The on/off switch also has a dimmer to adjust lighting.

We found this same fixture in an old Ethan Allen catalogue, described as a pharmacy reading lamp.
With all the extra features, like new condition and high quality construction, we felt this lamp was a great buy at $25.00.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Heartland Fashionista

Not only do we like fabulous homes, we like to entertain, so we'll also be including some great tips and bargains for entertaining in the heartland. After all, to be truly "in style" one needs to exude good taste in all aspects of life.

A few months ago we were in the midst of the holiday season and wanted a new dress to bring in the new year. One night only, special occasion dresses are not usually where we want to spend big dollars, unless, of course, it's a wedding day. We may not want to break the bank, but we do want to make a statement when we walk into a room at a party.

After scouring area consignment resale shops, we just couldn't find what we wanted in the right size or color, so eBay was the next logical step. Whether you're looking for special occasion or vintage clothing, there are so many listings on eBay that you're bound to find something that will catch your fancy.

We found and were the successful bidder on this very well made couture dress by Alyce Designs. For some reason it looked vaguely familiar. A few weeks later we discovered that Judith Light of "Who's the Boss" wore it in one of the episodes in which she was attending a party. We had rightly assumed it was probably from the 1980's.

However, we did like the coppery glitzy fabric and the mermaid fit at tea-length to show off a curvy figure. All the Hollywood starlets are still wearing mermaid dresses of some design.

The velvet top adorned with coppery sequins was warm for our winter weather, yet the plunging back allowed some skin to be revealed. Abundant netting under the flounce skirt helped keep the shape of the lower part of the dress.

Since the dress says it all, we simply added a few gold bangles around the wrist and tri-gold dangling earrings.

This special occasion dress cost us $30.00 plus $8.50 shipping/handling. The original cost was around $1000-1200. Good classic vintage clothes can put you in great style at very affordable prices. Sometimes you may need to alter them to make them more contemporary, but usually minor changes will make a big difference.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Checking out some Real Esate

We didn't feel much like shopping this weekend, so we decided to spend Sunday afternoon roaming through several area real estate open houses. D. sold real estate for over 28 years and has renovated and resold many residential and commercial properties. C. is contemplating buying a new place in the near future, but he's hoping to wait until the market bottoms out to get a better deal.

One Realtor had baked chocolate chip cookies and the odor hit our noses before we got to the front door. Although many Realtors suggest doing this to make the property seem homey, D. is always suspicious that it is masking an odor that cannot be removed (i.e. pet urine, mildew). Have the cookies available for prospective buyers, but don't overdo the aroma thing. It can have the opposite effect of what you're trying to accomplish. The odor question distracted us from enjoying the otherwise comfortable, stylish home.

Another property was fairly new and most of the furnishings had been removed, but the lower level was strewn with children's toys. The owners or Realtor should have stored or organized the toys before the public entered the area. A jumbled mess of toys all over a room in an otherwise empty house says that perhaps the whole house looked like this when they lived here, and if so, how well has this house been maintained?

D. had been known to make beds, hide dirty laundry, put away toys and pick up dog poop before an open house. These Realtors perhaps just didn't have the experience yet to know how to get a property sold. The trick is not showing the public how you really live.

We really enjoyed walking through a beautiful two story brick 1920's Georgian home. The owners and Realtor did this open house the correct way. Everything was clean, put away, and odor-free. All the lights were on, the hardwood floors shined, and even the yard looked good despite the still somewhat unattractive time of year. D. had actually sold this house a couple times and it was interesting to her to see how the house had looked good once, fallen into disrepair, and now looked great again. We predicted that the Georgian house would sell fairly quickly compared to the other two properties. It was well maintained, decorated tastefully, but not bland, and showed well.

Friday, March 28, 2008

70's Kitsch Chic Art

C. was digging around in the back room of Country Crossroads Antique Shop in Rantoul, IL, when he spotted the perfect house-warming gift for D.'s daughter who had recently moved to San Francisco:

This 1970's 24 x 48 picture of San Francisco had been recently rewired with new mini-holiday lights to bring back the original gaudiness. Everything else was original. A little cleaning and it was as good as new. The artwork can really be appreciated when it is lit.

The picture is now the talk of daughter's parties and guests insist that the lights be turned on for festive ambiance.

Price for this great (?) piece of art - $25.00. It cost more than that to ship it to California, but the party conversation that it now generates more than offsets the shipping costs.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

1970's for the 21st Century

Many people dismiss furniture from the 1960's & 1970's, but we've found some styles from those decades can work well in modern settings.

We found this dining room set at a now closed used furniture store in a small town near Champaign-Urbana. We liked the Danish modern influences, the walnut wood tones, and we especially liked the china cabinet and the avocado green upholstery on the chairs.

You can catch a glimpse of the table top in the picture below. Ugh! The table top wasn't so stylish with the dated Formica surface - it really didn't seem to fit the rest of the set, but covered with a tablecloth, no one knows how awful it looks underneath. The table legs are similar in design to the chair legs.

The set ended up in an apartment belonging to 20 something occupants. The avocado upholstery actually became "sage" green with the right accessory pieces and red and blue were used as accent colors to add some pizazz. The china cabinet was turned into a great dry bar. The sliding glass doors on top showcase barware and the base top is used for serving and mixing drinks, with storage in the lower part.

The large dining table, six chairs, and china cabinet were purchased for only $200. It was a remarkably cheap set that was as stylish, trendy, and youthful as the owners, despite the fact the furniture was over 35 years old.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Mid-century Mahogany

D. prefers traditional, classic decor for her own home, but she has a great eye for spotting contemporary items with real lasting appeal.

We were at a Gordon Hannigan auction in Paxton, IL when D. spotted a 5 piece bedroom set that she thought had great styling and contemporary lines, even though it apparently had been purchased by the owners sometime in the late 1940's to early 1950's. Everyone else at the auction seemed to have their eyes on a maple bedroom set that was a cheap imitation of an Ethan Allen grouping.

D. began examining the construction of the inconspicuous set. The backs of the pieces were marked "solid mahogany." The drawers were dove-tailed construction, and inside the top drawer of each piece was stamped "Drexel." This was a high-end bedroom set manufactured by one of the best furniture manufacturers in the country.

The condition of all the pieces was very good - only some minor light scratches near the bases that could easily be masked with some Old English scratch remover. All the case pieces had custom-made glass tops for protection. The wood was stained a medium brown, not too light like some 1950's pieces, but not a deep dark color. The slightly reddish hue of the mahogany was visible in the still original finish.

What really attracted D. to the set were the slightly rounded lines of the pieces and the contemporary style of the handles. She visualized this set in a large loft apartment in some metro area. The large dresser could even stand alone as a bar or side-board in a dining room.

(Sorry these pictures don't do the set justice; they were taken in a dark crowded warehouse.) The set consisted of a full size bed (headboard & footboard), night stand, chest of drawers, and dresser with full mirror. She could see real potential here and ended up as one of two bidders on it. She finally won the auction, stealing the set of 5 pieces for only $300. And here's why it was an even better bargain than she imagined:

D. began researching the Drexel grouping and found that it was the only collection ever designed by Edward Wormley, a famous Midwestern designer. The 1947 "Precedent Collection" was designed by Wormley to secure his position with the competing Dunbar Furniture Company, and the collection was marketed to the upscale conservative modern Beverly Hills type of clients. Although not considered his ultimate best work, the line is still highly valued by collectors. The dresser and chest alone are likely worth at least $750-$900 each. We also noticed the same bedroom set was sold in the Marge Schott Estate.

For now, the furniture pieces are being stored in our warehouse until someone comes along with a loft apartment or large contemporary home that simply must have a vintage Edward Wormley bedroom to showcase their superior modern taste.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Small chairs, Big deal

Consignment shops can yield some great furniture and accessory pieces, but like antique malls and stores, you have to visit fairly often to find the out-of-the-ordinary piece before someone else comes and snatches it. The best advice is, if you see something you like at a consignment shop, buy it when you see it because most likely it will be gone before you come back. Most large towns have at least a couple of these stores. Many area small towns have at least one, although the inventory selections will not be as great, but prices will probably be lower than the bigger towns.

We were looking for some small size occasional chairs to fit in a living room that had plenty of seating for large size people, but nothing for smaller adults or children. A pair of these very fine quality club chairs fit the bill.

The jewel tone colors of the fabric stripes perfectly accented the reds, greens, and golds of the other furniture and draperies in the room.

The colors and the striped fabric also coordinated well with the bold Waverly wallpaper in the adjoining dining room.

These were high end quality chairs, manufactured by Henredon and were in like new condition. Cost new is estimated at $500 each. We got these for $100. each.

We found these at City Consignments in downtown Bloomington, IL. This is a store we really love. It encompasses two buildings with several floors and is surrounded by other quaint shops in the revitalized downtown area. There are lots of good restaurants downtown, so you can spend the whole day in downtown Bloomington shopping all specialty stores.

Everything we have found at City Consignments has been clean and odor free and we have spent several thousand dollars there over the past few years. We've purchased upholstered pieces and case goods, and all were reasonably priced and in very good to excellent condition.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Hitchcock chair reproduction

We've always liked the style of a Hitchcock chair. Even bad reproductions of the chairs generally will add some pizzaz to most homes.

We found this reproduction Hitchcock at an auction by Kruse Auction Service, last year in Gibson City, IL. A couple of us were lusting over it. You'll see why later.

From 1826 to 1840, Lambert Hitchcock made about 200,000 chairs in his factory in Riverton, CT and in the 1830's he was known as America's greatest chairmaker. His chairs are among the most famous pieces of furniture in American history.

The chairs were made to be decorated. Most of them had rush seats and were made in twenty parts. Several basic designs were used, but the most typical chairs were straight chairs, about the size we use around our dining room tables today. Sometimes the chairs had arms.

The earliest and best Hitchcocks were made and decorated by master craftsmen who signed their work. Some of these chairs were grained to look like a different wood than what they were actually made. For example, a maple chair might be grained to resemble more elegant rosewood or mahogany.

After this graining, designs were applied free-hand in gold leaf, or more frequently with stencil in gold or bronze powders. Stencils were done on a black background. The fine chairs of this type were done in multiple stencil, which gave depth to the design and is one of the surest indications of a "good chair."

After Lambert Hitchcock's death, cheap imitations of his chairs were made both in his factory and in other parts of the country and they are still being made. The craftsmanship may not be as good as the originals, but you can still get a very good look at a very reasonable price.

We liked this chair for several reasons:

1. The classic Hitchcock style goes well with many different decors, including colonial, classic, country, and contemporary (especially with this black enamel finish with gold accents).

2. The size is nice - small enough to fit most anywhere (a corner, at a desk), yet large enough to encompass a full size rear end comfortably.

3. The quality is very good. We guessed it might be an old Ethan Allen produced piece, since there were other Ethan Allen pieces in the auction. No manufacture marks could be found on it.

4. The condition is excellent. We found no scratches and all the gold detailing was in perfect shape.

The price? We know you're going to be sooooooo jealous - $3.00. That's right. We paid just $3.00 for this fine reproduction accessory piece. Now you know why we were fighting over it.

Monday, March 17, 2008

A lot of sparkle for just a few dollars

The front foyer of this particular turn of the century home is large. Upon entering, one can see a large staircase to the second floor with openings to living room, den, dining room and a rear foyer. It is the hub of a traffic wheel to most all of the other rooms on the first floor.

Suspended from the 10 foot ceiling is this tiered brass and crystal antique light fixture that was not original to the house, but a proper elegant substitute for a fixture that had long been removed decades earlier.
Below the chandelier, the owners have a 48 inch round solid walnut extension table, circa 1860. There are beautiful burled walnut accents on the table edge and in the legs, but the top is rather plain

We were looking for an accent piece for the table that would merge the table and chandelier together as one central focal point and it had to be large enough to compete with the scale of the room.

We found the perfect solution at an auction provided by Gordon Hannigan Auction.

This early 20Th century punch bowl and platter is pressed glass, but has enough intricate pattern that light easily reflects into sparkling diamonds that simulate the light from the real crystals hanging from the chandelier above.

The bowl is large (13 inches) and sits on the 21 1/2 inch platter. That leaves approximately 12-13 inches around the platter as usable space for mail, gloves, etc. The bowl itself can be used for seasonal floral displays. At the time we purchased this, it was the winter holiday season, so we filled the bowl with various evergreens and then mixed it up a little with small red parrot tulips and twigs for some height.

Why we loved this purchase:
1. Cost. $30.00 auction price. No chips or cracks in either piece. We think we got it so cheap because of the size and weight (few people want those extra large items today) and that the 12 punch cups that originally came with the bowl and platter were missing.

2. Versatility. The bowl and platter can be filled with flowers, pine cones, Christmas ornaments, potpourri, and even punch or chips for large parties.

3. Design. The set gave us what we were looking for - massive scale, sparkling light to contrast the dark plain walnut table top, and something that draws the eye directly to the center of the foyer as soon as you walk through the front door.