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.