A vacation home in the D.R. with some mid-century modern treasures
A few of the treasures we found at the Brimfield Antique Market and the unique history we were able to discover later.
Opening Day at Brimfield starts early! Part 2 of my trip tells you what I found and how I managed the challenge, till next time!
Brimfield Flea Markets in Massachusets is America's oldest outdoor antique flea market. Like many of my design trips, Brimfield has been on my travel list for quite some time. The flea market only happens 3 times a year, so I had to mark my calendar to make sure I could plan in advance. May, July, or September were my options.
How do you begin to plan a visit to over twenty acres of antique stands? I had to start with logistics, where is Brimfield exactly, how do I get there and where would I stay? Just the thought of over 5,000 vendors makes me giddy and gives me major anxiety at the same time. Luckily there are some amazing online resources and veteran visitors willing to provide their knowledge to this newbie.
So far here are the resources I've been using.
and this app Brimfield Flea Finder
I try not to overwhelm myself with viewing the vendor lists and have decided to leave my finds up to chance, that's really the best way to conquer a flea market. You can't plan what you are going to find Rule #1.
Rule #2 make sure you know where to park. So far I've been told that by 8 am, parking lots are full so when they say it opens at sunrise, it's no joke. At 6 am doors will be opening to some of the fields. Over 30,000 visitors arrive in Brimfield and I'm hoping to be one of the first. My weather should be partly cloudy and sunny with 0% chance of rain. Apparently, Brimfield has a history of no rain, but you ever know. Always best to check and prepare for what you can, which leads to Rule #3 plan your packing.
When I visited the flea market in Paris for the first time it was impossible for me to know I'd end up falling in love with a vintage fur coat that took up most of the single suitcase I had with me. I considered wearing it on the flight but arriving in Miami, FL I'm pretty sure I would've raised some red flags walking through customs. To play it safe, by the end of my Paris trip, I had a new carry-on and an additional suitcase to check in - amateur move (palm to face emoji).
On this trip I am bringing an empty duffle bag with wheels that I'm packing inside my half-empty suitcase, a carry-on - empty, a shopping tote and my Mother! Yes, my Mother, the woman who taught me about Louis Comfort Tiffany lamps at Pizza Hut and dragged me to every estate sale growing up, is joining me on my journey to Brimfield. Her luggage is pretty empty too!
I'm excited to find out what we'll discover. There are so many online resources these days for searching for art and design, ebay, Etsy, Chairish and 1st dibs are just a few but none can compete with the experience of speaking directly to a vendor at the flea market. I'm hoping to learn a thing or two and engage in some great conversations, which is Rule #4 and the most important rule in flea market shopping, ask questions!! Most Vintage Dealers are extremely passionate about their inventory and love to share their knowledge.
Coffee Tables, dining tables, side tables and nightstands are all great opportunities to display the personal items that we collect. I personally love coffee tables and large ones, for displays since typically they are in an area of entertainment and gathering, and a focal point for the room.
Budgets here can be as large or a small as you like, the key is to find pieces that speak to you, your travels, your hobbies, items that have a personal meaning.
When working on decorating projects I like to start by restaging table displays with personal items found around the house, many times it's simply a matter of reorganizing and placing items in a new way. I'll ask clients about their favorite decorative pieces. Favorite books are such a great item to decorate with and usually, these are tucked away on a library shelf.
Bowls and trays are great to have on a table, they catch keys, pocket change, matchboxes from your favorite bar, restaurant or hotel. I love looking for bowls and trays at flea markets, in small curated home stores, or purchased directly from local artists. A mix of colors and materials make for a nice display.
Small plants like miniature orchids or succulents also work well on tabletops. Plants add life to any room and it is proven plants improve our wellbeing. Check out The Sill for recommendations on small plants for all types of lighting. The Sill delivers plants already potted for you.
Candles and candle holders make for great sculptural items. Find scents that are relaxing and set a mood, it'll add to who you are and the personal space you are creating.
Have fun with mixing and matching your items, change up your display often and discover new items that bring you joy.
Here are some online sites we really like for tabletop items:
1. You don't need as much furniture as you think you do, just more interesting pieces.
Who says you need the couch or that chair to fill up that corner?
2. Collect what you love, it will inspire you to be more creative.
Taking a life lesson from designer Alexander Girard we could all be more creative daily.
3. Don't be afraid of color, it adds emotion to a home.
Monet, Barragan, Le Corbusier and Frida Kahlo all knew a thing or 2 about living passionately.
4. If it doesn't matter get rid of it, free your space.
We consume way more then we need, items with no real meaning or purpose.
5. Travel and support independent creatives, your collected treasures will tell your journey.
A home to reflect the stories of those who live there, a collected space, unique and individual.
When I first moved to New York City I had literally no idea what I was getting myself into. I had a plan A, a plan B, and a plan C on the job front. The housing front was a different story. I crashed with a friend out in Brooklyn for a couple weeks while I hunted for an apartment on Craigslist. I looked at everything. It was February in 2005, it was snowing hard and may I add I was moving from Costa Rica and found myself standing in the snow in soaking wet Puma sneakers, yeah it was an overall adjustment, to say the least, but I was very determined to make NYC my home.
I went to see a 2 bedroom apartment in Murray Hill. When I met the girl that was moving out she told me she was also looking for a roommate for the apartment she was moving into, a 3 bedroom apartment in Gramercy. We got along and I went to see this other apartment the next day. Yes, I was moving in with complete strangers found on Craigslist but I trust my gut when it comes to two things people and collecting.
The apartment I would later move into had black and white linoleum floors, exposed brick, a fireplace and a private and very dangerous rooftop. It was totally charming. My room was towards the back, roughly 8ft x 8ft with a small window with natural light. For what I could afford this was the jackpot. I would also inherit a small dresser left by the previous tenant. A full-size bed would fit snugly between the wall and the open closet that was a shelf and a rod sunken in the exposed brick. I ordered the mattress and box frame over the phone and had it delivered the next day in classic New York style through 1-800- mattress. There were 3 options soft, medium or hard. There was just enough room to shimmy out of bed between the mattress and the hanging clothes. My basics were taken care of.
The rest of the apartment decor was amazing. One of my roommates, Francis was a photo stylist at Home & Garden Magazine. She could have been a founding leader of the shabby chic movement. Her bedroom could have been on an inspiration board for Anthropology branding had Pinterest existed back in 2005. She had collected and displayed throughout the apartment beautiful vases, empty antique frames, and had a great collection of home entertaining books that I spent hours going through. The how-to floral arrangement and table setting placement books had beautiful photography one more charming than the next. A few months of living with Francis and I had learned a thing or two on styling and found out where to find some good antiques in the city.
My room was small but I knew if I could find a large mirror to place above the dresser I could make the space feel larger so, on one of my visits to the flea markets in Hell's Kitchen, I scored an antique mirror with a gold frame. The mirror had a lovely bevel to it and the gold frame was slightly chipped in all the right places. For $20 from its original $25 price (I pulled out just the one 20 dollar bill and told the white lie it was all I had) I was very happy with my find. Of course, after carrying it for a few blocks, I ended up spending the $5 on a cab ride to get home with it, it was simply too heavy to carry any further. The mirror would reflect the natural light that came in through my window very nicely. Along with a purple vase that had been included in a floral delivery from my then boyfriend and a hanging plant for $6 from K-mart, my little room felt cozy.
At age 22 real artwork was not in the budget and posters were still acceptable in my mind, which shouldn't be once you actually live in an apartment and not a college dorm. I was at the Met one day and was mesmerized by a poster of a Richard Avedon portrait of Marilyn Monroe in the gift shop. I remember thinking it was quite expensive, like $65 or something. I'm not really the Marilyn Monroe fan type girl but the black and white portrait is quite sober and melancholy. Looking back, this poster would be the second of several female portraits I would collect later in the future. The first was a poster of Drowning Girl or I Don't Care I'd Rather Sink by Roy Lichtenstein. I didn't really plan to collect portraits but I think in a very personal way I have seen parts of myself reflected in these women, one way or another and collected them in the moment. Prints, paintings, photography and collage make up the art forms in my collection these days.
I was devastated when I learned Francis was moving out and we'd be left without her collected treasures. To my relief, she left us a gold bar cart she had found one day on a nearby corner on her way back from work. She also left us a wreath in the shape of a star that had white lights on it that when lit was super cozy, a cheap find from Pier 1 that hung above the bar cart. But now we needed a couch.
My building on the corner of 22nd and 3rd was far from the sky-rise that is in that location these days. Back then it was a small, 3 story walk-up that housed 2 apartments and a BBQ restaurant that supplied the apartments with the occasional mouse. Delivery for the couch wasn't bad, I was able to find a pull-out that had been recently dropped off at the nearest Salvation Army. For $300 it was in excellent condition. It had the smell of a new hotel and the color was army green, a color I love still to this day and pick out often. Against the black and white flooring, the couch looked amazing, it was also very comfy.
When Francis moved out, my other roommate Melissa was able to negotiate with our landlord to repaint the room she was moving into (Francis's old room) and the kitchen. For the kitchen, we agreed upon a peacock blue/ Asian turquoise that was airy with our white cabinets and black and white floor. I was able to find a little butcher block cart at the tiny local hardware store just a few blocks away and wheeled it home one afternoon. It cost me $40 and I remember I sold it for $60 on Craigslist later, I also made a profit on my couch when I moved out of the city, a good couple hundred bucks too.
Among the several part-time jobs and internships that I had at the time, one of them was at an arts publication located on Broadway near Canal St. in Soho. During one lunch break, I discovered the Pearl River Mart, a Chinese-American department store of Asian housewares, decor, and apparel. It was massive and a NY institution for all things Asian (it has since closed and I believe it's in the process of relocating to Tribeca). Growing up my Mother always had Asian decorative objects around the house. My first memory of anything Asian was a doll my parents brought back to me from a trip to Singapore. The doll's name was Lin-Lin which later became my nickname at home. Spending a few minutes to peruse authentic ceramic soy sauce dishes and tea sets in an Asian market makes perfect sense to me. This place was like walking into heaven. Hanging above me were many colorful paper lanterns. For $16 I had found the perfect accessory to our newly painted kitchen. The bright red Koi fish on the lantern popped against the turquoise, bringing life to the little kitchen room.
It really doesn't take much money to put together a thoughtfully collected home. Even though I don't have any of these pieces in my current home, I remember them dearly and haven't changed my personal style all that much. I still enjoy flea markets, bargains and flipping through home entertaining books. I use Asian decor sparingly throughout and place lights on dimmers to create cozy spaces at night. Large mirrors are always a good way to make a small space larger and add more light to a room. Plants always bring life to a home. Moss or army green is a great neutral color used in any fabric. Collect artwork that speaks to you personally even if you don't understand why you like it, whatever your budget is. The more you collect the more you'll get to know yourself. Resell items whenever you can, making a profit is even better. Mice are best caught with the sticky pads. Have fun collecting your home!
PS. This post was written after binge watching Girls and having flashbacks to my own 20s life in NYC. I wouldn't change any of it.
I just received in the mail a ceramic pitcher that I purchased online about a week ago. I'm really excited about it because the story behind it happens ALL the time.
It all started with an online search for Danish design on the design shopping website of Chairish. I like to see what pieces are being sold by other vendors, compare prices and conditions of vintage pieces, particularly those of Scandinavian design. My search was for everything from furniture to decorative items.
One of the listings was a beautiful oxidized turquoise-toned glazed ceramic pitcher. The label for it was Mid-Century Danish Water Pitcher and the description: Mid-century Danish pottery pitcher signed on bottom RP.
A couple years ago I was in Paris soaking in the flea market, meeting dealers and learning more about French design. I came across the stall of a dealer that sold only ceramics, most of them from the 50s, most of them from the South of France. I was drawn immediately to one particular ceramic pitcher by a ceramist of the name of Allix. The pitcher was bright in its glazes of fuschia and turquoise. Its geometric shapes were captivating and the piece itself reminded me of Miami, I needed to have it.
I asked the Antiques Dealer as many questions as I could in my broken French and he was gracious enough to respond in his broken English. He showed me a book which had an image and some information on the ceramist who had made the ceramic pitcher I was purchasing. I took a picture of the cover of this book, hoping I'd be able to purchase once I was back home. It's important to understand the value of the pieces you purchase, especially the ones you fall instantly in love with, as I had with this ceramic piece.
Fast forward to last week, this water pitcher I was looking at seemed anything but Danish. Not that I am by any means an expert in Danish ceramics but the glaze immediately reminded me of something else, something more of a warmer climate, more Mediterranean, more casual and R.P. was the maker. What kind of a description is that?
I pulled out my book which has a little reference section in the back for signatures, seals, and marks. Sure enough, I found R.P. was a mark made by the ceramist Robert Picault. Robert Picault was a popular ceramist who lived and worked in Vallauris, France. He rethought ceramic kitchenware so that it could be used from the kitchen to the table. He was popular for his green geometric motifs based on a copper oxide. Provençal folklore was influential in his ceramic shapes, Pablo Picasso was a neighbor and influential in his painting motifs on ceramic. Picault was part of many international exhibitions and awarded a gold medal at the 1953 Milan Triennial. A prominent figure in the context of French pottery in the 50s.
How did such a mislabelling happen in the first place? Well, my theory is and I believe this happens more often than not. The vendor who was selling this pitcher online probably purchases lots of items wholesale from Denmark, sending containers back to the US. Within these pieces was probably the pitcher and without taking the time to do a little research on the signature, they missed out on holding a more valuable piece. Even if they didn't have my handy book, a quick internet research with the key works: turquoise ceramic pitcher R.P. would have brought up a similar style ceramic piece, that's how prominent Picaults's designs are.
So the "Danish Water Pitcher" that was selling for $54 online turned out to be a highly collectible French ceramic piece with a value of $300-$400 dollars. A beautiful piece of mid-century history with so much more of a story behind it!
It is impossible to know the design history of everything. I learn something new every day. We can only try to do as much research as possible when receiving a vintage piece. We listen to stories and in good faith might forward the information but we must take the time to confirm, even not bothering to look up a signature could be a missed opportunity to share the history and intentions behind a design piece.
So here are some tips if you are collecting ceramics or any vintage pieces in general:
1. If you see a vintage piece you like, scan it for labels, marks or signatures.
2. Ask the vendor as many questions as possible, who made it, what year, where they obtained it from?
3. Don't always trust the vendor 100%. Also, the internet on your phone is an incredible design source and it's right there in your pocket.
4. Find literature that supports the information gained, these books add resell value to your piece and help you understand the creative context of your piece.
5. Trust your eye. I clearly have a thing for ceramics from France from the 50s as I was able to spot the glaze and relate it to the pitcher already in my collection at home. If you find a piece you like, learn more about the history behind it. You might discover there was an artistic school or community behind the style and be able to recognize it in the future. This information helps you build a collected home over time.
Some of the best designers understood that a home is a living, breathing vessel that is constantly growing with our life changes, our habits and it too ages over time and requires up keep. Building a home is always a work in progress, that goes for furnishing and decorating as well. I’ve been in my current apartment for 3 years now and I still have items on the home projects to-do list. I’d like to redo the closets in my bedroom and I have a guest room that never really got a lot of love since I moved in. Ideally, it would be more of an office space than a guest room. Right now it’s not a great version of either. These sort of home projects are not urgent but I would be more comfortable knowing my guests can feel at home in my office space. It would be efficient and productive to have my office materials in one place instead of spread out around my house. It would be lovely to step into a closet that inspires me to get ready in the morning as the best version of myself. These projects are not the end goal but a means to an end.
Most people have these sort of home projects on their to-do list and they get put off because they take time and effort. Instead of thinking about why they are doing these projects they think about the work the project requires. You think you don’t have the time, but wouldn’t you spend more time at the table if you had those comfortable dining chairs or read more if you had better lighting? Think about the why? and don’t loose sight of the end goal for these projects.
Procrastination is not entirely bad. I have found sometimes the best creative decisions have been made when I mull over it for days, even weeks. Don’t be disappointed if on the first weekend of your sofa hunt you don’t find the perfect one if you are a perfectionist and need it now. In fact I would be scared to see what you found if you did end up finding your sofa, just like that, without any research, planning or much thought. The important thing is that as life gets busy you do not forget about your search, but stay actively conscious about it.
It’s in that health magazine that you might find the wall color and chair you were looking for. The travel website that had an image of a great Moroccan coffee table. Save these images! Either ripping them out -old school, creating a Pinterest board or photo album on your phone. These images will help you create your style. In an era when our attention span is minimal and we express ourselves best with emojis, we’ll be able to understand our taste visually when we go back to our saved selection. Don’t feel guilty if you realized it’s been a few months without a dresser but you have a pile of clippings of options you like. That only means you are one step closer to finding the perfect one. Take your time. Please don't take your time if it's been 11 months since your move and you still have boxes lying around. That toilet is certainly not going to fix itself and yes, you should've started recycling your trash like yesteryear.
Good things take time, it's the same to find the perfect vintage side tables.
Here are some tools that can help you save your visual finds:
SCREEN SHOT (on computer: shift + command +4) (on iphone: button + off button)
IPHONE CAMERA ALBUM
Don't know who sells an item? Bring it into Pinterest and search similar. It's like face recognition for similar items on Pinterest and trust me it seems like everything has already been pinned.
Still feeling guilty you haven't bought throw pillows? Click here for a great article that might inspire you to think differently. Then be proactive and let me help you!