"Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”
_ William Morris
, 19th century craftsman, designer, writer

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Monday, April 30, 2012

Flea Market Monday: Long Beach Antiques & Collectibles

 We had gorgeous spring weather over the weekend, and business was brisk at the Antiques & Collectible Market at Veteran's Stadium in Long Beach, Ca. I absolutely love shopping this market -and the people watching is as much fun as the bargain hunting!

I'm pretty sure I saw a beautiful young movie starlet shopping the racks of vintage clothes...but I'm terrible with names -and I was trying to stare without actually looking like I was staring...or accidentally walking into a post.  HGTV producers and set decorators have also been known to frequent the very 'do-able' flea market, and this weekend, my sources tell me buyers from the shopping website, One Kings Lane, were making the rounds.

Held the third Sunday of every month, (as well as 'bonus Sundays' when a month has five weekends) Veteran's is one of the best flea markets for vintage items in Southern California. Although there are many regular vendors, you never know what you're going to find.

 Bring a tote bag (or wheelie cart), cash (fees for the ATM machine cost a fortune!), some dark shades to hide your eyes while you're coolly negotiating your price or ogling movie stars...then grab a hot dog and get busy.

One clever vendor sells metal cabinets, files and desks stripped down to a bare finish. It's a great, industrial look -and an idea that could also be done at home -with a little motivation and elbow grease. The metal trucks and tractors are just classic.

 Brass and painted lanterns, sold by a guy who is a passionate collector himself = expert advice!

The vintage typewriter had been completely restored.

This lampshade just says "Party" doesn't it! 

I'm pretty sure my parents had this silverware ...should I be alarmed that things from my childhood are now considered antique? Don't answer that...

I ran into friends, Gary and Marsha Oda, owners of Retroda manning their both at the market. They have an amazing eye for style and specialize in mid-century modern. The orange rabbit caught my eye -he's a bank! Bunny love!

I tried hard to think of a spot for the Insane Asylum Bar & Grill sign featuring the wonderful motto: We're all here because we're not all there! But walked away without it...I regret it already...

Wiener Mobile! Remember that song...

The man selling the crosses didn't want me to take photos -afraid I might steal an original design? He allowed just this one...

The large, metal vent would make a cool sculptural element for an industrial style room or loft. The vendor said he has sold several that were made into light fixtures -either by hanging it, or putting a lamp inside and creating a glow within.


Old keys are cool: romance, mystery, design. A big bowl of them on an entry way or coffee table adds character in an instant.

These airplanes could not be cuter!

I went home with a great little piece of vintage California Pottery -an orange bowl for $5! Score! I didn't take photos because I was afraid of driving up the price...gotta act cool, but inside I was doing a happy dance...

Until next time!
Southern California Flea Markets:

2nd Sunday of the Month: Pasadena Rose Bowl
3rd Sunday of the Month: Long Beach Antique Market
4th Sunday of the Month:(Again) Santa Monica Outdoor Antique & Collectible Market
5th (bonus) Sundays: Long Beach Antique Market

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Savvy Shopping: Just Like The Model

Yesterday, while on a quest to find a particular discount fabric store in Fountain Valley, California, I stumbled upon Just Like The Model -a warehouse full of furniture and home decor items that have been previously used to stage model homes.

Located in an industrial office park, Just Like The Model features deeply discounted prices and is open to the public. It was fate calling my name! I had to go in!
First impression: It's a big, cavernous warehouse that looks like a cross between an outlet store and a garage sale.

The next thing you notice is the vast assortment of merchandise. Think: anything that might be used to make a model home looked stylishly 'lived in'. Case in point, what I thought was a purse left behind by its owner turned out to be a handbag tagged and for sale...very convincing! 

Prices appeared significantly lower than regular retail. This white sofa (above) was priced at $299! Framed, matted artwork was marked (on average) under $50; and lamps (with shades!) ranged from $34 - $44 dollars; throw pillows start at $5; and I saw a very large 2-piece dining room cabinet and hutch for $599.

The catch? Since the merchandise has been used for staging, some of it shows signs of wear. Be sure to check out pieces for any scratches or smudges you wouldn't be able to live with. (All sales are final, except for a 24-hour return policy for bedding and artwork to make sure it matches your decor!)

Also, it seemed to me that several of the couches were a bit on the small side. It makes me wonder if designers choose sofas and chairs with a smaller scale to make the model rooms look bigger. Something to think about!

(Although if you are looking for apartment furniture or something to suit a smaller space -these styles may be just the ticket!)

I have a soft spot for sea grass. I love the bold texture of this chair -it just needs new cushions!

This was a wonderful print of a sketched chandelier -fully matted and framed!

I have my eye on a couple of lamps and this is one of them! Since merchandise moves in and out constantly, I should probably make up my mind quickly! The desk lamp (below) is also tempting...


Because the merchandise is sold on consignment from a wide range of model homes, quality and style varies accordingly. It may require a couple of visits to score the perfect piece for your home -although judging from experience, it's hard to walk away empty handed!

I found a video by Alan Mendelson and his show, Best Buys Best Deals on TV, that provides a great visual representation of the store and an idea of the deals you might expect. Just FYI, I didn't see the Space Shuttle bed... I have a feeling it has long since landed in one lucky kid's bedroom!

Happy hunting!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Living + Room: Big Style, Small Budget

Chicago-based photographer, Caroline Manrique said she was inspired to make-over her living room because, "We needed to get hip to this century!"

"Really! Our furniture was so outdated. We had dark red, over-sized velvet couches -ugh!" To make matters worse, the couches had become the domain of the family dogs and no one dared sit on them- "ever," said Caroline. "They were gross."

In addition, because of their dark color and size, the sofas made the room feel small and according to Caroline, rather uninviting.

"I never liked sitting in the living room. Heck, I never liked the living room. It was a space I passed through but never used. I thought ...well, this is just stupid! Let's actually try living in this room -and so the make over began."

 The clever artist, blogger and mother of two used her signature style and key shopping strategies to transform the room while sticking to a  budget.

"I gave myself $3000," she explains. "That might sound like a lot, but we paid over $6,000 for both of those horrid couches 12 years ago! And frankly, furniture is pretty expensive."

To achieve a look Caroline describes as, "clean and simple; neutral but elegant," the motivated mom zeroed in on a trifecta of retailers who complimented her aesthetic and understood her budget: West Elm, Target, and Z Gallerie.

"I also love decorating with white," says Caroline, "it just seems to open everything up...and I love mixing wood pieces into a clean space."

Her advice for achieving big style on a small budget: "Price shop!" Caroline says it's important to know what resources offer affordable style and which resources don't. "Stay away from places you know are too pricey...and don't go to shops where you feel pressured to buy." She says, "West Elm is great because there are no commission sales -so I never felt pressured. CB2 is another great option, as is Cost Plus and Pier 1."

So what makes Caroline happiest about her re-imagined space? "I love that I am actually using the room! It seemed to open up the entire house. It feels fresh...and well, new furniture is just fun!"

Caroline is a Chicago-based photographer. Visit her blog, Constantly Evolving, or check out her beautiful website, No Wordz.  

All photography for this post is courtesy of Caroline Manrique. (Thanks, Caroline!)

Monday, April 23, 2012

Medicine Cabinet Monday

Ever had the urge to sneak a peek into a friend's medicine cabinet? 

If so, you're not the first.

In fact, according to a survey by the Quilted Northern toilet tissue, 39 percent of Americans can't resist doing a quick scan of a friend's medicine cabinet. Perhaps even more alarming, as reported by O Magazine: "Twenty-five percent have helped themselves into something inside."

Remember the old Seinfeld episode, The Conversion, when Jerry is caught sneaking a peek inside a friend's medicine cabinet?

Elaine: What were you doing opening her medicine cabinet?
I didn’t open it. It was open. I just nudged it a little.
You were snooping.
I was not snooping. I did not break the seal. There was no breaking and entering. I wouldn’t do that.
I would. I always open medicine cabinets.
Well I trust people not to do that.
Big mistake.

 In the interest of covering every inch of the American Home and perhaps a bit of amateur anthropology, I thought I would open my own medicine cabinet door and give you a good look inside...

Nothing special really, but those closed doors really do make you wonder. So tempting...just between you and me -do you peek?

Keep an eye out for more medicine cabinet reveals in upcoming posts.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Scotty's Castle: Personality By Design

It's the little things that make a house a home and provide clues to the personalities and passions of the people who live there.

At Scotty's Castle, in Death Valley, California there was no shortage of personality and the historic 1930's era home (now open for tours) is alive with charm and character.

Owned and built by Bessie and Albert Johnson, millionaires from Chicago, the castle came to be named and regularly attributed to their flamboyant, cowboy friend, Walter Scott, better known as Death Valley Scotty. The tale of the entwined history of these friends is a legend unto itself -almost as amazing as the innovative engineering and design of the ambitious home. 

As our tour guide whisked us through the castle I tried to capture design elements that caught my eye. Unfortunately, the light (I know, excuses, excuses...) made it difficult to get great shots on the fly. I hope you will forgive the worst, and find inspiration in the best.   

As a long-time fan and collector of vintage California Pottery myself, these cups and saucers in the kitchen made my heart go pitter pat! The red pieces are especially hard to find.

 The tile work in the kitchen is a show piece. Imported from Spain (according to the guide) I think it's kind of interesting that a few of largest depict water scenes...probably nice when summer temps in the valley average 120-125 degrees Fahrenheit. Maybe that's where we got the phrase, If you can't take the heat, get out of the kitchen.

Don't miss the Western-inspired metal work under the sink and of course that amazing collection of copper pots.

Even the tea kettle had a gorgeous design! Any industrial designers out there? I think this would be a winner today!

Beautifully hand-painted, imported dinner ware is featured on shelves that were meant to be occupied with books. However, since Scotty wasn't a reader but loved to cook and entertain, the library became the dining room. A good lesson in suiting your home to your passions.

Both the dinnerware and the metal work in the gate (pictured below) featured the initials J and S: Johnson & Scotty. Proving yet again, friends really are the family you choose. 

Dual weather vanes depict scenes of cowboys and gold mines -the shared passions of both men. What would your weather vane show?

I have to admit I was surprised how much I enjoyed this tour and this house. Since there aren't many man-made attractions in Death Valley, I sort of figured we'd experience a slap dash touristy stop -but that wasn't the case at all. The home was a feat of engineering in it's day and remains a work of art today.

No detail was deemed too small or unworthy of consideration. Latches, drawer and cupboard pulls, hinges and sconces were thoughtful, creative and charming.


Real style endures.

Mystery hardware. This charming scalloped piece of metal work was attached on the outside of Scotty's bedroom. There is a hole in the wall centered behind the fixture. Scotty told folks it was to shoot buckshot at bandits in two directions at once. The real story has something to do with ventilation.

Tile work!

Tile rimming the outside fountain.

Not sure why you'd want a tile of a man about to bash a bird with a club, but I suppose it's conversation piece (?)! This was featured on the mantle of the fireplace in the guest room.

Wood work both inside and outside the home featured decorative carving. The design has a rugged, masculine feel.

The headboard of the bed in Scotty's room is carved with local flora and fauna. According to legend, Scotty never actually slept there. He would enter the room from the living room to make guests think he was retiring, but would exit through a second door leading to the outside -and his own ranch house down the road. The room also held his wardrobe so he would come back and change clothes in the morning. A rather elaborate ruse to keep up appearances.

I like the contrast of rustic and refined: pleated satin lampshades and heavy carved wooden shutters.

This gate says Castle with a capital C.


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