This is a good old fashion vintage “what I bought and why,” “what I realized I didn’t really need so I skipped” with a special edition addendum of “what I ended up not needing and returning and kinda feeling like an A-hole” post. I went to the Pasadena Antique Mall and annex, a frequent of mine when I need a fix. We were doing a sponsored story for our social channels about vintage shopping, but I figured this could easily be a blog post with some tips and general questions to ask yourself when shopping. It helps to have someone there so your solo external processing doesn’t alarm the locals. I’ve been known to grab any warm body that had a couple of hours to spare to come with me simply so it doesn’t look like I’m talking to myself. A Weekend at Bernies sort of strategy could work, as well. I try to implement any Weekend at Bernies strategy when possible. REMEMBER WHEN HOLLYWOOD MADE MOVIES ABOUT FALLING IN LOVE WITH STORE MANNEQUINS AND PEOPLE YACHTING WITH DEAD RICH MEN?
Which brings me to my obvious segue into what I scored and what I overpaid for (and why).
First up: a primitive dough bowl that, TWIST, has legs so it could kinda be a table.
I had been eyeing this dough bowl for MONTHS. The reason I didn’t pull the trigger before was:
- I don’t need it. Still don’t.
- It’s expensive at $375; if it were $125, I would hoard it for the right project or my future farmhouse.
- I don’t really know what to do with it. Sure, I know that back in the day they literally made dough in it and I am marathoning Outlander every night, set in te highlands of 18th-century Scotland, so I think we all know that I’m about to start using my own urine to set the dyes in my indigo tapestries, and therefore making the kids’ birthday cakes in said dough bowl isn’t far behind. But for now…
I thought it could be a GREAT key/purse drop, which I still concur however I don’t have room for it in my entry. We also thought we could put glass on it as a side table, but that sounds kinda weird and it would be high. Maybe a blanket holder? A magazine holder? A bassinet?
Then Brian chimed in with the winning answer: a very large, guacamole making/serving bowl. Obviously.
Ultimately, I bought it on “memo” which means I have 24 hours to try it out and bring it back or they charge my card. They will not do this for everyone, mostly people they know or designers, but it is a nice feature to know that you can move it around your house, try to make it work but if it doesn’t, you are okay.
HOT TIP: Pull the piece out into the cleared hallway, like I did above. This piece was BURIED and it’s hard to see in that messy context, so pull it out and sometimes I even use my hands to block things visually so I can focus on it. I will then often refer to photos of my house on my phone because even though I KNOW what my house looks like, sometimes you need to stare at it to really see/feel if something will work or maybe you’ve forgotten that corner that could use a bit of primitive warmth.
Find out at the end if I own it or if the world’s chicest guacamole bowl is still available to be yours!
ANOTHER HOT TIP: There has to be at least one VERY compelling reason to buy vintage. Either A. It’s a steal (like this vase at $25), B. you NEED IT and C. It’s so amazing and you know you’ll love it forever. If it’s moderately priced, you don’t really need it and it’s cool but not soul-exploding wonderful, then skip it.
This vase was inexpensive at $25 and really big and dark and pretty. I don’t need it but that is a GREAT hoard either for a shoot, future project or when I feel like restyling a vignette in my house.
Now for something I REALLY wanted but I had to channel “logic” and “common sense” to make a decision:
Vintage plastic portable picnic “baskets.” They come in these adorable little spheres with a handle, then inside are cups, dinner plates and smaller plates.
IT’S SO CUTE. The problem is that I’ve fallen victim multiple times to the “sound of music family-picnic fantasy” that rarely happens. When we do go on picnics, we need FAR more than just come cups and plates. We end up bringing a full cooler, with either ready-made sandwiches or plastic containers of garbage pasta salad from Albertsons. We picnic in the backyard all the time, but we don’t need to dirty any vintage plastic for it.
HOT TIP: Without looking, ask yourself what price you would pay, what you feel it would be worth it to you to pay, for YOUR life. The rule is that if it’s over that, you HAVE to put it back. In this instance, I said $30, and the rule is that if it’s over that, you HAVE to put it back.
For these, I said $30, and they turned out to be either $35 or $40 (don’t remember exactly). SO CLOSE. But $30 was already a stretch for something I’d likely only use once, lose all the pieces to then end up giving away. So NO GO.
It’s the perfect playful photoshoot picnic set though. I pictured a big white pom pom vintage bedspread as the blanket (as you would with kids), sandwiches wrapped in parchment or maybe little cute white bread tea sandwiches. There would be a cut open bright red watermelon on a platter, vintage plaid napkins, and wooden utensils.
I had it all pictured. Shoot, I need to go back. This is why stylists are hoarders—we can envision the future shot and get a flutter in our belly about how a particular piece will not only be beautiful, but actually make our lives easier. Trying to find this when asked can be hard, hoarding it until you need it, even years down the road, is easier. This is not a tip, it’s just an ugly part of my psyche/reality.
But you know what you should NEVER pass up?
…a vintage French string dispenser. YOU NEED THIS.
I’d like to reiterate: this is why stylists are hoarders. There have been (and will be) so many shoots where I’m styling out a craft space or a desk and you want interesting desk props, and this wooden round container with that string coming out of the top so gracefully, with the perfect loop landing on the desk, is what will impress the art director, photographer and really MAKE THE SHOT.
It was $40. That’s absurd. Did I buy it? MAYBE. (cut to my kids finding it and unwinding all of the vintage French string followed by me screaming about not touching mommy’s vintage French string container—it was a great moment for the family).
Then I found this scrap of primitive indigo fabric for $35. What do you do with a scrap of fabric? Here you go:
- Pillows, duh
- A table runner (if cleaned)
- Layered at the foot of a bed over another blanket
- Thrown over a simple headboard to dress it up
- Thrown over a sofa
- Cut up and stretched over wood for art or simply hung in a very vertical space like a stairway
I could do even one of those highly popular YouTube videos on how to wear a scarf with this. Did you know that people get famous and make millions from videos on how to wrap a scarf around one’s neck? The universe is clearly sending signs that I need to start wrapping my cold neck in primitive yardage and spreading my message to the tween population.
SEE? I NEED THIS.
Lastly, more art to hoard.
I bought this from Bonita Interiors within the Pasadena Antique Mall, a vendor I’ve shopped from for years but I didn’t know Angie was a painter. These pieces are my colors. They just LOOK like me, we all know this. And I knew that they would look GREAT in my master bedroom. The problem is that they were expensive, weighing in at $450 a piece. Now, I got a discount (I think 20% off) because I have a relationship and she knew I would post about it but I still think they are worth $450 because of the following reasons:
- Materials cost money, and even buying materials takes time.
- Talent takes time to cultivate, sometimes over DECADES of learning, experimenting, teaching yourself not to mention any classes or art school that was attended.
- Creating a very good color palette is not easy, thus more time experimenting and likely a lot of first drafts.
- Actually painting the piece takes time. I don’t know how much but this looks like over 10 hours.
- Having it framed is expensive and takes more time/effort.
- The stress of putting your work out there, paying for the booth that you sell it in and then merchandising in a way that looks good takes more time (and money).
You get it. If you can paint this yourself for less than $450, sure, go for it! If not, I think that an original painting for $450 is a great deal by a contemporary artist.
Now, onto some less good deals (i.e. what you should skip):
I find vintage 1960s architectural pots all the time and they are so expensive and look 100% like what you can find at the flower market, new. They HAVE to look special in order for you to splurge on them. Those back there were over $100 and were just gray pots. Sure they are old and yes, more important than what’s at the local nursery, but don’t buy something vintage if it’s not special and if a modern day version is actually better and more affordable. Seems obvious, but when you are shopping, it’s so easy to get wrapped up in and tell yourself this vintage pot fantasy, but be careful.
A vintage wood rocking horse, weighing in at $2,700. SKIP!
A “chair”(?) made out of punching bags that had a clear “please do not sit” on it sign, which always cracks me up. You want me to spend $3,400 on a “chair” (or whatever it was, it was in the thousands) and not sit on it? My other favorite sign at an antique mall is “NSF’ – NOT FOR SALE.” It both amuses me and pisses me off at the same time. Being the irreverent rebel that I am, I have challenged this MULTIPLE TIMES, with an “everything has a price” attitude. Sometimes it will be a super boring innocuous bookshelf that MIGHT be worth like $60, but they are all “nope, not for sale,” so I like to challenge back with a “well what If I offered you $1,500?” They say, “well of course I’d sell it then,” where I retort, “then put your top price on it!! Everything has a price!!”
It’s kinda an asshole conversation I realize, but it’s just so annoying when someone has a piece in their booth or even worst at the flea market that is NFS.
So here is the final haul…what I landed on:
Let’s play the “did I keep or return” game:
- Dough bowl: For now, it’s back at the mall, but I’m picturing an epic Cinco De Mayo shoot where we need a 65-avocado guac situation (…or more realistically, what if I do actually move to a farm at some point? It’s so sculptural and beautiful and LEGIT…ugh…next to a bathtub with a plant in it, flowing over the sides?).
- The vase, white pottery tray ($30, Bennington) string holder, fabric and black spiral sculpture ($60) are all a “hell yes.”
- The black Thonet stool was a risk but I love all things Thonet. I don’t think it was too expensive, but don’t remember—I think like $125. But I got it home and tried it in a few places and it wasn’t a hell yes. If it had been all light wood, I could have hoarded it but between the mixed finishes and the scale and the curves, it just felt overly decorative for me without the perfect place to put it. I have SO many sculptural chairs (it’s a thing) so I didn’t need another.
- The paintings are a hit and look great in the master bedroom. I think I actually might have only needed one, but I love them together, too.
There you go guys. I hope you learned the importance of using the word “French” when trying to sell overpriced string dispensers and why we should not balk at expensive original paintings.
Please stay tuned for my YouTube channel where I dramatically wrap myself in fabric/scarves, or better yet demonstrate the avant-garde “foot/bed scarf” which is an actual thing that I’d like to both expose and then take down.
***photography by Veronica Crawford