When I moved to New York at 21 I had been exposed to zero good design. I thrifted and garage sale-d my way through Coos Bay Oregon, and I DIY’d a lot for 4-H but that’s where anything home decor related started and stopped. This is before the internet. No Pinterest. Small town America in 1980 wasn’t dripping with trends outside of coloring a blue square on the back of your white sneakers to pass as Keds because your parents refused to buy them. We drove to Eugene, 2 hours away to go prom dress shopping (which is hilarious as it wasn’t a fashion mecca – it simply had an Express). So when I moved to New York after college and started assistant styling (aka shopping and decorating sets for a living) I had a huge learning curve of what was “good”. If you’ve never shopped for a club chair before how do you discern a “cool one” from a “generic one”? With my narrow exposure, I liked a LOT of things – all of them really – as they were all new to me at the same time (thank god Cindy, my boss/mentor guided me and told me where to shop). My apartment looked like a vintage/thrift store threw up – I just loved it all. But now, I stare at the internet all day every day and I know where every chair is from. I’ve literally seen them all and the more affordable it is, the more “everywhere” it will be AND THAT’S GOOD! I appreciate how the internet has democratized good design and exposure for everyone. But when you’ve seen the same _________ over and over and over it becomes simply less exciting to you, and that’s ok and to be expected. A chef doesn’t want to cook the same meal that they’ve tasted a million times even if it’s delicious – they want to create their version of it. And listen, there is something comforting about seeing the T-shirt you have from J. Crew being worn by Natalie Portman – it’s a nice validation. But for the red carpet – everyone wants their dress, their look to be unique and unrepeatable. It’s part of pushing ourselves creatively and our homes are a display of our style and personality so understandably the deeper you get into being a designer, the less you can/want to just “throw a room together” with stuff off the internet.
Now there are some things that I LOVE regardless of how much I’ve seen them like the esters chair, my schoolhouse quilt, a Noguchi lamp, etc, etc. When you find a gem that works over and over and over you keep it. While shopping I have found really good dining chairs, coffee tables, nightstands, etc at big box stores that I love, but I’m just not willing to pull the trigger YET because the guttural excitement isn’t there. I’ve simply seen it too much or, I’m ABOUT to see it so much (likely because it’s really good and priced well). And again, THAT’S OK. I’m not saying I won’t buy those things if needed (I’m likely buying a set of dining chairs you’ve seen for decades for our sunroom), but right now as I’m in the early stages and not desperate for anything, I’m waiting for my stomach and wallet to agree, and when my stomach freaks out about something – I know that it’s good. I usually do a big intake of breath and my heart pounds. Then I show it to Brian and if he loves it (often without showing him the price) then I let myself seriously consider it.
So on my quest for uniqueness (ha) I’ve only been pulling triggers on vintage pieces because by nature of being vintage, they are barely or rarely repeatable (and more affordable than custom – the other choice designers usually go for). Of course jokes on me as most big box stores just literally do the cheap version of the OG 1970s Scandinavian maker that I’m stalking and then sell for 1/100th the cost. But that’s ok, too. And after dealing with customs on a few pieces from Scandinavia I’m frustrated enough to try to find it within the states. That’s all to say that I have started buying vintage pieces and I thought it would be fun to do a show and tell on one very special piece.
So I’d like to introduce you to my new old hutch. This lady was built in 1870, from Sweden, and is 100% pine, with original paint on it (that is quite patinated and faded as you can see). I actually broke a rule of mine which is don’t buy something just because you love the finish as the finish can always change, the shape you often can’t. And listen, I do love the shape (simple/classic) but it’s that aged bright blue that absolutely GOT ME. OH, it’s just so perfect. It’s bright but since it’s old and faded it doesn’t feel too bold to me. And even if in person it is much brighter we all know that blue is the “bright color” that feels almost like a neutral to me. Both kids have requested more color in this house than the mountain house and living in Oregon, I’m drawn to having more color as well. I will still likely lean more neutral than bold, I’m slowly pulling triggers on some pieces that are indeed colorful.
I also broke another rule of mine which is “know where it’s going to go before you buy”. But here’s the deal – I have four different places it can go. And one of my OG rules from styling was “pretty always looks good next to pretty” which may not always be true, but that’s what stylists tend to do – not “design a room” but collect awesome stuff and put it together. This hutch could go one of two places in the living room, in my writing room/sunroom (on the solid wall) to house office stuff for me or servingware, in the upstairs landing as a linen closet, and I’m not above putting it in a bedroom. If it would fit in a bathroom it would be awesome. I even thought about integrating it into the custom pantry that we are having made, but you can’t put this baby in a pantry. NO.
So the annoying part is that I don’t have it yet – it’s stuck in customs. Y’all customs paperwork is annoying and while it’s not a deal-breaker, it’s a true Achilles heel for me. I hate paperwork to the point of it being debilitating. It’s why I don’t have a car (a new lease – I just can’t do the paperwork) or a lawyer (WME’s lawyers look over my larger contracts, but otherwise I just sign anything in front of me). It’s a huge part of adulting that I fail at and thankfully have people (Caitlin) to ensure that I’m not signing away my life. So I tried to do this myself, but kept getting it wrong and finally sent it all to my accountant who also does my bookkeeping, HR, and will handle anything in the “annoying paperwork” realm, for a fee, obviously. But you should be warned that buying from Europe will A. take a couple of months and B. make you track down paperwork you likely have filed away as a normal person but I don’t. Also, I’m sure mine is trickier because I bought it under my business so I could write it off which made it more complicated. I’ll let you all know when it comes.
So How Much Was It?
She wasn’t cheap and honestly, it’s one of those things that I might have been able to find at Round Top Texas for $1500, but I pulled the trigger because I couldn’t stop thinking about it and picturing it in our home. I saw it styled out in future shots, that burst of patinated blue making me so very very happy. Also, it’s not lost on me that buying vintage is green, yes, but shipping from Europe is NOT. But I’ll use and appreciate it long term. It was listed for $2700 and I offered $2250 which was accepted by the dealer. It cost $1200 to ship from Sweden which was to be expected. So all in, it was around $3500. It does coincide with my rule on what to splurge on – it’s NOT the functional sofa (there are so many great affordable ones these days – see this roundup and review) and it’s NOT the dining table you eat at every day. No, I splurge on conversation pieces, furniture, or decor that makes your/our house unique and for me, that’s likely something vintage or custom made. A piece like this elevates everything else near it – so you can mix it with normal internet-famous big box furniture and it just makes it look cooler. IMHO 🙂
So that’s where I’m at and I’m feeling really good about it. xx