Taking Vintage for a New Spin
By Jason Parker Counce
I must confess that every day at GasLamp Antique and Decorating Mall, where I operate my boutique, I hear, “This is overwhelming" echo throughout the maze-like streets. In the 25,000-square-foot space, many items hide in booth after booth, in cases galore, and on walls aplenty. Visitors must think: “What do I use this for?”, “Why do I want it?”, “It is so unusual,” and “I must have it!!!”
Shopping for treasures is a great hunt if you keep an open mind and try to see the “golden goodies” in a fresh light. Whether an item is well worn with age, weather rusted, or perfectly pristine from not using it, everything has a purpose. So let’s look past ideas of “it’s just a chair, a bench, or a so-and-so” and think outside the box about how such treasures can be used in new ways.
Vintage furniture has so many styles. Some styles come and go, while others are timeless. I recently passed by Booth B-106 and saw a fabulous upholstered vinyl and wood "telephone" table with curved lines and a side seat (photo, right). I thought, “How cool is that, but so outdated for today … or is it?" My next thought was that it would make a stylish laptop desk for a small loft space. It could also be a small dressing table; just put a freestanding mirror on it. There’s storage in the shelf underneath for keeping makeup, hairbrushes, and the like in a nice container (1930s telephone table, $345).
Another of my finds was not one, but five curved metal stair step plant holders. Now, we all have less and less time to tend to plants these days, so I’m thinking, “Why not transform these into bookcases?” Or place baskets on the steps and use one in the laundry room for holding the necessities; label each step, such as “detergent,” “whites,” “darks,” and “delicates.”
We all know that luggage being pulled out of the closet or attic means “We are going on a trip!” But I look at a stack of vintage suitcases and see many possibilities. Stack a few beside a chair and you have an instant side table with lots of storage. Open a case up, put a decorative pillow in it, and – voila! – instant pet bed. You can even personalize it with your pet’s name on the luggage tag and put a few of their favorite toys in the holding pouch to keep them close, too (photo, below left, Booth B-174; suitcase prices range from $20 to $28).
Useful items made out of random finds are in many booths. Old recycled molding is configured into new picture frames. An old Dodge Dart hubcap is reinvented into a stylish clock (at right, $40, Booth B-236). Old windows are turned into art by being painted, bejeweled and even découpaged. There is an old wooden door made into a hat rack using glass doorknobs as the hooks. Another glass doorknob, with the faceplate, was used as a pretty addition to a cheery birdhouse (below, right, $59, B-105). An old fireplace mantle can be re-styled as a shelf or as an interesting headboard.
Things that are not used as much make great plant holders, too. Like a Chippendale copper-lined champagne stand that might see the New Year or a romantic time every once in a while (in photo, below left, $125, B-105). Now it can be seen all the time in a home or a Florida room, used to hold some mums, a fern, or a floral arrangement. Also, very large bowls -- wooden, pottery, or even metal -- hold great little plant, grouped. I always seem to be putting away my tureens unless the weather’s cold and I'm serving soup or Thanksgiving dinner. I now use the tureen more when I put an orchid in it and sit it on the dining table.
Even small items you might pass by give a new perspective when you think about other usages. There are these very small porcelain baskets in Booth B-106 (photo, below right), but the question is, “What to use them for?” Well, pull them out and fill with after-dinner mints or some other treats for a great ending to a fun time. Try small ring boxes, too; it will be fun to use them and enjoy them (four baskets, $18; cloisonné box, $24.95, one of a 3-piece set at B-210). All of those odd planters you see around, like the McCoy flower pots, can be used on the table, too. Place a napkin inside of a pot and use one for each guest as his or her own personal "bread basket.” Just put an odd found knife near and a butter pat (with chive or lemon peel butter you make yourself, naturally).
I am always amazed at the ever so popular “industrial look.” This is truly the reinvention movement. Using the old medical metal furniture in a modern setting. Soldering old metal pieces into dining and side tables. Now, the old gym lockers certainly take on a different feel than they did when I was in school! There are even old concrete elements made into lamps. I can still remember the first time I met the colorful GasLamp dealer Glenn Montgomery. He looked at something random and said, “Oh, I’d wire that and make it into a lamp!” I never will forget it; it makes me laugh, even to this day.
Well, I can go on for hours, just like when I’m looking at GasLamp with its myriad booths and items. My mind is racing with ideas, and I keep repeating, “One man’s junk ...” So, until, next time, keep looking for treasures, and enjoy life's little and re-purposed joys!