Decor with some history

Scott and I stayed in the coolest place in Berlin. It was in what used to be East Berlin and decorated with some of the communist-era kitsch.

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A picture of the German communist politician, Erich Honecker, who led East Germany from 1971 to the weeks preceding the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, hangs prominently in the lobby. And that’s just where this retro charm begins.

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Best gifts gift guide

You may have shunned the avocado green Pyrex mixing bowls you remember from your childhood. I know I did. (Although now, I wish I had those olive green bowls instead of my plastic ones.) But Andrea Fowler, who pens the lifestyle blog Keeping It Cozy cherishes the Pyrex nesting bowl set she was given for Christmas one year, a thoughtful gift from Mom. You can read the whole story here.

What’s old is always new again at some point, right? I mean I am currently helping a client figure out where to place her new record player in her living room.

For me, old is always better. I constantly tell Scott that I want our furniture and things to have a story. I didn’t register for china, crystal or silver as wedding gifts because: 1.) I like to change up the look of my table, and I don’t think I would ever use new china enough to warrant the cost. 2.) My thoughtful mom gave me her classic Crown Victoria Lovelace pattern (shown below), which I incorporate in with some of my more modern pieces.

Crown Victoria Lovelace pattern

 

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Innovative decorating with collections

When I was in London, I visited the Camden Lock Market. While I didn’t find anything I couldn’t live without, I was inspired by a small hallway where two different collections were displayed.
Books on the wall
Books on the wall serving as frames for old pictures. These vintage tomes are painted white, have a colored satin ribbon glued in as a bookmark and old pictures pasted inside. Really, there are two collections here–vintage books and old photos. Both totally collectable. Other ideas for displaying books or photos? If you’re an avid reader, collect colorful versions of the classics and style them within a bookshelf or on a desk. If you’re not an avid reader, buy books in complementing colors and style those on a shelf or desk.
Closeup of book
As for photos, another option might be to think about framing a collection by subject, location, etc. and mixing them in on a gallery wall with modern art too.
Keys
These skeleton keys were dipped in paint and strung from a grate suspended from the ceiling.
Closeup of keys
Try hanging them from ribbon and stringing them in the window, or group them as a display and hang them on a wall (from just a simple nail).

The individuality seen in these collections is what I love most. Rather than simply collect figurines, glassware, books, etc., think about how you can make the collection uniquely you. Paint, ribbon and display gave these vintage finds a personal touch. This got me thinking. What collection do I have in California that I could throw my mark on?

I have a small collection of milk glass–maybe three or four vases–and I am inspired by this photo to gild them.
white and gold vases
My mom has a collection of buttons. I’m thinking of taking her jar, sifting through it to find some fun colors and shapes and making a one-of-a-kind artwork like this.
Love button artwork

What is it that you collect? How do you display it?

Shopping the Brussels flea market

Brussels flea market
Rusty tools, vintage cocktail shakers, schlager music on vinyl, some furniture and all these suitcases are just a few of the treasures I uncovered at the flea market in Brussels. These old-fashioned travelers would make a fantastic end table or nightstand when stacked on top of each other. Smaller designs eat up bookshelf space stylishly.
Expensive dog
A couple of months ago, I shared a craze in doggie decor with you. So I instantly fell in love with this guy but didn’t purchase since he was almost 500 euros. If you happen upon inexpensive canine figurines, and you’re a dog lover, I would snatch them up. With unique shapes, these vintage pups look stylish sitting on the mantel, a bookshelf or a side table. A few I might buy: this vintage ceramic terrier, this vintage Dachshund statue and this French bulldog bank.
Vintage white dogVintage dachundScreen Shot 2013-09-11 at 8.16.02 AM

 

 

 

 

 

I have to say that if it were realistic for me to cart this fantastic rocker back to Switzerland–and eventually back to California–I would have nabbed this. But in doing just a bit of research, I found Ikea’s rattan high-back lookalike online. It’s not a rocker, but I’ll still take it.
ChairIkea lookalike

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you head to Brussels, and you like flea marketing, follow this advice that I sadly learned too late: The flea market happens daily and officially ends at 2 p.m. Wait until 2:30 p.m., and there is a very good chance you can pick up some of these coveted finds for free! Some sellers never clean up when the market closes and leave some good stuff behind. Be quick! Locals filled me in on this little secret so they’re hovering too.

Flea marketing in Nyon

I’ve now been to flea markets in Geneva, Paris and Nyon. I love the Geneva market, was horribly disappointed in the Paris market (asking 45 euros for a simple wine opener) and found some interesting things in Nyon, a lakeside village about 20 minutes west of Lausanne. Point being, there are loads of flea markets in Europe (read: there will be many more posts on the subject).

Flea market chairs

But is that treasure really a deal? I decided to do some digging. I found these fabulous green vintage metal chairs (left) in Nyon. The seller was asking roughly $75 a piece. Seem pricey? The green retro chairs in the center are $135 if you live near Ruffs Dale, Pennsylvania; $635 anywhere else in the country. Or these rusty chairs (right) that need some serious TLC for $75 for one lucky New Jersey resident. Bottom line? My Nyon finds are priced fairly.

Tea set

I adored this tea set (left). The orange-and-gold color combo felt so 70s chic. The Italian vendor wanted $194 for the 18-piece porcelain collection. This one on the right collected $250 at auction. My advice? When you’re looking at a vintage piece, go with your gut. If you love it, buy it (within reason). You may never see something like it again, and you don’t want to kick yourself years down the road. Technology allows you to check Ebay, Etsy and Craigslist pricing on the spot. If your find falls within the scope of prices you find on these second-hand sites, then I say, “Let the negotiating begin.”

Letterpress letters

Be an archeologist of style. Buy what fascinates and speaks to your design aesthetic or your nostalgia. Letterpress letters remind me of my journalism roots, even though these alphabet pieces came way before my time.

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I love vintage because I like the pieces in my home to have a story, which is why I bought this set of carved wood pears in Nyon. The larger one is a box. I am completely intrigued by what might have been stashed inside. Jewelry? Love letters? Keys? The possibilities are endless and allow these ordinary objects to create interest in any room in the house.

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