Macklemore might have just made a hit song off the idea of consignment shopping, but these local designers have known the value of vintage for quite some time and are prepared to satisfy local trendsetters with the quirkiest of objects.
When Todd Werny, owner of Space Oddity Vintage Furniture Gallery, scours regional estate sales and thrift stores, he is searching for things that fit a very specific vision from a very specific era.
“We carry a selection of pieces mainly from 1940 through to the ‘60s and ‘70s. A lot of mid-century modern rustic and industrial furnishings,” he says. His favorite piece right now is a seven-foot-tall vintage surgery lamp from the ‘50s, which he says is the perfect example of how vintage items can be both a conversation piece but also highly functional.
Werny’s collection, housed in his store in Ballard, includes brightly colored desks, bar carts, tables and couches, among the many other quality pieces that look like they could appear on the set of “Madmen.”
Werny says he has always been a fan of mid-century modern and loves showing customers how vintage décor can enhance the design of their home. He says going with vintage objects is beneficial for a few different reasons. “The quality of vintage is almost always better than what’s made today,” Werny says. “For example, there’s a lot less particle board.”
Werny says another great thing about going vintage is that it promotes sustainable living. “With vintage, you’re not going to increase your carbon footprint.” Also in good Don Draper style, Werny often hosts happy hour specials, where customers enjoy a 15 percent discount as they browse the store.
For more information and happy hour times, you can find Space Oddity on Facebook.
Kirk Albert’s Vintage Furnishings
Fourteen years ago, Kirk Albert quit his job as a textiles sales manager and went on a hunt for interesting antiques. Little did he know, the objects he found in that and subsequent searches would eventually furnish places like Nordstrom, Starbucks (most notably Roy Street Coffee & Tea), and even a few Tom Douglas restaurants.
“I realized I have my own perspective, and it’s unique,” Albert says. Unique is putting it mildly.
In one corner of his store, Kirk Albert’s Vintage Furnishings, there’s a hanging light fixture that Albert says resembles “a sweet Asian pagoda.” In reality, it is an early century bug and pest zapper called The Executor that he converted into a lantern. “It’s actually a death machine,” he says. On a nearby wall, there is a large velvet triptych featuring two women wearing Wild West garb who have hogtied a man and are roasting him on a large barbecue grill. The store also has weathered wooden tables, obscure rusted fixtures, large vintage signs and much more.
“We sell things that I liken to balsamic vinegar, in that it’s the magic in a salad dressing. Every recipe, like every room, needs something of soul and character,” Albert says. “It’s the acid that makes a salad come to life. One well-placed object can do the same for a room. … They are like flavor pieces.”
But as he’s scouring the country, particularly the South, for things that are “found and funky but high-end in a low-brow kind of way,” how does he decide what is vinegar and what is just water?
“I use the smile test. It’s like if you hear a really off-color or bad or sarcastic joke, and the corners of your mouth creep up inappropriately, like you want to stop them, like you can’t laugh,” Albert says. “We look for things that cause an emotional change like that, things that raise the blood pressure, good or bad.”
Albert admits that many of the objects are odd and speak of decay and sarcasm, but that is what sets him apart. “Our tagline is: perfect imperfections. Because we’re selling the flaw,” Albert says.
For more information, visit kirkalbert.com.
todd’s design tip:
“You don’t have to have a lot of vintage items. I, of course, like lots, but even if it’s something small on a mantelpiece, it really adds a lot. It’s great to throw in an authentic American rustic piece. It will have characteristics that faux vintage items can’t imitate.”
Kirk’s Design Tip:
“You can’t live like this top to bottom because they are such eccentric pieces. Try for one object per room. You should have one personality piece everyone talks about—the superstar object in the room, and that doesn’t necessarily mean the most expensive piece in the room.”
Bray’s Design Tip:
“I think the easiest pieces to start with are fixtures. Try a small upgrade to the kitchen, like new handles. We’ve got tons of those. Or just pick out one object, a sink or something you don’t like the look of, and come look for something a little different.”
The RE Store
With two large stores, one in Bellingham and one in Seattle, The RE Store is a virtual goldmine of restored raw materials and objects. “If it’s good quality, and if you can imagine it being reused, we’re interested in it,” says Bray Hayden, outreach, marketing and development manager of The RE Store.
With a philosophy like that, it’s no wonder they’ve seen everything from a 125-year-old Catholic confessional to 10,000 carpet squares donated by Microsoft pass through the store. “It can change hourly. We sell things like that every single day,” Hayden says. “A lot of it is house-specific material, but we get plenty of commercial salvage. We’ve had bowling alleys, chalkboards. … You just never know.”
Aside from the more esoteric objects, they are a great resource for quality raw materials. “A lot of the materials are from houses before the ‘80s. The wood is a type of wood that we just don’t see anymore. The grain is much straighter and much more solid. Now they are cutting younger and younger trees, and it’s not the same,” Hayden says. “We don’t want to see that great quality of wood going into the landfill.”
Hayden explains that the concept for The RE Store started 32 years ago with a curbside pick-up recycling service in Bellingham. But now the nonprofit corporation has grown to serve a much larger population, and their growth also means they are able to help a lot more people.
All profits get rolled back into things like education, green job training and other outreach and conservation efforts.
For more information, visit re-store.org.