The Changing Face of Antiques in Restaurant Decor

This week I read a well researched, compelling article in Collector’s Weekly called “The Death of Flair: As Friday’s Goes Minimalist, What Happens to the Antiques?“. I highly recommend you follow that link and read the article yourself. It follows the history of the “casual theme restaurant” like T.G.I Fridays from hot 1970s singles bar to cliché family establishment. The decor in these restaurants has always relied on huge collections of nostalgia and antiques. Now that the designs are changing to be more minimalist (and apparently, Millennial approved), the old stuff is coming off the walls.

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The old T.G.I Fridays on left, new design on right. Images via Collector’s Weekly.

I found it very interesting to learn about the networks of antique pickers and dealers who make restaurant decor their business. Throughout the years, the market went through trends that affected what antiques were in demand. When the restaurant chains started in the 1970s, they wanted bang for their buck. Whatever was abundant and affordable made the cut, and that’s why items like porcelain signs, stained glass windows and Tiffany style lamps became standard. As these same categories of antiques became harder to find, and more expensive, reproduction or “fantasy antiques” (I love that term) were added to the mix.

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Antiques for use in restaurant decor via Cracker Barrel Old Country Store

My favourite part of the article includes a short video on the massive Tennessee warehouse that still holds all the 90,000 individual antiques used in Cracker Barrel restaurants (unlike the other chains, Cracker Barrel is expected to keep with their antique tradition). This family business grew with the popularity of the restaurant; from local antique dealers to networked provider for a large national chain. It’s pretty amazing to see what is essentially a library filled with categories of antiques instead of books. Each and every Cracker Barrel restaurant uses approximately 1,000 antiques in their dining rooms and 99% of their decor is authentic.

Doesn’t that warehouse look like a fascinating place to visit? A few years ago on a trip to Nashville, we made it a point to visit the local Cracker Barrel. It was my first time encountering this temple of Southern Americana. Everything from the rocking chairs on the front porch to the shotgun mounted on the wall added to the impact. There were large advertising signs mounted with old musical instruments, photographs, clocks and farm tools. It was kitsch but it was also interesting. I could see that some items were worth more than others but they were all mixed together into a cohesive whole. In this way, Cracker Barrels are like Tiki bars – they represent a getaway into an idealized version of the past. The nostalgia is real because the items are real. They also serve huge breakfasts for very reasonable prices (go for the antiques and stay for the grits).

I came away from this article with a new appreciation for the business of American restaurant decor, and the use of antiques in that industry. I hope restaurants don’t get overly “tasteful” and boring in their desire to appeal to the younger generation. On one hand, yes, Millennials don’t like tons of stuff on the walls, but on the other hand they value the idea of authenticity. You can’t throw a rock in a hip restaurant these days without hitting an Edison bulb or rusty industrial relic. Times change and what is cool now will seem outdated soon. I might be a dying breed but I don’t go out to stare at my phone. Let’s keep something interesting on the walls. If it can be something antique all the better.

My top 3 Most Versatile Antique & Vintage Items

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I love a versatile item, don’t you? In modern homes it’s a real bonus if an item can look good, add character and serve a function. Some collectibles can only really be used for one purpose, but others can be repurposed into a variety of uses that suit your particular needs. Here are my top three versatile, charming, and often inexpensive items that can be used in creative and fun ways throughout your home. I’ve found all these items at antique shows, flea markets and shops over the years and I’m still discovering new uses for them.


Jars – Ah the humble, hard working jar. New jars are nice, but real vintage jars are still an easy find. I love them for their imperfections and old fashioned marks. My favourite has a soft blue colour that is timeless and pretty. Old jars just say “country home” and fit in many relaxed styles.

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Jars for sale at the Aberfoyle Antique Market

What can you do with an antique jar? Almost anything! You can paint them, etch words into them, switch up the lids (find new lids at kitchen supply stores) and even add knobs to the tops. Here are some of my favourite old jar uses:

  • Bathroom Storage – Q-tips, cotton balls and bath salts look lovely and stay protected.
  • Succulent Terrariums –  Small trees and fake snow make fun holiday decorations as well.
  • Vases – An old fashioned way to display your fresh cut flowers.
  • Lights – On the easy end, you can put a candle or string lights in a jar to great effect, or if you feel crafty, there are great directions out there for turning jars into table lamps and even chandeliers.
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Vintage “GEM” jar with garden peonies. A dollar store grid top made this jar a vase.


Tins – Graphic, fun, functional tins. Keep your eyes peeled and you’re sure to find something you like at a wide variety of markets. Collectors prize certain brands (and clean condition), so price will vary.

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One of the most common problems with old tins is that they can warp, rust and become difficult to close. Don’t let that stop you, however, if you fall in love with a great image. You can still use tins in the following ways:

  • Desk & Kitchen Organizers – One of the easiest ways to enjoy a tin is simply take the top off and fill it with something you need to have out on a surface, like pens or cooking utensils. Big tins can hold bags of flour or pet food. Glue magnets to small tins and you can use them on your fridge.
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Vintage “Girl Scout” tin. Purchased at the Nashville Flea Market, this tin is both a great souvenir and a handy way to corral my pens. I love the badges!

  • Planters – Fill a tin with dirt and plant something that won’t require much water, like a succulent. Easy to grow and display.
  • Candles – Wax, wick, you’re good to go!
  • Jewelry – Difficult for beginners but if you know how to work with metal, small pieces of cut antique tin can inspire wonderful designs. Also a great use of otherwise very damaged and inexpensive tins.
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Large Potato Chip tin used to store bags of flour in my parent’s kitchen

  • Caddies – With a little effort, you can turn multiple tins into a tiered caddie for your office or craft room.
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Caddie (and instructions) via Better Homes and Gardens


Corbels and Trim – A corbel (also sometimes called a bracket) is the piece of wood, usually carved in a  decorative pattern, that sticks out and holds up the structure above it. Trim is simply any piece of wood that was once used to outline a piece of furniture or structure.

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Antique corbels used as book ends and mounted in the entrance-way of a kitchen. Images via HGTV

Trim is quite cheap but delicate antique corbels can be expensive. Reproductions are an option, but keep your eyes open and you may get lucky. Real old wood has a wonderful worn aesthetic that adds so much warmth to your space. This type of architectural detail is found at salvage shops and antique shows. As you can imagine, decorative pieces of wood are pretty all-purpose. Some popular ideas for antique corbels and trim include:

  • Shelves
  • Book Ends
  • Kitchen Counters & Cabinets – Mounted underneath counters and cabinets, corbels can add texture and nostalgia to modern kitchens.
  • Shelf Brackets – Either paired with antique trim or new wood, corbels likewise compliment shelves
  • Coat Hooks
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My DIY antique trim coat hook. Still holding up our coats in style!

Architectural salvage has experienced a resurgence in popularity, so it’s a good idea to buy great pieces when you see them. I found the two vintage corbels below for only $60. I think I’m going to simply nail them to the wall and use them as shelves as is. Luckily I always have a few smalls that need displaying 😉

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I hope this encourages you to find spots for these charming old items in your home. Do you have any more ideas for using jars, tins or trim? Please share in the comments below!

The Aberfoyle Antique Market

A few weeks ago I attended the Aberfoyle Antique Market for one of their twice annual Saturday Special Shows. A smaller version of this outdoor market takes place every Sunday from late April until late October. Aberfoyle is located just outside of Guelph Ontario (an easy drive from Toronto). I hadn’t visited in many years, and I was really impressed by how this market had grown and improved since my last visit.

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One thing I liked right away when we started walking around Aberfoyle was how the grounds were more interesting and rambling than I expected. There were rows of booths in a field, but there were also buildings, curved pathways, and small groves of trees. Many of the sellers who set up on Sunday have permanent booths in buildings so it’s a nice mix of outdoor and indoor browsing. The food area as well has been improved with a restaurant, a few fast food carts, and a lovely seating area with comfortable patio sets and umbrellas. Unlike some outdoor shows which tire you out and offer scant comfort, Aberfoyle had plenty of shady and easy spots to sit down. We had to park in a distant field and the show even provided a shuttle bus to our car.

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We arrived in the late morning and the market was really crowded. Buyers had arrived at opening and were already walking around with purchases. There was a really good mix of people with all ages represented. Young families, retired couples, kids looking to furnish their first apartments – everyone was there. The weather held out and was fairly sunny until the mid afternoon when there was a touch of rain. It never became worse than damp but it drove half the crowd away by 3pm and we noticed a few dealers starting to pack up early. We stayed right until closing at 4pm.

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So what did we find at Aberfoyle? Pretty much everything that fits the category of general antique or collectible. Overall the stock appealed to a wide variety of taste (and budgets). There were also specialty dealers with collections of advertising, early pottery, tins and kitchen ware. There were a few Canadiana dealers with early smalls, textiles and furniture. Architectural objects like trim, reclaimed wood and metal gates were also available, and at reduced prices than we’re used to seeing in Toronto. I didn’t find too many newly reproduced pieces. In general the quality of stock across the board was good.

img_9590img_9599img_9597img_9638We left Aberfoyle with a few bags of treasures and two decorative metal doors for my parent’s garden. I’m happy with my purchases and I have a feeling I could easily buy something every time I visit. Aberfoyle was a great way to spend a day, in a beautiful venue, with a lot of interesting items to discover. It’s a great show that rewards all levels of antique and vintage hunters. I will definitely try to visit again for the smaller Sunday market during the summer, and the next special show this fall.

Midsummer Antique and Vintage Show

It’s hard to believe we’re already almost through August, but before summer ends I wanted to offer some thoughts and coverage of the Midsummer Antique and Vintage Show in Orillia, Ontario. The show was on July 26th – one day only – and it was the fist annual show in this location from Gadsden promotions. From what I saw, this is a show that should be back for years to come. I certainly enjoyed my walk around the grounds.

The Midsummer Antique Show in Orillia

Orillia Ontario is a few hours north of Toronto and the drive is pretty easy (and scenic) along the highways. The show was at the Orillia Fairgrounds, and we pulled up to the show field at around 11:00am.  There was tonnes of field parking, rows of outdoor booths, an open area for the food trucks, and a building with more dealers, a snack bar, and washrooms. All in all, the show was a nice manageable size with around 70 dealers. There weren’t many places to sit, but the building and tents did offer a reprieve from the sun. There was a lot of space between aisles and sections so you could move at your own pace.

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When we arrived in the late morning there was a busy feel to the place. Lots of people walking the aisles and having those intense, quiet conversations about potential purchases. I can’t walk onto a field show without getting flashbacks from my childhood. I remember driving out with my parents while the sun was still down, arriving at a field still damp with dew, setting up, and starting a long and often very hot day. I wasn’t buying or selling in those days, of course, but I know from experience that these shows are hard work. It’s always gratifying to see crowds and know the sellers have a good chance at sales.

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As far as stock was concerned, the Orillia show had a fair selection of large furniture, primitives and art, with more selection in vintage collectibles, antique smalls, and textiles. The quality was solid across all stock types. It was a good mix for the general antique or vintage enthusiast. Some dealers were very specialized so you could find, say, a booth full of pressed glass or postcards, but most dealers had mixed offerings in their particular style. If you were looking for something to catch your eye, you could probably find it on that field.

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Hello handsome!

So after all that, did I find something to buy? You bet! I actually found too much to buy. I have a soft spot for vintage McCoy planters and I found multiple dealers with McCoy I just had to bring home. There were also a few antique smalls (including a set of lawn bowling bowls for Anson), but our most exciting purchase was a metal table with four chairs. We have a small backyard so we can’t do large outdoor furniture. We both really liked the size and the style of the set on first look. I was immediately drawn to curved legs, and I liked that the metal would be easy to maintain and store over the winter. All in all, I think it’s quite a charming little set and I’m happy we pulled the trigger on a more expensive purchase. I’m also very happy that the show organizers provided someone to move the table and load it into our Nissan Versa. Very appreciated help!

Our new backyard set! Love those curved legs and pedestal :)

Our new backyard set!

The Midsummer show was a success for me as a buyer, and for me as a Canadian looking to spend a precious summer day outside. You can’t beat looking at interesting items under sunny skies (bring a hat though, that sun is hot). I hope we can make the trip up to Orillia next year. This is a great addition to the summer show calendar.

The Old Book and Paper Show

On Sunday, March 29th I had the pleasure of attending The Old Book & Paper Show. Billed as Toronto’s biggest one day “vintage print-fest”, this show is dedicated exclusively to books, postcards, posters, photographs and all types of old ephemera. It takes place twice a year (March and November) in an interesting part of the city along St. Clair west.

Artscape Wychwood Barns

The show is set up in a long hallway in the Wychwood Barns building (originally a streetcar repair barn from the 1910s). Tall ceilings and bright windows flood the space with light. We arrived about a half hour after the show opened at 10am, and the room was packed. If there is something in particular you are looking for, you should get there early. One seller told me the serious collectors wait outside to enter as soon as the doors open. If you’re more of a curious looky-loo, you might find it easier to browse a little later when the crowd dies down.

Interior Artscape Wychwood Barns

When we first entered I didn’t think it would take too long to see all the booths but we ended up staying for almost three hours. What I didn’t realize was just how many individual items were crammed into every square inch of space! Vintage advertisements, postcards and magazines filled file boxes. These were often organized by topic but once you started it was easy to keep flipping through. Then there were the art prints and large format photographs ready for framing. Historical images of Toronto, Canada and the world. Postcards of tropical paradises. Vintage fashion magazines and pulp fiction novels. Rare and valuable first edition books alongside travel brochures, sports cards and comics. The show is very well named because literally everything old and paper was represented.

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Vintage paper ephemera

Boxes of vintage postcards

Antique and vintage photographs

As you may expect in a professional show like this, the dealers had their specialties and knew their stock. If you had a specific item you were looking for they could always help. If you were just interested in a topic or time period they could also steer you in the right direction. Most were also willing to cut a price on multiple purchases, and I found the prices on the whole quite reasonable.

A booth at the show
Being the nerd that I am, I made a bee line to some boxes of mid century “Amazing Stories” and sci-fi pulp. I was just as interested in these books for their kitchy covers as for the stories. $5 bought me a paperback with a title story called “The Girl Who Hated Air”. Not a very promising read, but I think the astronaut cover is worth the money. I also spent time at the postcard sellers finding some more cheerful Alfred Mainzer cat postcards.

Vintage sci-fi pulp

Booth with magazines

Anson found a few sets of small black and white photos of Niagara Falls and Stanley Park in Vancouver. These little sets were sold to tourists in the 1940s and 1950s as additional photos to use in home albums. They were sort of the precursor to the postcard books you can buy today, but higher quality. The photos are crisp and clear and often well composed. They are quite charming and historical mementos of Canada’s natural beauty.

Vintage tourist photos of Stanley Park

Our purchses from the show

In the end we had a bag full of curiosities, books, photographs and postcards. I doubt we spent over $100 but we found some great little gems that will find a place in our home. I saw many serious collectors at the show, but not too many younger casual buyers. This is a shame. Gift stores sell reproduction images that cash in on the vintage charm of old ads, or the artistic appeal of black and white photography. Here was a place to buy all of that, and more, in an authentic form. There was also a great selection of books on specific and hard to find topics in art, music and history. From high brow to low brow, and all the prices between the two, there was truly something for everyone. I look forward to visiting the show again in the fall.

Vintage and Antique Shopping in Nashville

Before I get into my post, indulge me for a minute so I can describe where I am. Here, let me give you a visual:

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This is the view from the balcony of my room at the huge “Gaylord Opryland” hotel in Nashville. For most of our trip we were at a rented condo, but this week my husband has a conference so we got a free room here. It’s pretty ridiculous. There are three large atriums with full size trees, waterfalls, restaurants, shops… all under glass domes and surrounded by hotel room balconies. I have a two story waterfall right below me, which I love because it provides the greatest white noise. I feel like I’m outside, in a garden, without heat or bugs. Talk about ideal writing conditions! I could get used to this.

Anyway, before I found myself writing in a fantasy tropical paradise, I was hitting the streets of Nashville looking for antiques. I didn’t get to see a lot, but I did visit the 8th Ave. South area. This is considered one of the main Antique districts in the city. The first place I looked, Classic Modern, was also one of my favourites. It had a great selection of vintage (1950s – 1970s) furniture and accessories, as well as antiques from the 19th century, jewelry and folk art. They had quite a few complete sets of furniture – a full 1950s chrome kitchen table set, or a 1960s couch and chairs for instance. Very cool. Prices were reasonable for the quality of the items. I also talked to the owner and a fellow patron for quite a while – real friendly people around here!

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The second place I visited was “Pre to Post Modern”. I liked the signage out front because it reminded me of Pee-Wee’s Playhouse. It said something like “Come inside! It’s fun in here!” on the clapboard, and you can’t resist that.

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It was fun inside! They had a well curated selection of mid century accessories, advertising, clothes, decor and even some furniture. Everything was organized in themes so the clothes, hats and purses were together in a room, there was a rec room with albums and posters, the tiki stuff got its own corner etc. Very fun to browse. The best part was the prices! I was looking at smalls, but even the furniture was affordable. I wish I could have schlepped home one of their bar carts, but as it was I took three tiki mugs for a grand total of $12. If I lived in the area I would be popping in all the time.

Finally, the last place I visited was a good old fashioned antique “mall”. This one was called 8th Ave Antiques. The booths were a bit spotty in terms of age and quality, but I did find more antique furniture, china and art here. Some dealers had recognizable interests like pop culture memorabilia, kitchenware, or country furniture. Others were seemingly random with antique, vintage or even new and reproduction items. I didn’t see anything I had to buy (and pack – a deterrent for sure). Still, there was enough selection that if I were in the area I would gladly try again.

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Although I didn’t see everything the area has to offer (I missed a whole antique mall further up the road!), I enjoyed my antique and vintage shopping on 8th street in Nashville. There was a lot of mid century to 1970s decor, country smalls, and fun kitsch. Antiques (as in pieces over 100 years old) were harder to find but there were some good examples. Prices were overall lower than in Toronto, especially for the mid century modern stuff. Let me put it this way – shopping at even these three stores I’d have no problems outfitting a fabulous vintage rec room. Now I just need to get some bigger luggage!

Antique World and Flea Market

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Last month Anson and I visited the Antique World and Flea Market in Clarence, New York. This well established picking destination is composed of multiple group shops, storage unit stalls, and a sprawling flea market every Sunday year round. Clarence is a short drive over the US border (crossing at Niagara Falls), so we figured it would be a great destination on a beautiful summer weekend.

The first thing I learned during my visit is to ARRIVE EARLY. We woke up a little late, but we only stopped at the border and for the obligatory road trip Egg McMuffin, and arrived around 11:00am. I felt we made good time but it was obvious we were still late for the flea market. Many of the tables were packing up, and empty spots were evidence that some had already left. I spoke to a dealer who told me that in the summer the action starts at 7am if not before, and that the first few hours are swarmed with buyers. He suggested I arrive no later than 7:30 for a good selection. Fair enough. Any show is the same – early bird gets the worm.

Antique World flea market

It didn’t help matters that this was also shaping up to be one of the hottest days of the year! As it got close to noon it became almost unbearable in the full sun. We found what was left of the flea market pretty uninteresting but there were enough almost promising things that I think you could find some treasures if you came early. I did see a fair selection of toys, housewares, old postcards, jewellery, and collectibles like baseball cards. Nothing really for us, though, so we moved to the adjacent Co-op buildings.

The Co-op buildings have storage units along the exterior walls. These rectangular, windowless units are rented as selling spaces or storage. It’s a pretty good idea because sellers don’t have the hassle of packing up when it’s time to leave. The downside is that if it’s a ridiculously hot day you are confined inside a small, airless tomb. Thankfully, within five minutes of looking I saw something – Vernonware in Tam O’Shanter pattern! A whole pile of it! AND it was on sale. I was able to pick up all the following pieces (with egg cup!) for around $40. I usually buy my vintage Vernonware online and shipping is a huge extra cost. You can pay, like, $10 for the piece and $25 for shipping to Canada. I felt like the trip was already worth it as I put my first purchase in the car.

Vernonware Tam O'Shanter dishes

I literally squealed with delight when I saw this on the bottom of a dusty shelf

The few storage booths that were open had a decent assortment of stuff, as long as you weren’t looking for very old antiques. There were a lot of vintage housewares and decorative items. Used books and clothing. A few guys had a “man cave” (the term really fits when it’s a dark tunnel full of neon beer signs). Other booths had new home items like scented candles and tole painted “Bless this Mess” signs. In one booth that had largely automotive items I found a set of 1970s glasses featuring Archie comics characters. I love Archie comics as much as Jughead loves hamburgers so the glasses were the next things to come home with me.

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China, glass & housewares in one of the storage booths

It was time to hit the buildings. The buildings at Antique World are probably where you will find the higher end stock, and the quality (and price) varies for each building. The Expo Center is good for vintage and less expensive items. One large area is set up in traditional booths, and the other large area has rows of display cases. This building had lots of items in the $20 – $100 range. I saw great vintage Sci-fi paperback novels, sports cards, kitchenware, small furniture, and comic books.  I also finally found a classic McCoy “Arcature” planter with bird, and Vernonware tumblers!

Comic books for sale

Vintage Business pens

Anson is a big fan of vintage business pens. At $1 each, they were an easy buy!

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Cabin Ashtray

We walked across the giant parking lot to the Indoor Flea Market building next. This building has, as the name implies, a hodge podge of different items. There was furniture in every style from Victorian, to turn of the century farmhouse, to 1980s bamboo. Smalls like textiles, kitchenware, holiday decorations, and toys were common. One dealer had a large selection of records and musical paraphernalia. I found a few items, including a vintage tea towel featuring a Caribbean theme with original tags. If there is one thing I love, it’s a tea towel that brings the fiesta to the kitchen.

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Vintage Kitchenware

Christmas decorations

How adorable are these little houses? I was tempted to buy them all.

The third building we visited was Uncle Sam’s Antique Co-op. This is a great mid range building with some surprises for the collector. One booth featured the best selection of vintage linens I’ve seen for a long time. Another had a terrific assortment of 1950s/60s Jadeite kitchenware. I saw vintage Halloween and Christmas decorations (picked up some Shiny Brites for $2 – $3 each), old Barbie dolls, lamps and even large pieces of furniture. Uncle Sam’s hit the sweet spot for my taste and budget. It felt like the dealers set up here had well-developed stock in their areas.

Vintage Halloween decorations

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Shiny Brites

The last buildings we visited were 3 Old Dogs Antiques, and The Premier Antique Center. 3 Dogs had good quality primitive furniture, antique train sets, folk art and some nicely framed artwork and advertising. It is a very nice shop with good antiques. The Premier Antique Center is a group shop that had a likewise high class of antique. This large shop had chandeliers, fine furniture, and display cases with delicate porcelain – everything you think of when you think classic antique shop. It was nice to browse but we didn’t buy anything.

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Finally, after five hours, it was time to call it a day and go home. There were buildings we didn’t even have time to visit! I will say this for Antique World, it’s big. It seems hard to believe anyone couldn’t find at least something to buy. Between the deals at the flea market, to the mid range booths and high-end shops, there’s something for everyone.

If you plan to go, remember to get there early if you want to see the flea market. The flea market operates every Sunday year round, with extra large (and popular) flea markets the 1st Sunday of the month from May to October. The buildings are open every day of the week except Wednesday. 

It’s bragging time! Check out the haul from our first trip to Antique World:

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Vernonware tumblers - Homespun Pattern

Vintage Caribbean tea towel

Hola!

Vintage Aluminum Tumblers

“Royal Sealy” aluminum tumblers in nearly new condition? Yes please!

Vintage tea towel

Finally a tea towel for all the Irish Jockey enthusiasts

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Classic vintage McCoy planter in the Three Lily design

Vintage McCoy – Yellow Planters

Happy Easter and Happy Spring! I love this time of year so I thought I’d share some of my cheerful Spring coloured vintage McCoy pottery. You may recall I already enthralled you with tales of my green planters and jardiniere. Well, now it’s time to introduce the yellow planters. Let’s get crazy with some vintage cuteness shall we? Check out this little guy:

McCoy Duck PlanterI originally intended to write this post with an Easter theme, and I think this adorable duck would have fit the bill perfectly (Oh that’s right. Pun intended). He’s not a bunny, but this duck’s baby animal quality, mixed with the egg and jaunty “Sunday best” ribbon just seem Easter themed to me. This planter was produced by McCoy in many colours over the 1940s. Many of the varieties had painted details on the face and ribbon, but I think my version was always just in one solid paint. It’s a charming little piece (around 7″ long) and still easily found in the $10 – $25 dollar range depending on condition.

On my birthday last week I was also the happy recipient of two more lovely yellow pieces. Here they are artistically photographed with a tulip:

Yellow McCoy PlantersThese beauties are classic planters in what is often referred to as the “tufted” or “quilt” pattern. They are from the 1940s / 1950s. I love these planters not only because they are attractive, but because they have attached bottoms for easy use (I promise I’ll put plants in them one day). One is two thirds the size of the other and I really like how the different sizes display as well.

I must mention that I had every intention of photographing my McCoy pottery out in the garden for a seasonal motif, but apparently Toronto weather did not get the memo about Spring. It’s literally below freezing and snowing today. Another photo shoot on the kitchen table it is then! At least I have a beautiful assortment of tulips to brighten a dreary day:

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Pretty. If you live in a place where Spring exists I envy you. For now I will just have to enjoy my sunny yellow planters and pretend. If you’re looking for more general information regarding McCoy Pottery, check out my earlier posts and another resource I found at VintageMcCoyPottery.com. There are so many types of McCoy pottery planters, and at so many prices, that they really are a fantastic way to bring vintage cheer into any home.

Yellow McCoy Planters

Vintage “Easy Steps To Successful Decorating” Book

Yesterday I visited a favorite nearby thrift store. Past trips have yielded a lovely French vintage tea towel and a nice green McCoy pottery planter. This time my eye spied a decorating book with a tattered but intriguing cover. For a laugh I picked it up. After one minute of flipping pages I went from “this is a crazy thing” to “I MUST OWN THIS”.

The book is “Easy Steps to Successful Decorating” by Barbara Taylor Bradford. Yes, the best selling novelist Barbara Taylor Bradford, of A Woman of Substance fame. Before she wrote The Emma Harte Saga she was apparently an expert on interior design. She is quite lovely and well composed on the cover as you can see:

"Easy Steps to Successful Decorating" book cover (1971)

Nothing says “trust me to drape your room in fabric” like the old hand on chin pose. The book was published in 1971 and while that misses the clean looks of mid century modern, it does fit exactly into the swinging, psychedelic remnants of the late 1960s. There was just so much going on in design during this time. Nothing was too much and everything could be paisley.

If you dream of living like Austin Powers I cannot express how much you need to own this book. It is full of  practical advice on everything from choosing floor coverings, to wallpapers, to room plans that help you place your glass coffee tables and giant wicker chairs. There are numerous black and white, as well as full (and I mean FULL) colour photographs. Ms Bradford writes well (as you would expect from her success) and true to the book’s byline she explains all the details to achieve similar looks.

Let’s take a gander at some of the photographs shall we? If you feel like tripping out at any point just look away from your monitor until you calm down.

Yellow and White wallpapered Bedroom 1971

This is a bedroom. For sleeping. If you manage to even find your bed you will be in a position to stare up at the odd concentric rectangles. Sweet dreams!

White carpeted 1971 Kitchen

This is how I know people did drugs in the 60s – they put carpeting in the kitchen. Carpeting that looked like ferns. Grab a bowl of fruit from your tiny round island that features and even tinier round sink. Water your many plants. Can you possibly fit more lattice work into your ceiling?

Groovy Living Room with stripes (1971)

The sofa in this photograph is easy prey for stronger furniture. It must blend into its surroundings to survive. It distracts you from itself with zebra print pillows and short tables that are hard to reach from a seated position.

Green and Orange Retro Living Room (1971)

I think this is a living room but it also has a dining room feel. Lots of seating options (none of them comfortable). I am actually quite enamored with that cheetah statue, and the combination of green, gold and brown reminds me of my Vernonware dishes.

Far out Vintage Living room with tented ceiling (1971)

I get a Roman Emporer by way of Liberace vibe from this room and it is MAGNIFICENT. Everything in this room is crazy. There is no sane. Sanity cannot exist in the space that uses tenting as wall cover.

By this point I hope some of you are saying  “but what about the children?” Oh don’t worry. The kids were not left out of the design ideas. They have their own section of the book which features amazing examples like this:

1971 Child's bedroom

Imagine if your child was hyperactive before they went into their room to play.

"Teenage Haven" Bedroom from 1971

This is described as a “teenage haven”. It is not an adult film set. Do not be fooled by the sunken living room area or the fake chinchilla bed spreads. Is that an ash tray on the table? Yeah. Nothing inappropriate will happen here.

So there is a lot more to this book but you get the idea. It’s choke full of the crazy, or the retro vintage goodness (depending on your tastes). While I may not typically go for the geometric, eye confusing prints of 40 years ago, I will say that some of them beat the heck out of beige. And I will be keeping an eye out for one of those large plaster cheetahs. That cat would look so groovy in my living room.

Vintage Vernonware on “Rules of Engagement”

Holiday preparations are in full swing, and I’m off to sunny Orlando this week, so I’m going to make it quick and share a little something I found on TV. I was watching a rerun of the TV show “Rules of Engagement” (don’t judge me) and what should I see?

Vernonware on Rules of Engagement

Vintage Vernonware! A kitchen cupboard’s worth! It’s one of the plaids, and it looks like the pattern is probably “Organdie”. Organdie was designed by artist Gale Turnbull. It was the first plaid Vernonware and the other plaids (including my patterns Tam O’Shanter and Gingham) were inspired by this original design. The Organdie pattern was produced between 1937 and 1958.

The funny thing, at least for a nerd like me, was that the plot of this episode revolved around a burglary. The apartment pictured above was broken into, but the thieves didn’t take anything because there was nothing “worth taking”. Ha ha. Joke’s on those imaginary burglars who didn’t realize that if they carefully boxed up that dinnerware and sold it on eBay, they could have made a cool 200 bucks. 300 on a good day. Sitcom burglars never want to put in the effort.

Here’s another look at the Vernonware. They don’t have a lot, but the pieces they have are quite nice. I especially admire the salad bowls (upper right) and tall tumblers (mid left). I’ve been trying to find those in my pattern and they’re rare.

Vernonware on Rules of Engagement

I’d like to think that at some point the set decorator who compiled these dishes will find my blog. If they do I just want to say hey, good job. Those are some nice dishes. (I’m pretty sure that this article will forever be the only google hit for “Vernonware Rules of Engagement”. I’m going to write niche niche blogs and make my millions!).

In the real world I also made a Vernonware discovery. I bought four bread plates and one small gravy boat in the Gingham pattern from a dealer on eBay. I got the pieces for really low prices – less than $5 for everything – but I had to pay $25 for shipping from California. I still think it was worth it. All the pieces were in excellent condition and my little gravy boat is really cute:

Gingham Vernonware Gravy Goat

Vernonware Plaid Gravy Boat

Another small but lovely piece has joined my collection! Now if only I had some gravy.