Category Archives: retro

Selling Out

You know you’re a grown-up (or a Grinch?) when you start to seriously consider getting a fake Christmas tree.

Always one to cling to tradition, I never thought I could imagine a Christmas without the piney scent of fresh needles, the sacred process of selecting just the right specimen (never too bushy), tying it to the top of the ol’ minivan and finally, the art of fitting the boughs with an aging strand of C7s so that as little of the cord as possible showed between branches. It was all so darn magical. I couldn’t understand why my dad did all that sighing and cussing every year.

 The December after I moved out, Mom and Dad bought an artificial tree. I don’t think I’ve ever seen them happier. Dad definitely seemed to have a new bounce in his step. As for me, I thought they were traitors. I made a promise then that I’d never sell out. And I’ve kept it…until now.

 We knew we needed a tree for our holiday party on Sunday, so we figured we’d take care of it first thing in the morning. It took. all. day.

First there was an epic search for rope – I now know that grocery stores, drug stores and Targets do not carry it, but hardware stores do. Next we learned there was a silvertip shortage in these parts, so our usual tree farm was a no-go. Our local tree lot was all but sold out. The next nearest lot was charging $80-90 for a six-to-seven-foot silvertip. Even the little five-foot firs were going for $50. The boyfriend claimed this was normal, but I refused to believe it, so we moved on. We finally found a decent-sized noble fir for $40 at Home Depot, but when we got it home, it wouldn’t stand up in our tree stand because the trunk was too heavy. Somehow he wrangled it into position and carried it into the house, at which point it toppled over, permanently warping our little metal stand. So the boyfriend went out into the cold rain for a new stand. I guess December is far too late to buy a stand, because the first three or four places he hit up were plumb out. It’s a good thing he finally found one at Home Depot (the second time they saved us that day). Otherwise our tree would be laying in the front yard instead of aglow in our living room.

 So instead of dreaming of a white Christmas, I’m dreaming of a white aluminum Christmas tree for next year.

Apartment Therapy

Or a silver tinsel tree.

Target

Hell, maybe I’ll go turquoise. I figure as long as I know it’s fake, there’s no point in trying to be naturalistic…might as well go all out.

                Amazon

Or maybe I need to take a cue from Charlie Brown and remember what Christmas is all about.

        Target

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Filed under christmas, Holidays, living room, retro

Christmas Coke

 As long as we’re breaking out the Christmas decorations this week, I thought I’d share our almost-DIY holiday project.

 

It’s no secret that my boyfriend has a major Coca-Cola crush. So major that it actually inspired this summer’s Southern sojourn, which included a stop at Coke headquarters in Atlanta in addition to the mentioned Nashville and Asheville. Some kids have bedrooms painted with puffy clouds or zoo animals; the walls of Paul’s childhood room were covered in red and white Coca-Cola wallpaper (yes, there is such a thing).

 So when we came across a dusty collection of his family’s old National Geographic magazines, we had to check the back pages for cool retro Coke ads. And these three Santas from 1956, ’60 and ’62 just begged to be framed.

 

We carefully removed the ads from the magazines, but that’s where the DIY ended. Since we had a 60 percent off coupon for Michael’s – and since the framer at our store is pretty talented – we opted to have them professionally done. But we probably could have achieved a very similar look ourselves with some basic black frames and matting.

 I think the end result is more subtle and cozy than your generic store-bought snow globes, reindeer, or even Coca-Cola merch, but still manages to feel extremely Christmas-y.

 

Unfortunately, I had a heck of a time getting a photo with decent lighting. This time of year, we only get sun in the living room from 5 to 7 a.m – and the new light fixture that was supposed to arrive Nov. 1 has been backordered twice, finally convincing us to cancel our order this afternoon. It’s back to the drawing board on that one, I guess.

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Filed under christmas, Holidays, interiors, retro, vintage, winter

Making a List, Checking It Twice

I’m such a hypocrite when it comes to Christmas shopping. I curse the premature holiday displays, but find myself browsing them before November. I shake my fist at store speakers blaring Christmas music, then go right home and put holiday tunes on Pandora. Sigh.

So it should come as no surprise that I’m already browsing potential holiday gifts and goodies to give and get.

Maybe I can’t afford one of these amazing houses for Christmas. But surely I can manage one of these.

Or, in keeping with my current letterpress obsession, some of these. You’ve got to admit, they’re a lot quirkier than your standard snow village.

Though most of the year I stick to natural colors and wood tones, something about the holidays makes me crazy for rainbow brights. The saturated hues on these picture frames turn what would otherwise be a basic gift into a statement piece.

Or how about a brightly-colored custom plate? This tree-trimming version is cute, but there are other holiday – and non-holiday – silhouettes and shades to choose from.

Personally, I’m thinking about buying these kitschy retro napkins for my parents’ newly remodeled kitchen.

As for my own retro kitchen, I’ve been coveting these shiny Sur La Table tumblers and sundae bowls for quite some time now. They remind me of the aluminum glasses we always used at my grandparents’ house.

When it comes to holiday decorating, I have this ridiculously anal rule about using only vintage-style ornaments – our tree  typically features just  glass and lights, with no crafty felt ornaments or whirligigs in sight. Basically, if Charlie Brown wouldn’t have put it on his tree, I don’t want it. (I think I was brainwashed by Mom and Dad, hardcore blown-glass ornament enthusiasts who only grudgingly put up the pieces we made at school with glitter and popsicle sticks for a few years before packing them away for good with our other sub-par school crafts.)

Fortunately for folks like me, Anthropologie is making it easy this year.

The best part about being an early bird list-maker is that I don’t usually have to scramble to get my shopping done at the last minute. The worst part? With so much time left until Christmas, my list usually keeps growing…this is just the beginning.

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Filed under Holidays, old houses, retro, vintage

Fine Print

My plan this week was to chronicle Arts & Crafts San Francisco, the city’s annual sale of all things bungalow style. But after staying up past 3 a.m. the night before (my boyfriend’s band had a late gig) we just couldn’t convince ourselves to tackle an early 2-1/2 hour trek on a crowded freeway.

I’m sorry to have missed the chance to photograph all the handcrafted furniture, the pottery, the Native American art – but I’m most bummed about missing Yoshiko Yamamoto.

Colvos Passage Sunrise

Yamamoto hand carves her Japanese-influenced arts and crafts designs into wood and linoleum blocks, then prints the images on letterpress. The results are the most simple but stunning scenes of animals, botanicals and landscapes.

Here’s Autumn Leaves, a small print I picked up at the show last year (I promise it looks much better in real life).

And the pair of circle prints I got a few Christmases ago.

From cute little mice to moody ravens, I can’t wait to add another of her nature prints to my collection.

Mice - Yamamoto

Early Spring - Yamamoto

 Or 0ne the landscapes that seem to capture California’s rolling hills, oak groves and late afternoon light effortlessly.

Evening Oak - Yamamoto

Speaking of arts and crafts-inspired prints that features my favorite places, is anyone else smitten with Ranger Doug’s line of reproduction WPA National Park posters?

 

I’m really digging the vintage colors schemes. I’ve got a 2010 WPA poster art planner/calendar, and I’m thinking of tearing out the best 8 by 6 cards (I think there are about 37 in all) and framing them for some cheap wall art. Now I’ve just got to figure out where to put them.

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Filed under art, interiors, retro, vintage

Hi Ho, Silver

I heart old houses – on wheels.

 It all started with Sunset. Ever since my July issue arrived, I’ve been pining for the shiny silver Airstream on the cover.

 

I always thought Airstreams were cute with their gleaming aluminum and  spacey shape. But lately I’ve been noticing the retro trailers nonstop – on our trip to Ferndale, camping in the mountains last weekend, cruising down the freeway through our town. I’m officially obsessed.

Apparently I’m not the only one. Renovated Airstreams for home, work or play have recently been featured in the aforementioned Sunset, as well as at Design Sponge, Dwell, The Tiny Life (pictured below) and the Washington Post.

 

We’ve been doing a lot of traveling lately – which I love, don’t get me wrong – but I miss the coziness of our little, old house when staying in hotel rooms. And I miss the convenience of showers and a stove when I’m sleeping in a tent (I know, I’m really bad at roughing it). Wouldn’t it be cool to take a familiar place –showers, stove, maybe even the pets – on the road with you?

There’s just one obstacle. New and gently used Airstreams are expensive. Really expensive. Like, you-could-buy-two-or-three-small–cars-for-the-price-of-one-small-Airstream expensive. The only way it’s going to happen anytime soon is if we buy a used rig in not-so-hot condition, gut it and start over, which would be quite the undertaking – though it has been done.

Until that happens, though, I can satisfy my dreams of silver glory by drooling over the mid-century inspired photos in this book.

Ordering lunch from this Airstream window next time I’m in Seattle.

Borrowing someone else’s trailer for a night.

Or by settling on one that’s more my size.

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Filed under mid-century modern, renovation, retro, travel

Mid-Century Modern Revival

Maybe it’s all that time spent watching Mad Men, or maybe it was just inevitable. Either way, I’ve finally started warming up to mid-century modernism. 

Sutter Buttes/John DiDomenico Photography

I was raised by parents obsessed with old, lived-in, one-of-a-kind houses. To them, ranch houses of the 50s and 60s represented everything they wanted to get away from – suburban sprawl, cookie-cutter sameness and disregard for the past. 

For years, I followed in their footsteps, drawing the line at art deco and shunning everything that came after as “new.” That is, until I realized two things. One – this stuff was popular more than 50 years ago and therefore is actually “old.” And two – that my house is not a period movie set and there’s nothing wrong with a little mixing and matching of eras. 

Ranch home near my neighborhood

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not going to rush out and outfit my home in full-on atomic age fashion. My heart still belongs to Craftsmans and Queen Annes. But I’m a lot more open to the era since realizing a lot of the features I love about bungalow style – like clean lines, stained wood and bold patterns – can also be found in mid-century modern pieces. 

Here’s a quick rundown of some transitional pieces that appeal to my newfound respect for all things Jetson-esque. 

Leave it up to Urban Outfitters to offer funky yet simple retro decor at affordable prices. 

Urban Outfitters

Urban Outfitters

Urban Outfitters

Wouldn’t this chair look as at-home in a 1900 Craftsman as in someone’s Palm Springs patio? 

Crate & Barrel

In my mind, vinyl and mod go together like peanut butter and banana. You don’t even need a record player for this guy. The photo doesn’t really do it justice, but I have one of these bowls by chicalookate and, trust me, they look cool in real life – and they’re awesome for storing your sunglasses, keys, remotes, etc. 

Etsy

Groovy patterns and tiki style get a modern makeover at Bradbury & Bradbury

Bradbury & Bradbury - Wonderwall paper

Bradbury & Bradbury - Island wallpaper

Not sure if this qualifies as modern, but I’ve been coveting this Jonathan Adler whale pitcher since I first saw it advertised on Young House Love, my go-to site for decorating inspiration. 

Jonathan Adler

 And of course, no mid-century modern would be complete without a swingin’ Shag print. 

Shag - Relentless

For more mid-century ideas, I like the blogs Retro Renovation and Mid-Century Living, but there are literally hundreds of sites out there devoted to postwar living – just check out Retro Renovation’s blogroll. Apparently I’m a little late to the block party.

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Filed under interiors, mid-century modern, retro

Take a Number

Those who haven’t been bitten by the old house bug don’t understand. Those who have accept it as a way of life. But there’s no denying it – old houses need work. A lot of work.

Photo by RobbinLara/iStockphoto.com

Well, maybe not this much work.

But with all the pricey and/or time-consuming projects planned for our house lately – painting, new siding, tediously scraping popcorn off our bedroom ceiling – I’ve been on the lookout for a quick, affordable project. Something I can do in 10 minutes yet will really make an impact.

Then it came to me – address numbers. What would be easier than replacing our cracking plastic numbers with some shiny new ones?

As it turns out, house numbers might come cheap (though not always, as I recently learned) but they don’t come easy. Why? Because there are so many styles to choose from, I can’t make up my damn mind.

 I figured I’d just go for a classic craftsman design – end of story. Yeah, right.

 Do I want the “authentic Dard Hunter style” in copper, brass, aluminum or black?

The Craftsman Homes Connection

Or would I prefer the hand-hammered copper?

The Craftsman Homes Connection

How about some classic arts and crafts terra cotta tiles?

The House Number Connection

Then again, I love the font on these mission numbers by Rejuvenation.

Rejunvenation

Or what if I went wild, veered away from the bungalow theme  and opted for art deco instead?

The House Number Connection

Or ornate Mediterranean tiles?

Spanishplates.com

Or the simple but cheery rose design from DuQuella Tile & Clayworks?

DuQuella Tile & Clayworks

Hey, they even have a bungalow style.

DuQuella Tile & Clayworks

If you really want to make your head spin, scroll through the “address plaques” list on HomeExpo.com, where I found some of these guys. Here’s hoping you’re less indecisive than me.

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Filed under bungalow, exteriors, retro