Snag » Uncategorized All Found. All Vintage. Wed, 05 Oct 2016 21:18:09 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Weekend Finds: Eames Soft Pad Executive Chair Fri, 25 Mar 2016 15:01:52 +0000 Sometimes you easily find something you never knew existed and it’s a happy accident. Sometimes you spend years looking for something to no avail, only to have it fall into your lap once you’ve given up. I’ve had both happen with the same item. Several years ago I picked up a worn but interesting office chair at a garage sale for $2. After a little research I discovered it was a soft pad management chair created by design gods Charles and Ray Eames for Herman Miller. I also discovered they are nearly impossible (if not entirely impossible) to reupholster and eventually swapped the dilapidated (and burgundy) soft pad seat for a more ubiquitous unpadded aluminum group seat found on eBay. I can’t complain, my total investment in that chair was only $30 after all was said and done.

My first soft pad-turned-aluminum group chair shown in my home office.

My first soft pad-turned-aluminum group chair shown in my home office.

But that taught, unpadded seat never really fit the bill for the long hours I sometimes spend behind the computer and it was relegated to side chair status in favor of a more “ergonomic” Herman Miller Aeron chair. The complicated 90s-era designed Aeron chair never impressed me much either and I vowed to someday replace it with a stunning (and comfortable) Eames soft pad chair. I hunted. I searched. For. Years. There were none to be found locally and any vintage examples I could find were priced sky high. Eventually I broke down and decided it was time to bite the bullet and pony up for one. I decided to go with a more recent production and shelled out the cash. We’re talking teenager’s first car money. It arrived. I was happy.

The "splurge" soft pad

The “splurge” soft pad

Then, not a week later, I get a text from a friend: “Should I buy this?”

IMG_8874It might have just as well fallen out of the sky and hit me. I’m reminded time and time again that the best way to find anything is to stop looking for it. Of course, having just bought one, it would have been logical to have said no to this one, but my zeal to not only have vintage possessions but also get great deals on them overruled all logic. Granted this one is a tiny bit of a train wreck, but it also didn’t cost used car money—more like gas money.


The construction of these chairs makes restoration challenging, but I’m excited about getting into it. The leather, though in desperate need of cleaning and conditioning, is in surprisingly well-preserved condition. The wool fabric on the back, however, has sagged significantly. Since the upholstery cannot successfully be removed from the frame, it’s going to take some ingenuity to devise a way to shrink it back while in place. You might also notice it has a wonky incline as a result of a damaged tilt mechanism which should be a chore to reverse engineer.


The severely abused cast aluminum arms and legs are another chore. These will require removal, stripping and lots and lots of polishing to regain their original mirror-like finish. I’m considering outsourcing this part to an auto body shop if I can find a willing one.


The chair has a date stamp, though I can’t clearly make it out. I’m guessing it says Jun 1, 1986. Ray and Charles Eames first designed their Aluminum Group chairs in 1958 for the J. Irwin Miller house designed by Eero Saarinen and Alexander Girard. Their Soft Pad Collection was introduced in 1969—essentially just aluminum group chairs with soft padded seating surfaces. The Aluminum Group and Soft Pad collections have been in continuous production by Herman Miller since their introductions though today a new example of a Soft Pad Executive chair would run about $3,200.

I’m really excited to get started on this project. Conceivably I could just take the arms and base from the gray chair I already own and make one good chair out of the two. But that’s clearly too easy. Wish me luck. Hopefully I’ll have a before and after to show you soon!


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Everything You Thought was Wright is Wrong. Tue, 12 Jan 2016 19:11:58 +0000 On New Year’s Eve as I traveled to a party (read: eat Chinese food and watch The Big Lebowski) I, of course, stopped off at a thrift store. I had a coupon that expired January 1 and I wasn’t about to let it expire. During my initial sweep of the store I didn’t find much other than a couple coats and some smalls, but I decided to go back and check out a fairly simple blonde writing desk that I had passed over.


Initially I dismissed it from a distance as a common student desk, possibly even institutional. But on closer inspection the design and detailing of this solid birch desk seemed a little finer than a campus housing fixture. Could this be a Russel Wright designed piece for Conant Ball?


A quick check in the drawer and I had my answer. Conant Ball made nice pieces and I thought there was a pretty good chance this was designed by the famed Russel Wright, based on what I had encountered so far in the mid-century modern zeitgeist. Sold!


Excited with my find, I decided to look it up and see what information I could dig up. Googling “Russel Wright Conant Ball desk” quickly yielded images of this very desk. Score! I also discovered that this was part of a line called Modernmates designed in 1947. That bit of information changed things. Despite rampant attribution of this line to Russel Wright, original Conant Ball catalogs reveal that all pieces in the Modernmates collection were designed by Leslie Diamond. In fact, the only documented pieces Wright ever designed for Conant Ball belonged to the much older American Modern collection (bearing the same name as his popular ceramics line) introduced in the mid 1930s.

Wright? Wrong. Leslie Diamond. Image via 1st Dibs

Wright? Wrong. Leslie Diamond. Image via 1st Dibs

Case in point, the chairs above are almost always attributed to Wright. In fact, these are currently listed on 1st Dibs as Wright pieces. As it turns out, they also belong to the Modernmates collection and were designed by, you guessed it, Leslie Diamond. As the publication below suggests, a lot of documentation exists to dispel any notions that these are Wright pieces.



So, what do the real Wright pieces look like?

The real Wrights.

The real Wrights.

A little chunkier. The American Modern line came out around 1935 and while very modern for its time, it looks clunkier and more art deco or streamline moderne than the Modernmates pieces designed postwar—nearly a decade later.

So, why does such obvious misattribution proliferate? In this case it’s pretty easy to figure out. Someone wanted to attach a famous designer to a piece he didn’t design to increase its market value. In the world of mass produced modern furniture, original documentation can be next to non-existent so when people scour the internet to find information about their finds, they’ll grasp at any straw they can find. That misinformation spreads like wildfire and before you know it everyone believes that Wright designed every piece of Conant Ball furniture. In fact there’s at least one documented instance of a Wright historian mislabeling pieces. Bad information is like a noxious weed, once its seeds are blowing in the wind it’s next to impossible to contain it.


Am I less excited about my piece now that I know it wasn’t the brainchild of a famous designer? Not really. It’s still a fantastic example from the early days of mid-century modern design. The form is pure, the lines are clean and the quality is high. I don’t know what else you could want? My favorite feature of the whole desk is what made me take a second look and ultimately convinced me to buy it in the first place—that cleverly disguised pencil drawer. It doesn’t matter who designed it because, as a design element, that’s solid. At the end of the day the integrity of the design is all that should matter. Wright has nothing on Diamond in my book.

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Happy Holidays! Thu, 24 Dec 2015 14:14:12 +0000 I picked up this tree topper angel this past Saturday at Salvation Army for under $1.00. I have never put anything on top of my aluminum tree but this is so light-weight it works and looks darling. She is in wonderful condition with burlap clothing and wings and topped with a mercury glass halo.


We wish you a very merry Christmas! See you next year.

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Front Door Dilemma Thu, 23 Jul 2015 16:46:40 +0000 You know when you wake up one morning and shout, “I’m tired of looking at this maroon front door!” That’s where I am. Despite fifty other projects halfway started, I’m on to thinking about paint colors. Sorry everyone who lives with me and my project ADD.


Oh my, our front entryway is so sad. Except for our cat, Truffle, peeking through the glass. Back to the maroon. I’m pretty sure it is the original color, because there are heavy aluminum awnings in our back with maroon stripes. The storm door was aluminum originally and is now black. We’re going to replace it with a door that is one panel of glass so you can actually see the door. Our doorknob is currently gold, and that will be replaced with a black knob to contrast with the escutcheon.

Here’s the fun part. Paint! I’m glad I put these in Photoshop, because some of the beautiful colors in my mind look…less beautiful on the door.

Door_lime Door_ltblue Door_ltgreen Door_Turq Door_yellow

In my mind, the pencil yellow color was perfect and now I’m definitely having second thoughts. What do you think?

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Monthly Finds: Burke Tulip Chairs in the Rough Thu, 11 Jun 2015 17:11:10 +0000 Maybe you’ve noticed I’ve disappeared. I’ve been going to some garage sales, but not thrift stores and have hardly been searching on Craigslist. So my finds have been limited, and my time even more limited by a one-year-old who just doesn’t sleep through the night yet. Insert zombie groans.

There was this garage sale though. It looked like a total loser sale from the road, but once you entered into the very back of the garage, magical things were happening.

For starters, these things. That music box in front is from the 1940s and is so cute. The lady head vase? Yes. Almost mint condition. Don’t these things all look “Tammy-esque?”

Speaking of Tammy.

And all these cute (but worn) ornaments. Normally I don’t find them in a huge group and normally they’re about $1 each, but at this sale…I filled up an entire box with other finds that I will post about, for seriously $5. All of it. $5. Then, when I acted shocked, asked if that was too much.

$5. This jewelry box is just too amazing.

There are no markings on it, but since it was with all of the other older items I’m assuming it is vintage. What do you think? Have you ever seen a jewelry box like it? There were tons of earrings included as well, but I’m planning on a jewelry post in the future.

At another garage sale where I showed up like a crazed early bird due to my daughter getting up at 5:45, I spotted this army foot locker in the driveway. It is in fantastic condition and the owners were so nice. Check out the interior!

The red paper lining is so neat and striking against the green exterior. And, they even left a note.

“Foot Locker” Bought in 1959 for military use. Placed at bottom of bed for shoes and clothes. For inspections everything had to be folded or rolled a certain way, including socks and underwear!

The foot locker was purchased for the Iowa National Guard in 1959. I always love finding out the history of a piece.

After all those great finds, Austin, Tammy and I went to some city-wide garage sales and this is pretty much the only thing I found. A tin toy that doesn’t really work. Oh well, sometimes it’s the company that matters.

But my best find so far are these Burke tulip chairs. There are four total, all with the propellor base. These are not the original Saarinen tulip chairs, which have a sleeker tulip-shaped base, but still a nicely designed set of chairs. The lady on Craigslist was also a vintage enthusiast, and she saved them for me even when someone offered her double. How nice of her! It was worth an hour’s drive to come home with four of these beauties. They do have the normal wear marks of vintage furniture, but as my son is slowly chipping away at my pristine finishes, I’m coming to appreciate wear marks more and more.

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Citywide Nightmares Tue, 09 Jun 2015 15:42:13 +0000 I feel like every year I definitively swear off citywide garage sales. They always sound great with their promise of 80+ sales, practically next door to each other, but their lure of quantity rarely yields anything of quality for me. Despite this, once again this past weekend I fell victim to the siren song of citywides. After putting over 100 miles on the car in one day canvassing two citywide events as well as individual sales and thrift stores in two other towns, what did I find?

Nothing. Well, nothing isn’t entirely true. I found two broken chairs, a chipped table, some vintage clothing that ended up being full of holes and an antique fire extinguisher that I discovered was still charged—when it went off in my car. Awesome. You’ll have to use your imagination, I was too furious with my puny haul to capture its image.

After this I called Tammy, muttered something about never going to another sale as long as I live and began angrily stuffing my questionable decisions into the garage. Of course in the morning I felt like I had to go out again for some sort of redemption. As I rolled up to my favorite monthly flea market, I realized that it wasn’t until next weekend. Great. Another fantastic start. In a mix of rage and disappointment I set off driving aimlessly through the city to see what sales fate would throw my way.


Turns out fate isn’t such a cruel mistress after all. I wandered into a neighborhood sale as well as a few other sales here and there and scored some interesting things, like this cork-topped coffee table, Dansk Kobenstyle pan, black stretched glass vase, Genie phone, giant map and leather suitcase. But my favorite find is probably this 1950s electric hand dryer.

IMG_2548They had it plugged in and running at the sale so I knew my $10 wouldn’t be squandered on a broken device. The porcelain case is in such great shape it’s hard to imagine this thing surviving 60 years of service, but judging from its construction I’d say it will outlive us all.


But I will say buying something that spent its entire life hanging out in a public restroom was a very fitting end to this weekend.

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A Find that Really Sucks Tue, 14 Apr 2015 14:16:43 +0000 My love of mid-century design knows no bounds and it’s particularly unbridled when it comes to industrial design. Machines. Cars. Radios. Appliances. Oh those glorious metal beasts of yesteryear in gleaming candy coated colors.

After decades of knowing appliances as unremarkable boxes (at their best) or totally undesigned assemblages of plastic parts (at their worst), it’s hard to remember that there was a time when appliances were truly exciting. Like new car exciting. In the 1950s engineers and designers worked around the clock to develop new features that would obliterate the doldrums of housework and turn everyday machines into objects of desire. And it’s for all these reasons that I got all worked up when I found this dirty old vacuum in a thrift store for $5.

photo 3This little two-tone ball of joy is a 1967 Hoover Constellation. It’s about the coolest vacuum I’ve ever seen, but the best part isn’t even how it looks—it’s how it hovers. That’s right, it hovers. Designed to expel its exhaust from the base, the Constellation generates enough air to lift it ever so slightly and glide across floors with ease, despite its lack of wheels. How cool is that?

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The Constellation was introduced in 1954 and was originally designed with a central mounted pivoting hose with the intent that the vacuum could sit in one spot while you cleaned around it. Later the design was modified to change it to a hovercraft and was available in a slew of color options including pink, orange and baby blue. In 1967 the design was changed to this tilted axis for the model 843 and remained so until the end of production in 1975.

photo 1I’m fortunate that my machine, aside from just needing a good cleaning, is in great shape, works and has nearly all of the original attachments. I have no doubt that in time I’ll find the extension wand and the floor nozzle. Finding bags and filters will be less of a challenge as these machines have quite a loyal following. Thus begins another collection of things that have little practical value to me and yet I feel all the richer for having this mechanical wonder in my life. You can watch the Constellation in action in this 1961 Australian television ad.

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My New Secretary: A Love Affair Thu, 19 Mar 2015 17:29:31 +0000 I apologize if my post title lured you in with the expectation of sordid details, but I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. I truly am smitten with my newest acquisition.

IMG_7301It’s a Drexel Declaration secretary! Tambour doors, slide-out desktop, and those legs—it was lust at first sight.


Though I loved it at first sight, I didn’t really think I was going to get it. When I saw the ad it had been posted for over five hours. I figured my chances were nil, but I sent the email and waited. Miraculously, the next morning I discovered I was first in line for not only this, but also a matching bachelor chest.

IMG_7307This bachelor has lived a rough life and he’ll be needing some cosmetic attention to repair numerous scrapes and a sizable dent in the top. I’m anxious to try a steaming trick that I’ve heard puts damage like this back on the level. I’ll keep you posted on that process.

IMG_7310If you’re a long time reader of the blog, you’re probably already aware that I have a bit of an obsession with Drexel Declaration. It all started with a single coffee table six years ago and has now grown to over 20 pieces. You can check out some of my other pieces here, here, here and here.

Original Drexel catalog. Image from Retro Rennovaiton

Original Drexel catalog. Image from Retro Renovation

Declaration was designed by Kipp Stewart and Stewart Mac Dougall for Drexel in 1958. The design was inspired by the craftsmanship and detailing of Shaker furniture melded with a modern aesthetic. The result was a fully packed line of refined and solidly built mid-century modern pieces. There were two hardware options: white porcelain pulls or brass pulls with Formica inlays. Most of my pieces have the porcelain pulls, I’ll probably be on the lookout for replacements so I can switch out the brass pulls on these new pieces.


One of my favorite aspects of Declaration is the level of documentation each piece has. I’ve yet to find an unmarked or undated piece. Manufactured in 1962 and 1966, these pieces are among the youngest in my rapidly growing collection.


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Georges Briard Icicle Glasses Tue, 17 Mar 2015 18:03:27 +0000 Last Thursday, after dropping off the kids at school, my mom and I went to a church rummage sale. We had never been to this particular church’s sale before but with no other promising sales around we decided, why not? Although we didn’t find much, I was happy when I spied these glasses hidden in a box beneath a table. While most of the other boxes under the tables were filled with junk, these glasses were beautiful.

photo 1 (56)

Of course a set of six would have been better than five but at only $0.20 a glass I wasn’t complaining! This pattern is called icicle and they are in a wonderful, bright coral color. Each glass is signed Georges Briard. I have been able to find smaller goblets online in the icicle pattern but not in this taller 7″ size.

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photo 2 (57)I’m so happy these glasses didn’t make it out onto the tables. It’s like they were waiting for me to find them.

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Window Shopping Tue, 09 Dec 2014 12:45:25 +0000 A few weeks ago I did most of my Christmas shopping, unfortunately none of it involved vintage or antique shopping. After a quick trip to the mall, my 8 year old son and I headed to the old main street to check out one of my favorite toy stores that I have visited since I was a child. The store is filled with toys and tucked in among the items for sale are wonderful vintage toys that give the shop charm. Just look at this giant Steiff giraffe.


As soon as I walked up to the front window I wanted to go back in time to buy some of the toys they had on display. Just look at all these Steiff puppets.

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The big brown bear in the back corner of the window is usually standing in the front of the store during the summer months and most kids give it a hug when they walk into the store. My guess is it stands about 6 feet tall.

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Joey checking out the toys.

I did go back to this store to buy something my son had liked and was was pretty bummed to see these new puppets now on display in the window.

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I just love that this little shop lets me enjoy the old toys while the kids get to shop for the new ones.

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