I just returned from a lovely week-long visit with my brother, his wife and their adorable toddler in Pittsburgh, PA. It’s not a terribly long drive, about 12 hours, so we usually make the trek by car and it’s not uncommon for me to find a few vintage goodies to squeeze in to bring back. Things may have gotten a little out of control this time.
Yeah, that’s the back of a 17 foot Penske truck you’re looking at and it’s completely packed with mid-century wonderfulness. 2013 has been a year of pushing my thrifting boundaries. In the past I’ve stuck to my own backyard, but this year I’ve repeatedly driven several hours to bring back my finds and I’ve rented vans a couple of those times. Evidently it was all building to this: renting a vehicle large enough to move a three bedroom house and driving it over 1,000 miles.
This all began innocently enough. In August my mom went to Pittsburgh for a visit. While she was there I spotted a sweet deal on a Broyhill Brasilia armoire on Pitt’s Craigslist. I half-jokingly emailed it along with the subject line “Buy this.” And she did. And then she continued to buy eight more pieces of Brasilia from an estate sale. And then she bought a hutch and some end tables. And that’s when she took a page out of my book and rented a storage unit.
When I say I was in Pittsburgh visiting my brother, I really mean that I was in Pittsburgh moving all this back to Iowa and the family time was a sweet bonus. But really, there are much worse problems you could have than a storage locker full of awesome vintage furniture. Since we had to go get it anyway, we decided we might as well spend the week making sure the truck was as full as we could get it. Mission accomplished. Here’s the booty.
We really hit the Brasilia mother load in Pitt. When my mom answered the original ad for the armoire, she bought the one pictured above on the right, as well as a matching nightstand for around $200. A solid deal. But then just a few days later she found the one on the left as well as six additional pieces at INSANE prices—about $30 per piece. Insane. What I found interesting was the difference in color between the two armoires. The one on the left has a manufacture date of 1970, the one on the right was made in 1962. Broyhill evidently darkened the finish toward the end of the run to keep up with contemporary tastes. There are other notable differences such as concealed door hinges versus standard hinges. If you’re looking to match pieces you own, this is definitely something to keep in mind.
The deal on the Brasilia was a bit of a thrifting miracle. My mom found the ad for the three dressers and armoire just moments after it was posted and was first in line. She was lucky to immediately find a storage facility with an open locker that also gave customers free use of their moving truck. What are the odds? The lady who posted the ad was a cleaner—a person hired to dispose of the contents of homes after they’ve sold. She cleans out up to 16 homes a month and everything has to go fast, hence the amazing bargains. My mom and brother went to collect the dressers and managed to rummage around the house and find a matching king size headboard, queen size headboard and footboard and two nightstands. Cost for the additional scores? A whopping $20. Ridiculous. I didn’t get them photographed, but the six- and nine-drawer dressers both have amazing matching mirrors.
Of course, at those prices you have to expect some flaws. The tops of the dressers and nightstands have been massacred by liquids and caustic vinyl doilies. They will need to be refinished, so stay tuned this spring for a slew of Brasilia how-to’s and before-and-afters.
As the new proud renter of a storage locker in a faraway city, my mom had a place to stash all of her finds. Her next find was a set of Lane Acclaim tables.
Even if you’re not familiar with the name Acclaim, you’ll likely recognize these by their stunning dovetailed detailing on the top. These are always a favorite of mid-century fans.
On our trip back out to pick everything up, we found this guy at Goodwill for $8. There’s a lot of terrible, smeary paint covering it up, but we knew immediately that is Acclaim under there. It’s our duty to save it.
The same people who had the Lane Acclaim tables also had this gorgeous two-piece Keller china hutch for sale. Into the storage locker it went.
I’m normally not much for Formica tops on furniture, but these are so much better than the run of the mill wood grained variety you normally see. They’d look great in just white, but the pattern gives them some extra personality.
After leaving Pittsburgh the first time, my mom managed to score another amazing find remotely and sent my brother to retrieve a rare Kodawood bench.
Kodawood chairs are beautiful. Although they’re American as apple pie—designed in Miami, Florida—they smack of European style. This guy is pretty unusual. Basically it is three removable chairs that lock into a six-legged base. You can use it as a bench or remove the seats for ultra low party chairs. It appears few were made, probably because of the absolute lack of practicality. Useful or not, these are just cool to ogle.
It appears the contagion of my vintage lust may have spread to my brother as well. He managed to contribute a couple great curb finds to the locker.
At this stage in the game I was the only person in my family exercising restraint for once. Even if I was the little devil on everyone else’s shoulder whispering, “Go ahead, buy it. Buy it!” My only over-the-phone purchase was this Yugoslavian folding chair for $7.
So, that’s how this whole thing started. Stay tuned for Part II next week when I’ll share all the amazing loot I scored once I actually got to Pittsburgh.