We’ve all been there. You find that great deal posted for sale. You get all excited. You read down a little more. You realize it’s a billion miles away. Thoughts of going on a wild road trip to get it cross your mind, but you eventually come to your senses and go on. This weekend I decided not to come to my senses. Things escalated quickly.
It all started innocently enough. I saw a couch posted for sale in a Facebook group. I contacted the seller, thought the price was good—and then realized it was over 100 miles away. I was tempted to abandon the idea and the seller seemed almost sure that I would. But the woman selling the couch sounded like she might have more mid-century goodness to share and even a neighbor with a garage full of things. I looked up the area and found a rich trove of thrift and vintage shops, so I decided to make this into a buying trip.
The sofa would have fit in my SUV, but I was concerned that it wouldn’t be big enough for anything else. After researching rental options, I decided to go with a minivan. After all, it seems like we can get anything in Tammy’s van. But about an hour before I planned to leave, the rental company called to inform me they were overbooked and had no vehicles available. Crisis! I scrambled around and ended up renting a huge cargo van from U-Haul. Overkill? I was afraid it would be—until the first stop.
As it turns out, the couch wasn’t the only thing the seller had to sell. The lady selling the couch turned out to be a very friendly fan of mid-century modern style. She was getting ready to move and was planning a garage sale for the next day to shed a few pieces she’d picked up and didn’t quite have a plan for. I was so happy to hear that, just like us, she had hauled these things home from tag sales, garage sales and even out of dumpsters—we’re not alone.
First there was the Kroehler couch that started all of this. When I first saw the posting I thought it had great lines. It’s not the cutting edge of mid-century design, but it is kind of the perfect classic sofa shape that works in any scenario. The double button detail on the back really makes it for me. The seller’s aunt—who also had a garage full of treasures for me to look through—was not quite sure why anyone would like the fabric. But I kind of love it. It’s a dark avocado tweed with flecks of brownish-grey. It’s in great shape without fading, stains or wear, just a little pilling that a giant lint-shaver should take care of.
Next were these aqua side chairs by Allsteel. Clearly someone at Allsteel had an eye for Florence Knoll’s work, because these bear a striking resemblance to her high-end armless chairs for Knoll. Even so, these are still great looking chairs. A little cleaning and polishing and they’ll be ready for the spotlight.
The seats, however, do need to have the elastic seat straps replaced. Many chairs used rubber strapping to support seats in lieu of springs to keep the seat very thin and sleek. Over time the rubber loses its elasticity and becomes brittle. Fortunately I can replace the strapping from the underside without having to remove the upholstery. We’ll post a how-to on re-strapping chairs when I get these completed.
Anyone would probably call this big round coffee table a Heywood Wakefield piece at first glance. The wood is right, the finish is right, but the legs… I’m not so sure about the legs. This guy isn’t marked and I haven’t found any examples of Heywood with these legs yet. Still, it’s terribly cute.
This bistro-sized pedestal table was an interesting gamble. It’s got a cool soul but needs a bit of cleaning up. The cast-aluminum, tulip style base needs some serious polishing, as does the trippy patterned Formica top. Despite all that, it’s cool and I’d love to get it back in condition.
The curved wood back support with rubber shock-mounts cinched the deal for me. I was on the fence about the Naugahyde and brown frieze upholstery, but it’s in great shape and it’s growing on me. This actually went home with my mom, who came with me on the trip and fell in love with this. It’s not hard to see why.
After parting ways with my new friend in mid-century, we decided to hit all of the neighboring thrift stores and I found some interesting smalls, including this amazing printed canvas suitcase at St. Vincent de Paul. The fabric is absolutely nuts and I’m obsessed with it, especially the colors.
I also scored a sweet piece of Blenko art glass, a mod plastic ice bucket, a Frankoma leaf dish, a very colorful tiled ash tray and a Danish stainless steel… thing? I’m not sure what that is, possibly a candle holder or a dish. In any case, I like the form.
Perhaps it was the warmer weather that inspired me to buy this green picnic basket and folding bleacher seat. Or maybe it was just the fun colors and textures.
Theses little square end tables were a Salvation Army snag. Despite their size, they weigh MUCH more then you’d expect them to.
At my last stop, I found two more Gunlocke chairs. Although the wood is beautiful walnut, I initially dismissed them as modern chairs with their ghastly 1990s light blue fabric. Gag. But something kept drawing me back to them. The chairs looked vintage, but that fabric… I decided to investigate.
Jackpot! The original 1960s orange and green tweed lies beneath. Of course there’s no way of knowing if the upholstery is all intact and in good shape under there, but it was enough to tip the scales and convince me to spend $7 each on them.
But it was my very last purchase of the day that seemed to be a sign that this whole ordeal was the right decision. This orange tweed Kroehler arm chair sat alone in the back of Goodwill, in mint condition, just waiting for someone with a couch to put with it. And I had that couch in tow. I nearly ran to it when I saw it. This was meant to be.
I had a lot of fun, but I’d recommend more planning for anyone interested in their own buying adventure. I only had a day or two to plan and on that short of notice vehicles are hard to arrange and itineraries are difficult to plan. Because of a snafu with the van-rental company, we were two hours late hitting the road and unable to hit many of the shops I had hoped to check out because they closed. Also, consider the mileage and expense. Most rental companies charge per mile and it’s a good idea to pad your mileage estimate to allow for side trips and finding thrift stores—they’re usually not on the main drag. Gas adds up too. I spent roughly $250 in fuel and rental for a 350 mile round trip. If you’re planning to resell some or all of your purchases, you’ll really want to try and pack that van to get the most of your trip. The good news is, that last part is the most fun.