Saturday, February 28, 2009

Ampersand Vintage

Sometimes you walk into a retail shop, look around, and think to yourself, "DAMN, whoever owns this shop has got it TOGETHER". That's what happened the first time I walked into Ampersand Vintage, a new, smallish, immaculate book/ephemera shop on NE Alberta St here in Portland.

Then, imagine my surprise when I looked up and realized that I KNEW the guy behind the counter! Myles Haselhorst is a fellow Seattle transplant, although I had no idea that he'd relocated to PDX. I knew him from when he used to sell books and other random vintage stuff at the Fremont Sunday Market in Seattle. However, his flea market stand certainly gave me no preparation whatsoever for how cool his shop is.

The thing that makes Ampersand so fabulous, and makes me want to write about it on my blog, is not just the fact that they have cool stuff to look at and to buy (which they certainly do). It's that pretty much every aspect of this little shop, from the graphic design of the business cards and the website to the mixture of new bookshelves make by Nathan from Kerf Design and old lawyers' bookcases, to the way the art is hung on the walls, is (or appears to be, anyway) completely INTENTIONAL. It's as if the complete idea for the shop and all of its accoutrements sprung fully formed one day from Myles' head. It comes across as this seamless expression of one person's passion, and every little detail is just perfectly executed. For a shop that's pretty much brand new, opened by a guy who (as far as I know) has never operated a retail shop before, this level of professionalism is pretty much mindblowing.

In fact, I think I'm a little jealous. I look at Myles' shop, and think about the feeling that I get whenever I walk in there (everything is just so, perfectly placed, and has a reason for being there), and think to myself "do people get that feeling when they walk into my shop? Feel free to comment and let me know! ;-)

Monday, February 23, 2009

The Wonders of Howard's Feed 'n' Wax and an Arne Norell Safari Chair

A few weeks ago I purchased an Arne Norell Safari Chair from a very peculiar eBay seller who seems to think that it's acceptable to mix the selling of designer mid century modern furniture and...gag/prank "greeting" cards with a homosexual bent. Last time I checked, eBay allowed you to have multiple seller accounts - and I wonder how many potential furniture customers these guys are driving away by mixing their (for lack of a better word).

At any rate, I purchased the Safari chair for the princely sum of $109.99, on a buy-it-now auction. Now, it's not even like the seller didn't know what they had. It was listed very clearly as an Arne Norell Safari chair, and made mention of the many examples for sale on for many thousands of dollars. S0, they knew what they had, but still only wanted a measly hundred bucks for the chair?? Well, see the kicker was that "the wood is really dried out" and "the stitching on the arms is coming loose and will need to be restitched". OK. Now, for someone who doesn't have ready, easy access to a good upholsterer, as I do, the latter problem might present an issue. A minor issue, but an issue nonetheless. The former problem, however, is decidedly a non-issue, if you know about a little product called Howard's Feed-N-Wax, sometimes affectionately referred to around here as "Magic Jazz" (available at most hardware stores for around $8 a bottle).

You see, when applied to dried out wood with some fine grade steel wool, the Magic Jazz makes crusty old thirsty wood look brand new again. I've been using the stuff for years, and even I am still sometimes shocked and amazed at what a little Feed-N-Wax can do. Now, it's certainly not a magic salve for every wood finishing problem. There are some cases when an application of Feed-N-Wax will do nothing but leave a greasy, waxy film on your furniture. However, when you know when to use it, the stuff works magic.

I wanted to film a video of me giving the pieces of my Safari chair the rubdown with the Magic Jazz - but unfortunately, I don't have a video camera. However, don't rule out the possibility of that instructional video appearing sometime in the near future! In the meantime, I did the next best thing - laid out my pieces of chair on a table, and took several "before", "during" and "after" shots of the Feed-N-Wax application. So, without further ado, may I present to you, "The Magic Jazz Meets Rosewood Sticks- A Photo Essay".

Part 1: Rosewood sticks, as found, pre-Magic Jazz application.

Part 2a: Rosewood pieces, "half and half" - pieces on the right have been waxed, pieces on the left have not. Part 2b: This one cuts to the heart of the matter! Here you can see the left side pieces waxed, the right side pieces unwaxed - and on the center piece, the top half waxed and the bottom unwaxed! Trust me, the difference in person has 10 times the impact.

Part 3: The finished product, all waxed up and ready to go!

And, finally, the application tools. A little piece of 4-ought steel wool for application and a nasty old rag to wipe it all down with. Voila! A rosewood safari chair, good as new! Well, almost - I still have to get the re-stitched arms back from my upholsterer! I'll be sure to post a picture of the completed chair as soon as I have it back!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

A Musical Realization Involving the band Versus and cult Mass Suicides

So this morning I was looking for a pair of my shoes. They happened to be navy blue Adidas sneakers with white stripes. I asked my wife if she had seen "my Adidas", to which she replied "my Adidas laced with sadness". Now, to someone who knows neither me or my wife, that might be viewed as a rather cryptic thing to say to one's spouse at 8AM. However, I knew that she was making an inside reference to the song "My Adidas" by the band Versus, who we both are sort of rabid fans of. I also knew that she had gotten the lyric wrong - so I said "no, it's actually "My Adidas laced with cyanide". To which she said "huh?? Why are his Adidas laced with cyanide??" I didn't immediately have a good answer to that, but I pondered the question as I was doing the dishes. I remembered that there's a lyric in the song about Heaven's Gate, and I thought "I wonder if it's actually about the Heaven's Gate cult?" Sure enough, I consulted the lyric book, and found that it is indeed a pop song about a cult mass suicide. Here are the lyrics to the first verse:

"Waiting for the comet to appear
/A new beginning, far away from here /Start the countdown we’re going out in style / My adidas laced with cyanide".

Get it? So, the truly weird thing is that I've been listening to this song for going on 10 years now, singing along to the chorus, and having ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA what Richard Baluyut was going on about. This sort of thing has happened to me before, but perhaps never with such dramatic impact. Now, the fact is, up until recently I didn't really have a clear idea of what actually happened with the Heaven's Gate suicides - for some reason it just sort of passed me by when it happened back in '97 (I was in college, what can I say). However, recently we watched a special on the Jonestown massacre, and that got me thinking about cults and mass suicides for about 30 minutes, so I did a little bit of googling and reading, and came across the whole Heaven's Gate story. So, it's entirely possible that when "My Adidas" came out in 2000, I could have read through the lyrics completely and STILL not known what the devil Baluyut was talking about.

So...what does this have to do with anything? Absolutely nothing, except that I'll be just a little bit creeped out every time I hear that song from now on. But that won't stop me from listening to it.

Monday, February 9, 2009

A sweet pair of 1950s club chairs

I just picked up this pair of chairs yesterday, and I'm super stoked about them. Why? Well...let's see. First, the scale is perfect. Not too big, not too small, and very comfortable. Second, nailhead trim is always a major bonus, and the little "cutouts" on the armrests are very swank as well. Third, they were CHEAP. Fourth, the duct tape just adds a certain "je ne sais quoi". ;-) No really, I'm imagining these with ebonized legs and reupholstered in silver gray velvet - or maybe moss green velvet. Or maybe mohair if I'm feeling really fancy. They'll be killer, just you wait.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009 - a wonderful new time waster

I just discovered this widget called It's like a personal radio station where you can play whatever song you like, and tune into what other people are playing based on what bands/artists you like. You can see my playlist so far here. I've only been using it for a few days, so it's pretty brief, and since I'm not chained to a desk all day, the times that I can sit around and arbitrarily pick out good tunes to play to an invisible audience are fairly few and far between. Nevertheless - it would be cool to see some people that I actually know on there! It's a nifty idea, and from now on, whenever anyone asks me what kind of music I'm into, I can just point them to my little radio station! Try it out, it's kind of addictive.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

3 Wishes from Janus Home Granted: Part 1.

First off, I guess I should apologize for being so slack-assed about posting on this here blog. When my own mother says "well, I thought about following your blog, but you don't post very much, so I didn't really see the point". OUCH. Point taken. From now on, I shall be a blogging fool. So, without further ado, may I present to you ...Karen Reisinger and her FABULOUS NEW WROUGHT IRON GARDEN CART!!
As you may be aware, last month Janus Home had a shindig called "Third Time's a Charm/Three Wishes from Janus Home". I won't get into the (lengthy) back story behind the name, but the point is that we (actually, Kelly - credit where credit is due and all that) decided that it would be a great thing if we gave some stuff away. At first I was like "you wanna do what??", but then the more I thought about it, the more it actually started to make sense.

So, we had a party, and invited everyone who attended to present us with "Three Wishes" - basically, anything that they wanted from our store, they could wish for. Three times. We would then pick out three people and grant one each of their wishes! If you couldn't figure it out, Karen, pictured above, was lucky winner #1, becoming the proud new owner of the awesome wrought iron garden cart (I always thought it was a bar cart, but who cares) she's pictured with.

Perhaps even MORE exciting than that (for us, anyway!), Karen also requested our design services - she needed help with her fabulous Raleigh Hills ranch (which is virtually untouched cosmetically from the '50s!) - and we were glad to oblige. Karen's house is going to be quite the project, considering that virtually NOTHING has been updated, but hey, we're up for the challenge!

Karen doesn't know it yet, but we plan on integrating this awesome Tomlinson swiveling lounge chair that we just bought (refinished and reupholstered, of course) into her decor.
The wood frame will likely go dark, the upholstery perhaps a lush velvet, or creamy linen. It epitomizes the style that we'd like to see blossom in her ranch, in that it's clearly a period '50s piece, but it's not stereotypically "mid century modern" - in fact, it has quite a few traditional elements about it. It almost comes across as a little bit Hollywood Regency, but without the pomp and circumstance. "Transitional", you might call it - and undervalued, as well. Tomlinson is one of those high-end furniture makers from the '50s whose stuff just hasn't quite risen above the surface in today's decorative arts market - but I think it's great stuff with a very distinctive line. And this chair - come on - it was "Tailor Made" for Mr. & Mrs. Myron Fleishman! You sure as hell don't get history like THAT when you buy a piece of furniture from Crate & Barrel!

Stay Tuned for parts 2 & 3 of "Three Wishes from Janus Home", featuring Marti Accuardi and her 19th Century French Wine Rack (that she's having made into a table! I can't wait to see it!) and Anneliese Sitterly and her 4 JL Moller dining chairs!