Skot Knox is pleased with the chairs he and his wife procured at the Lancaster Habitat ReStore.
“They were from the 1950s and they were 50 cents each,” Knox says. That was a sweet find, he adds, considering “we’re coming into this pretty new.”
By “this” Knox means scouring antique, vintage and other shops to furnish their home. Like many their age — Skot is 36 and Rylie is 27 — the Knoxes are feeling the midcentury vibe.
“It may have something to do with wanting to experience something you’ve never experienced before,” says Knox, who is a musician. “To me the ’70s are really mysterious. Same with the ’50s and ’60s. I wasn’t around. I’m not as much into the ’80s and ’90s because that was my childhood. I already had a chance to live that.”
Whatever is driving this definite affinity for decades gone by, the sentiment is not lost on several home decor sellers that have been cranking out old-yet-new for some time. Amazon in 2017 launched its own line of midcentury modern called Rivet. Midcentury motivations are prevalent at West Elm. And then there’s what’s going on at Crate & Barrel spinoff CB2 at its 21 stores in cities like Philadelphia.
CB2 this year launched a Paul McCobb line that it bills as “timeless designs by a midcentury legend.” Before he died in 1969 at age 51, McCobb was a major player in home furnishings. A company called Form Portfolios bought the rights to McCobb’s designs and CB2 became the first American company to pay for those and start producing several again.
These are items like a marble side table retailing at CB2 for $529, a wide dresser with brass crossbars for $1,699 and a bowtie sofa for $3,199.
Shoppers are likely to pay a good bit more if they encounter a McCobb piece actually from the ’50s or ’60s. But for those not attached to certain names, finding furniture from back then can be more budget friendly than newly made alternatives, Knox says.
He found a 1960s headboard on Facebook Marketplace. “That lady really wasn’t asking much for that at all,” he says.
The Knoxes enjoy browsing at Tollbooth and Burning Bridge antique markets in Columbia and Space in downtown Lancaster.
“The younger generations — Gen Z and the millennials — are going crazy for bamboo and rattan and wicker. I never pass that up when I see it,” says Space owner Jesse Speicher. “In fact, I’m looking at a pile of it right now that we found yesterday. Anything, from a barstool to wall shelf, whatever. If it’s bamboo or rattan the kids are going nuts for it.”
Same with light fixtures.
“Another thing we usually won’t pass up at sales is good lighting. Any kind of cool table lamps and floor lamps especially,” he says. “I think there are less floor lamps in the world than table lamps, and the vintage ones fly out of here pretty fast.”
Tiki is hot and has been for a while, Speicher says.
“I get serious collectors in here and then I get casually interested buyers who just want the cute stuff for their tiki bars,” he says.
Speicher is always on the hunt for vintage — be it at nearby flea markets, thrift stores, consignment shops, Adamstown day trips, Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace or at the home of someone who cold calls to see if Space wants their stuff. It’s out there if you look, he says. Another option he suggests is the Vintage Revival Market, which periodically draws 40 to 50 vendors (including, sometimes, Space) to the Shops @ Rockvale. The next is from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 15, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 16. There’s a $3 fee to shop the first night. The second-day admission is free.
Even furniture that was mass produced in the ’50s and’ 60s tends to stand the test of time, Speicher says.
“You’re going to be better off buying quality vintage furniture. Of course, I would say that. But it’s true,” he says. “The stuff they’re making now isn’t going to be around 40 years from now. It’s going to be floating in an ocean or in some landfill somewhere.”
He’s not a purist, though. Space carries some new, vintage-inspired items like sunburst wall clocks. He rarely encounters original versions of those.
“I could never find enough to keep up with demand,” he says.
Mix and match
Sometimes the price of buying original is simply too steep for a majority of shoppers, says Linda DiBartolo, co-owner of Tannery Antiques in New Holland. She says some — though not all — are just as happy finding re-creations. “If they’re not purists, they don’t care,” DiBartolo says.
Take gargoyles. Tannery stocks newly poured cement versions of the creatures meant to ward off evil and sometimes rainwater. New ones typically range from $125 to $250. DiBartolo and her husband do have some antique gargoyles but are keeping those for themselves — including one they call Fluffy. She says if they were to part with Fluffy, he might go for around $3,500.
“He’s solid cast iron and about 350 pounds,” she says. “He’s a big boy.”
Many of the taxidermy items Tannery carries are between 5 and 10 years old. There are, however, some 1800s animals in that mix.
“The older ones, if they were done right, actually hold up better,” she says.
DiBartolo says they sold nearly 4,000 pieces of taxidermy last year. Many went to bed-and-breakfasts, wedding venues and escape room designers, she says. But others were destined for buyers’ homes.
Not that taxidermy is everyone’s style.
Among the largest number (if not the largest) of pieces of taxidermy that Architectural Digest ever showed in one place was in last year’s profile of Dita Von Teese’s Los Angeles home. AD describes that 1920s Tudor as matching Von Teese’s “inimitable punk pinup aesthetic.” The magazine highlighted her antique menagerie, including an ostrich mounted high on a pink wall, a tierra-wearing tiger behind a sofa and Victorian-era birds in domes. And Garden & Gun — a Southern-culture-focused publication that sports a decidedly more tweedy vibe — this summer featured on its cover a cloche filled with deceased butterflies.
DiBartolo says mixing and matching is now the name of the game.
“There’s a new group of buyers,” she says. “And they’re going for a look rather than a time period.”
Many Tannery shoppers are in their mid-20s and 30s, she says.
“If they’re in their 40s, they aren’t buying anything …” she adds. “Except my husband.”
More senior shoppers are still out there and adding to their collections but tend to pick a time period and stick to it, she says.
DiBartolo says the newer generation of antique and vintage shoppers sometimes needs visual cues — which she tries to provide while decorating the shop.
“I have to make them see that they can put something in their home,” she says. “I tell them to walk around and put it with different displays — one that’s more country, one that’s more modern. My job is to help them see what I can envision.”
Antique and vintage dealer Mike Middleton says there are several items he, too, rarely passes up when they pop up because they’ll move quickly at either Heritage Antique Center in Adamstown or 272 Antiques & Collectibles Marketplace in Stevens.
One is Pyrex.
Its vintage look and durability make it an easy sell, he says. Price depends on pattern. Be prepared to pay up for Pink Gooseberry, he says. But other Pyrex patterns can still be more reasonable, he says.
Vintage Halloween and Christmas decorations are doing well, Middleton says. So are robots and monsters from the ’50s and ’60s.
“And pop culture stuff, some of that can even be from the ’80s,” he says.
Knox has a framed Hulk Hogan velvet painting in his living room. It’s next to a velvet Elvis. His brother gave him those before he died a couple of years ago. Inspired by those gifts and by seeing several velvet paintings in a bar while honeymooning, the Knoxes added to their collection. There are now about 10 velvet paintings on their orange living room walls.
The couple have been fixing up the 1978 house where his brother used to live. It was Knox’s family’s home when he was a teen. In high school, Knox hated one of its yellow bathrooms with its original-to-the-house yellow tile and toilet.
He admits when he and his wife started renovating, they considered tearing out the yellow commode.
“But we decided we really shouldn’t,” he says. “It’s part of that time frame. And they just don’t make that stuff anymore.”