Guest Posts – Strange Closets people, homes, travel and stuff Mon, 29 Apr 2013 17:29:23 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Guest Post: Rebekah Zaveloff on the 2010 Harbor Country Kitchen Walk Sat, 09 Oct 2010 03:21:57 +0000

Thanks to my friend, KitchenLab and design in a bag’s Rebekah Zaveloff  for today’s guest post about the 2010 Harbor Country Kitchen Walk benefitting Designs 4 Dignity.

When a friend first introduced me to Harbor Country® Michigan, I couldn’t believe I’d been living in Chicago for so long and had never driven the 90 minutes out of the city to this hidden gem across the lake. I absolutely fell in love with the rolling hills, sandy dunes, and charming towns complete with antique stores and restaurants. We were frequent visitors to our friends’ home before we found a place of our own, and have since spent 3 years in heavy renovation mode. If you’re so inclined to re-live our rehab drama with us, check out the This Old Farmhouse series on our blog. My husband and I drove around for years, looking for the perfect house we could afford – driving past various home and saying “I’d love to see what that house looks like inside”.  When we found out about the local Kitchen Walk, needless to say, we were pretty excited! I’ve been attending the Harbor Country® Kitchen Walk benefitting Designs 4 Dignity for the past 4 or 5 years, and it’s a wonderful annual event that we look forward to every year.

As the air gets cooler, and the angle of the sun dips and lends a golden cast over the trees and vineyards, I’m so happy that fall is finally here and the kitchen walk isn’t far around the corner. We have some very fond memories of driving around Harbor Country®  touring various homes, and discovering new areas and roads along the way. In addition to being for a  great cause, getting to peek inside these cool homes is only one of the perks of the Kitchen Walk, another is that each home features a cooking demonstration from a local chef or restaurant, and featured wines and beers from around Michigan. Last but not least, the day ends with the way all perfect fall days should, with an annual “Wine Down” party and silent auction. Ok, maybe all days should just end with a glass of wine, but you get my point.

This year the Wine Down is at the beach house at Weko Beach, in past years it was at a B&B and a sculpture gallery and garden to name a few – so don’t just come this year, every year there are new and wonderful homes to tour, and party and silent auction to end the day. Also check out Designs 4 Dignity’s website with all sorts of information about this terrific organization and info on how to buy tickets. Come out and enjoy a beautiful fall day or make a weekend of it! For Chicago folks that only want to spend the day, there’s a shuttle bus that will take you from Chicago to Harbor Country and back in addition to taking you on a tour of the walk. Jan Parr from Chicago Home + Garden Magazine and Janet Davies of 190 North & ABC 7 are the honorary co-chairs, and if you ride the bus you’ll be riding it with Janet Davies, so get on board!

The 2010 Kitchen Walk features unique kitchens located in Harbor Country® Michigan. The event includes exhibitions and demonstrations by local and Chicago area chefs and artists. The tour will culminate with a wine down reception and silent auction. Join our Facebook page to find out more about the chefs, wineries, breweries, and silent auction items being donated! Check out these photos from past Kitchen Walks.

BENEFITS: Proceeds from the Walk will support Designs for Dignity.

Designs for Dignity provides pro bono interior design services to area non-profits that serve marginalized or at risk populations.

WHEN:            Saturday, October 16, 2010 (from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. (Michigan Time) or 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. (Chicago Time)

Last Stop…‘Wine Down’ reception and silent auction (from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Michigan Time)

COST: $75 per person ($90 at the door)

SHUTTLE BUS & TICKET: $125 per person (ride to Michigan from Chicago pick up point and tour the  homes and attend wine down reception).

VIP SEAT: $200 per person (limited seats available) Ride with Honorary Co-Chair Janet Davies of 190 North & ABC 7 News for the day. Price includes shuttle & ticket to and from Chicago.

WHERE: Check-in

At Home With Nature

15998 Red Arrow Highway

Union Pier, MI

FOR INFO: Please call (773)-293-3259 or visit

]]> 2
Guest Post: Hillary Keech’s NYC Shopping Guide Wed, 21 Jul 2010 20:49:18 +0000

Many thanks to Modest Designs founder Hillary Keech for contributing this excellent New York City shopping guide. A veteran of design firms such as Sills Huniford and Roman & Williams, Hillary understands that high design can be achieved on any budget, and I’m looking forward to visiting some of her selections during my next visit to New York City (which happens to be next week). Have you been to these shops? Which of your favorites should be added to my must-see list? Click here for more information about Modest Designs. And click here for Hillary’s blog. Thanks Hillary!

Hands-down, one of the best things about New York is the shopping.  Each shop has a unique point of view that is always focused and interesting, so the stores here constantly inspire new ideas.  As an interior designer, the most valuable tool I have is my shopping source book, a three ring binder that contains tons of business cards and lists of stores I have visited, along with my (somewhat frenzied) notes about the stores. To create this NYC Shopping Guide, I sorted through this book and chose ten of my favorite stores, a combination of antique and new furniture vendors for various budgets. Hope you enjoy and happy shopping!

Wyeth Home

This store never fails to inspire me, but be prepared to pay the big bucks.  It falls solidly in the high-end category, but nowhere in NYC will you find a finer or more refined selection of mid-century modern antiques, down to every last accessory.  The store is by appointment only, but is well worth the trip. (See photo above).

315 Spring St., New York City. 212.243.3661

Mantiques Modern

Mantiques is filled with an eclectic assortment of mid-century pieces and items that lean towards industrial.  Most of the vintage items here I have not seen in other stores, making it a one-of-a-kind shopping destination.

Mantiques Modern. 146 W. 22nd St., New York City. 212.206.1494


Ochre is a wonderfully edited store, each piece seems to fit into a greater story line.  It is a mix of antiques and newly manufactured items but similar to John Derian, everything has a delicate and graceful hand.

Ochre. 462 Broome St., New York City. 212.414.4332


Room is a great resource for new furniture from a variety of modern designers.  They have a knack for offering items before you start seeing them all over design magazines and their pieces are all of a good, solid quality.

Room. 25 North Moore St., New York City. 212.226.1045

Paula Rubenstein

If you love industrial furniture, you will absolutely fall in love with Paula Rubenstein’s Soho shop.  She has an impeccable eye and an incredible collection of vintage glass bottles.  Every object in her store has a beautiful, old world feel, she is able to make industrial feel warm and inviting.

Paula Rubenstein. 65 Prince St., New York City. 212-966-8954

John Derian

This is one of those shops that you can spend hours in, looking through all the beautiful, unique trinkets.  They have also started making furniture (which is also sold at ABC Carpet and Home) that is delicate and beautifully scaled.  I love the Astier de Villate line of pottery they carry and it’s rustic, natural look.

John Derian. 6 E. 2nd St., New York City

Liza Sherman Antiques

Liza Sherman Antiques is a great combination of antiques and hand-crafted items.  Her items are from all over the world and a lot of the pieces can be customized and tweaked to the shopper’s requirements.  This beautiful glass globe chandelier is a great example, they have lots of sizes and colors and is definitely a stand-out piece.

Liza Sherman Antiques. 37 A Bedford St. New York City. 212.414.2684


It’s not too often that you find a store with such well-crafted furniture pieces.  It is obvious from the moment you walk into BDDW that they are very passionate about what they make and the details are one of a kind.  They are true craftsmen and it is truly on of my favorite places to shop in New York.

BDDW. 5 Crosby St. New York City. 212.625.1230

Pucci International

Pucci offers furniture, lighting, art, etc. from some of the greatest contemporary designers in the world, including Vladimir Kagan and Chris Lehrecke.  One of the greatest things about visiting their store is the wide variety of mannequins they feature, they range from the beautiful to the bizarre but are definitely worth checking out.

Pucci International. 44 W. 18th St., New York City

Las Venus

With locations in the lower east side and inside ABC Carpet and Home, Las Venus has a major selection of mid-century modern pieces.  Their lighting in particular is authentic and fun, the sixties vibe is very strong throughout their inventory.

Las Venus. 163 Ludlow St., New York City. 212.982.0608

ABC Carpet and Home, 2nd Floor, 888 Broadway, New York City

]]> 6
Guest Post: Albert Tanquero’s California Adventure (Pt. 2) Wed, 16 Jun 2010 03:50:42 +0000

Thanks to Albert Tanquero for contributing the story of his California shopping trip, trawling antique stores in search of  strange and unusual vintage photos and other ephemera – inventory for his his thriving Ebay vintage photo store and inspiration for he and his partner Jim York’s innovative stationary company The Found. Check out their new Matchbox line of cards, which I really, really love! Here’s Albert with part two of his trilogy. Click here for part one.

Monday in Laguna Beach

I awake in sunny Laguna Beach a block from an ocean I won’t be able to enjoy. Today my mission is to make the 45 minute drive to Orange City to visit about a dozen antique shops. I can’t stop being distracted by so many young, blond, tan and attractive people. There is an opulence in the O.C. that you have to see to believe. It’s somewhere between crass and slightly interesting.

Ebay and the Business of Selling

Selling on eBay is much more complicated than you think. It requires business savvy which I clearly did not have when I started. You have to market yourself, ship items, follow up with clients and build relationships. It took about 6 months for me to really get the hang of it – to learn the tricks of selling and to figure out what my “brand” would look like. But most importantly, I had to learn what clients wanted to buy and where I would find the photos.

Continued . . .

Orange City, CA

Orange City doesn’t feel like California. It’s a small town with a small downtown full of little antique shops and boutiques. It reminds me of the small towns I’ve driven through in the Midwest with American flags hanging out of almost every other shop. I enter store after store finding not much of anything: old Victorian studio portraits of kids, photos of older men, blurry snapshots – not many with character. Everything is ‘granny chic’ – lacy nightmares in my book! I just drove an hour in crazy, California freeway frenzy, visited seven shops, and I still haven’t found anything. I’m getting frustrated and on top of that, everyone seems conservative, tight, closed off. Isn’t this supposed to be California? Maybe the recession is getting to them. But there’s still one antique shop to see.

When I enter I’m pointed to an area with loose snapshots- finally some interesting double exposures and artsy shots. I make my way downstairs and see an incredibly strange photo album full of 80’s-era Polaroids. Of people’s mouths. Clearly it had belonged to a dentist. The photos show yellow teeth, bucked teeth, teeth w/decay, teeth adorned with braces, sick, twisted, strange and perfect. My cup of tea.

I bring it upstairs to the register and I’m shocked to see a poster of Sarah Palin on the wall behind the clerk. Don’t they realize she lost? “That’s the most disgusting thing we’ve ever seen,” says the plump woman behind the counter when she sees the dental photos. “Who would want this?” We’re in California – aren’t people are supposed to like strange? I just flash a toothy smile (although nothing like the ones in the album) and thank her as I run to my car. I’m getting the heck out of Orange City! Another day, another dollar.

My Clients

My clients on eBay, which include some well known photographers, artists, and affluent professionals, want photos they can’t find at an antique shop. They want photos that are hard to find and edited. That’s why they pay me outrageous prices for snapshots. The rules are clear and obvious. I drive around looking for photography they can add to their collection. Photos that tell a story about American history. I’m willing to go anywhere to find them, and I’ve seen everything. Or at least I thought I had.

What did Albert see that surprised even his jaded eyes? Keep watching for part 3 of Albert’s California adventure.

]]> 4
This Week: Guest Columnist Marla Marcianelli on Paxton Gate Mon, 10 May 2010 02:18:43 +0000

Thanks to my friend Marla for contributing this post about Paxton Gate, one of the most interesting home and garden shops in San Francisco’s Mission District. Take it away Marla!

When I first visited Paxton Gate back in the late 90’s, it was a quirky shop mostly filled with plants and gardening supplies, but things have changed since owner Sean Quigley moved the store from Stevenson Street to its current location on white-hot Valencia Street. Mounted unicorn head, anyone? In addition to its eclectic line of retail products, Paxton Gate is one of the only places left in the Mission District where you can get good gardening supplies, and their designers create beautiful floral arrangements and landscapes. Go on any garden walk in San Francisco, and you’re bound to see one (often they are my favorites).
I love Paxton Gate, because it’s a little like visiting a small museum where you can fondle the fossils, browse through the skeletons and find pretty earrings around the corner.  And if you want to take that lion head home with you, it’s only $3500. However, when I walk through the doors I hardly notice the prolific taxidermy. Even though the walls are covered with butterflies and the tables are studded with stuffed cobras and armadillos, I make a beeline for the Bulbophyllum echinolabium (orchids).  With so many options, Paxton Gate has been my one-stop shop for gift giving.
My shopping list:
For Dad: lamp made out of a sheep’s leg.
For Mom: taxidermy mouse with wings.
Brother: shark in a jar.
Lover: Evan Chambers blown glass anything.
For me: Saber tooth cat skull.
For Tate: taxidermy King Cobra.  (Don’t tell him and spoil the surprise).
Paxton Gate. 824 Valencia Street. San Francisco, CA. 415.824-1872
Paxton Gate’s Curiosities for Kids. 766 Valencia Street
between 18th & 19th Streets. San Francisco, CA. 415.252.9990

Guest Post: The Found’s Albert Tanquero on the Rose Bowl Flea Market (Pt. 1) Fri, 07 May 2010 02:51:09 +0000

When my friend Albert Tanquero told me about his crazy shopping trip to L.A.’s Orange Bowl Flea Market, I asked him to write about it, and he kindly agreed. Albert’s one of the busiest guys I know, so it means a lot that he takes the time to contribute now and again.  In addition to running his thriving Ebay vintage photo store, Albert and his partner Jim York, whose Bucktown dwelling was featured on Strange Closets two years ago, co-founded their stationary company The Found. (Check out their new Matchbox line). Be sure to visit next week for part two. Take it away Albert!
How did I, a college graduate with dreams of being a psychologist, end up selling other people’s antique/vernacular photos on eBay for a living? That’s what I have to ask myself every now and then- while I sit here, in my tiny one-bedroom apartment, which is full of other people’s family photos and now doubles as my office, shipping area and warehouse. Am I insane or just creative? In order to answer that question we have to go back a few years to where it all started. Two years ago this May, I decided to leave my work in non-profit, after years of a long commute and disillusionment I thought I would venture out and do something else. Explaining what I did and whom I worked for would just be a bore so we’ll skip that part.
Flash to scene:
Second Sunday in March of this year and I am waking up at 4:00 a.m. in a run down motel in Pasadena- 10 minutes from the famed Rose Bowl Flea Market- the grandaddy of all flea markets. I race to shower, brush my teeth, grab all the essentials- 2 bottles of water, $750 dollars cash (they certainly don’t take plastic), sunglasses, energy bars, and a positive attitude. Positive energy flow will bring me lots of vernacular photos, which are photographs by amateur or unknown photographers who take everyday life and common things as subjects. Vernacular photography has become an accepted genre of art photography, and my buyers are artists and collectors from all over the world: NYC, L.A., S.F., London, Paris, Australia, Japan, Copenhagen. (I get around). I jump in my car and I’m off. Since Starbucks is closed, I’ll buy my coffee at the market. The air is chilly and I’m glad I have my coat on. It’s still better than being back in Chicago where it’s still snowing and dreary.
When I left my job in 2008 the plan was to work selling antiques and collectibles at different antique shows throughout the summer and see if any other non-profit jobs opened up. I never expected the economy to tank, but it forced me to get creative. It’s amazing how fast you switch gears when your bills start piling up. I had been collecting photos, matchbox labels, and ephemera on eBay for a while and then it hit me: I would start selling on eBay. Why not? I’d spent hundreds buying from others why couldn’t I sell too? I did my first show at the Chicago Antique Market in the summer of ’08. I sold photographs, mug shots and small collectibles that I had bought at different garage sales and flea markets. My table was one of the smallest at the show, but it stood out with raunchy porn rags and mug shots. I made over a grand in one weekend, which made me feel assured I could make a living doing it. If others had done it, why not me? That’s how it started.
Back to the scene:
I’m just pulling into the Rose Bowl parking lot, which feels like an acre away from the entrance. I can see there are lots of early buyers already here. It’s 5:30 a.m. Did they sleep??? I pay the $20 dollar early entrance fee and my adrenaline is racing. “I’m going to find the best photos.” I keep telling myself. I step inside and there is chaos brewing – trucks are pulling in, vans are unloading mid-century furniture, boxes of God-knows-what?, collectibles, a set of 80’s mannequins, neon street signs, etc.. From the corner of my eye I can see a gang of Japanese buyers on roller blades with miners hats on – the kinds with flashlights. Yes, I forgot to mention you need a flashlight. I made a mistake and bought mine from a dollar store – so not much shine. The Japanese buyers are just skating around inspecting some biker boots and a pair of vintage Levi’s – I guess they’re still hot. I’m getting frustrated in the dark. What the hell was I thinking? I flew from Chicago to LA to get up at 4:00 am on a Sunday morning to dig through dirty, dusty boxes to find old photos I could sell on eBay? What am I doing with myself, I wonder as I begin to feel more disoriented and dizzy from the commotion. I feel lost.
When the sun begins coming up I start to make sense of where I am. The Rose Bowl is huge with close to 800 vendors and what seems like tens of thousands of chic Angelenos all vying for that cool, vintage piece. The competition is fierce but my claws are out. The photos start showing themselves. A box with some cute photobooths, a military photo album full of attractive gay interest photos, lots of 1950’s California snapshots, a small collection of African American photos from what appears to be Boston in the 20’s. Perfect. I find what I’m looking for. My investment of $750 today could turn into four or five grand, maybe more. I’m hunting, running from vendor to vendor on the prowl, like a madman, a lunatic, an ANIMAL. When your livelihood depends on it and you love it, you will find it. It’s close to 4:30 pm., and I’ve been searching for 11 hours. I take one break to eat an overpriced hot dog and four bathroom breaks, but the rest of the time I’ve been searching. My trip to LA doesn’t end at the Rose Bowl. I still have two and half more days left. I’m on my way to Orange County land of the blonds, Bentleys galore, and hopefully more photographic loot. Gotta pay the bills!
To be continued. Until then, check out The Found’s awesome new matchbox cards.
]]> 4
Guest Post: Cady McClain on New Orleans (Plus: Travel Tips!) Tue, 17 Nov 2009 06:26:10 +0000 Like I said- you NEED wigs, eyelashes and glitter here...

When actress, singer, artist and former Open House star Cady McClain sent me photos from a recent New Orleans trip, I asked her if she’d provide a guest post about her visit, and to my delight, she agreed.  I love looking at people’s vacation photos no matter their destination, but I really love how New Orleans unique mix of cultures manifests in the people, architecture and nightlife.  While I’d like to say it was my knowledge of Louisiana history that first captured my interest, I’ll confess that it was more about getting drunk with college buddies and, gulp, my then appreciation for Ann Rice’s Vampire Chronicles.  Yep, I’ve always been an intellectual.  Plus, Ann Rice is canon now, right?  But Cady appreciates New Orleans for many reasons, some of which she’ll go into here.  Here’s . . . Cady!

Cady McClain on New Orleans

“This ain’t a relapse it’s more like a bounce, high up to heaven and back to the ground, keep your arms wide open baby, I’m coming down . . .”
So sings New Orleans resident Anders Osbourne, who clearly loves his adopted hometown.  I must admit, I feel the same way.  I hardly ever feel bad when I visit the home of the blues.  Like Osbourne, I was born elsewhere but feel at home in New Orleans like I do nowhere else, not even in New York City, where I have made my home for over 20 years.  What is it about this place?  I think I can finally tell you.  They play here.  I don’t mean they play music, they PLAY.  It is a time honored way of life.  They play on days when there may be no reason to celebrate, but they will find one.  Playing is not to be confused with “partying”- you don’t have to be drunk to have a good time.  Natives I have spoken to actually get a little huffy at the assumption that it’s an “anything goes” town.  Quite the contrary.  Their play is an art form . . . get it?  And yes, it’s really fun, too.

Continued . . .


I was recently having a conversation about happiness with a fellow world weary New Yorker, and why it seems so difficult to find in this town (unless you are a rabid Yankees baseball fan, that is).  The conclusion I came to was that people don’t PLAY here enough.  Our play has taken on the form of work, of effort that is primarily PRODUCTIVE and focused on making MONEY.  Well that just takes all the fun right out of it, doesn’t it?  If you love to dance or sing or act, and you are good at it, it seems like this town will make you do it until you fall over dead or never want to do it again.  It’s like the red shoes, New York will drive you on and on and on . . .

So when I go down to New Orleans . . . it is like being bathed in honey.  The slower pace, the sweet “hey baby” of the ladies at Mother’s, their gold teeth shining as they smile at the customers, the Marigny rug rats wearing shabby top hats and striped stockings riding around on ancient bikes like some kind of dickensonian mish mashed time warp . . . united by poverty, hurricanes, and a joy for living that will not be brought down by either politics or power, the New Orleans residents somehow seem to make every day a day worth waking up in.

The first thing I do when I settle into town, is walk Royal Street.  I have to stop at Fifi Mahoney’s and inspect the wigs and eyelashes and various ways of applying glitter, because glitter is as essential to feeling good as rum is to a Hurricane.

Then I am sucked down the street by some magical inner tornado to “Fleur de Paris”, a hat shop that has renewed my faith in mankind.  If you don’t get it now, go and try on these hats.  I guarantee you that they will change the way you feel- and for the better.  Besides, there is nothing nicer than walking down the street and hearing awe and admiration in the voices of the hatless as you pass by.

Finally, it is always a must for me to pop into Faulker books on Pirate Alley, just to say hello to the Literati.  I can’t pretend to be an educated reader, although I am not a total ignoramus, but the folks who oversee this lovely little bookshop are always so pleasant and happy to give a recommendation.  I’ve bought countless Tennessee Williams plays here, cookbooks, history books and compilations of essays by modern locals.  In their tiny 15 foot by 5 foot shop, its a wonderland of information and imagination.

Speaking of which, a MUST DO is a stop by the bar dba.  These are friends of mine, I will admit, but I have never seen a bar be so informative about alcohol.  Their chalkboard menu of beverages is renewed daily with dates and locales of the various beers and spirits.  Thank god they have a bar in NYC as well or I would never get by.

Yes, I am part owner of a bar in New O, and I am proud to say that no thanks to any of my efforts (well, I rarely complain about anything, so that amounts to something, I guess) it has been voted “Best Bar in New Orleans”.  How about them apples?  You’re going to have to see it to believe it.

Cady's bar

I have rarely encountered a bad meal in this city, and though I do think I might have made some slammin’ grits recently, I must surely lower my head in praise when it comes to the bread pudding at Napoleon House.  They should have a sign outside that says, “If you don’t want to be happy, don’t order the bread pudding”.  Cheesy website, awesome food.

Think about it- this is an opportunity to enjoy your life while you are still not on a colostomy bag (no hard feelings to those that are, but you are the ones who know even more what I’m talking about).

Dance, drink and bowl at Rock and Bowl, a reopened New Orleans institution.

Eat until you can eat no more at Jacques-imo’s.

Worship the blues at the Maple Leaf.

And if you STILL aren’t happy- go visit the WW2 Museum.  At least you can feel grateful.

soniat house - if you can swing it
Above: Metarie Cemetary
Above: Metarie Cemetary
Above: Holt Cemetary:  If the WW2 Museum STILL doesn’t make you feel grateful… go visit THIS cemetery…
Above: Holt Cemetary
Above: Holt Cemetary
Above: Holt Cemetary
Above: In front of Faulker’s Bookshop.   It’s hard to take yourself too seriously when people are making balloon animals . . . oh and this is one of my now SEVEN, count them SEVEN hats from Fleur de Paris.
Above:  The man in the bunny hat is a math teacher and the guy with the tubes coming out of his head is an AWESOME stand up bass player.

Coco Robicheaux is a friend of mine who was just inducted into the Louisiana Hall of Fame- seen here with Slide Guitar player Dave Easely.

Cady 2
Halloween is like Mardi Gras . . . only different.
Anybody who doesn’t like hats clearly has no imagination.  They probably don’t like dancing either.
I could not BELIEVE these two didn’t win best costume!

They celebrate a vegetable!
Why I REALLY love this town: they throw a festival for a VEGETABLE!

]]> 15
Guest Post: Le Trip’s Jill Mitchell on life in Provence Tue, 27 Oct 2009 05:31:37 +0000 dscf62471-500x375

I “met” Jill Mitchell when I e-mailed her about a fantastic vintage snake anatomy print I spied while visiting her Ebay store.  An American who chronicles her life in Provence on her blog Le Trip, Jill organizes day trips, tours and travel packages for those of us who do not live like she does.  But don’t worry if you can’t get away, Jill collects interesting things on her trips, vintage French school charts (anatomy and otherwise) and an assortment of decorative odds and ends, which she sells for very reasonable prices online at her Ebay and Etsy shops.  When I realized Jill was living my fantasy life, I asked her if she’d consider living my actual life by taking the reigns at Strange Closets for the day.  She agreed, so I’m taking the day off.  Pay attention and be good.  Also, please take some time to visit Jill’s Ebay and Etsy shops.  I’ve bought two things already, including this beauty:



Le Trip’s Jill Mitchell on life in Provence

When you live in France and you’re a garage sale/flea market/secondhand store junkie chances are good that you’re going to amass treasure, which is what I do almost every day of the week.  I spend the rest of the time looking for the new owners of my posters, which is how I discovered Strange Closets and became an instant fan of the blog.  “A design blog about people”!  I love that approach because what I love about all the things I find is the life lived around them.  Going to the French version of a garage sale is like going on a kind of anthropological dig.

When Tate asked me to do a guest blog, I thought I would go to the big city and shoot at one of the places I buy where I have been wanting to take pictures for a while.

I live near Aix en Provence, not far from Marseille, above an absinthe distillery called La Liquoristerie de Provence.  My boyfriend is the liquoriste and makes some mighty fine absinthes (the brand is Versintheq), pastis, thyme liqueur and other delicious Provençal apéritifs.  If you are ever in the area, come over for a dégustation, a taste, at the boutique.  This is where we live.

Continued . . .


Have you ever seen anything cooler than this bad boy, er, cow?

If you want to buy vintage in France, there are lots of possibilities: village garage sales (beautiful events), secondhand stores, flea markets, boutiques, and at dealers’ consortiums like the one I visited in Marseille called Les Arnavaux, which is a huge warehouse you can find once you find the Arab market near the docks of the industrial port of Marseille.  There are an abundance of interesting antiques available at the Market, and shopping there will keep you busy for hours.

Lots of people go to Paris to shop for vintage, and Paris is great, and it’s really expensive.  For some warm weather, warmer attitude and good prices, consider hopping on the speed train to Provence, and let me know you’re coming.  I’ll invite you over for a glass of absinthe.

Thanks Jill!  I’m booking my airline ticket.  And please remember to visit Jill’s Ebay and Etsy shops.  Even if you don’t plan to buy, it’s fun just to look.













]]> 9
Guest Post: BackGarage Blogger Katherine Raz on Decoratus Absurdum Wed, 06 May 2009 17:53:04 +0000 download-6

Thanks to Backgarage blogger Katherine Raz for contributing today’s guest post about my favorite topic Decoratus Absurdum.  I love the lead photo of Katherine visiting her grandmother’s final resting place . . . with her grandmother.  It perfectly captures the essence of Decoratus Absurdum, which interprets the macabre in often humorous ways.

I signed up to receive Backgarage via email, and I’ve been impressed with Katherine’s unique perspective, quick wit and humorous writing.  Plus she’s some kind of Craig’s List savant.  If you too have something to say about Decoratus Absurdum, I’d like to hear about it, so please email me at  And now, please sit still and pay attention to our guest blogger Katherine Raz. Enjoy!


You wouldn’t know it from looking at them, but my parents were totally bizarre.  My mom was on the PTA and baked cookies, but she also got a huge kick out of a fake book dust jacket she found with the title 101 Things to do with Human Skin, which she proudly displayed (wrapped around a hardcover copy of The Great Gatsby) in our dining room.  And my favorite of our coffee table books growing up was Human Oddities, where I learned the words “elephantitis” and “conjoined.”

We bought a venus fly trap and obsessively fed it flies.  We hung spoons from our noses at dinner parties.  We owned — and named — mannequins, including Sheila (pictured).  My grandmother took me to her own pre-purchased gravesite where we took a now-famous family portrait.

And every year at Christmas my family attended the “tacky party,” hosted by our friends Charlie and Joan.   Each guest was encouraged to bring the most tragic and hideous object they could find to exchange in a white elephant.  Major categories included: velvet and light-up wall hangings, sex gag gifts and — my personal favorite — shell art.

Continued . . .








Katherine's on the left. I hope her family doesn't see this post.

All this spawned my obsession with dark decor.  If it’s slightly off, I’m all for it.  And I have my bizarre upbringing to thank for the fact that sideshow art, anatomical drawings, mannequin torsos, and shell art shaped like carnivorous plant life seems perfectly normal to me.  So when Tate started writing about Decoratus Absurdum on Strange Closets I thought, “It lives!  It has a name!”

On my own site, where I try to maintain a slightly normal appearance, I do weekly Craigslist Roundups — my picks for the best design offerings from the Chicago Craigslist.  So I thought I’d do a little D.A.-themed Craigslist Roundup for those Strange Closets readers who don’t actually keep their skeletons in their closets.

Of course Decoratus Absurdum is objective (like Tate says, “I know it when I see it,”), and what offends one might seem tame to another, but I’ve done my best to pick some gems from Craigslist that have a touch of tacky or a hint of horror.  Enjoy.









]]> 5
Inside the Mind: Albert Tanquero (on Forbe’s Chicago Diss) Thu, 12 Feb 2009 19:32:04 +0000 2944816031_0101524658

When the Found founder Albert Tanquero learned that Forbes Magazine put the smack-down on Chicago (calling it the 3rd most miserable city to live in, possibly the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever read in my entire life), he sent out an email response that I found to be quite delightful.  Naturally I asked if he’d mind making it a guest post, so read on to see what all the fuss is about.

A quick note before passing you off to Albert, I pulled all the photos in this piece from Albert’s Flickr set, Albert’s Eye, an amazing look at times past that somewhat surprisingly made me contemplate my own morality and get a bit choked up thinking about all these young kids who are gone now, who got old and died as we all will (if we’re lucky enough to grow old that is).  Seeing the photos really brings it home.  Happy Thursday!

Anyway, I seriously dig Albert’s photo set titles (Horny Sailors, Thy Family is Thy Strength and fire-fire-fire-911, for example).  Get in touch with him at if you’re interested in putting together a REALLY cool and unique art installation.

Inside the Mind of Albert Tanquero

By Albert Tanquero

I just read that Forbes Magazine voted Chicago the 3rd most miserable city in the country and I am here to say, after spending a week in Orlando, that no we are not. Yes, it’s true that we have horrible weather for about 5 months out of the year and our politics are corrupt as hell but let me share a story with you.

I left for Orlando/Kissimee (another buying trip) last Wed. leaving from Midway on Air Tran(nie) at about 3:00 p.m. and I arrived in Orlando at 6:00. I was really excited to get out of Chicago’s cold and to go to about 5 large flea markets all over central Florida. When I get there it turned out that they are experiencing a cold streak with 45-55 degree weather.

I get to the airport, get in my car and drive off- only to experience the most challenging driving outside of NY. The people are totally nuts- lots of Euro’s salivating over Disney World, Epcot Hell, Wet + Wild, and every other fucking amusement park you could imagine. I get to my Best Western Hotel and there are 20 buildings in their compound. I was in building 5. The room was clean with internet and cable so I was a happy camper.

Continued . . .


Then it came time to eat- I really went wild the whole week indulging in Chinese Buffet food, Pollo Tropical (Latino KFC- don’t ask my stomach still hurts), Taco Bell, and CiCi’s Pizza (a pizza buffet).

The flea markets were obviously the most interesting part of the trip. I went to Daytona Beach which was voted one of the top 5 in the country but they had only new things much of it NASCAR. SCARY. The next day I went to Tampa, and the following to St. Petersburg, and then to Clearwater, and on and on. I have never seen so many red necks- more so than even Indiana. I saw confederate flags, gator meat for sale, livestock for sale, guns and ammunition (I kid you not this is legal in Florida), and some really incredible antiques. I found some interesting photos and other items but I yearned for Chicago every night I sat there alone wondering what the hell I was doing in Orlando. Chicago might be challenging, Chicago might be frustrating but miserable??? I think not. After 6 day in Orlando Hell I am so happy to be back to the city I love with the friends I cherish.

What’s the line to that cheesy Chicago song?? “Chicago, Chicago, it’s my kind of town?” Oh and by the way, I almost had my teeth Zoomed at the flea Market in Mt. Dora, FL. I know- it’s so trashy but it was only 75 bucks. I didn’t do it because I wondered  if they were even real dentists.


We love you too Albert, but don’t be so hard on Indiana.


Our three governors?


This little cutie-pie is our very own Albert


From Albert's WWII set








Looking sharp Blago!

]]> 3
Expert Advice: The Found’s Albert Tanquero on found photos Tue, 09 Dec 2008 14:25:00 +0000

Thanks to The Found owner Albert Tanquero for contributing this piece. In addition to dealing in vintage photos on Ebay and at shows, Albert uses the images to create greeting cards, paperweights, trays and a variety of other interesting products. I met Albert at the Chicago Antique Market in May and have continued to be impressed with his work (he’s also become a good friend). In this scary economic time, vintage photos make an inexpensive gift and can be used in a variety of ways. Most importantly they remind us of those who came before us, what they endured and how ultimately life continues. Thanks Albert.

And if you’d like to write about a specfic topic, please e-mail me – If nothing else it will shut me up for at least one post.

As I sit here trying to write a piece on the meaning of “collecting vernacular photos” I can’t help but stare at the thousands of photos and slides that sit in boxes around my apartment. They are scattered, not so neatly, in every room. They are remnants other people’s lives. I guess this is the first time I try to consciously write about why I collect photos. I’m not a new collector- I’ve been collecting for – forever really. I remember collecting WWF magazines when I was a teenager, before that it was Garbage Pale Kids cards, and before that it was G.I. Joe figures. But my most serious obsession has been “found” photos.

About three years ago I started to go to flea markets looking for decorative oddities. I wasn’t looking for anything in particular I was just intrigued by the way things from the past were designed and produced. Little did I know that soon, not only would I be collecting photos but also selling them. This summer I did just that at The Chicago Antique Market- laying out my mug shots, snapshots, and photo albums. Most people that came by thought it was odd to have a box of old photos – photos that other people didn’t want. Not even their families some noted. Many passers-by commented on just how sad it must be to die and have your photos end up in a box, and worse, at a market for strangers to dig through. I didn’t bother to correct them –they just didn’t understand that collecting and preserving found photos is about connecting and preserving the past. They are also inspiring as many vernacular photos are used by artists (Andy Warhol did mug shot paintings in the 1960’s), graphic designers, decorators and strange birds like me.

Continued . . .

For me collecting photos is about salvaging a capsule – not just another persons past but potentially my own. When I look at an image of a young man during the war, I realize that I could have been him. I too could’ve had that experience. It’s an instant connection with a stranger. For instance, when I see a slide from someone’s trip to Turkey in the 1940’s, I am instantly transformed there. It’s hard to explain. As I turn the pages of a photo album that belonged to a family from the south how can I not begin to imagine their lives? I know it’s a romantic notion but so what?

I collect photos because they are divine- the most perfect marriage between technology and humanity. They are documentation of a moment that is forever in the past. These snapshots of celebrations, awkward moments, love, beauty, the mundane are really each a piece of history. Some are more interesting than others, no doubt. But it’s that connection with history that stimulates me. In an age where everything is digital, arrives with an expiration date, I look at my old photos, the ones that made their way to me and I treasure and respect them. The people in the photos (I assume) lived their lives the way we all live our lives- yearning for joy, love, excitement and meaning. Above all, we want meaning. And so, I often find just that it in my collection of “found” photos.

You can find amazing vernacular photos on Square America, Bighappyfunhouse, and my own flikr stream- . If you’re interested in starting your own collection of found photos start by going to local antique shops, flea markets, eBay, estate sales and garage sale, but be careful it can become compulsive.

Add to Technorati Favorites

]]> 1