The word “antique” often conjures up images of please-don’t-touch china vases or stuffy canopy beds that’d give George Washington insomnia. But forget grandma’s Old Town parlor. Lately, the idea of decking your halls with stuff from the past has gotten hipper and less spendy.
Spurred by the creative mix-and-mismatch of design blogs and magazines, a new generation of nesters is buying yesterday’s leftovers and repurposing them for the new millennium.
“People are doing cool, modern things to antiques — repainting a dresser a bright color, using an old metal office organizer to hold handbags,” says Leah Moss, a Silver Spring interior designer and a blogger for Apartmenttherapy.com. “Suddenly old stuff isn’t so precious anymore.”
It helps that, despite the fact that Craigslist holds a wealth of booty in this transient town, D.C. still boasts a thriving vintage and antiques store scene. And not all of it comes at Georgetown-astronomic prices. Longtime forces like GoodWood and Miss Pixie’s Furnishings & Whatnot still rule the Logan-Shaw area, and other spots have opened in up-and-coming neighborhoods — mid-century mad Hunted House just decamped to the Atlas District; Ruff & Ready Furnishings set up shop in less musty-dusty digs in 16th Street Heights.
“Part of what’s changed is the customers — younger people like midcentury modern, not oak, mahogany or anything dark,” says Bill Sims, who has operated Mom-n-Pop Antiques in Petworth since 1986. “But people still come to a store like this to pick up conversation-starters.”
Read on for our guide to what we’re calling alterna-antique sources — clever junk shops, hipper-than-usual vintage dens and treasure-laden suburban secrets. All have one foot in the past and an eye on your future, cooler pad.
Bentley’s Vintage Furniture & Collectibles
810 Upshur St. NW; 202-251-0527; Wed.-Sun. noon-8 p.m.
Chatty owner Betram “Bentley” Keller says this tin-ceilinged storefront in Petworth was once a pet funeral home. These days you’ll find stacks of vintage suitcases, 1920s chairs ($300-$500) and small finds like a Regency-style brass lamp ($37). The mix is old-curiosity-shop eclectic — a Tickle Me Elmo ($12) that’s only a little the worse for toddler wear, a powder room-sized mirror with a scrolled, bright-green frame ($27).
510 H St. NE; 202-549-7493 or 202-544-1327; Thurs. 1-7 p.m.; Fri. noon-6 p.m.; Sat.-Sun. noon-6 p.m.
Visions of the “Mad Men” epoch haunt Ed Rudock and Mark Johnson’s midcentury trove, a recent transplant from 14th Street. The glass-windowed, exposed-brickwalled main level grooves with housewares like tiki-freaky rattan bar stools (two for $170), teak credenzas ($395 and up), colorful highball glasses and a paint-by-number portrait of a geisha ($95). Don’t miss the basement, where vintage menswear — a Kelly green dinner jacket ($60), lots of fedoras — lets customers dress to match their surroundings.
Ruff & Ready Furnishings
4722 14th St. NW; 202-667-7833; Thurs.-Sat., 11 a.m.-6 p.m.
Development in Shaw meant hello to Taylor Gourmet and goodbye to this beloved junk shop. The spot, known for its bizarre-yet-fab juxtapositions — a glossy wooden armoire ($387) topped with an Army trunk ($67) capped with a rusty birdcage ($15) — relocated to 16th Street Heights earlier this year. The bright storefront with a slightly musty basement recalls the original with classic to downright weird stuff like a taxidermied fox ($327) and a banjo ($87). Mirrors and small tables are a strength.
3534 Georgia Ave. NW; Thurs.-Mon., noon-6 p.m.; 202-722-0719
You enter this Petworth stalwart — open in the nabe since 1986 — under a checkered stained-glass window, but the fanciness ends there. This is a junk shop — dusty and simple — but those who risk the grime and dig through a lot of stock can unearth cheap and quirky stuff like gilded mirrors ($23), a wheezing Olivetti typewriter ($37) and unusual light fixtures. “I’ve sold everything from old furniture to moose bones,” says owner Bill Sims.
1428 U St. NW; 202-986-3640; Mon.-Sat. noon-7 p.m., Sun. noon-5 p.m.
Ordinary souls might not pair a mod Saarinen-style white table with a weathered leather chair fit for Sherlock Holmes or hang a stuffed marlin ($395) over a Victorian bookcase. But Anna and Dan Kahoe, husband-and-wife mixmasters behind this 18-year-old Shaw institution, both sleuth out and show you how to rock a mash-up of industrial finds (wooden hat-making molds, $50; a metal hospital stand, $265), unusual lamps and bulky-yet-beautiful Empire bureaus ($595). “I could sell that chest over and over,” says Anna. “An Empire chest of drawers can go in a bedroom or in a dining room as a buffet — like many old pieces, it works almost anywhere.” Unusual art — a ’70s wooden bust of a Frida Kahlo-esque chick ($395), architectural sketches — could turn your pad into a gallery.
Miss Pixie’s Furnishings & Whatnot
1626 14th St. NW; Daily, 11 a.m.-7 p.m.; 202-232-8171
Since 1997, curly-haired, horn rim-wearing Pixie Windsor has reigned as a sort of vintage fairy godmother in D.C. Her shop, first in Adams Morgan, now in Logan, stars Victorian sofas ($300), 1950s patio chairs ($45) and enough unusual accessories to fuel a thousand cocktail party chats. “I’ve sold a cat coffin and prototypes of a kayak,” laughs Windsor. “People just want something that no one else has.” The stock behind the pink façade at her 4,000-square-foot lair includes both the practical (twin green lamps, $140; bookcases) and the wacky (a chair upholstered with fabric depicting “The Last Supper,” $75).
3734 Howard Ave., Kensington, Md.; 301-530-5723; Wed.-Sat., 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Sun. 11 a.m.-4 p.m.
On a recent stop at this upscale consignment trove, a mammoth Murano glass chandelier ($2,500) with ornate iris designs swayed above a room crowded with furniture, accessories and glassware. Owner Michel Huebner hits local estate sales and auctions to turn up finds such as embroidered vintage hankies ($3 each), liquor bottles decked with painted quail (eight for $65) and loads of midcentury dressers and patio chairs. Both designers and nesters come looking for anything that’ll “give rooms personality and flair,” says Huebner.
Jill & Co. Antiques
3744 Howard Ave., Kensington, Md.; 301-946-7464; Mon.-Sat. 11 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sun. noon-5 p.m.
Country antiques have come a long way since Aunt Bea filled her house with rusty farming tools and dozens of quilts. This store stays on the hip, simple side of rustic via primitive furniture (a painted blue pie safe, farm benches) plus whimsical accessories (a 1950s apron festooned with Hawaiian tiki gods for $30, wooden children’s toys). Architectural pieces — a 1920s iron horse that once rode on a weather vane ($750), a chippy painted piece of porch railing ($495) — would lend built-in character to a bland apartment.
1215 King St., Alexandria; 703-505-9970; Tues.-Thurs. 11 a.m.-5 p.m., Fri.-Sat. 11 a.m.-7 p.m., Sun. noon-5 p.m.
This narrow Old Town row house with a wide selection of 18th- to 20th-century furniture, art and accessories feels like some glam heiress’s estate sale. Think gilded French mirrors ($200-$1,000), abstract framed watercolors and coffee-table-ready oddities like an old Russian abacus ($120) or a tiny marble sphinx sculpture. The overall vibe is girly and European, and vivacious owner Ursula Baukol tacks up pages ripped from magazines illustrating how to get House Beautiful-esque looks; i.e., pair a trad mirrored table with a modern art sculpture.
No Place Like Home
5140-A Wilson Blvd.; Arlington, Va.; 703-243-4424; Tues.-Fri. 11 a.m.-6 p.m.; Sat. 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sun. noon-5 p.m.
“My idea isn’t a fussy antique shop,” says Renee Henninger, who runs this vintage housewares shop on the first level of a 1900 two-story house near the Ballston Metro. The sunny vibe carries over into stock like retro quilts, a white armoire ideal for storing shoes ($228) and kitsch like Chalkware ballerina statues ($60 for a pair). Finds are neatly displayed in the room you’d see them in at home: colorful 1960s barware in the kitchen’s farm sink, an Art Deco-era dressing table with a mirror ($235) in a bedroom.