Monday, April 16, 2012

Grab Your Tom Petty Mixtape, It's Road Trip Time...

With spring having, well, sprung in the Pacific Northwest, we knew a road trip was in order. There's something about sitting in a car, eating various combinations of trail mix, and listening to out of touch radio stations that really drives home the seasonal arrival of our big solar friend. Since we have various pals scattered about the Bay Area, we figured a quick jaunt down the coast was in order. And, of course, there was much thrifting to be had.

This particular trip was extra sweet, because we managed to snag some of our favorite Mid Century wares. We found two seperate but matching Cathrineholm bowls in Eugene, as well as a Palatnik bird and a Bennington tile. A little further up, in Portland, we snagged a pair of fiberglass planters, an Arabia jam jar, a couple of robo-lamps (oh, how we love your robo charm), and a Heath lidded casserole.

In San Francisco, we got to party down with some of our more righteous friends, and grabbed a Dala horse, a piece of Poole Delphis pottery, a Finel nesting set, and some Teak condiment servers. The Poole piece is especially stunning, with its Modernist, hallucinatory pattern (apropos for the Bay Area).

There were various other finds, but our absolute favorite came to us from the lowly town of Vacaville, CA, on our way to stay with some friends at the Farm Sanctuary in Orland. We're a sucker for Space Age design, so the green and white plastic cube lamp we found nearly left us with heat stroke. Luckily, we soldiered on, and were able to make it to the farm, where we got to part down with rescued pigs, goats, cows, and other non-human buds till we passed out from exhaustion. All in all, it was an excellent time, complete with some very excellent finds. And next time your passing by Chico, on your way to, well, anywhere but Chico, stop for a tour at Farm Sanctuary in Orland. They do a very beautiful thing there, and would certainly love a stop from any and all of their far flung compatriots.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Super Mega Thrift Haul 2012 (one million exclamation marks).

Seattle, resting on the Puget Sound like oversized sweatpants, has some serious Scandinavian roots. The Ballard neighborhood in particular has forever been home to an astounding number of seafaring Danes and Swedes. This glorious convergence spells at least two things for your average Seattleite: excellent facial hair sightings, and a serious cache of Mid Century Scandinavian goods. In the same way that I imagine Michigan swimming in Eames' chairs, the scores we find in our lovely little burg tend to display a distinctly Danish bent. Taking in regional culture, sixty years after the fact, through the lens of the thrift store is one of the most engaging parts of what we do.

And then, you have a day like today, where the Danish Modern Thrift Gods of Seattle take it upon themselves to smile in your general direction. Eudora and I had a major run today, and got to come home with a carload of awesome goodies.

Among our finds from today are four pieces of enamelware from three of our favorite companies: an orange Cathrineholm pot, an orange Finel bowl,and a stunning white Dansk Kobenstyle dutch oven and brown butter warmer. We also came upon a large Holmegaard Kluk Kluk decanter, which we're always ecstatic to find (word to the wise: the Kluk Kluk looks particularly righteous filled with colored liquid). We also found a folding brass candelabra, a strange but inviting Modernist equine wall hanging, and a Luxo task lamp. Next up was a wonderful Sowe Konst teak tray. As if this weren't enough, we came upon three of our favorite finds on the last stop of the day: an Ellen Malmer designed trivet for Royal Copenhagen, an Edvard Lindahl owl figurine for Gustavsberg, and this pair of mugs:

We're totally stumped on this pair. We adore the illustration work on them, but just can't figure out a maker. We would love to get to the bottom of it, if anyone out there can help!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Out of Vogue

Growing up in a Southern California burbclave was, for the most part, about as exciting as one would imagine. My formative early years appear now, in the muddled imagery of memory, as a maelstrom of youth sports and fast food (the one, true cuisine of the L.A. megatropolis); all car rides and heat, stale French fries and broken air conditioners. By the time I was born in the middle of the Reagan administration, the Orange groves for which the area was named had disappeared beneath a mountain of cheap stucco and alien species of flora (so much better suited for landscaping), giving the entire area a feeling of displacement, as if there was no real sense of cultural identity outside of the mass-marketed “surfer” thing that in actuality had no real-life counterpart to speak of anyway. As a moribund thirteen-year-old, it felt as though the future described in dystopian Sci Fi novels had been achieved in the California desert, with surprisingly dull effect. Equal parts Manifest Destiny and basic human egoism, Orange County had swallowed itself at some point in the early 80’s, becoming a pastiche of its original intent. As a young teen discovering cynicism and boredom, I was sure that at some point the area must have been happening, though I couldn’t for the life of me figure out what it could have been, looked like, sounded like. Of course, I now know that the answer, for me, is largely made up of two disparate movements, both of which command equal parts of my fickle, picky little heart: California Modernism and Punk. It probably would have taken me much longer to discover the secret history of So Cal had it not been for a few local tastemakers-cum-historians who, in the face of devastating sameness, championed the achievements of Orange County weirdos. Lucky for me, Mike Atta owned a shop five minutes from my folks place in Fullerton.

Unbeknownst to pre-pubescent me, Fullerton, California had been a hot bed of Southern California punk, birthing a cavalcade of great (The Adolescents, Agent Orange) and not-so-great (Social Distortion, The Offspring, and too many more to count) bands. Mike’s band, The Middle Class, are easily the most influential and arguably the best, essentially begetting hardcore with their uber-classic E.P. Out Of Vogue. Playing shows with Black Flag while still in high school, The Middle Class were by far the smartest of the early L.A. punks, forgoing the antics of The Germs and the dull gothic Americanism of X for something faster, leaner, and far more effortless. It is, essentially, why all of us get to wear out our Minor Threat records. The Out of Vogue E.P. is as definitive as it gets, and it was made in 1978 right down the freeway from my high school.

In October, Eudora and I were visiting my parents for the obligatory once-a-year family throw down, and were left in the unenviable position of being car-less in Southern California. While my kin took care of their daily obligations, the two of us were left with nothing to do and nowhere to be for an entire afternoon (which is, in fact, how I best remember the place, anyways). I mentioned a Goodwill down the road as a possible destination, especially because it was on the way to the one great Mid Century store in Orange County, which I knew she’d absolutely flip out over. When she asked me what it was called, I flatly told her: Out of Vogue. “Like that Middle Class song,” she added, as we gathered various corn-based snacks from my mom’s well-stocked pantry for our trek.

Out of Vogue, a staple of downtown Fullerton, had been the only shop I would step foot in when accompanying my parents on trips to the nascent city center. Even as a kid, I obsessed over the pointy-legged furniture, bright colored plastic, and well-worn bowling shirts. Now, when Eudora and I stopped by, knee-deep in our current love affair with Mid Century design, it was even better. Because, man, has the owner got taste. I mean, capital-T, perfect taste. The shop is a veritable shrine to enamelware and the atomic, a great commingling of Danish and California Modern, a Valhalla for Mid Century nerds. If it said Dansk, Cathrineholm or Heller, it was here. There was so much Eva Zeisel, it made the eyes bug. A pair of Milo Baughman lounge chairs sat warmly next to some Kartell nesting tables, while a Panton print looked down, as if to say, “Let there be style.” We were, as any good design junkie would be, totally blissed out. And then, the owner, Mike, introduced himself, and we spoke for an hour about thrifting, and we all lamented how hard it is to find Lotus bowls these days; and Mike told us all about the recent happenings in Fullerton, like the new club where the retro arcade used to be, and how the Dead Kennedy’s had played there, and about how he was just an old punk rocker, and how things moved slower nowadays. It was during all this, the discussion of my two loves, punk rock and Modernism, that I finally realized: “It’s the same fucking guy…”

See, Mike had named his shop after the Out of Vogue E.P. because he was actually in the band. While I was wandering the post-apocalyptic landscape of Southern California, looking for something a little more, well, exciting buried underneath the blacktop, here was a guy who was living it. Playing in bands, driving across the country hunting down Eames chairs, and spreading the word of good taste all across the L.A. area, Mike had been holding onto the real history of Orange County, quietly transmitting the message to kids like me that THERE IS SOMETHING OUT THERE. You just have to dig a bit.

So if you’re ever making a stop in Fullerton, perhaps to grab a burrito before resuming your drive to anywhere else, make sure you stop at Out of Vogue. Marvel for a minute at Mike’s collection, enjoy the presence of more Eames than you can imagine, and throw on the Minutemen when you get back into your car. See, Southern California’s not so bad…

Visit Out of Vogue's Website

Listen to the Middle Class

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Internet, Meet Junkhouse...

For our inaugural post here at Junkhouse, I wanted to give back to the Internet community of thrift-addicts and rummage-aholics who’ve been so integral to our developing fixation with Mid Century design (perhaps one day I’ll devote an entire post to the Blob-like growth of this obsession, as it has been what can only be described as “utterly monomaniacal” for some time now).  In settling on a topic of (slight) expertise on which to pontificate, I wanted to make sure that I chose something vastly overlooked, underappreciated, and, frankly, unloved, seeing as though so many other outlets have thoroughly covered the more beloved aspects of thrift store culture. So, I tuned out the sounds of surrounding Seattle, shut my eyes, and visualized my favorite thrift. I could see it all: rows and rows of under-arm-stained clothing, a veritable Blockbusters-worth of tired VHS tapes, the piles of dust-ridden housewares (with more faded Tupperware than I’d care to mention). And then, in turning a mental corner, I came upon that most forlorn area of the thrift store, where only those with too much time and not enough sense spend hours pouring over Pop Culture’s forgotten sons: the LP shelf. Lost your copy of “Mitch Miller and the Gang?” Look no further! Feeling as though your life’s been lacking the pick-me-up only provided by Barbara Streisand’s more onerous records? You’re in luck, because they’ve got twenty copies just waiting for you! It’s a sad fact that the vinyl selection at most (okay, fine, ALL) thrift stores is, at best, completely terrible. That’s why I’ve compiled a list of the four best albums one can easily locate at the local Goodwill. Amidst the Neil Diamond and Olivia Newton John, these L.P.’s are surely hiding, hoping to convince you that even in the musical Hades that is the thrift store, there’s always something worth digging for… 


We have “Whip It” to thank for the glut of pressings made of this record, and the inclusion of said overplayed song is a small price to pay for the inexpensive availability of such a happening album. From the opening stagger of “Girl U Want,” which sounds like it was composed by four robots on a lot of strong coffee, to the dystopian pop of “Planet Earth,” this record finds Devo positioned squarely in-between their two major creative impulses; namely, the low-brow brilliance of Sci-Fi paperbacks and their obsession with the Situationists. What results is an incredible hodge-podge of B-Movie humor and Neo-Marxist critique, all set to the sounds of 2025’s greatest pop band. The song “Gates of Steel” is the obvious highlight, breaking out not only the strongest hook of the album, but also the only song with an even slightly positive outlook. Even having heard it over a hundred times, the “A man is real, not of made steel” refrain still gets me psyched-up like I’m watching the end of “Die Hard” (when the evil quasi-Russian guy finally get his due). Having to endure “Whip It” would be worth this moment alone, but luckily the rest of the album is peppered with excellent nuggets of synth-pop, all with a tingling punk back beat. Plus, there’s that cover. So sweet.


This one’s probably going to catch the most flack, as Madonna’s legacy has been irrevocably tarnished by the exploits and music she’s produced since, I don’t know, 1985. But before there was Guy Ritchie, 19-year-old boyfriends, and (shudder) the weird octopus-mummy hybrid her body has recently become, there was “Borderline.” A steady beam of Moog, drum machine, and sugary melody, this song is the height of the bizarre art that is “professional songwriting,” making up for what it lacks in artistry with pure bubblegum pop goodness. Sure, the major metaphor of the song makes little to no sense (what does love have to do with immigration?), and it repeats the same two hooks over and over again for nearly five minutes, but there’s something amazingly right about where the melody sits. It’s one of those magical combinations of notes that, although unimaginative, makes your ears want to party. There’s an almost early-Beatles vibe to the writing, as if the perfect hook was the ultimate end, in and of itself. Plus, there’s little commitment to the areas one probably wouldn’t want Madonna focusing on anyways. Take, for instance, the lyrical content: aren’t we better off with mixed metaphors about borders, rather than, say, Madonna’s actually feelings about border issues? And better yet, who cares if the lyrics are cringe-worthy, as long as it gets your booty shaking? And get it shaking it does, my friends, on nearly every track. When it comes down to it, who doesn’t have an extra quarter to spend on what promises to bring you an entire afternoon full of head-bobbing, hip-thrusting fun?


How many other bands do you know with the tenacity to rhyme the word “Romeo” with the neologism “own-e-o?” None, that’s how many, because Thin Lizzy traveled their own road, a road composed of dual guitar lines, hysterically inane song lyrics, and sweet 70’s moustaches. Everyone knows the ubiquitous title track, of which I’m still unsure whether it is supposed to be read figuratively or literally, as well as the classic montage-scene soundtrack choice “The Boys are Back in Town” (cue “the boys” getting back in shape for their big match against the local jocks, or some such).  It’s the other songs, the lesser known of the bunch, like the aforementioned “Romeo and the Lonely Girl,” that really make this album worth the half-dollar it’ll cost you at Savers. The real winner on this record is “Running Back,” which was initially chosen as the first single, but got edged out by the slightly fist-pumpier “Boys Are Back In Town.” For the amount of cliché these guys tend to swim in, there’s something almost forlorn about that track, which makes it immediately more appealing than its bar-rock brethren.  Plus, it’s got that amazing “sha-na-na-na-na” coda, which shows of front man Phil Lynott’s incredible grasp of Irish scatting techniques.  “Running Back” adds just a touch of gravitas, which really keeps the rest of the albums soaring cheesiness feel just a little more grounded. And although there’s an undeniable “commercial” feel to this record, who doesn’t like a little stadium in their rock from time to time?


I’ve saved my favorite, and easily most available, choice for last. With a sound that immediately calls to mind game shows of the late 60’s (which, I’m unsure why, counts as a plus in my book), this record is probably at every single thrift store in the country; in fact, most of them probably have multiple copies. And their loss, my friends, is your gain. Featuring a lounge version of the Lennon-McCartney classic “Day Tripper” and a swinging cover of Little Anthony and the Imperials “Goin’ Out of My Head,” this L.P. is still the definitive Bossa Nova record, bringing to mind everything great about 60’s Tiki culture. The highlight is definitely “Mas Que Nada,” which sounds like every bit of muzak you’ve ever heard combined into one succinct melody, which, because it accomplishes its goal so clearly, is a strange sort of uber-achievement. This album isn’t suited for every day listening, nor will you find many moods congruent with the sheer bounce of this album; however, when the timing is right, and you throw this gem on when everyone’s perfectly ready for its unique sense of pep, minds will be blown. You and everyone you know will groove away in a haze of kitschy bliss, humming along to every song whether heard for the first time or not. It’s a particular sense of joy, the pure immersion in something as historically “uncool” as this album, and if you can snag it for cheap, it’s an incredibly affordable way to experience the very best of Mid Century camp. Like all the other records on this list, not only is Brasil ’66 an essential to any self-respecting music dork, it also makes digging through countless Neil Sedaka records slightly easier to handle.