A Whole New 318…it’s all in the details

This past week, we’ve re-worked our space at The Hudson Mercantile

store at 318 Warren Street and we love the new look. I started with my

little display window that hangs on the wall outside the store…..

IMG_8919

And moved on to the inside…..

IMG_8948

I love my cowboy, the Ford truck “wings”, the cupboard front, the ship’s hatch

in the perfect shade of blue….oh, I guess I just love it all…..

IMG_8921

The cabinet (below) is from the attic of the Lunt Silver Company and was used to

store samples. The wonderful primitive chaise is still strung with old rope and its

cozy cushion is rustic vintage hand woven linen.

IMG_8929-2

The pink baker’s cabinet, old general store screen door and the bear

really make my heart sing. I always keep the stores stocked with a

customer favorite, chunky French lavender bags.

IMG_8930

This large wood and metal flower-shaped piece (below)  is a factory mold.

IMG_8936

The tin foot bath, in old green paint, makes another intriguing wall

piece.

IMG_8937

Cupboards, rail road carts, work tables….they sure are wonderful, not

just for their good looks but because you can show off so much stuff:

collections of English jam jars, 1940s lunch boxes, hand made wine

cups…..

IMG_8940

Another customer favorite is my custom down bed pillows with zippered

ticking covers, specially made for me by my upholsterer. Since ticking is a

neutral, many people buy them for their sofas, as well.  I’m crazy about the

color and graphics on the 1930s French sign, advertising Normandie Biscuits.

IMG_8927

It’s a lot of work to keep things fresh but, at the end of the day, the satisfaction

and pleasure I get when I look at what I’ve done, is worth every minute of lifting

and climbing up and down the ladder and running outside to check how things

look through the window. They say that it is all in the details and I know that is

so. But, for me, I don’t want those details sitting around too long in one place!

IMG_8938

Please visit both of our stores…

The Hudson Mercantile:

318 Warren Street and 202 Allen Street (corner of 2nd Street) in

Hudson, New york.

We’re open every day and we promise fresh, exciting details every day, too!

‘Cause Doesn’t Everybody Need A Price Tag Room?

I think that deep down, no matter how lackadaisical we might be, we all
really crave organization. It just feels better when everything is in its place,
when the scissors are in the drawer where we need them, when the car keys
are there when we’re ready to roll.
.
.
Even more, many of us want special places for doing the things that give us
pleasure: a place to wrap presents or to paint. And, in truth, we are so
affected by our surroundings, that we  experience a better time in spaces that look
nice than we do in chaos. Who wants to do laundry squeezed into the corner of a
damp basement when an attractive, sunny place would be so much more appealing?
.
.
Trends come and go but the most interesting and, to me, astounding one a few
years ago was the advent of Costco Rooms. These large, expensive additions were
purely for stockpiling purchases made at the discount store, Costco. I still find it hard
to believe that the savings gained by the bulk purchase of discounted paper towels
would ever off set the price of the room itself.
.
.
However, my own recent brainstorm for using a small barely-seen room in
my house has made me see that maybe I was too quick to scoff at the Costco Room.
For I am now the happy owner of a Price Tag Room…..
.
.
Tucked in a cranny, under beams in the 1790 part of our farmhouse, the space has
been an unused bedroom, an unused sitting room and an unused writing room in our
time. One day while I was dragging my price tag bag around the house, trying to
decide where I should set myself up, I got the idea that this nice little room was the
perfect place to be. All I had to do was find a perfect table in the barn and I’d be ready
to go. Everything else was already there: an old wicker waste basket, decorated with
papier mache swags and fruit, paintings and other decor that I love.
.
 
.
Store display cow heads, organ pipes with the most amazing patina. Beams!
.
 
.
A commodious and oh-so-comfortable English wing chair…
.
.
The walls were painted a few years ago to look like a forest by my friend, artist Jennifer
Lanne.  They are covered wall-to-wall with my favorite paintings of farm animals…
.
.
Below, a study from Sweden…
.
.
And this sweet-looking trio…
.
.

But, what is going on here? Where are these barnyard friends going by the light of the

moon? Are they off to a seaside vacation? A night on the town? They say every picture

tells a story but this one, delightfully, leaves me with many questions left unanswered.

.

.
Below, a farm wife in a blue apron pours fresh cool water for her pretty girls. I
place myself in her wooden shoes and feel the joy of her spectacular surroundings.
I know it is work! But just look at the expression on her face! She is providing something
nice for those who provide for her. While wearing cool clothing! All that beauty just
has to make her day brighter.
.
.
Below, all is primitive and perfect, from the ladder leaning on a thatched roof to the
chickens enjoying breakfast in the sun.  Someday, when I become a painter, I want
to be just like this artist who (imagining two suns or just not planning ahead), cast
shadows from the trees and from the ladder from two different angles.
.

.
Cows in art are always wandering down country lanes.
.
.
Wandering down lanes. Drinking cool water. Eating fresh green grass.
.
.
In beautiful places.
.
.
Places we would like to be ourselves.
.
.
It all seems so wholesome, so simple, so easy.
.
.
So peaceful.
.
.
Is it any wonder that century after century artists want to paint these scenes and
we want to own them? They make us feel so good.
.
.
What else makes me feel good? Sitting at my desk, looking at this fabulous
6 foot x 6 foot painting (below), another by Jennifer Lanne. I asked her to paint me
something with a bookcase and a chair. She knows me well so there’s no need
to say more. There are two paintings within this painting: one of sheep
on the middle shelf on the left side of the bookcase and the other a painted
pillow on the chair (the pillow’s scene is hard to see in this photo).
.
.
And, of course, the reason for the room:  the price tags!
.
        
.
I guess it begs the question, why a Price Tag Room?
.
       
.
It all goes back to the price tags themselves. I have been in the antiques business
for many years and have always wanted my tags to be as unusual and interesting
as the pieces they represent.
.
.
Just like the desire to have my surroundings be appealing, I want the work
I do to please me, to please my eye, to be fun for me and, hopefully, be fun
for the customers in the Hudson Supermarket where I have my public show
room. Writing price tags isn’t a chore for me. It is part of what makes me love
what I do. Having a perfect place to do this enhances the experience in ways I
didn’t expect when I decided to give myself this room.
.
.
In the early years, I made price tags from photos and other printed paper
of heavy stock. There were old tattered hand-made linen maps, restaurant
receipts and anything else that caught my eye.
.
.
When I started selling industrial furnishings, some of the private pickers with whom I had
developed relationships had items, such as the metal machine labels (pictured above),
which I couldn’t resist. I asked for more and now have such a huge collection that, even
if I never purchased another tag, I would be set for life! While a Sharpie does work on the
metal tags, a paper sticker on the back side does an even better job and looks nicer.
.
.
The one above is my all-time favorite. I use it for pricing my most favorite pieces. It has
everything going for it… Money! Trouble! An old car! I just know the waving driver of
this 1940s dream car is having fun, maybe even looking for trouble. The speed lines
behind the car seem to prove me right. I don’t mind at all that I have to reinforce the
string hole. And speaking of string…
.
.
The string is important, too! I use everything from heavy electrical wire to fat cotton fishing
line. The brown waxed twine is from France, the brown with pink at the bottom of the photo
has copper wire inside its cloth webbing. I match the string to the mood of the piece of furniture
and the tag. This is all very time consuming but so much more satisfying, for me, than
writing on the same old, same old, same old little white Office Max tag with its wimpy white
string.
.
.
Storage is a key component of my happy life! Interesting containers make all the difference.
Which brings me right back to that Costco Room which, suddenly, doesn’t seem so weird,
after all!

Strong Bodies

It is obvious to me, as I watch Ken and Tom load this very heavy, 11 foot long
country store counter, that they must have eaten their Wonder Bread.  Because,
as we all know, Wonder Bread Builds Strong Bodies 8 Ways.
I was thrilled to get this fabulous counter because of  its hand-painted advertising.
We will probably make 2 four foot counters and one 3 footer. Or something like that.
Unless a customer wants it long.  Maybe I’ll put half  in the Hudson Supermarket and
keep the other half.  Here I go again, planning to keep my inventory.  But, when will I
ever see another one of these again? Sheesh.
It is difficult for most antique dealers, at least the ones who purchase only what they
love, to part with any of it. Especially the special things, the one of a kind items, the
pieces that you will never forget.  Most have lists in their minds of the things they
wish they kept.  Many of us constantly switch this piece for that one in our houses.
But in the end, it is a business, a livelihood and, sadly, we can’t keep it all.  But why
not just this one counter??????

 

Give Me Back Those Jugs!

We just doubled our size in the Hudson Supermarket and, while I

never really have enough room, this is so much better than before. 

Maybe in another few weeks, I’ll be complaining and expanding

again.  But, for now, I feel the luxury of space all around me.

 

The huge garage door (above), a gift from a friend,  is the perfect backdrop

for my forever-favorite colors of grey, blue-grey and white-grey.

     

And a good place to hang some of my  post-plumbing sconces and soap dishes.

The sun has set and, since I am finally free to look in the direction of my window

without squinting, I can see that going home is not on the agenda just yet.  I spot

a sign  (below…leaning on the trunk) and remember that I was so tempted to

change the name of my business, which relies so heavily on the redundancies

of farms and factories,  to “Hauled Away” after finding this quirky thing  mixed in

among some heaps in an old workshop. 

Below, a shocking blast of color for someone like me.  But I couldn’t resist the

make-do shelving (made from mid-century signs) found in an old family-owned

lumber yard in Massachusetts, a Farmhall tractor grill, a ship’s flag box (Ardith III)

and a  soapbox car tool box (Wheels).  I am pleased with this grouping and, while I

require the soft, pale, faded and peaceful shades at home, it is fun to see a primary

riot in my booth sometimes.

But, green!  All of a sudden it is all over my booth.  My long-standing indifference

to this color that (so they say) is perfectly lovely, stems from my first car. I was 19

and it was a 1960s clunker, which caused Ken’s brothers to fall all over themselves

laughing.  “Look! It’s a Nash Rambler! She’s driving a Nash Rambler! Whataya call

that color? Puke?”  Ok, so big deal, I was driving a Nash Rambler!  Although I’m

not so sure that “driving”  is the appropriate term for the starting, bucking and

stalling that actually took place on that very first day, and for many days

thereafter, as I learned to drive stick shift.  I got over the derision regarding my

Rambler’s lack of cool pretty quickly.  But the remarks about its color kind of

stuck.  The table (below),  however, is fit for a king, color not withstanding.

Architectural renderings (below), some one’s dream come true.  It is hard for me to

pull my eyes away from them, they are so charming.  I wish I could walk inside this

pretty 1930s-looking house to see what the rooms look like and the furnishings that

the lucky owners chose.  I want to watch “Mr. Blanding’s Dream House” or “Christmas

in Connecticut.”  These kinds of houses make me feel such nostalgia.

  

The mirrors (below) once were an old pair of double doors.  The gentleman’s

dressing room cupboard to the left of the mirrors has a hidden compartment for

stashing valuables and secrets.  The wonderful folky daybed, with its deep, cozy down

cushion, is freshly dressed in a vintage French postal bag cover.   Just add a purring

cat and a good book, please.

The toothy detail (below) and the old orange paint peeking from beneath the

charcoal color are just part of what makes me love this daybed so much.

An amoire full of  shelves (below)  is topped with a few of the polite gaggle

of geese that grace my booth without honking or leaving droppings.  They

really make me smile.  The base of the bench  was an old galvanized

commercial refrigeration shelf.  Topped with down and four-season wool,

there’s not even a hint of its icy past.

The trunk (below)  is covered with tan and brown striped linen and lined

with paper in blue and cream. It made its way around the world in those

long-ago days when the Grand Tour was not so unusual.

A cupcake stand piled with lavender bags and a drying basket full of Swedish

pillow covers keep the industrial worktable from being too manly.  A gray chair

(above) and navy blue ones (below)…..Phew! I’m back in my element.

Oh, no!  More green!  But, I couldn’t pass by the drop leaf with its beautiful,

but, sadly, unseen legs.  And, the bench…green, over red, over lots of other colors…

nobody says no to a sturdy bench, do they?

The worktable (below)  is one of my all-time favorites.  The funky leg set up!  

The curved drawers (why only two in such a long table? and why the

curves?)!   The honey-colored wood!  I really want to bring it back home.

I just love an early sofa.  They are way more comfortable in these modern times

with deep down cushions.  So good looking, too, with the French hand-rolled edges and

hand-covered button tufts.  All thanks to fabulous Jerry, the upholsterer to whom I owe

all praise and allegiance.

The thing that looks like a bike (below, left) is a saddle maker’s work station.

The worker sat on the seat and pedaled, making a saw blade go up and down

through the platform where  leather was cut into pieces for horse tack.  It

is wonderfully sculptural but I’m sure it could not have been so much fun

as a tool.

         

In my window is part of my collection of white jugs with blue writing.  The rest

are strewn around my space. I don’t know why I am selling them at this time.   

I like having big groups of things on offer and, as I was walking through the house

on the day we were bringing down the last load for the bigger space, I said “bring

those jugs!”  While I can’t say I’ve noticed they are gone from a house that is so full,

seeing the photos of them makes me want them back. 

Here are close-ups from some of the jugs.  Aren’t they beautiful?

    

This is making it harder. I may have to rush down to Hudson to reclaim what

is mine before some white-with-blue  jug-loving customer shows up.

  

If only I had had a collection of green jugs lying around on the day I said

“bring those jugs!”,  I could be relaxing right now, safe in the knowledge that

all is white in my world.

“What Are Those Things?”

A customer came here the other day, a set decorator I’ll call D, who I really like

a lot. She was looking for mostly workbenches and industrial pieces for an up-

coming movie she is designing.  She brought her friend along, another set designer

from California, who I will call S.  After my house, they were continuing on to the

Finger Lakes where they both have family. 

As we wandered through the house, on the off-chance that something for the movie

was lurking around inside, S asked “what are all those things you have everywhere?

I love them!” 

  They were, of course, grain sacks.

But why had she never seen grain sacks before?  A set designer! From California!

Well, she just hadn’t!  But, now that she had made this miraculous discovery, she

wanted two for some chairs.  So, while D and Ken went out to the barns to check

out the big stuff, S and I went to work picking out the two very best sacks in the

bunch.

This was no easy task given the hundreds of choices and, at some point, S said  “I

wish you only had two!”   We started with the new-old stock (like the ones above),

which most people who are new to grain sacks prefer for its less well-worn presence. 

      

And, graduated quickly to the old-old sacks.  S is a set decorator, from California,

after all, and was thrilled with the old hand-worked repairs, the darnings and

patches that I love.

    

We tried different ones on the back a chair,  made piles on the floor and, in what

felt like no time ’cause I was having such fun,  found the perfect two. 

Customers always offer to help put the grain sacks back on the shelves and I always

decline.  There’s nothing more relaxing than being alone with my grain sacks, folding,

stacking on the correct shelves : wreathes with wreathes, plows with plows. A bonus

that day was finding Mitten, sound asleep and not even pretending to help. I guess I’m

not the only one who relaxes around grain sacks.

Wishes On Grain Sacks

A few weeks ago, a friend, one who started out as a customer, came to my

house to get some grain sacks. She drove a distance, at least 8 hours one

way, to get here. Before she came, she emailed that she was so excited about

seeing me. My exact feelings went right back to her. I like her so much and,

when we finally saw each other, we smiled and hugged, talked, laughed and

went crazy looking at grain sacks. It was a perfect few hours before she had

to be on her way, each of us making promises to see each other again soon,

expressing wishes that we lived closer to each other. 

The really unusual thing, for me, is that we had never met in person till that

day! Our entire  relationship was made of air…. words in the air via the

computer and boxes of grain sacks sent through the air from me to her.

Without computers, the internet and google we probably would never have

met. And what a loss that would have been.

Some of my favorite grain sacks state “God Bless Our Crops and Animals”….

A few ask for the  blessing of the owner’s handiwork….

I hope that someday, among the piles of my treasured textiles, I will be able to

say that I have a grain sack that expresses my wish :  “God Bless My Friends”

A Circle of Friends

It started with my friend, Jennifer (www.jenniferlanne.com), procurer of much that

is good.  She  purchased a  banner that practically shouted, because of its 15′ length,

“Elm Tree Farm”.  She had the “Farm” part made into a huge pillow for herself and gave

me, pal that she is, the rest of the banner.  I picked up her finished pillow from our mutual

friend, Jerry, the upholsterer since I would be seeing her before he would. 

While I still had it,  Diane, a friend and customer of both Jennifer’s and mine,

from Washington DC, was at my house and took a photo of a bunch of us holding Jennifer’s

pillow. A few days later,  Diane  showed the photo to yet another friend, a picker (also

named Diane, so we’ll call her Diane #2), who is from Pa. and from whom both Diane (#1) 

and I buy.  Diane #2  was, with good reason, crazy about the pillow and called me right

away. To make an already-too-confusing story short, I had Jerry make “Tree” into a pillow

for Diane #2 using a plain grain sack for the back.  Above is what it looked like on my sofa. 

–Lucky me :  I have “Elm” tucked away, so there might still be a pillow in my future.

–Too many people?  From too many states?  Too many Dianes?  Too many pillows? Never!

What’s It Worth?

Our friend-customers came the other day. It is always great when they are here because we share so much more than just the buying-selling thing.  As we waved them out of the driveway, I felt that tug on my heartstrings, the one that sneaks up on you when someone special is leaving and you won’t be seeing them again for a while. I decided not to chase them down the road to ask for just a few more hours of their company since they had a trip of more than a day ahead of them. Instead, I sat down to think about how much my business is worth.

While I won’t pretend that the money isn’t of interest, I am thinking more about the value received from doing what we love, the intriguing layers of experiences, the things we see and learn and the variety of people we might never otherwise have known.  This is what makes us rich.