Written by Palmetto Bluff
Jun 06, 2019
I turned a corner at my local antique shop, and there it was: the most beautiful, midcentury modern dining room table, the deep walnut polished to a perfect shine, a subtle curve to the edge, geometric legs that said, “Don Draper would dine here.” There was no discussion, none of my typical hemming and hawing. This was the table. It came home with me that day. Every time I walk past it, I am inordinately pleased. Far more pleased than one should be about a piece of furniture. It is perfection.
What is it about this table, or any vintage piece, really, that brings such joy? Is it the thrill of the find? Forming an idea of what you want and finding the piece that exactly matches your vision? Is it the story behind the table? Imagining the meals eaten there or the care taken to polish it over all of those years? Is it the quality craftsmanship? The comfort in knowing no Allen keys were involved in the construction of said object? Maybe all of these characteristics add up to make vintage pieces so covetable.
As people think about purchases big and small, they are turning to sustainable, local outlets to meet their needs. From food to furniture, people have started to care more about where the goods and products they purchase come from. We talked to vintage shops, salvagers, jewelry designers, furniture makers, and even a chef or two from across the region and the South to find out what’s driving this trend. We wanted to know: What inspires them to seek out and restore the old and the antique? Why are people interested in vintage finds? What trends do they see? And what is it that makes everything old new again?
Southern Pine Company, Ramsey Khalidi
Savannah in the 1980s was a different place than it is now. Savannah College of Art and Design had just been established in 1978. The seeds of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil were being planted. And the historic homes of downtown Savannah were being demolished. Ramsey Khalidi, a preservationist at heart, was horrified. He started rescuing buildings and salvaging the materials if the homes could not be moved or restored. “Back then,” Khalidi says, “we would lose buildings in the urban core due to lack of development and neglect. Now, we’re losing them due to a prosperous economic development engine in the city.” People want to be here and build here.
After years of restoring buildings, the salvaged materials started to pile up and became the inventory of Southern Pine Company. Southern Pine sells reclaimed heart pine flooring, Savannah Grey bricks, and piles of windows, doors, trim, and building materials. For Khalidi, every new floor should be
100 years old. They also make custom furniture, and a few of their pieces are featured in some homes at Palmetto Bluff.
Khalidi is glad to see people reclaiming and upcycling goods and products. It sends a message that people care about where things come from, the stories behind them, and the impact on their community. “It’s not sustainable otherwise,” he says. “Our wood is more expensive than new wood, but look at the whole ecocycle of reclaimed materials—the jobs it creates. There’s a story behind it. And everyone involved in putting it there should feel proud.”
Quality drives a lot of his customers and his business as well. Khalidi says, “In the long run, a mass-produced floor scratches. Laminate might be made with formaldehyde, lead, arsenic. If you use reclaimed wood from a home that’s 100 to 150 years old from a tree that’s 500 years old, those floors will last another 100 years. It’s a solid product.”
Khalidi’s projects are many and varied, but they all come back to the chain of sustainability that he sees as the cornerstone of Southern Pine Company’s philosophy. An upcycled product impacts so many more people throughout its lifetime, preserving history, providing jobs, and ultimately providing enjoyment and a sense of connection to the past and the community.
Preservation Station, Julia Petrova
“Why shouldn’t history repeat itself?” The Preservation Station website prompts this question over an image of collected stained glass windows. Located in Nashville, Tennessee, Preservation Station is the result of its proprietors Aaron Hetrick and Julia Petrova’s extensive travel and experience salvaging home features and architectural elements. It started in the 1990s when they purchased and restored several old homes.
“Nashville, as a city, went through the urban renewal process in the 1950s and ’60s, and the majority of the houses we purchased were turned into duplexes. The features that gave these homes their character like fireplace mantels, moldings, and lighting fixtures were already gone by the time we acquired them, so we spent most of our free time traveling throughout the country in search of original architectural items,” Petrova says.
Soon enough, they found salvaged architectural items piling up, so they opened a shop to sell the extra inventory. Business boomed, and a year and half later, they moved to a larger location where they just celebrated their 15-year anniversary.
All of their projects, they feel, are expressions of one’s individuality and creativity. Petrova says, “a door can be just that—a door in an old home, but it can also be a focal point in a kitchen, a cabinet in a butler’s pantry, a headboard in a bedroom, a table in a conference room, a hall tree in a foyer, a chalkboard in a child’s room, a piece of art over a mantel, wainscoting in a dining room.” For Petrova, the possibilities are limitless. And the draw comes from the timeless beauty and character the pieces bring to a space.
“There is a special gravitating quality about the old that is intriguing. Repurposing an architectural item, giving it a new life, and saving that bit of history is what gives a home its uniqueness and personality.”
Tattered Oak, Chef Ray Lammers
Chef by day, master craftsman by night, Chef Ray Lammers is repurposing reclaimed materials into modern-day light fixtures, and he has a rather bright idea. Dubbed “Tattered Oak,” Lammers’ side gig has him scouring Picker Joe’s Antique Mall and Keller’s Flea Market in Savannah for interesting materials to incorporate into his work. At the latter, he found the retro soil sifters that serve as the base for one of his fixture designs.
He scavenges timber stone lumber and reclaimed beams that were meant to be floors and mantels. He picks up glass insulators from yard sales, vintage markets, and local pickers. He found old blacksmith quenching trays (the water buckets used to cool metal pieces) at a Georgia picker market a few years ago. Glass bottles from High West Distillery (no, he didn’t drink them all) become sconces. And he pulls old window sash pulleys out of reclaimed windows—the pulleys that traditionally held the cords and offered counter weight for the windows now provide form, function, and a conversation piece.
From the kitchen to his garage workshop (which is beyond impressive), Lammers loves creating. “I am always challenging myself that what I can see with my eyes I am capable of recreating with my hands. My motto is that I will try everything at least once. . . .”
Fallen Aristocrat, Paula Danyluk
Paula Danyluk was cleaning out an old handbag when she found a piece of scrap paper. On it, in her handwriting, were the words “Fallen Aristocrat.” “I must have loved the way the words sounded then, and I think I love them even more now. There’s something about their juxtaposition, like my favorite velvet chair with threadbare arms.” The words became the name of her jewelry line that grew out of a hobby and into a passion.
Danyluk has always loved and collected vintage jewelry. She would make necklaces for friends and family at Christmas using the pieces she discovered on her antiquing trips. Eventually, she bought a jewelry bench and started making in earnest. But things didn’t really take off until she found a special salvager at an antique show. He had purchased a defunct Rhode Island jewelry manufacturer. And Danyluk bought out the last of his haul—all 15,000 pieces.
“It was a unique buy. The factory shut down abruptly, so there were stones missing from the pieces. Some of them were still on the armature. There must have been 30-some huge industrial bins, and I went through every single piece,” Danyluk says. She started incorporating the pieces into her work.
Already dreamy in their own right, the pieces in her latest collection were photographed at Château de Gudanes in the south of France. And the images look like the inspiration board for a Victorian drama. The shoot was a dream for Danyluk as well. She had followed the photographer Jamie Beck on Instagram. “I didn’t think I could possibly get her, but I’m truly a risk taker. What does it hurt to ask?” So she did. And Beck was on board.
At the Château, they played classical music as they picked out vintage dresses. “I kept thinking ‘Pinch me. This isn’t real,’” Danyluk says. Danyluk’s dream became a reality, and her pieces compel creativity and dreaming as well. She sees her customers and business partners layering them in different ways, attaching brooches to necklaces, and making them their own.
“I was just saying the other day, I could see my pieces on anyone from Alexa Chung to Iris Apfel.” They’re for women who want something different.
Strange Bird, Brandon Carter
Chefs are creative forces, always pushing the envelope and always in pursuit of what’s next. For FARM Bluffton Executive Chef Brandon Carter, the “next” was a discussion around how to handle the off-site catering and the pop-up dinners that have become a successful part of his culinary repertoire.
Enter, “Strange Bird,” their new, vintage Airstream food truck. “So, we decided to buy the Airstream for a few different reasons. First, and how we’ll pay for the other reasons, is to use it for off-site catering. Second, and the most exciting from a creative perspective, is as an incubator for future concepts (more to come on that). Third, and probably my favorite reason, is to have a vehicle (pun intended) for community outreach projects,” Carter says.
For Carter and team, the decision to go vintage instead of new was simple. “The Airstream is a show piece as much as it’s a functioning tool. It has a look and a story as compelling as ours. It’s a perfect extension of who we are,” he said.
But, just how did she get her name? Carter christened her “Strange Bird,” which is also the brand behind their pop-up events, where you never know exactly what you are going to get. Lately, Carter has been taco-centric, and no one can argue with that strategy. Now, they have an official—if not traveling—venue for connecting with people in different ways, on different terms, and in different spaces.
Savannah Vintage Rentals, Rachel Strickland
Wedding photographer Rachel Strickland has seen a lot of trends come and go, but through her lens, she found that vintage and antique décor seemed to have staying power. So, when the opportunity to purchase Savannah Vintage Rentals came along, she and her husband, Jordan, jumped at it. “We’re drawn to vintage items—we love that each item has its own story. Every item we have added to the inventory has come with an incredible story about the person who owned it or where the piece came from. It’s a nice reminder of the times before us,” Strickland says. And, clients love that. Event planners and brides (and the Palmetto Bluff marketing team) comb through her warehouse searching for that perfect item that brings the wow.
Vintage furniture also means unique furniture. Strickland says, “It’s not typical to find identical pieces,” which, for event design, is a big win. “We love that this style is timeless. Some of these pieces are decades old, yet still can be the most beautiful piece in the room.”
And yes, it is easy to fall in love with every piece, Strickland says. Recently, she found a beautiful floral couch and fell hard. She even named the sofa “Patricia,” for the woman who owned it. In fact, their entire inventory has unique names. The “Jekyll and Hyde Chairs,” “White Chippy Dresser,” and “Agnes Settee” were delivered to Palmetto Bluff for an event the day after this writing.
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