Thursday, November 5, 2015

Vera Vault -- Square Dance

Time for another Vera Vault!  Today we're looking at square patterned scarves from my collection.  She definitely liked a grid, plaid, or square-filled design, but she found so many ways of changing it up.  Hope you enjoy!

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Under the Influence -- The Night We Never Met

We talk a lot about inspiration here at Blackbird, Inc.  Both of us are kind of like sponges, soaking up everything we see and read and experience -- and we tend to hang on to random bits and pieces, tucking them away into our brains to be pulled out and combined with other ideas whenever we need them.  We don't always immediately remember where the inspiration comes from, whether it was a movie we saw once years ago or a book we read a few months ago.  So we've decided to start a new feature on the blog, called Under the Influence, to try to catalog and pinpoint the things that have shaped our uniquely different (yet somehow, strangely coordinating and cooperative) personal aesthetics.

We're going to start with a movie that is not the movie that triggered the idea for these posts.  We'll talk about that one later -- I haven't re-watched the whole thing yet, and I wanted to reacquaint myself with it before I wrote about it.  But that movie got me to thinking about this movie (I can't explain that jump of logic), and I haven't seen this movie since -- oh man, who knows how long!  But I somehow found that it was coming on television and decided to record it.  I'm so glad I did.

I'm sure most people would just think of it as a throwaway romantic comedy.  Especially since it's from 1993, an era that people haven't really started to appreciate again.  But I absolutely love it in the way that I love all 90s-era romantic comedies.  I was 15 when it came out, but I didn't see it until a few years later on VHS.  It has a lovable Matthew Broderick as Sam, a hipster-foodie (way before it was cool to be one), who works at a Manhattan Dean and Deluca as the cheese guy.  He almost doesn't meet, but then does meet and fall in love with Ellen, played by Annabella Sciorra, a dental hygienist in an unhappy marriage.  The story is too complex to get into here, and well, that's not what we're here to talk about anyway.  I love the story, but the apartment and the way the characters live in the apartment are what's important right now.   

Dean and Deluca screenshot
Hipster-foodie Sam
They meet and don't realize who they are!

This apartment is gorgeous.  Tall windows with tons of natural light.  Double front doors with lots of dark wood and heavy moldings.  A vintage style kitchen with glass bottle cabinet doors and an old range and oven.  The basic plot is that they are sharing this rent controlled apartment with another guy, and they each get the place for two nights a week.  Sam and Ellen fall in love without meeting, through their shared love for this apartment and the freedom it gives them to be themselves.  Sam has lots of roommates at his real apartment, and this place is a quiet place he can cook, read, and relax.  Ellen wants somewhere to get away from her loveless marriage and garish apartment in Queens.  She wants to learn to paint, and experience the excitement of the city.

The apartment's stoop

Sam and Ellen both furnish their side of the apartment (the other side is a travesty of black leather and electronic equipment, courtesy of the yuppie frat boy third roommate) with their most precious items -- Sam's grandmother's quilt, Ellen's art supplies, his toolbox with antique tools...and you can tell that they are meant for each other because it all just blends.  Ellen's home is full of bright colors and contemporary furniture, and Sam's apartment is a pigsty.  But when they create their own space in the time-share apartment, you can see an eclectic mix of vintage and worn pieces that have a soothing, subdued color palette.  When they are allowed to be true to themselves, they take joy in the small things -- Sam makes a wooden planter box for Ellen's herbs, prompting her to sew long curtain panels for the windows.  They begin to take pride in the apartment, figuring out who they really are through something as simple as furnishing a space.

I think this is when we really start to see this idea happening of mixing vintage and industrial items in interiors, and especially this renewed love of vintage architecture.  If you put this on a timeline, then you realize that "Friends" started airing in 1994, and I think without a doubt, Monica and Rachel's apartment is a separate character on that show.  And why was that?  Because it made it cool again to have a hodgepodge style with a mix of new, vintage, and found furniture and decor.  It was an old apartment with strange architectural quirks, and every piece was placed exactly where it was for a reason -- it told a story without saying a word.  This movie was kind of on the cusp of that, and I think this interior still stands the test of time.  Whereas the "Friends" apartment was super bright and vibrant, this apartment is all about understated comfort and enjoying the history behind the items.  Even more so when you compare Sam and Ellen's space with the other homes in the film -- Brian's black leather bachelor pad just through the archway, Ellen's bright modern mess in Queens, and Sam's filthy tenement apartment.

Even though the film came out in 1993 (22 years ago!), the pieces they picked are timeless.  I didn't realize until I watched it again how much this affected my design sense at the time.  And although my tastes have grown and changed since I was 17 or 18, this aesthetic is still pretty much at the core of my own personal style.  If I had this apartment, I would pick pretty much the same things.  It's hard to get good screenshots of the movie, so below is a collage I assembled with the movie as inspiration.  Links to all the items used in the collage are on our Pinterest page called Under the Influence, found here.  If you get a chance to watch it, do!  It's available to rent on Amazon.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Junk Love: Play the Game

We love all things Alice, and always draw inspiration from the movies. One of our favorites is from 1933, starring Cary Grant and Gary Cooper, among other classic Hollywood icons, as kooky Wonderland characters. And there are two parts of this movie that really resonate with us: the delightful clock that says bong bong bong bong bong, and the chess figures. So, it stands to reason that we became attracted to chess-inspired designs outside of the make believe world.

If you look around enough, especially on Etsy, there are tons of chess items. I'm currently denying myself this fabulous panel bracelet, and there are plenty of Soviet chess team pins and such to keep you looking smart:
On Etsy

Personally, I love the different styles of chess pieces. I have them scattered throughout my home--piled in glass bowls or vases, peeking out between books, or lined up and prepared for battle in front of various junk displays.
On Etsy

Sold on Etsy

Sold on Etsy
For such a quiet game, it's actually pretty bold. First, you've got the graphic black and white board where your pieces stage their war. And then there are a million artistic interpretations of the pieces. Some are used for play, like the ones I featured above, but you can also find plenty of vintage chess-themed home decor items. Check out this groovy queen:
On Etsy

To add intellectual flair to your drawing room:

On Etsy

Sold on Etsy
Do you love the shapes, but not enough to have them all over your house? Wear your love with a vintage chess print dress!
On Etsy
 And if you're a generalist when it comes to games, you'll love our vintage tray:

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Update: Urban Vintage

The Blackbird girls are very excited as we prepare for the Urban Vintage show this weekend! Remember all of that great stuff that was packed to the roof of the car when we got back from our road trip? You can meet our junk in person in just a few days!

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Junk Love: The Hutch

Have you ever fallen in love? Instant, gut-searing, I-have-to-have-you-or-I'll-die love? We have, on many occasions, fallen victim to this condition. Usually, it involves vintage cocktail items or pinups. But once upon a was a gigantic piece of furniture.

We were in the Wilmington, NC area for vacation. The week had been spent mostly in our pajamas in a beach house, watching movies and putting together puzzles. It was a time of relaxation, where our mental reset buttons would be gently pushed. We might venture into town for a nice meal or a stroll around the local antique shops (otherwise we would dry up and die). One night, we drove to the beach to get our toes wet under a wide expanse of Carolina stars. The next day, we journeyed into the big city to have lunch with someone we know there. And afterwards, as we sat in the car waiting for the AC to catch up, one of us said, "I wonder if there's a thrift store on the way back to the house?"

Indeed, there was. And within ten seconds of walking through the door, I was shoving people aside as I rushed to greet my future: a mid-century hutch by Young Manufacturing Co. Glass panels on the sides, glass shelves, and it lights up. At $225, it was pricey for a thrift store find, but a bargain for such a large piece. As I spotted another customer strolling toward it with a contemplative gleam, I considered licking the doors to stake my claim. Luckily, there are TWO Blackbird girls--one to find a sales associate, and one to body-check anybody stupid enough to tread on our turf.
Hutch in its native habitat
Lusty excitement aside, we are also practical gals, so my first action was to get the tape measure from the car. The hutch is two pieces, incredibly heavy, and too big for both parts to fit in the car simultaneously. But, considered individually, each piece would fit. We were an hour from the beach house, but decided it was worth it to make two trips. I gleefully paid for the hutch. And then Carl happened.

Carl is the guy in charge of moving things. And Carl is the sort of fellow who will laugh in a woman's face and tell her how stupid she is. I learned this the hard way. 

I want to take the top half first I told him. It will slide in at an angle, and I have blankets to cushion (because you have to travel with blankets for this exact purpose). He shook his head and laughed and condescendingly informed me that the piece was too big. The top is 48 inches I said. I have 52 inches of clearance in the car. Carl snorted and asked where from my body I happened to pull those numbers. I held up my tape measure, and he snatched it from my hand. I watched through the window as Carl measured my hutch top, watched him shake his head when he realized that it was, indeed, 48 inches high. And then he came outside and tossed the tape measure at me. He spat on the asphalt in front of my toes, and told me that he didn't care what size it was. Nobody was putting that piece in my car. Then he instructed all of his staff not to help us. It was too heavy for two Blackbird girls to handle, and so we were stuck.

From here we entered a Dark Time, during which we called everyone we knew, who called people, who called people, and eventually, we were able to get someone with a truck to come help us. Half of the hutch went in the truck, and the other half went into my car. Sounds like a sweet ending to the story, right? I may have neglected to mention the fact that I didn't technically have room for this piece of furniture at home. Indeed, there was the not-so-small matter of a piano in the exact spot where the hutch would have to live.

The bottom half of the piece, which I affectionately referred to as Hutch Butt, lived in my SUV for over two months. If I got groceries, I would slide open the doors and lower bags into the Hutch Butt. If I slammed on the brakes, it would nudge the back of my seat like a friendly high-five. While Hutch Butt camped in my car, and Hutch Top lived in somebody's garage, I tried to get rid of the piano. Not surprisingly, those tend to be really hard to re-release into the wild. Eventually, I figured out a way to fit the hutch into my house WITHOUT getting rid of the piano--or anything else!

Hutch Butt grows accustomed to its new habitat
All it took was twelve hours of sweaty labor, moving four other pieces of furniture and dozens of associated tchotchkes and pieces of wall art, but finally, there was a space for Hutch Butt. The delivery of Hutch Top was a joyous event, and there was rejoicing in the streets (except not really, because there is no air conditioning out there). Finally, finally, finally--the hutch was in my house, ready to be filled with pottery and other assorted items. The moral of this story? Love is hard work, but a girl would do almost anything for decent storage.

Hutch Butt and Hutch Top compare stories from their time apart

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Junk Love: Have a Happy Day

On Etsy
We've seen them everywhere, those cheerful smiley faces. Especially in New York, where I think most of the happy face cookie jars and coffee mugs have gone to retire. But the Have a Happy Day smile (later known as the Have a Nice Day face) is celebrated by more than just your ceramic coffee and cookie containers. Like these great Flip suede shoes in our shop:

Or a groovy 1960s mini dress:
On Etsy
With the happiest stick figure you'll ever see on a necklace:
On Etsy

We bring back our golden yellow trend with the traditional smiley guy:
On Etsy
Sold on Etsy

On Etsy

On Etsy

Can't you imagine happy wallpaper in your house? Who wouldn't love to have this in their kitchen, or to be greeted by these little faces while you brush your teeth in the morning?

On Etsy

So, save your pennies and stock up on some great vibes from our favorite smiley guy!
On Etsy