Shop Spy: City Issue in Atlanta

Closeup of "Atlanta's Best Vintage Shops" print by Finely Crafted

Just my luck–Jennifer Sams moved City Issue two blocks from my duplex in Inman Park just before I split for Decatur! Maybe a few extra miles between me and this vintage collective is for the best, because otherwise I might be broke (but very rich in furnishings). As the only freestanding midcentury specialist in Atlanta, City Issue is one of my all-time favorite boutiques, so of course I featured it on my Best Atlanta Vintage art print.

City Issue midcentury modern boutique in Atlanta; photo by Finely Crafted

City Issue midcentury modern boutique in Atlanta; photo by Finely Crafted

A full-time vintage dealer since 2000, Jennifer has enviable knowledge of the modern design movement and cross-country experience with finding exquisite pieces. Tuesday I photographed her shop and asked her to dish on topics to titillate midcentury superfans like me: her favorite cities for antiquing, the best buys for starting a collection, and more!

Q: If the shop were on fire and you could save only one item, what would you choose?
A: “It changes every day! Of course I wouldn’t be able to toss this over my shoulder, but we just got in a really gorgeous Jens Risom desk and credenza–he’s one of my favorite designers. It has these Y-shaped pulls you don’t see very often that are very sculptural. And I just love his pieces anyway because they’re oiled walnut, which is my very favorite finish of any wood.”

Jennifer Sams, owner of City Issue midcentury modern boutique in Atlanta; Lesbo lamp; Jens Risom walnut desk; photo by Finely Crafted

Jennifer would develop superhuman strength to save this Jens Risom walnut desk from a fire.

Q: What are good buys today for someone who wants to begin a modern collection?
A: “I personally think the classics will hold their value–and that’s the Herman Miller, the Knoll–really, the first generation of designers of the midcentury modern. Now, that said, those pieces are really expensive right now; we’re at a high point in the market because there’s so much interest in it. As far as good values, I [recommend] peeling back the layers and finding some of the more important but obscure designers. . . Some of the glass and accessory designers from that time period aren’t necessarily as iconic as the Eames and Saarinen. Something I’ve really seen grow, but you can still luck into cool pieces at good prices, is Blenko glass, much of it designed by Wayne Husted. . . . There was a designer for Holmegaard, Per Lutken, his pieces are very simple–some of them are still in production–but the early ones are signed and numbered. They’re beautiful, simple, blown glass or crystal in clear, smoked gray, or pale blue–not like Blenko with the bright colors. His style is very recognizable, but his name isn’t so huge that people are out searching for it yet.”

Blenko glass at City Issue midcentury modern boutique in Atlanta; photo by Finely Crafted

Jennifer recommends Blenko glass (left and right) as an affordable starting point for a modern collection.

Q: What item can you never resist picking up on a buying trip?
A: “I personally have a fetish for nutty serving pieces. No matter what classic furniture pieces are there, [I buy] serving pieces that have wood handles–usually rosewood or teak. There were so many pieces of beautifully designed barware from the midcentury. I always hunt for that . . . and a lot of times it goes to my house. I use that stuff like crazy!”

Vintage barware at City Issue midcentury modern boutique in Atlanta; photo by Finely Crafted

Q: What are your favorite cities for antiquing?
A: Her top choice is High Point, NC, because furniture companies like Drexel and Thayer Coggin manufactured there, so “the area is really rich in midcentury products.” She also unearths treasures regularly in Grand Rapids, Tampa, and Miami.

Q: What resources do you recommend for people who want to learn about modernism and how to identify pieces?
A: “I wish there was one nice big fat textbook, but unfortunately there’s not.” For her own research, she uses a combination of books (especially published by Taschen and Schiffer), magazines such as Atomic Ranch and Modernism, and the internet. “I keep an eye open for good exhibitions at museums,” she adds. “Sometimes I even plan travel around them, because seeing good pieces in person takes learning to a different level for me.”

Click for 10 more shop photos!

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Modern ‘Hood: Morningside, Atlanta

modern home in Morningside, Atlanta; photo by

It’s hard to believe Atlanta’s first Morningside residents were isolated suburbanites who rode a streetcar to work downtown. Today this charming neighborhood is a haven in the heart of the city, surrounded by shopping districts, restaurants, and condos. The typical M’side home was built in the 1920s or 30s out of red brick and stone, with Old World details like arches, leaded glass, and even towers, like this one below.

Home in Morningside, Atlanta; photo by Finely Crafted

In Morningside, a man’s home literally may be his castle.

While I love those special châteaux, my heart beats faster for the rarer midcentury and new construction modern homes–sometimes barely glimpsed beyond ivy banks and mature trees–on the hilly streets branching off East Rock Springs Road. They range from humble ranchers to custom contempos worthy of Dwell. Here are 10 of my favorites spotted on yesterday’s afternoon drive. All photos were taken by me from public property.

Modern home in Morningside, Atlanta; photo by Finely Crafted

I toured this 2013 home on Wellbourne Drive as part of Modern Atlanta in June. In contrast to the serious facade, the inside is warm, light soaked, and personal.

Midcentury home in Morningside, Atlanta; photo by Finely Crafted

Genius idea for typography fans!

Modern home in Morningside, Atlanta; photo by

I like mixing foliage colors in my own yard, but a single green against a neutral facade is beautiful too.

Midcentury modern home in Morningside, Atlanta; photo by Finely Crafted

I love the little courtyard created by this home’s C shape.

Midcentury ranch in Morningside, Atlanta: photo by Finely Crafted

Peachy perfection!

Click to see five more homes!

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4 Mobile Shops to Stalk

Mobile galleries roundup; photo by Small Room Collective

Photo via Small Room Collective.

In the age of the online store, I appreciate the entrepreneurs who are keeping retail retro. Their mobile shops–converted trailers stocked with clothing, jewelry, home decor, and gifts–roll from town to town, finding customers where we live. I shopped two in Atlanta and one in LA this year and was wowed by the smart use of space, the stylish merchandising, the character evoked by the camper itself. Here I highlight four roving retailers (Small Room Collective, Coast to Coast Vintage, Very Hush Hush, and Popsikle Shop) and ask them to share stories and tips from their adventures.

Unless otherwise noted, photos are by the shop owners.

small room collective


Husband and wife team Lauren and Travis may be cross-country roamers, but their mission is to make connections. They think of Small Room Collective as a gathering place where perfect strangers can feel at ease and at home. In June, outside Victory Sandwich Bar in Decatur, this stranger felt comfortable and excited among the handmade art prints, stationery, soap, and jewelry on board. I bought a cast brass Fitzgerald Forbes bangle that reminds me of midcentury Brutalist work. I found out the couple lives in their Airstream, making their clean design all the more impressive since it fulfills both their personal and professional needs.

Me: What’s your favorite part about owning a mobile shop?
Lauren: I like the unexpected element of it, and being able to connect with new people and places. . . . We have to go outside, we have to explore, we have to make new friends, otherwise we’d go nuts!

Me: What’s your best story from the road?
Lauren: We had less than 36 hours to get to Louisville [from Denver]. Just so happens, we would be chasing a string of tornadoes, torrential rain and storms, speckled with some high winds. We were going 45 mph at this point in thick fog and not getting anywhere fast. It was getting dark outside, so we decided to stop at a Walmart for the night in Colby, Kansas. The winds became so loud that we were more praying for our lives than sleeping,  and we just decided at 4 a.m. that we’d try to keep going. The rains were fierce, and the trailer was swaying in the wind like a giant aluminum whale behind us. George was trembling and curled up in his storm position in the back. We noticed something amiss with our rooftop carrier and realized the wind had shoved it at a 45-degree angle. Nice. We struggle to get it straight again, the wind slamming the car doors open. After two episodes of this rooftop carrier situation along the stretch of the flat Kansas plains, a good dose of snail pacing, and some disgruntled mumbling, we made it through the worst of the storm. We eventually made it to Louisville, and actually made the event on time.

Me: What’s your advice for someone who’s thinking about building a mobile shop?
Lauren: Really understand the inner workings of the trailer itself, and make sure it’s sturdy and safe for a small stampede of wild buffalo to pass through.

Small Room Collective mobile shop

Inside Small Room Collective mobile shop

Inside Small Room Collective mobile shop

George the dog inside Small Room Collective mobile shop

Wood planters by Mavis Studio and rope necklaces by Have Company

Wood planters by Mavis Studio and rope necklaces by Have Company; photo via Have Company Instagram feed.

After the jump, see the stories of Coast to Coast Vintage, Very Hush Hush, and Popsikle Shop!

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Shop Like a Happy Camper

Vintage camping roundup by Finely Crafted; photo via the Wigwam Motel

Photo via the Wigwam Motel in San Bernardino, CA

I’m what you call “indoorsy.” But I married an outdoorsy guy who likes to camp and hike. In Andrea’s version of camping, we’d surrender electronic gadgets, make long treks to waterfalls, and cook over a fire. On my ideal trip, we’d stay in a midcentury tepee with a parking space and wifi, shake cocktails at the picnic table, and upload fun photos to social media. He wants to go on a “real” camping trip this fall, maybe in Oregon, so I’m preparing in my way. I researched all the essentials for a rustic outing, like, you know, gourmet bug-repelling soap and a vintage pocket knife necklace. Enjoy the inspiration, fellow campers!

Vintage camping inspiration by Finely Crafted

Above products: campfire rubber stamp by Creatiate // vintage thermos from Modluv // bug repellant soap by Beekman 1802, available from Oakleaf & Acorn // vintage camp stools from Little Cows // campfire-scented candle by PF Candle Co., available from Summer Camp

Vintage camping inspiration by Finely Crafted

Above products: abalone pocket knife necklace by Astronette // wool mountain pillows by Three Bad Seeds // Pendleton wool eyeglass cases by Appetite // leather blanket carrier by Texturable Decor

Vintage camping inspiration by Finely Crafted

Above products: vintage sheer western shirt from Shop Exile // vintage picnic bag from Ruff by Margo // vintage enamel bird mugs from Finnish Treasures

Shop Spy: Object in Los Angeles

Closeup of best vintage shops in LA print by Finely Crafted

Object is one of 30 LA boutiques featured on my Best Vintage Shops print, available in my online shop.

After just a few panting moments in the Los Angeles vintage boutique Object, it leaped into the no. 14 spot on my Best Vintage Shops print. I repeatedly walked past (very, very slowly, with my nose sliding along the glass) the Melrose Avenue shop while exploring my temporary LA neighborhood during the February “staycation” with Andrea and the dogs.

Object in LA, photos via Esoteric Survey

Above photos via Esoteric Survey.

As a gal with curatorial ambitions, I bow down to owner Brian Roark. He gathers only the most beautiful, rare, and perfectly preserved design objets, with a focus on European makers. Carefully displayed on custom Douglas fir and lit glass shelves, his midcentury wares just happen to be some of my eyes’ absolute favorites to bathe in–ceramic vases, wood serving pieces, cocktail glasses, and brass candleholders. And while I’m overflowing with design love but short on knowledge, Brian is a master at identifying and describing his inventory. His 1st Dibs listings are mini history lessons energetically punctuated with why a decanter may be one of a kind, or why its designer is so treasured.

Vintage trays at Object in LA, photo by Finely Crafted

Object in LA, photo by Finely Crafted

Object in LA, photo by Finely Crafted

Object in LA, photo by Finely Crafted

Vintage items from dealer Object on 1st Dibs

From Object’s 1st Dibs online store: “Farsta” bowl by Wilhelm Kage, crystal wine decanter on a brass stand by Richard Rohac, and rosewood pepper grinder with sterling inlay.

I always want to buy something from shops I love, but in this case the prices are out of my reach. One day I’ll saunter in and throw down the credit card, but for now I’ll let serious collectors and interior designers with high-rolling clients take home the goodies. I did take away some priceless inspiration, though: the fish-shaped bottle opener by Carl Auböck I discovered at Object became an icon on my map print.

Display case at Object in LA, photo by Finely Crafted

I fell in love with this Carl Auböck fish bottle opener, so I asked artist Cindy Tomczyk to illustrate it on my Best Vintage Shops print!

Is your table or shelf crying out for a small, storied heirloom? You can visit Object in person or get a tiny taste of Brian’s collection on 1st Dibs. And click here for more details on my LA Best Vintage Shops art print!

Object // 6910 Melrose Ave // Los Angeles, CA 90038 // 323.936.0021

Yellow Mary Cocktail Recipe

Yellow Mary cocktails by Finely Crafted

It’s peak tomato season, my friends, which means the markets are overflowing with specialty shapes and colors! I wanted to try only golden varieties for a veggie cocktail that’s a lighter take on the classic bloody Mary. While this bright yellow beverage has a milder flavor than its crimson cousin, a spiced rim gives it plenty of kick. I made the whole thing in my Breville juicer (you can substitute a blender, then strain out the pulp). Fresh juice separates, so the celery garnish becomes a stirrer. Serves four on a sunny patio.

Kosher salt
Spice blend such as Tony Chachere’s Original Creole Seasoning
2 limes
4 large yellow tomatoes, cut into wedges
2 celery stalks, plus leafy ends for garnish
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 jalapeño, split and seeded

1. To rim the glasses, put water in one saucer and a couple palmfuls of salt in another. Stir a little spice blend into the salt. Dip the rim of each glass in the water, then in the salt mixture.

2. Cut one lime in half and slice off all the peel. Cut the other lime into wedges for garnish.

3. Put the peeled lime and the next 4 ingredients into the juicer.

4. Add ice and a shot of vodka to each glass. Fill with juice and garnish with celery and lime wedges.

A North Georgia Farmcation

Jeanee Ledoux crossing a creek in Blairsville, GA

The creek that feeds Lake Nottely ran right behind our cabin near Blairsville, Ga.

I just got back from helping Andrea with a photo project in north Georgia. He wants more people and animals in his portfolio, so he spent a couple days shooting at Sun Dog Farm outside of Blairsville. I carried camera gear and did light farm chores to thank our hosts for modeling. At night we retreated to a cabin near Lake Nottely, where I filled the downtime with cooking, walking the dogs in the woods, and soaking in the hot tub with my friend Madeline. I often get antsy on long trips with continuous lounging, so a quick “farmcation” offered a nice balance of peace and stimulation. Except for the photo above, taken by Andrea, these are my phone snapshots from the trip.

Sunrise at Sun Dog Farm

Andrea and I arrived at Sun Dog Farm just after sunrise to start snapping photos.

Co-owners Elliot and Darby Smith harvesting potatoes.

Co-owners Elliot and Darby Smith got right to work harvesting potatoes.

Darby Smith of Sun Dog Farm

Andrea took the farmers’ portraits in a few locations.

Andrea Fremiotti at Sun Dog Farm

My husband actually instructed this cow to “find her light!”

Squash harvest at Sun Dog Farm

My friend Madeline helped farm intern, Gabby, harvest some squash.

Cutoff shorts drying at Sun Dog Farm

Madeline had to wash her cutoffs after a muddy romp with the pigs!

Snapping beans at Sun Dog Farm

We helped snap beans on the porch one afternoon.

We all rested in the grass near the chicken coop at the end of day one.

We all rested in the grass near the chicken coop when the beans were done.

Who knew farmers are so artsy?

Who knew a tool shed could be so artsy?

Living room at Sun Dog Farm

The farmhouse living room is a vintage-rustic-modern amalgam that’s almost ready for Design Sponge!

Bouquet by Sun Dog Farm

Darby sells floral arrangements at weekly markets. She gave me this bouquet after the shoot!

Are you interested in supporting Sun Dog, the oldest biodynamic farm in Georgia? If you’re in the Atlanta area, you can join their CSA or buy produce and flowers from their booth every Saturday through mid-December at the Peachtree Road Farmers Market. Tell Darby and Elliot I sent you!

Francophile Festival and Sale!

Bastille Day sale at Finely Crafted

Photo taken by moi on a Ledoux family trip to Paris.

Atlantans, get ready for a revolutionary festival and sale! The Paris on Ponce design market–home of the Finely Crafted brick store–is throwing its annual Bastille Day party July 19 & 20. Events include a burlesque performance, puppet show, doggie costume contest, and grilled cheese cook off (I predict some stinky brie will be involved). You can also celebrate French freedom by rebelling against retail prices, since the vendors will be offering discounts all weekend. My shop will be an extra 20% off the already clearance prices (remember, I move out of Paris on Ponce by the end of this month). If you can’t make it in person, you can get my discount online by entering the code “Bastille” in the Finely Crafted checkout, good through midnight EST on July 20.

Click here for the Bastille Day Festival schedule of events. Hope to see you this weekend!


Shop Spy: Atlanta Vintage Books

Best Vintage Shops in Atlanta map by Finely Crafted

Close-up of my Best Vintage Shops in Atlanta print, available in my online shop.

Last year, during a day of thrifting in antique-rich Chamblee, an unassuming used bookstore I’d passed dozens of times suddenly lured me in. I wandered its aisles aimlessly at first, but after exploring two levels of rare, collectible, and plain ole used titles on every subject, I was filled with manic inspiration tugging me in ten directions. ESP? Yes, I’ve been meaning to look into that! A 60s typography book that looks straight out of Mad Men? Obviously, Don Draper would want me to have that! Teen dramas with sherbet-colored spines? Ooh, ooh, I need photos of those for my vintage design file! Atlanta Vintage Books was suddenly one of my favorite destinations, earning spot no. 5 on my Best Vintage Shops art print.

Atlanta Vintage Books

Co-owner Bob Roarty says the 7,000-square-foot store is like “Cheers without the beer,” a place for locals of all ages and interests to gather and make connections. I see what he means — couples read cozily in the nooks, and college study groups sprawl on the well-worn furniture. But I’ve always visited solo, making exciting connections with the books themselves. To me, it’s more like the best used music stores, where the inventory surprises you, the titles strike chords with your personal history, and the staff eagerly guides you toward a meaningful purchase.

Five roaming shop cats, the salvaged sofas, and the conspicuously absent coffee bar let you know you’re not at Barnes & Noble. “A place like this has a character to it, a personality, and a comfort that you don’t get in a new bookstore,” says employee George Walters. While I love the convenience of loading up my digital cart on Amazon, I agree that real, distinctive, curated shops like AVB have a firm (if a tad musty) place in society. I’m not alone, because sales have increased every year since Bob and his wife, Jan Bolgla, bought the business in 2007.

Atlanta Vintage Books

Some inventory is available online, but getting a taste of the shop this way is a flavorless morsel. I’ll argue that hunting used books is a sensory experience that must be enjoyed in person. For instance, the online books’ descriptions include their blemishes (worn covers, rubbed type, etc.), which in the virtual environment sound like red flags. But the books’ bruises, dog-eared pages, scribbles, and scents are actually part of their history and charm. I hope you’ll wander into Atlanta Vintage Books soon and come out with your own story to share. Please give Callie the cat a tickle from me, and tell Bob and Jan I sent you!

3660 Clairmont Road // Chamblee, GA 30341 // 770.457.2919

Present Preparedness Guide Part 2: Collecting Gift Wraps, Trims, and Cards

How to collect wraps, cards, and embellishments for year-round giving

Wrapping paper by Eva&Anne // Domestic Animals card by Sarah Andreacchio, available here // Hammerpress gift tag

Happy 4th of July! I hope you’re taking a break from work and relaxing with your loved ones. Andrea and I are spontaneously driving with the dogs to see his family in Pennsylvania. Before I go, I want to arm you with Part 2 of my Present Preparedness Guide–tips on assembling a year-round gift stash. Last week’s Part 1 was about the prezzies, so now let’s talk about building a supply of papers, ribbon, cards, and embellishments so you’re always ready to wrap with style! Here are my steps to packaging creatively in every season:

1. Save handled bags, fabric pouches, gift boxes, and tissues. The plain kraft bags/boxes are great for when you have time to add your own embellishments, such as a stamped design. I keep all these supplies in a large shopping bag in my office closet. Tip: Avoid items with glitter unless you want your whole stash to sparkle!
2. Choose gift wrap colors and designs that work year-round, and for different ages and genders. You’ll get more mileage out of these than holiday-specific papers. Again, a roll of plain kraft paper is great for when you feel like getting creative with stamps or a washi tape pattern!
3. Collect and save all kinds of trims, such as ribbon, twine, yarn, and washi tapes. Wrap loose pieces around cardboard scraps and tape the ends to keep them neat.
4. If you like personalizing wraps and making your own cards and tags, then stock up on art papers, rubber stamps, ink pads, punches, decorative-edge scissors, paint pens, etc.
5. Build a stash of cards for common occasions–birthdays, thank yous, congrats–along with plenty that are blank inside.

Here are some of my favorite wrapping supplies:


Four wrapping papers for year-round giving

1. Double-sided wrap by Eva&Anne // 2. Emerald Peonies wrap by Rifle Paper Co. // 3. Cactus Envy wrap by Hammerpress // 4. Beach painting paper by Norman’s Printery


Four DIY gift embellishment ideas

1. Washi tape design by Oh Joy! // 2. Owl in Tree stamp set by Yellow Owl Workshop, available here // 3. Gift tags I punched from an old Jessica Swift calendar; original post here // 4. Pom pom wrap tutorial by Sugar & Cloth


Cards for year-round giving1. Color block cards by Hammerpress // 2. Domestic Animals by Sarah Andreacchio, available here // 3. Hello Friend by Thimblepress // 4. Long Haul by Paper Parasol Press

Have any of your own gift stash tips to share? I’d love to hear from you!