As the only freestanding midcentury specialist in Atlanta, City Issue is Mecca for local Mad Men fans. A full-time vintage dealer since 2000, owner Jennifer Sams has enviable knowledge of the modern design movement and cross-country experience with finding exquisite pieces. I photographed her Inman Park shop and asked her to dish on topics to titillate the growing mass of midcentury style seekers: her favorite cities for antiquing, the best buys for starting a collection, and more.
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.
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.
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 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, GA, 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.
I’m what you call “indoorsy.” But I married an outdoorsy guy who likes to camp and hike. In my husband’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 snapshots to social media. He wants to go on a “real” camping trip this fall, maybe in the misty redwoods of 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!
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
Last year, during a day of thrifting in antique-rich Chamblee, Georgia, an unassuming used bookstore I’d passed dozens of times suddenly lured me in. I wandered Atlanta Vintage Books 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? I need photos of those for my vintage design file.
Bob Roarty says his 7,000-square-foot bookstore 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.
Some inventory is available online, but getting a taste of the shop this way is a flavorless morsel. 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.
3660 Clairmont Road // Chamblee, GA 30341 // 770.457.2919