The arrival of spring often inspires homeowners to take a long look at their interior decor and make changes. Buying a new sofa, painting the walls a different color, or rearranging the furniture are just a few ways to give the house a fresh look.
During my childhood I grew up in two different houses that my mom had a hand in designing. She loved decorating and it rubbed off on me. In junior high I remember taking walks in our Nob Hill neighborhood just to look at houses.
So, what does this have to do with antique furniture? My parents were both from Ohio and brought antiques with them when they moved out west and eventually to Yakima. My mom had a talent for decorating and loved art. She also had a passion for mixing antiques with contemporary furnishings. When they passed away, I inherited our family’s antique walnut dining room table that dates back to the Civil War.
I also inherited my mother’s love of design. When my husband and I married and drove across the country to his initial naval duty station in Charleston, S.C., we packed a few small antiques to decorate our first home, an 1,100 square-foot house featuring four tiny bedrooms. While he went to sea on a submarine, I worked at a travel agency, performed at the Dock Street Theatre and fell in love with this historic city. I even volunteered to help with the annual Historic Home Tours. This event opened my eyes to the beauty of antique furniture.
Next, we spent a year with the Navy in Hampton, Va. When my husband ‘s naval obligation was done, we hightailed it back to Charleston, sold our little house and found a charming apartment in the heart of the city. Charleston is often called the Holy City because of its many downtown churches. Throughout the day we’d hear church bells ringing, along with the clip-clopping of horse-drawn tourist carriages driving down our street. In fact, our back porch looked out on the St. Phillips Church cemetery where several signers of the Declaration of Independence are buried. Knowing the city was founded in 1670, we spent a great deal of free time visiting all of the historic sites, homes and museums.
We finally returned to Yakima in 1986, and eventually purchased a Cape Cod-style home in the Barge Chestnut neighborhood. When the house was built in the 1930s, it was a cottage with two bedrooms. Over the years, each owner has put their stamp on the home with a number of renovations. Two owners ago, a couple of neighborhood boys tossed firecrackers on the roof, setting it ablaze. The owners decided to add a second story featuring a large master bedroom suite, before repairing the roof.
Over the years we’ve furnished our rooms with contemporary pieces and kept an eye out for antiques that would mix in with the overall decor. One day while visiting Gasperetti ‘s Floral Shop at West Park, we spied an amazing English mahogany breakfront bookcase. Mr. Gasperetti was selling the antique for a friend. On closer inspection, we knew it would make a beautiful focal point for our living room. Plus, the shelves were perfect for displaying our collection of Meissen blue and white dishes. A good rule of thumb when incorporating antiques into your decor is, “Too many can make a room feel like a museum.”
We loved that the home’s entry still had its original Dutch door. We found a vintage maple dresser and a gold mirror to go above it, plus two table lamps for light. Year round, I love decorating the top of the dresser with fun, seasonal items.
Several years ago, we decided to upgrade our kitchen with new country French cabinets. One weekend we visited Pat and Fred Erickson’s Country Garden Antiques, on the Yakima Valley Highway near Wapato. The couple has made many trips to England to bring back some beautiful antiques. We instantly became enchanted with a old English pine cabinet. Once we brought it home, we realized it was ideal for displaying our Spode wedding dishes, plus it complemented our kitchen cabinets.
But what about original art? Since moving back to Yakima we have purchased many pieces of artwork for our home, mostly created by local artists. For a city the size of Yakima, it’s amazing how many accomplished and successful artists live here. Leo Adams, Bill Brennan, Penn Shelton, Marsha Blevins, Jackie and Rob Prout, Delma Tayer, Duane Heilman, Sally Fitch, Michele Wyles, John Barany and Lucy Valderhaug, to name a few. The website yakimaart.com lists local art events and the names of local artists. Trust me, it’s worth it to have a piece of original art you love displayed in your home.
Original art can be a more significant investment than a copy of a renowned artist’s work, but I promise it will be worth it. We commissioned artist Penn Shelton to create a portrait of myself and our two grown daughters. Her wonderful painting has the three of us sitting on a tree limb, surrounded by flowers while we each hold a dove. We love this whimsical painting and it takes the place of honor on our dining room wall. We were fortunate to find a circa-1974 Leo Adams painting at a secondhand store about 20 years ago. It’s the focus on our living room and we still can’t believe how good fortune smiled on us that day.
So where are the best places to find antique furniture for your home? Yakima has a number of antique stores including Gap Treasures, owned by Tricia and Damon Ewing. They are known for their vintage chandeliers and have an eclectic inventory, so prepare to have fun finding vintage treasures when you visit their store.
That 70s Store is also in Union Gap and features a huge variety of items from this era, including some nice mid-century furniture. Flippers Antiques on West Yakima Avenue features many different vendors who offer a wide variety of antique items. It’s truly a treasure-hunt type of place as well, so keep your eyes open.
Carrie Bertrand of Adore Decor, downtown on North 2nd Street, features beautiful hand-painted antique dressers, tables and mirrors, that would enhance any decor. Estate sales are also great for finding vintage pieces, often at bargain prices. (Be prepared to stand in line before the door opens to get first dibs on a treasure.)
I hope this will convince readers not be afraid of introducing antique furniture into their contemporary decor. My own favorite vintage piece is that Civil War-era dining room table I inherited from my parents. When the holidays roll around and I set it for a big family dinner — and I always reflect that it has survived family dinners for more than 150 years!