CollectorMANIA - Page 3

How the thrill of the hunt for mid-century paraphernalia moves collectors to put a personal stamp on their homes
“Everybody likes something,” Oakland Eichler owner Jeff Morelli says. “For me, it's sofas, funky sofas”—like the two exquisite ones above.
Jeff's 1957 Rock-Ola jukebox.
Jeff Morelli.
Morelli's cool period car fin makes for fun wall art.

Letuchy glories in the textures and colors of many of his objects—including a hardwood dinette set he picked up two decades ago in San Francisco's posh St. Francis Wood.

"The wood, it's beautiful, gorgeous. It's called 'pecked mahogany.'" Boris shows off a handmade Scandinavian tapestry over his bed—a village scene, trees, figures in colorful costume. "I was just loving it," he says. "I don't know how much I paid for it. It's not the money. You won't see another one."

Notice how often admiration for the intrinsic qualities of an object is mixed with a story, either of the object itself or how or why it was acquired. "Each piece has a fun story or happy memory associated," Lisa Berghout says of their collection.

The furnishings, art, and objects of daily use that fill Mary Anne Deierlein's house are as much a personal journal as a collection, with things standing in for words. Consider her Panasonic TNT 8-track player from the 1970s—so called because it looks like a TNT detonator—or her several, ball-shaped radios called 'Panapets,' with leash-like chains, and the 8-track Toot-a-Loop radios that twist into freeform shapes.

"I was born in 1960, so these were really fun things in the 1970s and early 1980s—and, boy, you were cool if you had one," says Mary Anne, who grew up near New Orleans and recalls listening to the local music stations on the devices.

The boomerang table on which these items of plastic nostalgia recently sat is more than an authentic artifact of the mid-1950s. It was built in Orinda by Mary Anne's dad, a designer of petroleum refineries and a woodworking enthusiast.

The table, which returned with her dad to the Gulf, was a survivor of Hurricane Katrina. "It floated under an antique bed in the cottage," Mary Anne says.

"I love typewriters," she says of the blue one she picked up years ago for $6 at what was then the place to find treasures, the Palo Alto Goodwill. "I grew up typing. Katie even used to type on it," she says, meaning her daughter.

The Kool Aid pitcher, part of a collection of vintage plastic ware the family uses regularly, she has owned since childhood, one of other such mementoes. "I was lucky," she says. "My parents had a garage and a big shed."

Like many collectors, Mary Anne mixes non-vintage art and objects with vintage, and in her case much of the newer stuff comes from friends and family. On display throughout her home are paintings by Judy Gittelsohn, a longtime friend and artist who once lived in a nearby Eichler, and artwork by Mary Anne's daughter Katie.

"She got a BFA in sculpture, and is in the jewelry business in Oakland," Mary Anne brags. "I'm wearing one of her pieces now."

One of Katie's earlier works is a sculpture of a planet circled by moons, part of a space-age theme that runs throughout the house. "I want to say that Katie, really at a young age, appreciated the whole mid-century modern thing," her mother says.

Other collectors too include objects of a personal nature. The player piano adds much to the Berghout-Apodaca household, though there's nothing modern about it. It came down to Lisa through the family.

And the McMullans' décor is spiced throughout with Mexican art and artifacts, collected on many trips to Rosarito.

One of the challenges facing collectors is how to choose. With eBay, Amazon, and so much stuff available on the Internet, it can be overwhelming. Perhaps that's why some collectors stick to things that offer personal meaning, and that they can see with their own eyes rather than in virtual space.