CollectorMANIA - Page 5

How the thrill of the hunt for mid-century paraphernalia moves collectors to put a personal stamp on their homes
Collectables of Palo Alto Eichler owner Mary Anne Deierlein, who mixes non-vintage art and objects with vintage, including many items she and her family use regularly.
The kitchen table is set with some of Mary Anne's collection of vintage plastic ware (including an original Kool Aid pitcher) that she's owned since childhood.
Ball-shaped Panapet radios (top) are mixed with 8-track Toot-a-Loop radios—all part of Mary Anne's collection. Above: An Eaton 400 typewriter and Panasonic TNT 8-track player, circa 1970.
Mary Anne with husband Greg.

The couple didn't have to seek out the chandelier. It came with the house. The couch was another story. It was advertised on Craigslist as part of an estate sale at nearby Hamilton Field.

"Ohmigosh," Lisa gushed, "that would be so perfect for our house!"

They got there early—and miraculously were allowed in. "The dealers showed up as we were walking away with it," Lisa says. "'How did you get in?! That's not fair!'"

"But [the sellers] were happy they sold it to us, because they knew we were going to use it, not turn it around and sell it. And we'll pay a little more because there's no dealer markup."

Some collectors say finding things on the Internet takes the fun out of the sport. But not for Jeff Morelli, who scours sites seeking what he wants. And, again like a sport, but this time fishing, collecting can take a lot of patience.

"It took years to find just the right bedroom set," Jeff says. "I didn't want the common stuff. I really wanted something different. I looked for five or six years" before finally finding an unknown but stylish bedroom set in warm wood and a flaring headboard.

It took a while but Jeff finally determined the provenance of the bedroom set—the Albert Parvin & Co. "Nobody could identify it," Jeff says.

Some collectors, perhaps the smart ones, do what Jeff did with the bedroom set. They buy something they need. But others can't let an opportunity get by.

"If you're a collector, and you find [something great], you have to buy it. If you wait till you have a place to put it, you won't find it," Jeff says.

"Last time I bought a lamp it took me two weeks to find a place to put it," he says.

But, as always, there is the fish that got away. Jeff has several vintage TVs already, but not the coolest looking of all mid-century modern TVs, a Kuba Komet—"real Jetsons looking," Jeff says.

"I just didn't have the money. It was $8,500—and it was a bargain. If I had the cash I would have been on the thing in a second. That's the only one I've ever seen for sale. Maybe I should sell the car. It's easier to park the TV than to park the car."

Though some collectors, including the McMullans, occasionally work as dealers, most claim they don't buy hoping to make a profit.

"We're not in it for the money," Lisa Berghout says. "We're more into it for the thrill." But, she adds, "we've bought a lot of things for a dollar that are worth hundreds."

Deierlein says of her collectable housewares, "These things are unique because they are still here and they are in good condition. I don't know if they have monetary value."

They do have utility value, collectors say. Some collect only pieces they can use—especially once every inch of wall or shelf space is occupied.

"We use every single thing," Cindy says of the dinnerware and flatware she and Brendan collect.

There comes a time, though, when collectors stop collecting. Sort of.

"I'm still collecting," Mary Anne Deierlein says, "but only things related to what I already have. And if they're useful and functional, or if they can replace something I have that is not in good shape. There are limits, and Eichlers are minimal. I like the minimal look."

Decorating your house with vintage things is an artistic statement on its own, Ed and Lisa point out. "As creative people, we want to be creative at home," Lisa says. "The new stuff is just fed to you. People can go to Ikea and buy a full room with everything matching. 'Somebody has figured it out for me.' If you go to estate sales, it's like you're designing your own work for your own room."

Ed adds: "That's what's fun about discovering stuff."


Photography: Sabrina Huang