Saturday, January 3, 2009

White Elephant's To-Do List for the New Year

Well, it's been many months since the last post, which leads me to the first item in my to-do list for 2009: explore, explore, explore and write more! Other items to feed the White Elephant, include:

- Search out large seasonal flea markets in upstate NY, CT and MA
- Report on markets and antique stores in other parts of the world
- Visit the "bone man" at the Friendship, Indiana flea market
- Find out the best places to purchase taxidermied animals
- Grow collection of antique bottles and search out local clubs
- Focus on combining the old with the new
- Finally design something with my large collection of animal x-rays
- Find more outsider artists who create things with found junk

Happy hunting in 2009!

Also, as a side note: In 2008, we created a new blog for Curio Design called the Conversation Piece, which is a collection of pics, quips and observations from a NYC designer's point of view. Look for weekly posts throughout the coming months. Check it out here

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Eleventh Street

On my way down Eleventh Street in the West Village to take photos of the "Julian Schnabel-branded apartment building," Palazzo Chupi, I stumbled across this ground floor window display. The collection of eclectic objects immediately caught my eye. There were two signs posted that stated "items in window just for viewng pleasure (tip of the collected iceberg)" and "nothing is for sale." What I wouldn't give to find out who owns all of these artifacts. And if it really is the tip of the iceberg... what else could there be?

(Click on image for larger view)

Monday, June 9, 2008

Exploring the Hudson Valley

This past weekend I decided to get out town for a few days and explore the Hudson Valley and search out interesting places to share with my fellow "junkies." It had been awhile since my last post, and I have been in desperate need for some inspiration from outside the city. From east of the Hudson River to the west, here are a few of the notable places, shows and events I discovered along the way.

Woodstock, NY
On Saturday we stumbled across the Mower's Flea Market in the heart of Woodstock. Tucked in a wooded lot just off Maple Lane, vendors set up shop every Saturday and Sunday from mid-May through November.

It was a laid-back and welcoming environment, with lots of tables to scour. There were antiques galore, as well as vendors selling tye-dye t-shirts, homemade maple syrup, crystals and geodes, hippy-inspired jewelery, and much more. The crowd was a mix of tourists and locals, and overall there was a great vibe. All the prices were very reasonable across the board, and I would highly suggest stopping by if you happen to be in Woodstock for the weekend. Afterwards, you can browse the local antique and boutique shops peppered throughout the town.

Tannersville, NY
While driving through the Catskill Mountains, I passed through a small village named Tannersville. As I cruised down the main drag on my way to Woodstock, I couldn't help but notice that almost all the buildings were painted with the most crazy and vibrant color combinations. Since the White Elephant is also about curious places, I had to add this one into the mix.

I did a little research and found out that Elena Agostinis Patterson -- a resident of Tannersville since 1986 and a painter/sculptor -- decided to add a little life to her weekend home. She chose a combination of orange, purple, yellow and green. It became a sight to behold, and passerbys couldn't help stop to ogle the color-challenged house.

For years the town was suffering from economic hardship and lack of tourism, and Ms. Patterson thought it would be a great idea if all of the buildings in the town were painted crazy colors to help draw in the crowds. Apparently the Mayor at the time thought it was a fabulous idea, and even with a lot of opposition from the aesthetically-astute, many of the buildings along the main street were transformed.

I'm not sure how successful the plan was since many of the buildings appeared to be run down and empty. I do know, however, that it caught my eye and made me stop. Even though their color choices would make Josef Albers turn over in his grave, I applaud their risk-taking!

Cold Spring, NY
Cold Spring has become one of my favorite places in the Hudson Valley. With its amazing views of the Hudson River; its quiet Main Street filled with antique stores, bed & breakfasts, and small cafes; and it's close proximity to the city, Cold Spring has become my ultimate weekend retreat.

On Sunday, we visited the annual Cold Spring Antiques Show. We had to pay a hefty $6 entry fee; but once inside we found a decent mix of high-quality 19th- and 20th-century antiques. If you're an avid collector, it's worth checking out; but if you're just there to browse, it's probably not worth the admission.

Garrison, NY
On my way back to the city, I was curious about some of the towns south of Cold Spring. I ventured through Garrison, which is just a few miles down the road. There really isn't a main part of town per sé, but I did come across the Garrison Arts Center located next to the Metro North train stop. The artist being featured in the main gallery was Suzanna Frosch and the work combined textiles, paper, paint and in some cases, animal bones (you know how I love animal bones!). I can't seem to find a website for the artist, but I'll keep digging to find out more.

For more information and upcoming events at the Garrison Art Center, visit:

Sunday, April 20, 2008

The Brooklyn Flea

Last Sunday I ventured to Fort Greene, Brooklyn to scope out the Brooklyn Flea, a brand new – and much-anticipated – flea market located in a 40,000 sq. ft. lot outside the Bishop Loughlin Memorial High School. It was an energetic scene, mobbed by hipsters, locals, and visitors from other boroughs.

The vendors are carefully selected by Brooklyn Flea founder Jonathan Butler. You'll find a medley of vendors selling everything from vintage items to funky, handmade jewlery and silkscreened t-shirts, to yummy homemade goodies, such as waffles, hand-filled cannolis, cookies and cupcakes. To keep things interesting and fresh, vendors will be changing from week to week.

Their website is pretty sweet, too. It provides an entire listing of all participating vendors with links to their websites, which helps facilitate communication between collector and vendor.

The Brooklyn Flea is definitely a weekend destination, especially now that it's finally getting warmer outside! I'll be heading back at least once a month to uncover new finds for sure.

Brooklyn Flea is open every Sunday from 10 am - 5 pm. Visit for details and directions.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Demolition Depot

Before I tell you about the wonders of Demolition Depot, let me give you a little backstory for how I discovered this uptown gem.

At Curio Design, we work closely with the Lower East Side Tenement Museum on the design of their communications materials. They've given us their extensive photography collection, which includes historical images of the Lower East Side from the past 200 years, documentation of the restoration efforts of a tenement building, and images of artifacts and architectural details that have been uncovered in the process. Working with the Museum has rekindled my obsession with NYC history, to say the least.

The Tenement photo files needed some organization; so we asked our intern Lea to help us with the task. As she was going through a series of restoration images, she asked us if we had ever been to Demolition Depot. My ears perked up just at the sound of the name. As a student at FIT, one of her professors happens to be the sister of the store's owner. She told us that you could find many of the artifacts and architectural details similar to those in the Tenement images at Demolition Depot. I had to check it out!

Demolition Depot is known for architectural reclamations — rescuing artifacts and architectural details from soon-to-be demolished buildings in and around the city. Their four-story building is packed to the gills with rescued artifacts. On the first and second floors, you'll find lighting fixtures, mirrors, mantels, windows, and other artifacts, such as doorknobs, hinges, grills and stained glass. (I personally loved the old elevator call buttons I found on the first floor.) The third floor is dedicated to doors, including a variety of styles ranging from French Provencal to Art Deco. If you're looking for bathroom fixtures, the fourth floor is your best bet. The backyard garden is covered with exterior architectural details and artifacts, such as gargoyles, tiles, fountains, wrought-iron gates, benches, and even old MTA subway signs.

If you are involved in a building or restoration project, they can work closely with you to buy or sell artifacts. They make it easy to navigate through their ever-changing inventory. Unlike many stores where pricing is a mystery, Demolition tags each item with a number that can then be used to check for the prices on communal computers.

I love combining the old with the new, especially when it comes to decorating, so I was happy to find out that Demolition Depot owner Evan Blum, along with his sister Leslie, wrote a book about the subject called
Irreplaceable Artifacts: Decorating the Home with Architectural Ornament. This beautifully photographed book showcases wonderful examples of how to integrate ornaments and architectural details rescued from 19th- and early 20th-century buildings into a more contemporary setting.

From the editorial review:

The joy of using these things, as we learn from this wonderful book, is threefold: they enhance our homes; they reduce the need to expend new resources and energy, since they recycle preexisting items; and they help to preserve our magnificent architectural heritage."

Check out their website to view the store's inventory and be the first to find out about new arrivals from their latest reclamations:

Demolition Depot
216 East 125th Street at 2nd Ave.
4/5/6 train to the 125th Street

Friday, March 21, 2008

Hyungkoo Lee / Animatus

I frequently visit galleries in Chelsea with my husband Kris Chatterson, who also happens to be a fabulous painter. (I'll give him a plug here: Although I was a little hesitant about writing a post based on a contemporary show, I finally decided that the subject matter and the show's aesthetic made it quite fitting for the White Elephant and worth sharing with others.

Hyungkoo Lee's debut solo show in the United States can be summed up in one word: phenomenal. For the show, titled Animatus, Lee created skeletons of "familiar yet imaginary cartoon characters, as if they exist in the real world." This body alteration blends science and art, creating a mesmerizing body of work that is in one respect fantastical, yet also so realistic, it's haunting. The show is up through April 19th at Arario New York. For more information about the artist's work visit:

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Industrial Chic

Upon moving to Long Island City, Queens (LIC for short) in early 2007, I've had the opportunity to explore many interesting historic buildings, museums, parks, mom and pop shops and restaurants in this predominantly industrial neighborhood. The area has become a hotbed for artists who are taking advantage of the old warehouses and factory buildings that have been turned into studios. It's a quiet area that's slowly becoming "the next cool 'hood" as residential and commercial development increases.

A few notable places that get the White Elephant thumbs up, include:

Just Things
This small secondhand thrift store is a true treasure located on Vernon Blvd. at 47th Rd. The small two-room store is filled to the brim with dust-covered, kitschy objects, dishes and glassware, costume jewelry and an array of clothing spanning many decades. Every time I pop in, there are new relics added to the collection, so multiple visits are required for all you thrift store lovers. Open Weds-Sat from noon-5:00pm.

Brooks 1890 Restaurant
First opened in 1890 as a saloon, Brooks is one of the oldest restaurants in Queens, and still retains its original decor, including a mahogany bar. They are known mostly for their steak and seafood fare; but I actually recommend their burgers. Brooks is located next to the Court House Square F subway stop on Jackson Ave.

Socrates Sculpture Park

Before becoming a neighborhood park and a place for artists to exhibit innovative, large-scale sculptures for the public in 1986, the area was an abandoned landfill. A walk through the park is a must for anyone looking for a quick retreat from the city. And just down the way, you'll find the always inspirational Noguchi Museum, with it's wonderful outdoor sculpture garden. Socrates Sculpture Park is located along the East River at the intersection of Broadway and Vernon Blvd. and is open all year round from 10:00am to sunset.

The Pepsi Sign
Facing Manhattan along the East River in Hunter's Point (the southernmost area of LIC), the Pepsi-Cola sign has become a local icon in the community. With it's Art Deco, cursive letters, the neon sign originally stood atop the Pepsi bottling plant, which opened in 1938 and remained in operation until 1998, when it was ultimately relocated. The sign was moved to it's current location after the community encouraged local government and developers to preserve the sign as an historical landmark.

For more information about Long Island City, visit:
Forgotten NY Neighborhoods

Sunday, March 9, 2008

B4 It Was Cool / SoHo

After my trip to the Antiques Garage in Chelsea, I took the subway down to SoHo to check out the small antiques store B4 It Was Cool ( It took me a minute to figure out the name of the store, but eventually found a business card taped to the middle of the graffiti-covered door. Lack of signage aside, you can't miss this place when you're walking down Houston Street. The door is usually always open, and your eye will go right to the dense sea of lighting fixtures packed into the tiny space. I've walked past the storefront many times over the years, and today was the first day I actually went in to see what kind of goodies they had for sale.

Known mostly for their collection of early to mid-20th century lighting, the store is packed not only with amazing floor and ceiling lights, but also other unique industrial objects – drafting stools, chairs, various appliances, and scientific models and tools.

B4 It Was Cool is located at 89 E. Houston St, just east of Broadway on the south side of the street.

The Antiques Garage / Chelsea

I regularly explore The Antiques Garage in the Manhattan neighborhood of Chelsea. Since 1994, around 1o0 vendors set up shop each and every weekend in a 2-level parking garage on 25th Street just west of 6th Avenue. We discovered a nice variety of items that would suit anyone's taste, from a large selection of vintage jewelry and clothing, to old school tools and antique furniture. If you make the trip to Chelsea and want to explore more, there are many antique stores in the area; but the real bargains are to be found at the Antiques Garage, as well as the outdoor flea market a block away on 25th Street between 5th and 6th Avenues. The Garage opens at the crack of dawn and closes around 5:00 PM. Get there early... The good stuff goes quick!

Thursday, March 6, 2008

The Ephemeral Garden

Since I can remember, my uncle Onofre has been making art. He's quite modest, in fact, despite his genius. For the past several years, his yard has become an ever-changing gallery of found objects combined in unexpected ways. Located in the suburbs just north of downtown Cincinnati, Onofre has created a whole new world that stands out among the normalcy of the somewhat conservative neighborhood. From a garden of bowling balls to a collection of tea kettles hanging from the long branches a large oak tree, his unexpected placement and unique juxtaposition of found objects have truly become an inspiration.

As an avid and dedicated thrift store and flea market shopper, he has collected a multitude of ordinary objects over the years. Sometimes when he finds that one special object, he knows exactly where it's going to be placed in the yard. Other times, his purchases remain piled up inside the house, waiting for a spark of inspiration.

Below are images taken of his yard during my trip to Cincinnati last summer.