The Guide: April 2006

Want to know the secret to successful home design? Mixing break-the-bank furnishings with super-affordable, one-of-a-kind finds to create a space that’s refreshingly unique. Check out these local shops and designers — some you may already know, some you have yet to discover — for cool stuff to create an extraordinarily ­inspired look that’s all your own.

Bargain Buys

Diane Bryman Accents
8034 Germantown Avenue,
Chestnut Hill; 215-242-4100
The get: Lamps
Don’t let the Chestnut Hill address or fancy window display fool you — Diane Bryman Accents is stocked with affordable yet luxurious home goods, including chairs, tables and armoires. But the real steal is the smartly chosen selection of classic and contemporary lamps. “Just changing the lamps in a room can take the vibe from traditional to updated and urban,” says Sandra Selke, the shop’s buyer. She suggests a bulbous, lime-green CBK table lamp ($95, including the shade) “to add a splash of color”; one of her customers just designed her guest room around CBK’s cobalt-blue light with pinstriped shade ($275). For a bit more money, a purple blown-glass Pear Sun design ($475) serves as an art objet. Selke also has a great eye for international finds, like oversize, hand-painted, Renaissance-inspired tiles ($465) imported from Italy.

Golden Nugget Antique Market
1850 River Road, Lambertville, 609-397-0811;
The get: Kitchen enamelware
Just a mile south of the center of Lambertville, the Golden Nugget has been a favorite stop for discerning antiques- and flea-market shoppers since 1967. Our source, a television food show prop stylist, makes the trek to seek out 10-year market vendors Jerry and Janice Bonk, who feature a charming collection of hand-painted French kitchen enamelware. Look for pre-1950s pitchers ($100) and canister sets ($200 to $300) with whimsical prints and food terms en Français, plus vibrant, ornately shaped utensil racks ($100 to $200). The market is open year-round, with 60 indoor shops and more than 200 outside dealers in the warmer months offering a cornucopia of crafts, antiques and furnishings; vendors specialize in everything from toy trains and dolls to Art Deco and Victorian collectibles.

Manayunk Design Group
4327 Main Street, Manayunk; 215-483-2804
The get: Architectural artifacts
Manayunk Design Group’s Frank Piller combs through demolition sites and old buildings, where he finds historic architectural artifacts like the iron gate ($325) he salvaged from the PSFS building in Center City. His intimate, year-old shop hosts an eclectic assortment of pieces appealing to history and local-interest buffs: Recent finds include the ticket window of the old Lambertville train station ($800), and a cool coffee table ($550) designed with legs from a LOVE Park bench. (Piller’s handy staff can help create furnishings from the architectural salvage.) Keep an eye out for distinctive interior and exterior wood shutters ($75 to $250), gorgeous vintage corbel brackets for shelving ($125), and original watercolors ($250) by local artist Joe Barker, who’s known to paint in Rittenhouse Square.

Mixed Company
60 North 3rd Street, 215-627-8688;
The get: Refinished, salvaged garden furniture
You could spend all your time this spring finding and refinishing retro garden furniture — but why bother, when Bernadette Lawler has already done such a fabulous job? At her addictive art, furniture and lifestyle boutique in Old City, Lawler offers salvaged outdoor furniture restored and repainted in tropical-punch shades — like a fuchsia 1940s garden chair ($150), and a 1960s glass table with yellow-green trim and four matching chairs, accented with a flower-bouquet seat design ($750 for the set). “I always look for heavy iron vintage pieces because of the design, plus they’re made really well. Then I use a color that will really make the piece pop,” says Lawler. Her store is stocked with an ever-changing selection of classic-to-modern antique furniture and home accents, plus cute accessories like handbags she picked up in Paris — “Pretty much everything I like,” she says.

Pot Luck Findings
379 West Glenside Avenue, Glenside; 215-885-3921
The get: Granny’s gleanings
In-the-know bargain hunters head to this little-known spot to pick through the hodgepodge of home items ripe for repair and repainting. Running the Glenside shop is clearly a labor of love for Denise Hector, who scours auctions and flea markets for treasures and often fixes pieces herself (like cute coffee tables, $20 to $100) before reselling them. Look for nostalgic gems like china cabinets, priced from $50 (“People will come in and say, ‘This reminds me of my grandmother’s,” says Hector), plus the quarter-apiece flatware, retro ashtrays ($1 each) and vintage lamps regularly snapped up by local java-shop owners. Don’t hesitate to ask Hector for her expert advice on creating new uses for old items, like making a headboard out of a door or a bench from a bed frame. Another cool idea: Buy a gorgeous piece of stained glass ($36 to $260) and hang it as a colorful, translucent room divider.

Rudy’s Mart
232 East Dublin Pike, Dublin, 215-249-9482;
The get: Country-style used and new furniture
Bucks County locals gush about Rudy’s Mart, which may be the area’s best-kept secret for new and used country-style furniture. Inside the spacious converted icehouse, owners Earl and Patty Robinson (Rudy’s was named for their Rottweiler-shepherd mix) feature a replenished-weekly array of antique finds (a kerosene lamp for $20), plus new items with rustic charm (a solid-wood dining set for $275, a dainty vanity for $199). Upstairs, Rudy’s Patch overflows with used kitchen items as well as cheap, kitschy tchotchkes like snow globes. On a sunny spring or summer day, the outside lawn is likely to be filled with patio furnishings, like four-piece aluminum or wicker patio sets ($299), plus shrubs and perennials.

Uhuru Furniture & Collectibles
1220 Spruce Street, 215-546-9616;
The get: Furniture
The goods are literally stacked to the ceiling — and spilling out onto the sidewalk — at this neighborhood home-furnishings thrift store. The friendly staff of employees and volunteers at Uhuru (Swahili for “freedom”) keeps the daily stream of donated home goods shuttling in and out of the nonprofit shop, which benefits community and economic development programs of the African People’s Education and Defense Fund. The amazing bargains (like dressers and desks for $35 and up) make for a shopping habit: Recent finds include a plush overstuffed chair ($85), a 1930s server chest with ornate waterfall-style brass knobs ($75), a 1950s walnut bedroom set ($225 for chest, dresser, mirror and night stand), and funky wood chairs ($15 and up) great for mixing and matching. Look for old movie posters and collectible dining sets, and ask about same-day furniture delivery service, plus speedy pickup (and tax deductibility) for stuff you’d like to donate.

Wacker’s Trading Post
630 Delsea Drive, Pitman, 856-589-7050;
The get: Used dining room sets
Wacker’s Trading Post is becoming a destination for urban hipsters as well as longtime suburban regulars; the South Jersey family business is recommended as much for its vast selection of inexpensive used furniture as its outstanding customer service. Our chic source loves the 1930s dining room set she found there ($465 for table, chairs, buffet, server and china cabinet), and particularly raves about how the Wacker’s staff polished it for her before pickup. “As a courtesy, we’ll clean up the furniture. If we see scratches, we’ll touch them up with some Old English,” says third-generation owner Charles Wacker. The front of the warehouse is devoted to used dining sets, ranging from 1920s cottage styles ($595) to contemporary designs that can run up to $2,000. Head to the back to browse aisles of love seats and sofas, bedroom furniture and bric-a-brac, with new shipments arriving daily. Says Wacker, “We turn over a third of the store every couple of weeks. We’re one of the last few places in the area that do this sort of thing.”

Fabulous Splurges

5 South Main Street, Lambertville, 609-397-6966;
The get: Clock faces and custom dining tables
David Teague has a passion for grand antique clock faces; his 10-year-old Lambertville shop has sold around 500 of them, culled from rail stations, churches, city halls and factories around the world. Spanning from two feet in diameter to 10 feet plus, the clocks make truly striking wall decorations ($1,200 and up). “I think as an architectural salvage piece, it’s a beautiful image. The most dramatic architectural image in a town is the clock tower — it’s the focal point,” explains the designer, who brings a background in carpentry to restoring and motorizing the dials. Teague is also known for his custom-crafted dining tables ($3,500 to $7,500) that join metal or butcher-block wood tops (or even the clock faces themselves) with vintage industrial bases. For Tom Hanks, he created a seven-foot-long rectangular zinc-topped design, with timbered legs from, of course, a clock tower.

Architectural Antiques Exchange
715 North 2nd Street, 215-922-3669;
The get: Vintage pub bars
Looking to add a really authentic touch to a poker or billiards room? Architectural Antiques Exchange features vintage pub bars salvaged from turn-of-the-century American saloons and European brasseries. (The bars cost between $2,500 and $28,000, depending on size and condition.) The cavernous Northern Liberties shop, located in a former 1920s furniture factory, showcases up to 30 solid-wood bars on the first floor alone: “It’s hard to find this kind of collection in the United States. People call and travel here from long distances,” says owner Mark Charry, who recently shipped a full-size bar all the way to Aspen. Climb the creaky stairs to explore roomfuls of stately stone fireplace mantels, antique doors, stained glass, café posters and original British pub signs — great to recreate an old-fashioned tavern atmosphere. Now all you need is the perfect bartender.

Artesano Iron Works
4443 Main Street, Manayunk, 215-508-0512;
The get: Hand-forged iron designs
Within the past three years, Artesano has become the go-to source for high-end handmade iron work; one customer recently ordered 27 outdoor lighting fixtures for his Main Line manse. Entrance doors ($6,000 to $20,000) and indoor railings for stairways and balconies ($5,000 to $20,000) are popular, with custom styles ranging from graceful Art Nouveau-inspired patterns to one client’s swirling, sunflower-dotted motif. There’s something delightfully romantic about Artesano’s process: After a thorough consultation and blueprint review, orders are sent to the workshop in Colombia, where head designer Ricardo Cabrera leads a team of 20 blacksmiths in hand-forging each piece. (Expect an eight-to-12-week turnaround.) Different patinas provide finishes from aged-looking to shiny-sleek, and outdoor gates and grates are deep-galvanized to prevent rust. The result: a unique, exquisite and lasting work of art.

309 Cherry Street, 215-627-5002;
The get: Light sculptures by Warren Muller
The first time you stroll into Bahdeebahdu’s airy Old City showroom, it’s hard not to be awestruck by Warren Muller’s extraordinary light sculptures. A local design luminary for over 25 years, Muller specializes in large-scale hanging fixtures (up to $30,000) that jumble salvaged objects both sizable (brooms, ladders, shopping carts) and small (milk bottles, hand tools, figurines). His loyal customers provide personal items for him to mix with his own eclectic findings, but the result is always as unpredictable as his muse. “Anything you can possibly name, I probably will use. Your trash is my cash,” Muller quips. Bahdeebahdu also features contemporary custom furnishings, like sturdy Sandback concrete tables, sleek Andreu World chairs and plush Stewart sofas. The shop’s interior design whiz, RJ Thornburg, can help match your decor to your Muller-designed chandelier.

Galbraith & Paul
Galbraith & Paul, 116 Shurs Lane, Manayunk, 215-508-0800; Rugs also available through Hob Nob, 8440 Germantown Avenue, Chestnut Hill; 215-313-8441
The get: Custom rugs
Renowned for gorgeous hand-printed-to-order fabrics, Galbraith & Paul has brought its signature recipe of quality and artistry to a new line of high-end rugs. Expect G&P’s boldly graphic designs in various patterns (“Donuts,” “Beads,” “Birch” and “Ivy”) and rich colors, guaranteed to enliven any room. “Everything is handcrafted with really fine material, but not formal or fussy. Put one of our rugs in a modern environment and it warms it up,” says designer Liz Galbraith. Each rug is custom-sized (from small squares to wall-to-wall coverage), and hand-tufted with either pure New Zealand wool ($82 per square foot) or a sumptuous wool-silk blend ($117 per square foot) — so, for example, an eight-by-10-foot rug for the living room would run between $6,500 and $9,300. And you’ll have yourself a one-of-a-kind heirloom piece for the new millennium.

George Nakashima Woodworker, S.A.</strong
1847 Aquetong Road, New Hope, 215-862-2272;
The get: Custom Nakashima furniture
You might be familiar with the late George Nakashima’s legendary wood furniture (and the vintage pieces’ skyrocketing prices), which honored the natural character and contours of each tree. You might not know that custom Nakashima creations are still available straight from the source at the George Nakashima Woodworkers studio and showroom in New Hope. These days, the rustic facility is headed by Mira Nakashima-Yarnall, who worked closely with her father for 20 years and absorbed his meticulous methods of hand-craftsmanship. She and her staff (some from her father’s tenure) continue to produce the classic Nakashima designs, like the Conoid chairs from 1960 ($2,500 each; they still make about four per week) and gorgeous Trestle dining tables (from $8,000 for a five-foot-by-three-foot version to $17,000 for a 10-foot-by-four-footer). ­Nakashima-Yarnall has also branched off into her own wood furniture line, the Keisho Collection — look for the graceful Concordia chair ($2,000), originally designed for a chamber ensemble. Visit the studio during open house from 1 to 4:30 p.m. each Saturday afternoon, or call for a design appointment.

John Alexander Ltd.
10-12 West Gravers Lane, Chestnut Hill, 215-242-0741;
The get: Museum-quality period chairs
Top off your high-meets-low decor with a museum-caliber, break-the-bank conversation piece from John Alexander Ltd. “If you’re really going to splurge, you want something that’s beautiful and pleasing to you,” says John A. Levitties, the approachably knowledgeable owner of the Chestnut Hill store known for 19th- and 20th-century British arts-and-crafts furnishings. From the selection of treasures, Levitties steers you to the gorgeous period chairs, pointing to an elegant turn-of-the-century wood seat by Walter Cave ($14,000) and an 1877
Japanese-inspired, upholstered mahogany armchair ($6,500). For the true aristocrat: the set of six stunning carved-oak-and-leather chairs and a stately dining table (about $200,000) originally crafted for the Norwich mansion of Jeremiah James Colman, of the Colman’s mustard fortune.

Len Davidson
The get: Custom neon
Brighten your home with a custom creation by Len Davidson, Philadelphia’s resident neon expert. A longtime neon collector and craftsman known for his old-fashioned workmanship, Davidson has written a book (Vintage Neon) and created some of the city’s most recognizable neon designs, such as the animated signs for the Trolley Car Diner in Mount Airy and Tony Luke’s in South Philly. Call to schedule a visit to his Art Museum-area studio, where he builds custom home accents ranging from abstract forms (colorful shapes and squiggles) to pictorial images perfect for kids’ bedrooms; recent custom orders have included a three-foot soccer ball for a young athlete ($600), and a child’s name mounted on Plexiglas with a heart shape dotting the “i.” (Names run $500 to $1,000.) Great for grown-ups: lines of neon lighting up a residential bar ($2,000 to $4,000).