I think my love of a prized find can be traced all the way back to childhood escapes to Boston, which among our many stops always included Filene’s Basement.
The one and only – Filene’s Basement
The end all be all of a bargain, the couture find for $25. There are few things as gratifying. I mourn the loss the Downtown Filene’s Basement. It is now home to Havas – Arnold Worldwide. It was bound to have a new life, and they did pay homage to it by naming the conference rooms after the varied departments: Hosiery, Dungarees, Housewares, etc. I’m fond of the old names but that’s not where the real action took place – anything worth mentioning, anything worth remembering – happened in the basement! Lord and Taylor was one of the stops on our circuit. Back in the day they had a restaurant –
The Birdcage – designed by Raymond Lowey
The Birdcage, where we fortified ourselves for our next six or so hours of shopping. Poor Jo-Jo, my baby sister, hated the Birdcage, but I rather admired the chirping that filled the air and the delicate birdcage painting that adorned the walls. The entire experience was steeped with anticipation and illicit as all get out. I call it an escape because shopping to my mother was an experience both revered and respected. We were taken out of school for these adventurers, and told under no circumstances were we to share them with our Father. It was our secret, and admittedly a habit carried into adulthood – nothing is ever new (a brief confirmation that you looked fabulous in the dressing room made the item old of course). That’s an issue – I mean, a story for another time. The delight I find in a bargain often supersedes my most high-brow purchases. While I appreciate the artistry, they lack the magic of something discovered, re-purposed, given new life with imagination and a loving hand.
An Estate Sale, a Flea Market, a Yard Sale all offer the possibility of something magic among the tattered and worn, broken and almost forgotten. I spotted an estate sale on my way to yoga this morning. As the car whizzed past, I spotted a pink commode and instantly imagined it in black lacquer with gold hardware – divine, but yoga awaited, and I get so little time to take care of my personal well-being so the commode had to wait. Regrettably, when I returned it had been purchased. I considered it in a beautiful gray – matte finish, marble top, gold hardware. The second iteration was just to torture myself. As it turned out – all the items I wanted at the sale were taken by one of the Cape’s best – Helen Baker, of Helen Baker Interiors with whom I collaborated on The Surf Shack. Helen is a peach, and clearly has a great eye as she snapped up all the pieces I would have purchased for myself. No hard feelings, she’ll give them the attention they deserve and they will land in some deserving person’s home.
I made the acquaintance of
Ed Tessier, MV Auctions and me (after hot yoga!)
Ed Tessier of MV Auctions and the man responsible for the Estate Sale. He too has a good eye, and a great job. His prices, however, could not be considered bargain basement. Still there were several additional items that Helen hadn’t purchased that I gave consideration too – The marble Buda, the Day at the Beach Oil Painting,
but at $350. and $1200. respectively, I reminded myself that I was still in the hunt for a house, and passed.
My real bargain came in a place that by all rights should have a bargain – The Wellfleet Flea Market. A beautiful brass. horsehead hangar of sorts – origin not exactly certain. I know this, I have seen it sold before I could get it – as a coat rack. I fell in love with it and was heart-broken to learn that it was one of a kind or at least they only had one available, and there it was, amidst all the tee-shirts, and photos, records and fishing reels, on a table with oodles of costume jewelery. They wanted $28. I paid $15., and I will have it fitted with a brass rod and hangers so that after a long hiatus in storage – my coats can be proudly displayed.
The clouds parted when I saw that brass beauty on the table – what fun. I owe a special thanks to my new, and wonderful friend Caroline Hughes-Wilder for alerting me to the market, for her love of a good find, and for her unique style!