Bored with snap-together, Ikea-style pieces but lacking the budget for French cookware or an Eames molded-plastic chair?
Spice up your man cave, apartment or college dorm room with a splash from the past at the Georgetown Trailer Park Mall, a half-dozen shops housed in vintage camper trailers owned or rented by a group of artists perfecting the art of selective scrounging.
“We call it ‘slow retail,’ ” says Cathy Edens, who runs Comet Lodge Mercantile from a silver 1971 Airstream Overlander.
Like a chef on the slow-food trail might forage for herbs or mushrooms, Edens, a retail consultant by day, spends her off-time “picking,’’ a practice she describes as “sifting through a lot of old stuff to find the gems,’’ to fill her trailer with one-of-a-kind finds at happy-hour prices.
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I spent a Saturday scouting the mall for household items selling for $25 or less. The furniture inventory was lean, but I found plenty of kitschy accent pieces, kitchenware and wall decorations guaranteed to start a conversation.
Spread out on a picnic table in front of Edens’ Airstream were dozens of pairs of vintage shoes, her current obsession since she’s thinking of taking up shoemaking. But what about those Persian throw rugs spread out near her front door like welcome mats?
“Are they for sale?” I asked. “Yes,” she answered, flipping over tags that said “100 percent wool.” Sold at $25 each.
With the holidays coming up, I also liked her miniature papier-mâché Baby Jesus, Mary and Joseph manger figurines ($5 each).
Georgetown artists Shannon and Bruce Andersen launched the first trailer business — the Frida Gallery — in 2010 at 947 Doris St., where the market was until its recent move to a parking lot on Airport Way South across from the old Rainier Brewery.
“I’m from Austin,” says Shannon Andersen. “There are a lot of empty trailers there, and people started making businesses out of them.”
She bought her trailer in 2004 with the idea of turning it into a traveling gallery. “The truth is I bought a 24-foot trailer, and they aren’t that easy to move.’’
Not much was going on at the time in Georgetown, a South Seattle industrial area that’s since come into its own for its edgy art and music scene and eclectic assortment of bars, galleries and cafes.
The camper stayed parked in the driveway for seven years. Then one day she persuaded her landlord to rent her space in the back lot behind the art-fabrication studio where she and her husband, both sculptors, worked. The Georgetown Trailer Park Mall was born.
Frida, housed in a two-toned airstream painted blue and maroon and named for the Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, specializes in Texan and Mexican folk art, vintage clothing and one-of-a kind knickknacks.
I found framed photos of old-time carnival scenes for $15, a copper rabbit-shaped Jell-O mold for $17, a tin bread box with a rose pattern for $10 and a serving tray decorated with colorful images of hand-tooled cowboy boots ($10).
If my budget had been bigger and I was decorating a child’s room, I might have been tempted by a 1960s-era metal toy box on wheels ($40) at Smok’n Petz and Rusted Rocket, a trailer owned by Mike Poetzel and Bruce Andersen. Into the box would have gone an erector set ($20) in its original box and a 12-volume set of pre-Google-age “How to do it Yourself’’ encyclopedias ($25), circa 1961.
Pieces of Nelson McCoy Floraline pottery, a line of solid-color vases made in the 1960s for florist shops, were selling for $16-$24 at the Bitsy Shop, side-by-side Silver Streak and Aladdin trailer boutiques run by partners Liz Ophoven and Tif King.
The year-old business grew out of “our passion and love for things,” says Ophoven “and finding a purpose for our purchases,’’ which were outgrowing their homes.
Ceramic cookie jars shaped like a goose ($15) and a giant Oreo ($12) shared the shelves with “bottomless’’ plastic snack bowls lined with color photos of chips and peanuts ($4) and matching fruit salad bowls ($8).
A pair of knock-off Eames red plastic-molded chairs with steel legs ($15 for the set) were among a handful of fun furniture finds, including a shiny, black faux bamboo straight-backed chair ($16) and brass lamp ($20).
For the walls: Photos taken by Ophoven of vintage motel signs ($20), a wooden lily on a reed backing ($12) and a framed “Cure Worry’’ poster ($20) of a kindly looking banker advertising loans “to pay doctor bills promptly.’’
Ophoven and King scout flea markets, thrift stores and garage and estate sales with an eye for items that, like the trailers, can be “upcycled,” a trend Ophoven describes as “taking something and giving it a new purpose that’s higher than the old.’’
A Venus de Milo curtain of bamboo beads ($20) becomes a room divider, a laundry-room door or passageway into home bar that could be outfitted with four highball glasses monogrammed with the initial “N” ($22) and matching plastic “Bourbon’’ coasters ($16).
Finally, for anyone with an aching back from sitting all day in an office chair, there was a turquoise corduroy electric massage pillow ($24) in its original box showing a housewife no doubt relaxing after a long day of cooking, doing, laundry and mixing cocktails.
Carol Pucci is a Seattle-based freelance writer. She can be reached at www.carolpucci.com.