I'm so excited to share with you this short interview with the fabulous vintage-loving hostess, Brini Maxwell! I spoke with Brini about thrifting in New York, her love of vintage and what inspires her. For more on Brini, check out her website and blog. Thanks, Brini!
Tell us about yourself!
Well, I've been described as a "prototypical, pre-feminist 1960's homemaker" and that description fits, though I have been known to champion women's rights in a very feminist way from time to time. I'm all about hospitality and gracious living. I like creating a lovely environment and atmosphere for friends and loved ones and a big part of that has to do with thrifting.
Actually, that's how the Style network described me when I was doing my show. I prefer to be described as one part Doris Day, one part Mary Tyler Moore and one part Sue Ann Nivens (Betty White's character on MTM). Among those, many yung-uns may not know much about Doris Day. She was America's sweetheart in the 50's and 60's - a very popular actress (the top female box-office draw in the 60's) and in later years an animal rights activist. She's exemplified by a warm, natural style of acting that made her seem like someone you'd want to have coffee with. On top of that, she was an incredible clothes horse, wearing the most beautiful styles in all her films and her subsequent television show in the late 60's and early 70's.
What draws you to vintage housewares and furniture? What's your vintage style and why?
I think vintage items are a treat for the eye. Aside from the fact that they were designed at a time when industrial and interior design was at a peak in America and abroad, they have a novelty in that they are familiar but forgotten aspects of daily life from our past. The environments I create have not only the now-ubiquitous furniture from the era, but also the ephemera - telephones, color-stories, appliances, publications. I take great care in assembling these environments to reflect a particular year.
Currently I'm in the process of renovating my Chelsea, NY apartment in an early 70's style with touches of chinoiserie and Hollywood regency. I'm mixing modern and traditional furnishings and accessories and redoing the kitchen with vintage appliances, including a Frigidaire Flair stove. I've just found vintage NOS tile that I'll be using on the floor and backsplash through RetroRenovation.com, a site run by my friend Pam.
For those of us living in the fly-over states, tell us about thrifting and vintage shopping in New York!
New York is an interesting market for thrifting. Most people think it's thrifted out, but if you have a sharp eye you can still find some fun bargains, even in the heart of the city. There's an enormous Salvation Army plant store on 46th St that is on two levels and they usually have something unusual. I also love to go out to Long Island, up to Westchester and out to New Jersey to look for things. There are so many great communities that have little thrift shops that are chock full of great vintage items that they locals don't understand the value of.
One of my very favorite shops recently closed. It was run by a synagogue that used to house a school on the south shore of Long Island and was actually in the gym. There were tables spread with treasures and ephemera that had been untouched since they had first been put out years ago. New stuff was constantly being added. There was always something to buy there.
Train your eye :: It's important to know what you're looking at and what you're looking for. I've become so good at going through clothing racks that all I need to do is walk down the asile and look closely while running my hands along the clothing on the rack and I can spot vintage by the appearance and feel of the fabric.
Go regularly :: Turnover is constant at these shops and you never know when that item you're looking for will be put out on the floor.
Have a positive attitude :: More than once I've gone to a thrift shop with an intention to find a very specific item - I needed a vintage ice crusher and I set out to find one. I went to one store and knew it would be there. It was. Another time I wanted a specific book. I was able to find it in another store on the very first try. Whether you're looking for something specific or just some wonderful finds, knowing you'll be successful before you leave the house is a great mindset to have. You attract the good stuff to you that way.
For tips on how to implement your finds, pick up DVDs of Brini's show and copies her book, check out Brini Maxwell's Guide to Gracious Living.
Photos :: Bradford Noble, Noblephoto.com