Hunting for Biedermeier, Stickley, or Eames?Look no further than the towns and villages of rural PA.
For the furniture-obsessed, certain destinations have obvious appeal: the auction houses of Paris, the antiques shops of Stockholm, the sleek boutiques of Milan. But there is another world-class destination much closer to home: eastern Pennsylvania. At one time, the only home accessories this state was known for were the colorful "hex signs" produced in Lancaster County by the craftsman Jacob Zook. Today, carefully preserved antiques and contemporary chaises are all available in the Keystone State. Here, eight of the area's best-kept-secret sources:
Easton-based architect Matthew Hoey made history in 1996 when he designed the Corian Lounge Chair, the first fauteuil made of the Dupont material most commonly used for kitchen countertops. His newest creation is a polycarbonate chair, a futuristic take on a 19th-century Thonet rocker that combines a clear plastic seat with curvaceous gilded arms and legs. When he's not designing chairs, Hoey is hunting for them—for inspiration. He especially loves the collectible Contour Chair that he recently rescued from the trash and a 1938 steel office chair by Ironrite that he picked up for just $1.25 at the Children's Home of Easton Thrift Store (312 Town Center Blvd., Forks Plaza; 610/258-7723). Matthew Hoey 241 Northampton St.; 610/559-0180 (by appointment).
In The Navy
The world's most famous office chair is probably the 1006 Classic, or Navy chair, first produced by Emeco for the U.S. government in 1944. Philippe Starck so admired the design that he updated it for Ian Schrager's Hudson Hotel in New York City. At the Emeco headquarters, you can purchase both the original ($400) and the Hudson chair, its shiny reincarnation ($500-$950). Besides avoiding freight charges, visitors can even tour the factory. Emeco 805 W. Elm Ave., Hanover; 717/637-5951; www.emeco.net.
Nice And Thrifty
Twenty years ago, you could still find a bargain in a New York City thrift shop; nowadays, those same stores can seem more like well-groomed auction houses. But in Pennsylvania, competition isn't nearly as fierce. That's how decorator Susan Gutfreund, who regularly scours thrift shops near her country house, has unearthed amazing pieces for a fraction of their market price, including a Billy Baldwin étagère discovered at the Bryn Mawr Hospital Thrift Shop (801 County Line Rd.; 610/525-4888) and a rare Karl Springer coffee table at the Neighborhood League Shop in Wayne (191 E. Lancaster Pike; 610/688-0113).
Where The Art Is
In a 120-year-old converted schoolhouse in Durham, art aficionados will delight in finding Ann Marshall and her husband, master printmaker Jean-Paul Russell, who worked for Andy Warhol in New York. The two carry silk screens and photo-screen prints from established and emerging international artists, including Polly Apfelbaum, John Giorno, Scott Kilgour, James Nares, and Tom Slaughter. Even a novice collector wouldn't go wrong with O Espelho, a stunning print by Brazilian artist Beatriz Milhazes, priced at a very reasonable $1,800. From a recent edition of 40 one was purchased by the Museum of Modern Art. Durham Press 892 Durham Rd., Durham; 610/346-6133; www.durhampress.com.
On Saturdays, Karl Stirner, the noted German-born sculptor, bypasses the antiques shops on Easton's Northampton Street in favor of the area's secondhand markets. At the Saylorsburg Flea Market (Saturdays and Sundays on Rte. 33, about 20 miles north of Easton; 570/992-8044) he "stole" a Rembrandt etching for $8. At Rice's Sale & Country Market (6326 Green Hill Rd., New Hope; 215/297-5993) he landed an original Matisse for $5, plus a portrait of a male nude that Stirner is convinced is by Thomas Eakins. "I got it for three hundred dollars," he says, laughing as he points to the subject's diminutive endowment. "The seller said he priced it at a hundred dollars an inch."
George Nakashima—whose work is exhibited in the Metropolitan Museum of Art and London's Victoria & Albert Museum—is known throughout the world for his minimalist furniture designs, which are part Shaker, part Japanese, and all extraordinary. Nakashima died in 1990, but his architect daughter Mira Nakashima Yarnall keeps the legend alive at his workshop in New Hope. Because of the demand, orders can take up to a year, but his pieces are more than worth the wait. George Nakashima Woodworker 1847 Aquetong Rd., New Hope; 215/862-2272; www.nakashimawoodworker.com; open house every Saturday, 1-4, or call to schedule a tour.
Bigger is Better
Devotees of New York City's 9,000-square-foot Olde Good Things outpost (124 W. 24th St.; 212/989-8401) will be overwhelmed by the 80,000-square-foot mother ship in Scranton. This architectural salvage warehouse is to crystal chandeliers what Home Depot is to plumbing fixtures. Items range from Victorian-era doorknobs to pressed-copper Art Deco panels rescued from Boston's landmark New England Power Building. A recent find: three sets of 1920's wrought-iron gates made by Samuel Yellin, the Louis Comfort Tiffany of ironwork. Olde Good Things 411 Gilligan St., Scranton; 570/341-7668; www.oldegoodthings.com.
The Great Indoors
Antiquing can be treacherous, a minefield of reproductions battered to look authentic. To minimize this risk, head to Carriage Barn Antiques in Clarks Summit, a cavernous space filled with fine furniture, including 18th-century beds and Stickley bookcases. "I do not cater to, nor do I want, the flea-market crowd," says owner Sam Mundrake. "We have everything from the late 1700's to the 1920's—restored to what it would have looked like originally." Plus, Carriage Barn delivers. "Our trucks drive up and down the East Coast," says Mundrake. "The drivers go around Manhattan more than some people who live there!" Carriage Barn Antiques 1550 Fairview Rd., Clarks Summit; 570/587-5405; www.carriagebarnantiques.com.