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Antiquing Rural Pennsylvania

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:

Hot Seats

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.

Flea-Market Fanatic

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."

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