The thrill of the hunt: How to shop vintage

A local expert shares her favorite San Francisco Bay Area vintage and consignment shops
Story by Jennie Nunn

Design pro Chloe Warner loves to mix and match styles, in the process giving new life to vintage pieces. Scoring a good deal doesn’t hurt either.

“When I encounter a room that looks too ‘done,’ I go to a consignment shop to find something to throw the mix off a bit,” she says. To avoid the straight-out-of-a-catalog look, Chloe hits these favorite secondhand shops for just the right finishing touch.

For a Parisian flea-market look: “When I need an anchor piece for a room, like a mottled gold screen or an oversize bamboo-framed mirror, this is where I go,” Chloe says of Past Perfect, a massive store in the Marina.

Striped red-and-white Italian glass table lamps, oil paintings in gilded frames, shiny brass trunks with nailhead trim, black-and-white silhouette prints, and lime green sectional sofas pop against the store’s all-white walls.

For jewelry, mirrored coffee tables, and Murano glass decanters, visit Past Perfect’s same-name sister store (2224 Union St., S.F.; 415/929-7651), four blocks away. 2246 Lombard St., S.F.; 415/ 929-2288.

For a nod to modernism: Family-owned Janakos & Company in Burlingame is full of midcentury pieces like white-leather-and-chrome chairs straight from Charlie’s Angels, a velvet 1930s sofa designed by Timothy Pflueger for the Alameda Theater, and a 1970s Lucite globe chandelier by Verner Panton.

“This futuristic chandelier would contrast really well above a rustic, picnic-style dining table,” Chloe says. She loves the variety here, from one-of-a-kind Spanish revival antiques to paisley-patterned highball glasses. Don’t miss Janakos’s new 1,200-square-foot outlet warehouse next door. 1001 California Dr., Burlingame; 650/344-4050.

For standout accents: “You may end up digging around a bit, but it’s worth it,” Chloe says of the etched crystal goblets, apothecary jars with cork lids, and ladylike blue-and-white porcelain plates at the newest Leftovers outpost (the flagship is nearby: closed Tue; 1259 Polk St., S.F.; 415/404-6540).

“I’ve found cheeky salt and pepper shakers, coral napkin rings, and graphic dessert plates.” Closed Tue; 1243 Sutter St., S.F.; 415/409-0088.

For that ’60s touch: In Emeryville, interior designer Val Perez-Ibardolasa presides over Retro @ Home’s collection of milk-glass art, kitschy tiki mugs, and Hawaiian dolls, as well as large pieces like a triptych by Oakland artist Michael Maes, a wood credenza by Peter Hvidt, and re-covered Danish modern sofas.

“The upholstered stuff is straight out of Mad Men,” says Chloe. “And I love how the small pieces are arranged by color on drop-dead gorgeous étagères.” Closed Mon–Wed; 3811 San Pablo Ave., Emeryville; 510/658-6600.

Chloe’s tips for buying vintage like a pro

Bring the right tools. Have a tape measure and a camera on hand. “Take pictures of anything that catches your eye, along with its price tag,” says Chloe. “At the end of the day, look through your pics and ​ determine what’s worth a return visit.” make a plan

Don’t rush. Overcrowded stores can be overwhelming, so walk slowly and give your eyes a chance to adjust. “I always approach a store clockwise,” says Chloe. “It gives order to an otherwise disorderly space―but it could just be the Virgo in me too.”

Look beyond the current condition. Almost anything can be tuned up to fit your vision―color, fabric, and finish are all up for grabs. A lamp that at first glance appears hopeless might be easily revived by replacing an out-of-date shade and rewiring.

More: 5 great salvage makeovers

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