Yesterday I drove all over northern Michigan, accompanying my parents on their Craigslist hunting adventures.
We ended up in the middle of downtown Grand Rapids in search of a Steelcase coffee table. The store where the table was located was an experience in and of itself. It was one of those times where I really wished I had brought a camera. But of course, I had not. So I just gazed in dumbstruck awe.
Real, honest-to-goodness retro furniture from the '50s, '60s, and '70s filled the store. It looked like a set straight out of Mad Men. Funky chairs and lamps lined the walls. Tables that could have come straight out of my grandmother's house were stacked in the middle of the room. Oranges and yellows and steel and brass was everywhere.
The store was owned by two recent graduates of design school. They started telling us about their passion for retro furniture. They talked about the mass supplies of designer furniture produced for Midwest homes made rich by American industry during the 1950s, '60s, and '70s.
They talked about the differences between designer retro furniture and cheap knock-offs. They tossed around designer names like Charles Eames, Harry Bertoia, and Eero Saarinen. The table we were looking at cost $40. But some of the furniture in the store was worth thousands of dollars.
But better still was entering a whole new world of retro designer furniture where suddenly, ugly old lamps and grandmothers' table took on a whole new meaning.