Hello, readers! Brace yourselves... I have some fanastic interviews coming up with world travelers, authors and entrepreneurs. The first of these is right here: the duo behind high style vintage shop Anthology House. Seattle girls Amy + Alyse are known for their carefully curated Etsy shop and their keen eye for timeless style. Are you ready to get to know them? Here we go!
Tell Venti Cup readers how Anthology House began ...
Amy: We were on a girls trip to Portland in early 2012, Alyse suggested the idea to me over a bottle of wine on the train to Oregon. We spent the next few days in the Pearl District dabbling over the idea throughout the weekend. We've been friends for over 8 years and have a lot of common interests in home decor, designers and era vintage pieces.
What drew you to Etsy as a platform? ...
Alyse: We went back and forth on Etsy and Big Cartel for launching our business. Our goal at the start was how best to reach as many design conscious followers who shared a love for vintage like us. Since Etsy's policy is to feature handmade or vintage items only, we felt their platform would reach a bigger vintage audience. We also wanted to keep our price point fairly low but varied so our pieces could reach a wide range of potential buyers.
Amy: Yeah, we realized quickly that consumers are more familiar with Etsy. Aesthetically, Big Cartel has a beautiful site but Etsy seems to be more well-known and we opted for the platform that had a bigger audience. We'd mention both marketplaces in conversation and most of the time, people were familiar with Etsy but not Big Cartel. I'm not sure why, since they both launched in 2005. Back in 2006, a lot of creative circles that were posting images on Flickr and blogging were selling on Etsy. I noticed a trend that some were making the switch to Big Cartel in 2007/2008 but fast forward to now, it still seems Etsy is the place of choice to shop vintage.
What characteristics do you look for when shopping for vintage goods for the boutique?
Alyse: We are both drawn to color and of course gold right now. We gravitate towards pieces from the 50's-70's. Mid-Century Modern is obviously big, with shows like Mad Men and we’ve been in love with this period of style for some time. We share an immense appreciation for architecture and not only look for pieces that will enhance a room but the house as a whole. Living in Seattle has its perks as well since much of the era is greatly influences by Asian culture. Chinoiserie and Hollywood Regency are fabulous styles and can be fairly easy to find in our own backyard.
Amy: Part of the thrill is you never know what you'll discover on any given day. Our rule is, would it be something we'd display in our own homes? From there we decide if it's a conversation piece, unique, a hot item right now or speaks our aesthetic. Like Alyse said, we love color, pattern, angles, shape, bling and texture.
Tell us about a particular memorable shopping trip that resulted in a trove of fabulous treasures ...
Alyse: We visited an estate sale at a glorious 1962 home that had been owned by a former marine and his wife who had done extensive traveling throughout Asia. It was like stepping back in time when we walked through the front door. Imagine boxes of brass figurines, Vera scarves, Georges Briard housewares, and Asian antiquities. The furniture was impeccable and that is the one thing we were sad to turn down. At this time we don't have a lot of space to stock sizable furniture, however this is something we hope to work on in the future.
What designers (past or present) do you particularly love, and why?
Amy: For me, I like a blend of designers who specifically design and create pieces as well as creative interior decorators and designers, who have a good eye artistically to pull a room together. Specific home decor and furniture designers, I like C. Jere´, Karl Springer, Tommi Parzinger and a more present day admiration for Society Social's Roxy Owens. Interior designers would be individuals like local Seattleite, Leah Ball Steen of Revival Home & Garden -- she has incredible visual talent. I'm all about eclectic and this girl has got it! A few more that come to mind are Kelly Wearstler, Massucco Warner Miller, Celerie Kemble and a long list of others. Don't even get me started with my love of art. Work that is produced in a visual form from one's imagination will forever fascinate me but if I could mention just one, it would be Lisa Congdon. I have been following her progression as an artist since her days of blogging on Bird in the Hand. I took a 6-week virtual art class a few summers ago that she and Mati McDonough taught in tandem. It was so inspiring and amazing! I loved everyday of it.
Alyse: I have a fondness for vintage designers who were forward thinking and used simple, minimal designs that incorporated color and innovative materials. Charles and Ray Eames, Waylande Gregory, Harry Bertoia and Dorothy Draper are just a few of my favorites. It’s amazing their designs from over 50 years ago are still relevant and look current in today’s homes. I’m also a huge architecture fan and covet the early works of Neutra, Koenig, and Lautner. I had an amazing opportunity last Fall to meet author Michael Stern who wrote Julius Shulman: Palm Springs. He took me on a tour of some prominent mid-century modern homes in Palm Springs, including the Kaufmann House.
Running a business as a team can pose challenges. How do you navigate decisions in moments of disagreement?
Alyse: Luckily we haven't had too many disagreements about the business so far. We have system that works so both of us are involved in the day to day operations that can be more tedious so we can focus on the fun part -- shopping for pieces for the store! We text a lot, especially if we are treasure troving separately. If one of us finds something we are unsure of purchasing, we hold the piece until we are ready to leave, text a photo of the item and determine at the register. Our motto is you gotta love it to sell it.
Amy: We partnered with common interests and shared aesthetic but it's really so much more. I sometimes take on more of the creative side and Alyse handles more of the numbers side so we have a nice balance. We do however, consult each other for input on something we might take ownership of. So really our yin to yang flows nicely. Because our lives outside of the business are common and have just as many demands, it makes all the difference when priorities shift from business to family and your business partner gets it.
Can you offer my readers tips when it comes to shopping for vintage goods online?
Alyse: Photography is key. Since you can't touch and hold a piece, you are trusting the seller to be forthright in their photographs and descriptions. We believe our pictures speak for themselves, with different angles and close ups so our visitors can see if an item has any imperfections. We also use a condition scale in our description so you know if a piece is in excellent or average condition, for example.
Amy: Selection, pricing, shop policies, excellent customer service all come into play. It's so much more than finding the vintage piece you desire, it's about the entire experience. If you treat your customer as you would like to be treated, you're off to a good start. Be confident about your business decisions but be flexible when you should. Life is organic, we aren't robots. Loving your vintage piece should be so much more than favoriting and adding the to the shopping cart.
What about interior design. Is there a magic formula for incorporating vintage treasures into your home?
Alyse: I don't believe there is a magic formula. Your space is a reflection of you and it should make you happy. I am finding I like to incorporate more white into my home, as it allows you to work in fun, colorful accessories and artwork. Clustering similar items together and always odd numbers is another fun way to accent vintage. A vintage bar cart with fabulous drink ware is a must!
Amy: I will forever love the blend of eclectic mix, with both past and present pieces. I'm personally drawn to a room where you can tell it's an honest visual expression, unique to that person's interests. Vary the mix of color, shape and texture -- shifting placement of furniture, art, accessories until they are balanced just right and your entire room is a conversation piece. For vintage perhaps it might be a fabulous sofa with good bones and great shape or a varied mix of collected art, like a sculpture or an oil painting. Succulents and small fern plants are perfect for vintage vessels. Brass is still quite popular and there's a huge variety of figurines out there to add a little bling to your space.
What words of wisdom can you impart to other small business owners?
Alyse: Follow your passion and do what you love. Talk to other business owners in your industry and do your research. And most of all, if you are having fun and and learning along the way, you made the right choice to start your own business.
Amy: Not everyone is going to find joy in the same things you appreciate or delight in, but that's what makes us all unique and that's something to celebrate. If you have an idea you believe in, that's the first step. The best part of the journey, once you've taken the leap, is all of the wonderful opportunities and interesting people that will come your way from hard work and perseverance. Let the negative be a motivator and the positive be the glory.
What projects are you working on next?
Alyse: We will hopefully partner with some other retailers online and feature some higher ticket items through these sales channels. We also need to refurbish some of the furniture we have in storage. We will also focus our efforts on our Customer Spotlight section on our blog. Such posts will feature a Q + A with customers who have purchased from the shop and a few style shots of their piece(s).
Amy: Yes, we're so excited about the Customer Spotlight category! We've already connected with some amazing people and all from the chance they purchased from our shop. It's just too cool not to share with our followers and some our customers get the chance to be featured. So fun!
I think you can agree that these two are ideal business partners and value one anothers' contribution. I encourage you to visit their Etsy shop, their site and follow Amy & Alyse on pinterest. All pieces featured above are currently in inventory at the Anthology House boutique. happy shopping!
Thank you, ladies, for yor insightful interview answers!