I met Bobbie, owner of At Home Modern, several years ago at Modernism Week in Palm Springs. We’ve since remained good friends although she’s in Philadelphia and I’m in Los Angeles. We kept in touch trading vintage finds, pregnancy stories, and pictures of our babes. When Bobbie and her family were in Palm Springs, we made a date to see each other again. After years of keeping At Home Modern a secret, I felt that it’s time to share it with you and a little behind the woman behind the amazing vintage finds.
Bobbie specializes in vintage modern art, furniture and home decor objects from the 1950’s – 1980’s. If I’m ever in doubt about the authenticity or value of a piece, I snap a few pictures and send it to her and she’s full of information. She also gave me the 411 on Brimfield Flea Market so I could navigate it like a pro. Bobbie also has this amazing ability to transform vintage pieces into modern treasures, especially when it comes to chairs.
Vintage Shopping Tour: At Home Modern
Q: How long have you been in business and how did you get started?
I started At Home Modern in October of 2011. We had recently purchased a mid-century home (see the home tour here), and I was having a blast hunting for period appropriate vintage furnishings for it. After living there for about 1.5 years, we opened it up for a tour. That day, several people asked if I could help them locate similar items for their homes – a business was born! I began by buying for clients, and slowly built an inventory of small items I would sell on Etsy. When something would sell, I would use that money to buy something a little bigger or nicer. Eventually, I began buying furniture.
I now sell on Chairish, 1st dibs and from my showroom and warehouse. The warehouse is full of items that don’t fit in the shop or are in need of new upholstery. I have a lot of fun working with clients to customize those pieces.
Q: How would you describe your store’s style/aesthetic?
Clean, colorful, modern and fun.
Q: What types of items are your best sellers?
My specialties are upholstered goods (I have a chair problem) and vintage modern abstract paintings (I taught modern art history and museum studies for 10 years prior to AHM).
Q: What item do you have in the store now that you would want to have in your home?
Tricky question, because we live above the shop! My house is filled with “inventory!” But seriously, I’d have to say it’s the Vladimir Kagan “Erica” lounge chair with original 1972 upholstery. So rare, sculptural and comfy!
Q: What have you been inspired by lately?
Global textiles, the 1970’s, and “The Golden Girls.”
Q: Where do you mainly source your items from?
I spend a lot of time at auctions. I also recently bought the entire contents of a 3 bedroom house that was furnished in 1972. So many good pieces – the Kagan, an Ed Wormley sectional, Probber chairs and tables and a Paul Evans cocktail table!
Q: What was the first big lesson you learned from opening your online store? How does this impact opening your first brick and mortar store?
Items seem to have “energy.” If you buy something to sell it, and don’t love it, it just seems to stay around forever. I swear people can sense it. It’s hard to sell things if they don’t excite you. This is even more true in person. Another weird phenomenon I have witnessed is that things seem to know when I am looking for them. On several occasions, I have bought a single lamp or chair, only to happen upon another identical piece shortly after (both chairs and lamps sell better in pairs).
Q: What would your one piece of advice you would give to small businesses?
If you don’t love it, don’t do it!
Q: What trends, if any, are you tired of?
Chevron, glass tile, mid century knock-offs.
Q: You used to live in an amazing MCM home and have recently purchased a Victorian which you will use as a shared live/work space. Let us about that?
As much as we loved our MCM home, 5 years in the suburbs was long enough! It was an amazing experience, and living there changed my life. But, we are city folks. My husband and I had been dreaming about returning to the city and finding a building that we could both live and work in (he owns a company called Night Kitchen Interactive that works with museums). We sold our home in July 2015, rented a condo and began hunting. We found this building in March 2016, spend 4 months doing major renovations and moved into it in July 2016.
It was built in the 1890’s on what is now a major street in a rapidly gentrifying part of Philadephia called Fishtown. The storefront was a candy shop until 1993, and then sat vacant.
I am having a blast decorating it. Our last home really dictated what looked good in it. It had to be furnished with a certain style of mid-century furniture, or it just didn’t look right. This house has big rooms, great original details, high ceilings and lots of light. Sure, I still have lots of modern furnishings, but I can be much more eclectic with what else I mix in, and am having fun with color in a way I couldn’t before.
Q: What is your go-to tip or advice for someone looking to buy vintage furniture/decor?
Love is a recurring theme here. Buy it because you love it. Make sure it will stand the test of time, and never rush the process of building a great collection! These things take time.
Q: Any tips for shopping the flea market (from a seller’s perspective)?
Be polite and respectful to sellers! Don’t be afraid to make an offer, but make it a fair one. Remember, sellers spend a good amount of time finding, cleaning, fixing and transporting items to market. Many of them make a living this way and price items fairly.
Q: Every thrifter hoards or collects something? What’s your favorite item to collect?
Oh, so many things! But, my profession has given me an “easy come, easy go” attitude when it comes to objects. Having said that, most of the items I would never part with are paintings. I love a good vintage modern abstract or vintage portrait of a woman with attitude!
I hope you enjoyed this tour! Check out some of my favorite items from At Home Modern below!