Thursday, May 26, 2011

A Trip to the Brooklyn Flea

Dramatic yellow wisteria on the way to the Brooklyn Flea (click on photos to enlarge)

[This story first appeared last week on New York Social]

I'm fairly addicted to flea markets, antique stores, and second hand shops, and I guess that a lot of other people are too because The New York Times did a BIG story on Sunday about weekend flea markets. The writer asked why flea markets are so popular now but I don't think the correct conclusion was arrived at; I think flea markets are well-trafficked now because New Yorkers are yearning for something authentic, for something with history, for old New York. In an era of commercialization and re-zoning where it seems like every block has a new bland high rise, a Starbucks, and a bank, New Yorkers (this New Yorker at least) long for something different and unique.

The city's biggest and most visited flea markets previously lined 25th Street at Sixth Avenue but after the area was re-zoned, the parking lots where the flea markets thrived on the weekends were replaced by, yes, new bland high-rises with a Starbucks and a bank. Filling the void and founded in 2008 by Brooklyners Jonathan Butler and Eric Demby is the popular Brooklyn Flea. Located in Fort Greene on Saturdays and Williamsburg on Sundays, it features hundreds of vendors offering antiques, clothes, art, crafts, collectibles and delicious fresh food.

The Flea in Fort Greene, found on the asphalt playground of Bishop Laughlin Memorial High School at Lafayette and Clermont, is fun to visit on a Saturday. Pratt Institute is nearby so there are a lot of art students at the Flea, and I love the creative blend of people, merchandise, fashion and food. The Brooklyn Flea has a laid-back charm which feels to me like a mix of Chilmark and Paris. And it attracts a crowd with a lot of style.

It's easy get there. Take the C train to Lafayette Avenue and walk up Lafayette past the red house with the green cornices

the old wooden houses on Adelphi Street

and lace curtains protected by wrought iron.

Over the tented dealers rise the Masonic Temple on the left and Queen of All Saints Church on the right.

Inside are interesting vendors like Jarka and Peter Cole

who sell vintage clothes and jewelry that they make.

The boys at Vintage Van Gogh

and their selection of ties.

Spring flowers and colorful eggs

This girl was so cute, dressed circa 1962.

Old pins in pie tins – I love this sort of thing.

Sharp shoes

Glasses frames for sale

Vintage furniture and hanging lights at City Owl

Time for lunch. The back end of the Flea is lined with tents of vendors selling all kinds of fresh food. But just plan ahead because you will wait in line.

Lunch of a shrimp roll and a black coffee accompanied by a few raindrops.

After lunch I found my friends Enrique Crame and Matt Fox from the online store Fine and

The boys had set up shop for the day at the Brooklyn Flea and were doing good business with their bow ties, scarves and accessories.

I checked out their dapper ties.

This iron fixture offered post office boxes in a general store.

Strike a pose: Natasha Diggs and Gizmo "Vintage Honey"

Metal and glass

Lace gloves at the Flea – love it.

Great glasses and great shorts

At the end of the day I got a treat at Dough – "We fry in Bed-Sty" is their slogan. They make the most delicious donuts.

I got the Cafe au Lait flavor. Fantastic and fresh and luxuriously iced but not too sugary. These donuts are the new Magnolia cupcake. And only $2. Sweet. The perfect end to my trip to the Brooklyn Flea.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Fun Finds

Tarnished, dingy candlesticks
On Sunday I did my weekly streak down 17th Street, stopping into the Pippin antiques store, where we practically furnished our apartment, the Angel Street Thrift Shop, and Housing Thrift Shop. You never know what wonderful thing you will find that has just come in off the truck. I have been looking for awhile for pewter candlesticks which I guess are surprisingly rare because I haven't found any yet. The burnished matte silver glow of pewter is something that I find appealing now. They weren't pewter but at the Angel Street Thrift Shop I did find the two silver candlesticks pictured above. They were tarnished and dull, but they were heavy and I thought with some polish they might clean up. Also, they were $8 for the pair.
Down the street at Housing Works I found this little metal bud vase. I liked its small size and silver matte material. $6.

At home I retrieved the silver polish from under the kitchen sink and after five minute's polish – voila. Look at how those candlesticks shined up. That means they're silver-plated right?

Candlesticks require candles so here they are grouped with lilacs and a dahlia plant from the farmer's market, and a dragon fly votive candle holder I got somewhere, I can't remember where. The silver bud vase has a piece of phlox and a bit of ivy from the container garden on the sidewalk.

Here is one in the library on my printer illuminating a photograph which my aunt Monica gave me of my great aunt Milly's wedding day at 611.

One in the bedroom with some other little bits.

$4 for a silver-plated candlestick – not bad, right?

Friday, May 20, 2011


When my friend David Patrick Columbia at New York Social recently asked me to contribute to his web site, I was flattered. Yesterday was my first outing there with my piece about my weekend visit to the Brooklyn Flea. I'm excited! Thanks David. Visitors can click on the image below to go there and read it now, or in a week's time it will be posted here on the blog.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Kevin Paulsen at Bergdorf Goodman

BB with artist Kevin Paulsen (click on photos to enlarge)
A couple of years ago I saw exhibited at Bergdorf Goodman on the seventh floor in the Home department some poetic paintings which really appealed to me. The landscapes looked like pieces of early nineteenth century folk art. Painted in a naive style, they resembled wall fragments of plaster murals which had been placed in wood frames. In the nineteenth century, itinerant artists made a living painting wall murals because it was actually cheaper for the homeowner than buying wallpaper. But these paintings at Bergdorfs were not ancient relics, they were by artist Kevin Paulsen who lives up the Hudson in Kingston, New York. I loved the historic nature, natural colors, and light charm of the paintings, and later found Kevin on facebook. Now Bergdorfs has a new exhibition up of the artist's latest work, there until May 31st, and I was invited to the opening this week.
The scene in the Sunlight Room on the seventh floor at Bergdorf Goodman:

Originally from Kansas City, Kevin Paulsen attended the Kansas City Art Institute and then lived on Nantucket for fifteen years restoring homes and learning about the folk art of New England, particularly the muralists of the 1840s. "After the Civil War, I lose interest," Kevin said to me, "Before the Civil War we were still innocent, in a way." Indeed, I think it's the innocence and simplicity of these paintings which speak to me.
This painting is called "Re-Seeding" but as Kevin was working on it the tsunami in Japan occurred so he incorporated a huge wave, creating a tragic scene.

This is "The Palace of the Pachyderm" and you can see the elephant in the center. This magical vision reminded me of the eighteenth century Italian painting of the matching castles that I saw at Carlton Hobbs recently at the Spring Show NYC.

Kevin decorated the mocha-colored walls of the Skylight room with white stencils which looked perfect with the art.

Nicholas Manville, who is Vice President of Home at Bergdorf Goodman, told me at the opening that after he spotted a painting by Kevin in the home of his father's friend in the Washington, D.C., he tracked down the artist in Kingston for the first show. He reported that the paintings were priced at $6,500-$25,000 and that three had sold so far. The Skylight Room with its natural light offered a great setting for the work. "We have the right canvas for his canvas," said Nicholas.

Across the hall a woman was considering buying this painting. It's called "New York to Buffalo" and it depicts life on the Erie Canal. You can see "Albany" lettered at the bottom of the painting, and notice how the edges of the painting are ragged to look like a piece of plaster but Kevin told me that it was styrofoam so that it was light. I grew up in upstate New York, and the Erie Canal links all the places I spent time including Utica and Herkimer and Albany and Rochester where we visited my cousins last summer and walked along the Canal.

The woman looking at the painting had blond hair and was carrying a black Hermès Kelly bag with the closure unlatched to reveal the tiny golden Hermès logo. She said she was born in Russia and lived in Rochester; she also had homes in the Finger Lakes and on Park Avenue. The salesperson asked, "How do you travel between New York and Rochester?" and the woman said, "My plane." We marveled at the picture some more and she said, "I'm going to buy it." I hope she did.
Downstairs on the sidewalk the store windows along 58th Street featured more paintings by Kevin.

The darkening trees behind me reflected in the windows.

Here is a closer view –

I love this combination of fashion and art, the patterns and colors complementing one another perfectly. On West 58th Street I started breathing deeply which happens when I see something beautiful that really resonates with me.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

A McQueen Moment

The timing was amazing. Last Friday Kate Middleton, destined to be the queen of England, married Prince William as three billion people watched around the world in a really beautiful dress designed by Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen. Three days later on Monday night the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute previewed its new exhibition called "Savage Beauty," a retrospective of the work of McQueen. The name on everyone's mind now is the visionary English fashion genius who committed suicide last February at the age of forty.

Surely he would have loved to dress a future queen on her wedding day. I thought Kate Middleton got it all exactly right including her smallish bouquet composed of sweet William, for her husband, and sprigs from a myrtle planted by Queen Victoria in 1845.

(photos from
The wedding dress had a lace bodice and sleeves, a full skirt, and a long train, and was worn with a sheer veil and a Cartier diamond tiara borrowed from Queen Elizabeth. It was an elegant '50s Grace Kelly look.

When she walked with her father up the aisle of Westminster Abbey (the construction of which began in 1245), it was quite breathtaking. Aren't we lucky to have tv cameras soaring about at these events?

Westminster Abbey

The New Yorker said that in England, royal weddings are a work of art. They really do know how to throw one.

Then on Monday in New York, the Met previewed its new Alexander McQueen show at the Costume Institute, there until July 31st. Due to time restraints, I was not able to attend the preview, as I did last year which we videoed. But the museum sent over some images of the McQueen galleries:
Gallery view – The Romantic Mind

Gallery view – The Romantic mind

Gallery view – Romantic Nationalism

The reviews of the show have been great, and I can't wait to go up and see it. Though I wonder if it will be a little sad, this retrospective of a life cut short by self-destruction. Certainly the world needs the fantastically imaginative creativity of Alexander McQueen. Right now, HBO is showing Lady Gaga's Monster Ball Tour special, which is pretty spectacular, and all of her many eccentric outfits are very McQueen-like – wouldn't that have been an astonishing partnership to watch.
I took this picture of a window at Bergdorf Goodman when McQueen died. It featured an angel floating in his white dress trimmed with a fringe of feathers.

He is greatly missed.