The yen for all things midcentury modern shows no signs of abating. Still fun and fresh, with sleek lines and bursts of color, it’s a style that unites everyone from Baby Boomers to Millennials. A wealth of choices at shops locally allow you to deck your abode out completely or add one or two conversation pieces to get the party started. We ventured from the streets of Bearden to the avenues of Happy Holler, from South Knoxville to Solway, to survey what midcentury modern treasures are on offer.
5214 Homberg Dr., 865.584.0832
Entering Nostalgia at Homberg, you’re greeted by an Alice in Wonderland mannequin plopped onto an overstuffed 1970s couch; her friend the White Rabbit, in an adjoining room, is presiding over a sumptuous display of table- and glassware. The store’s cream-and-orange cat, Oscar, snoozes in a chair beside her. Treasures to be found on this day included a stunning period starburst clock, piles and heaps of colorful vintage kitchenware, and “vintique” (as Nostalgia describes itself) art in throwback colors.
Nostalgia is housed in a very roomy redbrick building by the train tracks in Bearden, off Homberg. (An East Knoxville outpost at 1401 McCalla was recently sold to new owners who’ve renamed it Red Brick Market.) Dozens of vendors house their wares here, but there is a definite aesthetic at work, and although the place is packed, it never feels cluttered or overwhelmed. Allow plenty of time for browsing and watch the shop’s Facebook and Instagram for sale updates. And don’t expect the cat to get up for you.
Four Seasons Vintage
5710 Kingston Pike, Suite C, 865.247.4467
A pair of vintage tulip chairs reupholstered in Lily Pulitzer fabric beckon from the windows at Four Seasons’ prime location on Kingston Pike. It’s a wonder they don’t stop traffic. Inside the shop, where 40 dealers house their stuff, there are rambling corridors of vintage textiles, period jewelry, and curated ephemera alongside unique art pieces, retro and novelty lighting, picturesque architectural salvage and much more. Gently worn or never-worn vintage clothing is a would-be Cinderella’s dream.
A sleek wood Drexel sideboard from the late 1950s was loaded down with pretty and delicate china (matching china cabinet available), while nearby shelves were stacked with functional novelty 1960s tableware in bright colors. Prices are nationally and locally competitive. Regular events and parking lot “flea markets” make this a happening spot year-round, and the store maintains a waiting list for those looking for that piece from memory or dreams.
5710 Kingston Pike, Suite A, 865.247.5690
The immediate appeal of online shopping sites like eBay and Etsy was to reunite us with those forgotten treasures of our childhood. Although we still hit such sites (and almost all vintique vendors have an online presence), there is something about seeing a remembered piece in person that makes it irresistible.
For boomers in particular, the childhood nostalgia is strong here—on one chrome bar cart alone, Mom’s signature colorful Pyrex bowls nestled next to mugs representing TV cowboy Hopalong Cassidy (way before our time) and the Esso Tiger (same). Smaller than its neighboring store (Four Seasons, above), Vintage Treasures is absolutely packed with, well, treasures, including a Formica-topped occasional table in absolutely perfect condition, a working antique Westinghouse fan (priced a little out of budget), and a working 1960s candy bar machine (priced under market value). Bookworms will also note carefully curated books arranged by subject matter (no small thing), with a deep selection of local history, including several titles by our own Jack Neely.
1112 N. Central St., 865.522.3511
When the wooden floors creak upon your entrance into Retrospect, and the employees greet you like you are family (after all, even if you don’t know them, you’re probably less than one degree of separation from someone they do know), you’ll feel more as though you are in someone’s home than in a retail store. That said, the thrill of the hunt is strong, and if you are a lover of beautiful and/or quirky things, this is the hangout for you. Space is maximized to allow different booths and vignettes with various themes, including racks of gorgeous vintage clothes and a “1950s” corner. We bravely ignored the siren call of a collection of 1970s and 1980s lunch boxes before a striking Chromecraft oval table, surrounded by swiveled, buttery chairs, absolutely floored us. Other furniture finds that day included a pristine mid-mod table in flawless wood, with beautifully reupholstered fabric chairs, expandable to 8 feet and priced to sell. Merchandise moves in and out quickly, and the shop has a passionate following on Facebook, so when you see something, grab it! It won’t be there long.
1621 N. Central St., 865.337.5575
If mid-mod had a local place of worship, this would be it. On what used to be the edge of Happy Holler, now in the middle of Hipster Central, a repurposed garage has been transformed into the area’s largest midcentury modern showroom. The dealer collective that runs the shop scores estate pieces from the area’s most prestigious personalities and addresses: A recent show-stopper was a custom sofa with built-in cabinetry, designed by a prominent late granddaddy of modern architecture, for his own home. Danish modern pieces sit comfortably beside space-age ’70s furniture that wouldn’t be out of place in a Roger Corman film. All pieces are in absolute top-notch condition, with a workshop on site. Besides the eye-catching big ticket items, there is a unique selection of Atomic Ranch-style knickknacks, limited-edition prints, funky glassware, and a wondrous bookstore, run by our friends at the Book Eddy, right in the middle of the action. Prepare to spend hours wandering this destination spot.
4006 Chapman Highway, 865.240.4757
One of a chain of antique and flea markets across the state, Bargain Hunters holds 300 booths in the old Big Lots building at the corner of Moody Avenue and Chapman Highway. Be aware that the vibe here is more shabby chic than industrial sleek, and although we did spy a beautiful piece of blond Heywood Wakefield shelving at a pretty good price, this is more the spot for accent pieces, including some fun 1970s department-store art and a nice selection of 1960s-era Pyrex and kitchenware. Those whose tastes run to the rustic will find booths with older selections of vintage farm equipment and antique kitchen implements. There’s also a selection of collectibles, including sports cards and science-fiction geek specials.
8905 Oak Ridge Hwy, 865.250.1207
What you see in the cozy public showroom of Retro Salvage is just a portion of the inventory available—a glimpse through the window at the adjoining storefront shows many more statement pieces, and a perusal through the shop’s website and social media posts reveals even more. The shop, in Solway (yes, Solway), is open only on Saturday and Sunday and by appointment, a unique way to separate the browsers from the serious buyers who know what they want or are looking to fill a home out completely. In the showroom, plastic tulip chairs sat next to 1950s bench sofas, while a trio of barstools labeled simply “really cool chairs” shone next to the window. A coveted starburst clock (it’s our thing, besides lunch boxes) reigned over a slim-lined Danish modern chest. The inventory has been chosen with love and a discerning eye, and if Solway isn’t on your usual weekend outings, make it so. Leave time to stop next door to visit the mancave-friendly Junk Drunk, where prices are outrageously reasonable and the merchandise cheerfully displayed, and the newly opened Rustic Squirrel, home to all things home-welded and farmhouse chic.
Writer Tracy Jones lives in Knoxville, Tenn. One of the original contributors to Metro Pulse, she worked as a lifestyle magazine editor in Fort Myers and Naples, Fla., where she wrote about home, design, not-for-profit organizations and more.
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