Friday, September 18, 2009



Today we're featuring Shag, a mid-century, vintage shop that opened this past July in Mid-town Philly. Shag carries furniture and home and kitchen accessories. We know the term “fabulous” is thrown around a lot in this particular section of Center City, but Shag really is a fabulous shop. Clean, monochromatic and warm, the store has a roomy, open floor plan, a remarkable feat considering the small square footage. The product is strategically set to create a look of sparing abundance. The aesthetic is very much like that of mid-century furniture, in that it speaks volumes with sleek, minimalist lines. The goods are clean, in impeccable condition and are very reasonably priced; every time we have gone in, we have been delighted with new choices. We caught up with Jenn and Matt, husband/wife owners of Shag, so we could shamelessly gush about how much we love the store, pick their brains about design, try to get them to divulge the secrets of their process (you'll have to excuse the poor quality of photos below, my camera belongs in it's own vintage store at this point!)

DT: Where does your love of mid-century come from? 

Jennifer: I think it goes back to when I was kid and was fascinated by what I found in my grandma's kitchen. She had an old Hoosier cabinet and metal kitchen cart. That was probably the sub-conscious beginning. I really started to fall in love with the period through vintage ephemera while studying to be a graphic designer in San Francisco. I could spend hours looking at the typography in an old ticket or piece of packaging. That led me into the furniture. When we left San Francisco we sold just about everything in our apartment and purchased a great mid century chair. We were moving to a much smaller apartment in New York City.
Matthew: I really had not thought specifically about the period until we bought that chair in San Francisco. I've never liked furniture that was fussy or ornate-I've always gravitated towards clean lines and simple but smart design.

DT: What is your research process when finding pieces for your shop?
Jennifer and Matthew: We should probably do more research. Right now it is all about instinct and having an eye for the period. We aren't looking to sell a vintage Eames chair for thousands of dollars-that's not the price range we're working in. Instead, we're looking for, well, the stuff that was in my grandma's house: well cared for furniture and housewares from the period. We actually end up doing post-research. We'll find something that looks great and will research the company that made it. Then we'll be on the look out for more items made by that company. It is a bit of a treasure hunt.

DT: What is the mid-century market like?  Where do you source things?
Jennifer: The market seems good. We get a mix of customers-some knowledgeable about the period and some that are just looking for nice glasses. It's fun to introduce someone to the period that maybe hasn't thought much about it. We're trying to make "antiques" a bit less scary, a bit less intimidating. This stuff was made to be used and I think it should be.
As for sourcing: that's a secret. I will tell you that we've been all over PA & NJ, made a few trips to South Carolina, and have even been to West Virginia.
Matthew: The Philadelphia market for antiques seems pretty good. Even on Pine Street-Antique Row-you'll find a mix of stores covering all periods. Most have mid century pieces. But each store comes at it from a different angle which gives customers very different experiences. We've taken a more curated approach with our store, giving someone a boutique shopping experience. It feels less like a resale shop.

DT: Do you have a favorite designer? 
Jennifer: Obviously, Eames stands out. But I'm not really partial to any one in particular.
Matthew: I get excited about industrial Jens Risom pieces.

DT: What has been your most exciting find?
Jennifer: That's tough. There have definitely been pieces that have been difficult for me to part with: the red stool that is in our web site photo and a beautiful wooden Danish folding chair that I don't think we will ever find another one of. The most exciting finds are always great consoles and awesome cocktail sets. I get pretty excited over an ottoman, too.
Matthew: The Flare Ware cookie jar that was shaped like a space capsule from the 1960s.

DT: What is your favorite room in your house, past or present, and why?

Jennifer: I have a love/hate relationship with my kitchen. I love it because it still has the 1950s metal cabinets and porcelain sink-a great find. I sometimes hate it because I know how much work it will take to restore what I want to keep and replace what needs to go. I also love our dining room because we bought the mid century dining room set before we even had a dining room. After the chair in San Francisco it was our first major mid century modern purchase. It is a Broyhill Brasila set that includes the china cabinet, buffet, and table with six chairs. My parents were nice enough to store it for us until we had the space for it.
Matthew: Our TV room. We have the most variety of mid century pieces in that room: the chair from San Francisco (our cat loves to sleep on it), a floor to ceiling pole lamp, a vintage ottoman, and a shag rug. We also have a sofa from Design Within Reach-a splurge purchase from our move to NYC.

DT: What's your advice for someone that's decorating with mid-century pieces?
Jennifer and Matthew: Buy what you love, regardless of the designer name it does or does not have. Buy what you will use-this stuff wasn't made to sit behind glass on a shelf. Buy what works with what you already own or aspire to own-mid century mixes well with many just about any style.

DT: What are some of your favorite decorating blogs?
Jennifer: For decorating I always go to design*sponge. I also get inspiration from the following general design/lifestyle blogs:

Thanks Jenn and Matt! Be sure to check out their store at 118 Pine Street, on the corner of Pine and Quince.
Have a good weekend!

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