Home design has a new face on Tacoma’s Antique Row. Alison Bryan, owner of the inspired vintage store Poppy & Co. (765 Broadway), is igniting a brand of highly sought-after decorating called upcycling — finding, refinishing, and painting vintage furniture and home accessories to reflect a unique new aesthetic. With a bit of nostalgia and a lot of whimsy, Poppy & Co. is bringing a new energy to downtown Tacoma.
Bryan got her start as a popular home-design blogger. As a newlywed and new mother, she looked for pieces that spoke to her, seeking budget finds that could be revived. “I wanted a pretty house without spending a lot,” she said.
Her first storefront was a project with Spaceworks, Tacoma’s creative enterprise incubator. She then moved into Poppy & Co.’s current space. She continued refining her design and merchandising skills and is now a sought-after expert and consultant.
On her recent appearance on KING 5’s “Evening Magazine,” Bryan shared her tips for sourcing great vintage furniture for her shop and her home. “When I see something, I think ‘Would I love to have this in my house?’” she said.
Poppy & Co. is a cooperative group of four talented women who combine their design skills and one-of-a-kind styles to give visitors an amazing sensory experience. Walking into Poppy & Co. is like entering an ethereal world where vintage furniture and home accessories nearly glow with potential.
Shoppers love the atmosphere and are delighted to find a treasured antique with a new life, or a forgotten object made useful again simply by being showcased in an unexpected way.
Co-owner Julie Hart welcomes visitors looking to add a Poppy & Co. piece to their collections. “People are drawn to the uniqueness and the quality here. You’re not going to find the pieces anywhere else,” she said.
“Coming here is more personal. It’s an experience.”
The “collected look” — vintage in today’s homes
Smaller spaces, downsizing, the romance of heirloom pieces and a quest for lasting quality lead people to seek out vintage and upcycled décor. Today’s design ideas and inspiration are often collected online and through social media — blogs, Facebook pages, Etsy shops and Pinterest boards all spread the word: uniqueness, personality, and inspiration are what shoppers look for in their homes today.
“It’s an Etsy and Pinterest world,” Bryan said. “People are looking for eclectic. They’re mixing styles and old with new pieces.”
Bryan describes this aesthetic as a “collected look” — creating a highly personal space that appears to have evolved as the owner collects and finds inspiration in pieces over time. This design style has memory, imbibing the owner’s personality into every corner rather than looking like a furniture showroom.
“You won’t go into a high-end furniture store and see something beautiful and artistically-painted,” she said. “Our designs are like owning little pieces of art.”
Just as Poppy & Co. is defining a collected look, nearby Millesime Designs (745 Broadway) is drawing fans by offering designs that are part contemporary art, part craft corner, and mixing vintage with new and decorative with functional in artistic ways.
Millesime owner Summer Briggs creates unique furniture and accessories for her Antique Row storefront and her Etsy shop. Her space is a treat for those seeking youthful and vibrant design.
“As people are downsizing they’re finding it important to live with the things they love. People are spending their money on things that have a connection with them,” Briggs said.
Tacoma’s wealth of historic homes also brings enthusiastic shoppers to Antique Row. Bryan said the area is frequented by young couples and new owners who have purchased older homes in neighborhoods such as Browns Point, Dash Point, and North Tacoma and want to connect their décor with their home’s past while bringing in a fresh take on vintage pieces.
Wherever they live, most Antique Row shoppers are looking for home décor with history and uniqueness, Bryan said. From vacation homes and cottages to new downtown condos, people want to fill their spaces with items that have a story. “Even in the suburbs in a new home, you want to add character to it,” Bryan said.
What to buy
Up the street from Poppy & Co. you’ll find the much-buzzed about Midcenturyville (938 Broadway). Owner Kathy McMahon is a friend and neighbor of Bryan’s and the two often get together to talk about their stores.
Because it’s more like a gallery than a vintage store, visiting Midcenturyville is like walking onto a “Mad Men” set. The large, well-lit space gives the pieces room to breathe and visitors a chance to pause and imagine their inner Don or Betty Draper, lounging in one of the store’s carefully curated vignettes.
McMahon, an Arizona transplant and former editorial director for magazines like Tucson Home, advises people to buy carefully, but buy what speaks to them. “Go with what you like. Don’t be afraid to mix styles,” she said.
McMahon said some shoppers are looking for a specific designer but most people seek out vintage because it’s withstood the test of time. “People are drawn to the quality of a piece that’s been around for 50 to 60 years,” McMahon said. Midcenturyville’s customers are also drawn to the nostalgia and personal memories surrounding her pieces, she said.
Nostalgia fuels the success of other quality vintage stores on Tacoma’s Antique Row. Broadway’s Best Antiques (742 Broadway) has been drawing collectors from Portland to Seattle for owner Ron Adamson’s carefully selected pieces with a masculine and playful flair.
The space is bright and sophisticated, with room to linger and appreciate the vintage boudoir-meets-cigar-room aesthetic. “It’s guy stuff. Women don’t mind,” he quipped.
Adamson is both knowledgeable and entertaining. Fun, welcoming, and decidedly confident, he knows the quality of his vintage pieces. “This is better than what you get in new furniture stores. It’s lasted 100 years, not just 10 years,” he said.
Among Broadway’s Best Antiques’ strengths are its vintage juke boxes and coin-op machines, antique bar accessories, furniture, lighting, and advertising memorabilia. The upscale and witty selection often has customers lingering.
“Buy what you like,” Adamson advises. “Focus on quality. Everyone is different and everyone collects something.”
Pull it all together
To achieve that collected look in your home, Bryan advises people to pick a color story and find vintage pieces that fit with what you have. “Go through your things and pick out a few pieces you love. Then rebuild around them,” she said. “When I’m doing a room I choose a fabric I love from a rug or a pillow and pull the colors from it into the furniture.”
Bryan frequently shops for fabric in the nearby Triangle District at home accessories store Dwelling (626 St. Helens), where co-owners Pamela Weeks and Suzanne Molt offer a delightful collection of home décor, furnishings and fabrics. As former interior decorators, they understand the modern home shoppers’ interests.
“A lot of people are refurbishing and reusing things they have,” Molt said. “People want important pieces that are meaningful.” The store’s top sellers include its bright, vintage-inspired fabrics and locally handmade items with quotes or stories behind them. “Anything inspirational is popular,” she said.
After seeing the quality in Antiques Row shops like Poppy & Co., people are inspired to decorate their homes with pieces that speak to them, Bryan said. Using vintage and upcycled pieces to create a collected look provides cohesiveness to a room that’s both beautiful and personal. “That is the heart of decorating vintage style: find an idea that will pull it all together and run with it.”
Before You Go
Vintage stores can have limited hours — check each store’s website or phone ahead before heading out. Some stores post new inventory on their websites, Facebook pages or Etsy shops. Follow your favorite stores online and join their email lists for announcements about special promotions, sidewalk sales and events. See Tacoma Antique Row for more information.