House Call: Maggie Mason of Mighty Goods

San Francisco

There's a good chance that you've stopped by at least one of her websites. Maggie Mason is the genius behind Mighty Goods (a shopping site), Mighty Junior (devoted to kiddies), Mighty Girl (her personal blog), Mighty Finds (an Etsy shop) and — as of last week — Mighty Haus (a shopping site devoted to housewares). Somewhere between running all of these lovely sites, she found time to snap some photos of her San Francisco apartment and give us a little insight into her decor.

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How would you describe your decorating style? Spare, pop colors, a sense of humor, and lots of vintage. I want our things to have their own little souls. So new things, unless they're handmade, often don't feel right to me.

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Favorite spot in your home and why? The nursery, by far, because it's the only room that's exactly how I want it. We decided to give it the feel of a child's picture encyclopedia, circa 1950. So we projected up a design by Pancake and Franks (Water No. 169), and used it as a guide to paint bubbles on the wall, then we hung a whole fleet of Flensted's flying viking-ship mobiles above the crib. We even found a miniature antique diver's helmet at a flea market, which I planned to turn into a nightlight, until my husband pointed out that it would be terrifying.

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What's on your nightstand? Usually, a precarious pile of outdated magazines and half-finished books, which I sweep into a drawer when we have company. There's also a little light to read by, and an old mug for the hair bands and the rings I take off before going to bed.

Taped to the side is a hand-painted postcard of a harbor with a note on the front that reads, "I leave by boat tonight. 8/12/09"

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Favorite childhood memento that's in your home? My old nursery rhyme book, with illustrations by Gyo Fujikawa. I remembered it being enormous, but is actually just book sized. It's on a shelf in Hank's room now, opened to a page that has pirate ducks on a big ship.

Favorite travel keepsake? Travel is our thing, so there's a lot of happy souvenirs around from our trips. I particularly love:

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- A robot and an owlish guy made of found objects from a tiny shop in Buenos Aires called Objetos Encontrados, one of my favorite places anywhere. I usually keep them in our terrariums.

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- Reproduction Santos hands from a Mighty Finds trip to Portland. (Those are from Flutter.)

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- Our Communist Ballerina Clock that Bryan brought back from a work trip to China. We have a few vintage clocks, but that one is ludicrously superior. I don't even care that it can't tell time, though it's apparently blocking my chi or something — according to the Feng Shui crowd.

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Current inspiration(s) for your work? I'm inspired by shopkeepers who are successful curators, because it's something I think about every day with Mighty Goods. It's easy to pull together a bunch of pretty stuff, but it's a rare talent to find a thread that connects every piece.

Canoe, in Portland, has such a clean viewpoint, there's not a single thing that doesn't belong. I asked one of the owners what their criteria was, and he said they always look for objects that have stories behind them, and many are things that have been produced for decades or even generations.

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Favorite home/design magazines or websites? For sites, obviously Apartment Therapy, but I check in with these guys at least once a week: Oh Happy Day, BB-Blog, Happy Mundane, Door Sixteen, Design Milk.

As for print, I'll join the general keen about the loss of Blueprint and House and Garden — I miss Dominique Browning's letters from the editor especially. However, I still look forward to Domino.

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Best bargain in your home and where did you get it? I'm one of those oafs who blurts out exactly how much I spent on anything the moment someone admires it. "You like that coffee table? Five bucks!" It's a disease.

One top contender is the pull down map of the U.S. that I got on a hunting trip for Mighty Finds. I was with Melissa Summers, the Mighty Junior editor, and we found it in the back of an antique warehouse a few hours outside Detroit. It was $15! She boxed it up and shipped it home for me, which was a pain in the bum. I could have kissed her.

Another is a piece of word art by John Patrick McKenzie, I got it at a Creativity Explored holiday sale for $50. Part of it reads like a prayer:

"San Francisco behave yourself
California think positive
United States
Amerrica
Earth
Universe
Everything
Be Good
Do the Right Thing."

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Biggest splurge? We commissioned our American Gothic-style wedding portrait by Diane Fiessel, which was an incredible bargain at $500, but a lot of money for us — especially at the time. We also had her do some mini-portraits of Hank screaming his head off when he was tiny. They're spectacular. As you might imagine, her rates have since gone up.

What's at the top of your list of things to buy next for your home? I'm on the hunt for a grass green area rug for the living room, and I'd love one of Warner Williams's giant trailer paintings.

Other than that, mostly organizational stuff. A J-Me Shoe Rack for the front hall. Some rolling bins for recycling.

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Favorite local and online resources for furniture and accessories? I get everything at the Alameda Flea Market, it's my serendipitous Ikea.
Cookin' on Divisadero has the kind of gorgeous vintage kitchen stuff that you can pass down to your kids.

Rare Device and the Curiosity Shoppe for just-perfect accessories.
The Apartment and The Other Shop for vintage furniture, accessories, and lighting options.

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Thanks for giving us a peek of your home, Maggie!

And don't forget to check out her websites — especially the new one dedicated to all things home-related: Mighty Goods, Mighty Junior, Mighty Girl, Mighty Finds and Mighty Haus.

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