We grew up in a home where china was a big deal; more than almost any other possession, it represented personal style and taste. Even now, vintage china has a strong pull on us, and we love sifting through thrift store racks (or web pages) to see what will turn up. Here are some of our favorite places to look.
With all the online stores out there, you can scour the web rather than dusty antique shop aisles if you prefer. For even more online vintage shopping recommendations than the ones listed below, click here.
If you're a thrift store shopper, you've probably made a few visits to your local Goodwill store, but you might not have known that you can also shop online from the comfort of your couch. ShopGoodwill.com is an auction website with an extensive tabletop section.
Three Potato Four
Three Potato Four was started by husband and wife team Janet Morales and Stu Eli who "both grew up collecting things." It's one of our favorite places to shop for unique modern and vintage home items, like colorful plates and dishes.
The Loaded Trunk
As an Army brat, Roni Jaco grew up abroad, surrounded by "treasures and people and food from other countries." That early interest in cultural immersion led to her newest venture, which launched this past July. The Loaded Trunk carries vintage Turkish tinned copper pots, ceramic bowls from Turkey, and Guatemalan table runners.
This e-retailer (there's a brick-and-mortar version in Seattle) is filled with "unique vintage and retro items selected for their great colors, beautiful lines, fun graphics and genuine character."
Chicago-based P.O.S.H. sells dinnerware and china originally produced for restaurants. There is a definite gallic flavor to many of the choices, and the rest of Europe isn't forgotten either. Prices are reasonable for these items, which are workhorses due to their original design intent - the commercial market.
High Street Market
Interior designer Kelly Galvin Robson has a good eye for classic vintage housewares. She collects pieces from flea markets, antique stores, estate sales, and auctions, and sells them on her Etsy shop, High Street Market. Styles tend to be traditional, with a focus on durable materials like porcelain.
LA-based TINI, or This is Not Ikea, has been around for a while as a great online store and a series of storage spaces filled with treasure. Browsing recently through their online selection of vintage tableware we found graphic melamine trays, retro picnic baskets, and enamel mugs galore.
Offline - New York / New Jersey
If you love the thrill of the hunt, nothing quite beats the old fashioned method of visiting hole-in-the-wall shops and stumbling across something really great.
Kill Devil Hill
Every object in this Brooklyn store has been handpicked by Mary Brockman or Mark Straiton on one of their many road trips across the country. If you ask, they'll tell you the story that goes along with it. Not only do Mary and Mark have a great eye for cool unusual objects, but they are also committed to keeping things affordable.
The End of History
Long a favorite of some of New York's top prop stylists and editors, this West Village shop specializes in mid-century art glass, arranged in unique, at times arresting combinations.
Englishtown Antiques & Used Furniture
If you have some time, casual clothing, and love a good treasure hunt, you can find your own retro items at this New Jersey store for a fraction of the price you'd pay in a more curated store. It is a massive space filled with a lot of dust and just about every item you could ever want.
Offline - West Coast
Alameda Point Antiques and Collectibles Faire
Northern California's monthly Alameda Point Antiques and Collectibles Faire, more commonly known as the Alameda Flea Market (and among addicts, as plain old "Alameda"), has grown to 800 booths and an estimated 10,000 visitors. The selection is always changing, but you'll find something good every time.
Located on Valencia Street in San Francisco, Room 4 has a constantly revolving selection of reasonably priced and carefully curated tabletop pieces.
Offline - Midwest
The Future Antiques
The inventory at this St. Louis store is huge, particularly if you're looking for dishware or kitchen items. There are two rooms of shelves stacked with Pyrex bowls, Tupperware, and mid-century china sets.
Located less than two hours from Chicago in New Buffalo, Michigan, this old barn is a scavenger's heaven. The prices are reasonable and the inventory seems endless. Throughout the store, collections of tabletop and servingware are stacked and arranged by color.
Collier West is like a Parisian flea market that was somehow transplanted to Ohio. The store focuses on one-of-a-kind pieces: romantic chandeliers, luxury fabrics, unique tabletop, and artist-designed items.
Photo: P.O.S.H. Chicago by Sarah Coffey