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All About Art Deco pt 2: American Art Deco

 Hello! Eric here with part 2 of our Art Deco blog!

Emerging from previous styles like Art Nouveau, the French’s Art Deco exploded onto the scene in 1920’s and took France by storm with its luxurious, loud designs held within a simplified but efficient frame. Art Deco furniture was statement pieces and the statement was often luxury. It wasn’t until the 1930’s that Art Deco’s style and influence became largely dominant in the United States of America. However, by this time the styles had changed and evolved, and out of Art Deco emerged a re-definition of the styles approach. While the French’s art deco furniture often-emphasized glamour or class, the Americans took it on themselves to streamline the already sleek styles. America’s art deco had a prideful machine made look to its work. Simpler materials were used to communicate a more everyday broad appeal then the fancier French ingredients. The loud colors of the French’s influence were often traded in for more subdued colors; the silvers and grays of metal and chrome combined with the browns of affordable wood. Contrasting layers, such as a blonde wood drawer housed within darker maple, helped the pieces stand out in a vibrant but natural way. 

     Perhaps one of the most iconic designs to emerge from this is the waterfall aesthetic. Due to its stylish and futuristic design, plus its affordable cost, waterfall furniture flourished in the 1930’s and 40’s across America. Emerging from the Wernicke Company in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and named for its use of curves to simulate the flow of water off an edge, this style was prominent in chests, tables, chairs and even radios. Plywood, which could be bent and molded into curves, was used as the main material while simple metals, like copper, would be used to accent the pieces along with a veneer glossy finish. Instead of traditional frames, edge moldings typically support waterfall pieces. In keeping with the American, approach of the period, many waterfall pieces abandoned the heavily contrasting colors for a more uniform mahogany finish, though more vibrant pieces were not unheard of. Features like handles would typically be made of brass. Like much of the American art deco that preceded it, this style appealed to the middle class which sought uniformity in style, but its affordability also helped the style thrive during the great depression. American art deco was made quite appealing to younger people who, at the time, were seeking their first home or apartment. It’s for this reason that waterfall furniture also earned the nickname newlywed furniture. 

Photography of waterfall-style bedroom set (right) and an advertisement for a similar set in a Sears Roebuck catalog

     Unfortunately, due to their use of affordable materials, many waterfall pieces have not survived the tests of time. The heavy use of plywood means any conditions that could soften the glue, like heavy humidity, would be hazardous to the pieces’ structural integrity. Pieces that have suffered damage like this may appear as if they are peeling apart. Paint stripper will also likely loosen the glue and destroy the veneer. Extreme heat is another enemy; so you’d be wise to avoid mixing cigarettes or irons with your favorite waterfall piece. Simply due to the age of the cheaper material and exposure to everyday life, waterfall pieces that are still in great condition should be treated with great care as they are likely rare. 

Badly damaged Art Deco veneered piece

     The streamlined ascetic of Art Deco and its many offshoots has secured a special place in time. It’s a symbol of its era, being easily recognizable to many even if they can’t place a name. While the style was once seen as the future itself now it holds a more nostalgic quality. Typically period pieces will use Art Deco as a communication of an alternative future, a world of tomorrow that has long past and was never fully realized, or a period of optimism as the U.S. proudly marched towards their ideal of progress. The iconic stylings of the yesterdays tomorrow still appeal to the futurists of today. 

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All About Art Deco pt 1: European Art Deco

Hello there!
My name is Kate and I’m one of the Intake Specialists at Mimi’s Attic. A big part of my job is being able to identify different styles of furniture. When I started in this position, I began researching different styles and periods and was given the opportunity to really explore a particular style that interested me. I chose Art Deco as it has been a style that I’ve always loved but didn’t know that much about. Unknowingly my coworker Eric also chose Art Deco! We decided to team up and break it down into two parts. Here’s a little bit of what I’ve learned. I hope you enjoy!


The Art Deco movement, which was a style of visual arts, architecture and design, originated in Paris just before WWI and lasted till about 1940. The style takes its name from the Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs held in Paris in 1925 as a showcase for new inspiration. Widely speaking, Art Deco covers all styles during the interwar period, but there are
many variations within this from the sleeker curves that you see in American styles to the geometric lines of the more European influence. Art Deco had a very wide array of influences- Cubism, the Ballet Russes, Fauvism, Italian Futurism, Russian Constructivism, Egyptology, and African Tribal Art among many others. The previous artistic movement had been ‘Art Nouveau’ which was heavily influenced by floral motifs and intricate design.

Examples of Classic Art Nouveau Furniture

The swirls and floral motifs of Art Nouveau were smoothed out into sleeker, bolder, curved or geometric lines. The new Art Deco style was also influenced by the technological advances of the time and therefore had more geometric lines, and influences of aviation, like streamlined curves.

Pair of Lacquered Art Deco Nightstands (left) and Art Deco Chrome
and Wood Rolling Liquor Cabinet (right)

As well as being influenced by technological advances and affordable travel (meaning aviation was totally ‘in’ during this time), there were discoveries being made around the world which heavily influenced the style. The pyramids of Egypt, The tomb of Tutankhamun and various archeological digs influenced in the way of colour, shape and form. The silver-screen was also becoming a big influence, with the glamour of a new, exciting Hollywood and what was being seen on cinema screens starting to make its way across the globe and into homes. These motifs combined with machine age elements create the basics of the Art Deco look.

Mirrored Art Deco Credenza (left) and Rare French Art Deco Day Bed (right)

In France the early art deco style featured luxurious and exotic materials such as ebony, and ivory and silk, very bright colors and stylized motifs, particularly baskets and bouquets of flowers of all colors, giving a modernist look. Metals such as chrome and brass were very popular at the
time, other finishes also include opal, glass, leather, tortoiseshell, mirror, mother of pearl, exotic animal skins, velvet and walnut wood in high shine light and dark finishes.

Art Deco Dressing Table with Ebony and Ivory Inlays (left), and Art Deco Macassar Ebony Sideboard

Club chairs with sloped, curved arms were popular, as were light burr walnut pieces.

Eileen Gray Art Deco Club Chair

Everything was high end, polished, glamorous and luxurious! Art Deco is one of the most lasting styles to come out of the past 100 years; it has become so ingrained in our day-to-day lives that we often don’t notice it at all. Everyday things—from fonts to salt and pepper shakers to movie
theaters—are often shaped by this modern styles high hopes for the future. I hope you enjoyed this post and stay tuned for Part 2!
– Kate

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Get a fresh start for the new year!

It’s a fresh year, a fresh decade, and time for a fresh start! What better way to kick off 2020 than with a little decluttering and organizing?

Not sure where to get started? Take a few cues from the quees of decluttering, Marie Kondo!

There are six basic rules to get started:

  1. Commit yourself to tidying up.
  2. Imagine your ideal lifestyle.
  3. Finish discarding first. Before getting rid of items, sincerely thank each item for serving its purpose.
  4. Tidy by category, not location.
  5. Follow the right order.
  6. Ask yourself it it sparks joy.

And five categories to tackle:

  1. Clothes
  2. Books
  3. Papers
  4. Komono (a.k.a. Miscellaneous Items)
  5. Sentimental Items

As you get cleaning and shifting things around, you may come across furniture, housewares or home decor that no longer meet your needs. This is where we come in! Please feel free to walk in with your items 7 days/week, or contact us with any questions.  Read more HERE on our “How it Works” page.

And, January 11 through February 1 we’re offering 50% off pick-ups and deliveries for the town of Lansing! This promotion is first-come, first-served! Because our pick-up schedule fills up fast, we recommend contacting us as soon as you can to show us pictures of the items you would like to consign. Pick-up and delivery fees are determined by management and based on the size and difficulty of the job.

In the meantime, if you don’t do any cleaning at all and simply choose to ward off your winter cabin fever, consider strolling on in to browse or shop … there’s always something “new” at Mimi’s!

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Mimi’s Attic Holiday Hours

Hey, Mimi Fans! We hope you will join us December 24 for 15% OFF the ENTIRE STORE! We still have lots of great holiday gifts in stock.

Here are our holiday hours so you can plan your visit:

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Jewelry from the Land of Enchantment

Store Owner, Kelly Moreland, went on a vacation to New Mexico and, while she couldn’t bring back that big, beautiful blue sky for us to enjoy, she did bring back wholesale jewelry!  Kelly’s reason for the trip was to visit her good friend who lives in Taos, but of course, the Land of Enchantment  is always full of surprises.

One day, after a hike to some natural mineral springs, Kelly and her friend stopped at a scenic vista overlooking the Rio Grande. There, they met an artist named  Ketut who was selling her awesome handmade jewelry and was in the process of liquidating her entire stock. The quality and styles were amazing and the prices were very reasonable – so Kelly scooped up as much as she could and now we have it to offer you!

Rio Grande Gorge

We think you will love it for yourself as well as gifts. Each piece is Sterling silver, handmade with materials such as Abalone and Mother of Pearl.

Come see for yourself! We have pendants and necklaces on sale at both Mama Goose and Mimi’s Attic while supplies last

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West End Food Drive & Raffle

Mark your calendars! Beginning November 11 and continuing up to Thanksgiving, we invite you to bring canned goods or other non-perishable food items to Mimi’s Attic or our sister store Mama Goose to contribute to our annual food drive benefiting Ithaca area food pantries. For each canned good you donate, you’ll receive a ticket to join our West End Raffle – with chances to win great gift certificates from a variety of amazing West End businesses.

You could win prizes from:
GreetStar Cooperative Market
Maru Ramen
Purity Ice Cream
Gimme Coffee
Saigon Kitchen
Marmalade Mercantile
Maxie’s Supper Club and Oyster Bar
& more!!

Grand Prize is a $100 gift certificate, redeemable at Mimi’s Attic or Mama Goose!

All donations will go to Friendship Donations Network, whose mission is to rescue food that would otherwise be thrown away and redistribute it to neighbors in need. They provide food donations to hunger relief programs that serve more than 2,000 people a week, and divert over 1,000 lbs. of good food from local landfill every day. A model of efficiency, they are almost entirely volunteer-run. Check out their website or the graphic below for more details!

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Yes, We Pick-up & Deliver!

We offer a convenient Saturday pick-up and delivery service for shoppers and consignors who live within Tompkins County. Our friendly “Mimi Movers” will carefully transport your purchases to your home, and/or pick-up items that you would like to consign with us. To schedule a delivery, simply talk to a Sales Associate at the time of your purchase. To schedule a pick-up, please email photos of your items to our Buyers at info@mimisatticithaca.com. If you are clearing out an estate, or have a large quantity of furniture to sell (within Tompkins County), ask us about our home consultation option. We are happy to come to your home and discuss your items and our consignment process with you.

Our recommendation? Come shop, enjoy and let us do the heavy lifting!

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Mimi in You Contest Winners

It has been delightful for the Mimi’s team to see all of your Instagram contest entries. We’ve loved seeing the pieces you’ve found and how you’ve incorporated them into your homes. You are truly a creative, inspiring bunch! With that said, we’re pleased to share with you this year’s winners.

Grand Prize Winner

@emilysusername is the grand prize winner, with her photo having received the most likes of all the entries.

Staff Pick(s)

We had a tie for the staff pick, so we’re giving out two! The first is to @colleenchavchavadze for her beautiful photo of the gothic-style sofa she found at Mimi’s.

The second Staff Pick goes to @sterlingsprout for their precious nursery photo, featuring the dresser they found at Mimi’s.

Honorable Mentions

And last but not least, we have two honorable mentions! @ao.making.changes for her bold use of wicker ware as wall decor.

And @chelsclarkson for the corner that makes her feel like home.

Congratulations to all of our winners!

Our Instagram contest is over, but you can still have your Mimi treasures featured on our social media! Beginning this month, we’ll be featuring a Mimi’s customer every Monday on social media for #MimiInYouMonday. Send your photos to communications@mimisatticithaca.com! If your photo is featured, you will receive $5 in store credit.

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Bring Out the Mimi in You! Kelly’s House

By Kelly Moreland, Owner of Mama Goose & Mimi’s Attic

Have you ever read our slogan “Bring Out the Mimi in You!” and wondered what the heck we meant? To me, it means we are all capable of being inspired to make changes in our homes that will make them more functional and/or more beautiful (to you!). “Bring Out the Mimi in You!” is an invitation to come browse the Mimi’s sales floor, see what pieces speak to you, and then take them home and start shaking things up.

Mimi (my grandmother and the store’s namesake) loved thrifting and cleaning up or repairing her found treasures and then displaying them prominently for everyone’s enjoyment. As a child, I was particularly drawn to her menagerie of miniature cast iron animals perched on a marble lazy susan at the head of her table. This whimsical display greeted Mimi every time she sat down for a meal, and sent the message to me as a little girl that Mimi’s home, and her thoughtfully displayed belongings, brought her a lot of joy.

With this sentiment in mind, I thought it would be fun to show you my home and the things that bring me joy. I think my style could best be described as “du jour” because it changes frequently. Of course, I have the advantage of browsing at Mimi’s Attic five days a week! Whenever I bring “new” pieces home from Mimi’s, they tend to get me thinking about the things that surround them, and before I know it, I have changed everything in a room. Hence, my house “du jour”.

I love my hardworking kitchen!

While the major pieces of my kitchen have stayed the same for many years, I enjoy changing the wall color, art work and the color of the enamel top vintage cabinet to make things feel fresh and new. Except for a few family hand-me-downs, most of the dishes, pots and pans and everything else is from Mimi’s.

The Living Room

Practically everything, except for the dog, came from Mimi’s. My living room morphs often depending on the needs of the household. When my daughters were younger, I had a craft table for a coffee table and all the craft supplies on a bookshelf nearby. This current incarnation was inspired by the fabulous wool rug from Mimi’s, the cheerful chartreuse chair and Friday night movie nights. The artwork (a napping woman, a bear, birds, flowers) is all about slowing down and relaxing.

The pantry that doubles as a serving station

This room was formerly a nursery room, then an office, and is now a pantry which feels like a total luxury. It is right near my back door, so in addition to doing all the things pantries do, it works as a serving station for backyard entertaining. Everything needed to make this space function is easily found at Mimi’s: platters, serving dishes, drinking glasses, carafes, ice buckets, folding chairs, pillows for outside, flower vases and linens. I could also imagine setting up a station like this in a garage or shed. The white cabinets on the right were from Mimi’s (and fit perfectly!) and the shelves were built from barn wood from Significant Elements.

My cabaret-inspired dining room

The table and all “sittables” in this picture came from Mimi’s. I wonder if anyone remembers the pub bench which came into Mimi’s this winter, and has a mate somewhere in Ithaca? The table is adorned with my weekly CSA bouquet from Plenty of Posies. They are such a treat all summer long. If you have not signed up, they will do a prorated share for you – just give them a call!

A menagerie Mimi would have been proud of!

Ok, so I take after my grandmother a little bit and have a menagerie of my own. What can I say? Little vintage critters make me smile.

Speaking of smiling, we want to see the Mimi in YOU! Please join our Instagram photo contest (details below) happening now for a chance to win $100 GC! More importantly, though, we just love to see and hear how you use your Mimi Treasures in your homes. If you are not on Instagram, you can send us photos via email to info@mimisatticithaca.com and perhaps we can feature them here on the blog!

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Show Us Your Thrifty Finds!

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