Entrance - Salmagundi West
There is a point in every person's life when, suddenly, IKEA furniture doesn't cut it anymore. Furniture is what makes a house a home. Not only do we spend most of our time sitting at or on it, but it's also the primary way we personalize and decorate our homes. The style and arrangement of our interior design makes a statement about who we are: classy, playful, colourful, or formal.
While new things can be nice, there really is something to be said about age. Old stuff has a certain degree of character and charm to it that brand-new things just tend to lack. And sure, if you want to decorate with some vintage items, you could spend hours sifting through craigslist or eBay, looking for that perfect art deco lamp. Or you could go to one of the many antique stores in Vancouver, where the treasures have already been hunted and put on display for you. This photo-essay series features the city's coolest vintage shops with one location per article photographed for your convenience. For the first article in the series, I've decided to include two shops that are next to each other and both are a must-visit for every treasure hunter in the city.
Address: 321 West Cordova
This odd gem of a store, located on Cordova just east of Waterfront Station, is different from any antique store you've likely ever been in. A true curiosity shop, Salmagundi combines the surreal feel of a vaudeville sideshow with the style and refinery of a Victorian dinner party. It's great for anyone looking to find some peculiar doodads, bizarre knick-knacks, or unique clothing. The eclectic collection of treasures is ideal if you don't have something particular in mind but know you want to find something fun and off the beaten track.
Salmagundi has a range of prices, from quite affordable to a bit pricey. You could easily spend a fortune on their jewellery, toys, books, instruments, and taxidermy critters, or you could walk in with $20 to spend and leave with something neat. Everything is hand-picked by owner Anne Banner, who inherited the famous shop from the previous owner who had been running it since 1973. For Anne, this is a labour of love. "I grew up with this store," she tells me. "I was 18 when I first stepped in."
Anne credits the store's success to the efforts of the original owner, Lynn Brown, who passed away in 2012. "We have a huge mix of things, but not your typical stuff. Younger, hipper people who want edgier things. There's a lot here."
While Salmagundi has developed a reputation for its dark Victorian atmosphere, eccentric antiques, and collection of various skulls and creepy dolls, one of its most famous attractions is the giant Chinese chest taking up an entire wall in the store's basement. Curious, I asked Anne how it got there and where it came from. "It's an apothecary chest, so it probably came from a Chinese pharmacist. I never had a chance to ask Lynn where it came from, or how they got it down those stairs. So it will always be a mystery. And I'm fine with that." Customers are encouraged to explore the dozens upon dozens of drawers, each containing a different assortment of novelties, candies, toys, and other interesting little things.
If that weren't enough, Salmagundi also offers tarot card readings for anyone in need of some psychic advice. These readings are done in the Gothic Alcove in the store's basement, a dirt-floored room that sat neglected for decades. A true relic of historic Vancouver, the space offers a unique way to connect to this city's past, and maybe gain some insight into your own future.
Some really good stuff in one of Vancouver's best antique stores
Address: 319 West Cordova
Salmagundi's neighbour, the Uniques welcomes you with the words "This is not a museum. This junk is for sale." It's the perfect place if you're looking for unique silver, jewellery, and any little vintage treasures you won't find in the mall. It also carries an impressive collection of postcards, antique dolls or paintings. The store started out in visual display, sometimes using antiques as props. "We still have the giant dollhouse from those days - now it's a bit dusty and probably haunted", says the owner, Merrily Bennett.
Uniques - Collectibles with Imagination
Uniques has been in business here over 35 years, and its stock changes constantly. Merrily combs auctions and garage sales to find her bits and pieces and while there, keeps her eyes open for more significant antique objects and furniture. The small store is crammed full, but if you spend some time perusing, you'll undoubtedly find some little treasure to take home with you. Most of its customers are collectors who have become the owner's friends over the years, tourists hunting for something different in souvenirs, or gift givers looking for special little treasures. "There is something very appealing about old stuff. It's often one of a kind and hand made with a patina built up over the years that you just can't find with modern mass produced, usually disposable items. Even a piece or two can give warmth and interest to a ordinary room."
Cups behind the mask
Meet The Photographer: Kevin Eng
Kevin's passion for photography has encouraged others to see the splendor and beauty of nature right at their doorstep, as he captures the sights of the day, and colors and mystery of world while it sleeps. Many of the subjects of his work are based locally in his hometown in Vancouver, B.C., where he first discovered his fascination with night photography. Kevin is currently working as a music teacher, music director for his church, and landscape photographer.
Salmagundi is that kind of place in Vancouver where you could spend an entire day checking out all the treasures! For someone too creepy or just a collection of junk, but for me, everything in this store has a story behind.
Btw, also a great option for tourists searching for cheap postcards! ;)
I often feel overwhelmed in antique stores. Especially ones that are extremely eclectic in their collections. They can come off as junky and disorganized. This is NOT true for Salmagundi. Salmagundi is a glorious collection of the odd, unusual, beautiful and unique. All displayed in a way that pleases the senses.
I like to use vintage elements for making an interior unique! For example, Vermont Salvage in White River Junction Vermont is a gold mine for old windows, doors, radiators, other architectural elements as well as door knobs and all kinds of things. I used cast iron wood molds that were painted in shades of yellow, red, black and silver to create sculpture for a project as well as a 2 dimensional piece for a wall. I think in the right setting it really can work and is affordable. You’re only limited by your imagination and the client, of course…
I use vintage pieces more thinking on individuality than on an unique space. The difference is with the first the inspiration is the owner and his/her life style, with the second I see it more as a general statement. I understand the line sometimes is not easy for others to see but we interior designers know what our aim is.
Everything vintage isn’t good design. In fact, some is downright deplorable. I love using vintage in unexpected ways when the piece is classic and timeless. I reluctantly gave away some of my early purchases from the 70’s recently because It was time for a refresh. I’d grown weary over time of long loved items and finally relented to new items ( antiques actually) from the 18th century mixed with new modern pieces.
Over the years I’ve been fairly resilient to trends in spite of being constantly inundated with new styles in my profession as a designer. Living vicariously through clients certainly helps with ever evolving creations but even then I constantly lecture on art history and mixing styles and combing old with new.
If only I had the means for a huge warehouse for all the items I’ve held near and dear to my heart. I could be like Candy Spelling cataloging my left overs for multiple homes!
[…] is exactly the case of our last featured Vancouver antique store: after the previously listed Salmagundi West and Antiques, ReFind, Baker's Dozen Antiques and Stepback, look into the last shop with a story […]