A One-of-a-Kind Home
Henry James’ late great novel The Golden Bowl centres on a gilded crystal goblet, made long ago by a forgotten artisanal process. Exquisite, yet almost imperceptibly cracked, the bowl symbolises the irreplaceability and impermanence of original human creations.
And where do the novel’s characters find this magnificent bowl? (Hint: not IKEA.)
They find it at an antique store.
For this month’s treasure hunt, I scoped out Vienna’s second-hand and artisanal furniture stores for the interesting and affordable.
At the end of the 46 Straßenbahn’s line, the 2,000-square-meter glasfabrik vintage furniture store is well worth an excursion to the 16th District. Flanked by unadorned apartment buildings and salvaged furniture warehouses, it is an oasis of quality and whimsy.
I began upstairs, the more affordable level. A midcentury side table with that era’s characteristically angled-out metal legs and glossy acrylic surface ran for a startlingly reasonable €50. A big vintage suitcase (tan leather, green plaid lining) was mine for €20. (It now stores toddler toys in my living room.) The shop mostly stocks items fitting a fine traditional home – carved wooden chairs, etched glass, brass hardware, large and gorgeous mirrors. But its stock of props inspire a funkier vision – miniature antlers, decorative fishing poles, a pineapple chandelier, a vintage folding camp stool, an antique puss-in-boots.
From tandem barstools to wooden crates
With a big space in the 23rd District as well as a city location off Naschmarkt, möbel depot bills itself as featuring items that are "original, industrial, ethnic, used, unpolished, creative, authentic, recycled or simply collected." Their reasonably priced line of furniture made out of moving plates didn’t speak to me, but could be just your thing. And you’ll always be able to check some of the inventory online.
The Spittelberg shop das möbel, and its Burggasse coffee shop extension, features offerings from young European furniture makers. It specialises in cool lights, interesting shelving, and seating. A tandem barstool for two caught my fancy.
Just down Getreidemarkt from the MQ stop (U2), vintage foyer is worth remembering for winter. A bicycle shop most of the year, it transforms into a small furniture shop from December to February. It tends to have hip, colourful lighting, a mid-century rockabilly aesthetic with some fantastic Scandinavian modular designs. To move its inventory before spring, Vintage Foyer sells its wares at a lower price point than its year-round competitors – the excellent modernist shops design 1900-2000, designlovers, and vintagerie.
With nearly 10,000 "likes" on Facebook, and a location right off Mariahilfer Straße,
vintagerie is a popular gem. Its stores can help one complete an unfussy, industrial look with metal stools or wood crates. Most recently, the store was offering retail shop display cases from the 1960s, which could serve as a sideboard conversation piece in a mid-century style apartment.
The fifth-district carla mittersteig, a division of the Catholic charity Caritas, has a surprisingly compelling selection of furniture. The older pieces often require only a painting or refinishing to be truly stunning. Also try carla nord in the twenty-first.
A step up
Those blessed with a mid-century aesthetic will benefit from a visit to perhaps the most exciting showroom around – designer Simon Tyrrell’s finely curated shop the room. Trained in London’s Royal College of Art, Tyrrell has worked internationally with some of the great designers of the past decades. When I called him to research the shop, London seagulls screamed in the background. Tyrell sources his inventory from London and his selections – such as several mid-century wood-framed lounge chairs – attest to a master’s keen eye.
Stories to tell
For finishing touches, be sure to visit the Neubau shop designqvist, which specialises in small wares from 1950s-1960s Scandinavia. Think: teak handled silverware, fondue sets, pots and pans in primary colours, gorgeous glass candleholders… An excellent destination for small touches, it could serve as a fun destination for out-of-town visitors seeking portable gifts.
Veering from the well-beaten path of mass produced home furnishings requires time and care and some money, but not necessarily a lot. But you will have stories to tell about the things in your home. You will live among enduring, time-tested pieces that inspire a sense of place, of history and character. Hard to go wrong.
16., Lorenz Mandl Gasse 25
23., Karl-Tornay-Gasse 34 (Hall)
6., Linke Wienzeile 40/12 (City)
6., Gumpendorferstraße 11 (shop)
7., Burggasse 10 (cafe), dasmoebel.at
Vintage Foyer (Dec.-Feb.)
6., Getreidemarkt 11, 0676 5608808
6., Nelkengasse 4, vintagerie.at
5., Mittersteig 10
21., Steinheilgasse 3, www.carla-wien.at
18., Schulgasse 26, theroom.uk.com
7., Westbahnstraße 21, designqvist.at