A hunt for home treasures

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September 26, 2011
By: Laura Prosser and Jeremy Zoss
Laura Prosser and Jeremy Zoss

A sampling of the old, the new and the utterly unique at home furnishing shops in the city

This city is home to a variety of unique home furnishing stores, one for almost every home and personality. The Journal shopped around this summer to find these four diverse home decorating destinations:

City Salvage
507 1st Ave. NE, 627-9107

For a taste of history walk into City Salvage, a little brick building that is bigger on the inside than it would appear from its small storefront. City Salvage has a touch of old-time flair with its multiple glass chandeliers hanging above lamps of pharaohs, genies and matadors that light up the interior from their positions on countertops.

City Salvage has been in the same location for 12 of its 20 years, maintaining a reputation for dealing in architectural antiques from the late-nineteenth century through the mid-twentieth century.

“After 1960 and 1970 there really isn’t anything worthwhile,” said owner John Eckley. “The ’80s were horrible, the ’90s got a little better [and] I can see in 20 years everyone is going to be bringing in IKEA pieces.”

A recent addition to the shop’s collection is an original 1890 mantle salvaged from the home of William McNair, who served as Hennepin County attorney from 1861 to 1865. Made of gleaming Cuban mahogany, it stands over eight feet tall and contains well-formed cabinets, secure shelves and an aged mirror.

“It was in really rough shape when we got the mantel,” Eckley said. “People took it out of the mansion and had it stored for almost 40 or 50 years. We got it from them nearly a month ago and we restored it.”

Since strict conservation laws protect Cuban mahogany, the rare wood is almost exclusively available in antique pieces like the mantel.

“The biggest appeal is that no one makes stuff like this anymore,” Eckley said. “A mantle like this, to be made, would cost you $50,000 dollars — if you could find the wood.”

City Salvage appeals to architects, designers and the shoppers who stop in to explore its array of historical furnishings. Many pieces have a quality that is hard to find in modern furnishings.

“I think that people who appreciate good, quality things — and fine cars, and fine antiques — that they find quality in this place,” Eckley said.

Rosenthal Furniture
22 N. 5th St.

Rosenthal Furniture at 22 N. 5th St specializes in modern and contemporary furniture, but that hasn’t always been the case. Of course, when a business has been around for more than 100 years, a few changes in direction are natural. Rosenthal Furniture was founded in 1985 and run by the same family for three generations. The current owner, who goes by the singular name Rosie, transitioned the store away from traditional furnishings when she took over nine years ago. Now, Rosenthal Furniture specializes in the sleek contemporary furnishing favored by the downtown condo crowd.

Along with three floors of inventory and more than 60 brands on the floor, Rosenthal Furniture features a “design bar,” where head designer Scott Tschanz will help customers choose options for their homes. The store is also well known for its casual attitude. Owner Rosie often brings her dogs to work, and customers are welcome to bring in their dogs as well.

The inventory in the store is largely made up of sectionals and sofas, but it can order much more than what’s available on the floor. One of Rosenthal’s major brands is Stressless by Norwegian company Ekornes. These high-end designer recliners are built over steel frames and are available in three different sizes so anyone can find the most comfortable fit for their frame. The Stressless line also includes sofas and sectionals with the same reclining design.

Stressless is only one of the European brands you’ll find at Rosenthal Furniture. Most of the products in the store are manufactured in Europe, the U.S. or Canada. What you won’t find are many items made in China. In an effort to offer only quality products, Rosie moved the store away from Chinese-manufactured merchandise. As a result, you won’t find bargain-priced furniture there — a sectional ranges from $2,000 all the way to $11,000 for a large Italian leather model. A $600 Chinese-made piece from a discount store may last five years, while Tschanz says most of their pieces should last more than 20 years. There’s a clearance room upstairs for shoppers looking for a deal, but low prices aren’t why people shop at Rosenthal Furniture. The fancy, high-end modern coffee tables and luggage-stitched Italian sofas are the big draw, as are the friendly folks there to assist you with your shopping.

Movables Consignment/Spinario Design
Movables: 1228 2nd Street NE, movablesconsignment.com
Spinario: 1300 2nd St. NE

The corner of 13th Avenue & 2nd Street in Northeast is a must-visit destination for anyone looking for unique home furnishings. Both the northwest and southwest corners of the intersection are home to furniture shops filled with unique items you’re not likely to find anywhere else, and the two stores are both distinct and complimentary.

On the south side you’ll find Movables Consignment, a small shop that shares a space with the Frank Stone Gallery. As all furniture in the shop is sold on consignment, there’s a constantly rotating selection of unique items. But the fact that it’s consignment doesn’t mean it’s old junk that people are desperate to get rid of. Owner and upholsterer Kendra Anderson curates the selection carefully, and the shop’s overall vibe is retro and classic, yet affordable. Consignment pieces stay on the floor for 90 days and drop in price the longer they stay in the store, so it’s a great place to search for a bargain.

“I love interesting pieces,” says Anderson. “I could never have a shop like this in the ‘burbs.”

Housed in a hulking former bank building across the street is Spinario Design, which specializes in mid-century modern furniture and antiques. Co-owner Peter Dyste has been selling furniture and antiques since he was in high school, and has run Spinario in its current location for five years. Along with partner Caitlin Karolczak, Dyste began focusing on mid-century furnishings about seven years ago, after the traditional antiques market began to dry up. Because of Dyste and Karolczak’s long history in the business, estate sale dealers know Spinario as a place to sell mid-century furnishings, and as a result you’ll find things in the store that are unlikely to turn up anywhere else, such as a gorgeous brass day bed frame or Herman Miller roll-top desks.