THE ANTIQUES DIVA™ TOURS – CLOSED FOR ANNUAL VACATION DURING AUGUST – REOPENS SEPTEMBER While my tour guides are taking a much needed holiday and I’m away for the month of August sipping champagne at sunset on a Mediterranean Cruise (after taking a driving tour of Italy), I haven’t forgotten you, my loyal readers, in my absence. August 2008 you’ll enjoy a multitude of guest blogs, pre-posted light blogs and miscellaneous reader questions. Don’t worry, I’ll be back with more great addresses and shopping tips this fall! All email inquiries or posted comments will be responded to come September!
top:2px;padding-right:5px;font-family:times;”>After living eight years abroad, I was used to my husband whisking me away to Italy, Australia or Japan whenever he had a business trip. So imagine my surprise when two months ago he told me his next business adventure would be a little closer to home. I realize we no longer live in Paris or Tokyo and as we currently reside in the Midwestern part of the United States, Des Moines, Iowa is only five hours away by car, but still I found I missed those international days when a business trip meant someplace tres exotic and foreign. I had to be wooed with talk of room service, steak dinners and great antique shopping.
In all honesty, I think he made up the latter, thinking I’d be interested in joining him for the conference if he told me there was antique shopping to be found. But somehow he got lucky and I felt your readers should be informed that not only is Des Moines a great place to visit but there is also a lovely place in West Des Moines for antique shopping. It’s called Historic Valley Junction.
When I first drove up to the outdoor shopping area, I was a bit hesitant. Although it was positively reviewed in my guidebook and two city newspapers, it looked more like an unloved construction zone with workers ripping up the main artery at the end of the street. But I drove around the mess, parked and started walking behind some ladies chatting about finding the best cake shop ever. Well, there was no way I was going to miss out on such a treasure, so I lurked behind as they entered “Let Them Eat Cake”. This small wedding cake business features personal-sized creations for you to eat there or take for later. I was swooning in butter cream, marzipan and edible wedding flowers!
Since I didn’t want to shop with frosting on my fingers, I took note of the place for later and made my way to the main shopping area along 5th Street. I didn’t walk far before my eye was caught by the gorgeous scrapbooking window displays of Heirlooms by Design. It had been eons since I browsed a dedicated scrapbooking store, so I did some damage to my credit card, then headed back to the car to drop off two groaning bags and check out the cake store again (mmm … still looks divine!)
This time I made it at least two more shops down 5th street before stopping. The tofiowamarketplace.com/” target=”_blank”>Heart of Iowa features souvenirs, funny gifts and gourmet foods. I picked up a little espresso cup ($5) featuring the state logo for my husband, Dr. Mr. T’s travel collection, but left the gorgeous local pottery, John Deere toy tractors and tasty jars of jelly.
The next place I found was Porch Light. This shop specializes in antiques and gifts complete with a cute little outdoor area of flowers and garden items. Chairs were hanging from the ceiling, shelves were laden with glassware and pottery … they even had a huge trunk filled with my favorite things – old glass windows and doors! I couldn’t resist a galvanized metal laundry tub from the 1940s which would be perfect to hold my fireplace tinder back home, so I scooped it up for only $25.
I spent the rest of the afternoon zigzagging across the street and through the many antique shops. The Paris Flea Market had gorgeous groupings of both old and new French items, like their cute, cute, cute wall of tea towels. A-Ok Antiques specialized in fun looking games. I was captivated by the Fortune Teller gumball machine, but at $945 I left it in the shop. And did I need a chandelier? David Meshek’s display in 5th Street Finds must have had over 500 pieces of antique lighting.
In addition to antiques, there are numerous art galleries, clothing stores and specialty boutiques. One of my favorite spots was Sisters by Especially Lace. My eyes feasted on the gorgeous bed coverings and little nothings scattered about, but I especially liked a ribbon-bedecked straw hat. The shopkeeper helped show me how it was “crushable”, so I walked out with this $33 treasure, w
hich helped keep the sun out of my eyes as I meandered back to the car (via the cake shop, of course!) with bags a plenty and a pink champagne cake ($5) for dessert back in the hotel.
Bonne Shopping Diva Readers!
top:2px;padding-right:5px;font-family:times;”>A recent blog entry from one of your readers who was on vacation in Singapore made me think about how much I love all my Asian treasures. After living in Tokyo for a year and a half and traveling to Japan, China and Korea numerous times, my house is filled with Far East memories. One of my favorite pieces, and definitely the most admired, was purchased on a trip to Tokyo last August. It’s a colorful silk kimono I display on the wall in my living room.
I realize that most of your readers prefer antique clothing, but I always found the Asian pieces to be out of my price range since the ones I preferred started at several thousands of dollars. But last year a Japanese friend of mine alerted me to a surprising fact. If the kimono is just “old”, then it is not nearly as valuable as an antique one (or even a brand new one, strangely enough). “Old” seems to be in a vague category that is more likely considered used clothing. But given that Japan is an established civilization, “old” could be anywhere from 10 years to 100 years old. to+be+to+become+an+antique%3F/” target=”_blank”>Some of us without the proper vernacular would probably call a 100-year old kimono “antique”, but I guess that’s not correct.
Under the guidance of my friend, I found that the selection and price range for “old” versus “antique” was very pleasing. I found racks of choices in several shops around the to/aoyama.html” target=”_blank”>Omotesando area, and would have seen even more if I wasn’t too lazy to walk further. My favorites included Oriental Bazaar (5-9-13 Jingumae), Gallery Kawano (4-4-9 Jingumae) and tokyo/attraction-detail.html?vid=1154654670127″ target=”_blank”>Chicago (6-31-21 Jingumae).
Oriental Bazaar is a four-story souvenir shoppers dream. If you can get past the dishes, furniture and chopsticks, then head downstairs into the kimono area. They sell both new and “old” pieces, with each priced individually from $150 – $400. I found the employees to get a bit tense when you touched anything without assistance, but otherwise they were helpful.
Gallery Kawano is staffed by two lovely Japanese ladies who will rush to help you pull numerous kimonos off the shelves and racks. The pieces are good quality and prices hover around the $300-$400 mark. They also sell lovely obi (the sash worn around the kimono) if you’re looking for something smaller or less expensive. After a bit of persuasion, they even offered to hold one for me until my husband could see it the next day.
Chicago is a bizarre shop featuring 1950s American clothing. If you walk down the long staircase (thinking to yourself that this cannot be the place!) and wander through the huge basement into the very back left corner, you will find hundreds of old kimono, yukata (worn while sleeping) and obi. The selection changes frequently, but the day I went there were even several wedding kimono. Prices ranged from $20 to $500, depending upon quality, color and amount of wear and tear.
My husband made the final decision after I had narrowed it down for him, so in the end we bought our kimono at Chicago. This piece is about 80 years old and cost $300. Since I had budgeted $500, that left me with enough to also throw in a couple of obi with gold threads, which I use as decorative table runners.
Happy Shopping, Antiques Diva™ Readers!